2006/12/14

Another cast-off article of goodness (using a BlackBerry with no service)...

The resident VP at our office came to me recently and asked me to wipe and decomission a couple of BlackBerries. Of course, I agreed and found myself with two locked BlackBerries with no service.

In order to get them wiped clean of all company data I first had to get them unlocked. I had no idea who they belonged to, and knowing our users they wouldn't remember the passwords even if I asked. It turns out that this part was easy. Enter the wrong password ten times to lock the device. Install the BlackBerry Desktop Manager on your system. Connect the device and install the most recent version of the Handheld OS. It wasn't a trivial task, but it wasn't difficult, either.

Once I'd gotten into the devices and wiped all of the data, I found myself with two devices capable of doing address book synchronization, note taking, and so forth. There doesn't appear to be anything wrong with either of them; someone probably decided they were too important to use an old one (insert eye-rolling smiley here). I did confirm that the cellular service to these devices was shut off by attempting to make some calls.

The BlackBerries were model 7750, a Verizon-specific model. A quick google didn't indicate any way to unlock them to use with another network, and it's old (or primitive) enough that it doesn't use SIM cards, anyway. Since I'm a T-Mobile user, and don't want to spring for extra service anyway, our new toys are going to have to be stand-alone when they're not tethered to my computer.

I determined what my goals were going to be for the device:
- synchronize my address book from Thunderbird (manually if necessary).
- Import calendar from Outlook (Wife uses OL and manages our events).
- synchronize notes to and from the device.
- Add reference material (probably not much - only about 5MB available on the device).
- Synchronize tasks at some point.
- Composing email offline and then syncing would be nice, too.
- Remove annoying Verizon wallpaper.

I initially ran into trouble getting the address book going, so I tabled that. I started working on getting notes off of the device. This was amazingly easy and required no skill at all. I simply configured the BlackBerry Desktop Manager to export notes from the device to a CSV (comma separated value) file. The output looks like this:

"Note Title","Note Body","Categories"
"Fox jumping","Test memo. Tqbfjotld",

Not perfect, but easily workable.

I started working on the wallpaper, but hit a wall there as well; it looks like the device may be locked down to prevent people from removing Verizon's branding.

Back to the address book. While there is no ability to directly sync the address books yet, I was able to export the address book as a CSV. However, the format isn't 100% compatible with the BlackBerry's import format. All of my initial attempts to import were met with errors, or no data at all reaching the BlackBerry. For one thing, it doesn't list what each of the fields are. What I ended up doing was creating a dummy entry in the BlackBerry's address book, then exported it so I could see what it was expecting as input. I got:

"First Name","Middle Name","Last Name","Title","Company Name", ... and so on.

Good. Next, I created a dummy entry in my Thunderbird address book so I could figure out which fields were which. It turns out that this was a pretty good idea. In each field, I entered the field name that the BlackBerry expected. When I opened up the CSV in OpenOffice Calc, I just had to move the dummy record to the top and save it. Future import operations worked just fine. To summarize, now the process to export from Thunderbird's Address Book to the BlackBerry is as follows:

1 - Export CSV from Thunderbird.
2 - Open in OpenOffice.org Calc, move the dummy account (field names) to the top row.
3 - Save as CSV
4 - Use Intellisync to import the file to your device.

To do:

I can't get the calendar to sync with Outlook's CSV format yet. The techniques I used on Thunderbird's Address Book aren't getting me there.

Since I haven't settled on a task manager / calendar of my own for the PC yet, I can't get started with that.

Work on email. Not a huge rush there as I can always type into a note and copy/paste after the sync.

Reference. I installed a free ASV Bible, but I'm looking for more. I haven't settled on anything else just yet.

Verizon Wallpaper. I think I'm stuck with that. Everything I've found online about setting your wallpaper requires a web-enabled BlackBerry.

Script the address book sync somehow (and the calendar once I get that worked out).

References:

Blackberry - Necessary drivers and apps, documentation.
OpenOffice.org - Used for manipulating CSV files, faster than notepad =)
Olive Tree ASV Bible - Download from Handango

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