Crackberry, part 1

by Volker Weber

Today was the day that vowe got his first shot of Blackberry. And the addiction is already building up.

Blackberry 7290I have received the Blackberry 7290 courtesy of Marco Föllmer, founder and CEO of ebf, a consultancy based in Köln (Cologne), IBM Premium Partner as well as RIM Goldpartner. I am using it with a Vodafone chip that is data only. So it is not replacing my phone — for now. I have also updated the software of my Nokia 9300 today to version 5.22 in order to make it ready for Blackberry Connect. I am really looking forward to compare a Blackberry device to a Smartphone with the Blackberry software. And from what I have seen today this might be an easy win for the Blackberry device. But let me start at the beginning:

The 7290 is the latest of the 7200 series. More memory, bluetooth (think: headset), but the signature body of a Blackberry. There is also the 7100 series which looks more like a regular mobile phone. But I specifically wanted a 7200 series devices. It has crushed many of the beliefs I had about Blackberry. First of all: The phone does not suck. :-) And yes, there is software available. I have already installed a blog client, an instant messenger, a Bloglines client to fetch my RSS feeds, a Today screen, a mobile weather report and a stock ticker. Things have definitely changed in 2005.

There are a few challenges to get this machine up and running, especially if you don't use a PC and you are not running the device in a corporate setup. After you insert the SIM card and the battery, the Blackberry boots and dumps you on the home screen. What next? Hmmh. Switch on radio. Network connection is there, but how do I set up my account? The Getting Started manual does not really help. Enterprise Activation is also not what I am looking for. I decide to visit Bingo. You can sign up there. You need your PIN (this is an ID which identifies the Blackberry) and your IMEI (same thing for phone). The server will let you chose a login (which becomes your email address and password. Once you have registered, the server sends you Service Books which contain all the settings for the different services in your device. Voila, over the air configuration!

Then you need to log into the server again to set your options and your profile. I left the FROM address at this new email address but set a REPLY-TO to my regular email. I also changed the signature that gets appended to all messages and I told the server to BCC all outgoing messages to my regular email. I don't need to poll my regular mail, since I told my server to redirect (and leave a copy of) all incoming messages to the Blackberry account. I also added another rule at my server to put the BCCed outgoing messages into my sent folder and not to redirect them to the BB. Don't want to hear an echo. :-) So this is the incoming pipeline:

  1. Mail gets delivered to my ISP
  2. Collax server fetches mail
  3. Spam and virus filters kick in
  4. Cleansed messages hit server-based rule
  5. One copy goes to the IMAP box, a second copy goes to Vodafone

And for outgoing messages:

  1. Blackberry sends message to Vodafone
  2. Vodafone delivers mail and sends BCC to my ISP
  3. Collax server fetches mail
  4. BCC message clears spam and virus filters
  5. Message hits server-based rule, which puts it away in my sent mail

So far everything is working perfectly. Now for the other applications. Marco recommended Ramble, which connects to AIM only. There is also Verichat, which connects to multiple networks, but I am pretty happy with Ramble. I installed the BBToday screen over the air from this location. There is also BBLight, which lets you control the behaviour of the backlight and BBWeather for ... you get it. Azure is my blog client, which I also installed over the air. Other than on the Treo I did not first have to install a Java engine, since the 7290 is already Java-enabled. Finally I installed Berry Bloglines.

While the installation was quite easy, I hit one road block. Berry Bloglines worked, but Azure and Ramble did not. Until I set the APN in Options/TCP to (no user and password). I also needed to switch off the 7290 once to clean up the mess that I had created while playing with different parameters. I am still having some issues that have not been sorted out between using and

I have not looked at the off the shelf applications at lot. From briefly checking out Address Book and Calendar I can say that Address Book is OK and Calendar sucks big time. I also have to say that the Blackberry device feels very solid and it will probably survive a 6 ft drop on concrete completely unfazed. I would not dare to say this about a Treo 650 or a Nokia 9300.

[To be continued]


> it will probably survive a 6 ft drop on concrete completely unfazed. I would not dare to say this about a Treo 650

I can - it will ;) Tested multiple times (accidentially of course).

Stefan Rubner, 2005-10-05

In my experience, the "drop" factor of these devices is very inconsistent. I've dropped on the road, thrown at a wall (testing not temper) and even jumped on my 7230 numerous times - barely a scratch BUT I've seen units fall from a table top onto carpet and crack the screen. Go figure?

They're also extremely unreliable in my experience. We've had approx 25% of our fleet die with JVM errors although I must admit that the units assembled in Hungary seem to be all round much better (even the keyboards have a better tactile feel compared to their Canadian counterparts). They also "fall off" the network from time to time but annoyingly still report a GPRS signal as if everything is OK...actually, I could go on and on about intermittant glitches and what not.

I still love them to bits though!

Colin Williams, 2005-10-05

It won't last :)

(the love, that is)

John Ash, 2005-10-05

I've never seen such an ugly device. I defenitly prefer the Treo 650.

Frank Schmitz, 2005-10-06

My Blackberry 7230 has been run over by a car. minor dents in the case. It works fine... :-) They are very solid.

Andy Mell, 2005-10-06

@Colin: Which OS are you using on your Blackberry Handhelds? If you are still using OS 3.x or an older release of of OS 4.0.0, I would suggest to upgrade to version 4.0.2. From my experience this version is very reliable and makes the BB a bit faster.

Btw, to protect your BB, I would suggest to use Skin Tight from Speck Products.

Abdelkader Boui, 2005-10-06

What exactly makes the device addictive? Is it the fact that the mail gets pushed? The apperance of the device? It's aura?

Joerg Richter, 2005-10-06

For business users who have it synced to Exchange, it's a perfect mobile extension of Outlook. Basically the perfect form factor for its intended purpose. Push Email with over-the-air config means your average exec can "just use it". Less easily available 3rd party apps also helps - it helps keep the device more locked down (and yet not feel restrictive to a user). I'd like to see a slider phone (or sideways clamshell a la Nokia 9X00 or funky flip-open like the Nokia 6822) with the blackberry software...

(Looking forward to your review of the 9300 with it, Volker)

Kevan Emmott, 2005-10-06

I had a user leave his 7290 outside during a night of continuous rain. He found it the next morning and tipped it over and water drained out of it. He let it dry out and the thing hasn't had problems since.

Tony Kelleran, 2005-10-12

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