Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fixing a demented Blackberry Pearl

I've said some good things about my wife's Blackberry Pearl, but that was a while ago.

Now I'm less kind.

For example, tonight I spent 2-3 hours debugging my wife's BB Pearl -- and Missing Sync for the BlackBerry.

I'll simplify by splitting out the problems into two parts:

Missing Sync for BlackBerry problems
  1. When I connected my wife's BB it didn't mount as a USB drive and it gave the "insufficient power to charge warming" (meaning it's getting USB 1 100mA power, and it needs USB 2 500 mA power). This means that Missing Sync's device driver wasn't working.
  2. Missing Sync gave some absurd error message basically saying something was wrong.
This was entropy at work. I hadn't done a sync of Emily's Pearl in eons, and Missing Sync had been clobbered. I reinstalled, moved the USB cable and got it working. Then I was able to backup her contacts.

The BlackBerry Pearl was demented due to memory problems

Emily's BB was slow, erratic and increasingly crashy. Removing the battery to reset it (no reset button or software command on this baby!) helped but only transiently. Today she couldn't even make calls.

I'd removed apps to free up memory before, but it was down to only @2MB free.

This time I backed up the contacts via Missing Sync then did used the obscure security setting option to 'wipe the phone'. That left all the apps (there doesn't seem to be ANY way to return the phone to factory condition) but suddenly I had 24MB free. (Yeah, the BB OS is ancient -- makes Palm look modern.)

The phone came to life.

So where was all the memory going? I'm not sure, but here's my guess:
  1. Eons ago I'd setup Missing Sync to put iTunes non-DRMd AAC music on the Pearl. I'd accepted the default "leave 5MB free". Unfortunately this puts the music on the system memory, not the useless 1GB memory card I've added to the phone.
  2. Since I did a sync so rarely that 5MB free buffer was being eaten away by installing other apps and by ePocrates growth. Missing Sync was never getting a chance to beat back the music install.
So, gradually, 5MB went to so little free memory that the JVM was thrashing constantly, paging out memory, and making the phone unresponsive and crashy.

I probably could have fixed things by simply removing all the music, but I only figured that out after I'd done a wipe.

I reentered Emily's Google Apps data, restarted her BB push email, restored the address book via Missing Sync and changed Missing Sync so that there's no longer any music on the wimpy phone.

If all of this works I can put off replacing her BB until Apple introduces a non-worthless version of MobileMe and/or suddenly remembers customers are not supposed to be abused and hands a Calendar API over to Google.

PS. I installed the BB Desktop software on my XP box, but it really adds very little. Basically just backup, and I didn't want that since it would have restored my problems!

See also
  1. Google App services for the BB (this works quite well now)
  2. ePocrates: I'm very suspicious of this one, but giving it another try.
  3. Missing Sync for Blackberry: I think it's languishing - since the iPhone came out BB sales to OS X users have probably dropped to near zero. I feel sorry for 'em though - synchronization is hell.
  4. iTunes, Missing Sync and the Pearl: I think this was the cause of my downfall.
  5. BB Pearl usage tips - keyboard mostly
  6. Our Google Apps/iPhone/BlackBerry Pearl calendar setup. We still do this.
  7. Our phone migration - AT&T is the Devil

3 comments:

Jeff said...

If you run Epocrates and have a microSD card, you can free up additional main memory by having Epocrates put its data on the SD card.

I suggest this procedure for a clean, no-pain upgrade. There are probably easier ways, but I'm a big fan of "delete and reinstall" rather than "upgrade".

1) Delete the Epocrates application from your device, from the Options : Advanced : Applications screen. If it asks you to reset your device, be sure to do it!

2) Make sure you have a microSD card inserted, and it has at least 32MB of free space on it. You can verify this from Options : Advanced Options : Media Card.

3) Point your browser to http://get.epocrates.com and download the latest version.

The install takes a long time (up to an hour) but when it's done, some of the largest Epocrates data files will live on your SD card, rather than in main memory. And you're sure to have the latest version.

Happy hacking!

John Gordon said...

Hi Jeff,

I did move ePocrates to the SD card, but it didn't free up much memory.

I'll have to go and look again at that, since it seems that it should have free up much more.

Installing ePocrates on the Pearl is a ROYAL pain because the EDGE download is so darned slow. By comparsion ePocrates on the iPhone is a pleasure.

Sarah said...

I've installed the demo of the updated Missing Sync for BB, which is supposed to function via Bluetooth. Now, my MacBook says bluetooth is unavailable and I seem to be unable to sync either using Bluetooth OR a USB cable as I used to with version 1.0, which seems to have worked better.

How do I delete the Missing Sync software from my BlackBerry and restore the Missing Sync on my MacBook to v.1.0?