Archive for July, 2008

Upgrade your T-Mobile Dash to Windows Mobile 6.1

NOTE: A newer version of this article is posted here.

 

I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for years (and years).  In fact, I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for as long as they’ve been active in the United States.  Before that we were with Voicestream , the company that T-Mobile bought out to stake a claim on American soil.  During that time, of course, we’ve had several phones.  An early Handspring PDA with a phone add-on that made me look like I was talking into a pizza box.  A couple of Samsung phones.  A Nokia 6820 that my wife still uses.  And there were other phones, I’m sure.

In November 2006, however, I waded reluctantly into the Windows Mobile world.  Not because I wanted a Windows Mobile-based phone, mind you, but because I was beginning to support them in the workplace on a regular basis.  It just made sense.  Most of our company is on AT&T, but I staunchly demanded to stick with T-Mobile.  That being the case, my choices of Windows Mobile-based phones was limited.  Not too limited, however, as I was able to purchase the T-Mobile Dash for not-too-much money.

Designed by HTC to be a "T-Mobile" branded phone, I have to say that this handset has some seriously impressive staying power.  Almost 2 years after they were released, T-Mobile is still selling these phones on their website!  Admittedly, T-Mobile is typically behind the "technology curve", if you will, but they seem to know a good product when they see it.  The Dash is a good phone, and a very decent PDA.  I’ve beat mine to heck, but it keeps chugging along.  I don’t turn my phone off — ever — and this device has been surprisingly stable, especially considering that I sync my work email, calendar, and contacts as well as making phone calls, of course, the occasional game, and much more.  So stable, in fact, that at one point I had not rebooted (restarted, turned off, etc.) this phone for over 90 days!  Can you leave your phone up and running for over 3 months without a restart?  Bet you can’t.  🙂

But I digress.

The point of this article is to help others upgrade to the very latest OS that you can find for the T-Mobile Dash: Windows Mobile 6.1 (WM6.1).  Although these phones initially shipped with WM5.0, T-Mobile (and HTC) eventually offered a free, supported upgrade to WM6.0.  It was a nice move on their part, and a worthy upgrade.  Upgrading from WM6.0 to WM6.1 seems almost trite, but make no mistake about it: upgrading to WM6.1 is a radical front-end change that will leave you feeling like you have a brand new phone!  Perhaps that’s overstating it a bit, but the upgrade is really quite nice to have.

Among the WM6.1 enhancements are…

  • "Sliding panels" homescreen
  • Threaded SMS messaging
  • Improved browser
  • Built-in task manager
  • Better battery life and improved device performance
  • Other stuff

Enough of all that.  Let’s try to get you upgraded!

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First of all, this write-up assumes that you have a fully-functioning T-Mobile Dash phone operating on the U.S. network.  It also assumes that you know how to use your phone fairly well, as not everything is spelled out for you.  Lastly, this procedure may void your warranty, so please be aware of that.

What you’ll need:

  • A functioning, usable T-Mobile Dash phone (aka HTC Excalibur) on the T-Mobile network
  • Windows PC (XP or Vista)
  • USB sync cable to connect your phone to your PC
  • To download these zipped files and unzip them to a local folder on your computer.  The desktop works fine.

If you’re already confused, then this upgrade isn’t for you.  Otherwise, please continue…

UPGRADING THE ROM

  1. Turn off your phone, remove any MicroSD card you might have, and boot the phone back up again.  When the phone is fully booted (and usable), connect your phone to your PC via your USB sync cable.  Windows should recognize your phone and either 1) launch Active-Sync, or 2) see it as a removable drive.  Fine.  Things are working normally.
  2. With your phone connected to your PC, double-click on the "RUU_Excalibur_WM61_Kavana_080330_WWE.exe" file that you downloaded/extracted in the earlier steps.  The ROM update utility will start.  Click the button with "EC" to continue.
  3. You should be greeted with a command prompt box telling your to "remove SD card and reboot…".  We’ve already done this, so hit Enter to continue.  The ROM will be copied to your phone.
  4. The screen should read "execute SPL now…"  Hit Enter one more time.
  5. Now, hit the middle (silver) button of your phone d-pad.  The screen on your mobile phone should turn white.
  6. Hit Enter once more to continue.
  7. The GUI for the ROM updater should launch.  Keep the defaults and select any "I agree" statements when prompted.  The ROM update itself takes about 5 minutes or so.
  8. After the update, your phone will reboot by itself and run the ‘Cold Boot’ config.  This is normal.  Restart your phone when prompted.
  9. Upon rebooting again, you will be prompted with a "Voice Command" program selected.  I chose "Microsoft Voice Command" and clicked OK.  Another reboot.
  10. Finally, your phone should boot up into the new WM6.1 interface and join the T-Mobile network.  Congrats!!!  Your phone has successfully upgraded.  You can also turn the phone off again and re-insert your MiniSD card, if you like.

FIXING THE DEFAULT KEY MAPPINGS

This ROM defaults to an alternate (non-US) keyboard mapping for this phone.  It’s fairly easy to fix, so here we go….

  1. Connect the phone to your PC
  2. Copy the ‘ET9 Full.cab’ and ‘et9.Excalibur.0409.kmap.txt’ files to your phone.  Remember where you put them!
  3. Using the File Explorer, find the ‘ET9 Full.cab’ file and launch it to install.  Install it to your ‘Device’, if prompted.
  4. Under Start > All Programs, use the Resco Explorer program to copy the ‘et9.Excalibur.0409.kmap.txt’ file to the My Device\Windows folder on your phone.  Overwrite the existing file.
  5. Restart your phone and enjoy the proper keyboard mappings!

Note: the pink "T" button in the lower-right hand corner of the keypad now launches the CeleTask task manager application.  Very nice!

RUN THE CONNECTION SETUP FOR T-MOBILE

  1. Go to the Start menu on your phone.  This selection now opens the "Recent Programs" option by default.  Hit the left soft button again for "All Programs", then select Accessories.
  2. Choose the Connection Setup program
  3. Select the ‘United States’ from the first drop-down menu, and then ‘T-Mobile’ as your operator.
  4. Reboot when prompted.
  5. Your phone should now be configured for T-Mobile phone, data, MMS, and SMS access.

DISABLING Xt9 (optional)

The default typing input method for the Dash is the Xt9 I’m-gonna-guess-what-you-really-mean-to-say method.  I find it aggravating and turn it off immediately.  Here’s how.

  1. Open a new text message and begin typing
  2. Hold the "alt" key and "space bar" down at the same time
  3. When the menu pops up, choose the ‘ABC’ option (2nd in the list), and click the middle of your d-pad
  4. Now you can type what you want, how you want.  This selection will stay even with a reboot!

DISABLING THE JOG BAR (optional)

The Dash features a touch-sensitive strip just right of the display. It’s called the JogBar, and I hate it.  Actually, I like the idea, but it really doesn’t work well if you hold the phone up to your head with your right hand.  What happens?  Basically, it touches the side of your face and ends up turning the volume down in mid phone call.  Ooops!  For whatever reason, they *never* thought to include another method for adjusting the volume on these phones.  How about the up/down d-pad, guys?  Crazy, I know.

All that said, I just turn the volume on the phone to ‘max’ and disable the JogBar entirely.  Works out fine.  Here’s how…

  1. Connect the phone to your PC
  2. Copy the ‘SetJogBar.cab’ file to your phone.  Remember where you put it!
  3. Using the File Explorer on your phone, find the ‘SetJogBar.cab’ that you copied over and run it.  Install it to your ‘Device’, if prompted.
  4. Next, make a quick phone call, use the JogBar to turn the phone up all the way, and disconnect the call.
  5. Go to Start > All Programs > and Settings on your phone.
  6. On the 3rd screen, find the JOGGR line, open it, de-select the top 4 checkboxes, and click done.
  7. JogBar is disabled

CHANGING THE HEADER GRAPHIC FOR EASIER TEXT DIALING (optional)

Our home and office phones have letters written on the number keys for easier dialing when calling a number like 1-800-FLOWERS, or something like that.  That has historically been somewhat difficult on the Dash, but an upgraded graphic will cure those ails!  Here’s how…

  1. Connect the phone to your PC
  2. Copy the ‘ms_mobile.gif’ image to your phone.  Again, remember where you put it.
  3. Using Resco Explorer (Start > All Programs), copy the ‘ms_mobile.gif’ file to the My Device\Windows folder on your phone.  Overwrite the existing file.
  4. Reboot your phone and you’ll notice a handy ‘numbers + letters’ graphic at the top of the screen when you start dialing.  Cool.

SIMPLIFY THE HOME SCREEN (optional)

The default WM6.1 home screen includes access to photos, music, and other things that I (personally) don’t use a whole lot on my phone.  I’d rather not have them on the home screen.  Guess what?  That’s easy to change.  Here’s how…

  1. On your phone, go to Start > All Programs > Settings and choose Home Screen.
  2. The first option is called the Home Screen Layout and defaults to "Sliding Panel Media".  Select that box, and hit right or left on your d-pad until it says "Sliding Panel" only.
  3. You’ll also notice a checkbox that says "Show Recent Programs".  If you prefer that the Start button shows All Programs (instead of the new default Recent Programs), then simply uncheck that box.
  4. Hit Done and then hit the Home button.  Your home screen will be changed!

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That should do it!  Here are some before and after shots of the homescreen (not my phone, obviously):

Before

After

Schwanky!

For more information on your T-Mobile Dash, check out the XDA Developers "Excalibur" message board.  Really great stuff there!

Enjoy 🙂

Your next MP3 player?

(Found on the Anything But Ipod site)

This MP3 player features all of the usual things that you come to love/expect from a high-quality audio device, such as….

  • Built-in 1gig flash memory
  • Built-in loudspeaker
  • Cute dog doll outfit

One curious feature is that it “plays music standalone (with the need of a computer)”.  I’m guessing that’s a typo.

For only $18.67 + free shipping, one of these darling things can be yours!

Don’t delay.  Operators are standing by.

Check out ‘Crayon Physics Deluxe’! Amazing…

Really awesome stuff!

The “deluxe” version isn’t available yet, but you can download the older version which is still a lot of fun to play.

Enjoy!

Reticulating Splines (and other “Mozy” thoughts)

I use a little data backup service called Mozy.  You should use it too.  “Why?“, you ask.  Because bad things happen and data goes bye-bye.  Tears flow.  Much grief ensues.  “Oh… but I backup my stuff to an external USB drive!  I copy all of my pictures and stuff to some DVDs and store them in my sock drawer!!”  Ever hear of thieves?  Ever hear of a house fire?  Suddenly that “backup to my external USB drive” doesn’t look so awesome.

Enter Mozy.  For $4.99/month, you have “unlimited storage” with Mozy online — away from burglurs, house fires, and all that jazz.  “But what about ‘online thievery’?  This Intar-web I’ve heard about is a dangerous place!”  Then feel free to encrypt your data with your own PGP encryption key.

Here’s what you need to do….

  1. Get a broadband Internet connection
  2. Sign up for the $4.99/month Mozy service.
  3. Install the Mozy application on your home PC (or Mac).
  4. Select the folders you’d like to backup — pictures, documents, music (if you like), money software files, and so on.
  5. Set the backup schedule.
  6. That’s it!  Feel better when you sleep at night…

Depending upon how much data you have to backup, the initial backup can take a very long time.  This is to be expected.  You can stop that backup at any time, of course, but if you have several gigs of data to backup, then it’s going to take awhile to push that data online.  After the initial full backup, though, you are only ever backing up changed or new files, so subsequential backups are pretty quick.  Deleted files remain on the backup for 30 days, so you can get them back.  Nice!

Stop dilly-dallying and just do it.  Trust me on this.

After you’ve set everything up, you’ll get to see fun messages like this…

I’ve noticed the message “Reticulating splines…” for awhile now, but never thought much of it.  Evidently there is a bigger story behind that particular message: something to do with SimCity, and other wackiness.

Oh, Mozy — you so crazy!

My Zune makes me sad… :(

I have sadness.

Much sadness.

My Zune 80 makes me sad.

Why do you do this to me, Zune?

Haven’t I loved you?

Haven’t I heaped praise upon you?

Haven’t I wiped your screen clean?

Haven’t I kept you safely and securely in my pocket?

Haven’t I charged you fully when you required it, with n’ery a thought of the electricity bill that I would incur?

Why do you show me 50% battery life left, and then turn off?

Why does the Zune “support” team have NO IDEA what I’m talking about?

Why is this now happening on my 2nd Zune device?

Why do you mock me, Zune?

I thought you loved me.

You’re a tease.

==========================

Update: 09/22/2008

It appears that this battery issue has been resolved by the latest 3.0 firmware update for the Zune devices.  Basically, I returned a non-defective Zune because the Zune support team couldn’t atleast muster the phrase “why don’t you wait until the upcoming firmware release”.

Anyhow.  I’m glad it’s resolved now, so I can get back to being all lovey-dovey with my Zune!

De-ghetto-ify your Windows XP!

Let’s face it: the standard interface for Windows XP is starting to look pretty long-in-the-tooth.  In fact, I’ve never been a big fan of it.  That said, there are literally millions of users still working in XP every single day.  Personally, I say “move to Vista”, but for those of you who can’t (or won’t) take the plunge, here’s an easy way to make your XP-erience just a bit nicer!

Step1
Download the free “Royale Theme” for Windows XP.  Click here to download the .zip file.

Step 2
Open the .zip (compressed) file and double-click the ‘Royale Theme for XP’ file to install.  Keep all defaults and complete the setup process.

Step 3
Right-click on your desktop and choose Properties.  (Alternately, you can go to START > CONTROL PANEL > and double-click on DISPLAY)

Step 4
In the Display properties, you should be on the Themes tab.  From the Theme drop-down box, choose the ‘Royale’ entry and then click OK.

Step 5
Your interface will be quickly changed to start using the ‘Royale’ theme, which is quite nice looking, in my opinion.

Note:  You’ll also notice that your wallpaper is automatically changed.  Head back into the Display Properties, choose the Desktop tab, re-select your previous wallpaper (or a new one, if you like), and click OK.  Done.

————————————-

Before

After

Subtle changes in some respects, but it definitely helps the XP interface feel more “fresh” and “current”.  Again, my opinion.

For those of you who are wondering about the origins of this theme, evidently it is an *official* Microsoft theme that was extracted from the ‘XP Media Center Edition’ install.  Nice!

Enjoy… 🙂

Xbox 360 + Netflix = Awesome

Despite the over-publicized HD DVD vs. BluRay war, I think that there is little doubt that the future for media distribution — of all types — is really heading toward downloadable content, if it’s not already there.  Folks are puchasing CDs less, and opting for iTunes, Amazon MP3, Rhapsody MP3, and other “subscriber”-based methods (Zune, Rhapsody) for their music.  Love it or hate it, that’s what people are doing.  The same goes for movies, and will continue to head in that direction as the content is made more readily available.

Well, today Microsoft has announced the very next step in this process: a partnership with Netflix to allow streamable content to the Xbox 360 console.

The recently released $99 Roku player for Netflix was an amazing release in its own right, but the announcement today is MUCH bigger for many reasons. First of all, there have been over 10 million Xbox 360s sold around the world — most of those in the United States.  The majority of those 10 million units are now *instantly* capable of acting as Netflix streamable devices.  Secondly, there are over 8 million Netflix subscribers.  I’m guessing that a great many of these Netflix subscribers also own an Xbox 360.  Congrats!  Now you’ll be able to get Netflix content on your media console!!  Thirdly, this is a big win for two media-centric companies: Microsoft and Netflix.  The Xbox 360 will now have more media content available than ever before, while Netflix will certainly broaden it’s customer base.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that Netflix gained thousands of subscribers shortly after today’s announcement!

This move will have its share of detractors, I’m sure.  For starters, you do need to have the Xbox Live “Gold” membership — as well as a Netflix subscription, of course — to be able to access the Netflix content.  You know what?  It only makes sense, as Microsoft needs to make some money in this deal too.  For $40, you can purchase a 12-month Xbox Live “Gold” membership from NewEgg.com.  Done deal.  Also, may will lament about the (currently) limited “streamable” library offered by Netflix.  Fair enough.  Be on the lookout, though, because that library will certainly continue to grow in the coming months.  Netflix has every reason to increase their streamable content base.

Needless to say, I’m very excited about today’s announcement.  It not only builds upon the great technology that Netflix has offered for years, it also utilitizes hardware that is in many living rooms already — the Xbox 360.  In my opinion, a “win-win” situation for all around — except, perhaps, for Sony, Apple, and a few others 🙂

Looking forward to the fall release of this technology update!