Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blackberry Curve 8520 Setup

So it came time for my wife to renew her cellphone contract, and I was roped into giving some ideas for a new phone. Being a geek, it's actually fun, except the pressure of possibly giving the wrong advise. So I needed to do some research based on "I just want something that works".

What I have noticed between men and woman with regards to their gadgets, is not that the devices themselves differ, but what they are used for is different. I guy will select a fancy cellphone, not so much for what it does for him functionally, but more for mmm... lets call it "bragging rights". A girl on the other hand wants something that works, and makes her life easier, and it helps if it comes in pink.

My wife is finding it difficult to keep track of meetings, and being away from her PC, so it would really help to have access to her email and calendar. She would be moving from a Nokia E51, which is a smartphone, but although I had it all configured, she never really used email and internet, because the screen is really small, and typing emails with predictive text is a little time consuming.

So the new phone needed to have a bigger screen, a better way if inputting data, not too big or heavy, and needed to be in the "free with a contract" price band.

Given my "dislike" of Windows Mobile devices, those were out of contention. The iPhone, although a very capable device, was just too expensive. So we decided to look at Blackberry. There are plenty of models in the "high" price bracket, but the 8520 Curve, was available for "free" on the Vodacom Talk 130 contract. At a glance, the 8520 has most of what the more expensive devices have, except GPS, 3G and a high res camera.

At 2MP the camera is the same as that on the E51, so at least it's not a step down. No GPS is not a problem as she has GPS in her car. But you can connect a bluetooth GPS receiver as the 8520 does have Blackberry maps. So no 3G seemed like the possible deal breaker. With a Blackberry device, you must use the "Blackberry Internet Service" (BIS) as that is free on this contract, and apparently currently only runs at EDGE speeds, so the lack of 3G only becomes an issue if you are planing to use your phone as a PC modem, which is not free as it does not work through BIS. So no 3G was not an issue either.

Given this outcome the Blackberry 8520 became the first choice, and the deal was done. I was handed a box and a new phone, and asked very nicely to give it back "all setup". With a feeling of excitement and anguish, I set about doing just that.

Blackberry Curve-8520

At this point I must just tell you about WAF. In case you don't know, WAF stands for Wife Acceptance Factor, and you need to keep WAF at a high level. One sure fire way to lower WAF, is for electronic things to not do what is expected of them, so always try keep WAF high.

In the box

With your 8520 phone, you get a charged battery (that's a nice touch), a wall socket charger, stereo earphones, USB PC cable, manual and CD. What I did notice right away is that the 8520 does make use of the "Open Mobile Terminal Platform" standard for the charger and USB interface.

The phone

What strikes you right away when you pick up the phone is how light it is (106g) given the size, you really do expect it to be heavier, this is a good thing for girls, who will be adding this to the existing weight of a handbag. The feel of the device is solid and the keys feel good. I find that I cannot really type with my finger tips, and switch to using the end of my finger nails, but can still get pretty good speed. The screen is clear and bright, and a good size, the font is well matched to the screen and doesn't feel crowded. A big step up from using the Nokia E51.

Setting up

Put the SIM card in saw then that the additional storage card was already installed (2GB), installed the battery, and we are ready to roll. The phone boots up in a good time, and you are presented with the home screen after keying in your SIM pin. The new track pad is nice to use, you slide your finger over the middle button below the screen and it moves the position of the function being highlighted. Near the top of the screen you can change which profile you want, and at the bottom there is a row of six icons for functions that you can select. When selecting you just click the track pad. To dial a number you just start dialing using the keyboard, and then click the dial button, there is also a dedicated cancel/put down button. The other two main buttons are a "back" button which takes you back to the screen before, and a "Blackberry" button that brings up the main menu or a pop up menu, in context to where you are. A quick test showed that making and receiving a call worked, with CLI functional, and SMS worked too.

BIS (Blackberry Internet Service)

Next up, setting up email. But first I wanted to make sure BIS was working, better to be using the free service from the get go. A quick look in the manual didn't reveal much, so I headed to the trusty internet and my friend Google. A couple of searches only lead me into more darkness, no real answers on how to get this to work, and plenty of overseas users saying they had to contact their "service providers". I thought I might as well give Vodacom's website a try, and see where their help section leads me. I must say to my surprise they did have all the info I needed, but not really user friendly. It was only through trial and error that I found out that you need to setup "Host Routing table registration". Now I am quite familiar with internet jargon, and I know what host routing tables are, but how would one know that this is needed to be done on the phone to get BIS to work. Anyway you follow these instructions, and voila it's up and running in a few minutes. So how do you know it's working? Have a look at the top right corner of the screen, it shows gprs when it is connected, and if it's in uppercase (GPRS) then you are connected via BIS.


While setting up BIS, I also got the phone connected to the home WiFi. Real easy actually, the phone will detect any available WiFi networks, and you just input your passwords and you are good to go. The phone runs at 802.11b/g speeds, so if you have good broadband, you can overcome the lack of 3G speed when in WiFi range. The phone also switches seamlessly between the networks. I was never a fan of this behavior, due to the fact that when switching automatically from WiFi to cellphone network normally shoots your data cost through the roof, I prefer the phone to "ask" before switching. But with BIS being free it is actually not an issue on this phone.

Email and Calendar setup

My wife uses Gmail, so all you need to do is configure Gmail for IMAP connectivity (Google Help will show you how to do that), then select "Email Settings" under the Setup menu (by the way this option only appears once you have BIS setup), Gmail is an option in the menu. You provide your username and password, and you are connected. A quick test, and all is working as expected, I was surprised how quick the messages come through. The messages icon on the main screen shows an asterisk if you have new messages, and an image of a small envelope with a number next to it on the top of the screen showing number of messages unread. I also installed Google Calendar sync, which is available as a download from the Google site. This will sync your calendar with your Gmail one, and in turn send those updates to your PC calendar. You can also install calendar sync for your PC. What I did find is with all the syncing back and forth, some duplicate entities were made, Google does have a bug logged for this, but no time frame on getting it fixed. In my testing no meetings were lost, only duplicates created. But I was changing stuff a lot and syncing back and forth, which is not what would happen in a normal day.

Other apps

Being a smartphone I could not help myself and needed to add some apps (be warned if this goes wrong it can drastically lower your WAF). My wife uses Facebook, so when I saw there was an app for that I figured lets give it a go. You need to head over to Blackberry App World on the web, select the app you want, give your cell number and they SMS you a link to download the app on your phone. Clickedy click and Facebook was installed. Although you can run the app from the downloads menu, it does actually integrate well with the functions of the phone. Any Facebook messages arrive into the messages folder, the same place as your emails. You can link your cellphone contacts with your Facebook friends, this then pulls in any info on them that you may be missing, and uses their profile picture as your contacts image. This image then comes up when they call you, and it updates if they update their profile, pretty cool. You also have an additional option in your camera menu when sending a photo, to send it to Facebook.

I also loaded Google Talk, which runs in the background, new instant messages show up in the messages folder, and you can add a link to your contacts. Google Talk for Blackberry does have an annoying bug that stops the app from running when you loose connectivity, and it won't reconnect when your connectivity is restored. You have to manually reconnect.

Two Google Blackberry apps with bugs, not too good!

I did see Flickr for Blackberry in App World, which would work as a good add on to your camera, but have not tried it.

I installed the Blackberry software off the CD, which gives access to change which standard functions are available on the phone, as well as update the phone software if a new release comes out. The phone had the latest version on, so I could not try this.  You can also use the software to sync your contacts, calendar and email, with your PC. And you can use the software to transfer data to your phone, with the facility for media sync, which will synchronize your images, videos and music. I thought this was a nice touch given that this is not known for being a media device.


I got a good tip from my brother in law for setting up the menu. When you click the Blackberry key from the home screen you get a full screen of icons to choose from. The home screen has only six icons across the bottom of the screen. What was getting me, was how to set which of these six icons you want on the home screen. It's quite simple actually, you move the icons you want to the top row of the main menu, and when you return to the home screen those are the ones shown. It's almost like the main menu "slides" up and down, and shows the top row only, when on the home screen. You can also create your own custom "folder" or sub menu, and put items in there, and then put that icon on the top row, giving a quick way to get to a sub menu of your choice.

To silence the phone when you have an incoming call but not cancel the call, click the "space" key or the trackpad button.

It is pretty impressive what you can do with the profiles, you can basically set the sounds for every function on the phone, calls, SMS, MMS, Email etc, individually. The thing that I found strange was the setting for IN/OUT of "Holster". Sounds like a setting for a cowboy. This refers to whether you have the phone in or out of a belt pouch, or holster. You need to use a Blackberry specific one, but the phone picks up the magnet on the pouch cover, and sets the phone to the "IN holster" setting. This is so that you can enable vibrate, or maybe make the ringer loader. I think the girls would like this in a handbag, might work if you sew a small magnet in there somewhere near the phone.


I must say I am very impressed with the Blackberry Curve 8520, and would recommend it to anyone who needs an effective portable messaging device. With email now working for my wife just like SMS, I am finding that I now email her when I would have normally sent an SMS, and am saving myself the cost of an SMS each time. Blackberry are known for having messaging centric devices, and this one does fit the bill, and at a good price point too.

As far as the girls point of view, my wife says... "This phone is actually quite nice" = WAF -> Good

Friday, April 23, 2010

Honda CRV Car DVD Install Part 1

This a quick walk through of the Waywell Car DVD install for a 2009 Honda CRV.

The model being fitted here the WD6009, but the site has been updated to reflect changes to this model. Waywell Website, so you cannot buy this specific one anymore

This is what the car looks like with the standard radio.

Original Radio

Radio with single CD, no MP3 capability, but it does have an aux in for a media device

This was replaced with the following
  • CD/DVD Player
  • MP4 Video Player
  • MP3 Player (Supported on CD and DVD)
  • Radio
  • USB Reader
  • SD Card Reader
  • Bluetooth (for cellphone)
  • AUX in (Audio and Video)
  • AUX out (Audio and Video, for rear screens)
  • iPod support
  • Reversing Camera
  • TV
  • GPS Navigation

Main Menu

Picture of the installed unit, showing the main menu.


The unit comes with a wiring harness to suit the existing one in the car, so the plugs going to the original radio, plug straight into the new radios harness. This only really covers the wiring for the speakers, and the steering wheel controls, as you still have to supply wires for main power, key power and dash lights.

Car harness
The harness going to the car

Radio wiring harness to match car
The main harness going into the radio

Remote Steering wire
The steering wheel remote control wire

Steering Wheel Remote Control Issue

Plugging in the wires and getting the radio working was pretty easy, I did have a problem getting the steering remote controls working, at first none of the buttons would work, then after a bit of searching I found that the pink and brown wires you can see in the picture above, were the wrong way round. After fixing that I could get only volume up and channel down to work. I contacted Waywell and they sent me the follow pages from their manual.

Steering wheel control setup Pg 36

Steering wheel control setup Pg 37

Steering wheel control setup Pg 38
Click on the image to enlarge

This worked first time, so all the buttons work as expected. In the CRV the steering has remote buttons for Volume, Channel and Mode. Because you can map any button to any function, I found mapping mode to mute on the radio was more handy.

Steering Wheel Control Setup
This is what the setup screen looks like, as explained in the supplied fix.


A TV antenna and reversing camera were added to the radio when ordered as optional extras. The TV works the same as a portable TV with "bunny" ears. But you can't move the antenna around as it is fixed in the roof lining near the windscreen, so you have to move the car around. TV reception moves from good to terrible, with the slightest change in direction. I did manage to pick up all the South African TV stations though.

Just a note, the TV and DVD only work if the handbrake is up, the rear DVD player will work while the car is moving, so the kids are happy, and you can use the radio in the front for something else.

Reversing Camera

Fitting this was the hardest part, the camera was mounted above the number plate in the rear hatch. This ended up to be a great place, with a good view behind. The unit automatically switches to the camera when you engage reverse, and works like a charm. Sometimes the light can be an issue, as you would expect.

The camera shows up 3 blue lines on the image, and with some practice, you can navigate very well using these lines as a reference for how close you are to objects.


I connected an iPod Touch to test the iPod connection and it works fine, audio is good, I have not managed to get video to work. There is a menu item for it, so I assume it would work, possibly only with the normal iPod.

iPod Interface

I do find the menu rather small, and clicking on items with your finger is difficult, especially when driving. Once you are in the place you want to be, you can skip back/forward with the steering controls.


Bluetooth Cellphone Interface

The bluetooth cellphone interface is pretty basic, just gives you hands-free functionality, with incoming caller number only, no address book import. This is a bit of a downer, for a device like this, but as I see on the Waywell website, they are now adding this to new models.


This functions well, and there are 18 presets available, reception is ok, I have had better radios, but with a strong signal it's fine. There is no RDS, so no channel names, as well as no auto-skip to a stronger signal.

Radio Mode

Check back for part 2 on how I got the SatNav working.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Woolworths Savoury Rub Deboned Chicken

Savoury Rub Deboned Chicken

If you're a chicken lover and like it from the braai (BBQ), I can definitely recommend the Woolworths Savoury Rub Deboned Chicken.

It is real easy to cook, takes a lot less time than chicken on the bone, and when it comes to carving, it is just slice and serve.

Goes great with baked potatoes, and avocado salad.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Four Bean and Tuna Salad

For anyone who would like a healthy lunch takeaway idea. I recommend the Four Bean Salad from Woolworths with the John West tuna pack added on top.

If you have a bowl available, I find that the tuna mixes in better if you put that in first and pour the salad over it.

Woolies Four Bean SaladJohn West Tuna Pack

Most beans contain only 2-3% fat, contain no cholesterol, and they can help lower your cholesterol level because they are one of the richest sources of fiber!

Tuna, an excellent source of lean protein, vitamins and minerals, can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids, found in abundance in fatty fish like tuna, can help lower the risk of heart disease.

If you are on the run, just grab both these items at Woolies (some stores place them both in the fridge section), mix and enjoy, also remember you can get a spoon or fork at the till on the way out.


Friday, April 02, 2010

A year with a Samsung Omnia i900

In 2008 I signed up with MTN on their new Anytime Contract which included a Samsung Omnia i900 at R319.00 per month for 24 months.

I have used Nokia cellphones for the past 6 years. 3 of them have been Symbian S60 platform smartphones. Nokia S60 phones have not been good luck for me, all 3 of these phones, have either developed issues that make them unusable or they just failed to switch on one day. All failures outside of warranty, so I could not have them repaired, without handing over more cash. So I dumped them in a cupboard and borrowed a phone to use until I could renew my contract and get a new phone.

I decided to skip Nokia this time around, and went for a Windows Mobile phone. I am not a Microsoft fan, I believe their software is expensive and unstable. But I thought I should try out their Mobile software at least before I make any judgment on that, and see what all the fuss is about.

I looked around at all the phones available. I was restricted by what I could get on a contract for minimal pay in. I looked at the HTC Diamond, but decided on the Samsung Omnia i900 based on some reviews I read and the fact that I liked the look of the phone.

In the box

Besides the normal stuff, phone, charger, USB cable and manual, this box comes with a car holder (stick on window type), a car charger and an additional 8GB memory card, with Garmin software already on it. With this card installed this phone has 16GB of memory in total.

I switch the phone on, it asks for some owner information and it's up and running. Made a few calls and was impressed with the sound quality.

What struck me as strange right up front was the way that the stylus is stored on a string hanging off the side of the phone. People would ask me why I have an eyeliner pencil attached to my phone. I think Samsung were hoping for an iPhone type user experience, and felt storing the stylus in the phone was not necessary. I must say this did bug me. One can obviously detach the stylus and forgo using it, but I found that trying to use the phone with only your finger isn't easy all the time.

Making a call and sending an SMS

Using the touch screen to make a call, is easy, you can call up a contact or dial a number using your finger tip. Sending an SMS is a bit more of a two handed process, there is a big keyboard to click with your finger, but it takes up a lot of the available screen area, the keyboard is easier to use if you flip the screen on it's side, a process that works well with the motion sensor. You can deactivate the sensor if you wish. I found that finding a contact and then sending the SMS is easier than starting a new SMS and clicking on the To field to add a recipient.


In typical Microsoft fashion, you can only sync this phone with MS Outlook, which works fine, but this forces you into buying the software which is around R1200 for Outlook or R4500 for the Office Suite. I would have liked to see MS provide the Outlook software in the box.


One of the primary requirements for me is WiFi on my cellphone, I use this to access servers in my home wireless network. It was pretty easy to get the phone connected, and I can browse the internet through my broadband connection. One thing that does bug me, is if you set-up the phone to use a 3G data connection, it will reconnect on this if the WiFi connection is lost, great if that's what you want, but a problem in ZA where cellular bandwidth is expensive. This is a "Windows thinking for me" thing that ticks me off. At least have some way to confirm that you want to reconnect. The WiFi hardware is not very good, I have other WiFi devices that connect fine to my network in places where the Omnia will not. You basically need line of site to your access point, and should be within 10 to 15 meters. Also the WiFi does chomp the battery.


The supplied Garmin software is similar to that used in the Nuvi range of devices and works in exactly the same way, so it's good and works well. But it sucks your battery dry, so if you plan to use this regularly in your car, have a charger with you. If you think you have a GPS in your pocket for use whenever, be sure you have enough power. Another strange thing is how hot the phone gets when using GPS, putting it into your pocket after use is uncomfortable. The down side with having an all in one device is that making a call when using the GPS is a mission. The screen is a little small, some popup alerts cannot be read while driving.


With a 5MP camera, this phone does take good pics, it has a flash, but daytime pictures are much better quality. One feature that did work well was the panorama function, of stitching several pics together as you move sideways.

Installing Apps

A few people have said to me that the reason I have bad luck with smart phones, is that I mess around with the software. This is probably true to some extent, but isn't that what they were made for? Now I am not a hacker type of user, I don't dig into the core workings of the software. But I do like to load software and try things out, mostly the run of the mill stuff that is freely available. I must say the stuff available out there is a bit disorganized, There is really no one place, like an "app store" that you can go to for everything, and a lot of stuff just didn't work on the Omnia.

General Use

With not much to install, I ended up using the phone to make calls and send SMS's. But you can do that with a much cheaper phone.

I found that using any of the features that require you to slide your finger over the screen, rather difficult. You need to apply the same level of pressure constantly as you sweep your finger.


Well that lasted only 12 months into the 24 month contract. I started seeing more and more crashes on the phone, I would need to reboot more often. Then one day I stopped getting incoming calls. With the phone on and showing as "working", the person calling said they got a ringing sound on their side, but the soon to be paper weight was completely silent on my side.

That day ended with the phone taking a bit of flight out of my hand and hitting the floor, as it decided to hang AGAIN.

So like oysters, I tried it, and didn't like it. No more Samsung Windows Mobile phones for me, and probably no Windows Mobile, period.