Should I ditch my Blackberry Storm for the Storm 2?

Well it’s been a solid year since I’ve made a post so I thought it might be time to put up some more good info about the Blackberry Storm.

If you are like me, you love your BB Storm. But is it worth forking out that extra cash to get the Storm 2? Personally I don’t think it is. And here is why…

Being someone who does Blackberry support, I have had a chance to play quite a bit with both the Storm and the Storm 2 and when it all boils down, there aren’t that many new features that I think justifies the cost.

While I do like the way the navigation buttons are now part of the screen and there are no moving mechanical parts, and I must mention that the Storm 2 has 2x as much memory as the original (perhaps the reason for the 2?), you don’t really notice many of the other enhancements.

The Blackberry Handheld Software 5.0 is freely available to all Storm users and I strongly recommend the upgrade to get most of the OS features of the Storm 2.

So overall, upgrade your Storm to 5.0 and I think that will make your original Storm last until RIM comes out with something new.

Speaking of something new…Blackberry’s have been a solid business device for the last several years. But with the iPhone, Google’s new Droids, and even Palm attempting to make a comeback, RIM really needs to take a deep look at some of the newer features these phones offer and consider a major upgrade. Business features are great, but even business people like fun stuff and the BBs are fairly limited compared to what other phones can do. I love my Blackberry and am keeping my fingers crossed that when my contract comes due in another year, that I will find myself with a new touch screen Blackberry device – because the Motorola Droid I bought for my wife sure is fun phone and works great for her in her business….

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Google w/ GPS

Google came out with version 3.x and the GPS works great now on the Blackberry Storm.  There is no voice turn-by-turn instructions but if you know how to read a map, this is a great Map/GPS program.  The feature that I wish they would come out with now is to have multiple destinations instead of just one.  I often go places where I need to get from point A to B to C to…  not just point A to B.  Perhaps that will be in an upcoming version.

In my last post I mentioned Nav4All if you need voice turn-by-turn – I still like it but Google Maps is much easier to use.

Blackberry Storm GPS Update – Nav4All

Thanks to Peter’s comment on my last blog entry, I took another look at the Nav4All GPS application for the Blackberry Storm.  I was running version 8.x and they recently, within the last couple of weeks, came out with version 9.0.  I upgraded to it and sure enough – worked perfectly.  It doesn’ t have quite the slick interface that the Verizon Navigator ($9.99/mo.) has but it definitely did the job.

I took a 200 mile round trip down to south-western Minnesota and put Nav4All through the test – and was very pleased.   It told me where to turn, self-corrected when I decided to go a different way, ran in the background and alerted me that my turn was coming up ahead as I was checking email, and the whole 9 yards. 

The only thing I didn’t like was that it kept trying to take me a different way than I wanted to go.  Google Maps showed my route perfectly but Nav4All had me taking a few smaller highways than how I wanted to do it.  There are about 10 different options how how you like to drive and I believe those plot different routes for you.  Perhaps it’s just something I need to figure out which way works best for my driving habits – I like to get there fast!

To install Nav4All, just open your Storm’s web browser and go to http://www.nav4all.com/install .  The install is simple and you even get to pick between different voices and languages.   For voice navigation, this is definitely the one I will be using – at least for now.

I’m still waiting for Google Maps to integrate the Blackberry Storm’s GPS.  The version 3.0 just came out with their fancy Latitude “find your friends on GPS”  feature but unfortunately no GPS integration for the Storm.

If you have another Free GPS program that you prefer, please let me know.

Blackberry Storm and Free GPS

So you want to use your GPS but you don’t want to pay $10/month for Verizon’s VZ Navigator?  You are just like me.

Fortunately the GPS on the Blackberry Storm isn’t locked or restricted to only using the VZ Navigator.  The Maps program that comes preinstalled on the Blackberry Storm has everything you need for basic GPS use.  It will pinpoint your location as well as show you the fastest and shortest routes.  Granted, it’s no Tom Tom or Garmin but it will do the trick.  One big thing that it lacks is actually showing you time/miles to your destination.  Perhaps it’s there, I just couldn’t easily find it.

I still prefer Google Maps – but as of right now, the GPS feature in Google Maps doesn’t work on the Blackberry Storm.  It appears that the main issue has to do with the way the screen flips around when you turn the Storm on it’s side – which is the same problem for most GPS apps on the Storm.  Google is working on a fix for it but I haven’t seen any ETA on when it will be available.  Either way, Google Maps is still my preference since it is free and taps into Google’s vast wealth of information.

I’ve also tried a couple of other GPS enabled apps for Blackberry but they don’t seem to work properly either.  Live Search installed but I can’t even get it to run.  Nav4All looked very promising until I found out the GPS doesn’t work with it either yet.

So for now, you pretty much have 2 choices – either go with the basic Maps app for free or pay $10/month to Verizon for the VZ Navigator and get a full featured GPS program.   Verizon does have a 1 month free trial on the VZ Navigator so if you are planning a vacation, save your free month and use it then.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on Google Maps and will let you know when it’s been updated for using the GPS on the Blackberry Storm.

A Tale of a BES Activation Nightmare…

A client of mine wanted to add a Blackberry to their existing Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES).  It should be a quick buy the license, add it to the server and Activate the Blackberry – after all, the end user had just purchased a new Blackberry Storm and was ready to harness the power of the BES on it.  Well, as you guessed, not all went smooth.

The company had a BES SBE (Small Business Edition) server which was the predecessor to the BPS (Blackberry Professional Software).  I had installed it for them a year and 1/2 or so earlier.  I ordered the license for the BES SBE and went to install it on the server.  When to my surprise a message pops up…

“The license key being entered is not compatible with existing keys in the license manager.  Please contact point of sales or BlackBerry Support for assistance.”

Being that it was after hours, I sent off an email to where I had ordered it and waited until morning.  Fortunately, a response email was in my Inbox when I woke up and that told me that I needed to upgrade my BES SBEto the BPS and all licenses would work.   If that is’t a big suprise that takes a bit of the wind out of your sails.  I had no choice – I began the download the upgrade and waited until after hours to do the upgrade since there was going to be a server reboot involved.  That evening, the upgrade and server reboot appeared to go smoothly.  I added the license, sent an Activation email to the end user so they could do the BES Activation 1st thing in the AM and went to bed.

The next morning another email was in my Inbox – this time it was from the end user stating that the BES Activation had failed and now nobody was receiving emails on their Blackberries.  Panic set in and I quickly remotely logged in to see what was going on.  Sure enough, the Blackberry Manager showed that none of the Blackberries had checked in since the prior evening.  I checked the BES to make sure all Blackberry services were running which they were but the SRP Status was Unknown.

After digging through Event Logs and scouring the Internet to try to figure out what could have gone wrong, I finally compared the Windows Services for the Blackberry against another machine that I had upgraded successfully and found that the Blackberry Router service was no where to be found.  Now why that Service was removed and not added back during the upgrade, I have no idea.  The only way to get it back that I could think of was to run the upgrade again.

Now if you have a Windows Server that everyone depends on for Exchange, file sharing, and the works, you know that having to reboot the server in the middle of the day is the last thing you want to do.  Well, I bit the bullet and called the company and let them know that a server reboot was needed to get the BPS up and running.  Fortunately they were able to reboot it and I kept my fingers crossed.

When the server came back up, the Blackberry Router service was there and I manually started it.  A minute later, Blackberries were starting to check back in and I let out a huge sigh of relief.  I had no idea if running the upgrade was going to fix the problem – or why the upgrade didn’t upgrade properly the 1st time.  What should have taken 30 minutes took 2 1/2 days.  It’s one of those things beyond your control that starts going wrong.  Fortunately, with persistence, patience and some luck,  my BES Activation Nightmare came to an end …

How to transfer video from the Blackberry Storm to your PC

After spending a week with my Blackberry Storm and taking some fun videos of Christmas and other things, I decided it was time to transfer the videos to my PC.  Plug it in via USB, copy them over and enjoy watching video – right?  Well, not exactly.

At first I couldn’t even find the videos, or anything for that matter, on my media card when browsing through Windows Explorer.  I doubled checked my phone to make sure they were on my media card and they were there.  After a little digging on my phone, I came across this setting:

Options -> Memory – > Auto Enable Mass Storage Mode When Connected -> Yes (default is No).  Now why that was set to No as the default I am not sure. I switched it to Yes, unplugged my phone, plugged it back in, and I was able to browse not only my media card but also the Blackberry Storm itself.

After figuring out how to get to the video files on my media card, I had another set back.

The Blackberry Storm uses a 3GP video format which, up until today I had never heard of.  It is a simplified version of MPEG-4 used in many mobile devices.  Unfortunately, my PC doesn’t recognized that format so I needed to find a converter.  Check out the 3GP Wikipedia page for more info on 3GP. 

Doing a quick Google search, I found a great utility called (you guessed it) Free 3GP Video Converter.  It’s part of a full suite of utilities for doing all kinds of video conversions – very easy to use and it was just what I needed.  Best of all, it is free.

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This utility allows you to batch convert files (meaning you can select 1 or more files for it to convert at the same time) instead of doing them individually.  It also allows you to convert a .mpeg or .AVI file to a .3GP file for viewing on your Blackberry Storm.   Convert it and copy it over to your media card in the video folder.  It’s the only utility you need to manipulate video to and from the Blackberry Storm.

Now back to converting my videos so I can burn them to DVDs and show off my camera man skills to the rest of the family.

The Storm Arrives in Time for Christmas!

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks getting ready for Christmas, the end of 2008 and the falling snow every other day here in the Twin Cities.  But I am glad that my Storm (the Blackberry Storm) wasn’t delayed and FedEx dropped it off at my doorstep yesterday just in time for Christmas.

It definitely is a completely different type of Blackberry – and definitely takes some getting used to.  Eager to start using it, I was delighted to find that the battery had a 30% charge on it.  The 1st thing I did was show it to my 5 year old daughter and she wanted to start taking pictures and video.  As with anything new, it took me  a bit to figure out how to snap my first snapshot, save it and do the same with video.

After 15 minutes of fun, I was ready to get serious.  I called Verizon to activate it then wanted to see how easy it would be to do the Enterprise Activation to sync it up with my Blackberry Enterprise Server.  I logged on remotely and reset my activation password and nothing.  A simple fix of removing me as a user on the BES and re-adding me did the trick.  After another 15 minutes, I was fully activated and started trying to figure out as much as I could.

The screen on the Blackberry Storm is better than I had expected and the clicking screen actually is easier to get used to than I thought.  While I am not yet proficient and wouldn’t want to try to type a senior thesis paper using the on-screen keyboard, it probably won’t take that long to get used to making sure my fingers are in the right spot before I click.

One thing I’m a little disappointed about – the USB plug on the side is a Micro-USB port.  Looks like I will have to get a new car charger or find an adapter that converts from Micro to Mini.  But that is pretty minor.

I’m trying to decide what type of case/holster/belt clip to get.  I don’t think I just want to throw this in my pocket and take my chances.

So far, the Blackberry Storm looks great, feels good in my big hands and seems like it will make a solid traveling companion and office assistant.

I’ll keep you posted on what I like and don’t like – including any thing that I find that makes me go Wow!

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!