Using a third-party, Locked phone on T-Mobile on Linux

I love my blackberry. To me, it's the perfect mobile communication device. Easy and immediate access to email, MMS, SMS, and instant messaging (gtalk). The non-touch variety have excellent tactile keypads and a surprisingly pleasant to use trackpad. I adore the clean, diminutive interface over the touch-based interfaces of Android and IOS phones. When your primary input device is a sausage shaped piece of meat, you have to have clunky, ugly, child-like interfaces.

T-mobile has been pushing it's no-contract plans and after checking it out, I'm quite pleased with what they offer.

For $50 a month:

  • Unlimited Talk
  • Unlimited Text
  • Unlimited Data (500mb at highspeed, throttled after that)
  • Tethering Included
  • Blackberry Services Included.

I faced some challenges getting my phone working and getting everything just so. It's not quite perfect yet (I do not have contacts syncing between gmail and my phone), but it's close enough. It was a semi-arduous process mostly because I'm cheap and went the third-party phone route (which I in no way blame T-mobile for. They're super cool with you just buying a SIM card and registering whatever).

Transferring a Number

I just got a new number less than a year ago. I did not want to have to get a new one yet again and have to update everything yet again. Luckily some laws were passed a few years ago that require cell carriers to allow numbers to be transferred. To transfer a cell phone number you need your wireless account number and your pin. With Virgin Mobile I had to call to get this information. With Cricket (my wife's carrier) it was plainly and clearly visible on her manage account page. So, depending on your carrier you may have to call or may be able to easily find it.

When you sign up for service either tick the box saying you want to transfer a number and enter your credentials or call and provide the information over the phone.

Unlocking your Phone

If your phone is locked head over to http://freemyblackberry.com and follow their process for unlocking. I was impatient and appreciated the service so I ponied up $3 to get my unlock code instantly. It worked without issue.

Getting Internet Email Working

To get internet email (for example gmail, like any sane person will be using) you have to jump through a few hoops. First, make sure you have ordered Blackberry Internet Services from T-mobile. It's a $0/mo item, but you have to have it. Second, you must specify your phone is a blackberry on my.t-mobile.com. I have a 9300, which was not listed, but selecting any blackberry should do it. Once you've done that you can go to MobileLife→Email Settings and then you can follow the online email setup. I did that and within a few minutes a new app appeared on my phone for internet email.

Managing from Linux

Blackberries are business phones meant for enterprise business use which means Microsoft Windows based software. Bleh. I use Linux exclusively on my personal machines (the communal Windows 7 HTPC notwithstanding). There is a suite of software by the name of Barry available for Archlinux in the AUR. Barry includes a backup manager, dialup scripts and a pppob (ppp over barry) binary that lets you tether over USB. Standard bluetooth tools work beautiful and I push files via bluetooth all the time.

The bjavaloader problem lets you list, add, remove, software modules (the packages behind “apps”). bbssh lets you ssh into your machines. I'm still looking for a good free VNC/RDP app.