Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Joining the Crackberry Legion

I broke down late last week and retired my Palm Treo 755P in favor of a Blackberry Tour, left. (I use Verizon.) It is an improvement over the long-in-the-tooth Palm, but for my purposes not really a huge improvement. A data plan is required with the Blackberry, of course, while it was not with the Palm. I did not have one before nor did I wish for one. Besides, the Tour is a 3G phone while the Palm was not. So the Palm was slow using the Internet during the very rare times I logged on.

I played with the touchscreen Blackberry Storm for some time in the store, but it seemed clunky to me, slow to respond to commands. The larger screen would have been nice (the Tour's is a little smaller than the Palm's) but the Tour seemed more usable.

I was much concerned about getting my data moved from the Palm to the Tour. The Verizon guy told me he could transfer my contacts using their SIM-card data transfer gizmo, but not the calendar, tasks or memos. However, according to the Blackberry web site, the desktop software included with the Tour had a "device switching" function that would transfer all of that, either from a Palm OS or a Windows Mobile OS (or, needless to say, from another Blackberry).

Blackberry lied. When got the phone I discovered that yes, there is such a selection on the Blackberry desktop menu, but there are two show stoppers.

First, it's in a foreign language (click image for larger view). I discovered that Blackberry's site has no number for tech support, referring you instead to your service provider. So I called Verizon, where the collective response from the several different persons I was bounced to was, "Huh?"

Second, a Google search of the problem (not translating, but the data transfer) did result in useful info that finally solved the problem. I learned that the device switcher won't work with Palm desktops newer than version 4.X while mine was v. 6.7. So, said the Blackberry forum I was reading, sync the Palm with the existing desktop, uninstall the desktop and install v. 4.X. Then re-sync the Palm device with the older version of the desktop, then run Blackberry's device switch.

Well, not quite. The last step did not work since the Blackberry device switch function was still (of course) in Sanskrit or whatever and besides, it still wouldn't import when I guessed which buttons to click.

There was, however, salvation of the transfer. The Blackberry desktop's sync function will sync with Yahoo's calendar, contacts and tasks. And Yahoo will sync with Palm 4.X (though not with later versions). So I synced between the Palm desktop and Yahoo, then between the Tour and Yahoo. Voilá, my Tour had all my data.

Well, not quite. The Palm's contacts, calendar and tasks came through cleanly, but not the memos. It seems Yahoo has no memo function. It does have a notepad function, but the Tour has no equivalent and nothing on the Yahoo notepad will sync over to the Blackberry. I have a lot of memos on the Palm and so far have been stymied as to how to transfer them over.

The other concern was my password safe. On the Palm I used a free, and excellent, Palm program called YAPS (Yet Another Password Safe). This little jewel will export all its data into a Palm memo and will import from the same. You can copy and paste this memo from the Palm desktop into Windows notepad and with a little manual tweaking convert it into a CSV file.

Alas, this does you no good in importing it into Blackberry's Password Safe. It won't import a CSV or any other file. I had to enter all my password information manually into the Tour. I'm not complaining; I understand the imperative for security here, and limiting ways to access the data is a big part of that. 'Twas a pain, that's all.

The Tour is still too new to write a review. I haven't used it long enough. Overall it is certainly more capable than the Palm. The Palm is a touchscreen phone, although best touched with its included stylus rather than a finger, and the Tour uses the (in)famous Blackberry trackball centered at screen's bottom. This means I can operate the Tour one-handed (well, I have to) which does work better than one-handed operation of the Palm, which is possible but clunkier than on the Blackberry.

I considered selling my Palm on eBay but the 755P's listed there are not selling for much. So I am keeping it as a backup phone just in case. Since I can always re-sync it with Yahoo, should I require its use again I'll have all my data at hand.

What I really wanted, of course, was the Palm Pre, but it's available only on Sprint. Checking Sprint's coverage map for my area and my business-related travel areas showed that once you get off the interstate, you're pretty much out of Sprint's calling area. Verizon is supposed to get a Pre or a Palm device like it some time next year, so I'll take a look at it then.

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