Happy New Year, though it may not be for Blackberry fans. The company that has so often had their products compared to a certain addictive substance recently announced that they are ending support for Blackberry OS and Blackberry 10 devices.
What does this mean? While they won’t be bricking phones outright, they might as well be. On January 4th, Blackberry will be shutting off all the key services — data, SMS, phone calls, and 911 support. In official terms, they are ending network provisioning for these older devices, meaning that they won’t be able to join any cellular or WiFi networks.
Unless you’re old enough to remember, it may seem strange that these half-screen, half-keyboard machines once dominated the mobile market. But back then, the people who used them were texting wizards who had broken free from the chains of the T9 keyboard.
Though this news may not mean much except to a select few, it’s still sad to see the Blackberry era come to a true end. We never had one ourselves during the heyday, though we did pick up a cheap used model to carry around as a tiny mobile writing device and calendar. We sure do miss phones with real keyboards though, and would love to see them come back. At least the keyboards themselves get love in the hacker community.
[Main and thumbnail images via Digital Trends]
Last month we featured an interesting project from Hackaday.io that was essentially trying to recreate the iconic Blackberry form factor for use with Adafruit’s line of Feather development boards. This would let you drop in modules for everything from LTE to packet radio, opening up a nearly limitless possibilities for handheld hacking. The only problem was, it didn’t actually exist yet.
But recently creator [arturo182] wrote in to tell us that not only had all the parts arrived, but that he’d completed assembly of the first prototype. He even put together a video about the current status of the device, which you can see after the break. The short version is: it works, and it looks fantastic.
For those who might not have seen this project the first time around, the front features a 2.6 inch 320×240 touch screen display, four general purpose buttons, a RGB NeoPixel LED for visual status display, a five way joystick, and what’s arguably the star of the show, a QWERTY keyboard originally designed for the Blackberry Q10. Around the back it has an SD card slot, a socket for the Feather module of your choice, and some handy GPIO expansion pads you can attach your own hardware onto.
[arturo182] says he’s looking at a couple cosmetic changes, but on the whole, everything works and he considers the PCB essentially done. He’ll soon be sending out a handful of test units to individuals who’ve expressed interest in helping him develop the project and then…well, he’s not really sure what’s going to happen then. Some kind of commercial release seems like the logical conclusion given the interest he’s already seen in the project, but he hasn’t quite worked out whether that will be a kit or as assembled devices.
Until then, anyone who’s looking for a pocket sized device that will let them bang out some Python with a physical keyboard will have to stick with their TI-83s.
Continue reading “The Feather “FAUXBERRY” Is Now A Real Thing”
[Scott] wrote in to share a project he is currently working on, a home automation system that relies on Power over Ethernet. While he’s not completely finished, he’s made some great progress, and the work he has done so far definitely piqued our interest.
Part of [Scott’s] design relies on some reverse engineered Blackberry screens we showed you a while back. He has constructed a small control panel for his apartment, which incorporates one of the aforementioned Blackberry screens, along with 10 tactile switches and a PIR sensor. The panel is built to be mounted in a wall or as a standalone unit, allowing him to control various lights and appliances throughout his home.
[Scott] spent a lot of time working on the communications protocol and UI for his control panel. As it sits now, the panel takes advantage of a VNC-like protocol he designed, which allows him to interact with a Java application residing on his desktop computer.
Things are looking awesome so far, and [Scott] already has a handful of improvements planned for the near future. We can’t wait to check it out when it’s finished.
[Scott] was looking to source some LCD screens for an upcoming project, and was considering buying them from SparkFun. While the Nokia panels they sell are not expensive, they aren’t necessarily the cheapest option either – especially when building in volume.
He searched around for something he could use instead, and settled on Blackberry screens. Old Blackberry models were even more durable than the current offerings, plus companies are trying to get rid of old handsets by the truckload. The only problem was that he could not find any information online that would show him how to write to the screens.
It took a bit of digging, but he eventually determined which ICs were used to drive the LCD screen. He had no luck finding screen pinout information online, so after spending a few hours testing things with his multimeter, he came up with a full listing on his own.
He wired up a connector so that he could use the screen on a breadboard, then got busy writing code to display some text on the screen. Everything came together nicely as you can see in the video below, and he has released his code in case anyone else is looking to repurpose some old Blackberry screens.
All we want to know is what sort of project all these screens are going to be used in.
Continue reading “Blackberry LCD Reverse Engineering”
On the standard Blackberry Web Browser, there is a fixed file download limit of 2.3MB. Many users avoid this by installing a 3rd party browser (such as Opera Mini, for example), but there is still that bitter taste for having an extra web browser around just to download decently sized files. This limit seems to be imposed by a certain WAP port that the Blackberry is set to use by default, which blocks any file greater than this. Fortunately, [0mie] has found a way to reconfigure the default Blackberry Browser to use a different port without this restriction. Step by step walk through, links to the file required, and screen shots of large file downloads are provided. [0mie] claims that this hack works on a number of different phones and OS versions, and we are sure he would appreciate a wider audience to test this with.
[Note: This hack seems to use a Chinese provider as a proxy, so there may be privacy issues, etc. As always, hack at your own risk.]
Photos of the BlackBerry Storm 2, both inside and out, have been leaked. Engadget provides us with the specifics, going into detail about the four large piezoelectric pressure sensors that sit underneath the screen. It looks as though the screen will still function as a button, just without the physical movement of the previous model that received mixed reviews. For a better explanation of the technology behind the phone’s innovative screen, here’s a video describing it in more detail and a writeup over at the CrackBerry forums.
RIM has decided to venture into the touchscreen phone market with the new BlackBerry Storm. Unlike other companies’ offerings, the Storm has a touchscreen that clicks when you press it. phoneWreck disassembled the Storm to see what magic was involved in the device. There’s not much too it, it’s just a big button. pW notes that the entire phone board is very compact mostly due to RIM using Qualcomm’s latest MSM7600 chip. Items like bluetooth, GPS, and USB are all included in the processor instead of appearing on the board as discrete components.
phoneWreck recently launched and promises many future teardowns. They’ll be adding to their archive which already includes the Motorola Krave and the venerable Nokia N95. We’ll definitely be watching for their future releases.