July 26, 2005

Treo 650 - the new crapness


New symptom: ET won't phone. Home or anywhere else.

Yesterday, I had decided that VZW/Palm's firmware update breaking Ringo couldn't realistically be gotten around. So I hard-reset the Treo, removed Ringo from my software backup, removed all my 'questionable' software from the backup, and resynced the Treo. It worked fine at that point. All my data was on it, and all my critical software (Taipan, the VZW software suite as updated with the latest patch, my Backup app on the SD card, a couple of ebooks). I used the phone yesterday, and it worked as well as usual. At some point I backed it up to the SD card, and continued to use it.

On the way out of the office, I noted that the ringtone had been reset to the annoying default bong by the hard reset, so I changed it to one of the other default ringtones. I called it from my desk to test the ringtone; worked fine. I dropped it on my belt.

Once in my car, I recalled that I needed to tell my car service folks I wasn't going to be bringing my car in the next day for service. Pulled over, knuckled out their number on the screen, hit dial. Nothing. Looked down - the Treo's gone into soft-reset. The palmOne logo is still visible on the screen. WTF?

Wait for it to come back, and the radio's now off. Turn it back on. Dial from the keyboard, hit the hard phone dial button. The Treo soft resets.

Okay. Now I'm pissed.

Open the thing, soft-reset it manually. Wait for it to come back. Dial *611. Hit dial. Soft-reset.

At that moment, a friend calls me and the phone picks up. I deal with that call, and try calling out again. Soft-reset.

Try disabling Bluetooth. Nope.

Desperate now. Hard-reset the phone and erase all data. The phone boots back up (yes, for those keeping track, I'm pulled over, I did so at the start :-)) and I turn on the radio. Now it dials out, but I have no data or apps.

I fire up the backup app on my SD card and tell it to restore the phone. It asks if it should restore the databases for which there are newer versions on the phone (i.e. the ones which the phone creates during hard-reset). I say no, forcing it to only restore my applications and their associated data, but not to restore any VZW/phone related prefs or data. This should tell me if it's a rogue app killing the phone.

The phone works fine.

I perform a full restore, including my phone prefs and data. Note that these prefs and data were created by the Treo at the last hard-reset, and populated by HotSync - not restored to the phone. They're native databases.

Dial soft-resets the phone.

So, the long and the short of it: At some point, the Treo corrupted its own internal prefs or data storage to the point where hitting 'dial' in the phone app soft-reset the device, making it unusable as a phone. Note that between the time it worked and the time it did not work I did not HotSync, nor make any changes to any databases or prefs other than changing the default ringtones and backing up the phone to the external card.

I was fortunate in that I a) had a backup of my phone on my SD card, and b) had my laptop in the car with which I regularly sync my phone. Had I been on the road and in need of those contacts, I would have been completely out of luck. Oh, unless, of course, I pay VZW $50/month for unlimited data traffic and am willing to store my personal data on their internet servers and had performed a 'WirelessSync' prior to this occurring. However, even if I had, I can't tell you with assurance that that would have fixed this, because I have never used their solution. If that solution only backs up the prefs/database files, then it would have faithfully backed up the corrupt ones, just as my backup program did.

Now, it's true, the backup process to SD could be flawed. However, I have successfully backed up and restored this phone to SD using this app several times - albeit not since the 1.03VZW firmware patch, I'll admit. After backing up, though, the phone continued to work - which to me indicates that it's unlikely that the act of backing it up screwed up the phone.

When restoring the data, I restored the data, then soft-reset the phone before attempting to use it in order to ensure that the Palm reloaded the newly-restored files. There were no error messages during the backup or restore.

I'm not sure what the hell happened. All I know is that the damn thing decided to stop working, in a really inconvenient manner, at a really inconvenient time, in such a way that were I not an obsessive geek it would have been really hard to recover from.

While I got phone functionality back by hard-reset, I was short all my useful data at that point. Furthermore, I don't consider knowing how to hard-reset a Treo 650 something that the 'average user' should have to retain in their head. Calling tech support? Wouldn't have been an option, that's what didn't work.

Not what I call 'ready for primetime' boys and girls. Fucking take this thing back and get it right.

Posted by jbz at July 26, 2005 3:55 PM | TrackBack

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