Thursday, March 4

How to delete a custom ringtone on your BlackBerry

Why am I blogging about this? One reason is that I know if I write a blog post about it, I will remember THAT even when I forget the details, and I can come here to find the magic information once again. In effect, my blog begins to substitute for my memory. As I'm sneaking up on 50 this year, my short term memory has become increasingly...well, short term. It's in there, and then it's gone like a wisp of smoke.

But that's sort of what the Internet is supposed to be, isn't it? Where we, all of humankind, brain dump everything we know for the benefit of everyone else and so WE don't have to remember things any more.

HOW-ever! The second reason I'm blogging about this is that it drove me nuts for weeks, and I couldn't figure out how to do it from fiddling with my BlackBerry alone. Now, I'm a pretty darn good fiddler, when it comes to geeky technical crap, so if it was making me nuts, I can imagine it's been doing the same to some of you. I decided to search for the answer tonight, and I found it in the forums at If you use a BlackBerry and you don't have that site bookmarked already, then you have missed something wonderful. But that's okay! You can browse there and check it out, just as soon as you're done reading this.

Now, where was I? Yeah...custom ringtones.

At some point, one of my contacts picked up a custom ringtone. No matter what profile I had active, when she called me, the phone would ring. Loudly. With a clang-y bell sound. No problem, I thought, I'll just nip off to my Contacts, edit her entry, and no doubt resolve this little problem in no time flat.

Except that when you Edit a Contact, all you can do is CHANGE their custom ringtone. You can't define whether or not they get one. So where does THAT come from? It turns out to be in the Sounds option.

Pick Sounds (that's the place you change from ringing to vibrate to silent, and so forth). Scroll down to the bottom of the list and you will see an option for "Set Contact Alerts." This is a list of everyone who is activated for a custom alert, which you can so efficiently change through their Contact entry, but HERE you get to determine who's a special snowflake and who is not.

So I selected Set Contact Alerts and, lo and behold! There she was. I highlighted her name, pressed my BlackBerry Menu key, and picked Delete. After confirming the deletion, things were exactly how I wanted them.

Now, when my friend calls me, it'll play the same stupid music that sounds like the theme song from an 80s action TV show (think: Magnum P.I.) as it does when everyone else calls me. My kids will try to stop you from asking me what the music is, because they cringe every time I say "it's the theme song for Action Dad!"

Don't tell them this, but I live for those moments. You see, someday I'm going to be dead and gone, and my kids won't remember all the times I got phone calls in their presence. They will, however, smile and laugh with each other when they reminisce about their dad's stupid ringtone music.

And as long as the memories of me make them smile, then my work was done well. That's a long way from removing a custom ringtone on a BlackBerry, I admit. And I'm sorry if I dragged you somewhere you didn't want to go. But that's ALSO the nature of a blog. It's my mind, and what's in it. I sit here and I write, and you get to see a small part of what I am with each post.

Now you know I'm a geek AND a dad, and the latter is more important to me. My tech gadgets don't influence why I do things, or really even what things I choose to do in the first place. I find tech that makes my life easier.

But I make decisions that change my life, for the sake of my kids.

Verizon Wireless and the BlackBerry Tour 9630, Part II

Sometimes, you rant. That's what I keep telling myself, every time I rant.

Anyway, before I can move on to other topics, I need to post the second part to this whole "Error 552" issue and clear up something regarding Verizon Wireless.

First, Verizon. In my previous blog post, I took Verizon Wireless to task for two reasons. First, I criticized them for not knowing how to fix my BlackBerry error, and dogmatically insisting they had to send me a new phone because "an Error 552 can't be fixed." On this count, they're still, misinformed.

The second thing I was fuming about was their policy that the contract I had with them wasn't just for ME and my money, it was for my lines. Any attempt to move any line to another provider, even though I was willing to leave my contract untouched otherwise and pay the full amount, was considered an early termination of the contract and thus subject to heavy fees.

Dave Graveline told me that, while he understood how that seemed unfair to me, Verizon Wireless' policy here was essentially the same as every other wireless provider. All of them lock you up by controlling your number, because they know that your number is what you care about. If they let you move it, even if you "promise" to keep paying for the contract, once your number is out the door they have no leverage on you.

Subsequently, I noticed that Verizon Wireless TV ads were including the fact that the contract is with the LINE in their small print. I suppose, given that they are disclosing this, and given that every other wireless service provider has the same draconian policy, I have to agree that Verizon Wireless is NOT the devil, and if you want to do business with them, they are no worse than anyone else.

I do, however, still believe the practice stinks. I just can't criticize them, if no one else is any different.

Now, on to the matter of the BlackBerry Tour 9630.

Here, I have some good news. After digging around a bit in the RIM support documents, I found a page that said the Error 552 crashes had been escalated to a higher priority and a fix was anticipated soon. On some BlackBerry fan sites, I saw messages hinting that version of the operating system would fix the 552s.

For some time, we'd heard from people running the 5.x OS that the problem was fixed there, but if your carrier hasn't upgraded your model to 5.x and you're still stuck on a 4.x OS, there is little you can do. Sure, I know you can get a "leaked" copy of the newer operating system and modify the installation files so it will install on any BlackBerry model from any carrier, but I don't want to swim TOO far out of the shark cage.

On the same fan sites, I saw a method for fixing the Error 552 condition. You see, the reason Verizon Wireless can't fix it is that the phone won't boot up. Since it won't boot up, they can't connect to it with Desktop Manager to reload the system software. And that's as far as their techs would go. But it turns out that the "fix" for this is INCREDIBLY simple. Just remove the battery.

Yes, that's it. Just remove the battery. Then open the Desktop Manager on your PC and connect the USB cable. The BlackBerry won't even try to boot ( has no battery! hurr, hurr). But it WILL connect with Desktop Manager using the power from the USB cable. At that point, it's a relatively simple matter to reload the system software. There is one important tip, however. Once the system files begin to install to your phone, you must carefully put the battery back in. Don't bother with putting the cover back on until later, and do NOT do ANYTHING that disconnects the USB cable. If you fail to put the battery back in, or you disconnect the cable, you'll get to start this process over. Once the system software has loaded, the phone will reboot (that's why the battery had to be replaced!). After booting, it will connect with the Desktop Manager again and complete the process.

This, of course, wipes your BlackBerry. If you have a backup, you're okay. And even you don't, you should be syncing your BlackBerry with SOMETHING (I use Google Sync to sync with my Google Contacts and Calendar), so it's quick enough to recover that data. Having to install your third party apps again is a bit of a pain, but BlackBerry App World keeps track of the ones you've bought through them, making it easy to recover them. Any of the apps that were free...are still free. Download them again.

Between the time that I had my meltdown with Verizon Wireless and the time that magically appeared for download, I "bricked" my BlackBerry Tour 9630 with Error 552 on two occasions. Both times, I used this technique to recover and it worked perfectly. When it happened for the second time, Desktop Manager told me there was an update for my operating system. It was the magic version. I downloaded it, of course, and installed it on the phone.

Since that time, not a single error. No 552s, no 503s...nothing. The phone has been completely stable. So, I have to take back where I called the BlackBerry Tour 9630 "broken, a bad design, and a piece of crap." Yes, a LOT of them have defective trackballs. If yours does, keep taking it back until you get one that's fixed. Now that I have one that works properly, I am kicking myself for tolerating a bad one for those months that I did. And, yes, there was something about the Tour 9630 that made this Error 552 crash happen more often than it did with other models. Perhaps it was the extra memory? I don't know. But it seems that the problem is gone for good.

And if it's not, then I know how to fix it.

The question is, why don't the techs at Verizon Wireless?