Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zen and the Art of Handset Maintenance

Jason Lackey

You may be familiar with Robert Pirsig's 1974 work, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which depending on your perspective is either a littery classic or the confused ramblings of a somewhat addled fellow who spends too much time hand wringing, fretting and wrenching on crappy old BMW boxer twins.

Yesterday, I noticed that the headlight on my Suzuki Hayabusa, a machine which although sharing two wheels, is vastly different from the 1930's tech BMWs that Pirsig fiddled with, had lost its headlight. Normally replacing a headlight is a trivial act, and perhaps for someone more nimble with smaller arms it would have been. For me? Not so much. I ended up having to remove the entire front end of the machine (full fairing, lots of plastic) in order to get at a single light bulb. While Pirsig seems to have taken great joy in wrenching, I am handicapped by a lack of mechanical skill and an inability to enjoy the journey, just a desire to get to the end, at least with regards to mechanical tasks.

Anyway, what does taking apart the front end of a Hayabusa to change a lightbulb have to do with phones? Well, as I was crawling on the floor, trying to reach into awkward places hard to get at, I was reminded of my experiences upgrading handset system images. Take for example, the Samsung Blackjack - a good, popular phone that delivers a lot of bang for the buck in a small, convenient form factor.

Just like I like my motorcycle, lots of people like their Blackjacks, but that does not mean that they are really easy to work on. For example, if you want to upgrade the firmware on the device, instead of a seamless, transparent OTA effort, you have to do the following:

1. Ensure you have a data cable with the proprietary form factor connector.
2. Back up all your data on the phone, all will be lost.
3. Be sure you are running the right version of Windows or have the right version of the update software, XP updater and Vista updater are different.
4. Disable popup blockers
5. Download update software
6. Remove SIM from phone
7. Install SGH-i607 Modem USB drivers (verify correct version too)
8. Go into Device Manager and change Blackjack USB settings from ActiveSync to modem
9. Open ActiveSync, turn off USB
10. Turn off the phone, disconnected USB cable
11. On PC, run update program
12. With phone off, connect USB cable
13. With phone off, press and hold Right Soft Key and Camera button, with buttons held down, press Power On with third hand (gripping hand?)
14. On PC, click Start on updater program
15. Wait several minutes while update happens, but don't disconnect cable or remove battery or you will brick the phone

Makes doing the headlight on a Hayabusa seem....almost pleasant. Where's my wrench?


  1. Man, I remember the days of the old Black Jack. It was a super sturdy device...The update sure did suck though! I had to do a 6.0-6.1 update on three different BlackJack II's....It was the SAME tedious process!

  2. Hi Sean, yeah, the original Blackjack was kind of a breakthrough device. Very well built. I hope that they return to the build quality that characterized the first generation as follow-on devices didn't seem quite as solid.