BlackBerry Z10: Wi-Fi Solved

February 3, 2013

I got Wi-Fi access working again. It turns out that I needed to go to the Identification on Network option, and set both my Username and Workgroup. Obvious enough… what really confused me was that networking worked for a while before failing. It’s also a shame that all these options aren’t in the same place in OS10.

By the way, if you want to use Wi-Fi sharing without entering your password and username every time, you’ll need to know how to make Windows remember your settings. Merely ticking the “Remember my credentials” box won’t do it. (I’m talking about Windows 7 here, though I seriously doubt the problem has been addressed in Windows 8.) If you go to the Control Panel and open Credential Manager, then click on the BlackBerry entry, you’ll find a line that says “Persistence: session.” That means when you log out (or reboot) your credentials disappear.

BlackBerry Z10 007 credentials BLUR

I found the solution months ago, when having the same problem with a network storage server. Here’s the gist of it:

  1. Sign in to your BlackBerry when asked to do so by Explorer.
  2. Open Credential Manager from Control Panel.
  3. Find the BlackBerry entry, open it, select Edit, then remove the domain name (all the extra junk) in front of your user name. Save.
  4. Log off Windows and log back in. Open Credential Manager again. (Your previous BlackBerry entry should be gone.)
  5. Try to open the BlackBerry again in Explorer. When asked, enter your username and password, but don’t check “Remember my credentials.”
  6. In Credential Manager, select “Add a Windows credential,” and enter your BlackBerry name (as shown in the Storage and Access menu), your username (without any of the extra domain stuff) and password. Save.

When you log on next time, you should find that you can connect to the BlackBerry without being asked for login info. In Credential Manager, you should see in the BlackBerry item the line “Persistence: Enterprise.” It may be possible to make this work without all the extra palaver, but this exact sequence seems to work reliably.

BlackBerry Z10 009 credentials CROP-BLUR

There’s another solution here. It involves using the Group Policy Editor, and seems much more elegant. But you’ll have to have one of the upscale versions of Windows 7; cheaper editions don’t include the Group Policy Editor. Other posts suggest that your Homegroup settings may cause slightly different behavior. If so, you may need to try one of the alternate fixes.

Is this all incredibly stupid? Yes. These idiotic problems have been accumulating in Windows for years, and are only rarely getting fixed. My folder of saved workarounds keeps getting bigger and bigger…

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BlackBerry Z10 Problems

February 1, 2013

Okay, so now I’m not quite as happy.

First, Wi-Fi access to the Z10 suddenly stopped working. Where before I had not been asked for the password, now attempting to open a folder on the Z10 instantly displays a pop-up asking for the password. Worse, the password is simply never accepted. I tried rebooting everything, changing the password, connecting the Z10 via a different access point, switching from 2.4GHz to 5GHz. You name it. Same problem: password not accepted.

So I broke down and installed the BlackBerry Link app. Ugh.

It’s not quite as ugly as iTunes. But it’s up there. I’m giving BlackBerry the benefit of the doubt and assuming a lot of the junk has to do with enterprise access. But whatever it is, I don’t need any of it. Plain old USB file access would do me fine. Whereas the Link software went ahead and installed at least two services, plus several other even less-obvious things that want to autorun with Windows. PeerManager.exe runs all the time, consuming 0.01% of my CPU capacity and about 5MB of memory. Is this really necessary, just to support a device that may be connected once every day or two? (Or even more rarely, depending on the user.)

snap0680 a      snap0681 a

What’s more, I immediately got a firewall warning, informing me that mDNSresponder was trying to receive a connection from the Internet. I had to Google that one. Turns out this is a standard component of Apple’s thrice-cursed Bonjour service. So I’m almost back to iTunes levels of intrusiveness. Apparently, mDNSresponder is also included with all sorts of other shovelware, including the drivers you get with a lot of cheap peripherals. In any case, it is not something I asked for in so many words.

You can get rid of it, apparently. I found the executable file in

Program Files (x86)\Common Files\Research in Motion\TunnelManager

Fortunately, if you run mDNSresponder -remove from a command prompt, it seems to go away. USB access to the Z10 still seems to work. But I still have multiple services running all the time, even when I have no intention of connecting to the Z10. This is just sloppy, rude and ugly. A huge win for Android.

To be sure, this is something that most users of the BlackBerry Z10 will never know about, or care about. Well, call me crazy, but I resent having my PC treated as a doormat. Software should either be a single executable with a single function, or it should come with discrete options for every piece of resident junk it wants to install. Period. No exceptions. Not even for a nice device like the Z10.

Some of the complexity is probably aimed at providing secure access for enterprise users. That’s understandable. But there’s an obvious trade-off between capability and complexity. It would be nice if there were tiered installation installation options, with simple USB access as a default for private use. Enterprise users taking advantage of the BlackBerry Balance work/home capability may need something more secure. And even then, I have to wonder if it couldn’t be implemented in a simpler and more direct way than it is now.


BlackBerry OS10: Strange Negativity

February 1, 2013

I was at the BlackBerry event, and was very impressed. But I seem to be in the minority, among tech journalists.

RiM (now BlackBerry Inc.) has done just about everything right. They hired Alicia Keyes, instead of, say, Lady Gaga. They based their new OS10 heavily on the PlayBook OS, arguably the nicest mobile OS out there. More importantly, I got a powerful sense of vitality and creativity from all their people. This is a company that’s got a lot of good ideas, that’s listening to its customers. BlackBerry isn’t “innovating” purely for the sake of being different. It’s looking at what’s out there, and trying to do better. That used to be the recipe for success.

And yet, most reviews have been enormously skeptical. With the needlessly alien Windows Phone, it was all “looks very promising,” or “has some great features.” Nothing about a steep learning curve… With the comfortable, discoverable BB10, the learning curve is “steep” merely because there’s no Home button. There are “many flaws,” and “no apps.” I don’t recall a single WinPhone story harping on about the lack of apps, certainly not to this extent. Were people expecting a new OS to ship with 2 million apps? Is that where the bar is set? Are we really that averse to change, to competition?

A couple of random examples. (Google will happily barf up many more.)

“Some icons, in fact, seem downright amateur…”

“But, tragically, there’s really nothing to love.”

“Nothing to love”…? Really? This describes some other gadget than the one I’ve been playing with.

I suspect it’s down to three things: 1) journalists decided long before the BB10 launch that it was time to write off BlackBerry, and they’re now reluctant to change their minds; 2) journalists have a lot of pent-up negativity they’ve failed to use on Apple and Microsoft, and now sense it’s okay to do a mass vent on BlackBerry; 3) journalists have been programmed to respond to ‘innovation,’ even when it’s counterproductive change-for-the-sake-of-change.

There are exceptions, of course. CrackBerry.com, the dedicated BlackBerry site, is quite fair in praising the good and putting the rough edges in perspective. And the Toronto Globe & Mail is reasonably balanced, though tending at times to damn the new BlackBerry with faint praise. (“Apple’s phone seems more crisp and bright…”)

Funny thing is, I don’t think it will matter. At the launch event, I sat in a vast hall full of people cheering like Apple fans at a Jobs revival. I think long-time BB users will jump on this new generation of product, and will not be disappointed. That will be enough to kick-start a slow but steady recovery.

I also think BB10 is an option the market really needs. It fills a gap that the other competitors have been amazingly slow to address: the more ‘serious’ business and enterprise user. The iPhone is almost perfectly conceived to thumb its nose at that market. Android seems to merely ignore it. Microsoft, to its credit, is definitely going after the enterprise segment. But with a product that’s ‘innovative’ in the worst way. Conservative businesses users who find the BB10 learning curve too steep are surely going to faint dead away when presented with a screen full of Live Tiles.

I don’t expect BlackBerry to take over the world from iOS and Android. But I do expect the company to still be in the fray a year from now, and to be shipping better and better products. I also expect that this will be a positive influence on the other competitors, much as the introduction of the iPhone goosed the underachieving cell-phone world into action a few years back.


BlackBerry Z10: Music Player

February 1, 2013

The BlackBerry OS10 Music app plays FLAC files! I think I may be in love…

Well, I guess that’s going a bit far. But this is the first device I’ve come across that didn’t need a third-party app to handle the only audio format anyone should be using at this late date. It means that I can use the BlackBerry Z10 as a music player without constantly transcoding my bit-perfect CD rips to lossy, dull-sounding MP3.

Apart from that, I like the way the BB10 player handles my JPG cover art. Many players insist that you add the cover as metadata to every single file, a really stupid approach. (What happens if you come across a better image?) On the downside, the BB10 player is a bit finicky about recognizing JPG covers. This may have something to do with how files are tagged, but if you simply name all cover images folder.jpg there’s no problem.

BlackBerry Z10 Music Player     BlackBerry Z10 Music app

Of course, the Music app isn’t the last word. It’s got a playlist editor of sorts, but there seems to be nothing like an equalizer. (The default sound is good, fortunately. But cheaper headphones can usually benefit from a bit of tweaking.) Also, only internal files are supported. Much as I like the default player, I’ll be looking out for something like BSplayer, which I use on Android to access my entire music library via Windows (Samba) shares on my server.

Again, bravo to BlackBerry (the company). The default BB10 Music app sets the bar just about where it needs to be. Third-party apps have lots of room to add features, but the core functionality is available out of the box.