Beware of exclamation marks

motorola_l6My friend Phill recently bought a new mobile phone.  Apparently it’s shiny.  Last Christmas I bought my wife a new mobile phone.  It too is shiny.  My own mobile phone, on the other hand, was shiny and new in 2005, and is now considerably less shiny than it used to be thanks to my keys rubbing a lot of the silver off the bottom of the casing.  No wonder, then, that I felt a few pangs of jealousy this week.

Unfortunately I just can’t justify buying myself a new phone, since my Motorola L6 does actually work fine.  So rather than get depressed about the situation I decided to have another go at revitalising my phone and getting the most out of it.  A little research got me Opera Mini 4.2, which is a sleek and feature-filled web browser for my phone.  Not only is it infinitely nicer to look at and use than the built-in one, it’s also miles faster thanks to a proxy compression that Opera provides – basically every web page my phone requests is sent via the Opear server, compressed until it’s tiny and then sent to my phone, which speeds up download times considerably.  The result is that my phone is now capable of checking e-mails and looking at web pages without a century passing between pages.

Then I started downloading yet more stuff.  I came across some cool Java games, which were promptly uploaded to my phone and installed.  Not all of them work, and those that do have to be very lightweight ones because my phone doesn’t exactly have much processing power – animation is debatable really, and 3D stuff is complete out.  But I’ve found a few really addictive games in there, including one with a grid of various shaped pipe pieces that have to be rotated so that they all connect up – simple, but I just can’t put it down.

During my surfing around looking for further ways to enhance my mobile experience I stumbled across ModMyMoto, a web site dedicated to Motorola users who want to make their handsets do more than they were originally designed to.  There are games and software that can be downloaded, but then there are more in-depth mods like changing the skins and core functionality of the phone.  I decided I’d have a go at installing a skin, as there were a couple of tutorials on the forum that made it all look very simple.  They had comments like “it’s as easy as that!!!”, “and that’s it!!”, “and you’re done!!!”.  I should have paid more attention.  Superfluous and over-zealous use of exclamation marks in a technical document can only be there to cover up how potentially difficult it actually is.

So I downloaded a piece of software onto my PC, which would be what I’d use to ‘mod’ the phone.  Then I needed to install the drivers for the phone so that it could find it.  One of the drivers Windows managed to find all on its own, which was nice, but baulked at the others.  That meant registering on a Motorola developers’ forum and downloading yet more software, pretending that I was a software developer.  That came with the drivers I needed, and once that was all set up I could run the modding program to start applying the skin I’d downloaded.  First of all I had to copy a whole load of files across (gif images, to be used by the skin).  No problem.  Then I had to go to the “seam editor” part of the program and set a particular ‘bit’ in the phone’s internal coding to allow it to use custom themes.  Again, no problem there.  I turned the phone off and on again, and hey presto! the skin was installed.

And my goodness was it awful.  It did look vaguely like the screenshot, but it wasn’t anywhere near as satisfying as I was expecting, it flickered annoyingly, and was impossible to read.  That was when I read the line at the very bottom of the tutorial I’d been following, saying that if I’d backed up a particular file from the phone then I could re-upload that to set it back to its default skin.  That would have been fine if the tutorial had told me that the file needed backing up before I overwrote it.   Not good.  A little further searching around showed that the only safe way to get the original theme back was to do a master reset.  Which I did.  And lost all my phone numbers, ringtones, photos and settings in the process.

Fortunately, getting the phone back to normal has been fairly straightforward, thanks to a quick iSync to transfer my calendar and most of my address book across (though, curiously, some phone numbers were not transferred across, for no apparent reason and with no pattern to explain it).  I’ve still lost the photos I took on the phone, though that it’s a huge loss as I didn’t use it very often anyway.  Still, it’s been several hours that I would have been able to use elsewhere, all thanks to a tutorial not telling me some key information until right at the end, almost as an aside.

So, let that be a lesson to you (and me).  If you’re ever tempted to ‘mod’ your phone, make sure you’ve got everything backed up, even if they don’t tell you explicitly that you’ll need to.  And don’t trust any article that says “it’s as simple as that!!”.  Trust me, the exclamation marks are a bad omen.

One thought on “Beware of exclamation marks

  1. Hi Matthew, I tried to download Opera Mini on my phone (and did in fact get it running), but because it’s got a touchscreen keyboard it doesn’t integrate very well 🙁

    I think my phone is still fairly new (as in, hasn’t been out all that long) so hopefully over the next few weeks support for it will increase.

    It would be cool to add a few mods to it (i.e., I can access Google Calendar directly but it won’t synchronise the phone calendar directly unless you have Outlook installed. Which I don’t.) but I will look out for exclamation marks!!!

    Sorry to hear about your problems though.

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