Tips for your BlackBerry: Troubleshooting & Messenger

Ahh the CrackBerry. How addictive they can be! If you are having some issues with your BlackBerry and want to get more out of the device's instant messenger service then read on. We've pulled together some articles to help you troubleshoot problems on the BlackBerry smartphone and also some advice on how to master BlackBerry Messenger.

"Top 10" BlackBerry Troubleshooting Tips & Tricks from RIM

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) offers up ten smartphone troubleshooting tips and tricks for CrackBerry addicts of all ilk.

By Al Sacco, CIO

CIO — Experiencing problems with that new BlackBerry Tour? Is your tried-and-true Curve 8300 acting up on ya? Have no fear; you don't necessarily have a "lemon" on your hands.

BlackBerry devices, and smartphones in general, can be a "finicky" bunch of gadgets. But thankfully, there are some quick fixes for common problems, many of which I've covered on my BlackBerry Bible.

However, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) was kind enough to post its own set of 10 BlackBerry smartphone troubleshooting tips and tricks earlier this month. While there's nothing groundbreaking--like I said, I've covered most of the material before--any and all CrackBerry addicts will benefit from a quick refresher of the basics.

What follows is RIM's recent list of BlackBerry troubleshooting tips, along with comments of my own, where necessary or relevant.

1) Check Wireless Signal Strength RIM suggested checking on your wireless signal strength if you're experiencing issues, to ensure you're in a coverage area. Obviously, if you don't see any coverage bars on your BlackBerry home screen or there's an out of service (SOS) icon, you don t have wireless coverage. And that's problem.

Another quick way to check your wireless signal strength is via a BlackBerry keyboard shortcut. Just hold down your BlackBerry's ALT key and type the letters N, M, L, L. Your home screen will then show your wireless signal strength in Dbms. If your signal strength isn't within the -40 to -100 Dbms range, you're not in an adequate wireless coverage area. (Note: This shortcut only works on BlackBerry smartphones with full QWERTY keyboards.)

2) Pull Your Battery or "Hard Reset" RIM's second troubleshooting tip is to simply remove and replace your BlackBerry's battery. Doing so is as simple as removing the device's battery cover and popping out the power pack, with the edge of a credit card or other prying tool. This is referred to as a BlackBerry "hard reset." For more on the difference between hard and soft BlackBerry resets, read "Hard v. Soft Resets, and When to Perform Each."

3) Check Wireless Network Settings BlackBerry users experiencing wireless coverage or data transfer issues should ensure that their network settings are correct, RIM says. To do open up the Manage Connections menu via your BlackBerry home screen. The Mobile Network option should have checked box next to it to signify connectivity.

Next, scroll down to Mobile Network Options and make sure Data Services are enabled and the Mobile Network and Network Mode are set to the appropriate carrier and network options.

4) Register Your BlackBerry the Wireless Network RIM also suggests registering your BlackBerry with your wireless network if problems arise. Registering a BlackBerry device running RIM's handheld software v4.1 or higher is simple.

Just open your BlackBerry Options menu via your home screen, click Advanced Options and then Host Routing Table. On the following screen, tap your BlackBerry Menu key and choose Register Now.

You'll then receive a network notification message to let you know your device has been registered.

5) Check your BlackBerry's Connection to a Computer If you're having issues working with RIM's BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, you should ensure that your device connects properly to your machine, according to RIM.

To determine whether or not your device is connected to BlackBerry Desktop Manager, open up the program's Options menu and hit Connection Settings. You should see your device's unique BlackBerry PIN number in the on-screen connection field. If not, click the Detect button. If your device is successfully connected, the program will tell you your device has been located.

6) Confirm BlackBerry Can Receive E-Mail One way to see whether or not you're experiencing BlackBerry mail delivery latency or other problems is to simply send yourself a test message from an e-mail account that's not associated with your device, RIM says. If you send the message and it appears on your BlackBerry, you can receive e-mail. If the message arrives, but it's delayed, you're very likely experiencing some sort of latency.

Solutions for e-mail reception problems vary greatly depending on a number of user-specific factors, including whether or not the BlackBerry is on corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or a consumer-oriented BlackBerry Internet Service account. If you cannot receive e-mail, try registering your handheld with the network (see step four) and resending your service books (refer to step eight.) If you're on a BES, you may have to contact your BlackBerry administrator for further assistance.

7) Confirm BlackBerry Can Send E-Mail, PIN Messages (BlackBerry Messenger) RIM also suggests checking your outgoing mail delivery if you're having BlackBerry issues.

Do so by first sending an e-mail message from your BlackBerry device to a mail account associated with your BlackBerry. (It's okay to use the same account to send and receive the message.) If you receive the message, you can send e-mail.

Secondly, you should confirm that you can send and receive BlackBerry Messenger and PIN messages. To do so, send a PIN message from your BlackBerry to yourself by opening up your Messages folder, hitting Menu and choosing Compose PIN. Type in your BlackBerry PIN and hit send. If you receive the message, you can send PIN messages.

Solutions for e-mail problems vary greatly depending on a number of user-specific factors, including whether or not the BlackBerry is on corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or a consumer-oriented BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) account. If you're on a BES, you may have to contact your BlackBerry administrator for further assistance.

8) Resend BlackBerry Service Books If you're having mail or messaging issues, or any other BlackBerry performance problems, you should resend your device's service books, RIM says. Service books communicate with your network's BlackBerry infrastructure, specifying which services should be available and how they should function.

There are three ways to resend your BlackBerry service books: 1) You can send the service books directly from your handheld; 2) you can log into your carrier's (BIS) page and send them from there; and finally, 3) you can call on your carrier's customer service reps to do the job for you. For instructions on each option, visit RIM's website.

9) Launch the BlackBerry "Help" App Each and every new BlackBerry ships with a "Help" application and associated home screen icon, and RIM says this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to solve basic BlackBerry issues.

To utilize the option, click the Help icon on your BlackBerry's home screen and click Troubleshooting on the following page.

You can also access the BlackBerry Help menu from within certain native BlackBerry apps, by hitting your Menu while an app's open and choosing Help. 10) Visit BlackBerry Technical Solutions Center RIM posts bundles of information, in the form of "knowledge base" articles, to its BlackBerry Technical Solutions Center. The online destination is one of, if not the, best places on the Web to find solutions to advanced BlackBerry problems. It's also a great resource for learning more about your handheld.

Next: BlackBerry Messenger Quick Tips: Mastering BBM Basics

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BlackBerry Messenger Quick Tips: Mastering BBM Basics

RIM's BlackBerry-specific mobile IM service, BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), is an easy and effective way to keep in touch with other RIM smartphone users.'s BlackBerry beat-reporter Al Sacco shares tips on getting the most from BBM.

By Al Sacco ,CIO

CIO — If there's one particular aspect of the BlackBerry platform that Research In Motion (RIM) (RIM) is heavily promoting to the masses today--besides security, RIM's true strength--it's the company's BlackBerry-specific mobile IM application, BlackBerry Messenger.

BBM sports sponsorships. Ads plastered across major cities, including the subways in Toronto and all over New York's Times Square. TV commercials. BBM is everywhere.

BBM transcends the line between "business user" and "consumer" because it's an application that brings value to businessmen and teenagers alike.And that's precisely what RIM's attempting to do with its BlackBerry platform, in general: Cater to the vast consumer masses with cool, fun features and functionality, while still meeting the often-strict needs of corporations and other security-conscious organizations.

BBM uses unique "PIN" codes associated with every BlackBerry to connect RIM smartphone owners. Currently, some 25 million BlackBerry users regularly employ BBM, according to RIM. And that number is growing every day with each new BlackBerry user.

The basic BBM functionality is incredibly simple; it works just like any other IM application. But it's the little features that really make the app. Below you'll find a handful of basic tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your BBM. And you also might want to check out my popular BBM best practices piece for advice on how to avoid common BBM pitfalls, back up and restore BBM contacts and keep your device protected from related security threats.

(Note: I'm currently using a beta version of BBM, v5.0.1.17, that's available only to BlackBerry Beta Zone members, and as such, the screen shots in this post may look slightly different than your BBM app. However, all of the basic features and functionality should be very similar if not the same, assuming you're running the latest official version of BBM-- at the time of posting. Download BBM from BlackBerry App World. ) BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) "My Profile"

First things first, you should customize your BBM profile options. To do so, simply open your BBM application and on the main screen, scroll all the way to the top and click your avatar-image, if you've added one, to open your My Profile options.

If you have not added an avatar yet, or you'd like to change your current image, you can do so by scrolling over the blank "dummy" avatar or your existing image, clicking it and selecting a new image that's stored somewhere on your BlackBerry smartphone. Position and/or crop the image as you see fit, save it, and you're good to go.

Next, you can choose to enter a note in the box marked Personal Message. Simply save your entered text, when prompted, after you attempt to exit the BBM profile screen, then your message will be viewable by all approved BBM contacts. So, for example, you could write something like "Busy at the library. Hit me up after 5PM," to let you friends know your whereabouts and/or schedule.

Finally, you can also choose to let your BBM contacts see what music you're listening to at any given time, and you can share your location/time zone information. To enable these features, make sure the corresponding boxes on your BBM My Profile screen are checked and then save any changes you may have made. The appropriate information will then be viewable to contacts within your status box, in the same place your personal messages would appear.

Sharing Files, Location via BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) BBM is first and foremost an IM chat application, but it's also a great way to share information and files stored on your BlackBerry smartphone. For example, it's quick and easy to send an image, video clip , voice note or contact information via BBM.

Send a file in BBM by first starting a chat with the appropriate contact. Once you're in an active chat, hit your BlackBerry Menu key--located directly to the left of the trackball/trackpad on most BlackBerrys--and then scroll down to and select the Send option. In the corresponding pop-up box, choose which option you want from the following:

Picture; Voice Note; File; Location; Messenger Contact; BlackBerry Contact. Depending on the option you choose, you'll have to navigate various BlackBerry directories to find the file/information you wish to share. Then, in some cases, you can add a personal message to accompany the file. When you're finished selecting your file of choice and entering in any personal messages, just click Send and, assuming your contact accepts the transfer, you're all set.

BBM Chat Options: Group Chat, Custom Subjects Initiating and conducting a BBM chat is simple; just send messages back and forth between contacts. But that's only just the beginning of BBM chat's full functionality.

For example, you can communicate with multiple BBM contacts at once via a group chat option. You can initiate such a chat via BBM Groups--more on Groups, and why I'm not a big fan or the feature, here. Or simply invite all of the desired contacts into one new chat.

For the purposes of this post, I'll describe the method of adding individual contacts, since many of your probably don't employ BBM Groups anyway.

To add contacts to a BBM chat, simply hit your BlackBerry Menu key while within a chat, scroll down to Invite Others, and then either choose each contact to add one by one or fill in the check-boxes next to each appropriate contact. Once you've selected the contacts you wish to add to your chat, you can confirm the choices by clicking the OK box. You'll then be returned to the chat, and the contacts you selected will all be a part of the conversation.

Heavy BBM users with lots of open chats at one time may want to label their conversations as reminders of chat subjects. To add a custom BBM chat subject, open up the chat you wish to name and again click your BlackBerry Menu key. Then choose the Set Local Subject option and type in a title for your chat. Save the title by clicking OK, and your chats will have a new name.

Next: BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Best Practices: Six Tips

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BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) Best Practices: Six Tips's BlackBerry black-belt Al Sacco shares tips on how to get more from RIM's BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) mobile IM app, avoid common pitfalls and keep your device protected from related security threats.

By Al Sacco, CIO

CIOBlackBerry Messenger, Research In Motion's (RIM) mobile IM application that uses unique "PIN" codes associated with every BlackBerry to connect RIM smartphone users, isn't new. But due to the BlackBerry platform's rising popularity, BBM--which you can think of as a mobile version of AIM or Google (GOOG) Talk that only works with BlackBerrys -- is suddenly getting a lot of attention. And not all of it is positive.

In fact, Web-security-software-maker McAfee recently posted a warning about BBM spam and hoaxes on its TrustedSource blog.

To me, BBM is a valuable tool that I use every day for immediate contact with important colleagues, associates and family members. But the app can subject BlackBerry users to unnecessary risk if used improperly or without a certain degree of caution.

Here are half a dozen BBM best practices to help ensure that you get the most of your BBM experience while avoiding any potential trouble.

Add New Contacts Sparingly This is the most important point in my post, so I'll say it again: Add new contacts sparingly.

I know I'll catch some flak from some of you loyal BlackBerry users out there who seem to be playing a game in which the goal is to gain as many BBM contacts as quickly as possible. But the value in BBM, for me at least, is that it's not just another IM service--I have BeeJive for that.

BBM users add new contacts in a few ways: 1) You can share your unique PIN with others and have them invite you, or vice-versa; 2) you can add new contacts by sharing e-mail addresses associated with your BlackBerry smartphone; and 3) you can "scan" other BBM users' unique PIN-barcodes with your BlackBerry's camera--assuming you're using the latest BBM version (5.0).

I only connect with colleagues, family and friends who I want to be able to communicate with instantly, at any time. And when I connect with someone on BBM, I mostly expect him or her to respond to my message as quickly as possible. And I know most of them expect the same in return.

So, to the point: Do NOT share your BlackBerry PIN or barcode with just anyone; Do NOT post your PIN or barcode on your public Twitter account or any other social network; Do NOT include your BlackBerry PIN or barcode in your fixed e-mail signature.

Are you getting the idea here? Good. Furthermore, you don't have to accept all BBM invites you receive. (More on that coming up in the BlackBerry Groups section.) Don't worry about hurt feelings or bruised egos. Your BlackBerry will thank you.

On that note: There's really no right or wrong way to use BBM. But there are smart and effective methods of employing the service. Adding tons of contacts defeats the purpose of BBM for me and diminishes the app's overall value.

Backup BBM Contacts Regularly As with any computer or handheld, it's a very good idea to backup your BBM--and your entire BlackBerry--regularly. If your smartphone is associated with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), your device and BBM data may automatically backup to your organization's servers. (Check with your BlackBerry administrator for specifics.)

RIM's latest version of BBM (v5.0) added a new feature that lets you manually backup your messenger contacts to your device's internal memory or a microSD memory card. In the past, a separate, PC-based BlackBerry Desktop Manager or other piece of software was required for backup, but today the whole process can be device-based.

To backup your BBM contacts manually, open BBM and hit your BlackBerry Menu key, located directly to the left of your "trackball/trackpad." Scroll down to the Contact List section and open the box next to "Save a copy of your contact list." Next, choose whether you want to backup your contacts locally (on a memory card) or remotely to RIM's BBM servers. (Note: You'll need to associate your BBM account with an email address to access the remote-contact-backup feature.)

3) Be Wary of BBM Groups... In addition to the contact-backup option, RIM added a number of new features and functionalities to BBM in its 5.0 update, released late last year. Among those features is a new BBM "Groups" option. BBM Groups, basically a mobile group-chat app, can be quite useful in coordinating disparate work-groups or for communicating during large conferences or events.

The problem: It can also seriously affect your device's overall performance and become both a nuisance and a time-drain. That's because notifications are on by default when you join a new Group. And until you turn each alert off, you're notified whenever a member of the group comments, posts an image or anything else.

This can be frustrating, but it's easy enough to solve that problem. Just launch your BBM app and click on a Group's name to open it up. Then hit your BlackBerry Menu key and choose "Group Details" from the pop-up menu. You'll then be able to modify notification and message-list-integration settings, as well as specify whether or not you want to backup message history, automatically save pictures posted by Group members and more.

The two most troublesome things about BBM Groups, in my opinion, are the drain it puts on your device battery, and the fact that anyone who's part of one of your Groups can choose to add you to their messenger lists. At one point, I was a part of three fairly-active BBM Groups and the notifications and refreshes alone nearly cut my BlackBerry battery life in half.

As stated above, I purposely don't connect with many people on BBM--I have fewer than 50 contacts at the moment. And the Group-invite feature also lets anyone else who's invited to the Group by its other members add you as a contact. That means I have to ignore more invites than I would've without Groups.

My advice is not to avoid BBM Groups completely; I think the feature can be truly valuable. But you'll need to set your notifications and alerts wisely, as well as be wary of joining too many BBM Groups.

Accept File Transfers from Only Trusted Contacts If you follow the advice stated in the first section, this shouldn't be too much of a concern, since all, or most, of your contacts should be "trusted." But if you already have many BBM associates who you don't really know, or by chance, you choose to pay no attention to my initial suggestion--shame, shame!--you'll want to be cautious of the files that you accept via BBM.

This should be elementary for most experienced Internet users, but all sorts of nasty stuff can be embedded in various common file types, including offensive images or audio and viruses that could affect your device or connected hardware.

So before you accept any BBM file transfers, ensure that the sender is a trusted contact.

Additional Privacy and Security Safeguards BBM offers a number of additional privacy- and security-oriented features that you might find worthwhile. For example, you can choose to enable a security question on BBM invites, for an added layer of protection when adding new contacts. To do so, launch BBM, open your Options via the BlackBerry Menu key and ensure the "Display security question on invitation" option is checked.

On the same screen, you may want to "uncheck" the "Auto-accept voice notes" option, to avoid unknowingly downloading potentially offensive or harmful audio files.

And you can keep your location and current time-zone information private by opening up your BBM profile and ensuring the "Show my location/time-zone information" box is empty, as well. Open your profile by launching the app and clicking on the bar atop your display--the bar with your avatar image, if you're using one.

Avoid Using BBM Broadcast Messages...Please BBM 5.0 lets you send the equivalent of an e-mail blast to all of your BlackBerry Messenger contacts thanks to the "Broadcast Message" feature. You simply open the app, hit your BlackBerry Menu key to show the options menu and choose "Broadcast Message." In theory, this sounds like a novel idea. But in reality, it proves to be incredibly annoying and obtrusive, mostly because some folks tend to overuse the feature.

Like BBM Groups, I won't tell you to never use BBM Broadcast Messages...but you probably shouldn't. Okay, okay, it's acceptable every once and a while, but please do so with some restraint. I know I'm not the only one who cringes when I see that purple Broadcast-Message-text in BBM....