Like many Blackberry users, I have been frustrated ever since the upgrade to BB7 (I know, the newest ones are BB10...). Being a corporate user, I like the inside the firewall capability the BB brings to my work. While there are solutions for us at IBM for calendar and email on iOS and Android, I still like Blackberry for my work.
The thing about the Blackberry I really dislike, though, is that it is almost impossible to use an external battery, car cord or other charging source for it. A recent software upgrade looks for specific signals (or lack therof) on the Data lines to decide if the charging source can send the higher current required for charging.
I normally write about Systems Engineering things here today - and this one is a prime example of one. Somebody in the Blackberry universe thought it was a good idea in the software to look for certain signals on the USB data lines when the phone is plugged in. Those would either signal the driver on the PC side to swich to the high current charge rate, or tell the phone that it couldn't. However, there are many external power sources that can properly provide the correct high current but fail to provide the correct signals to the software. Hum - a systems requirements problem!
Never to fear, we finally fix a software problem with a hardware hack!
I have probably bought and returned dozens of backup batteries, card cords and wall chargers searching in vain for something that would work! And yes, each of them claimed be 'high current' devices that would charge tablets and smartphones.
Frustrated, I searched all over for a solution to this problem - hoping for a software fix - since the phone is looking for a signal from a driver on a PC. I found some that involve unlocking an engineering display and changing some internal OS settings. I tried to access that on my Torch, but was not able to. While that might have been a good solution, it didn't work for me.
Searching more, I found an article by Ronen Halvey that inspired me to look for a hardware solution to the problem. He suggested you can buy a cable that is "charge only" and fools the device into thinking it is plugged into a wall charger. A quick Google search turned up some, but mostly they were "charge/sync" cables. I have a bucket load of those...
Looking further, I found an article by Ami Fischman describing how to hack a USB cable to do it -- by using tape and foil to short the 2 center pins on the computer side plug (D+ and D- are the center two). He suggests using a small piece of aluminum foil and cellophane tape so the short appears to the "phone side" and the computer side sees nothing because it is insulated by the tape.
That sounded a bit scary to me because if the tape wears through the PC side will short and prevent the PC from booting. A commenter on his page suggested just hacking the cable instead, so I thought "why not?"
First, a word of warning:
I am providing steps on modifying a USB cable AT YOUR OWN RISK. It involves using sharp objects your mother warned you about, and could potentially damage your phone, computer, charger or any other device or body part you may use during this process. I am NOT responsible for any damage you do - this is ENTIRELY AT YOUR OWN RISK.
I said it twice, but 3 times is a charm. DO THIS MODIFICATION AT YOUR OWN RISK - YOU MAY DAMAGE YOUR PHONE, CHARGER, COMPUTER, OR BODY PARTS.
To get started, I grabbed one of the dozens of Micro USB cables I have around here -- that fit the Blackberry on one side and the PC on the other. I had the idea to expose the wires, cut the D+ and D-, short them on the phone side and see what happens. Get your cable, a sharp knife, some electical tape and let's get started!
1. Carefully remove the outer plastic layer of the cable. Shave it slowly until you expose the outer mesh "shielding" and the aluminum foil overwrap. I removed about 1" of the plastic so I would have room to work. You can either then carefully remove the mesh and the foil completely (that's what I did). You don't have to remove all the plastic, if you're careful and steady-handed you can just expose enough of the wires to do the next step!
2. Here I have completely removed the outer shielding, exposing the 4 wires of the USB cable. Red is +5v, black is -5v, Green and White are the D+ and D- lines.
3. Cut the Green and White wires off, leaving room to work on them. Note that I cut them at the "PC side", since that side needs to remain un-shorted or "open" so as to not confuse a PC if it gets plugged into one. I intend to only use this cable with external charging sources, but still better to be safe than sorry.
Be careful to NOT cut the Red and Black wires! You may end up ruining a cable or 2 before you finally succeed.
4. Carefully strip the Green and White wires - it was tricky because they are very fine, and my wire strippers wouldn't remove the insulation. I had to "shave" it off with a sharp knife. Twist the wires together so that from the "phone" side they are shorted together. Note the "PC side" is cut off and not shorted. Be careful to not damage the Red or Black wires!
5. Now, wrap the entire "hack" in electrical tape to provide support and keep everything together. This will also help you easily identify the modified cable if it gets thrown into your bag with a bunch of other ones!
Try it out using a car charger or wall charger that you know didn't work before. If the Blackberry shows the little 'lightning bolt' then you have succeeded!
It worked for me, no guarantees it will work for you!