Monday, May 22, 2006

Howto Hack SprintPCS for Palm Network Access

The Problem: Use a Bluetooth enabled SprintPCS phone and Palm computer to access the Internet.

In a perfect world, this should be easy-- seemless, in fact. As I have previously stated, it is not. So what went wrong? First, it turns out that Bluetooth is not as platform independant as I had anticipated. Second, when I bought my Samsung cell phone from Sprint, I was miss informed as to the base capabilities of the Power Vision (EV-DO) Network.

As a result, we will have to approach this hack from three fronts. We will need to hack the Palm to talk to the Samsung, via Bluetooth (it only knows Motorola and Ericson). We will need to hack the Samsung to connect the Palm to the network (the default config only allows the phone to access the Internet). We will need to authenticate on the network.

The toughest part is the network. Sprint has made the brilliant decision that a customer must pay an extra fee to run data across the network. When they first introduced high speed data, around 2000, data was billed both as minutes and as kilobytes. They soon dropped the minutes fee, as it is cheaper for them to carry data than voice. (Data is not time sensative or prone to collision, which means they can carry it in between voice conversations. Effectively, this allows them to get use of idle voice channels.) With the introduction of the 3g Vision Service, they charged a flat fee for unlimited data.

With EV-DO Power Vision, they decided to take a step backwards, and charge both for megabytes, and a fee. Furthermore, their operators (the bane of SprintPCS) are being told that users must commit to a 2 year Phone As Modem plan at $39.99 per month to get external data service. That's $959.76... but who's counting.

Luckily, a simple human engineering hack can get us around this problem. By visiting the SprintPCS store, I was able to get a sales rep to grant me access to the service for one month, in order to evaluate its potential. He was willing to do this, because I'm still under contract, and the brochures do not actually state that you have to agree to the feature for 2 years, just that you must have a 2 year contract.

The good news: In theory, we now have a valid authentication on the Sprint network. The bad news: We can not contact Tech Support, because Sprint does not realize that any data systems exist other than Microsoft Windows XP. Therefore, any other system will be summerily dismissed as non-usable.

Part Two: Get the Palm and Samsung talking.

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