Memory leak issue for RIM Blackberry Devices – Especially 8830

*** Update May 8, 2009 ***

Verizon finally did see fit to release the OS 4.5 update and, so far, it appears that it is addressing the issue for us. We set a date of May 15 (approximately 3 weeks after upgrading) as our “OK Date”. This means that folks in our pilot group would have gone 100% longer than before without a recurrence of their messages vanishing.

So, while the memory does still dip significantly in the devices I’ve seen, it appears that the updated OS is addressing the worst of the memory symptoms. Kudos! From the below you could see I was entirely not expecting this.

*** End Update May 8, 2009 ***

We have been having a problem for a while know that has surged to the forefront of our corporate consciousness at the beginning of spring break (April 4, 2009).

Folks on that day began reporting in droves (basically about 5% of my total blackberry user base) that some or all of their email had disappeared, many on that Saturday, but many others on the days after that.

In looking into the issue I discovered that our Blackberry help desk has been fielding similar issues on the order of (anecdotally) 5-10 such incidents per week.

The problem has been largely experienced by our 8830 users. Made more awful by the fact that only this past summer we upgraded most of our handhelds to the new 8830 model.

Facts that I have at my disposal:

  • RIM claims that the memory manager in the 4.5 OS addresses this issue
  • I have a BOLD (OS 4.6.x) that shows massive memory consumption that is corrected by removing and replacing the battery or by simply performing a reset (Alt – Right Shift – Del).
  • People are complaining about this issue whether their devices communicate with a corporate BES or not (in the various forums that I have been reading)
  • The vanishing messages are a normal function of the low memory manager on the Blackberry OS. The priority is to allow new incoming messages and (supposedly) the last resort is to delete the oldest or least accessed existing messages to make that room

This is what I am thinking:

  • The problem is device related and is a memory handling issue
  • The problem has not been resolved with OS 4.5 but rather folks now receive a warning at about 400K of memory so they can take action before messages begin to vanish
  • The problem manifests in devices other than the 8830 but newer devices have so much memory that the issue is masked and wreaks less havoc. My bold can easily get to 6 Megabytes of file free out of 37 that are normally available. That’s 31 Megabytes of space that’s being wasted. That’s also more than double the maximum File Free that I used to have on my old 8830. Except for those apps supplied with the bold, my 3rd party apps are the same on this device as I had on my 8830.
  • The sudden surge in reports stems more from the fact that so many people were going to be out of the office and needed their email accessible on their handheld devices than any sudden change in the environment (indeed, I had been out of the office for the 2 days prior to this issue and I’m the only one making changes to our BES). Unless Verizon is monkeying around with stuff on their network.

RIM is insistent that the issue is resolved in the 4.5 OS. Since Verizon is our primary service provider and they’ve been unable to certify the 4.5 OS for their devices for about a year now, this is not a reasonable solution for us.

Plus, it seems that there are a fair number of other Blackberry users out there who are encountering this issue regardless of their handheld version or OS.

What needs to happen:

  • Short term: I need to create an application that would reset the device on a schedule. One of my team members has found one called “QuickPull” that *almost* fits the bill but needs some tweaks (see below) and can’t be distributed via BES.
  • Long Term:  RIM needs to get off its behind and acknowledge this memory management issue and actually address it. Pull back on the whiz-bang (crappy storm for example) and make sure that the basics are rock solid. Folks needing to reset their devices on a daily basis is just silly.
  • Long Term as well: What’s with this limited memory in these devices? We should be able to upgrade or add memory as we need to. The advice from RIM to “remove applications” and “minimize what you store” belongs back in the late-80’s along with a 640K memory limit and QEMM software!

Specs for reset application:

Since it is going to be necessary to create a workaround to allow folks to use their devices with the security of a corporate email system (i.e. messages not disappearing) I need to find or create a reset application that –

  • Resets the device (reclaims all that wasted memory)
  • Is distributable by BES (ALX and COD files)
  • Operates on a schedule that is user configurable but has a default time set by policy. That time is localized (i.e. 3 am is 3 am your timezone).
  • Prompts user to allow delay or skip of reset
  • Recognizes phone in use and delays reset
  • Can be set to only reset if device is locked
  • Inexpensive

That’s what I have. So far I’ve gotten to the point where I can produce a “Hello World!” app on my handheld. Let’s see how long it takes to address this workaround.

We’ve been working unproductively with RIM – they keep wanting us to delete applications / themes etc.

We’ve been working with Verizon, they’re promising the 4.5 OS RSN (Real Soon Now).

Kill A Watt EZ P4460 – Sunbeam Therapeutic Mattress Pad

Back in October, 2008 I picked up the Sunbeam Therapeutic heating pad from ebay. The price was much better than I was able to find either locally or even on my normal shopping haunts on the “intertubes”. I was able to get this new for about $150.

Let me say, in no uncertain terms, this is one of the best purchases I have made in recent memory.

Unlike a normal electric blanket, this heats from the bottom so the bed is thoroughly warm when you get into it, and you are comfortably warm as you lie in it.

You just set it to preheat the bed (I find at least 15 minutes before you want to turn in) and you will not believe how great it is to slip into a warm bed every night.

I’m also able to keep the house and room temperature cooler at night with no decrease in comfort. And, as you’ll see below, the cost of running the heating mattress pad is vastly less than that of running the little room heater that I use in our master bedroom and obviously less than that of using the furnace to keep the whole house warm when you’re going to be ensconced in your bed all night.

As if that’s not great enough, both sides of the bed are independently controlled so his and her (or his and his… hey I’m not judging) preferences can be met. I don’t need much if any heating after I get in while Michelle likes things a little warmer for longer.

But wait! That’s not all! (picture a ginsu knife ad) Each side has 3 zones that can be heated independently. So if your feet get cold but your torso or head are fine then you need only heat that part of the bed. You can heat any of the zones from nothing through 10 different levels. And hot is pretty danged hot. The most we’ve ever played with is level 6 and I’ve settled on level 3 as my maximum. 

I keep mine set for head – 1, Torso – 2, Feet – 3 while Michelle keeps hers set as head – 1, Torso – 2 and Feet – 6.

The control is wireless. Of course the mattress pad and the control unit need to be plugged in but the wiring can be completely inobtrusive. Here are some pictures of how I have it set up in our master bedroom. One warning, the remote can sometimes not communicate properly with the receiver unit. When you press any of the buttons, the receiver will make a beeping sound. If you don’t hear this then your command wasn’t sent. Just press another button and press your original again and it will work. I usually turn the pad off and then on again to be sure that it’s set to what I intended it to be.
There is no danger in this, the mattress pad will shut off automatically after 10 hours anyway if you somehow manage to leave it on. And the receiver unit has a light on it representing each side of the bed (sort of the way a stove light lets you know the burners are on). If you crouch down and peek under the bed you can assure yourself that the mattress pad is on or off.

Bed with fitted sheetReceiver unit and wiring under bedBed showing wired connections to mattress pad

You are sleeping on a mattress pad with wires in it. If you really try you can feel them. There’s no getting away from that. Sunbeam has seen fit to make the pad reasonably thick so I have not found this to be an issue.

As you may or may not know, we had some furnace issues during the cold snap that we had recently. Partly due to the “Sunbeam Therapeutic Mattress Pad” I did not have to rush to address the issue. I had no worries about us being uncomfortable. Add some well-placed space heaters and the furnace is merely an inconvenience rather than a crisis.

The following power tests were done with the unit in “preheat mode” which I understand means full blast. It is very difficult to make claims about power consumption at any point in time as all six zones seem to operate independently of each other. So the peak consumption is created by me letting the pad cool off, then setting both sides for full power.

The results comprise reasonably reprsentative winter use of this mattress pad. i.e. we used it every night and many nights even left it on all night long.


Elapsed time: 546 hrs (about 23 days)
Measured Maximum Consumption 1 side on preheat (Watts): 63
Measured Maximum Consumption both sides on preheat (Watts): 128 (don’t ask why it’s not quite double the single side, the results were the same regardless of which side was the single side)
Measured Consumption when not in use (Watts): 2
KWH: 4.23
Cost –
     Actual (for duration of test): $0.44
     Daily: $0.01 (rounding involved here)
     Weekly: $0.12
     Monthly: $0.53
     Annual: $6.49 < -- Take with a grain of salt. We will probably only use for about 5 months a year.

Samsung NFL Shop Offer

Samsung LN52A650 TV rebate requestI purchased my new Samsung TV set back in January from
It had associated with it a rebate that is mediated through Fortunately I do not factor rebates into my purchasing decisions as that would be a frustrating practice indeed. But this one was for $200 at and, well, $200 is $200.

So I sent off the rebate and put a note in my “tickler file” to remind me to check up on it.

A few weeks ago (at about the 10 week mark – the outside limit for which I should have to wait according to the form) I checked on the web site and it indicated that all was well but that it is still pending a final audit.

Rebate Details

Tracking No:  20784649 
Date Posted:  2/6/2009 10:30:00 AM  
Date Processed:  2/16/2009  
Date Shipped:    

Your JANUARY NFLSHOP.COM OFFER offer was received on 2/6/2009 , processed on 2/16/2009 and is pending Final Audit.

I just checked again today and can see nothing has changed so I sent them the following note through their “Contact Us” form.


I sent my rebate for the “Samsung NFL Shop Offer” on January 19, 2009.

I can see that it has been received and has been “Pending final audit” for nearly two months now (nearly 3 months from when I sent in the rebate).
Can you please review this case and expedite it?



I’ll post the results. I’m posting this blog entry just so that others will have something to find and can see what works and what doesn’t in trying to reclaim money promised by manufacturers and retailers who use these awful rebates as incentives.

*** Update April 16, 2009 ***

I *did* receive the following response yesterday:

Dear Marc

We have received your rebate on

2-6 it can take 8-10 weeks from that date



By my math that would mean I’d receive the rebate by… tomorrow (4/17).

Let’s see what happens.

*** Update April 24, 2009 ***

I sent this to them today:

Hi Jenn,

Just checked and I still don’t see any movement on the rebate, it’s now been 11 weeks since the rebate was recorded in the system and 14 weeks (over 1/4 of a year now) since I actually mailed it in.


Mortgage Insurance – Predators?

As you may or may not know I refinanced my home recently. Even before the deal closed (you’ll recall it was delayed a few times) I began receiving solicitations for mortgage insurance.

To date I have received over 20 such solicitations. Heck, 2 more arrived just today.

I take issue, not so much with the idea of mortgage insurance itself – although if you are properly insured it really is not necessary – but rather the way that these solicitations present themselves.

Since I eventually just stopped opening the solicitations, many went straight to the recycling pile without further scrutiny, I cannot claim that those others were identical to EVERY ONE that I did open. But of those that I *did* take the time to read, they all presented themselves in such a manner as to try to make you think that this communication is from your bank and is somehow integrally involved in your mortgage dealings.

The one in front of me right now has a header that reads:

Urgent Notice – Complete and Return

And prominently in the portion that would normally contain a return address if it were a business letter it lists my lender as “SUNTRUST MTG INC.” in upper case and bolded.
It’s not until about halfway through the letter that they indicate the name of the actual insurer in normal font. And, except for the mice-type at the bottom where they list some additional riders and disclaimers they do not mention their name again.
They do not even mention the name of the insurer on the postage paid envelope. The address simply reads “Customer Service Department”.

I think it’s dirty pool, I’ve written about this before in reference to Budget Rent-a-car and others teaming up with Elite Excursions to trick folks into signing up for programs by sending folks checks with agreements printed on them in fine print.

I’m still gobsmacked at how many of these vultures come out of the woodwork to take advantage of an already terribly confusing process to prey on the unwary, the elderly and perhaps the just plain overwhelmed.

Shame on them all.

The following images I include as they are representative of what I have been receiving. I don’t mean to single out these companies any more than I would single out any of these other bottom feeders.

The only good thing I can say is that you at least you are not committed to actually paying premiums based on this solicitation.

Both Envelopes and the stub from American ClassicActual Letter from Americo
Both Envelopes from Americo

Cat Tree for Mav and Phoebe

Phoebe in her Cat TreeMore or less on impulse we bought a cat tree a few days ago off the Internet.

Maverick and Phoebe spend their nights in the laundry room with their cat beds on a utility table (Mav) and the clothes dryer (Phoebe). Michelle has never been a big fan of the utility table, so we’ve now removed it and replaced it with this cat tree.

We picked this up from ““. It’s called the “Cat Cheap Tree“. We ordered it on March 28th and it arrived promptly on April 1st. It needed to be assembled, of course. All the parts were in there and everything fit together properly (which is nearly a miracle :)). It’s really nice and solid. Both the cats were drawn to it immediately and “helped” put it together.

I like it enough that I’m thinking of getting another one for the TV room, but don’t tell Michelle!

BTW you can’t quite make it out, but Phoebe’s new collar tag says “Princess” on it in addition to her name and our phone number.

Furnace / Air Conditioner replacement cost

Our house is a bungalow (a “stepless ranch”) comprising about 2,500 square feet. Four bedrooms with two and a half baths. It was built in the late 1970’s and the attic-mounted air conditioner is original while the furnace is probably about 20 years old. Both are due for replacement.

The existing air conditioner is a 4.5 ton Rudd unit and the furnace, well.. I don’t really even know what brand it is. Nor, I suppose, do I really care 🙂

I’ve had 3 guys come in and offer estimates. The first guy was very professional, recommended by a friend who used him to install her furnace. One thing I liked was that he offered a pretty reasonable (I think $140/yr) maintenance schedule to keep everything up to snuff once installed. But he did not do any calculations or measuring besides estimating the needed tonnage of the air conditioning unit based on the power connections and outside coil size and reviewing all the registers and returns throughout the house. He also inspected the current ductwork.

The second guy walked cursorily through the house, indicated a disdain for variable speed furnaces and indicated that he could get pretty much any furnace I wanted for a very good price.

The third guy noted the model number of my existing air conditioning unit and went and looked it up to determine what the existing tonnage was. Then went through the attic to inspect the existing duct work and reviewed all of the registers and returns. He then returned a week later to fully measure all of the rooms and did the calculations to determine the proper a/c and heater sizing should be for the house as well as offering recommendations for additional registers in some of the more poorly served areas of the house.

I discussed a desire to zone the house with each of them, as well as to include a humidifier solution and an allergy-suitable filtering solution.

It seems that to zone the house will require pretty much removing the entire duct system and replacing it.

As my existing furnace is in the attic over the garage, I was warned by at least two of them that a humidifier system up there would need a waiver as there is the potential for freezing and associated pipe bursting issues.

I had initially thought to install some kind of heat pump or heat pump / gas hybrid furnace but it seems that the cost for that would be prohibitive.

<soapbox mode>In the end I’m thinking I’ll just ditch the zoning idea, forget about the humidifier and go with a normal gas furnace as, frankly, I’m not in any position to evaluate these things nor am I in a position assess the value of the opinions proffered by my local installers. It seems such technologies are only for folks with ties to educational institutions and / or the resources to employ experts in such fields. So I’ve resigned myself to the usual “whatever is for sale at a price I can afford and the environment can go to hell” position that we all end up having to take when we try to pursue these things beyond a superficial layer.

I can rant all day on the number of times I do a ton of research into new technologies only to find that it’s all theory and that you can’t actually *implement* what you’ve researched. I’m learning… slowly. I’m starting to drink more booze too.</soapbox mode>

Anyway, I received estimates and would like some opinions on them if you have any experience with these things. I think I’ll try to post the below information in some “furnace forums” I’ve seen too.

This from Coolray:

Trane XV80 (16 Seer) (model numbers unreadable)
Listed scope of work:
Install new Trane (5) Ton XL16I (16) SEER R410A Dual Fuel System to include Heat Pump Condenser, Coil, pad, variable speed furnace, new refrigerant lines, metal plenums, safety pan w/switch, drain sensor, new EWC Electronic(3) zone system, New R8 Supply and return ductwork, new Trane clean effects high efficiency air cleaner and vision pro digital t-stats. Lifetime parts and labor warranty w/annual maintenance.
Steam Humidifier S2000 add $1,295 and will need electrician to add separate circuit.
$11,698  (system)
$ 3,885 (ductwork)
$ 2,915 (zoning)
-$1,000 (federal rebate)
Total $17,528

I’m contacting him now for a simpler quote, in keeping with my reduced expectations above.

This from Seasonal Heating & Air:
(They actually provided me with 6 variations, this is the one most in keeping with what I would want)

Heil Equipment:Premier Grade with 5 year no hassle warranty
Duel Fuel system
4 ton 13 seer heat pump R- 410 A freon
4 ton 13 seer coil
80% gas 100,000 BTU furnace
Remove existing furnace,existing coil,all ductwork and discard
Install all new duct work R-6 Flex
Supply Plenums, Return Plenum
Add 3 supply outlets( master closet, work out room, laundry room)
1 year labor warranty
compressor 10 year warranty
parts 10 year warranty
limited lifetime warranty on heat exchanger

Optional items:
Programmable t-stat(s) 7 day = 100.00
Touch screen thermostat = 300.00
Humidifier(s) = 450.00
Media air Filter(s) system= 300.00
Electronic Air cleaner April Air 5000 = 950.00

Total (w/o optional items) $6,000

This from Bardi Heating & Air Conditioning:

Install New 14Seer 5 Ton R410-A Variable Speed Heating and Cooling System
The above price includes all equipment, labor, and materials to install a new American Standard 5 ton Heating
and cooling system in the attic. Add supply to master closet and hallway. Add supply to laundry and create return
from existing supply in laundry at door. Install 11/8 x 38 refrigerant line set down exterior to new unit location.
The warranty is 5Year Parts, 10 year compressor & 1 Year Labor.

Equipment is (American standard):
AUD120R9V5 variable speed 2 stage gas furnaces
4TXCC060 Aluminum Evaporator Coil With TXV

Total $15,165

So, what do you think?

I’ll post the updated Coolray estimate when I receive it.

The Mentalist

I’ve been watching “The Mentalist” since it first began airing last year and was very happy with the show. The premise of a guy who was attuned to the minutia that most folks never notice using his abilities to solve crimes rather than just dupe the public with cold readings and other mystical flim-flam was quite appealing to me.

Is it just me or, starting with episode 16 – where Jane loses his sight – the series took a serious left turn into buffoonery and started stretching credibility beyond the point where I at least am able to enjoy it. Running around a parking lot, blind with a hail of bullets chasing you and then trying to drive, again still while blind, to avoid a skilled and intelligent killer was just silly and stupid.

The most recent episode, where everybody and his dog is being hypnotized (“in a trance”) to do outrageous and ridiculously out of character things was equally disappointing.

It’s as though some network execs came down from their offices, chased out all the writers and the director and decided they could do a far better job of the show themselves by removing the intelligent content and ensuring that any character development that was carefully crafted for the first 15 episodes would be summarily tossed out the window.

I am very disappointed…

As a rant, if you ever saw the pilot episode for “Lois and Clark, the new adventures of Superman” and then saw any of the episodes that followed, you can see the EXACT same thing going on here. That pilot had thoughtful characters and a seemingly intelligent plot being mapped out and that was gutted and discarded in favor of a sloppy, silly weekly romp through dumb-land..

Beyond Fear by Bruce Schneier

I’ve been working my way through Bruce Schneier’s book for a while. Not due to any shortcomings in the book itself, but rather other distractions have been interfering with my reading for the past few months and I’ve fallen well behind as my “to read” shelf has been growing steadily.

“Beyond Fear” should be required reading for EVERY SINGLE ONE of our legislators. Well… this book and the constitution. Knowledge of both of these tomes would go a long way towards stemming the tide of ridiculous, pandering, appear-to-be-doing-something-ANYTHING laws that seem to flood out of State and Federal government houses each month.

Combining relevant examples with 5 comprehensive steps that should be evaluated as part of any important security assessment, Bruce pragmatically walks the line between impractically crippling defensive measures and vulnerably insecure systems that must be used by myriad folks on a daily basis. He emphasizes our natural tendency to overestimate certain kinds of (ultimately irrelevant) risks while we casually accept on a daily basis risks that are of far greater likelihood and, ultimately, consequence than those we emotionally invest ourselves in.

While Bruce does not say this explicitly, the examples and figures in his book support the statement that I have heard made that “If you read about it in the newspaper, it’s not something you need to worry about.” (BTW, this can apply to positive things too, like reading about someone winning the lottery). The only reason it’s being reported is because it’s unusual or spectacular. That’s why the handful of deaths airplane crashes (631 in the U.S.A each year) receive so much publicity but the thousands of people dying in car accidents (41,700 in the U.S.A. each year) receive only the vaguest of coverage.

Perhaps my favorite quote in the book on this topic is that “More people are killed every year by pigs than by sharks.”. To contrast with the numbers above, about 0.6 people are killed in the U.S.A. each year by sharks. That’s five orders of magnitude less than the automobile figure. Yet how many people do you know are fearful of going swimming, yet have no problem driving to the corner store for some milk?

Anyway, there are great examples given of computer issues, financial issues, terrorist issues and even beekeeper issues. You will not want for examples that you can relate to.

Definitely a starting point for a reasoned, rational discussion on how to make the best possible trade-offs for the most useful and unencumbering risk reduction in a world of finite resources.