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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

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RSA SecureID soft token: error reading sdtid file

So at work we are rolling out the newer BB OS 10.x devices. We use RSA keyfobs  and they have a software variant where-in you can load a software version of the keyfob in an app supplied by RSA. There are apps for iOS, Windows, Android, and BlackBerry OS so it’s a pretty good option. 

The way this works is that you create a file (ending with a .sdtid extension) which is the software keyfob (let’s call this a “soft token” from now on). You then import this into the app and it generates the changing codes. iOS, Windows, and Android have it easy in that there are RSA tools to convert this soft token to a QR code which you can simply scan and import this into the app. These OSes also don’t have the concept of separate spaces, so you the IT admin can easily email the soft token to your users and they can open & import it into the app. But BlackBerry users have a work  space and a personal space on their device, and corporate email is in the work space, so you can only import the token into the RSA app if it’s installed from the app store in the work space. 

Again, in practice that shouldn’t be an issue, but in our firm the RSA app isn’t appearing on the app store in the work space. The BES admins have published the app to the app store, yet it doesn’t appear. They are taking their sweet time troubleshooting, so I figured why not just install the app in the personal space and somehow get the soft token into that?

One option would be to create an email account in the personal space with the user’s private account and email the token to that. Too much effort! Another option would be to put it up on a website and access it via the personal space browser, then import. Yet another option would be to just plug in the device to the computer, copy the soft token to the micro SD card, and then import. The latter is what I decided to go with. 

Everything went well but when it came to importing some devices gave an error along the following lines: “error reading sdtid file”. Uninstalling re-installing the RSA app did the trick. I am not sure how that helped but my guess is when the app launches it asks for permissions to read your micro SD card etc, and am guessing when the user was presented with that he/ she ignored the prompt or denied the request. As a result the app couldn’t read the soft token from the micro SD card and threw the above error. That’s my guess at least.  In any case, uninstall re-install the app and that should do the trick! ;-) I found many forum posts with this question but none with a straight-forward answer so thought I should make a blog post in case it helps someone. 

New features in BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 (picture heavy)

BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 was released yesterday and I downloaded it to my Z3. It feels very weird but I am strangely excited by this release. Maybe it’s the changes, maybe it’s just me – I am excited by a lot of things nowadays (Windows 10, Windows 10 Mobile, Lumia phone, Azure … to name a few). 

BlackBerry OS 10.3 was so far only available to the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry Classic. But with 10.3.1 other devices too can get it. For a list of new features check out this official page. Below are my notes on some of the features, along with some screenshots. 

IMG_20150221_115613The first thing to notice is the new look. The icons look flatter and prettier. No more of this “ugly” shadows and dull colors. Everything feels brighter and flatter (and squarer?). 

The next thing that stands out is the Amazon App Store. Yup, you now have the Amazon App Store installed by default on the BlackBerry so it’s easy to download Android apps from there for your device. Much easier than side-loading by getting the APK files from third-party sites, which was the only way to previously get Android apps on your BlackBerry OS 10 devices. IMG_20150221_115237-2

Another new thing that stands out is that you now have a home screen. Previously your home screen had all the app icons and/ or a list of open apps. If you closed all the open apps you were taken to the page with app icons (as above). Now if you close all your open apps, the page where that is usually displayed stays on – blank – so your selected wallpaper shows through. I don’t care much about that so turned it off from Settings. IMG_20150221_115237-3

 I don’t remember if BlackBerry OS 10.2 had this option or not, but the same Display Settings menu also lets us select the display color (warm, cool) and also the keyboard appearance (dark, light, automatic). 

Speaking of the home screen-cum-app switcher, that too seems different. For once, the preview seems different (though I IMG_20150221_115356can’t place a finger on how it’s different from OS 10.2); for another, the layout has changed a bit. Previously the app you closed last took the top-left position, pushing whatever app was previously there to the right. So the app you you had closed last was on the top-left position, the app you closed first was on the bottom-right position. But now apps are arranged in the order you closed them. So the top-left app is the first app you closed, next is the second app you closed, … all the way to the bottom-right which is the latest app you closed. 

 Another very nifty feature is Advanced Interaction, which you can find under the Settings menu. You get some cool features like wake the device by lifting it, keep it away while holding it, etc. Nice stuff! 

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 Yet another nifty new feature is the Action Bar. Check out the screenshots below. Depending on the context you get a bar of sorts at the bottom giving some of the actions that are commonly used in that context. You can customize it via the Settings menu too. 

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It’s little stuff, but very useful. Probably a side effect of this, but now the camera app has a button you can press to take photos! (Previously you had to tap anywhere on the screen, which was a bit confusing to me as I am used to clicking anywhere on the screen to usually focus a picture). The volume buttons too can be used to click a photo (I don’t recollect if that was the case with OS 10.2). 

There are some new modes too (panorama and such). Notice the three dots above in the bottom right corner? You can click that to get more options. 

IMG_20150221_120306A very very useful feature is the revised circle when typing text. Previously the circle had “handles” on either end which you could use to move it around and navigate through the text you are typing to make changes. Now there are left and right arrows that let you move in either direction character by character, giving you finer control. And the handle-bar at the bottom can still be used to move the circle around. It’s a small change but I found it infinitely more useful when typing. 

Moreover, the keyboard layout too has small changes in my opinion. I think the spacing has changed. Whereas previously I used to hate typing on the virtual keyboard, since I upgrade to OS 10.3.1 it has been a pleasure. I make way less mistakes now. 

The Settings menu has some more new settings. 

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Quick Settings lets you customize the quick settings menu you get when swiping up from the top on the main screen (home page & screen where the app icons are shown). You can select what you want to see, as well as rearrange the order. 

Data Management lets you view the data usage of the device as well as configure per account data settings (including what happens when you are on roaming). Again, useful stuff, especially for roaming users. 

Lastly, Battery Saving Mode has settings to save battery when it is falling low. I don’t know whether battery performance has improved since OS 10.3.1, but under OS 10.2 it was dismal on the Z3. Hopefully I can squeeze more out of the battery thanks to this. 

IMG_20150221_123758_editAlmost forgot, the email client has some useful new features. One of these is that whenever you view an email and come out, there are two new icons briefly displayed next to the message. These let you delete the email or file it away. 

I forgot to take a screenshot of it, but the email list view has a new icon on the top right corner that lets you get similar icons for all emails that are displayed. This way you can delete/ file away multiple emails easily (note this is not same as selecting multiple emails and doing a common action; instead, you can do individual actions but on multiple emails one by one). 

The telephone app too has a pretty redesign and is pleasant to the eyes. 

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The BlackBerry Assistant (which was present in OS 10.2 if I remember correctly) has significantly improved. Previously it could only be used to dial contacts, but not it has Siri-like features in that you can ask it to do things for you. 

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Another new feature is BlackBerry Blend – which I didn’t try out. Apparently you install a client softwIMG_20150221_115749are on your PC IMG_20150221_115744and that lets you easily “blend” your BlackBerry and PC. You can transfer data easily (wirelessly I believe) and messages and notifications are synced over. Must try that sometime … (I am not a fan of installing too many software on my PC, especially from BlackBerry regarding which I have a mind block, that’s why I haven’t tried this yet). 

 

 

 

 

 

Lastly, there’s a new feature called Meeting Mode which is sort of hidden away in that you can’t get to it via the usual Settings menu. Instead, it is hidden under the settings menu of the Calendar app. What it does is that once enabled it automatically figures when you are in a meeting and adjusts notifications and alerts such that you are not disturbed (again, you can choose what happens). Very useful! 

To access this, launch the Calendar, swipe down from the top of the screen, and then you can see Meeting Mode. 

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And that’s more or less it. 

Overall this seems like a great release and I am quite excited by it. Previously I didn’t used to bother with my BlackBerry much, but ever since I updated today I have been exploring the new features and more importantly enjoying using the device. It feels lighter (coz of the design I guess), brighter (the colors), easier to type and move around (the keyboard layout, improved circle, the new Action Bar), and smart (all the new little features). 

Apparently keyboard shortcuts are back too! So now you can be in the email view and press “t” to go to the top of the list, “b” to go to the bottom, etc. Like you could in the good ol’ days of Blackberries. This feature was removed in the newer OS but is now back. I don’t have a physical keyboard on the Z3 so it isn’t of use to me, but I am pleased keyboard shortcuts are back! 

That’s all for now. Good stuff, BlackBerry! Keep it up. 

BlackBerry 10 device not showing some Outlook folders

When I set up my work account on the Z3 it was showing all my Outlook folders. I made some folders on the BlackBerry and they appeared in Outlook too. But when I made some folders on Outlook they didn’t appear in the BlackBerry. Odd!

Tried the usual stuff like refreshing my email view on the BlackBerry but that didn’t help. Went to Account settings on the BlackBerry and checked whether there was something I could toggle to get the folder to appear – no luck! I checked the BES 10 server too in case that had some setting but there was none.

FYI: Not surprising that the BES 10 server didn’t have any email folder settings because BES 10 uses ActiveSync instead of the custom syncing protocol of BES 5 and prior. Previously BlackBerries and BES 5 servers communicated via RIM’s servers and used a custom syncing protocol but all that has changed with the new devices and BES 10 as these communicate directly via ActiveSync. The BES 10 server is really optional and if present it is used only to apply security policies and extend the corporate network to the BlackBerries without requiring a VPN or exposing ActiveSync to the Internet. The BES 10 server does not play a role in the email delivery or access.

I noticed that the new folders I created in Outlook were sub-folders of Inbox. I wasn’t sure if that mattered so I created a new folder outside of Inbox to see if that appears on the BlackBerry. Quite oddly, it did! Now I moved the previous sub-folders of Inbox into this new folder and oddly again these now appear on the BlackBerry. Finally I moved these folders back to being a sub-folder of Inbox and now these appear under the Inbox too! Very weird. And now if I create a new sub-folder under Inbox in Outlook, it too appears on the BlackBerry.

Not sure what the issue was or why the above steps fixed it, but I thought to post it here in case it helps anyone.

BlackBerry Z3: First Impressions

At work we are trialing BlackBerry Z3 devices. This is my first BlackBerry 10 device so here are some first impressions.

  • The device is huge. It’s a phablet form factor. Some people will like it; the rest – like me – will find it a handful. It is not impossible to use the device with one hand, but is not too convenient either. I think I have medium size hands and I like using devices one hand and I manage to do that more or less with this device. After a period of heavy one handed use I’ve noticed my palm hurts a bit but that’s probably just a learning curve.
  • The keyboard sucks. I just hate it. I am not a stranger to touch keyboards – been a long time iPhone/ iPod Touch user and have also played with Android phones. None of their keyboards were as crappy as this. I regularly make typos with the Z3 keyboard. When composing an email or message etc the device slowly learns your habits and I’ve noticed it gets better at predicting what I meant to type, but that magic doesn’t apply in apps such as the browser for instance. In the latter I have to keep going back and correct typos.
  • When typing if you long press the text a ring appears. Initially I wasn’t sure what to do with this. Then I realized the ring has markings on both sides, I can touch that and move the ring to move around the typed text. Useful for going back and fro.
  • There are no physical buttons except for four buttons on the left side – Power, Up & Down volume, and a Camera click. There are no soft-buttons either, like in Android phones for instance. This took a while to get used to. I thought I would never get used to it, but after 2-3 days of use I don’t mind it any more. Instead of the home button what you have to do with this device is swipe up from the bottom edge of the screen. This takes you to a application switcher sort of view from where you can (a) close applications, (b) swipe right to view your emails, or (c) swipe left to see your home screen.IMG_20140912_010802
  • Emails, messages, LinkedIn, WhatsApp etc are first-class citizens here. Always just a swipe away. From the home screen swipe right to see your ‘Hub’ which contains a unified view of all these – or swipe once more to go into the view you want. Similarly, from the application switcher swipe right to go to the same view. And when in this view swipe left to go back to application switcher or home screen – wherever you came from. I find that convenient.
  • Each app has its own Settings menu, like in Android. Unlike in Android though it’s not accessible from the bottom part of the screen. You have to swipe up from the top edge of the screen to get this. So this definitely requires two hands. I don’t like that much. Thankfully this isn’t frequently accessed.
  • The camera is fine. Nothing great, but not a total waste either. Got confused initially that just tapping the screen clicks a pic. Unlike in the iPhone where tapping lets you focus on an object.
  • These new BlackBerry devices have the concept of a workspace and personal space. Confusing at first, but it has its uses I think. The workspace is what your employer has control. They can choose the apps there etc. The personal space is your area. The two don’t meet either so you end up in situations such as say you get a pic in your work email, save it to the photos app, go to BlackBerry Messenger to attach and send, and you won’t be able to find it! That’s because the BlackBerry Messenger has access only to the personal space whereas your picture is in the workspace. This is one device with two sides.
  • The home screen has three soft buttons. Phone, Search, and Camera. That’s convenient. Phone and Camera are two things would would frequently like access to from the home screen. And search is useful to quickly search anything on the phone. You can search for contacts, emails, settings, installed apps, and can even type shortcut words like “task” followed by some text to add the text as a task in the “Remember” app. There are many such shortcuts. Useful. I tried the “task” shortcut and it didn’t add to my work tasks though, it only added to the BlackBerry tasks section. Have to explore on how I can get it to save in the work tasks and also ask for more details like a Reminder or Due Date.
  • Screenshots can be taken by pressing the Up & Down volume keys together. The picture is saved in your ‘Pictures’ app and is limited to the space you were in when taking the screenshot.
  • The Z3 runs BlackBerry OS 10.2 and this can run Android apps if you have the APK file. Nice!
  • The battery life is nothing to rave about. Seems to require charging every night.
  • There are some features like Wi-Fi direct, sharing media to your TV, etc that I didn’t explore further. Must do later.
  • I connected the phone to my LinkedIn account and now it shows photo for my contacts that are in LinkedIn. Even for my work contacts if they are in LinkedIn. Nice touch.
  • You are able to add your work email account of course, but can also add other email account as well as CardDAV and CalDAV. The latter is useful as all my phone contacts are in Gmail and synced via CardDAV amongst my various phones. Since the Z3 supports CardDAV I can add this account and now all my contacts are available on the Z3 too and changes get synced.
  • When on the email screen I can pinch to show only unread emails (this can be customized to show drafts or other type of emails). Useful. There’s also a priority hub which shows messages which your device think are of higher priority. You can modify what contacts/ conversations are considered priority.
  • Long press the power button to manually lock the device or even restart (useful!). Also, if you long press by mistake it won’t shutdown unless you keep long pressing for 4-5 seconds.
  • The lock screen can be configured to show notifications. By default it shows icons for emails, calendar etc. Swipe right on an icon and it expands to show more details. Nice!
  • Not a biggie for me – the device doesn’t have 4G. It is meant for the Asian market. Specifically, it was introduced for Indonesia (hence the Z3’s code name is ‘Jakarta’) and is now being released in other countries. I couldn’t get it in Oman so had to get from our Dubai office. It is not available in the UK yet either.
  • The keyboard has a “funny” feature in that while you are typing suggested words appear all over the place. If you want to use one of those words you are supposed to flick it on to the text. This can be configured to show suggested words only on the top row. And the most obvious selection is shown on the space key so pressing that will easily insert that followed by a space. Convenient! The flick gesture wasn’t so obvious and I am yet to get used to it.
  • There’s a very brief tutorial and a more extensive help application. The latter is useful for discovering how to do what you want.
  • The Z3 takes a micro SIM and has a slot for microSD.

All said and done, except for the keyboard – and to an extent the large size – I don’t mind the device much. Of course I won’t be replacing my iPhone with this any time (mainly coz I love the iPhone, its camera is awesome, there are tons of apps, I prefer the smaller size, etc etc) but it’s a good device well worth your consideration. It is not very pricey either, and doesn’t feel cheap for the low price. If you don’t have any previous phone hangups you might love the device too!