How to find CellID and LAC in BlackBerry phone

I have already introduced a few apps for iOS, Android and Symbian to find cell towers information like LAC and CellID, but none of them work on BlackBerry phone. After a few minutes search and research, I find that there is hardly any app has ever been created to achieve this objective and I finally give up. Since there’s no software can do this for us, we need to do it ourselves in test mode.

In order to enter test mode, you need to unlock your BlackBerry mobile device first. The unlock code can be obtained online but you need to collect some data before you proceed. In this post I will guide you through the steps to find your CellID and LAC information and here we go.

First step, go to ‘help me’ menu by pressing alt+shift+H (or alt+R A C E depending on your model), there you can find your App Version, PIN, Uptime and Duration etc. Write them down on a piece of paper for later use. Then point your cell phone browser to http://www.bber.info/escreen.htm, enter the data you write down after the page opens.

Please note there is a backspace before the parentheses in App version. For uptime, you can select from one day to 30 days. If you select 30 days, test mode will replace ‘help me’ screen in this period of time. When you finish entering all the data, click on generate and it will produce your unlock code, now enter these codes in ‘help me’ screen, always remember to hold alt key when you input!

Second, once you enter the code, you will unlock your phone and enter the test mode. There are six tabs in test mode, and the first is Mobile Network Engineering Screens, that’s what we looking for. Test mode provides some useful functionality like deactivate radio, power off, battery charging, and killing processes and GPS information. Keep in mind do not change any settings until you know what you are doing!

Third step, now click on Mobile Network Engineering Screens, and you will find a few tabs. Enter neighbor cells and you will find up to 6 neighboring cell towers. You will also find the CellID and LAC of the base station your handset connected to. Now you find the data you need!

In addition to cell sites information, you can find your GPS information under OS Engineering Screens such as your latitude, longitude, altitude, direction and speed etc. If your BlackBerry phone could not establish a connection to GPS satellites after you reboot it, select Warm Reset GPS here and your handset could determine you location within 30 seconds.

BlackBerry phone test mode is really powerful and offers you lots of practical functions, and there’s more for you to explore. However do not make any changes easily and you are responsible for any consequences of your action.

2012-Apr-Sat | Category: Others | Tags: , ,

Find Android phone CellID and LAC using test mode

I once introduced some apps we can use to get our phone’s CellID and LAC for location purposes, like celltracker, fieldtest, net monitor, cell tower locator etc. In addition to those apps, I recently came into a more powerful app for Android device called Network Info II which is available in Android market. It can display not only the relevant information of the cell tower your phone connects to, but also the neighboring cell towers information. Moreover, you can get WiFi connection information, such as SSID, MAC address, gateway, DNS / DHCP server and your handset’s IP when connected to the Internet.

However, what if when you want to know cell tower information but you do not have such apps installed in your mobile? Since Android OS is getting more powerful, you can always use filed test mode to find the information you need easily.

We have collected some codes for reference to help you enter test mode in your handset. The code varies depending on the cell phone maker.

1 HTC Android devices

Enter *#*#4636#*#* in phone mode, and the test mode will appear. The test mode displays lots of useful information, such as IMEI, current mobile operator, Ping IP, signal strength, CellID, LAC etc. Some models, for example G1 even shows neighboring CellID, LAC and signal strength.

In my case I found that my handset always connects to the cell tower that has the best signal. The cell tower my device connects to sometimes change even when I put my mobile on the table, which may indicate the signal strength changed for whatever reasons.

2 Samsung, Motorola and Sony Ericsson Android devices

Enter *#*#4636#*#* and your phone will enter test mode.

3 ZTE Android devices

The code is different from above four cell phone makers. Enter *983*3640# and the test mode will appear.

There are many other Android device manufacturers out there, but their market share isn’t that high compared to Samsung, HTC and Motorola.

In addition to Android, we still have many other mobiles, and some of them have field test mode as well, such as Nokia, Palm phones. If your handset is not running Android, I have found a list of mobile models and codes, and you may want to check it out and find if your phone is listed.

P.S. Some cell tower apps display the CellID and LAC in hexadecimal (see above screenshot), and we can change them into decimal numbers. If you have any other issues, get in touch with me.

2011-Nov-Tue | Category: Others | Tags: , ,

Make free calls without mobile network coverage

Almost after most severe natural disasters or social unrest, telephone communication is being cut off as infrastructure could be seriously damaged which is crucial for saving lives. But people do not have to worry about it in the future, Australian researchers have developed an app for Android which could set up a short range peer to peer (Adhoc) network or turn a mobile into a cell tower using WiFi. This means a temporary cellular network and free cell phone calls without infrastructures from carriers. The new technology can also be used in rural villages or areas where lack network coverage at no additional cost.

The Android based app, which is called Serval, uses WiFi network to send and receive calls. Like normal WiFi networks, it needs SSID, channel and network address (it’s similar with MAC address used to identify each device) to create a wireless network to communicate with each mobile device. The app could make a mobile device acting in three modes, Adhoc to create a peer to peer network; Client to connect to an Access Point, or Access Point to allow other handsets to connect to you.

The app can also be used as a gateway to let other cell phone to make calls via your carrier’s network at your cost. Imagine in some remote area where most people have no mobile network coverage but you can connect to your mobile operator’s network; your friends can call their family via your handset and network without borrowing your mobile device.

Serval is easy to install and use. It needs root access; otherwise peer to peer network will not be available. After installing it, you need to set a phone number. You can either use the mobile number get from your mobile operator or enter a new number manually. It’s recommended to use the former as it has already been saved by your friends and family. When make a call, a dialer will appear and you can decide on which network to use, either the one you set up or your carrier’s network.

It’s not designed to replace your carrier, and you can only call your nearby mobile device with Serval installed within a few hundred meters. The team was currently working on a miniature cell tower which costs about some $1000 to bring back and maintain cell phone coverage in a few days when the infrastructure could not work properly, but the range was not specified.

The beta version was released a few days ago. If you have a WiFi enabled Android handset, you can try it here and user manual is available. It’s worth noting that the app could eat up your battery quickly, always remember to back up!!

2011-Aug-Sat | Category: Others | Tags: ,

Who has your Mac?

A man called Joshua got his MacBook stolen from his apartment in Oakland in March when he’s not home. He then reported it to his local police. Luckily he installed a program called Hidden, and he used it to take photos of the thief and gathered the network and location information which were sent to the police officer.

However this did not help get his laptop back, so he started a blog called this guy has my MacBook here with photos and posted it in Twitter to get media attention. This time it worked, the local police contacted him later that day and arrested the thief and got his laptop back.

Joshua is only lucky to find his Mac. If he did not care to install that software, he may never know where his laptop is, not to mention getting it back. As a matter of fact, laptops are among the most commonly stolen items, just like mobile devices. So we really should consider install some anti-theft or tracking program, and that could be the reason why Apple is to release Find My Mac.

The latest version of Mac OS X Lion 10.7.2 beta allows the developers to connect to iCloud.com to look for the whereabouts of their laptops. Like Find My iPhone, it provides an approximate location of Mac if it’s connected to iCloud via WiFi.

As Mac has no GPS and could not connect to cell towers, it uses known WiFi access points to determin the location. This partly explains why Apple collects WiFi hotspot location data using their Smartphone.

Like Find My iPhone, Find My Mac lets you view the location on a map. It can also do a remote lock, and the user needs to input a four-digit pass code to unlock it. If the missing Mac could not be found and returned, a remote wipe is in place to erasing all the sensitive data. You can also send a message to the Mac screen or play a sound in case the thief is somewhere near you. However if it’s turned off, there is no way to hear the sound.

It’s unclear if the people could uninstall Find My Mac. Unlike cell phones, we can almost remove any program from PC easily, even format all the hard drives and everything will be lost include Find My Mac. In the meantime, if the thief connects Mac to a cable broadband network, Find My Mac may not be able to get the exact location information.

2011-Aug-Mon | Category: Others | Tags: , ,

Microsoft mapping services expose user location

When Apple and Google cell phone location tracking issued got our full attention, no one was aware that Microsoft was doing the same using their managed driving program.

As is known to all, Google first used their street view cars to log WiFi Access Point and cell sites information, and then they stopped the move because of the huge pressure from world governments and relied on Android Smartphone to collect such location data. Well Microsoft was using vehicle to collect all kinds of location data to build their location based services too, namely web search, weather, maps and navigation information. Do not forget, Microsoft has its own mobile operating system Windows Phone 7, and the world’s second largest search engine Bing.

At the beginning of this month, a program manager called Reid Kuhn from Microsoft Windows Phone engineering team revealed more information about their location collection in a blog post.

We can see from the post that like Google, Microsoft were interested in cell tower, WiFi hotspots and GPS data, major technology to pinpoint a mobile device on map. I list here separately what data they collect.

GPS: latitude, longitude, direction, speed.

Cell tower: mobile country code (MCC), mobile network code (MNC), location area code (LAC), cell identifier (CellID).

WiFi Access Point: BSSID (i.e, the Media Access Control aka MAC address), signal strength, and radio type.

Although Reid indicated that they would not collect user private data sent over the wireless network, and the source code was available for check. However they have no proper measurements in place to protect these data. Millions of location data of mobile device (both Android and iOS when they are acting as Access Points, which is know as tethering), laptop and other WiFi devices were available via live.com as accurate as street address and even corners of a building. What’s worse, there is no limit in getting those data, and users could not remove their WiFi data from live.com database which updates itself often.

According to CNet tests, in addition to US location data, live.com also contains locations from Spain, UK, Germany and Japan etc. Some of the WiFi location change from time to time, which means live.com might be tracking the movements of those devices.

Since Android location tracking, Google has taken steps to block location queries via their API. And that’s why my WiFi tracker does not work properly, but Microsoft has done nothing yet. Maybe that’s why it’s not easy to protect our privacy?

2011-Jul-Sat | Category: Others | Tags: , ,

Goodbye MobileMe and Welcome iCloud

Since Apple announced its new free could based service iCould at WWDC two weeks ago, the destiny of MobileMe was set. The rumors used to have it that Apple will lower its price from $99 to $20, and some even predicted free MobileMe service. But eventually, Apple killed MobileMe.

MobileMe subscribers are not able to upgrade their accounts to family pack or buy more storage now. But people can request a refund for their unused portion of their subscription, Apple said.

Although Apple said the MobileMe service has been extended through June 30, 2012, and then it will be replaced by its completely free cloud service iCloud, Apple did not outline what services in MobileMe will cease to work and what new services will be introduced at the time.

In order to make it clear, Apple released a FAQ about MobileMe transition and iCould here. According to the list, iWeb publishing, gallery and iDisk will be discontinued but third-party apps could replace these services, if anyone or company was to develop them to access iCloud storage. The other things will disappear when iCould go live include Mac Dashboard widgets, keychains, Dock items, and System Preferences.

The good news is that mail, contacts, calendar and Find My iPhone will be available in iCloud and they will remain much the same as before. Meanwhile, Apple will include some new services in iCloud include iTunes, photo stream, documents and so on.

Apple also said people can keep their MobileMe email addresses ([email protected]) and use it to access iCloud service on the web, like mail, Find My iPhone etc. Oh, I just love it.

There is speculation that Apple will not support iWeb in iLife suite. An Email from Jobs earlier this month also indicated the same thing. Apple added iWeb into iLife in 2006, to enable MAC users design and edit their website using editors like WYSI/WYG. But now it may be gone.

2011-Jun-Tue | Category: Others | Tags: , ,

Best free mobile security apps for Android

Android is the most popular mobile OS in addition to iOS at the moment, but it’s one of the most insecure platform as well. A case in point is San Francisco based software vendor Coverity released a report last year saying that there were a huge number of bugs in Android kernel, among which 88 are high-risk defects. The latest is called Auth Token bug, security researchers have found that in Android 2.3.3 and earlier version there is an Auth Token leakage. When the user log onto a Wi-Fi network using Client Login, the Auth Token contains unencrypted password can be obtained by the hackers easily which put user private data at risk including Google Calendar, Google contacts, Twitter and Facebook account.

So it’s absolutely necessary for Android users to install security apps to protect their sensitive data. However, there are a wide range of them – some better than others, and all come with different feature. Here we introduce some best yet free security apps for Android devices.

Webroot Mobile Security Basic

Webroot is very popular among Android users. It comes in both paid and free versions. Paid version has more features, however their free versions covers some of the basic capabilitiy like block and remove malicious apps, protect contacts and passwords, call and SMS blocking and secure web browsing etc.

Lookout Mobile Security

Lookout is committed to mobile security, their security app for android lets you backup and restore your private data so you do not have to worry that any of them goes missing. It also scans your Android device for malware to keep them out of your handset. In the meantime, Lookout releases a mobile lost and found app called Plan B. If you read my blog often, you will remember I introduced it in my previous post. Basically you can install it to your Android Smartphone and show its location on Google Maps.
Lookout mobile security comes in two versions, free and premium. Generally, the free version provides the basic security service for your phone and in most cases it’s good enough. You do not need to upgrade to the paid version until you need extra features.

AVG Mobilation for Android

When I was with my laptop running Windows XP a few years back, a virus take control of it. I tried many anti-virus software and none of them worked. Finally I turned to AVG and it cleaned the virus quickly which impressed me greatly. But later I found when AVG could not delete certain virus; it pops up all the time which was really annoying. I later uninstalled it from my laptop.

Well this time AVG comes to Android and has some handy feature, and like before, it’s completely free. The AVG android version scan your whole device include apps, files, and settings and remove any virus found. It also checks apps and your Emails and text messages for malware before downloading. Like Lookout, it can be used to locate your lost handset using GPS; moreover, it can display messages on your phone screen, lock and wipe out your handset remotely. These features can only be seen in Find My iPhone and BlackBerry protect etc. In other words, it’s a free cell phone tracing app as well.

NetQin for Android

Netqin is a Chinese based mobile security company. It’s mobile security app running at a few platforms including Symbian, Android, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry. The basic features are free while advanced ones require subscription. Free features include mobile scan, mobile firewall, real-time monitoring and contacts backup across multiple platforms. The advanced features let you track your device, enable you to send a remote lock or wipe out your private information. Meantime, it protect your MSN account and mobile bank and other privacy.
Netqin is working with Nokia to provide mobile solutions for Symbian Smartphone, but it does not have a good reputation in China, China CCTV once reported that Netqin was working with virus makers to threat its users to buy their services.

Other recommendations

If you have extra money or your Android phone contains important data, you can consider some paid mobile security apps and here is the list.

1 Norton Mobile Security

2 Kaspersky Mobile Security

3 F-Secure Mobile Security

4 SMobile Security Shield

2011-May-Thu | Category: Others | Tags: , ,

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