Down the Prepaid Cellular Rabbit Hole (Part Three): In Which We Continue with Part Two of a Tutorial.

Greetings friends and fellow hackers!

Here is the long-awaited second part of my 4G CDMA/LTE phone flashing tutorial.

What follows will guide you through pulling the “keys” needed to program a Sprint or Verizon Galaxy Nexus onto a prepaid 3G service such as PagePlus, Talk-For-Good, or Next G.

Be warned the following is very wordy in the interest of being precise. There are attached screenshots with step-number labels color-coded for easy follow-along.

Make sure you’ve read part one first, and are up to speed with us, because we’re about to pull the keys from our working Samsung Fascinate. Once this is done, we’ll be ready to flash those keys to our 4G phone; a Galaxy Nexus in this example.

I must re-iterate that this tutorial is only for using a Verizon Samsung Fascinate as the “donor” phone, and a Sprint or Verizon Galaxy Nexus as the target. I can’t re-write it to fit the multitude of other devices out there, and recommend using these EXACT models if you want this to be sure to work.

I must also state that I am not liable for any damage to your phone this tutorial may cause, or any issues that may come up with your account and service. Follow these instructions VERY CAREFULLY.

OK. Are we ready? Let’s begin!

1) We want to make sure we have the Fascinate programmed according to part 1 of my tutorial. If you haven’t been through part one of my tutorial, STOP HERE. Go back. Begin again.

2) Since the Fascinate is now programmed and working (if it’s not, go back and start over on part one!) we want to MAKE SURE we have removed the battery from our GNex. They currenty share an MEID, and this is a very fast way to get an MEID banned.

3) Reboot your Fascinate just to make sure everything is working. Check to see that 3G, Talk, and Text are working after rebooting. Take a deep breath, as we’re about to dive in head first.

4) Go ahead and put your Fascinate in Diagnostic Mode. Do this by going to the dialer and dialing **33284. When asked for SPC, enter 6 zero’s (000000). Scroll down to Dial Up Networking. Tap it, and set it to ‘On’. You will now be able to access the phone from the DFS software. Plug the Fascinate into your PC now.

5) Open DFS. Connect to your Fascinate’s COM port. It should list itself as ‘Samsung Mobile Modem Diagnostic Serial Port’. I’ve labeled the area with a red ‘#5′ for this step.

6) On the top line in DFS, enter the SPC (six zeroes, 000000) and then the Pwd of 2010031619780721. Click the blue circled triangle button (looks like a “Play” button) next to SPC, then the one next to Pwd. After each is sent, you should see “DEVICE UNLOCKED” in the DFS log window. I’ve labeled the two areas with green ‘#6′ marks for this step.

7) Now, in the main screen of DFS, click the Data tab. Below you will find a screenshot with #7’s marked in blue showing this step. Put a checkmark in the box next to ‘Pwd’ in the HDR AN Long fields in the Data tab. It is blank now, but will be your ‘AN key'; one of the three keys we will need to program our GNex later.

8) Press the ‘Read’ button in the data tab and the HDR AN Long fields should fill in. If you have a string of hexadecimal digits in the HDR AN Long fields, then congratulations; it is working! Write down these hex digits as your ‘AN key’ and save them. I have marked these with blue #8’s.

9) Now go to the Mobile IP tab. I won’t label this step, because it’s very simple. It’ll be the third screenshot you see below. In the Mobile IP tab, click the ‘Read’ button. Your ‘AAA Shared Secret’ and ‘HA Shared Secret’ fields should now have populated with strings of hexadecimal numbers.

10) Write these numbers down and save them. These are the AAA Key and HA Key that you will need to program your GNex.

11) Breathe a sigh of relief. The hardest part (keys) is over. Now we move on to our PRL. PRLs can be obtained online, however, so this step is less critical. I will walk you through it just to make sure we have the best, most up-to-date PRL possible for our service provider.

12) Now we need to pull our PRL. I don’t have a screenshot for this one, but it’s also very simple. Go back to the NAM tab in DFS. On the far right of the tab (you may need to maximize the window; I did on my small-screen netbook) is the PRL column.

13) In the PRL column, click the blue ‘Read’ button at the bottom. This will read the PRL from the phone. Now click the black ‘Save’ button just up and to the right of the ‘Read’ button, in the PRL column. Save this file somewhere you can find it later. I usually save to my desktop during a project like this, but you can save it wherever you like.

14) The current PRL number is 53100 for PagePlus as of the time of this writing, and the file is just over 6 kilobytes in size. If you’re getting something similar, it’s probably working just fine.

15) Now that your keys and PRL are saved, congratulations! You have all the keys and files necessary to program your Galaxy Nexus onto PagePlus or other Verizon MVNOs! I’m sure you did a great job, and you deserve a pat on the back.

Attached below are the screenshots referenced in this part of the tutorial.

In part three, I will guide you through programming the Galaxy Nexus itself, for those of you having trouble.

Peace!Image

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Greetings, Programs!

Hello again, everyone.

So sorry for my over-one-month absence. I have brought shame upon my followers! :-P

I have tutorials coming up on flashing the 4G CDMA/LTE phones (since all I have covered so far is programming a donor), and I also have a wifi-router-to-bridge flashing guide on the way as well.

I’ve been kept away by work responsibilities, vehicle troubles, and I confess a general case of exhaustion (I’m not in the world’s greatest health) but will be bringing the beefy hacks back ASAP. As soon as I can get some screenshots, part two of the 4G flashing tutorial is coming right up!

Cheers, and happy hacking!

—djnikochan

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Down the Prepaid Cellular Rabbit Hole (Part Two): In Which We Begin Part One of a Tutorial.

Greetings friends and fellow hackers!

I promised a tutorial on getting a 4G phone working on a 3G CDMA prepaid, and here it is.

Be warned the following is very wordy in the interest of being precise. There is an attached screenshot with step-number labels color-coded for easy follow-along.

In the following three part tutorial I am going to show you how to program a Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus phone for use on Verizon-based MVNOs (prepaid 3G CDMA service providers) such as PagePlus, Next G, and Talk-For-Good.

In this first part I will explain how you change the serial number on a “donor phone” and activate it masquerading as the Galaxy Nexus you wish to use (which I will refer to as the “target phone”). This procedure is applicable to other targets, but the programming in part 3 of our tutorial will not likely be the same.

In this example I use the Samsung Fascinate as the “donor” because it is affordable (easily had for $40 on eBay, used), easy to use, and can have it’s serial number or MEID changed several times. This saves us from having to clone it’s serial number onto our target phone, and therefore lets us re-use the Fascinate over and over again. I also recommend it because I can guarantee the steps here work completely on it.

We use the Verizon Galaxy Nexus as the “target” because it is the one I have activated twice, and can confirm working. Other models may be programmable, but you’d need to use someone else’s programming tutorial. The “donor” steps in part 1 and 2 of this tutorial will definitely work for pulling the HA, AAA, and AN keys which are needed to program a 4G/LTE phone to a 3G CDMA prepaid.

I must express that I CANNOT re-write this tutorial for other phone models. Please use the Samsung Fascinate as donor, and Verizon Samsung Galaxy Nexus if you wish to follow this tutorial exactly.

I must also express that using the MEIDs of phones you do not OWN and HAVE IN YOUR POSSESSION may be construed as theft of service via fraud and IS ILLEGAL. You must OWN and POSSESS the target and donor phones. If you use this tutorial, do so at your own risk and only as I describe. I cannot be held liable in any way for legal consequences you may incur.

Lastly, I must state that I am not liable for any damage to your phone this tutorial may cause, or any issues that may come up with your account and service. If the network sees two phones with the same MEID, that serial number will surely be banned.

To be on the safe side, REMOVE the battery from the phone you are not working with at the time. During this part of the tutorial, we will be working with the “donor” phone. The “target” should have it’s battery REMOVED for safety’s sake.

After we complete these steps, in part two of the tutorial we will pull the keys and the PRL. I will walk you through those steps as gracefully as these.

In part three we will program the Galaxy Nexus.

Before we begin part one, you will need the following:

1) DFS CDMA Tool software. This can be download from http://cdmatool.com/Download

2) An account for DFS. You can use the demo version without paying anything. Register for a demo account at http://cdmatool.com/Register

When you open DFS, log in using the account you just created. It will let you in, it will just make you wait about 20 seconds every time you run it.

3) A Micro USB cable to connect your Fascinate to your PC.

4) I recommend a PC running Windows 7. This procedure worked fine for me in Windows 7.

Now we get into the juicy stuff. I will now walk you through the 11 steps for getting the Fascinate to masquerade as your target phone.

1) Get your PagePlus, Next-G or Talk-For-Good account transferred to the target phone’s MEID. We’re going to activate the Fascinate “masquerading as” the target. The target phone had better not have it’s battery in it right now!

2) Factory reset Fascinate. After it reboots make sure everything including activation is erased.

3) When you power on the phone, bypass the activation nag screen by clicking Emergency Call and dialing *#83786633. You do not need to press Send.

4) Go ahead and put your Fascinate in Diagnostic Mode. Do this by going to the dialer and dialing **33284. When asked for SPC, enter 6 zero’s (000000). Scroll down to Dial Up Networking. Tap it, and set it to ‘On’. You will now be able to access the phone from the DFS software. Plug the Fascinate into your PC now.

5) Open DFS. Connect to your Fascinate’s COM port. It should list itself as ‘Samsung Mobile Modem Diagnostic Serial Port’. I’ve labeled the area with a red ‘#5′ for this step.

6) On the top line in DFS, enter the SPC (six zeroes, 000000) and then the Pwd of 2010031619780721. Click the blue circled triangle button (looks like a “Play” button) next to SPC, then the one next to Pwd. After each is sent, you should see “DEVICE UNLOCKED” in the DFS log window. I’ve labeled the two areas with green ‘#6′ marks for this step.

7) Now we actually change the MEID. In DFS, go under the Programming tab, then the General tab. go ahead and enter the HEX MEID for your target phone, and hit the red Write button to the right of it. I’ve labeled the field and button with blue ‘#7′ marks for this step.

8) After you hit write. Wait about 5 seconds. Clear what is in the MEID field, then hit read. If it comes back the same as you programmed, then congratulations, MEID programming was successful! If you want to double check the MEID saved, at the top right of DFS hit the Reset button to reset your phone, then read the MEID again to make sure the MEID you wrote stuck.

9) Now your Fascinate should have the target phone’s MEID.

10) We’ll want to unplug the Fascinate from the PC now.

11) Now that your Fascinate is masquerading as the target phone, go ahead and dial *22890. Once activation is successful and the Fascinate reboots, you can go ahead and update to the latest PRL using *22891. You need an up-to-date PRL because we’ll be copying it from the Fascinate to use on the target phone in the second part of this tutorial.

12) During the OTA activation the Fascinate will pull all the settings and keys you need for the target phone. Make sure that Talk, Text, MMS and 3G data are working correctly. If so, we are ready to proceed with the second part of the tutorial, in which we will pull the HA, AAA, and AN keys from the Fascinate, and also the PRL. These should be all we need for most LTE target phones.

If everything is working correctly, then congratulations! You are ready to pull keys from this phone in the next part of our tutorial!

See you next time in part two!

Attached is the screenshot referenced in steps 5, 6, and 7.

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Down the Prepaid Cellular Rabbit Hole (Part One)

Good morning friends and fellow hackers!

In today’s article, I’m going to give you a little bit of background about my preferred prepaid cellular carrier, PagePlus Cellular, why I came to choose them despite their lack of notoriety, and how you too can get a new phone and a big network without a contract, by dancing around the “rules” a little bit.

Firstly, “who the heck is PagePlus Cellular?”

I’m glad you asked. They are a prepaid MVNO (that’s ‘Mobile Virtual Network Operator’, meaning they don’t own or run the network, they just pay to borrow it) based in Ohio, with an estimated customer base of 1 million users. They utilize Verizon’s towers as their primary network and as a result, get all the same coverage and features as any Verizon customer. In addition, Verizon’s ‘Extended Network’ contract with Sprint also applies to PagePlus customers. This means that where there is Sprint, but no Verizon, PagePlus users also get service, at their regular rates, although their roaming indicator may come on. That’s an awful lot of coverage for a prepaid!

“If they’re so great, why haven’t I heard of them?”

You probably have if you gas up your own car. PagePlus doesn’t run any walk-in stores, or advertise on TV or in the newspaper. This is a cost-cutting measure. Instead, their dealers (who work as individuals, often with no storefront to speak of) sell service and new or recycled phones at low prices at gas stations and convenience stores. This is the same sales model popularized for prepaid service throughout Asia, and it has been extremely successful there. If you’ve ever seen a banner sign outside a gas station with a big red owl graphic on it, they sell PagePlus airtime there, and possibly phones.

“So why choose them? There are lots of prepaids out there!”

There sure are. Very few offered such affordable service, though. With the PagePlus standard plan, a $10 card would get me 100 minutes, a $25 card gets me 416 minutes, and the $50 gets me 1,000 minutes. Text messages are 5 cents; data access is 99 cents per megabyte.

Of course, that will barely satisfy the connection appetite of a modern American. If you want something a little beefier, with a lower per-unit cost, they have that, too. They have monthly plans available for as little as $12 every 30 days, getting you 250 minutes, 250 texts, and 10MB of data. I use a plan that is $55/mo for unlimited anytime/anyone/anywhere talk, unlimited text, and 2 gigs of data. You can go as high as $69/mo and get the same unlimited talk and text with 5 gigs of data, at Verizon’s 3G speeds. PagePlus is limited to using only the 3G network at this time.

“Oh, so THAT must be the catch! You’re limited to 3G service, and only 3G phones!”

They are 3G only. That’s not a huge limit, though. Verizon’s 3G CDMA network (known as 1xEVDO) carries speeds up to 3.1 megabits (more than enough to watch a show on Netflix) and I can easily get 1 megabit in areas with a bad signal. Checking Facebook is no problem, streaming internet radio is great, and sharing pictures takes only seconds. It’s the same exact service that Verizon customers pay more for if they don’t have LTE (4G) in their area, or an LTE capable phone. The difference is that we pay less for it, and skip the contract, credit check, and even having to give them our real names.

“Sure, but all the new phones are 4G/LTE! You can’t use them!”

That is not exactly true. I carry an LTE Samsung Galaxy Nexus (the Verizon model) right now, and have it activated with PagePlus. My girlfriend has one, too. You can’t just call up PagePlus and get it activated, but if you tell them you’ll program it yourself, they’re more than willing to assign your account to that phone’s serial number or “MEID”.

Maybe you’ve heard of using a “donor phone” to get some new phones onto a prepaid such a PagePlus, Boost, Next-G, Talk-for-Good, or others? That’s what the “flashing services” that advertise online will typically do, and they charge $40 to $100 to do it. Well, I have good news for you. You no longer have to buy a donor which is rendered useless in order to get service activated on these new LTE phones. You also don’t have to pay someone else to do it. In my next article I’ll introduce you to an affordable donor phone (the Samsung Fascinate) which you can use over and over again, and also show you how to do the process right, with links to the needed software, and screenshots!

Following my tutorial, you can get the keys and passwords needed to activate a Sprint or Verizon Galaxy Nexus, A Verizon Galaxy S3, or even a Sprint HTC Evo (including Shift and EVO LTE) on Verizon-based prepaids such as PagePlus, Next-G, and Talk-for-Good.

Stay tuned, and I’ll be looking forward to seeing you in my next installment!

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Urban gardening

Everybody likes fresh veggies, right? Tell me I’m not wrong on this. I mean, I’m a bit overweight, but meat and potatoes just don’t cut it by themselves.

I grew up in the country, so living in the city the past 8 years has been a major change of scene. I have enjoyed it, but I did miss the garden at my Grandparents’ house where I used to live. I used to help them quite a bit with it, and have a slightly green thumb myself, if I dare say so. Unfortunately, when you live in rented apartments there’s not much you can grow other than maybe some herbs on the windowsill.

Fortunately I just moved into a townhouse with my girlfriend. We’ve got a nice little ‘patio’ concrete slab outside sliding glass doors in the back. It’s small, but the thought occurred that I could put some planters there. Grandpa always kept his picky vegetables in cut-in-half 55 gallon drums, so it made sense we could put some barrels or buckets out there and do a little growing.

Grandma instructed me that a lot will grow in a simple 5-gallon bucket. You can find these used and thrown out all day long, which makes this a recycling job as well. All you need to do is use half plain dirt from a clean place out in the country, and about half potting soil. Mix it up in your bucket or keep the potting soil mostly on top. You’ll also need to put drain holes in the bottom of the bucket. About 20 1/4th inch holes scattered around the bottom will do. Keep your soil damp but not soggy. If it gets dusty on top it’s too dry, and if your veggie’s leaves get wilted, it’s too wet. In a warm, humid climate like Kentucky, our buckets will probably need about a quart of water 2 or 3 times a week. In drier climates like the southwest, shoot for a quart every day or two.

So, what can you plant in there? Tomatoes work great. Peppers, cucumbers, and zucchini will grow well. You could squeeze 2 to 4 carrots into a 5-gallon bucket, but you’ll have a low yield. These are also great for herbs. If you need something a little bigger than 5 gallons, but still cheap, you can cut the height of an outdoor plastic trash can. Just keep a lot of holes in the bottom for drainage.

What are we growing? We’re starting out with a tomato plant, and a yellow Bell pepper plant. We would have preferred orange, but Grandma actually surprised us on our last visit to their place by starting these for us. We’re going to see how they do, and keep the blog posted.

Happy Urban Gardening!

Our tomato and pepper plant the day we got them home. It’s only been a week and they’re already bigger and still looking healthy.

Just got them home and watered them.

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Radio-woe-is-she?

Internet radio. I can live without it, but my girlfriend loves it. She listens in the car all the time on her smartphone. We’re both Android users; me since my first day with a smartphone, and her since becoming fed up with her iPhone 3GS. Until recently, she’d been using a Samsung Infuse on AT&T, and I rocked on old worn out Verizon Motorola Droid 2 on Page Plus. This was fine until we realized her AT&T bill was huge, and my D2 had a failing touchscreen making it alternate between pretty cool cheap phone and quarter-pound paperweight. I had gotten somewhat accustomed to listening to Digitally Imported on my slow commute home from work anyway, so you could say we were regular internet radio users. Unfortunately, I almost cost her the ability to use it, or so I thought.

Those that know me from before this blog know I’m cheap and poor, but don’t let that keep me from having nice things. The difference is that I don’t think something is not-nice just because it’s not new; thus the Droid 2. Well, we both wanted nicer phones, and wanted to drop her bill a few bucks, so I picked us up a couple like-new Samsung Galaxy Nexus phones (the Verizon model) to use on Page Plus. At under $200 each, they were a steal, and you’d never know either wasn’t brand new to look at them. There is a long process involved in flashing a 4G phone to a 3G CDMA carrier (any of the prepaids on Verizon and Sprint, such as Page Plus, Boost, and Talk For Good), and I intend to write up a tutorial for this particular phone and carrier combination soon. The issue at matter here is that when I gave her the new Galaxy Nexus, she lost her internet radio.

Well, lost is a strong word, but I was stumped. She said it just kept cutting off while she was driving. It would only work when she was sitting still. She said she couldn’t get through a song while moving. I had a look at the phone later that evening, and there was in fact no data at all being transferred over 3G at that point. I could use wifi, but when switching it off, we’d get a 3G signal and show data access, but nothing would load. What’s the deal?

Digging in the settings, I discovered she had left wifi on, and also left it set to connect automatically to unsecured networks. Typically this is good, but when going down the road, this will cause you to try to connect to every network set up by a not-quite-savvy suburbanite. Indeed, this rampant network hopping between 3G and wifi seemed to have tied up the 3G connection entirely.

So we rebooted the phone. 3G came back in about 15 seconds, and a speed test showed us getting a good 800kbps even in our house where signal is at an amazing low. Outside we got one and a half megabits handily. That’s good enough to watch Netflix.

This morning she tried her internet radio on her commute, and with wifi turned off, it worked a charm. She said it didn’t drop out at all! So, while the fix was simple, the diagnosis was a bit confusing. I was relieved she didn’t lose her favorite feature of her phone, and also that I hadn’t made a mistake in modifying the phones for use on our prepaid.

So what’s the lesson here? Be careful with your network settings. Might I recommend if you live in an urban area, turning off wifi while driving or wandering? Maybe your phone will handle it better than this, and maybe it was just a fluke, but if you find yourself with nothing loading despite your 3G icon being lit up, you may well have locked up the software. Give it a reboot and check your settings.

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Welcome to UseItBreakItFixIt.wordpress.com!

I’m DJ NikoChan and this is my project blog, where I share how I did things so that others can probably do them better. In fact, I love to see someone take my ideas or knowledge I’ve gathered online, and turn them into something cooler or unique to their needs. Because of that, creating this blog became a bit of a necessity. Soon you’ll find everything here from DIY auto-repair, cooking advice, Linux tutorials, and hardware hacks involving everything from cell phones to routers to game consoles.

Welcome, and happy hacking!

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