LG CU500 Hacking

 

First off, a disclaimer (has to be done):

This is an account of my own personal efforts with this phone, I understood that there was a significant chance that I could “brick” (destroy) the phone. Therefore, I cannot advise you to also take these actions. If you do attempt similar actions, you do so entirely at your own risk – I accept no responsibility or liability for any damage, problems or warranty violations which might occur should you attempt these modifications.

Now that that is over with – I bought an LG CU 500 phone a while back and am generally pleased with it, but there were a few annoyances:

  1. There was no way to turn off the Question and Confirmation tones
  2. There seemed to be no software synching options (for Outlook and the like)
  3. The phone is locked and will not accept another SIM (when I travel to Europe for example)

As you will see below, I have conquered 1 and 2, but have not tried to unlock the phone as yet, since the need is not pressing – it is just a “nice to have” kind of feature and now 3 also – see the updates at the end. The first two are the big problems though – they detract from the usefulness and enjoyment of the phone and are huge oversights by both Cingular and LG.

I will cover the Outlook Synchronization first since it is shorter and a lot less dangerous than the removal of the tones. On the Cingular forums, after much hunting, I found this thread:

http://forums.cingular.com/cng/board/message?board.id=LG&message.id=12813&view=by_date_ascending&page=1

In case the thread is gone or the links deleted (this has happened elsewhere) then the most relevant link is this one:

http://au.lgmobile.com/webwar/jsp/phones/mnswList.jsp

(Edit – 11/3/07: This link no longer works, instead go here: http://au.lgmobile.com/web/web.support.manualRF.laf and select TU500 from the drop down, you will get a link to the software from the search results)

That Australian site links to the LG software for the TU500 model as it is known in Oz. However, this software worked just fine on my US Cingular CU500 and I am now happily synching with Outlook for calendar, contacts, tasks and memos. Why they have not released the software in the US is a mystery when it already exists somewhere else. Should you have any problems getting the software, then drop me an e-mail or leave a comment and I’ll help you out.

Now – onto the sounds……

Replacing these sounds is a lot trickier, to do so you will need the following:

  • BitPIM (free) from http://www.bitpim.org
  • A USB Cable – there are plenty of options, so shop around – I used an old (modified) cable from http://mobileaction.com
  • Plenty of battery power (assuming the cable does not charge the phone)

Once you have the necessary cable and software you will need to fire up BitPIM and make sure the phone is in “Data Service” mode (Menu >> Settings >> Connection >> USB Connection Mode). BitPIM As of release 0.9.08 did not recognize the phone, instead it showed up as “Other CDMA Phone” on COM8 (this will vary depending on your machine) which is fine for our purposes. Next you need to enable the Filesystem view – see below:

Enable File System View

Now that the Filesystem is visible, double click the folder icon in the next pane – there will be a slight delay while the information is retrieved from the phone.

Retrieving CU500 filesystem info

Before we go any further, BACK UP THE PHONE. I cannot stress this enough, a complete backup is necessary just in case you screw anything up. If you want to speed up the process, I would recommend removing and memory card and deleting/moving any large files you have stored on the phone. If you do not do this (I didn’t) then expect to wait a while once you hit backup (click for full size):

Backup Entire Tree of CU500 filesystem

Now that we have a backup we can delete the two offending files. They are to be found in the /LGAPP/Media/Midis/EffectSnd/ folder and are named:

  • Success.aac
  • Pop_Up.aac

Since I didn’t have the nerve to just delete the files and risk breaking the phone I created two 0-byte files with identical names. This is very easy to do, but for your convenience, these two files can be found here if you wish to use them. First you need to delete the two files, then add in your replacements as can be seen in the next two screen shots (again, click for full size):

delete the confirmation sound files

Add replacement sound files

Now exit BitPIM and that should be it – the phone no longer makes obnoxious noises. Hopefully LG will soon see sense and release an update that makes these measures unnecessary. If anyone hears of it, then please let me know and will update this page accordingly.

Finally, should you wish to have another type of sound rather than silence as I have outlined above, or to replace any of the other sounds, then you will likely need an AAC transcoder to convert from WAV/MP3 to AAC format. For that kind of software I can recommend:

GX::Transcode (free) from http://www.germanixsoft.de

And then to use as an actual encoder, I chose FAAC. Source is available from http://audiocoding.com which is not terribly useful for most Windows users. An executable can be found at: http://www.rarewares.org/aac.html

Update 11/28/06 – Change Message Alerts

Thanks to Stein over at the Cingular forums for this tip – if you are bored of the message notification sounds for text messages, you can use a similar method as above with BitPIM to replace the sounds also. The file in this case can be located in /LGAPP/Media/Midis/Msgtone. Simply replace Messsage10.mp3 with the sound of your choice and you should be good to go. I have not tried this myself, but I see no reason why it would not work.

Update 12/07/06 – Remove Java Nag

Now that I have attempted to use Java apps, like everyone else, the internet check for each one annoyed me. So a quick search brought me to this HowardForums thread that deals with stopping this check. Basically using the same methods as above, download (save) the Permissions file under /LGAPP/Media/Java/ams to your computer and change the untrusted domain section at the bottom of the file to this (I used Wordpad to edit the file):

domain: Un-trusted
allow: data_network_1
allow: data_network_2
allow: comm_connectivity_options
allow: all_app_autostart
allow: user_data_read_capability
allow: messaging_1
allow: messaging_2
allow: multimedia_recording

Then delete the original and create it in the same folder as a new file and you are done.

Update 12/07/06

Inspired by my recent successes I decided to try to unlock the phone. After a bit of hunting around I found out that Cingular (my provider) will do this for you as long as you meet certain criteria (account in good standing, international calling option enabled, account older than 90 days). Apparently I met the criteria.

I called Cingular International care on 1-800-335-4685 and said I would be traveling to Europe in the coming weeks (true as it happens) and that I would like to use a different SIM in my phone while I am there (also true). I requested the “subsidy unlock code” and after a few security questions and obtaining the IMEI code the rep was happy to help.

From what I have learned they essentially fill out a form and have LG process the IMEI and this takes 5-7 business days. They then send you the unlock code via e-mail and text message. Once that happens you follow this procedure:

  1. Insert nonCingular SIM
  2. When “invalid smartcard” appears enter 159753#*#
  3. On the next screen enter your unlock code than press OK

Once my unlock code arrives I will test and verify.

Update 01/20/07

Well Cingular screwed up the lock code request but by that time I had lined up a phone to use in Ireland so I have not gotten back to them about it. On the good news front though I did successfully update the firmware. To get the update on Cingular in the US, go to this website:

http://selfcare.mycingular.net:8082/scgui/

Next, you have to accept the various conditions etc. – I had trouble rendering these screens in Firefox but IE did just fine. You then get a nice little list of fixes as can be seen here (click for larger):

Bug Fixes

Then, we finally get down to business, the site kicks of an OTA (Over the Air) upgrade and your phone asks if you want to install the new update. I missed that screen but I got the subsequent ones after the unit restarts – the update was a little over 300k and the whole process was pretty painless. Here are the screens you will see (again click for larger versions):

Installing.... Completeing update

Complete

The really good news is that it hasn’t touched ny of my modifications to the phone, and so far there seem to be no ill effects.

Update 03/25/07

I’m off to Ireland again soon, so I wanted to get my phone unlocked. Last time they said they were going to e-mail it to me but never did and so I made other arrangements. I rang Cingular again expecting to get the same “we will submit the request again” response. However, the code was listed in the call history (sweet) and they gave it to me there and then.

I popped in my Irish SIM today to test it and followed the procedure above, it worked just fine and my phone is now unlocked. Of course I may end up getting a new WiFi phone in Europe while I’m over there, still it was good to finally close this out.

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 Posted by at 6:34 pm