Make Your BlackBerry Double as a Modem With Barry

by Ostatic Staff - Jan. 05, 2009

Although I suppose, technically speaking, everyone at OStatic should use the G1 smartphone with its open source platform, some of us really love our BlackBerrys. You already know Kristin uses Funambol to sync contacts and calenders with the desktop, but tethering the BlackBerry to a laptop takes an entirely different approach.

Barry, created by open source software vendor Net Direct, lets you not only sync your contacts and calendar but also use your smartphone as a computer modem. Sure, it's not as fast as T1 or cable, but you can't beat it if you're stuck somewhere with no Internet access.

Currently, there are packages available for Ubuntu, Debian, Mandriva, and Fedora (although syncing is not supported on Fedora 9). Most older BlackBerrys work just fine with Barry, but the newest generation of devices -- the Storm and Bold -- are not yet fully supported.

According to Net Direct's Web site, you'll need three things to get your phone up and running as a modem: a Barry install, a working pppd and matching kernel, and an options file and chat script for your Blackberry provider. The apps binary packages already include chat scripts for many popular service providers including Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and O2 Ireland.

In addition to tethering your BlackBerry to a laptop, you can also use Barry to make data backups, export your address book, retrieve email and memos, and perform full restores in the event of data loss.

According to a recent review of Barry, you can even use it to charge the phone's battery via the USB port on your computer. Reviewer Adam Williamson writes, "It should also be noted that another special piece of software, also provided by Barry, is needed for your Blackberry’s battery to be charged when plugged in to a Linux computer. This is because the standard default current for USB devices is 100mA, but Blackberries require 500mA of current to charge. Barry provides a utility named bcharge that handles this. When installed correctly, it will kick in automatically when the Blackberry is connected."

Clearly, a lot of work has gone into making Barry a robust app for BlackBerry users who also rely on Linux. The developers have a roadmap outlining where they plan to take the project in the future, so if you want to jump in and help, they're looking for C++ and python programmers, documentation writers, and BlackBerry users who can help identify bugs.