Troubles with Troubleshooting

By Andrew Garcia  |  Posted 2010-02-24 Print this article Print

BoxTone also claims the USS module can help troubleshoot more complex activation issues, like activating a BlackBerry configured by the cell carrier for a BlackBerry Internet Service account rather than BES. Although I tried this scenario with my own BIS-enabled SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card, I was unable to experience the troubleshooting as my device activated successfully despite its configuration.

The main dashboard of the USS shows device health, providing guidance if certain solvable conditions exist. For instance, I exceeded the storage capacity of my Exchange account, which by policy meant I could no longer send e-mail. USS quickly detected the condition and alerted me that a problem existed, although the troubleshooting guidance was less than helpful.

Rather than telling me to delete some e-mail from Exchange, USS instead presented me with an unknown error and the advice to contact my administrator. On the help desk side of things, this error presents itself as a permissions problem. Now, while this scenario does technically result in a permissions problem-BoxTone picks up the fact that Exchange will not permit BES to send mail through for this account-information was not provided that would allow the end user to rectify the situation. Instead, the user will contact the help desk and generate a somewhat unnecessary ticket, thereby defeating the purpose of the tool.

BoxTone provides a link in USS to report tickets to the help desk through the BoxTone system, but in my tests using BoxTone's demonstration network that link frequently did not work.

These are among the behaviors that BoxTone said may be due to its network data corruption issues, and the company supplied screen shots of what the behavior should look like.

USS provides users with two options for resetting a device password. The Change My Password tab allows the user to set a new password. This tool lets the user know what the minimum password length must be, but not any other complexity requirements. If the password does not conform to the BES complexity policy, USS will reject the inadequate password without specifying how the rule was violated. This information is spelled out in BoxTone's administrator help desk dashboard, but not to the user. Again, this kind of unhelpful help could lead to unnecessary support calls.

The other way to change the password is via the Lost My Device tab. From here, a user who has misplaced his or her phone can lock the device remotely, with USS automatically generating and displaying a new password within the tool. It worked well, but the user must remember to change the password once the device is found, as USS will not continue showing the password the next time the user logs into the Web tool, yet the generated password will continue to be enforced on the device.

(Yes, I turned off the device radio and forgot the auto-generated password, effectively locking myself out of the phone, which required a device wipe to rectify the situation.)

From the same tab, users who know they have lost their devices can also perform a device wipe. The wipe command is quickly triggered on the device, provided it is on the network. However, in my tests, the USS tool would report, "An error occurred accessing the BES User Admin tool-please contact your BoxTone administrator." Yet the wipe would proceed on the device.

Despite its promise, BoxTone USS failed to impress due to these issues.

Andrew cut his teeth as a systems administrator at the University of California, learning the ins and outs of server migration, Windows desktop management, Unix and Novell administration. After a tour of duty as a team leader for PC Magazine's Labs, Andrew turned to system integration - providing network, server, and desktop consulting services for small businesses throughout the Bay Area. With eWEEK Labs since 2003, Andrew concentrates on wireless networking technologies while moonlighting with Microsoft Windows, mobile devices and management, and unified communications. He produces product reviews, technology analysis and opinion pieces for, eWEEK magazine, and the Labs' Release Notes blog. Follow Andrew on Twitter at andrewrgarcia, or reach him by email at

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