Getting Cingular to unlock our phones

When we bought our new Motorola V551 phones from Cingular, I was hoping they’d be unlocked — no such luck. I’d been told that there was a shop in Mountain View which would unlock a phone for about $25, but I wanted to find a cheaper (free!) way, especially with three phones needing to be taken care of before our next foreign trip.

Doing a web search on “unlock Cingular Motorola” gave lots of results, mostly not promising. But a few postings suggested either e-mailing a special address at Cingular or calling the customer care number on their web page and asking for the SIM Unlock group. I had a few minutes to spare at work on Monday and decided to go the phone route.

After only having to navigate one entry in the phone tree (press “1” for a new phone, or enter your number for an existing account), I was connected to a pleasant agent named Sandy. I asked her to connect me to the SIM Unlock group — she said that she’d have to get “some information” from me first. The information was easy enough: why I wanted to have the phones unlocked (answer: paying $2.58 per minute to call from one phone to another seemed a bit expensive). She then put me on hold for a few minutes while she checked with someone to make sure that my account was in good standing, had been opened long enough, and that my reason qualified (at least that’s what I think she did), then came back and asked me for the model, phone number, and IMEI number of each phone. Then she asked for a landline and an e-mail address and said they’d be back in touch with me in 5-7 business days.

Less than 24 hours later, I was on a conference call (this is a very usual state of affairs), and I saw that someone was trying to reach me. They hung up, and then tried again immediately. I thought it might be something serious, so when they tried a third time, I excused myself from the call for a minute and picked up the incoming call. It was Sandy — I assumed she needed more information from me and asked her to call back in 10 minutes. She did, but she didn’t need any more information — she had the unlock codes for me. I copied them down carefully and forgot to bring them home until tonight.

Tonight, I dug out my UK phone, pried out the SIM, and installed it in my phone. The phone asked me to “Enter Subsidy Password”; I entered the code Sandy had given me for my phone, and the phone registered with the network, claiming to have my UK number. (Strangely enough, the phone claimed to be on the AT&T Wireless network, not Cingular.) I wanted to check my account balance, which required visiting the Orange UK website and setting up online access — in the process, Orange sent me two text messages, so I guess my number is still active. The phone also said it has a voicemail waiting, but with a balance of only £0.23, I guess the message will have to wait a while longer.

I repeated the process with Diane’s and Jeff’s phones and codes, with equal success. We’re set for our next trip (though I’ll have to buy SIMs for the destination country).

The moral of the story: try the easy way first!

Renting again

The new power steering rack we need is on backorder, so the Toyota dealer just called and gave me the authorization number I need to rent a car (they’re paying, not me, which is a nice change) until they get our car back on the road.


The dealer authorized us to rent from Enterprise, and I wound up with a Toyota Corolla with 43,000 miles on it, which is a far cry from a brand new Prius! But it works, and since my daily commute is only 10 miles, I’ll get by. But I want our car back soon!

Nice rack — NOT!

The Toyota dealer’s service folks called me this morning — Diane’s brand-new Prius needs to have the power steering rack replaced. They don’t have a spare in stock but there are at least two available in the warehouse — but they’re not sure if the relevant warehouse is local or is in Los Angeles. If it’s local, we may get the car back on Tuesday; if it’s in LA, we’re probably looking at Thursday.

Fortunately, we have fairly flexible schedules this week, and Jeffrey isn’t in any classes, so we can get by with only one car for a few days. But it’s still irritating to have bought a new car, and to only have made two one-way trips with it, with a Toyota dealer at one end of each. *sigh*

108 miles and it’s in the shop!

This morning, I took my Prius to a nearby dealer for its 5000-mile service. I didn’t realize that it was just an oil change and would take less than an hour, so Diane followed in her new Prius to bring me home.

When she arrived, she asked me what a red exclamation point in a triangle meant on the dash. I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think it was good. I opened the manual and it told me to consult the multi-function display, which had a “PS” on it, which meant that the power steering was out and that we should bring the car to a Toyota dealer as soon as we could.

Since we were parked at a Toyota dealer, that was an easy prospect — we drove over to the service area (again) and gave them the car to look at. A few minutes later, they’d finished the oil change on my car, and we headed home.

Late this afternoon, the service department called — apparently a torque sensor is acting up, causing the power steering to go offline (there was a recall for this in the 2001 Prius). They will have to call ToyotaTech for advice; in the meantime, we’re back down to one car. *sigh*