I performed a hard reset, the device restarted and went through a process of installing various software items (although I still can't see any orange branding anywhere within these apps or the OS). so it looks like I have at least some version of the extended rom which includes the extra apps?
When the unit starts up are there any operator logos or names such as Qtek, Imate, Orange, Tmobile etc?
To clarify I am currently using a local(norwegian) sim card from Netcom - while in the UK I only used PAYG - although I was unable to get any PAYG sim to work in the device - including orange in the UK.
I am unsure if a hard reset will re-enable the sim lock? - natively the device should only work with an Orange sim until it is unlocked, and the free app on XDA-developers does not work with the m500 from what I remember. It sounds as if the seller has overwritten the orange rom with a qtek or imate one to remove the restriction? Without seeing it I couldn't say for certain.
It just seems to be that the phone is unable to pick up any networks. Could this be due to some kind of lock being in place? or perhaps a hardware fault? is there any way to check for either of these without sending the unit back?
If there were a lock it would ask you for the relevant unlock code when you inserted the foreign sim. It could well be a hardware or radio rom fault. The rom is split into o.s, radio and extended sections - o.s boots the phone, radio gives you the GSM function, extended gives you the operator specific apps. They update seperatley during the update process and it could be that this was interuppted.
I have already contacted the seller who has said he will issue a refund on return of the phone however if there's a way to get it working I'd rather keep it as it's a lovely phone...
At least you have that option as a last resort :-)
One weird thing is - on the way from th UK to norway on the ferry I did have access to the boats network with my norwegian sim inserted... ?
Do you have a wireless card inserted in the SD slot?
Doubt you 've picked up a land based signal and I think it unlikely the ferry had a GSM repeater, but not impossible - I have seen them on high end Yachts - they lock onto a sat signal then provide GSM for the passengers to use their phones. This may point to a hardware fault with the aeriel as the relative transmitter power would be increased as you would be 100 metres max from the transmitter at all times if they had one.
If indeed the phone is barred is there any way to resolve this via software?
No. Big fine and prison sentance. You may be able to recover the screwed radio rom using software if that is the fault though - you need to get a copy of the original orange m500 rom. AFAIK orange UK don't host one but orange switzerland and the netherlands do - you may need to jiggle about with the country ID to make them work with your unit.
Go into start / settings / device information and list all the version numbers.
On my m500 the versions are:
rom: 1.06.00 WWE
rom date: 01/06/05
protocol version 1337.39
extrom version 1.06.175 WWE
Finally if you want me to check the imei on the lost / stolen database PM me the seriel number from under the battery - don't post it here.
EDIT - pm me the ebay item number as well :-)