Archive for category Android

Archos 70 :: first impressions

Yesterday I’ve got 7″ Archos 70 tablet from HK for about 20.000yen. They also had 10″ model with 1024×600 screen, but I already have an iPad and was looking for something a tad smaller. The delivery took about 3 days by FedEx.


Archos 70 has Android 2.2 (Froyo) installed, along with the WiFi (802.11/b-g-n) support. After asking all the usual questions about time zone and keyboard, it connected to the internet and offered to download and install the fresh firmware. Firmware installation does not run on the battery power and requires the external power supply, which it quite smart. There are Japanese/Chinese screen interface options, but since I’ve chosen English as the default language, I’ve got only european keyboards available.

Screen resolution is 800×480, like on my HTC Desire, but the actual size is about 3 times bigger, which makes it very easy to see every small detail on the Google Maps. 8Gb are installed (16Gb for 10″ model) as internal memory for movies and music, and less than hundred megabytes are available on the system partition for the software installations. Since there’s also an microSD slot available, the memory size it not very important and I can easily add up to 32Gb more. Upper panel has the microphone, VGA-quality video cam for video calls over internet and two speakers with reasonable good sound, especially considering their size.


On the side panel there are 1)microUSB connector, 2)microSD slot, 3)headphone jack, 4)microHDMI connector and 5)power supply connector.

It’s a bit unexpected, Archos 70 battery cannot be charged over an USB cable. Probably it’s somehow related to the USB-host support for external HDD and other devices. Still, the universal (100-240V) power supply is included and has support for most wall outlets over the world — Japanese, European and American plugs are included.

Because of some political issues (absence of GPS/phone calls support?) the Archos 70 did not get the Google’s blessing and does not have Android Market support right from the box. However, Google Market and Gmail/Latitute/other software can be downloaded from the internet and installed separately. Soon after that I’ve got fresh Andry Birds running without any problems.

Internet support is outstanding, Archos 70 can see twice as many AP from my apartment, compared to the iPad. Application download speed is great. Youtube works very smoothly. All my home servers and computers were detected automatically and I can easily (unlike the iPad) browse and watch movies and listen to the music. Even the 720p movies work totally flawlessly over the WiFi connection. Most video/audio formats are suported just from the box, and new codecs can be downloaded from the Archos web-site.


Tablet body is made from plastic, very thin and very light — I can easily hold it with one hand for hours. HDMI connector allows to bring video to the large TV screen, and not only video but the other screen contents — icons and running software too.

GPS is missing together with the phone support. However, Archos 70 can find it’s location based on the WiFi spots around — it has marked my apartment on the map within 100m of the actual location. I understand it might not work everywhere, but for the people with wireless network at home and at work, who even eat only where they have WiFi access it should work reasonably well.

The screen is bright enough for indoor use. Viewing angle it not very wide, but it’s not a TV set — I can always align it the way I like. Before the screen turns off to sleep, it dims a little at first — a very nice feature, especially when reading news, a few seconds are enough to touch the screen and prevent it from sleeping. There’s also “deep sleep” mode which not only slows down the processor and turns the screen off, but stops the device totally — even alarm clocks and background tasks go down. Can be a great battery saver, though I haven’t tried this mode yet.

All in all, if you are looking for an Angry Birds-compatible tablet, which can be used to browse internet and to watch movies on the couch, I’d recommend this (or the 10″ model, if you are not going to put it in the pocket and try to use it somewhere else or bring along for a stroll).

,

No Comments

HTC Desire :: aftermarket 3000mAh battery


I’ve ordered this a few weeks ago for $15 on ebay and delivery from Singapore definitely took its time. Today it has finally arrived and I can tell this battery looks really mean with all the 3000mAh power hidden under the hood — it’s almost twice as thick as the regular one and does require the special back cover to accomodate this thickness (no worries, the new cover was included in the package). Now it’s time to recharge and I wonder how long it might take with the battery of this size.

,

5 Comments

HOWTO :: repack and sign ROM image update .zip files

DISCLAIMER: I don’t invent anything new here, but just summarise things I’ve read across different forums and web sites. I did not write any software mentioned here, but only copy the files and made them available in one easy to access place. I use the procedure described here to create ROM images I flash to my HTC Desire phone, and so far it worked for me perfectly. However I do not guarantee it will work on your system with your files and your phone — use it at your own risk and assume all responsibility. REFLASHING YOUR PHONE MIGHT GET IT BRICKED AND MIGHT VOID YOUR WARRANTY.

Prerequisites

To be able to follow this explanation you will need the basic understanding of the command line, be able to enter commands with the parameters, to walk from one folder to another, to compile programs and to run the resulting binaries. To run Java programs you’ll need Java SE runtime installed. To compress and uncompress files you’ll need “zip” program or something similar.

Your phone should be rooted beforehand or allow the installation of custom ROMs.

The Outline

The process of creating your own ROM update file is not very complicated. Basically it consists of three steps:

  1. Download and unpack the image you like
  2. Make the necessary changes
  3. Pack and sign the .zip file

The update can contain as much as the full system + boot + radio + recovery + extras, which completely overwrites everything you have in your phone, or as little as single .apk file if you want to make just small changes.

Download and unpack

There are plenty of images available on the internet, it’s in your best interest to find the one as much similar to what you need to reduce the necessary changes and introduce as few problems as possible. There are three types of images you may use:

  1. RUU images (.exe)
  2. OTA images (.zip)
  3. 3rd party .zip images

RUU images contain full system, including radio, system, boot and the whole nine yards. However you’ll need to unpack .exe file into .zip file before doing anything useful. I have explanation how to extract the .zip file in Linux but if you use Windows or MacOS your procedure might be different.

OTA images usually contain only the difference between the previous software version and the current one. Therefore you’ll need the previous software as RUU/.zip file with the exact version, and be familiar with bspatch utilty to apply patches, which is quite tedious process. I don’t usually use OTA files if there are any other options available.

.zip images are the easiest to work with, just unpack with your zip archiver to the folder you like.

If you have started with RUU image, you’ll have system.img, boot.img and radio.img files. System image can be further unpacked with unyaffs (requires compilation) to another folder, usually “system/”. Boot image can be unpacked with the perl script (requires perl to be installed on your computer) also to another folder, usually “boot/”. Radio images cannot be unpacked and are better to be left alone.

Make the changes

Most of the changes are done to the system image, which contains all software and data files visible on the phone. Boot image should be changed only if you have deep linux knowledge to modify linux kernel and related matters.

If you have unpacked system image and made some changes, the system.img file is supposed to be moved somewhere else, so it’s not used anymore. Same with the boot.img file. All other files (hboot, recovery) are usually not used, because they might lead back to unrooting the phone and should be deleted or moved as well.

If you have based your work on RUU file, you’ll have to create META-INF folder with the correct information and update scripts inside. If you have unpacked someone’s .zip, the META-INF folder should be already present. Update script might mention some files in the update, so if you have removed (or added new) files, the update script should be amended to reflect those changes. Please, get a few images from different developers and try to understand the correct internal structure.

Pack and sign .zip file

Once you’ve made all the changes, you may change to the folder where you extracted all files, it might now contain .img files, like boot.img and radio.img as well as folders, like “system/”. Zip everything together with the command:

zip -r9 update.zip *

-r9 tells the program to collect files recursively and use the maximum compression. If you omit “r”, the subfolders will not be included (bad, bad idea!), if you omit “9″ nothing bad will happens, but resulting file might be about 1% larger.

To sign zipped file you should download SignApk.zip (requires Java), there are three files inside:

  • SignApk.jar is a tool included with the Android platform source bundle.
  • testkey.pk8 is the private key that is compatible with the rooted recovery image
  • testkey.x509.pem is the corresponding certificate/public key

and the signing command looks like this:

java -jar signapk.jar testkey.x509.pem testkey.pk8 [update.zip] [update-signed.zip]

update-signed.zip can be copied to the phone and installed using the traditional recovery procedure. Personally I’d recommend “ClockworkMod Recovery” from Koush and Paul O’Brien, but I’m not sure if it is available for your phone.

Finally

While the actual creation of your own ROM update file is not very complicated, the devil is in the changes you make. Most ROM updates fail at first try, please, have a fresh nandroid backup ready at all times.

, , , , , ,

No Comments

HTC Desire on Softbank :: update to Froyo

wireless and network settings tab

WiFi hotspot settings

Yesterday I’ve started the update process, getting a few ROM images from the Net and trying to make them work well with SoftBank. First, there was Aug,2010 version of Froyo ROM on MoDaCo, where Paul said he did not change anything except rooting the system. I’ve made a few changes in config files regarding SBM network settings and upgraded. Everything went fine, except the phone started to behave funny and today it even FC’ed its own Launcher (!). The version of ROM was 2.09.405.8 WWE.

Finally I gave up and downloaded official RUU with 2.29.405.5 WWE software. Extracted .zip file and applied all the same changes before flashing. The only difference was, I’ve decided to change ro.wifi.hotspotUI=0 to ro.wifi.hotspotUI=1 and see what happens. The results were interesting — I’ve got two extra menu items (1) in “Wireless and Networks” settings tab, which allow to setup and configure the wireless hot-spot and share internet connection wirelessly. Probably the cellular providers are not very happy with that, which resulted in these items being excluded away on most android phones.

Also, the interesting item was (2) “USB tethering”, allowing to convert the phone into RNDIS ethernet gadget and pour TCP/IP over USB link to the PC.

, , ,

No Comments

SBM :: Froyo update secret radio options

Finally I’ve got time to prepare my personal Froyo image for HTC Desire, which is supposed to be stock WWE image with some tweaks and changes, that should allow it to work flawlessly on SBM network and don’t consume too much battery. First, the emergency call codes are supposed to be changed to the following (110 — police, 119 — fire/ambulance, and it still beats me what 118 means):

ro.ril.oem.ecclist=110,118,119

Besides the radio options used in the previous versions, there are a few new ones, not found anywhere else except the Softbank ROM image:

ro.ril.fast.dormancy.timeout=3
ro.ril.enable.sbm.feature=1
ro.ril.oem.mosms.mode=1
ro.telephony.default_network=2
ro.wifi.hotspotUI=0

Not particularly sure what do they do, I think I might change hotspotUI to “yes” someday later. Also, “ro.telephony.default_network=2″ does not agree to the following piece found later in the same file, I wonder which one takes precedence, and what is network #2 in this context:

# Default network type.
# 0 => WCDMA preferred.
ro.telephony.default_network=0

There’s also a few things not found in SBM image, but present in WWE release:

keyguard.no_require_sim=1

, , , ,

No Comments

Angry Birds :: plush toys

angry_birds_toys
Angry Birds plush toys are on sale from Jan, 2011.
Birds are about 8″ tall, they look very pretty to me.

Pigs are also available if you like them too.

No Comments

Toshiba X02T (TG01) :: running Android on WinMobile phone

Last year I’ve got WinMobile phone (Toshiba X02T) from SoftBank, also known as TG01 in the rest of the world. I did not like it very much, so basically it slept in the box unused. Recently I’ve noticed some new development and decided to give Android a try, since I really enjoy to run games and software on large 4.1″ screen.

If you don’t like to read the whole thread on XDA-dev, here’s a quick summary: buttons, screen and sound do work, anything wireless (WiFi, GPS, calls, SMS, network access) does not (yet). So, it’s a bit early to use this on everyday phone, but quite good enough to install software and play games.

Current version of Android cannot be flashed to device, but works from SD card instead. To start Android you have to boot Windows first, run Explorer, scroll the file list and click on the .exe file, which will unload Windows and load Linux/Android, which works until power off. Next time the power is on, Windows boots up again, which is good, since I don’t want to lose the warranty and official support.

Linux boots on X02T

Android installation

Installation is quite simple. First you have to download the necessary software (there might be a new version, it’s a good idea to check the original thread for the new version if you are reading this after 2011.01.01). Then, I really loathe this step, you have to find 7zip to unpack the file, since the usual unzip will not work. After the file is unpacked, copy the “Android” folder to the SD card in your X02T phone. There should be some empty space left on the card, since additional files will be created when Android is run for the first time.

To run Android, first start the Explorer, go to SD card, open folder “Android” and run “clrcad.exe” (nothing visible will happen), then “haret.exe”. You should get the Linux boot screen.

Android Home on X02T

It might take a few minutes, and possibly a reboot or two, since hardware is checked and some files are created, but finally there will be initial setup screen and Android home page. Once you got there, everything else is quite easy.

You may read the system log with: adb logcat

The battery indicator might not work, so it’s a good idea to keep the USB cable connected. However, since we need to run the programs from SD card, the USB mode should be changed to ActiveSync once the files are successfully copied to the SD card.

Also, it’s a good idea to watch the temperature of the phone back side to avoid overheating.

Angry Birds on X02T

How to install the software?

Software installation can be done over USB link with ADB:

$ adb install AngryBirds_1.3.5.apk
* daemon not running. starting it now *
* daemon started successfully *
2546 KB/s (13466519 bytes in 5.165s)
pkg: /data/local/tmp/AngryBirds_1.3.5.apk
- waiting for device -
$

, ,

No Comments

SMS :: Whatsapp beta is free on Android Market

whatsapp logo
Another nice piece of software, which uses data connection to send SMS messages without borders. My provider charges about $1 for international SMS message, and this application lets me to talk with my overseas friends almost for free.

It’s required to have another Whatsapp installed on another phone, but since it’s available for Android (free), iPhone (paid), Blackberry and Nokia there’s a good chance it won’t be a problem. There’s no WinMo version and developers have said there will be none, but since no one I know is still on Windows Mobile I don’t really care about that.

No Comments

VOIP :: Nimbuzz

nimbuzz eating the battery
Fring and Skype broke up recently, so I have installed Nimbuzz for my communication needs. It supports a dozen of different messengers, including ICQ, GTalk, Yahoo and, most importantly, it supports Skype calls. Also, Nimbuzz allows to call mobile and landlines with the prices about 15% lower than Skype. I have made only a few calls (over WiFi, not 3G), so I cannot decide if the quality is better or worse, but with Skype Mobile stuck in the permanent infancy, there’s not much choice.

The only problem I found is the permanent 2-3%/hour battery drain, even if the WiFi is down and Nimbuzz is supposed to be asleep. Solution: select Nimbuzz and press “exit” when not using it. The picture on the right shows the battery voltage while it’s running and flat line soon after it’s killed.

No Comments

Rovio :: Angry Birds

angry birds
Rovio has released free version of Angry Birds for Android.

It’s available from the Market, or, if for some reason you prefer another source, it’s also available on Rapidshare. I cannot guarantee the rapidshare archive is genuine, so it’s recommended to get it from the Market.

The game is very addictive, please, have a few spare hours and charger handy.

No Comments