Category Archives: Android

The Next Tablet Wars

The 7-inch tablet wars are about to get very interesting. If you’ve been keeping your ear to the ground then you have heard some pretty seriously exciting rumors. The first into the rumor arena was Google. Google is believed to be working with ASUS on a 7-inch tablet that would potentially be the first ever Google Nexus Tablet.

For those are you are unfamiliar with the Google Nexus line, it is traditionally a flagship Google device that sports top-of-the-line technology and contains a vanilla build of the Android OS. If you aren’t familiar with Android cell phones, then you may be a little confused by the “vanilla Android” statement. There are a lot of Android phones out there and they are made by a lot of different companies. Motorola, Samsung and HTC – just to name a few and to differentiate themselves from each other they tweak the Android OS with skins.

HTC calls their skin HTC Sense. Motorola called their skin MOTOBLUR but has since decided to shift development focus away from it. These skins, while in some cases pretty, would slow updates to the devices since Google would release the update and then the companies would have to update their version of the operating system. As you can imagine, it doesn’t make much financial sense to keep updating old phones and so ultimately customers would be left behind. Not so with the Google Nexus line. Nexus phones are stock vanilla Android so there is no having to reengineer anything, the updates are made available very quickly.

So the whole point of that sidebar was to tell you that a Google Nexus tablet means you can expect timely updates from Google with great hardware. If the latest rumors can be believed then we can expect one more great thing and that is the price tag. Google was originally rumored to release their tablet at a $250 price point. And that is a good price for a 7-inch Android tablet. However, Google is rumored to have delayed their tablet until they can deliver it a little closer to the $199 asking price of the Kindle Fire. A Nexus Tablet at $250 is hard to pass up for those in the market for one. A Nexus Tablet at $199 may actually force people who weren’t necessarily in the tablet market to take notice.

For example, if you were thinking of getting a Kindle Fire because you wanted a full color eReader then the Google Nexus may actually be a better fit because you have full access to the Google App Market (Google Play) and you can download the mobile apps from Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (NOOK) and Kobo. You can buy your ebooks from anywhere instead of limiting yourself to a single storefront. You can hunt for the cheapest price and buy there. You keep your options open. So a Google Nexus Tablet at $199 is exciting. But it may not be the most exciting rumor out there.

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What is the most popular tablet on the market today? Has anyone heard of the Apple iPad? Yeah, Apple has also entered the rumor arena. Apple is rumored to be introducing a 7-inch tablet in the fall. The “iPad Mini” is expected to have 8GB of storage and have the same beautiful Retina display the iPhone and new iPad currently enjoy today. This tablet is expected to hit the market at $200-$250. At that price point and at that 7-inch size, Apple is very clearly firing a shot at Google who until lately has had the eReader market locked up thanks to Android’s presence in the Kindle Fire, NOOKcolor and NOOK Tablet.

Come this fall, especially if the Apple rumor is true, you can expect a LOT of tablet holdouts to finally choose a side in the tablet wars. The question is whether their tablet of choice will be sporting a little green robot or a shiny bitten Apple.

So what do you think? If these devices make it to market, will you be buying one?

Updating your CM7 dual boot microSD card

Alright, so you have a CyanogenMod CM7 dual boot card. You either built it using my tutorial, bought a card from me or Googled the instructions but here you are and here we go.

The process I present will continue to work for the foreseeable future. So while your files names may change, the instructions will stay the same.

Before we begin – This process is an update. After we’re done your data should still be there. Now I caution you that bad things can happen, not to your NOOKcolor that’s still fine but the microSD card could be horked up so backups prior to doing something like this are recommended. A great app to look at is TitaniumBackup. It can be found in the Android Market [here] or on your NOOKcolor. It’s not the most user friendly app in the world,but there are dozens of great tutorials on how to use it.

Step 1: Plug your CM7 dual boot microSD card into your PC

You may need an adapter, but you need to be able to read it on your PC. Not plugged in via USB cord. Technically with the right tools you may be able to download the update files directly to your NOOKcolor but for the sake of simplicity I’m going to provide directions assuming you can place your microSD card into your PC with an adapter of some sort.

 

Step 2: Identify your CM7 microSD card on your PC

In “My Computer” you are going to want to find a drive labeled “boot”. In this image it’s the H drive. It isn’t uncommon for some PC’s to call their C: drive “boot”. So make sure you are seeing the following files:

MLO
u-boot.bin
(or it may just say u-boot if you don’t have file extensions being displayed)
uImage

If you are seeing those in the root of the drive then chances are pretty good that you’ve got the right drive. Remember this drive letter. Heck, grab a piece of paper and jot it down. I’ll wait. Seriously. I’ll wait. Go ahead.

Step 1


Step 3: Download the version of CM7 you want to update to

MOST of the CM7 cards I shipped, in fact I’d say all prior to December were using the release candidate CM7.1.0 image. Since then the final release of CM7.1.0 has been released and it brings some added functionality. The most obvious to me, since I’m writing tutorials is the ability to take screenshots. There are certainly more additions but nothing that has jumped out at me as a MUST update, like when they added Bluetooth support. In any case, some folks want to have the latest and greatest version.

You can use a nightly if you’d like but I’m going to stick with the Stable release of CM7. As of writing the most stable release of CM7 for NOOKcolor is: 7.1.0.

image

Click on the top most link from this page [ here ]. The screenshot above shows the most recent filename is update-cm7.1.0-encore-signed.zip.

If you are prompted for a download location you can tell it to save right to the root of your “boot” drive letter you just identified in Step 2. If not, just move it from the download directory to the root of your boot drive. DO NOT OPEN THE ZIP FILE. Your microSD card should now look similar to this. You may have different folders than I do, that’s fine. Your icons may look different, that’s alright too. What’s important is called out below.

Step 1


Step 4: Safely Remove the microSD card

In Windows 7, you can do what I’ve detailed below. Highlight your microSD card named boot by clicking once on it. Then click Eject along your tool bar. Alternatively you can also right click on the microSD card drive and choose Eject. If you absolutely cannot find a way to eject the media from your computer you can also just restart your computer. You’ll achieve the same effect.

SS11

After you’ve ejected it you can remove the microSD card from the computer.

Step 5: Install the microSD into the NOOKcolor and access your boot menu

If you purchased a card from me you may have a boot timer that says press any button to access the boot menu. Or something to that effect. If you built from my directions, you’ll have a green cyanogenmod badge that pops up. In any case, you need to access the boot menu of your device.

If you purchased your card from me, press any button within 5 seconds to access this menu.

If you built your own card and have the green Cyanogenmod badge when you first turn on your device, you need to press and hold down the N button as soon as that Cyanogenmod badge pops on your screen. You can let go when it says entering boot menu.

Your goal is the following menu:

Step 6: Change the boot settings and boot

The default Boot Menu settings are Boot Device: eMMC and Boot Mode: normal.

We need to change the Boot Menu settings to Boot Device: SD and Boot Mode: Recovery.

If your NOOKcolor is using the same defaults as mine was the keystrokes are as follows.

Press the N button to change eMMC to SD
Press the Volume Down button to go to the next option
Press the N button to change normal to recovery
Press the Volume Down button
Press the Volume Down button again to boot

The Recovery mode is going to find the CM7 ZIP file you downloaded and extract it over top of the older CM7 files. You’ll see a lot of “inflating:” messages that indicate the zip file is being extracted and updating your existing install of CM7.

Step 7: Turn on your updated NOOKcolor and celebrate

That’s it. Well done. The NOOKcolor probably shut itself off after the update. Fire it back up and play with the new update.

If this helped you, or if I’ve helped you in the past, I’d like to ask you to consider making a donation. If you’re not interested, no biggie. Forget I mentioned it. =)

I scream. You scream. We all scream…

Oh Galaxy Nexus. I wanted to love you like crazy. I wanted to love you like a fourth child but you’ve proven to be a disappointment. You seemed to have it all. Beautiful, large, screen. A boatload of memory. A nice processor. Lots of storage. And Ice Cream Sandwich. Oh how I waited for Ice Cream Sandwich.

For the uninitiated Google names their Android Mobile OS versions after desserts. There was Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo (Frozen Yogurt), Gingerbread, Honeycomb (for tablets) and the latest Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

Ice Cream Sandwich has a bunch of new and improved things about it that anyone in the know already knows and anyone not in the know doesn’t care about. But some “features” are driving me batty.

I’m tired of this phone turning off in my pocket even when the screen is locked. Am I the only person who thinks that hardware buttons shouldn’t function when the damn screen is locked?

Battery life is always a complaint for 4G phones but I don’t have 4G in my area. In fact, I decided to turn it off all together and stick to CDMA. I don’t think I’ve noticed a difference. What’s that you say? The screen is the biggest battery sapper? Yep, I agree. That’s why I’ve forced it to it’s dimmest setting.

And the straw that may have broken the camels back… why the hell does my phone lose data connectivity when I leave my home Wi-Fi? Seriously. If I have my phone on Wi-Fi, remember that I don’t have 4G in my area, then my SMARTphone should be smart enough to go “Duh! Ya know what? I’m not in da Wi-Fi any more. I guess me needs to go get da 3Gees.” but No. Unfortunately I have to put it in airplane mode and then bring it out of airplane mode and just pray that my data will come back. Otherwise I’m waiting on a reboot. And while it’s not terribly lengthy it’s more hassle than I should have to experience with a $300 phone.

There are other things, such as the Facebook app’s tendency to freak out and load to a black screen and stay there until a reboot, but I acknowledge that that blame may actually fall on the app creator. But my damned Google Talk Video shouldn’t fail due to the “Camera Stopped Responding.” It’s ridiculous.

As much as I love Android, I’m tired of it feeling like I’m using an unfinished product. I’m tired of using something that feels like it’s still in beta. The more this happens, the more I start to appreciate Apple’s walled garden. They may go overboard to keep the experience only what they intended it to be, with no allowance for things like aftermarket keyboards, but at least their stuff seems to run well. And of course their design is gorgeous too.

I’m not saying I’m tossing my Android allegiances away. I’m just saying I’m pissed off and this is getting old.

NoICStn

My take on this “fragmentation” business

016a_android_orphansIf you follow Android news you’ve probably seen the graphic produced by Michael Degusta detailing Android Update history in comparison to iPhone update history. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would highly recommend both clicking on the image here to look over the chart and visiting Michael’s Tumblr blog [here] to read this thoughts on it.

The chart details how long a phone has been out, how long it was sold, what version of the OS it’s using as well as how long it received support updates. This chart shows a majority of Android phones behind at least one major software revision with all listed iPhones at their respective latest version.

Android fans are quick to jump to their Mobile OS of choice’s defense but honestly how can you? I own a Motorola Droid and my phone, according to the chart has faired alright.

image

I have about one year at the current major version and a year about one major version behind. And I’m alright with that. I understand that there is a point in a device’s life that it may not be beefy enough to run the latest feature update. Maybe they added some snappy eye candy and it just drags on the old device. That makes sense to me, but what bothers me is the fact that the dashed line above represents support updates.

I signed a 2-year contract with my carrier to buy this phone at a discount. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that my phone will be patched against security vulnerabilities during that time. Now I understand that I could have bought the phone at full price but how many people actually do that? I’m guessing that most people plan their phone upgrades around their contract end date. But according to this graphic, I was out of support after just 16 months.

And that 16 months represents the support life of a flagship device. This was the first Android device on Verizon’s network. I could have made the mistake of buying the Motorola Devour.

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This disaster launched with an OS version that was already one major revision behind. By its fifth month it was already two major software revisions behind, and before it made it out of year one it was three or more major software revisions behind. And look at how long the support updates lasted. Five months. Five. Months. That is criminal.

Imagine what would happen if Microsoft launched Windows 8 and then called a press conference after a year and said, “Guys and Gals, It’s been an incredible run. We will no longer offer security updates to Windows 8 effective immediately.” How do you suppose that would go over?

There are a number of reasons that these devices aren’t updated far beyond their “shelf life”. It is hard for a company like Motorola or HTC to justify spending the money to develop, test and release an operating system on a device they are no longer selling or making money on. On top of the in house money it costs to support the product they also have to pay the carrier to test it once it’s complete. That’s another bill to dissuade them from properly supporting the customer that laid down good money for their device.

We deserve better. Looking over that chart is heartbreaking. For one reason alone. I don’t care that there are so many devices that are behind by a generation or two of software, that’s going to happen. I absolutely do care about the fact that not a single Android phone mentioned there saw security updates throughout the 2 year contract that the consumer likely signed.

Now all of this is just me whining about nothing if there are no real security threats. My Droid was left at Android version 2.2.2. According to CVE, that OS has four remaining vulnerabilities. Only one grants administrative privilege to my device, and it requires having my physical device in your hand. Unlikely, but possible. Hell there is a vulnerability that allows people to remotely intercept my authToken when I’m dealing with Picasa which allows them to have access to my private picture albums. Now thankfully I don’t have any “private” pictures on Picasa but the fact remains that Verizon and Motorola were fine with leaving me in that bind for the rest of the time I own my OG Droid.

Let’s see how our nemesis does it.

image

This graphic alone almost made me do what Siri could not, consider shunning Android for iOS. The original iPhone was midway through its third year before they stopped the security updates. Pay attention Google, HTC, Motorola, LG and Samsung. This is how your scoreboard should look. Green color be damned but I want to see that hashed line crossing over into the three year territory. Anything less is a disservice to your customer.

We use our phones for more than ever before. We surf. We shop. We bank. We have enough to worry about, security wise, while conducting our business without worrying that our foundation itself is faulty. Security updates need to be addressed separate from feature updates and carriers need to allow these patches absolutely free of charge.

So despite all of my grumbling about Apple, I have to give them props. From the bottom of my little green robot loving heart: Well done, Apple. Well done.