Tuesday, April 1, 2014

KitKat Journey Cut Short Due to Tethering Issues

I found myself using WiFi Hotspot (i.e. Wireless tether) more and more often as I got a tablet (Kindle HDX 7 inch) and it's WiFi only. I've hacked it so it runs both Amazon AND Google Play (thanks to XDA developers) but I need WiFi.

And for that, SlimKat failed to deliver. It's not their fault... Google changed KitKat's WiFi tether to make it more carrier friendly. I tried an Xposed module that supposedly fixes this, but I can't get it to work.

So it's back to Jelly Bean for me... at least for now.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

UPGRADE BIONIC TO KITKAT: The Journey

Motorola's Droid Bionic had always been much of a bastard child. it was announced, then retracted, then relaunched, only to be replaced a few months later by the RAZR line. And officially it's too old to receive Kitkat, i.e. Android 4.4. Final update it got was Jelly Bean... 4.1.2.

But don't let that discourage you. There are ways.

My phone was already tweaked to the max, with Cyanogen Mod 10 and all the CPU tweaks I can find. And with extended battery I last most of the day, but when CM10 is getting bogged down, a new start is needed, and thus entered... SlimKat, one of the handful KitKat ports for "Targa" (that's the internal name used by motorola).

My phone is already rooted, and safestraped with rom slots already setup. I did have to delete some stuff to make room for another ROM slot (each takes about 3.5GB), but that's not that difficult with apps like DiskUsage. Before that, I made sure I made a fresh nandroid backup of my latest CM10 setup (so if I have to go back I can)

Installing SlimKat turned out to take longer than it should due to my flaky USB port. I have a proper USB2 cable (AmazonBasics) but when I go USB mode and try to transfer 2 GB of stuff it just quit in the middle, the port goes bing-bong (disconnect and reconnect sound from Windows), and copy failed. I must have spend 4 hours trying different ports and different cables (3 each, in various combos)  I ended up using my alternate transfer: WiFi Explorer.

After making sure all the MD5 matches, the ROM's flashed into the slot and boot commenced, and everything looks good. Had to set up Google again, but it's not a huge deal.

I wasted another 3 hours when I can't install any third party apps. Turns out my battery-bar overlay blocks installs. (WHA?!)  Took me 3 hours to figure it out. Yeah.

Now it's working, and it'll take me another day or two to tweak it back to the way I had it.
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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fast and Furious 6: This Game Sucks

Game looks impressive and all, and it's free, until you finish your first race.

That's right... You can play two drag races free.

Then your engine's blown and you need to buy a new car, and the ONLY WAY to do so is make an in-app purchase.

WTF?!

This is a TOTAL waste of my download bandwidth.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What Should Android OS "Borrow" from Other Smartphone OS's?

Found this article over at Android Authority, and that got me thinking:

http://www.androidauthority.com/android-steal-other-operating-systems-143499/


1. Better Widgets

Agreed, Android widgets never seem to go together with a consistent visual theme. Different UI designers have different aesthetics and slight variations on the same theme. How many ways can you do a "black button"? Just the way it's sized and how round are the corners, as well as the shade of black and "edge" can drive you bonkers if you're looking for consistency and "visual coherence" if you prefer a buzz term.

Yes, Microsoft's Windows Phone "Live Tiles" look boring, but they are CONSISTENT. Why do you think there are so many themes and iconpaks and whatnot on the market? Because people want CONSISTENCY, and Android's widgets are anything but consistent.

Maybe future Android can demand an app maker to create multiple versions of the widget, and must provide one with NO background and no "chrome", and use the system provided widget theme.

2. Notification Count on Apps

Hey, don't we already have this? Nova Launcher already have this by creating a standard where different apps can provide count to the launcher. Already saw Gmail, SMS, and so on. Now if only Android can standardize this into a system API...

3. Even better notification

Agreed. Apple's iOS borrowed the Android notification bar, and improved it by adding consistent feel and made it even MORE useful by ability to group notifications. Android needs to borrow that back, and add on to that as well.  The ICS notifications are kinda meh, to maintain compatibility. The newer apps can do better, much better. Notifications are also on a first-come-first-serve basis and others can jump on top or such, never in particular order. This needs to be a system setting, like app X's notification should always go first, and so on, and ability to group notifications (a lot like Windows group stuff on the task bar)


4.  Better Social Integration

Agreed, iOS got Android beat here with TIGHT Twitter integration, among other things. And Microsoft's "Social Hub" is just as good, if not better. Android's contacts/phone is quite lame in comparison. There are a lot of third-party contact managers, and I've tried dozens, but none of them work the same and all of them are lacking something one way or another.

5.  Hardware Silence Key

This one I'm a bit ambivalent about. I personally think Android phones should have one or two buttons on the side that users can map to special functions, such as camera (where did that camera button go, hmmm?) but I can sort of see the reason why they don't as physical buttons will fail due to fatigue. Still, maybe they can incorporate a "center" button between the two volume buttons for special purposes.


Jelly Bean Update Was a Disaster... Sticking with ICS for now

To make a long story short, my attempt to update to the official JB was a disaster. Due to the way I had rooted and removed bloatware, the OTA update will NOT update my phone at all. Their install script expects to find all the existing bloatware and whatnot there, active and NOT disabled and not updated / merged into ROM. And it can't deal with my current setup.

And so far nobody had unpacked that file to allow for easier update. Instead, the only way to use that update is to nuke the phone, reinstall ICS fresh (using procedure that I highlighted before), then allow the JB OTA update.

I chose NOT to do that, as I don't want to go without my phone for THAT long. (That process will take HOURS)  and there's a very good chance I'll lose root access, thus unable to restore my apps and data.

So right now I've settled on using an ICS based ROM called Icarus Remix (aka Stripped). It's still Motorola's official Bionic ICS 4.0.4, but cleaned up, and debloated, and with a few mods that borrowed a few elements from Samsung's Touchwiz (including S-Voice, the licensed version of Vlingo). I may be able to get Google Now for ICS running on this.

I tried the CyanogenMod 10.1 Jellybean port but it's quite buggy.

Stay tuned.
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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trying to Update my Bionic to Jelly Bean, stay tuned!

Tried OTA update, didn't work, update failed.

Removed Team Win Recovery (part of Safestrap), tried OTA update. Still update failed.

Went to DroidLife, found that if I had hidden or deleted any bloatware included by Verizon the OTA will fail. Fortunately I merely froze them instead of deleted them (I think) with Titanium Backup. So I defrosted them.

Trying OTA download... Again.

Before proceeding, I "saved root" by downloading and running "OTA Rootkeeper" by Voodoo.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.projectvoodoo.otarootkeeper&hl=en

This should allow me to keep root if the JB OTA update installs properly.  Though there may be some manual steps involved, according to XDA developers.

If JB OTA fails again, I had the JB update image downloaded and I'll try to install it using recovery.

Just in case, as a backup, I'm going to reinstall Android SDK/ADT to get Android Debug Bridge working. I have the sync cable here somewhere... :)

When I got the update working, with JB, I'll post the step by step guide.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Home Launcher Review Update, now 80 different launchers reviewed

Took me a few months, but I've added another 6 launchers reviewed, now at 80!

There are definitely more to go, and I've more to review, so stay tuned!

http://kschang.hubpages.com/hub/Droid-Home-Replacement-App-Comparison

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Most Comprehensive Android Home Launcher Roundup up to 74 launchers reviewed

That's right, folks. After a bit of a lull, I'm now updating my Android app reviews.

The Home Launcher roundup has been updated, and 4 different launchers added, and several updated!

http://kschang.hubpages.com/hub/Droid-Home-Replacement-App-Comparison

Friday, October 26, 2012

Upgrading Bionic to Ice Cream Sandwich

English: Picture of the front of the DROID BIO...
English: Picture of the front of the DROID BIONIC by Motorola (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
For some people, all they need is to wait for the OTA (over the air) updates, and voila, it's done.

Not me.

I had rooted my Bionic, and I have Safestrap installed, but safe mode is not active. I've tried with recovery installed and not installed, nothing there.

I am still on .893 Gingerbread, and I can't update to .902, the official update (there is also .905 update, but that's more of a rare patch). I can "force" an update by going to Settings / About Phone / System Update, and it will download a 60MB .902 update file, but it won't install. It goes in, then it reboots when it's about 40 percent installed, and reverts back to .893, with "update has failed!" message.

So I am now going to FORCE an update... by doing it manually.

There are a ton of instructions, but they essentially say the same thing. I'll use the "House of Bionic" version as it seems to be the easiest to do.

You will need:

  • A Windows PC (I use Win7 Home Premium 64bit)
  • A USB to MicroUSB cable (the original Motorola one is preferred, but any USB to MicroUSB will do)
  • A charged Motorola Bionic (preferably, at least 75% charged, as you'll use a bit of juice in between, and if it runs out of power, the device may be bricked)
  • And Internet connection, so you an download some files.


Got all that? Let's go.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

AAQR: X-Plane 9 (flight sim)

X-Plane 9, one of the most impressive flight sims, is now FREE on Android (it used to cost $20!)

X-Plane is one of the sims where it actually calculate the aerodynamic forces of the air against the wings and such, so it is extremely realistic. The free version requires a huge download for the terrain data, but after you're done, and if you have a decent phone, you'll get a spectacular game where the terrain is so realistic you'll swear it's on a PC.