Categories
Android Photography

Oh look! There’s Jupiter!

My wife called me out to the back garden tonight to see the bright object in the sky near the moon. She thought I might know what it was you see. I, uh, didn’t. I thought it might be Mars because of the colour but I knew how to find out! Google Sky Map to the rescue!

I quickly installed the app on my phone, pointed the device at the moon and hey presto! Instant astronomer! Ok, maybe not but it’s still a very cool app. The last time I tried it I found the map was a few degrees off which might have been something to do with the GPS on the original SGS. On the SGS II however it was accurate and a pleasure to use.

Thanks Google!

Categories
Linux

How open is Android?

The Android Wikipedia page is quite a read. I’m particularly taken with the research into how “open” it is (not really, compared to other projects) as I’ve never seen a commit log or discussion of patches for it.

Moreover, our findings suggest that Android would be successful regardless of whether it is an open source project or not, to the extent that the vast majority of developers working on the project (the platform itself) are actually Google employees.

The section on Linux is intriguing too. Linus Torvalds says that Android and Linux would come back to a common kernel but that presumes Google will open it’s development and “innovate” in the open. I’ll just leave this here to check back on in 5 years time..

Meanwhile, there’s the Replicant project, an effort to make a completely Free Software version of Android. They want to remove proprietary device drivers and discourage the use of Google Market. Their list of supported phones is limited but I was surprised to see the iPhone listed there!

I did wonder what the difference was between Replicant and CyanogenMod. Various posts I’ve read on the XDA forums have stated over and over again that the project was more interested in open source solutions rather than using proprietary software but this thread on LWN shines some light on the issue.

Found the official line:
“CyanogenMod does still include various hardware-specific code, which is also slowly being open-sourced anyway.”

So, they’re being realistic about their efforts. They’ll use proprietary software when necessary but they’ll work towards replacing that software. At the rate that handset hardware changes I applaud them for taking this pragmatic route. The only phone the Replicant project fully supports is the relatively ancient HTC Dream. Yes, open source drivers should be released by manufacturers but that won’t happen.

Android isn’t really that open in terms that an Open Source advocate would understand. The traditional public CSV or SVN repository and a daily changelog is nowhere to be seen. It’s definitely developed in a cathedral rather than a bazaar. Does it matter to the vast majority of its users? Probably not, but I for one am happy it is Open Source and the code is out there. Without the (admittedly late) release of source code it would be much more difficult to use other after-market firmwares on Android phones.

Categories
Android

Samsung Galaxy S II Blues?

So you just bought Samsung’s new Galaxy S II smart phone. Nice isn’t it?

One of the first things I noticed when I turned it on was the unusual blue colour cast on the screen. It’s impossible to capture in a screenshot but I soon found out how to fix it and promptly forgot about it again. I was only reminded of it by the Ars review of the phone. Oddly they found the phone to have a yellowish colour cast:

But the screen has a very warm cast to it even at the brightest settings, so whites look yellowish-brown, like you’re looking at the phone through sunglasses. Samsung may have tuned it this way to mitigate the AMOLED’s brightness, but we found it off-putting. This isn’t an obstacle that can’t be overcome, and we’d likely get used to it after a while—some people prefer warmer-toned screens. But every surrounding phone’s screen will always look bluish and undersaturated by comparison.

It’s easily fixed by going into Settings->Display->Background effect. In my experience, “standard” looks a bit pale, blue and cold, “movie” looks a bit yellowish and warm. I finally selected “dynamic” and that looked the best. Whites look white. Persil would be proud.

Oh, the phone is fabulous. The default launcher sucks but it’s simple to change that (Go Launcher EX, thank you!). Google had all my settings already recorded so it was only a matter of logging into Google and it sucked down all the apps I had previously from the Android Market. Same with contacts. Definitely the easiest phone upgrade I’ve ever done.

Also check out this lengthy Anandtech review of the phone. Quite a bit of reading!

Categories
Android

Living with CyanogenMod 7 for Samsung Galaxy S

My phone, a Samsung Galaxy S, has been running CyanogenMod 7 for the past week or so. The first week was a bit rocky. The phone ignored vibration settings at first and would vibrate when ringing, and when I hung up. In one call I couldn’t hear the caller at all! It also ignored my ringtone setting and used the first mp3 on the phone (not so bad, it was a Fun Lovin’ Criminals track!)

Anyway, I practically had to upgrade. I was running an earlier version of the Voodoo rom which unfortunately didn’t behave. Wifi kept turning itself off and I used my allowance of 3G bandwidth a couple of times. I did try to update Voodoo but screwed up and had to do a factory reset. Thankfully I had a backup done with Titanium Backup! After restoring my apps I decided to take the plunge to CM7. Why? Gingerbread!

CyanogenMod is an aftermarket firmware for a number of cell phones based on the open-source Android operating system. It offers features not found in the official Android based firmwares of vendors of these cell phones.

Initially I installed the 7.1.0 RC1 but there were problems as I mentioned above. There are nightly builds however and they’re supposed to be fairly easy to install. I screwed that up too but eventually got everything working! I’m now running nightly #67 and things have been fairly smooth.

CyanogenMod 7 is a very good mod. My phone is flying along and while it does offer advantages over the stock kernel (updated more often plus other features) you do miss out on the excellent Samsung Camera app, and battery life is slightly worse. The FM radio doesn’t work either but I haven’t bothered to investigate that as I rarely use it.

Flashing a new rom isn’t for the unadventurous. If the idea of rebooting into recovery mode, possibly changing radio drivers and knowing you might run into a world of pain scares you, don’t do it! Gingerbread, the latest Android firmware for phones, is making its way to the SGS and if you haven’t got it yet run KIES and you may find it waiting for you. The advantage of using CM7 is that they can move to the very latest Gingerbread (2.3.5 at the time of writing, my phone company only offers 2.3.3). Nightly build #70 introduced that version of the OS. You might want to keep an eye on this thread on the XDA forums too. There are problems with the nightlies but of course most of those who have no problem won’t be posting there so you’re bound to see a concentration of negativity. #67 works fine for me. YMMV!

How fast is my Samsung Galaxy S now? I ran Quadrant Standard three times, with progressively better scores.

  1. 1612
  2. 1977
  3. 2015
For comparison, the original Samsung Galaxy S had a score of 750. I would be very interested to hear how the stock Samsung Galaxy S with the Samsung Gingerbread firmware compares.

It’s still not quite as fast as the Galaxy S with the venerable “One Click Lag Fix” I benchmarked a while back. That used EXT2 however, a filesystem lacking journaling features important to maintaining data in the event of a system crash or problem.

Would I recommend CyanogenMod 7? If you’re a techie and can live without the Samsung Camera App then yes. Go for it. If you’re an Open Source fan who hates proprietary software you should definitely go for it. You even have to install Google Apps separately because they are proprietary software!

If you just use your phone to take photos, check Twitter and make phone calls, then don’t go near CyanogenMod 7 (or any firmware TBH!) just yet.

Categories
Android

My Favourite Android Apps

I’ve used a Samsung Galaxy S since August last year and in that time I’ve downloaded and played with lots of apps and games. Here are a few of my favourites.

  1. Tweetdeck
  2. Dolphin Browser HD
  3. Kindle and FBReader
  4. Amazon Appstore and Android Market
  5. Reddit is Fun
  6. GO Contacts/Dialer/Launcher EX/SMS Pro
  7. CardioTrainer
  8. WordPress
  9. aCar
  10. Juice Defender
And some games
  1. Galaxy Domination (not on the market any more, now here!)
  2. Cut the Rope
  3. Guns ‘n’ Glory

Besides those, there are so many apps on my phone now that it’s ridiculous. I recently started using the Google+ app, and the Amazon Appstore gives away a free paid app every day so that’s my first port of call shortly after 8am every morning. There’s also getjar.com who have a free ad-supported version of Cut the Rope, as well as many other apps and games.

I used to play a lot more games, I’d dive into Galaxy Domination any chance I’d get but now I’d rather read a book in the Kindle app or FBReader, or check out the latest Reddit posts on “Reddit is Fun”.

If you have a phone with a fairly big screen (the Galaxy S has a 4 inch screen) then reading on them is a rare pleasure. No more fiddling with bookmarks or holding the spine of a thick volume open. Go on, head over to Amazon now and pick up a cheap ebook. You might just like it!

You might wonder how much has this all cost me? I’ve bought quite a few books on the Kindle store (I still think it’s wonderful that I can visit Amazon from my phone and buy a book), but I’ve only bought 2 apps. Those would be aCar (purchased through the author’s website) and just last night I bought Juice Defender Plus. As I mentioned in a previous post on battery saving tips that app shuts off the various radios in your phone when not in use, switching them on momentarily for syncing on a regular basis. The free version turns off the 3G connection when the screen is locked, but not wifi. The paid for version  does that and it’s well worth it. Battery life sky rockets after using this app!

Categories
Games

Cut the Rope and Burn the Rope for…

Cut the Rope and Burn the Rope for Android can be downloaded for free from getjar.com, but get them soon. Cut the Rope at least will be free for only a week according to this post. Both games are ad-supported. The ads don’t show up on the game screen in Cut the Rope but do on Burn the Rope.

No direct link to the getjar.com game pages unfortunately as it asks for your mobile phone.

Cut the Rope plays just as well as it’s iOS version though I do wonder how well multi touch actions will work on the smaller screen. (Spoiled by the iPad screen and I have big hands!)

Categories
Games

Galaxy Domination for Android still lives!

One of the games I first downloaded when I bought my Samsung Galaxy S was Galaxy Domination. I played the game non-stop for weeks (well, non-stop in relative terms).

When I updated my phone I lost the game because I screwed up by having a speed-up mod on it. When Froyo was installed the phone wouldn’t boot so I had to do a factory reset. For some reason Galaxy Domination was not to be found on the Android Market!

Luckily I found it this evening here where it has been released as an open source project. The .apk file is there so all you have to do is copy it on to the memory card and install it manually. Works a treat again! 🙂

Categories
Games

Portable Minecraft (Video)

Minecraft running on Sony Ericsson’s Xperia Play. It’ll come to other Android phones and iPhones later and I have to admit this does tempt me to buy the phone.

Two things put me off, the cost which is just over 200 Euro on my current, and there’s no indication that Minecraft will be network aware. I shudder to think how fast Minecraft would run through my measly 250MB/month data limit…

Oh, while you’re here go look here for the first part of the Portal 2 soundtrack! It has ringtones too, I used the “Science is fun” one for my phone. Someone ring me, eh? 🙂

(Both links via Kotoku!

Categories
Games

Android Playstation Emulator goes Free!

Fly! Fly away! Be free!

In other news, the Playstation emulator for Android (PSX4Droid) that Google booted off the Android Market is now open source and you can grab source and binaries from here. If you’re impatient get the apk here and install in the usual way on your phone. (via)

Now, how do I load a PS1 CD into my phone?

Categories
Android

Amazon Appstore opens in North America

The Amazon Appstore for Android opened today and apparently Apple are already suing them for confusing consumers with a name similar to their App Store.

I wouldn’t really know because after downloading the Appstore app (beautifully simple procedure: click a link in an email/text to a .apk file) and logging into Amazon it refused to let me download the exclusive Angry Birds Rio game.

The Amazon Appstore for Android is not yet available in your region

Good thing I’m sick of Angry Birds, but it’d be nice if it worked over here too!