Tag Archives: nexus

Nexus 7 — upgrade or complain?

Around week ago courier brought me Nexus 7 tablet (32GB, wifi only) as kind of upgrade to my Archos G9 80 ‘so called’ Turbo one.

First steps

Charged a bit, booted into Android 4.2 and was greeted by “upgrade to 4.2.2 is possible” soon after wifi connection. But decided to go my way instead ;)

Fetched Clockworkmod touch recovery, CyanogenMod 10.1 nightly image and Google Apps 4.2.2 pack and booted into bootloader. Quick ‘OEM unlock’, flash of new recovery and few minutes later I had CM 10.1 running just like I wanted.

Restored apps from Archos with use of TitaniumBackup and after some configuration I had tablet which responds fast and behaves properly.

Multiuser stuff

As my daughter was main user of Archos I waited for Android 4.2 to get multi user capabilities. Played a bit with them on G9 (with Paranoid Android installation) but 512MB ram and OMAP4430 gave my terrible experience with far too many moments when I wanted to crush tablet into pieces…

So when Mira had come from kindergarten I shown her Nexus 7, made a photo with internal ‘want to be a camera’ thing and gave instructions on how to turn device on and switch to her configuration. She had no problems with understanding it ;)

There are some issues with multiuser stuff. Each user is expected to have Google account, applications are not shared etc. I understand why but in my case it was annoying.

But there is Multi-User App Share app which allows to share applications with different users. So Mira has all her children apps and games available and is not able to spend real money on in-app payments due to lack of Google account (and credit card). I was able to remove them from my configuration as well.

Sharing files is more complicated as so far I did not check is there a shared space for them. So each of us has own music/movies.

Do I miss something?

There are few things which Archos G9 80 has and Nexus does not:

  • HDMI output
  • microSD slot
  • USB Host port

I may miss video output sometimes but had not used it for over half a year now. MicroSD would be nice so I would not have to buy 32GB version. But ~20% of tablet (50$) was sponsored by Tizen ;)

And by USB Host port I mean normal EHCI host port. Not an OTG one present in Nexus 7.

But I do not miss crazy upgrade scheme invented by Archos. Also do not miss I Scream for Sandwitch version of Android they offered. We have XXI century and their upgrade path is from previous millenium.


So far I did not find something to complain about. OK, screen could be more square (4:3 Archos, 16:10 Nexus) but it is fine for me. Ask me in few months ;)

I want to update my mobile phone

During last few days I played with CyanogenMod 10.1 nightly builds on my Nexus S phone. Then went back to CM 10 as it is more stable. But this also reminded me that I have 2 years old device…

So I did another round of checking what are options. As it will be for next 2 years I want 2GB of RAM, 720p screen and LTE support. And there is very small amount of those :(

  1. HTC Butterfly. MicrosD slot, 1080p screen, Japan only so far.

  2. LG Nexus 4. Latest Android for few releases granted. But also lack of microSD slot and only 16GB of storage.

  3. LG Optimus G. Base of Nexus 4. Not available outside of few operators (mostly US).

  4. Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE (GT-9305). MicroSD slot, MHL video output.

  5. Samsung Galaxy Note II. MicroSD slot, MHL video output.

Now it is time to complain :)

LG Nexus 4 is available only in some stores (or phone operators) for 450+ € — no Google Play Store like it was with earlier models (I do not call current state as selling). Also no LTE on European frequencies. No 32GB storage model.

Samsung GT-9305 sounds interesting. But… It is Exynos 4412 based. And I read The Saga of a CyanogenMod Exynos4 device maintainer by Andrew Dodd which gives clear message “avoid Exynos4 if you can”. If even Samsung update can break your device then something is going wrong. And so far SGS3 LTE lacks CyanogenMod support which is one of main blockers for me as it shows that there are no custom “ROMs” for it (I do not count images remixed from stock images).

Galaxy Note II is huge and would take some time to get used to it. Has CM support already. But again — Exynos4 ;(

So it looks like I need to wait another few months and check will there be something worth buying. In meantime I will stay with last CM10 release running on my Nexus S.

What interest me in ARM world

When I published my last post about ARM boards there were many questions and suggestions with interesting devices. Thank You all for it.

But there were also suggestions about ARM9 or ARM11 based devices. So I decided that it is good time to write what interest me now in ARM world.

But first some inventory. I had/used/have several devices with ARM cpu:

  • StrongARM (armv4) one:

    • Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 (which took me to ARM world)
  • ARM920 (armv4t) ones:

    • Openmoko GTA01 bv3, bv4 (s3c2410)
    • EDB9301 (EP9301 cpu)
    • Sim-One (EP9307)
  • ARM926 (armv5te) ones:

    • Sharp Zaurus sl-5600 (pxa250)
    • Sharp Zaurus c760/sl-6000 (pxa255)
    • Sharp Zaurus sl-c3000 (pxa272)
    • Sheevaplug (kirkwood)
    • Atmel devboards (at91sam9263, at91sam9m10)
    • ST-Microelectronics/ST-Ericsson NDK-15, NHK-15 (st88n15)
    • Nokia 770 (omap1710)
    • Linksys NSLU2 (ixp425 iirc)
  • ARM1136 (armv6) ones:

    • Nokia N810 (omap2430)
    • Bug r1.0, r1.2 (i.mx31)
  • Cortex-A8 (armv7a) ones:

    • Beagleboard B7, B7, C3 (omap3430)
    • Nokia N900 (omap3430)
    • Nexus S (exynos3)
    • Genesi Efika MX Smartbook (i.mx51)
    • Freescale Quickstart (i.mx53)
  • Cortex-A9 (armv7a) ones:

    • Pandaboard EA1, A1 (omap4430)
    • Archos G9 80 (omap4430)

All of that during last 8 years. Most of my ARM live so far was around ARM926 based devices (some of them still can not be listed here) and I do not want to go there again. Kirkwood core was fastest one with 1.2GHz clock and 512MB of RAM it was really fast machine. I only missed Serial ATA in my Sheevaplug (rev 1.0) but even with hard drive on USB it was nice improvement.

Then I played a bit with ARM11 processors. Ok, they were faster than most of ARM9 cpus but I already had experience with Sheevaplug. And after few months first Cortex-a8 board landed on my desk — I got Beagleboard B7 from Bug labs as test platform for their new device. This was improvement!

I still remember my reaction when connected it to normal LCD monitor and saw it used at 720p resolution (1680×1050 was a bit hard for omap3). Moved to Nokia N900 few months later and found that fast cpu means nothing when paired with slow storage and not enough memory for system.

So today I prefer to not look below Cortex-A9 (or comparable cores like ones from Qualcomm or Marvell). Hope to play one day with Cortex-A5 (which should replace ARM926 one day) just to see how low-end armv7a cpu behave.

And wait for ARMv8 to hit market.

Dublin: Ubuntu sprint and more

Last week there was Ubuntu platform sprint in Dublin, Ireland. I was there as one of invited Linaro guys (we got own room). What for we went there?

Work. Simple word but so much content in it. Sprints like this one allow to cooperate with other developers and this time I spent some time with Ubuntu ARM, Foundations and Kernel teams. But most of time I spent with Linaro guys as we had release of 11.06 to do.

My part was building cross toolchains for Ubuntu — including few already released ones. So I pushed several updates to ‘oneiric’, ‘natty’, ‘maverick’ and ‘lucid’ versions:

  • binutils
  • gcc 4.4.6-3ubuntu1
  • gcc 4.5.3-1ubuntu2
  • gcc 4.6.0-14ubuntu1
  • eglibc 2.13-6ubuntu2
  • linux 3.0-1.2

If you are running 11.10 ‘oneiric’ then all you need is just apt-get install g++-arm-linux-gnueabi and will get cross compiler. For “armhf” compatible one apt-get install g++-arm-linux-gnueabihf needs to be used. For those which run older releases there is Linaro toolchain backport PPA where packages are available for “amd64″ and “i386″ architectures.

Other part of my work was related with Star rating system which we plan to use to show status of boards supported by Linaro. I did some tests with PandaBoard connected to two monitors at same time and reported several bugs. Situation is nice but many things still need work.

At one moment I was creating “lucid” chroot on my “oneiric” system to be able to compile toolchain. And then I got a problem which ended in bug 802985 which needs fixing in all supported releases… Also debootstrap needs to be expanded to handle multiple suites at one time — otherwise there will be no way to populate chroots with older releases on any machine running 3.x kernels.

But work is not the only thing which we spent time on. Evenings were usually in pubs or similar places.

On Monday I went to hotel bar, grabbed a beer and started discussing with some random people. At one moment (when we were talking about OpenZaurus) one of them asked who I am and then went and bought me beer — he was Zaurus user whom I helped in past ;) So never know who you can meet…

As I have few friends in Dublin area I contacted them and on Wednesday evening I went with one of them to Club Chonradh na Gaeilge Irish pub where speaking English is nearly forbidden (but we were using Polish so no problems :). There was one bard singing Irish songs. Nice place, nice event.

Thursday was team dinner — went to Rustic Stone. Nice place, awesome food:

My dinner in Rustic Stone

Friday was a day when many of us started packing and some even left earlier to catch flights. As Wookey asked me week before sprint to take my N900 with me we made a deal and I got some Euros and he got phone with all accessories. So guys — now really no more Maemo support from me (not that I did anything in this area since move to Nexus S).

On Friday also other part of visit started for me — my wife Ania arrived and we went to our family to spend nice weekend in Ireland.

We drove to Howth, spent some time looking at area from highest(?) mountain:

Then beach in Portmarnock where my wife started collecting sea shells… Quickly we got lot of them but I managed to put them in luggage somehow ;)

Evening was funny as we had to meet with one of my old friends. The “problem” was that we never met in real life yet and I forgot how does he looks. When I told that to wife and rest of group they were really surprised that such thing can happen ;D But we found each other and went to the Church Bar which is made from old St. Mary’s Church of Ireland which is one of the earliest examples of a galleried church in Dublin. Built at the beginning of the 18th century and renovated in 21st century. Nice place to visit in Dublin.

On Sunday we went into Wiclow county. Upper Lake at Glendalough then Glenmacnass Waterfall and few stops during trip to watch landscapes:

My wife and me

Monday was different — we went to Dublin for normal sight-seeing. You know: buildings, churches, castle…

Then packed bags and went to airport. The good part of Aer Lingus is that there were no problems with checking-in two bags on my ticket (but queue to just drop bags was insanely long). 2h flight, then another 2h in a bus and we finally arrived home. This part of conferences trip I like most — arrival at destination (as in Europe trips can take even 9h for me).

Cyanogenmod7 released

When I bought Nexus S in January I was using stock Android for few weeks. But somewhere around FOSDEM I moved to nightly builds of Cyanogenmod which is alternative “distribution” of Android done in more open way.

Why moved? New features, out of box support for Polish language, no problems with getting root access for applications, big community behind project were main reasons. And more… I have now custom kernel (Netarchy, DPI changed to 210 (from original 240) with use of Font Changer and normal font replaced by Ubuntu one (also done in Font Changer).

I was updating my phone from one nightly build to another. From one RC to other and today moved to final version. Upgrading usually went fine, but each time I had to reinstall custom kernel or change back to 210 DPI but that’s how it works. I will probably check other alternative builds one day but today I am satisfied with Cyanogenmod7.

But as this is final version then maybe I will find some time and (after discussions with our Android magicians) will do build of it with Linaro cross compiler — who knows, maybe will give few more percent of speed extra?

Month with Nexus S

During Linaro/Ubuntu platform rally in Dallas I went to Best Buy and bought Nexus S as a phone which has to replace Nokia N900 which I used for over year. It was first time when I paid full price for such device — previously I took phones from operators or had some kind of discount (like DDP one for N900 year ago).

Switching from Nokia N900 to Nexus S was not easy task. First I lost calendar entries when tried to sync contacts to Google account using Mail for Exchange functionality of Maemo. Good that I had a backup… Copying of data from internal storage from one device to another was easy — microUSB cables are good to have thing. And then I took SIM card from N900, put it into Nexus and so far did not took it out yet.

Then came Market — after installing AppBrain application I had all applications, which I selected before or had on N900/Nitroid, installed properly. Then installed some more and removed some, added others etc. Common routine when you change operating system — finding which application suits best.

For Twitter I checked few and now I have official one and Plume installed. First one only to have contacts synced and do all tweeting in second one. For Facebook I use their default app — so far did not found replacement. Best situation was with e-mail client — installed K-9 Mail and added all my IMAP accounts into it. Now my phone tells me when do I have to check for new messages before my desktop one will notice ;D

Basically when it comes to applications Android shines (especially compared to Maemo). So far I found many programs for things which I did not had on N900: TV programme, public transportation guide, ATM finder and so on. And games! Dungeon Defenders, Gun bros and several others… Angry Birds has more levelpacks then Maemo version (but I never was a fan of that game anyway). Lot of things to choose from. Not to mention that installing of software is not so painful as it was on N900. You can use online Market, AppBrain and probably there are some other ways. Ok, I will probably miss APT but so far I am fine with what Android does. The most impressing thing is that during package installation device is not slowing down — it just adds one more entry to notification bar.

Notifications… I like how it is done. One place for icons on status bar which expands to whole screen list of what is going on. Nice stuff. Especially after installing some extra apps which will add there switches, weather informations etc.

Desktop looks different and has lot more customizations possible then hildon-desktop gave. And user can use other launcher then default one (I use ADW Launcher). Then just put widgets, icons, contacts, live wallpapers etc and you will be done. Business calendar which I use now can not be compared to Maemo parody of calendar (this is with most of apps anyway).

Do I miss some applications from Maemo? Yes, I do. Nokia did good job on Contacts and integration of IM/VoIP/Skype accounts. Under Android I did not yet found out how to get it in best possible way. So I have to run separate IM client (IM+ for now), Skype is also external (but contacts are synced into addressbook) and did not yet setup SIP accounts (but this is integrated). Good thing is that after first week of use I was able to use SkypeOut for calling my family in Poland.

But let’s get to hardware. Nexus S is light and small compared to N900. I like it’s look and feel. Screen works nicely for me everywhere. Before buying I was not sure how will I adapt to capacitive touchscreen after 8 years of using resistive ones but there was nothing to adapt to — it just works. Bigger problem is other direction — I need to press my TomTom harder now ;D Other issues? Lack of any kind of LED is a bit annoying. But NoLED helps a bit with it. Also WiFi reception looks worse then N900 had. But this one I need to check one day.

Overall I am satisfied about this change. I have phone which has latest version of popular operating system, have access to application market where there is a problem which app to install instead of “there is no application for this”. For some time I will have system updates provided by Google, then will switch to alternative firmware and will have current software.