Friday, November 21, 2014

Rooting the Google Nexus 5 Smartphone




Further to my last posting where I upgraded my Nexus 5 phone to Android 5 manually  (necessary to fix my charging problem) it is now time to /root/ the phone.

What is Rooting?
Perhaps watch this video  but essentially some applications need superuser access to the phone i.e. without any restrictions, and so I decided to root the phone.


Rooting is accomplished below by replacing the bootloader program boot.img by a custom version of the program

If you follow the XDA developers website  you will see that user Chainfire  is probably the leading


How to Root your Nexus 5 



  • This process assumes that you already installed on a controlling PC the necessary minimal adb software and thus you know how to make a connection from your PC to your android phone.   This post
  • Next you have upgraded your system to Android 5.0 right?  Just checking
  • Download the bootloader and controlling script here  (generic page) and link for Nexus 5
  • I unpacked the files into the same directory as the adb files from a few days back C:\Program Files\Minimal ADB and Fastboot



  • Then shutdown the phone and restart  (hold down volume and power button)
  • Now connect your phone to your PC via USB cable
  • I tried the fastboot devices command to check that my PC can talk to the Nexus 5. (It should return the serial number)
  • For windows now run the root-window.bat program that is just really running these 2 commands


tools\fastboot-windows.exe oem unlock
tools\fastboot-windows.exe boot image\CF-Auto-Root-hammerhead-hammerhead-nexus5.img

(Here we will run the different fastboot-windows.exe program supplied with this .zip file)

Actually I ran the commands manually and since the phone is already unlocked the first command failed as expected


Next the bootloader is downloaded and kernel modified etc.


ALL DONE!

Okay, you can double check you are rooted because you will see the SuperSU application magically appear in your app list.


Close but no Cigar
One application that needs root permissions for certain functions is airdroid.    It allows you to control certain aspects of your phone remotely without using cables    (For me not everything is working but you get the principle right?)


Summary
Right now rooting the Nexus 5 with Lollipop OS is fantastically easy thanks to the work of others.  I recommend that you consult XDA developers website periodically for interest and also subscribe to their YouTube channel.



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Not betting on Tony



A dear friend came to visit last weekend.  After the usual pleasantries like /how was your trip/, I asked:

What do you think about Tony?

And then it became abundantly clear.  Sue did not listen to the Archers  I was shocked to the core.


What is the Archers?
The Archers is a 15 minute daily radio Soap opera broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 19.03 UK time each day.  It's also available for download, or via iPlayer or via iTunes podcast as shown in the links below.

Originally billed as a story about "everyday country folk" it started as a series set in the [fictional] village of Ambridge, a town near Birmingham in the Midlands of England.

The title derives from the Surname of the principle family "Archer" but of course today the cast includes a vast range of non Archer characters.


Why listen to the Archers?


  • It reminds me of simpler times in England
  • A serial where a balance of usually nice and just occasionally sad things happening
  • A series where overall; good things happen to good people
     
  • A series set in real time  (1 year later, the characters are 1 year older!)
  • Over the years you can follow the Archers family, they sort of become your extended family
  • Whilst the main emphasis is country living the series deals has also dealt with issues  of inequality, poverty, discrimination, religion, sexism and racism.
  • For those at home the afternoon broadcast  (at 14.00 UK time) is an opportunity to have take a 15 minute break with a cup of tea and relax from the rigours of the day


All in all there is no better introduction to the British psyche than to listen to the Archers.


What about Tony?

Tony Archer was recently seriously injured by a bull and although he is in hospital with severe spinal injuries it's my personal theory that his days are numbered.

Why?

He's been in the worst of health and suffered a Heart Attack in the series.  Recently Colin Skipp, who played Tony for 40 years retired and David Troughton took over.

My theory is that things are not working out and that Tony's demise will have Rob Titchener   (the partner of Helen Archer) taking over instead.



How can you put things right?


  • Clearly you need to start listening immediately! Your commitment is just 15 minutes per day, 6 days per week.
  • You will pickup the who's who of characters as you go along, but this link can help
  • Links below for your best listening mechanism.  Since I now live in Switzerland I use the iTunes way.







Links
The Archers Wikipedia
The archers listening link
Archers Podcasts
Archers on iTunes

Discuss the Archers






Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nokia 635 End of Term Report



Now that my Google Nexus 5 is back in operation it is time to say goodbye to our Nokia 635, Windows Smartphone.

I made an initial review here

Of course the Nokia 635 is an entry level Smartphone running Windows and the Nexus 5 is an almost flagship Google Android phone.  So there is no real comparison especially in terms of price.


Final Comments

Please first read the September review I made.  Since then I have noticed the following extra points

Google+ Plus Hangouts are still not available for Windows.  I tried to kludge a solution using the IM+ app but it never worked right.   Google Plus allows you to talk to another G+ user and also send them your location.   

Google Location
Additionally Android  can have location reporting switched on so named friends can always know your general or exact position.  This absence and that of Hangouts were the 2 real deal breakers of Windows vs Android.


Integrated Step Counter
I have no idea how, but the Health and Fitness App can keep count of your daily steps and put results into Healthvault/ now Cloud repository.  Without draining batteries.  Very impressive.

Control Panel
Somehow the layout of the control panel and its features was very intuitive.  First day back to Android and Windows seems more convenient!

Live Tiles
A really nice feature.

Windows Support
When plugged into a Windows PC the internal SD card shows up as a Windows drive making photograph copying very easy

Corona
I found it the best AI assistant, better than Siri or OK-Google.

Beta OS
Signing upto the Windows Phone Developer Preview  was super easy and means that I always had the most cutting edge Windows OS available.  The 635 got the latest OS beta releases since it's a pretty new phone

No Front Camera and Flash 
I did not notice until I had bought but there is no front camera  (I never use one so no prob), but also no Flash.  The latter would occasionally have been useful, however recall that using a flash on many mobiles terribly distorts the colour balance so I always try to take flashless photos

Sony QX10
I've been experimenting with the QX10 camera lens and the M.2 Windows App that supports it is actually better than the official Sony Android one.


Summary
For the money this Nokia phone performs excellently and the Windows Smartphone OS has some really great features I was not expecting.  Using this phone has been a really positive experience.

So if you are interested in taking this phone off our hands then see this Swiss advertisement.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Lollipop Android 5.0 installation on Google Nexus 5



Subtitle: Nexus 5 is alive


My attempts to install the Beta Android 5 ROM onto my sick Google Nexus 5 in the last 3 months have all failed.   For me however this was not just /a nice to have/  but a /disaster/.

You see, as I have moaned in considerable detail, ever since upgrading to Android 4.4.4  my Nexus 5 wireless charging has totally stopped and the wired charging is at 1% per hour.  So the phone is essentially useless.


Here is the full Moan

I had hoped an upgrade to Android 5.0 or even a reflash or Android 4.x could correct this issue, but nothing worked. 

And as of the time of writing the OTA (Over The Air) upgrade has still not appeared.  Maybe I could have one last shot at a manual upgrade ...

Thinking of 32bits

Then I had a brainwave!   Whilst upgrading my Minix computer to Android Kitkat 4.4.2  I found that nothing worked until I used, Windows 7, 32bit Operating system as the upgrader platform.


I thought:  maybe this was why all the previous attempts using adb (Android Debug Bridge) had failed.   So I began again, with just a little enthusiasm



Upgrading your Nexus 5 to Android 5 manually


Apologies in advance:  I did not take any notes whilst upgrading, so this explanation is not to our usual standard


Preparation



  • You need a 32 bit Windows computer,  I had a freshly installed Windows 7 instance.
  • Place your phone in Developer mode and enable USB debugging.  Do this in the Settings, About Screen.  Scroll down to Build number and tap on it 7 times.  No I am not kidding.
  • You need to download and installed the /Minimal ADB and Fastboot/ program.  Get it here version 1.3
  • Install Winrar so that you can unpack the Nexus 5 image.  32bit version here
  • You need to download the Nexus 5, official image, and place the unpacked programs in the same directory as the ADB install  (which for me was C:\Program Files\Minimal ADB and Fastboot ).   Nexus 5 official image here  Unpack the .tgz file with winrar.



This is the files in my directory before I proceeded


OS Preparation


For me I had only just installed Windows 7 and had forgotten to install all drivers to speak to the USB interfaces on my ancient Gigabyte  GA-X58A-UD7 1.0 motherboard.


So make sure that you have done that first


Next download and install specific USB drivers that the adb  (Android Debug Program) is likely to need, ie


Koush drivers



Phone Prep
Make sure that your current Kitkat Android level phone is automatically backing up its configuration.  This is so after your fresh install the install program will give you the opportunity to restore the phones settings and programs from a backup


Backup Data
The re-installation should give you the option to restore your applications but any data will be lost.  So before proceeding backup any and all data from your phone!   Example any photographs.


Enter Bootloader on Nexus 5 Phone





With your Nexus 5 phone off

Press volume down and power button together


With a screen like the above connect phone to your PC




> fastboot devices

This command must return something (i.e the device serial)



Fastboot Blank?

You cannot proceed further until fastboot devices returns something.


  • Did you install the special USB drivers?   If yes then try additional drivers also
  • Check the USB port you are using is working.  For example, plug in a USB flash drive and check it is recognised
  • You are using a Physical (not virtual) and 32 bit Windows base operating system, aren't you!

Continue the Reinstallation







> fastboot oem unlock

Type the unlock command at the PC prompt,  then select YES unlock bootloader on phone, then press power key to action.   Command should then return as shown above.






> flash-all



After flash-all get android working then google logo then moving coloured balls for several  (>3) minutes.  Do not interrupt or power off.




Welcome to Android Lollipop


Now it is time to step thru the standard installation screens. Notice it will re-install applications with updates that were previously installed and this installation takes a further 10 or so minutes (for me) after the desktop screen is finally displayed....








This is why you made the backup before re-installation




The screen shot shows apps with circles around icons that are being updated.  And I even have a picture of my much cleverer wife Agata restored.  Nice to have you back darling!


So after all the downloads for apps have finished you are ready to go.  For me a few last minute customisations, principally that I need to re-authenticate to applications and also


  • Login to Dropbox and configure automatic upload of all photos and videos from Camera photos taken
  • Check automatic machine backup is on
  • Check location reporting is on





Charging Issue is Solved

And guess what.   Wireless charging now works again (recall, before it was busted).  So the phone is entirely usable again.  May I just grumpily remind myself that this phone was refused warranty service by the Swiss authorised repair centre and they said I had to replace the entire motherboard  (at a cost almost exactly the same as a new phone)


In summary




With the brainwave of using a 32 bit OS base I was able to make an adb connection from PC to Nexus 5.  Once this is established updating the Nexus to Android 5 was /a piece of cake/.


All this was necessary primarily because after a week of waiting past the date of official Nexus 5 Lollipop images being posted by google, an OTA (Over the Air) update was still not available.





Monday, November 17, 2014

More delayed gratification







I've sort of echoed the following sentiment before but I'll state it again in a different way.

Sometimes for Marcus and Agata the pleasure of [eventual] ownership is enhanced by Switzerland's continued unavailability.  After all,  goods we can import, but fresh air,  numerous cycling and mountain trails, and lakes, well you either have them or you don't.  And Switzerland has the latter in quantity.


Here in Switzerland shops selling luxury goods like sofas,  handbags and watches seem to be quite plentiful.  I'm not sure what the target demographic is between residents and passing visitors to Switzerland.

But I can say we are not really that interested!

Our requirements for non food items more relate more  to Sports Equipment, Sports Clothing and a few select Technology items that ease our lifestyle.  Usually these are manufactured in China and available in retail stores throughout Europe excluding Switzerland.


And so last Friday


  • Marcus received and fitted Agata's possibly final bicycle upgrade

    A beautifully plain, no logo, 27.2mm Carbon Fibre Seatpost

  • The process started about 6 weeks ago
  • I did some measurements of Agata's old Aluminium seatpost and thought I would check to see if I could find lighter and carbon fibre
  • I did a UK / European search
  • I did a search of OEM suppliers in China and compared all the specifications
  • I found I could get OEM chinese components for about 15GBP including postage.  Or,  instead in the UK I could get a similar Richey Superlogic seatpost for 120GBP  (and that was at a 40% discount!)
  • I made the order to China!
  • I waited about 3 weeks for it to arrive :-(
  • It had to navigate Swiss customs, but the low value meant no duty was payable




  • I had to measure the length of the post and cut the Carbon Fibre down for maximum weight saving, then file smoothed the ends
  • I finally fitted the part and Agata's bicycle gets the final upgrade






To summarise
We have now learnt to deal with Swiss unavailability.  It forces us to really research what we need and how to get it here into Switzerland.

Actually,  this analytical process and slow delivery teaches us to be patient and not to continually want the latest technological item the day after it is announced.  

Because we know for sure that in Switzerland is never the first market and often; if it arrives at all, one of the last.



Links

The power of IEEE 802.11ac Wireless Networking




Our Lenovo U430 laptop has only recently had a Disk Upgrade and is now pretty much perfect except perhaps from the networking.

It was almost a deal breaker  (though I could not return the laptop since it was purchased from  eBay in America and posted to Switzerland).  The Wireless networking is a disaster:


As described on Lenovo forums there seems to be a design error with the supplied 7260-HMW Wireless N card.  This issue is that 


5Ghz networking just does not work!


I tried everything, from Linux or Windows Operating systems, to a variety of Wireless routers.  Nothing worked.  And so for the last 12 months I've been suffering with B and G class wireless.


Lenovo forums claim:  Fitting a different card will be blocked by the white-list in the Lenovo BIOS


I took this claim at face value, but I recently checked the price of a new card on eBay 



So on a whim, throwing caution the wind :-) , I thought despite forum comments I would give it a go anyway ....





The card arrived after a few weeks.  Don't forget these items don't exist in Swiss stores so it's imported from China and then has be processed for Import duty and taxes.  Hmmm.



This is the old card removed.  It is really tiny




New card is installed.  No stupid special tools were required to disassemble the laptop.  Just a regular watch-makers screwdriver.

Contrary to forum reports.  I plugged it in. I screwed back the case.  I powered on the laptop,  Windows 8.1 x64 instantly recognised the card and now 5Ghz networking works flawlessly.







Lots of settings to twiddle.  Nothing changed so far







Copying files from my network server, over the Wireless (and thru a few routers!)


Oh yes, and 5GHz , AC networking also works right out of the box flawlessly under Centos 7, build 1406



Summary

I can't believe what a twonk I have been, putting up with slow 2.4Ghz networking for about 1 year.   For the cost of less than 40 USD I upgraded the laptop to full and fast 801.11 AC class networking.

The card works under Windows 8.1 and Centos 7 without issue.


It is really fast!


Yet again,  having a modular, upgradeable laptop works out brilliantly. Thanks Lenovo for such a competent design.






Links
Lenovo wireless AC 7260 HMW Wifi and Bluetooth card
Marcus buys Lenovo U430 Touch Laptop
Lenovo U430 SSD Disk Upgrade
Lenovo U430 M.2 SSD Disk Upgrade





Notes:
It's been pointed out that the card I received is FRU 04X6010 whereas the ebay order was showing a picture of FRU    04W3814.  All I can say is that the one I received works and that I used the eBay seller cityeliter, perhaps buy from the same source.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A death in our Withings Family




Marcus would like to hold just a moments silence for the passing of an incredibly useful fitness gadget:

The Withings Pulse

For over 1 year I've worn the Withings step counter on a waist clip and not only does it measure walking steps but also measures distance run, and has an Integrated Heart Rate sensor and Oxygen bloodstream approximator.

But on November 12th:   

Marcus murdered it in the washing machine


Is the Withings pulse waterproof?    NO!

Resuscitation failed.  The above picture is Withings in happier (working) times!





To quote from Red Dwarf, it has now passed from this mortal realm to that of Silicon Heaven



The Garmin Vivofit backup device

Consequently our Vivofit hand-me-down from Agata is being used temporarily until a replacement device is found.   For those interested the Vivofit still for sale for practically nothing, here




My Reintroduction to Garmin

On a PC you install Garmin Express to connect to your device

Garmin Connect is the Web portal that you can access from any browser

For a PC  an Ant+ dongle in a USB socket talks to the Vivofit when you put the Vivofit in Sync Mode.

Garmin Express then uploads this to the web portal for your viewing.


I've only worn it for a few days but my initial impressions are that the details recorded far exceed that from the Withings device and that Garmin Connect  has a far more sophisticated website that Withings.

This switch is in one way fortuitous because soon I plan to switch my primary TomTom GPS watch to Garmin.  Garmin provides a much more professional product,  Agata has finally convinced me and I have given in graciously, since she has proved her analysis correct.

Agata reviewed the Vivofit in September 2014 here.   It is a decent entry level fitness tracker with the killer feature of having a 1 year battery life.

Links
Withings Pulse
Garmin Connect
Download Garmin Express
Marcus reviews Withings Pulse








Saturday, November 15, 2014

When Neo met KitKat




With the continued deadness of my Nexus 5 smartphone it is good to know  [of course] that I have an Android backup computer.

Why have a desktop Android computer?


  • It is not super expensive
  • You can connect it to a regular TV and turn it into an ultra smart TV   (The computer can be a media player, internet portal and so much more)
  • I use it primarily to test out Android apps
  • It's a good backup if my Android phone is unavailable


Minix used to be famous as the name of a UNIX like operating system that I studied back in the day.   However of late it is also the name of a Company selling low cost, miniature Android computers.




This then is the upgrade story of my Neo 7.


First, by the way know that there is a Neo 7 and a stripped down Neo 7 mini.  I've has a Minix Neo 7 for about 1 year now, and its cost is about 100 GBP.  This Link



Typically the device is sold on ebay at Android 422 level with a variety of useful applications in particular a set that allow you to watch TV on this Android computer.


The Kitkat Upgrade to 4.4.2





  • Pre-req: You will need the custom long micro USB cable that came with the Neo.   The micro USB end is unusually long and without this apparently you can't get the Neo to talk to the PC.
  • Download the Custom Kitkat community 2.0.0.0 ROM here
  • Also Download the Latest Minix ROM upgrade (Jan 2014) from here  324MB
  • I found that I could not download the Minix ROM without using a Download manager,  the download kept breaking.  I used FDM lite
  • From the stock Minix Rom unpack the files and go into NEO_DriverAssistant
  • Now the tricky part.  NO version of Windows 8.x or Windows 2012 seemed able to install the USB driver needed.  So unfortunately ....

    I installed a custom version of 32 bit Windows 7 on a new physical hard disk   (You can't use a VM running on a Windows 8/ 2012 platform because in the step in a moment when you plug in a cable, it goes first to the underlying OS, which just can't understand things

    Some while [a lot of installing] later ... continue
  • Switch off the Neo 7 and connect the special USB cable from the Neo to your PC.  Nothing should happen since the Neo is off
  • Put a paperclip in the reset hole next to the HDMI connector and after holding it down for 2 seconds,  press the power button, release the paperclip, then release the Power button.
  • The PC should beep and it should say a driver needs to be installed for the USB device.  For my 32 bit Windows 7 test install  I used the directory

    NEO_DriverAssistant\Driver\x86\win7

You should not get this screen on the Android device.  If you do something is not connected right to the PC

Instead on the PC you need to install the special driver to talk to the Neo 7 ..

Install the specific driver included with the official release ROM




Now load the  RKBatchTool--1.7.exe  supplied in the Community ROM package then and select the Community ROM  X7_Kitkat_CE_v2-0-0.img file and press restore




  • You should see the top left  Icon 1 must be highlighted else the communication from PC USB interface to Minix is not working correctly
Now the restore should complete Okay.


All is now done, you just need to reboot .... into Kitkat.



Let us enjoy Android Kitkat, given the release schedule we have seen so far, Lollipop might NOT be just around the corner.





Links
Minix Neo 7 Android Computer on ebay
Neo 7 Custom ROMS


Friday, November 14, 2014

A Winter Coat


A winter coat is something that you might like to wear as the temperature drops towards freezing here in Lausanne, Switzerland.

It is also the name that Marcus and Agata give to a thin or perhaps medium layer of fat that will adorn our bodies during the winter months if we stop exercising.





Overall when we speak to or research what the experts say about your yearly fitness and training plans there seems to be no answer as to whether a complete exercise break, (usually in Winter) and if this is stupid, wise or to be avoided.

What we feel is that



  • A complete exercise stop would leave us very anxious and with a large, fat based, Winter coat, for sure.
  • In Switzerland, with Ski resorts less than 60 minutes drive away, it is a time of year when there is absolutely no excuse to be idle
  • The Winter exercise might be slightly different [to Summer] , but you are certainly not limited by a lack of opportunity.



And so as a small example we braved the 6 degree C weather conditions to make a short cycle last weekend.   That temperature might not seem too severe, but at speeds of upto 60Km/h and with cold winds blowing at you it can really get /wind chill/ cold.





It is definitely time for winter thermal clothing.   This makes all the difference  (Marcus recommends a trip to Decathlon in Europe or MEC in Canada or REI in the USA)


Runkeeper most surely does not take any account of the outside temperature I am sure, but you get the idea.


Summary


We certainly vary our training and fitness programmes in terms of intensity.  But we never take a winter break, that would be far too easy.