Posts tagged: Experimenting

Rooted my “Telus” Hero

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By , April 28, 2010 12:45 am

Well, after lots of research to make sure I understood what I was getting into, making sure I had enough lingo to ask a good question should I run into trouble and most importantly clearing up time in my schedule to do so, I finally took the plunge and rooted my Telus (130) Hero. Why? Well the 2.1 update to Android had been promised by HTC and by extension Telus since I got the phone at New Years and to date, there is nothing official. What’s worse, the dates for the HTC “unbranded” release keep getting pushed back and that means that the branded releases are certainly not on any fast lane out of the compiler.

So what did it take for me to get root and start seeing what Android is about today rather than when it first came out? Well, Telus uses a very up to date firmware build for 1.5. This means that many of the easier (read – less step intensive) processes are not possible. So that means if you want to root this phone, you need to create a gold card. Now before I go any further, I’ll say what every other guide out there says… do this at your own risk… you could brick your phone and I am not going to be able to do anything for you other than say “it worked for me”.

So what’s a gold card? Well, it’s a card that has had part of its file system modified slightly. The process is rather simple and of everything, outside of setting up Apps2SD (which I’m doing tonight before bed), is what takes the most time. it is also the step where you might have to lay out money. I wanted to get a faster card and so I managed a deal on a 4GB Kingston Class4 and I used this guide and created my gold card on my second attempt. What went wrong on the first try? Well, I didn’t read the instructions – I chose the wrong disk to change – Choose Physical Disks! You’ll notice that the guide is one that tells you how to root the same phone, so why am I spending electrons on typing more out? Well, the guide is good, but only as a high level guide, other than the gold card process, it felt weak to me. It also suggest updating the radio, but I didn’t and it work fine. This process could take 20 minutes depending how long it takes for the gold card server to email your disk image back to you.

After the gold card, you have to downgrade the firmware – don’t worry, the 405 version that is suggested works just fine if you chicken out at this point or want to go back to some thing “official”. This took some fiddling for me as I needed to get a virtual machine that would actually let the sync app see my phone. It seems that XP is your best be here. Install the RUU exe and wait out the 5-10 minutes that it takes. The guys at The Unlockr have written up the guides that will take us the rest off the way – and this stage is outlined here. There is also a decent gold card method here, but you can choose the one that you want.

After you’ve downgraded, you have to install a new recovery image. Not hard – follow along – but if you are like me, you’ll have tried to see what the stock recover is and been met with a caution sign on boot. Don’t worry – I think the carriers are trying to keep their phones “protected”. Be sure you adjust your input to reflect the file names/numbers that you are planning to use. You’ll spend about 2 minutes on this stage and after this you can flash the ROM of your choice – I’m a fan of Villain 5.4. Oh yeah, if you are running an unlocked phone, it’s still unlocked.

Once all this is done – maybe an hour later – you’ll have the bigger job of putting together all your screens and logging into all your services, but that should be just as much fun. Mybackup Pro was a wonder agent to allow me to get most of my data back and FYI – reboot the phone a couple times and make sure Google has done its syncing before you pass judgment on the ROM.

I’m certainly happy I went through with this – I was scared at the outset, but I so dearly wanted to be free of Telus that you can not image how it was hurting to be bound to them again even for this little thing. Can I live with a few extra bug and hiccups that were not there before I started – sure, because the trade off is that so much more of what the system is capable off is open to me and in the end, it’s Android – there are at least two ways around every bug, more if you start looking at them as features or challenges.


My Android App List

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By , January 4, 2010 9:40 pm

Running 1.5, and not knowing when/if/how I’ll be getting 2.X via Telus and needing to have a phone that can do what a ‘berry does has taken some digging and I think I’ve almost got it. Here’s what it took to get my ‘droid to about the same place as my ‘berry – and further in some places.

  • Baby Puzzle (Better)
  • Google Sky Map (Better)
  • ShopSavvy (Better)
  • chompSMS (Better)
  • eBuddy (Equal – increasing the number of IM services)
  • Car Mode (Equal – speakerphone)
  • WeatherEye (Equal – there are loads of weather apps already, but this gives some important details like sunrise, sunset and weather alerts)
  • SmsFixTimes (Equal – Androids on Rogers have a time stamp issue)
  • Ringdroid (Better)
  • AK Notepad (Equal)
  • Layar (Better – AR app)
  • Bloo (Equal – almost… better than the official Facebook app as it provides notifications that the official one doesn’t)
  • AttachEmail (Equal – lets me attach any file to GMail or any other “sending app”)
  • Toddler Lock (Better – interactive lock for Bug)
  • ShakeIt (Better – activates speakerphone on shake)
  • Share Ringtone (Better – lets me send ringtones)
  • Seesmic (Equal)
  • FlyScreen (Better)
  • List Master (Better)
  • Shazam (Equal)
  • App List (Better…. there is no way to list apps on the BB)
  • Bubbles (Better, another baby game)
  • Jewels (Equal – no Texas Hold’em but, a distraction at least)
  • Decepticons Theme for Flyscreen (Better – helps hide functional icons on Flyscreen)
  • 2G-3G OnOff (Better)
  • Rundroid+ (Better – lets me see my Nike+ stats)
  • Key Ring (Better – Wallet works, but this can be scanned)
  • Evernote (Equal, but a better app)
  • iCalManager TRIAL (Equal, almost – needed to get ics invites into the calendar, but only on the device, not out to Google)
  • Run+ (Better – another Nike+ app)
  • Dolphin Browser (Better, better than Bolt)
  • AndExplorer (Better – a file explorer)
  • Facebook (Equal, almost, still can’t send “mail/inbox messages” natively, it defaults to the mobile site)
  • Compass (Better – helps augment maps)
  • Account at to listen to voicemail over email

So if you want your new ‘droid to be almost to a ‘berry or iPhone, you’ll need to do some dling, hopefully this list helps.

Win7 RC1 in VM

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By , May 1, 2009 11:52 am

Well it certainly installs fast and seems to be stable in the VM, but I’ll have to really play on it to see if it is something that I might want to consider as fallback option to my Hackintosh build…


Planning to grow my own Apple

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By , April 8, 2009 8:58 am

There are only two things of value in the world, time and money. This is true for anything you want to try to evaluate. If you don’t get paid much, you might very well have lots of time on your hands (notice, I didn’t say enough, and this is assuming that you are not putting in free work). If you turn to computers, you can buy an $800 machine, but you will likely have to put in a good amount of time minding it and jigging it to run the way that you want. With a $1500 machine, you are likely going to have more time to spend using the machine because you’ve put in your money.

So this leads me to the my next project, building a Hackintosh. Why? Well I used to be really into building PCs, and while I never built from the ground up, I helped others do it. I am also interested in seeing what component technologies there are out there now – many of them are changing even before the article is posted to the ‘net. Finally, I am a MacHead, and while it used to be fun to keep up with what Apple was putting into the new revs of any given machine, now that is more or less gone as refreshes are ho-hum. It also used to be that use a Mac was to have some extra knowledge about your machine or OS, and that is now evaporating as well.

But the Hackintosh community seems to be a way to get back into the innards of the system and the appeal of building my own MacPro (less the case) for $800 and a fair amount of sweat and brain equity is appealing, when you consider the MacPro that I want is about $4000 and the iMac would be at least $2700. Looking at the cost difference of at least $1900, and valuing my time at $100/h, if it takes me more than 19h to get the machine up and running, then it would have been cheaper for me to get a Mac. I don’t think it will take that long as I plan to do my research and get parts that are known to work well with good support from the community.

So when am I going to do this? January 2010. Why? i7, SSHDD and other technologies will be out there and economical by that time.

My first trip on my 4th Safari

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By , February 24, 2009 7:01 pm

Arg! This seems to sum up my first run tests for Apple’s latest Chrome motivated kick at the browser can. Now, with IE8 out (and Gazelle on the way), Chrome 2 coming, FF3.1 almost there (depending on what day you catch the developers), Safari 4 beta rounds out the crowd of popular browsers that are in the “just out of the wrapper” phase of use. Speaking of the wrapper, it took a few tries to get Safari for me in the first place – hence the first part of the arg.

safari-failSo trying to get the download file through this works how? So after hammering reload a few times, clearing cache and trying all the browsers I have, nothing. So I turn to Twitter… a quick search there reveals a tinyurl link that works and shows me this:


Ok, so now I can get things going. Not quite, after the cool startup sound, Safari proceeds to crash out of the gates. But a quick relaunce later and things are working. Plowing through the typical surf and turf sites that I visit, and checking banking and other logins (WebCT et al), Safari just bombed along – hit enter and the page just about explodes on the page. So ready to share my initial experiences with everyone else… and to log this experience into my online brain, I get into my WP Admin, hit new post and notice something is missing… I can’t upload any images! This post needs images! This won’t do!


I know this is beta, and for a first out of the box public release, I like it. If I need to put up images, I can grab FF and work from there, as I think it might start using Safari 4 most things and hopefully the media gallery bug can be worked out by Apple or WP as needed. One thing that I will miss from FF is the ability to save open tabs. The coverflow history makes up for some of this – ensuring that you don’t need to be opening tabs that you are not going to use in a session, but the option would certainly be nice. Now I just have to get Cooliris to work.


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By , January 15, 2009 1:32 pm

Yesterday I grabbed the opportunity to try out a new Twitter/Facebook app ont the Blackberry – SocialScope. It is so much faster than Twitterberry and Twibble and runs all day without draining the battery that even in an early alpha, it is a no brainer to use. It does just about everything that Twitter allows, but as of yet, will only allow status updates to Facebook, while pulling in most of one’s news feed. Hopefully, in the future, it will allow comments on FB status updates as well as post on walls.Hopefully it will also be able to follow hash tags without going to the browser as well.

With the increased mainstreaming of microblogging (and notice that it’s not know as that “out there”… it’s called serial status updating), it seems that apps that provide this simple function will become increasingly popular – to the point that I think they may even replace txt – as data rates tumble and txt rates just keep going up.

Canon TX1 – a mini review (for home and school)

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By , July 23, 2008 9:19 am

For reasons that will reveal themselves in time, I found myself in need of a convenient still/video camera combo that was small and easy to use. Part of this requirement was for Neelam to be able to record things for her classroom, another was to record the ‘bunk’ns. Neelam and I found this camera through a friend of the family who had picked it up a few months ago and we were really impressed with its size and features. I was planning to pick up the TX1 in November when the prices would have been way low as the camera would have been well over a year old and US Thanksgiving sales would have brought the original pricepoint of about $500 down to about $250. So last night when we were doing a Costco run, we spotted the camera for just over that price and decided to pick it up. On the way home, we dropped by a friend’s house who, with a baby daughter and a trip overseas in their future were also looking into a new camera. They were leaning toward the Vixia HF100 but after seeing the TX1, they might have changed their mind. So why is this important? Well they are not very tech savy and they were instantly impressed with how easy this camera is to operate. I would consider myself tech savy and I am also blown away.

So with this seemingly universal appeal, what else would you want to know about it to also go down this path? Well in addition the ability of this camera to record in SD, it will also record in HD – and for cheap – making it very handy for schools and for those who don’t want to lay out a load of money to get HD and or don’t shoot video often enough to warrant the outlay of $600 for a dedicated video camera. The camera also shoots to the increasingly cheap SD or SDHC cards. This means for schools, kids can bring their own cards to take away the video that they shoot and for owners, this means that they can pick up additional memory just about anywhere for cheap and as the technology goes along, you could wind up with a 2TB capacity. Granted by the time that happens, you are not likely to still have this device. But before then, we will likely be seeing cards that are 32GB and larger to keep pace with the drive sizes of dedicated video cameras.

So, what is so great about the fact that school kids could take their video away easily, trucking single 4GB files for about 15 min HD or about 30 min SD away (up to the size of the card). Well (and I tested this last night) both MovieMaker and iMovie are completely happy handling the raw video files that this camera produces. This just rocked my world (ok, I’m tired right now and the world often rocks on it’s own) as I tried the MovieMaker test first and thought that iMovie would not like the files as they are .avi 2 (Motion JPEG, OpenDML), but I guess in a rare use of standards for MS, the format sucked into iMovie HD (and likely iMovie 8) with no issues. This means teachers could send home (or to the labs) all the video that kids take and they could easily edit the video on software that they already have access to. As an aside the large file size is something that can be a real bonus to video as you get the important parts of the event, rather than the “everything and the kitchen sink”, realizing that most people are far more willing to sit through a series of 5 minute collages than a single hour of a single contiguous event.

I am thinking that the camera could then also play back the finished files as well. Now how would those files get played back? Well, in the box, there are both composite and compontent cables so you can dump off to the TV, PVR or old school VHS what you just shot.

So it seems so far that this is a small, friendly and cheap – all good things. But what about the down sides? Well I have only played with the camera for less than an hour, so I can only talk about the highlights. But from what I have seen so far is that the only down side is that there is no way to see how much battery life there is remaining, only a 30% warning. Shooting just video, you can expect about 1h – via the TX1 Blog – but then with an 8GB card, you have at the most 35 minutes of video space available anyway, so that seems reasonable. The battery (NB-4L) is also proprietary, but it seems that there are more than enough third party alternatives out there if you don’t want to pay the $50 for the Canon version – you can likely get the Energizer version for around $20.

So after those 800 words, what is my final verdict? at under $300 for the whole kit, I have no problem with this system. Had I purchased it a year ago at $700, I would have been double thinking, but not now. I think this little unit will serve my household needs, and likely the needs of at least one schoolroom very well.

Creating a data (nee Web) driven iSlate app

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By , July 17, 2008 2:00 pm

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been digging around to find some tutorials about how to start developing for the iSlates and I haven’t found very much. But just today I found what I think (so far) is the best way to get one’s feet wet to build a data driven iSlate app, courtesy of IBM. This seems to be a bit of a cop out as you are not actually developing on the device itself, rather just working with the browser and a remote web server. But this can provide a rather quick solution to developing a range of educational apps, many of which are already web based.

Of course, Apple has all manner of resources and one chunk of code to learn from, but nothing so far has been as easy to step into as the bit from IBM – or maybe it all has been and it’s only easy because I’ve spent time with everything else.

HDD based camcorders and the Mac

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By , July 2, 2008 8:23 am

I’ve got a Sony HHD based camcorder in the office (the Sony DCR62) and this weekend for various reasons, I’ve been looking into HDD based systems for home and for software to convert the wonky MPEG files that the recorder produces into an iMovie friendly format. I had played with iSquint and it’s core app ffmpeg for another conversion project, but it hadn’t occurred to me to use it on the HDD recorder files until Santos left a comment on my one of my posts this weekend and as expected, it worked fast and flawless.

Looking at the files that are created by Canon and other systems, it seems that this little bit of middleware is going to be much better for most people – and almost Maclike. Now all we need is for someone to either give Apple the hint about this for the next version of iMovie – or for someone else to make a plugin.

Impressions of Leapfrog’s Firefly Pen

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By , June 20, 2008 1:40 pm

When I first heard about pen top computing, I was really quite interested. After all, the pen is a very ubiquitous item and I don’t think many people are going to be intimidated by it in the least. So when I had an opportunity to play with the Firefly Fusion (borrowed from a colleague), I jumped at it.

First the down sides – it’s a Windows only device. I don’t know why in this era of Mac revival, but it is. Ok, I do know, but that is no excuse. The only other downside is the specialized notebook that it needs and it’s rather chubby size (more on this later).

The upsides – it works exactly as you would expect. The magic to this device is that it has a camera that reads the surface of the notebook and that is what gets recorded to your pen. So it does not matter if you have the pen tip actually extended or not, you can be writing away and it will record. The nice thing about the way that they have it set up is that as long as the pen is on it will record everything that you are doing. That is certainly user proof, but the real kicker is the OCR. It will recognize a wide range of writing – from a brutal “doctor note” style to block letters and everything in between.

Being from Leapfrog, this isn’t a tool that is targetted at MDs, it’s looking to get into the PB&J covered mitts of the k-6 set. To that end, it has a number of games that I’m sure are fun – they certainly look fun. Leapfrog also includes a number of tutorials that could just as easily be used to teach kids how to write as much as they are to train kids to use the pen. But where is it’s real power? I think that is in the ability of this device to share what people do in one mode of communication to another mode of communication.

Anyone could use this pen and the notepad to take notes in whatever environment – and as long as there is a charge in the pen, everything that is stroked out will be captured. Then at the end of the day, you take the pen home or to the office, download and save your notes, perhaps email them to those who might also need them and you are done for the day. I am not certain, but I’m guessing the pen will charge over USB as there are no other ports (except for the headphones) and be ready for the morning.

In higher ed, I could see this being used in a secure exam environment (though one that would be a bear to administer). The exam is presented to the student via MP3, the student records the answers through the pen which keeps an electronic copy as well as the paper copy. The data is then dumped off and auto scored. I can also see it being a great resource to make use of podcasts as the student could be listening to the lecture and taking notes at the same time with minimal fuss. These are only two of the many ways that I can see people making use of this device.

Livescibe also offers a pen based computer, though it won’t be available until later this year, so it looks like it is a niche that is sizable enough to demand competition. A few months ago, I remember one of the RIM CEOs talking about how software and devices are going to “fractionate” into specialized roles and that the general purpose computer will be more akin to a hub for all these devices (phones, pens and the like). With the useability of at least this device, I’m hoping more is done with this form factor, hopefully a combination of this with ePaper will certainly create a more powerful solution that the tablet computer.

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