Android KitKat Bars Found in the U.S.A.

So, as some of you may know, Android announced at the beginning of September that their next release would be code name KitKat 4.4. Since the announcement, in conjunction with Hershey’s, a contest has started. Here is the site with the details. Also since then I’ve been looking for KitKat bars in Orlando without any luck. I’ve been watching the Android Community on Google Plus and it seems that the Android KitKat bars have been really scarce. Only a few found in Europe and South Africa and none in the United States. At least until now. I finally found them in the local Publix supermarket near me.

I posted it on Google Plus.

What is really cool is the first wrapper I opened I won, a $5 gift card to the Google Play store. However, what I found out is that it is only one entry per day. I bought four bars. I’m about to open the second one today.

Phone Swimming

I dropped my Samsung Galaxy Nexus in orange juice yesterday morning. And though it may sound bad, there is, somewhat, a happy ending to this tale.

So to start things off lets first state that my fiance’s car died last Thursday. Since we did not get it fix but decided to go car shopping over the weekend and had no luck finding a car I had to take her to work yesterday morning. Being that it was so early in the morning she decided to fix breakfast to eat on the way to work (we live about a good 30 minute drive from her employment), which included a cup a orange juice. My usual practice when I drive my car is to plug my phone into the car charge and place it in the cup holder between the driver seat and the passenger seat. Being that it was so dark at 6:00 in the morning, and wasn’t paying attention, I did not notice that she had put her cup of orange juice in the usual spot I put my phone. Needless to say I dunked my phone in the cup and did not realize it until almost a minute later. Luckily, the entire phone did not submerge, just the top half. Well, of course, I immediately removed it from the cup, unplugged it from the charger, and pulled the battery while at the same time pulling every fast food restaurant napkin from my glove box to dry the phone off. I wasn’t expecting a good ending to my favorite phone.

Almost two hours later after arriving to work (I had to drive back home, pick up my 13 year old, and take him to school before I could get to work) I disassemble the phone and soaked up the remaining juice with napkins that was hanging out on the circuit board. At this point I was definitely thinking I would need to buy a new phone. I let it sit on my desk for most of the day completely exposed to help dry any remaining juice that was inaccessible in the cracks. At lunch I decided to pop the battery back in and power it on to gauge the state of the phone. A gamble, I know, as you are not supposed to give power to a soaked electronic gadget. The phone powered on completely however, because I lock my phone with the swipe method on Android 4.1, the swipe was not working, I could not unlock my phone. I pulled the battery and let it dry some more. Again, around mid-afternoon I tried giving power to it; unfortunately it was in the same state. By this time, since it was during my mid-afternoon break, I started searching eBay and Craigslist to see if I could find an inexpensive refurb, of which I was able to find at no less than $250 on average.

Finally, just before leaving for the day at work, I decided to try giving it power one more time; I had a little bit of hope left in me. I placed the battery in and powered it up, tried to swipe the unlock, and what do you know, it unlocked. My level of hope rose from the bottom of the drum to the half empty mark. I removed the battery, wrapped up all the parts and left work to pick up the family from work and school.

Since I did not have a lot of time last evening to troubleshoot it some more I left it on my desk in my home office over night to dry some more. This morning I put it all back together, powered it up and what I have found, so far, is that everything seems to be working at about 97%. The touch screen is not as responsive as it used to be, I find I have to press a little bit harder than usual. The power button is a little stiff so awaking the phone with the power button requires a little more effort. And, finally, the ear speaker is dead, I think. I can hear out it a little so it can’t be completely dead it’s just not as loud as it used to be. I’m thinking that there may be some dried orange juice in the slots on the cover of the phone that is not allowing direct sound to come through to my ear. I may have to troubleshoot this some more or learn to live with a Bluetooth earpiece in my ear every time I want to talk on the phone, at least until I can afford to buy a refurbished Galaxy Nexus to replace what I have. I don’t want to buy another phone but I may have no choice. We’ll see.

Out of all this the optimist in me can say, at least the orange juice was the no pulp kind of orange juice. I can’t imagine it would have been easy to clean out all those chunks of orange on and in my phone. And, it could have been a different outcome.

Learning a Language

Call me crazy but I decided to try to learn some programming. And in this search for a language to learn it was recommended by a co-worker that I learn C#. Well, my thoughts were that I should focus on a specific project that may help motivate me to learn a specific language. A friend of a friend publishes a web comic, Ace Kilroy, that I thought would be neat to read on a mobile platform in app form so I started heading toward making Android app development my specific project so that I could create a web app for his web comic. However, that same co-worker who first suggested C# stated that it may be better to go with iOS development since there aren’t as many devices with different form factors. So now I am trying to learn Objective-C on my MacBook. BUT I have run into a roadblock.

Since I will be using my MacBook from 2006 that can’t upgrade to Mountain Lion – I’m still on Snow Leopard – I have found that I need the latest Xcode, Apple’s IDE for application development, that is only available for Mountain Lion, unless I pay the $99 Apple Developer’s fee. If I pay the $99 fee I then have access to the latest Xcode version available for Snow Leopard; which is full of crap since it used to be available for free before Mountain Lion came along. It’s stupid for someone like me who has no programming experience to pay that kind of fee when I am still learning.

AAAAAIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

That’s me shaking my fist to the sky and yelling to the top of my lungs. Thanks Apple.

Because of this I may ignore my co-worker’s suggestion and head over to Android app development where I am sure I will not run into any roadblocks…except for that device fragmentation issue.

In all honesty, I would really like to buy a new iMac. It’s been a dream of mine for the past four years but I just haven’t been able to afford it due to the job situation and the economy. So, I can’t stay angry with Apple too long.

Cloud Music

Okay. I’ve tried using Amazon Cloud/Player and really like the features especially for Android. I especially like the fact that when I buy music from Amazon, which I have been doing for a couple of years now, it is automatically added to my Amazon Cloud storage and made available to me to play through the cloud player on my computer and my Android device and gives me the option to download it later to my computer. I can also upload songs that I did not purchase from them from my computer without having to upload my entire library. I can select a specific song or even an entire album. It’s pretty convenient.

I decided to give Google Music a try and I wasn’t happy with the Music Manager. While with Amazon I have the option of just uploading certain albums, Google Music Manager wants to upload my entire library without giving me the option to only upload what I want to upload. Yes, I could probably just point it to a folder that only has a specific album or albums but that’s retarded. I do like the Google Music Player for Android though. It’s actually a very nice looking application. I haven’t found anything wrong with the Amazon Music Player. It’s really just a basic player.

I know it may be convenient to just upload the entire library in one sitting but not for me. I have over 10,000 songs that equals close to 50GB and an upload pipe of only 1.85Mps. One, trying to upload all the data clogs my pipe. Two, it would take easily 4 to 6 days to upload my entire library. And using up all that bandwidth in those days would be quite annoying. Now, if Google wants to come over to my house and give me their Google Fiber it would make everything so much better.

I think for now, until Google makes some changes to their music manager, I will stick with Amazon’s Cloud music service.

Calling From The Future

Since my childhood I’ve been a fan of Star Trek. I remember as far back as 1978 watching reruns of The Original Series with my Dad. I was always fascinated with the technology from that show, and other sci-fi TV shows and movies, of being able to talk to someone via a video call. Well, whether you use it or not, the technology is here, the future is here, and I’m loving it.

For about five years now I’ve been using Skype for PC-to-PC calls with family and friends however I remember being able to make video calls as far back as 1999 with NetMeeting on Windows 98. I still use Skype for video calls frequently and sometimes switch between that service and Google’s Video Chat via Gmail. Video chat has been available for a few years now on computers but technology has advanced so much that we now have the capability to have video calls on our mobile phone. That just blows my mind. I’m mean, come on, it’s not science fiction today it’s science fact and that is the coolest thing to me being a fan of science fiction. The iPhone 4 came out last year with a front-facing camera and the ability to make video calls via Facetime. In recent months you also have the option to purchase an Android phone (I think it’s just the Nexus S for now) with a front-facing camera to video chat via Gtalk with more Android phones coming out with the same ability in the coming months.

Currently, I do not own a phone with a front-facing camera (still hauling around the Motorola Droid 1) but I can tell you that my next purchase will be an Android phone with a front-facing camera that will have the ability to video chat. Because I encourage my friends and family to call me on Skype and Gtalk on the computer today I also would like to have that option on my mobile phone too. It’s so Star Trek, man.

So, I’m wondering: If you were to buy a phone with a front-facing camera today, or in the future, would you use the video chat function? I would love to see your vote and read your comments below.

[poll id=”1″]

Secure Shell to Linux Server from Motorola Droid 1

I posted on my Twitter account this past Friday that I had accomplished a pretty geeky thing. Here is the exact post and a question, just below, on how to set it up:

In response to @larryfretz on Twitter, it is really quite simple. I’m a Linux Mint fan and even though I have been using Linux for about 10 years I still consider myself a newbie. So, I had to find a guide to assist me in installing and configuring SSH on my Mint 10 machine since it is not installed and configured by default. I did a Google search and found this very useful and easy to follow guide:

Basic SSH Setup On Linux Mint 10 Using OpenSSH Server

To keep my LAN at home relatively secure, I decided to change the TCP port from 22 to something else in the SSH config file. Using the standard list of ports at Wikipedia listing I chose a port that is not a standard used port by the IANA. The router that I use at home is the Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station. I simply setup a NAT to point to my Linux Mint machine on that particular TCP port configured in the SSH config file. Once I got that configured I downloaded ConnectBot from the Android Market to my Motorola Droid 1 to use for the SSH connection to my Linux Mint machine remotely. It really is that simple.

A few things to note: Make sure you have a really good password for the account you use on your Linux machine for the SSH connection and that you change it regularly. Also, for those interested, I would not recommend the Apple Airport Extreme Base Station for a router. It’s not that I’ve had issues with it (except for once when I completed a firmware update from Apple that had a bug in it and had to revert back to the previous firmware) or that it is not secure, I just think there are other wireless N routers out there that are less expensive and can be just as reliable and secure – I’m actually considering selling my AirPort Extreme and finding something newer. Also, I don’t know if this is standard on all home routers these days but every time I make a change on my Apple Airport router it requires a reboot, which is REALLY annoying as everyone at home loses connection for about 2 minutes.

If you have any comments or additional tips on this please post below. If you have any questions you can email me directly from the Contact page of this blog or just post them in the comments also.

Rooting and ROM’ing on the Motorola Droid

Well, it’s been almost a year and a half and I have finally mustered the courage to root my phone and install a custom ROM. For those of you reading this and wonder what I am talking about, to root a device, like a phone, means to give yourself superuser privilege so that you can do things that the manufacturer never intended a normal user to do. Without going into too much detail on the subject I will refer you to the Wikipedia entry on Rooting the Android OS that will explain it much better than I. Bypassing my explanation will give me more time to explain to you the details I went through to root and install a custom Android ROM.

Disclaimer: These are the steps I went through to root and ROM my Motorola Droid 1 and complete it successfully. If you try these steps and brick your phone, I cannot be held responsible for your actions or the outcome of your device. Be it known that if you try these steps you will void your warranty.

First of all know that I am new to this and this was the first time I had ever rooted my phone and installed a custom ROM. I researched a lot of forums and websites to piece together all the steps necessary to get to where my phone is now. It is one of the reasons why I decided to write up these steps because in all my searching I couldn’t find one source that had step-by-step on how to root a Motorola Droid 1 and install a custom ROM.

Rooting your phone

I had Android 2.2.1 Build FRG83D installed. From what I had found there is a way to root your phone manually and a way to do it automatically with rooting utilities some very talented developers had created on their own. Since I am new to the Android OS, I wanted to do it the easy way with a utility. There are quite a few out there and a couple of the most popular are z4root found here and SuperOneClick found here. I didn’t choose either one because after reading those forum pages I had seen a lot of people state that neither worked on the specific build on my phone. After reading other forums and sites I found out that a couple of people had success with Soup or Root found here for my specific build. After seeing the site and noticing the utility was still in beta and had not been updated since October of 2010 I was first a bit hesitant. However it was a very easy utility to use and it worked. The instructions given on the site are very straightforward and easy to follow. If you use that method you may have to do it more than once to be successful as I had experienced and also once you finish the process you will need to update the Superuser application from the Google Market that Soup or Root installs during the process. The Superuser application is used, after you root, to tell other applications that they can have root privileges to do what they need to do so don’t uninstall it.

After I rooted my phone I installed some very useful applications that I highly recommend. One of them I used to install a custom ROM called ROM Manager. There others you can see listed here.

Installing a custom ROM

Long before I had the guts to root my phone and consider installing a custom ROM I had heard of the very stable ROM called Sapphire by Crystal Clear ROMs for the Motorola Droid, and other devices. Having a stable and snappy device was one of the reasons I had looked into installing a custom ROM. Since updating to Android 2.2 I had noticed a performance decrease in my phone, most in UI refreshes when I close an application or change the orientation of the phone from portrait to landscape and vice versa. Hearing so many people rave about how fast Sapphire was I had to try it out. If you decide to install this ROM, even though you have tons to choose from out there, know that there are two files to download from their site; the straight, stripped down ROM (sapphire-2.0.2-update.zip) and the file that has the Google apps that normally come with Android devices come separately (sapphire-2.0.2-gapps-update.zip). But first things first: You need to backup your device before installing a custom ROM and the utility I used with ease, as mentioned above, was ROM Manager. Once you install it you should get the prompt to also enable ClockworkMod Recovery, which I highly recommend. You use this portion of ROM Manager to backup your current ROM in case of any major issues. To help me with this critical step and install a ROM I found these two articles to be very helpful from the Android Police site.

Backup and Restore
http://www.androidpolice.com/2010/04/16/complete-guide-how-to-fully-back-up-and-restore-your-android-phone-using-nandroid-backup-and-clockworkmod-rom-manager/

Flashing a custom ROM
http://www.androidpolice.com/2010/05/08/complete-guide-how-to-flash-a-custom-rom-to-your-android-phone-with-rom-manager-full-backup-restore/

I was able to follow those very informative steps to backup my device then use ROM Manager to install the Sapphire 2.0.2 ROM. Now, this is where it got tricky for me. See, I ran into a sort of Catch 22 after installing the Sapphire ROM; since it was just a very slimmed down version of Android without the Google Market, I had no way of installing applications, that’s where the sapphire-2.0.2-gapps-update.zip file came into play. But, again, I needed ROM Manager on my device to install the Google apps and no way of installing it, even though the file was copied to my SD card. This is the part where I needed to learn how to use the adb.exe tool in the Android SDK. Since I was on Windows I installed the SDK using the instructions and used adb.exe under the platform tools. One thing you should know that I had to figure out is that you need to install the Motorola drivers for Windows in order for adb to recognize the device when you plug it in via USB, so I extracted the drivers from the Soup or Root utility and installed it on my machine. However, if you had used the Soup or Root utility to root the device those drivers should already be installed. When I rooted my device I had completed it from my Windows MacBook (dual booted with Boot Camp) so I was a little confused at first as to why adb wasn’t seeing my device on my desktop. If you still need the drivers and not sure how to extract them from the Soup or Root utility you can download them from here.

http://www.edwardcrosby.com/Moto_Drivers.exe

But, of course, if you still have the Soup or Root utility you can also just launch that utility and install the drivers from there.

Once you install the drivers the next step is to plug in your device via USB (make sure you have USB debugging enabled under Menu>Applications>Development), open command prompt under Windows (Start>Run>cmd) and navigate to the Android SDK installation under Platform-Tools to get to the adb utility (instructions from the links above on how to install the SDK and Tools). Since I just needed to install the ROM Manager after already copying over the sapphire-2.0.2-gapps-update.zip to my SD card I simply made sure adb server was running with this command:

adb start-server

and then confirmed my device was listed with this command:

adb devices

and then with the ROM Manager apk (which can be found here) in the same directory as adb I issued this command to install it on my device:

adb install RomManager.apk

You can find all these commands plus more over at the adb page.

Once I got ROM Manager installed I just selected sapphire-2.0.2-gapps-update.zip to be installed from the SDcard from within ROM Manager and was able to get all the Google apps installed onto the Sapphire ROM.

Now, for those that may be reading this who are ROM installing pros I am sure I missed some steps that could have saved me some headaches or may have done something wrong that required the long way around but I am still learning and consider myself a newbie in this field. I’m just stating here my own experience on how to root your device and install a custom ROM.

One thing that I have not done yet that I may do is purchase the premium version of ROM Manager as it gives you the option of downloading custom ROMs via the app to install instead of going out and searching for custom ROMs to copy over to my SD card. It’s make things simple.

If you have any questions or comment on these steps just let me know. If you get stuck at a step or need any other assistance I will try my best to assist you. I don’t claim to be an expert but I will try to help you. Also, there are tons of resources out there on how to do this stuff. The only problem I found is that most of it is stuck in pages and pages of forum post over at XDA Developers and over at Droid Forums so there is usually a lot of digging to find what you need. That is one of the reasons why I created this post in hopes to help someone who hasn’t completed this to avoid having to go through all those post like I did.

One last thing I will state is that I am impressed with the Sapphire ROM. It seems to be pretty fast so far and I would recommend to anyone. The only caveat with the ROMs from Crystal Clear is that they may have halted and no support continued due to the developer moving over to CryanogenMod. The details can be found here.

I hope this helps you. Good luck.

UPDATE: I was corrected on a forum by someone who knows a lot more about this than I do that I did go the long way around. The thread can be found here and his direct quote is as follows:

Stelv: “I think you are going through too much trouble to do this, all you have to do is to boot into clockwork recovery. Wipe data and cache. Select install zip from sdcard. Then select rom zip file. Then tap power button to go back to main clockwork menu. Select install zip from sdcard again. Select Gapps file. Then reboot. Thats it.
Nothing is done through Rom manager except for flashing recovery and booting into recovery.”

In later threads, he also pointed me to a site that has some really good informational steps on backing up with Titanium Backup and wiping and installing a ROM found here:

http://www.moddedlogic.com/pe/howto.php