Posts Tagged ‘mobile’

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Vietnam and My Interest in the Minutiae

21/06/2013
Image (c)2010 by Think0.

Image (c)2010 by Think0.

As I had mentioned on a placeholder post (since deleted) I have been in Vietnam for the past few weeks on an academic trip. This blog is generally geared towards technology, so I won’t be focusing on my trip per se, but on the technology I encountered there. There are a few things of interesting note to me and perhaps others that are part of every day life in Vietnam. I decided to combine these all into this one post.

This has got to be a nightmare for installers.

This has got to be a nightmare for installers.

Keep in mind that this is from an American’s point of view, so some of this stuff may be, and is, used all over the world, but this was my first encounter with it in mass. The air conditioning systems mentioned later are a good example of this minutiae that I find interesting, but is probably old-hat for people who’ve always used this stuff.

The first thing that struck me when I arrived was the cabling over the streets. While Vietnam is generally well “wired” in the sense that basic broadband was available in the cities I went to, the majority of it seems to be above ground. Cabling that would normally be hidden beneath the streets was up on posts, creating some very haphazard-looking displays close to that of spider webbing.

I actually saw some installers putting in some new wiring, but I was unable to catch any video of it. It mostly involved threading the wiring around the post and to its destination. It wasn’t clear to me how they were differentiating different cables from each other, or how they were avoiding cross-talk and interference, or if they were even concerned about that.

One of the wiring boxes that I, uh, "found" open.

One of the wiring boxes that I, uh, “found” open.

Speaking of being wired, the city of Da Nang was in the process of implementing a city-wide WiFi service. Even though it wasn’t officially available (it should be by the time this post hits) I was able to use it almost everywhere in the city with varying levels of success. It was about what you’d expect from a public wireless service. Useful, but not as robust as a privately-owned system.

3G service was fairly ubiquitous, and the VNMobile Blackberry that I had been given had signal just about everywhere I went. I did not have the ability to test data transfer speeds, but 3-4 bars was present in most locations, and cities were generally solid throughout. Mobile devices themselves were everywhere, just as in any city anywhere in the world, though I saw much fewer tablets than state-side. I’m not sure the reason for this, but I imagine transportation might be part of it. Most Vietnamese ride motorbikes so maybe finding a place for a device of that size is difficult. I can only speculate.

The timers on the lights are a really neat idea.

The timers on the lights are a really neat idea.

Moving on to more minutiae, the traffic light systems are quite similar to what you’ll find in just about every country, with the addition of a timer. Especially in the larger cities, lights had timers that would tell you how many seconds until it would change. It was my understanding that this was prevent people from preempting the lights and causing accidents, as well letting motorists check their mobile devices or do other things at a stop light without holding up traffic when it suddenly went green.

Also, while this might be odd to point out, the air conditioners, both in private residences I visited as well as in most hotels, were these single-room setups. They were mostly operated by a remote, and as I found out later, called “ductless” air conditioners. Here in the United States, A/C units are usually large affairs (especially in the case of central heating and air), even the small units, and have to be planted on the outside of a residence. The ones I encountered in Vietnam used less power, could be placed anywhere in a building and were hyper-efficient. However, they had the drawback of not quite offering quite the cooling power of some of the Western ones that I’m accustomed to.

The A/C on the inside feeds through a tube to a fan mounted somewhere on the outside of the building.

The A/C on the inside (top) feeds through a tube to a fan (bottom) mounted somewhere on the outside of the building.

Lastly, along the same line as the air conditioners, the most common type of water heater was not a tank water heater as is common in the States. Almost every place I went used in-line tankless water heaters. These work by heating water as it’s used rather than heating and holding it until use. These can be set up to heat with electricity (the most common I saw), natural gas or even propane. The only problem I had with these was that they sometimes didn’t get hot enough or took a long time to get “warmed up”. Again, very efficient but not as robust as the tank ones I’m used to using in the US.

I did a lot more on this trip than look at water heaters and street lights, but I thought that these little tidbits were the best suited for this blog. I find the differences in the technology that people use on a daily basis the most interesting, as all “good” technology intertwines itself seamlessly into our lives.

-CJ Julius

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The Easiest Way to Root a Galaxy Note 10.1

27/05/2013
Unlocking your Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (Proceed with Caution)

Proceed with Caution

Rooting your device is a pretty dangerous game, even nowadays when it’s almost commonplace. You can lose your data, void your warranty or even brick your device. However, if you’re looking to really unlock the power of your Android tablet, there’s really no better way. It gives you unparalleled access to your files, ability to install apps that do some pretty amazing things, or even install your own OS aside from Android.

So, obvious warnings aside (above), I want to show you the easiest way I’ve found to root the Galaxy Note 10.1, my favorite tablet. Ideally, you’ll lose no information and really not notice much of a change to the OS, excluding a new app that manages root access. It’s also really quick (maybe 30 minutes at most).

However, one last time, I am pointing out that this can destroy everything, and is just here for your edification; I take no responsibility for you turning your Galaxy Note into a dinner tray.

The Tools

There are four pieces of software and two pieces of hardware that you’ll need for this.

Software:

  1. Windows – Sorry, but you’ll need to use Windows Vista or later (I haven’t tried on XP, so I have no idea, but I imagine it will work)
  2. Android 2.2 or later – Works all the way up to Jellybean 4.1 that I’ve tested.
  3. Samsung Kies – This is the software that you’ll need to set up your computer to modify the system files we’re going to be changing. [Download]
  4. CF-AutoRoot – The rooting software itself, just open this link in a tab and we’ll get back to what you need later. [Download]

Hardware:

  1. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – Your tablet, durh.
  2. Charging Cable – Has a 30-pin connector on one end and a USB on the other.

The Process

First of all, install Samsung Kies if you haven’t already. At the end of the install select the option that you don’t want to launch it (there’s no reason to, we’re not going to be directly using it) and to launch in Normal Mode. That’s all we’re doing with that.

This is what it should look like if you've done it right.

This is what it should look like if you’ve done it right.

On your tablet, open Settings and go to the “About Device” page, usually located at the bottom of the options. You can see your Android version here (make sure it falls in the range listed in tools) and the Model Number. It should be something like GT-N8xxx. Remember this model number.

Look at the page for the CF-AutoRoot forum that is listed above and find a link with your model number in the third post. It must EXACTLY match that number. Download that zip file and unpack it somewhere.

Now, on your tablet, hold in the Power Button and the Volume Down button for about 10 seconds. Your tablet will take a screenshot and then reboot. Keep holding down the buttons until you see a diagnostic screen with an Android symbol and the WARNING page which you should probably read. We’re reaching the point of no return. Click the Volume Up button to acknowledge that you understand the risks. You will see a “Downloading…” message.

This new app will be installed after reboot and will let you manage how apps get access to root.

This new app will be installed after reboot.

Plug the charging cable into the tablet and into a suitable USB port on your computer. Set the tablet aside and leave it alone.

Open the Odin-vxxxxx.exe as an administrator.* You should see a yellow box with COM1 or something like that in it. If not, reboot your computer and try again, starting from the beginning of this paragraph.

In Odin, click on the PDA button. Navigate to the folder where you unpacked Odin executable, select the .MD5 file (it should be the only option) and open it. Click the Start button.

After a few seconds the first box should turn green and say PASS. Once it does the tablet will reboot and your tablet is now rooted.

The Aftermath

Root Explorer App is a really powerful tool, especially for the price (free).

Root Explorer App is a really powerful tool, especially for the price (free).

This “autoroot” is the simplest of roots and keeps your tablet as close to stock (as Samsung released it) as possible. It gives you and apps superuser access and manages them through a new app called SuperSU. This is perfect if you’re looking to install some stuff that needs Superuser access or you want to go poking around yourself. However, this isn’t tailored for power users or those who want to supplant Android with another OS.

The first super-user required app that I send most people to is Root Browser on the Play Store. It’s a powerful file browser and it’s free. Be careful not to damage your system!

*If you don’t see the Odin executable, then you may need to get it separately. A stand-alone version of Odin can be found on the same forum attached to the second post. Just download it and extract it to the same folder as the MD5 and continue on.

-CJ Julius

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How I Got My Android Tablet to Boot Windows 95

24/05/2013

I was rummaging through some old software of mine a few weeks ago and taking stock of the old operating systems that I had commercially. I noticed that along with some older versions of Redhat and Ubuntu Server, I owned every version of Windows since 95, including quite a few server versions. I wondered what I could possibly do with them, since I don’t even use my store-bought copy of Windows XP anymore.

Hey, I remember you.

Hey, I remember you.

Then I looked at my new Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet and got an idea. I wondered if I could get Windows 95 to boot on it. So, I fired up Virtual Box and an old machine I had and got to work.

Note: I am using Ubuntu 12.04LTS and a Galaxy Note 10.1 to do this project. Also, I had access to another, older machine with which I could install Windows 95 myself. Your mileage may vary.

Build 95

There are a few ways to go about this. One is to use Virtual Box to create working Windows 95 VDI file and then convert that to an IMG after you’ve got it running and another is to just find a computer with Windows 95 and make an image of the drive. Either way you’ll have to do three things:

  1. Install DOS 5.x or better before installing Windows.
  2. Install Windows 95 and get it working.
  3. Make your image (.IMG) file.
Click to Enlarge

In Virtual Box, you’ll need to set up an MS-DOS environment first and then probably migrate to 95 later.

Now, I’ve tried both ways, and they’re both complex. In the first example, using Virtual Box to create a Windows 95 compatible area for the OS to work in is a pain. This is because the Windows 95 disk is not bootable (and neither is Windows 98 for that matter). You have to have DOS 5.x or later installed first and THEN go to Windows 95. This is as much work today as it was back in when Win95 came out.

Then, once you have Windows 95 running you need to get all the drivers (and you’ll probably have to use an older version of Virtual Box because of compatibility issues), some of them custom-made, install them, and squash bugs as they come up.

When you have everything set up Virtual-Box side, you can convert the VDI to an IMG file to make it usable with the vboxmanage command in termninal:

vboxmanage clonehd Win95.vdi Win95.img --format RAW

This is not the method I recommend, as it is the hardest even with a walk-through, however it may be the easiest for people with limited access to hardware. I had, luckily, a piece of hardware that would run Win95 with minimal effort so I went that route.

First, I put I installed MS-DOS 5.0.7 (available legally and for free here) from some image files to actual real-live 720KB disks. Yes, I still have a few of those. Then I set up my CD-ROM*, no small feat, and began the Windows 95 install.

Once this had been done, I pulled the HDD out of the computer and connected it to an IDE slot in another machine. I then used the dd command to make a raw image file of the newly-added drive. This ended up giving me a large file because I had given a Gig of space to the virtual drive so I’d have lots of space to move around. You could probably get away with only 200 or 300 MB if you wanted to do so. In any case, the command to image the drive was:

dd if=/where/drive/is/mounted/ of=where/you/want/image/ bs=4K

Now I had my Windows 95 image and it was time to get it running on the tablet!

Install 95

There are multiple ways to get Windows to run on your tablet once you have an image you like. I personally went through my version and pulled out all the things I didn’t want so I could create a smaller image. I eventually got the entire thing down to 200MB, but that was with a lot of work. There are also two ways to get the image running on your tablet. There’s the way I did it initially, and then the easy way. I’ll be showing the easy way and then give a brief overview of the more difficult path.

The Easy Way

You’re also going to want to use something like AirDroid, which I’ve reviewed before, to move the files over because chances are you’re going to be doing this a lot. As you make tweaks or move different things back and forth that GUI is going to come in real handy.

Click to Enlarge

After you put in the image location and name, it will need to copy it to the SDLlib’s directory, probably on your internal memory.

Move your image file over to your device and take note of its location. You’ll probably want to write it down or something, make sure you note the CASE of the letters, because that will be very important. Also you’ll need to make sure you have enough space to copy the image over to the working directory of the emulator that we’re going to use here in a minute. So you’ll need at least twice the space of the original IMG file to use it.

Go to the Play Store and find Motioncoding’s Emulator. It looks like an Android with the Windows XP flag colors on it. Download, install and run it.

Once running, go through the menus (using the forward/back buttons, it really couldn’t be more simple) until it asks you to install libSDL and do so. Then select the option under “Import from Library” to Add Custom Images. Name the image whatever you want and put in the path to the image in there. For example, mine is:

/storage/extSdCard/SDL/Win95.img

Select the image from My Images and continue to the end. You should see your OS boot.

The Hard Way

The reason I’m putting the hard way on here is because it gives you a bit more control over your install and, I think at least, runs a bit faster. In any case I’m going to assume that you’re doing it this way because you’re a little more experienced/curious and don’t need me to hold your hand.

Click to Enlarge

Copying over the SDL apk and related software.

Step one is getting a working version of the SDL apk and installing it. You can do a quick Google search for it, but I’m not sure of the legal ramifications (or its copyright) so I’m not putting a direct link here. Keep in mind that you will need to allow “Apps from Unknown Sources” to be installed on your device. This can usually be found in the “Application Settings” area, depending on your version of Android.

Place your Win95 image in the SDL folder with the APK and rename it c.img, and load SDLlib. You may have to do more tweaking at this point as Networking didn’t work out-of-the-box for me. I needed to modify some already existing .bin and .inf files to coax them into doing what I needed to do, and even then it’s a little haphazard. You’ll need to have some method of editing the img file if you can’t get networking going or you’re going to need to re-image the drive every time you want to make a change.

This way you’ll also have access to the BIOS and VGABIOS bin files, if needed, but I didn’t end up touching them.

Android 95

My reasons for doing this were purely academic. I just wanted to see if I could get it to boot and get it usable. After several weeks of poking at it I was, by all of the above methods, able to get 95 and 98 going this way. Windows 98 was just a matter of upgrading 95 and creating a new image file. I can’t think of many reasons to do this other than for the learning experience, though there are lots of pieces of software out there that don’t work so well in modern versions of Windows and maybe you want to take them with you.

Click to Enlarge

Windows 95 successfully running on my Galaxy Note 10.1 with mouse and keyboard support

Also, I was able to get my Logitech keyboard/mouse combo to work through the 30-pin charging port, and while dragging the cursor across the screen and “clicking” by tap was interesting, the keyboard is the way to go. It’s just too cumbersome for daily use otherwise.

So there it is, an Android tablet booting Windows 95/98! You can supposedly do this with Windows 2000 or XP, but I have not tried. If you have let me know, because I’d be interested in how you got native NTFS to work.

*There’s no instruction here because it really depends on your CD-ROM as to how you’d go about this. You’ll have to find one that will work with Win95 and DOS. I had one in the machine already so it was just a matter of setting it up manually through DOS.

-CJ Julius

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AirDroid: Android File Transfer Made Easy

06/05/2013
In Direct Connect Mode, you don't need to log in and only get access to the "lite" features.

In Direct Connect Mode, you don’t need to log in and only get access to the “lite” features.

I have a bad time with MicroSD memory cards. Seriously, I have destroyed two of them in the past six months. I’d like to think that it’s because of a manufacturing defect, but I’m pretty sure it’s just my inherent clumsiness.

See, my tablet, a Galaxy Note 10.1 uses this type of storage and I spend a lot of time moving things to and from it. It’s usually large files or huge blocks of small files so it takes quite a lot of time unless I put the card itself into an adaptorĀ  and plug it into my computer. Even the USB linking ability through the port on the tablet is painfully slow and sometimes just plain doesn’t work.

Emailing the files was sometimes the solution, but was impractical for larger files. Some times I could transfer through a USB stick, but that too was cumbersome. A few programs existed that allowed transfer between a computer and the device over Wifi, but most of them were lacking in some key respect, or didn’t function as I needed. Then I found AirDroid.

AirDroid is not exactly new to the scene, and in fact when I actually broke down and started searching for a solution to my problem, it was the first one to pop up. So I grabbed the “light” version and was throwing things to and from my tablet within minutes. All you need to do is grant it superuser permissions (so it can read/write/get updates) and sign up for the service (if you want to use the optional web version).

The GUI is very nice looking and offers a wide range of to

The GUI is very nice looking and offers a wide range of tools.

The app has two ways of connecting to your tablet, both of which involve configuring your tablet to act as a kind of file server. The first of these is to directly connect to your tablet over your current Wifi by pointing your browser to a specific IP and port (usually [Local IP Here]:8888). Then, through the gorgeous GUI, you can add/remove files, contacts, ringtones (if it’s an Android phone of course) as well as just about anything else that resides on your device.

The second way is similar to the first, except that you go through the AirDroid website (web.airdroid.com) to transfer files. This is useful if your tablet/phone is at home and you need to get something off of it. Assuming that your AirDroid app is running and connected, you can grab your files from literally anywhere in the world. There is a 1GB transfer limit on this function if you’re using the free version, though. So keep that in mind if you’re trying to pull a movie or something from your device.

If you want to grab an entire directory, you can get everything as one .ZIP file

If you want to grab an entire directory, you can get everything as one .ZIP file

Both of these look identical, in that the web interface is the same for both. The GUI has a multitasking feature, letting you add/remove files at the same time while checking your notifications and anything else you have the bandwidth for, as well as stats on your device like its battery life and storage capacity.

AirDroid did not crash or hang the entire time I used it no matter how much stress I put it under. I was transferring several Gigabytes of files to and from it while poking around in my contacts and looking at photos. Also, I run my tablet through an SSL VPN and didn’t have any troubles from that setup either.

On the whole this is a brilliant piece of software and an absolute must-have for any Android user who moves a lot of data around their mobile devices, which is probably everyone. AirDroid2 should be coming soon to my device and I am definitely looking forward to that.

Rating: 5/5 – Absolutely Perfect. You need this app.

-CJ Julius

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How I Turned an Old Computer Into a Mobile Digital Vault

24/04/2013

For a couple of years I’ve had an older HP AMD64 sitting around that the motherboard went out on, and I’ve been looking for a use for the parts. More specifically, I’ve been looking for a way to use the 500GB SATA HD that’s inside. It seemed like an awful lot of space to waste.

Stripped Insides of the old computer

I just took the HD, RAM and CPU.

I posted a while back on my Twitter (or possibly LinkedIn, it’s been a while) a link to LifeHacker’s “Five Best Drive Enclosures” and slowly the idea has been making its way up my project list.

But I wanted to one-up the project. I didn’t just want a portable hard drive, I wanted a device that I could move around, somewhat, and still be secured in the event that it was stolen. Basically I wanted a mobile digital vault.

First step was to get the drive out of the computer and into something that was useful. Referring back to the LifeHacker article before I chose the Rosewill RX-358 which met all of my criteria: It had to be cooled (fan), support larger drives (500GB) and be ESATA compatible.

HD just before putting top on

It slides right in to the connectors on the back and fits like it came from the factory that way. Kudos to Rosewill.

I dropped the old SATA drive into it, which fit snugly into the case. Once you put the Rosewill back together, it actually feels like it was factory built to be a mobile drive. It feels solid and secure.

I backed up any data on it I wanted, which wasn’t much, and then formatted the drive. I chose NTFS for the drive format type because both Windows and Linux, the two OSes I use most, can both read it. I didn’t plan to turn all 500GB into an digital vault, since I don’t have that many private documents, but you can certainly do that with the software.

Now that I had a newly-formatted 500GB drive I used TrueCrypt to create the virtual drive on it. This software runs on Windows, Mac and Linux, so a drive created in one is readable on any device that has TrueCrypt installed. This is of course assuming that it’s in a filesystem that the OS can read.

TrueCrypt Main Screen

The TrueCrypt Main Screen before I hit the “Mount” button. You can have several encrypted virtual drives running at once.

I tried initially to create a 50GB drive (more than enough for me) in NTFS through Windows, but for some reason Windows wasn’t able to write past about 7GB before shutting down. I tried again in Linux and it had no problem creating the entire 50GB partition and encrypting it with my key.

When I did this, however, NTFS was not an option and I chose EXT4 (Linux filesystem) instead. This meant that while I was able to mount it in Windows, I wouldn’t be able to read the virtual drive without some extra work. This was fine for me, as I use Linux primarily. If you are trying this on your own, keep this in mind.

After the new drive was created, formatted and mounted (with password required)*, I put a copy of a faux folder called “Important Documents” into it with a few files and dismounted. The dismounted virtual drive was an unintelligible mess with no indication of what it was supposed to be, which is exactly what you want.

My "Important" documents

My “Important” Documents encrypted and decrypted fine. Ubuntu acts like it’s just another drive, but in Linux it isn’t in fstab so it won’t show up in your Unity dock.

The device mounted again, after rebooting on the machine it was created on and on another system entirely, showing me my documents in good condition. I was able to mount it on Windows as well, though as mentioned I was not able to read the files from it. I tried a program that was built to read mounted EXT2/3/4 drives, but it didn’t seem to pick up my encrypted drive. There are other methods, such as installing a driver to read the other filesystems, but since this was not a high priority for me I did not do it. Perhaps I will try those options later. I’ll post an update on this blog post if I get anything to work (or not!).

So, there you have it. I now have a 500GB mobile drive with a 50GB digital vault. I would recommend also putting a copy of Truecrypt on your un-encrypted portion so you can install it if need be. If not that, then you can do as I have and sync the installer to your Dropbox. My method, of course, assumes that you’ll have internet access. I wouldn’t recommend encrypting the entire drive for this reason as well, especially if you have a large one. Truecrypt is very smooth, but you don’t want to have to do that every time you get on your drive to move some pictures or something.

Rosewill Running

The Rosewill attached via the ESATA port. The blue lights are factory standard.

Any way you go about it, this is a good way to securely move your data around. If the unthinkable happens, you’ll know that you don’t have anything to worry about… other than getting a new mobile drive.

*Note: Just to give you an idea of the power of the encryption technology in use, with AES encryption it would take a trillion computers doing a billion brute force attacks (password guesses) a second, two billion years to break into your data. Fort Knox wishes it was this secure.

-CJ Julius