Monday 16 December 2013

Mint 16 Cinnamon on a HP nc6320

I have just bought a HP nc6320 very cheaply, and it came with 1GB RAM and Windows XP Pro, which of course I immediately wiped out and installed Mint 16, Cinnamon version, (MATE desktop is also available) after upgrading the RAM to 3GB by adding a 2GB stick. It will take 2x 2GB sticks but I don't have another spare at the moment. I chose Mint 16 because Cinnamon desktop stopped working properly on Ubuntu on my old desktop, and I also bought a Dell Precision 390 workstation and Mint 16 installed and works very well on that, so I decided to give it a go on this, especially since I already had it ready to go on a USB stick.

Installation took around 10 minutes and almost everything seems to work nicely out the box. The only thing I cannot get working at the moment is the fingerprint reader, though I'm not trying too hard, it's not exactly that important to have for me. Wireless works out the box, as does Bluetooth, just make sure to press the Wireless button on the top row above the keyboard to turn it on. Suspend/Resume works perfectly and the 15" screen gives a 1400 x 1050 pixel resolution. Not surprising it all works I suppose since HP originally certified it to run Suse Enterprise Linux Desktop 10. The nc6320 feels fairly sturdy and has a reasonable keyboard and screen. I also appreciate the internal DVD writer it comes with. I do hope it lasts longer than the nc6120 I had awhile back though, which developed a motherboard fault. I've not tested the battery but since it's probably had a hard life the 1hr 37mins estimated is probably correct.

Mint 16 has a great out-of-the-box experience overall, the login screen looks swish and of course various codecs are already installed and the main theme is sensible. Well, except I don't really like green that much! I have installed Humanities-Zukitwo icons and Radiance gtk theme (from the repos), which I think look good with Adwaita Classic Cinnamon theme. I have also set it up in a similar fashion to my main desktop with inverted panel at the top and Cairo Dock at the bottom of the screen. Here's some more screenshots (click to enlarge):

Friday 29 November 2013

Mini sd card reader by Meenova for Android

One of the great things about Android is OTG support. The fact that you can attach a mouse and keyboard or an external hard drive and they work is just wonderful. OTG is short for "On The Go" and a lot of modern Android devices support this. Nexus devices, the Samsung Galaxy S2/S3/S4, the HTC One, the newer Sony Xperia devices along with the Moto X/G. To get it working you attach a little cable and off you go. 
When it comes to reading micro sd cards, especially on the go (pun intended), things become a little more difficult. You end up having to lug around not only a cable but a card reader also. 

This is where Meenova come in. They created  small simple sd card reader that plugs straight into your device without the need of any extra cables. 

There is no doubt that these look cool and at only $12, and a choice of 4 different clours, means this is the sort of thing that you just throw on your keyring, or pocket and off you go. Meenova started off as one of those strange quirky things on Kickstarter and after being fully funded the opened their door to the public on September of this year. 

Personally I think this so cool, it is something I know I would get a lot of use out of. And I think I am going to have to order one. I just felt that there was no need to wait before letting you all see them.

If you want to know more info, or want to place an order head on over to the Meenova website and choose your colour.

Sunday 3 November 2013

Android 4.4 Kit Kat and Low End Devices

Google claim that the recently released version of Android, 4.4 aka Kit Kat, will run on devices with only 512MB of RAM, which means older devices could run it. The problem is, unless it's a Nexus, or Google Experience device (and not the old Galaxy Nexus), it's up to the carriers and manufacturers to modify and release it for their devices. For those devices that will not get Kit Kat there is the option of rooting and installing a ROM such as Paranoid Android or Cyanogen Mod, but that is not really ideal for newbies or a casual user.

However since Google seem to be releasing parts of the stock OS as apps on Play that may not matter. Within hours of hearing of the announcement of Kit Kat there were blogposts appearing with download links to various parts of Kit Kat. I have installed the Google Experience Launcher, Google Search, Play Services and stock keyboard  ripped from the Nexus 5, on my Samsung GS3 which only has 4.1.2, and should be getting 4.3 in November, and may or may not get Kit Kat in the future.  So far it is running really smoothly, just as quick as Nova launcher that I was using before. I've not tried the latest Hangouts yet, though I think I may wait until that gets an official update. And I have installed everything without having root access. As you can see from my video, it's pretty smooth. Sorry about the quality of the recording, had to use my old LG Optimus 2X.

Since Hangouts and the stock Google Keyboard are already in Play, If Google released the Google Experience Launcher and other bits onto Play it would reduce the perceived fragmentation a little and it would make it easier for average Jo or Jill user to get the up to date look and some of the features of the latest OS version like those in Nexus/GE devices. It would also give those features to the highly modified manufacturer/carrier versions of Kit Kat that have their own bastardized launcher installed by default. In the meantime I'm quite happy with using my SGS3 with the apks I have installed until I get to try Kit Kat for real on my 2012 Nexus 7.

Saturday 26 October 2013

When is free not free? When Apple says so

Last week, in case you were living under a rock, announced their new range of iPads, Mac Books and their new OS X 10.9 Mavericks. (Note: I was kinda living under a rock during the announcement and only catching up on it now.) 

During the announcement they flashed the above image. OS X 10.9 is now free. This has been hailed by the mainstream media and Apple centred sites as the best thing since sliced bread. I was only told about it to begin with, and even though I have never been an Apple user I got a little excited. This was my train of thought.

So now OS X is being given away we can all pop over to the Apple site and give it a go. At least that was the first thing that came to my mind when I was told. I was in a lot of shock to be honest. I never saw this coming. Perhaps Apple are not as evil as I thought. Then I started to wonder would my laptop cut it. I expected it not to. However I had a small glimmer of hope. We all need that little bit of hope to get through some days. This was mine.

About now is when the reality kicked in -

                                       FREE. With any purchase of any Mac or iOS device.

Back up a moment here. How is this free? The MacBook, their entry level machine, starts at $1000. Right, I get you now. It is free if you buy an over priced piece of hardware and the reason it is free is to stop us catching on to the fact that you (Apple) continue to rip off your customers.

But I understand why you want to make your customers think like that. Nobody wants Windows 8, sales of PC's and by extension Windows 8 is dropping at an alarming rate for Microsoft. That is even before you get into Windows Surface, Surface RT and Surface Whatever we are calling it this week. Then, there is the rise of tablet based users another factor in the why Apple may have gone down this path.

Then again perhaps there is another reason why Apple is taking this clever marketing - Linux.

Linux has from day one been free. Anyone can choose from one of the hundreds of different versions out there, download it onto a USB stick and be up and running in no time. So what is different today? For a start Linux is.

Gone are the days when Linux was for geeks, or those who know what they were doing. Linux is now becoming easier to access for first timers with the likes of Ubuntu and Mint. It no longer looks awful thanks to Pear or many, many others. Don't believe me, check out this great list that TechRadar put together of the 50 best Linux Distros.

Free can be free, not just when it comes to actual money. Check back in a couple of days for part two of this when we take a closer look at what freedom with Linux brings you from a non-geek point of view. 

Monday 12 August 2013

REVIEW: Elementary OS "Luna"

I decided to try out the recently released latest version of Elementary OS, Luna, just out of beta, which is based on Ubuntu 12.04. I used unetbootin to image the 64 bit ISO onto a 1GB USB stick I use for testing. Running the OS from the USB I found it quite snappy, so I installed it on my Dell Latitude D430 laptop. The installer is pretty much the same as Ubuntu and within 10 minutes I had it installed and rebooted into a fresh desktop. There's a panel at the top of the screen with Applications menu and tray etc, and a dock at the base of the screen which I think is called Plank, it's nice as it's similar to Cairo Dock which I usually use. The Applications menu is nice and simple, and searchable.

The default web browser is super-lightweight Midori, but you can easily install Firefox or Chrome. I found when installing software it's best to open Software Sources in Software Centre first, (rather than trying to install them in the terminal straight off like I tried to do) and enable the extra sources so you can get VLC and other useful packages.

One thing that strikes me about the desktop is it's not immediately obvious how to view virtual desktops, but with a quick Googling I found this handy list of shortcuts for Luna. You can minimize apps by right clicking and selecting Minimize as there's only the Close X on the left of the Titlebar and an Unmaximize button on the right side. I've also discovered that you can create Hot Corners to make things easier by going to System Settings - Desktop - Hot Corners. I have the bottom right corner set to Workspace Overview and the left corner as Window Overview. You could also set one corner to Minimize the current app. Update: You can change the button arrangement and bring back a Show Desktop button on Plank, amongst lots of other useful tweaks, with the very useful Elementary Tweaks plug-in.

For some reason, no resource monitor is installed by default, I usually use top or htop but for newbies there needs to be a user-friendly graphical app installed. Also there does not seem to be a way to make bookmarks in the sidebar in the file manager nor apparently a way to make a shortcut elsewhere either. BTW, if you need to open a root file manager it's sudo pantheon-files. Update: Right click on the Files icon on the dock and select "New Window As Administrator."

The default music app is called "Music" in the dock but I think is actually called Noise. My new favourite music player however is Sayonara, which is a nice lightweight music player, which I've installed via the 64bit deb package. Also there does not seem to be a CD/DVD burner installed by default, easily fixed though.



There's a text editor called Scratch, a mail app called Geary (I mostly use Gmail so I'll probably never use it) and the default video player is Movie Player, but I've changed that to VLC, and Shotwell is the default photo viewer/manager. I have also installed a few extras such as Guake, a drop-down terminal.

Installing WINE means a lot of packages to install!

Overall I really like Elementary Luna, it's pretty smooth, the Applications menu works well once I discovered and got used to the keyboard shortcuts, virtual desktops work really well. It's also nice and lightweight, it feels and looks smoother than Xubuntu and is much lighter on this laptop (Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, Intel graphics) than KDE or Gnome. I've even started liking Empathy messenger, I like the way it notifies me in the dock. The file manager needs a few tweaks, especially a way to make shortcuts in the sidebar and there needs to be a GUI system monitor installed by default, something more lightweight than Gnome's would be great. The login screen is beautiful but I wish the boot splash was more animated to show it's working. Other than those minor points I'm quite impressed with it and I am happy with my Luna install on my D430.

Update 01/09/2013: Only one minor problem I have been having, every time I boot into Elementary the dictionary is stuck on Cuban, and I change it to English but it only lasts for that one session. Also Empathy won't sign into Facebook chat anymore so i've switched to Pidgin.

Sunday 28 July 2013

Updating Maps and Exporting Custom Routes From Google Maps to Garmin GPS Devices

I've been helping to setup a Garmin Nuvi 2445 SatNav for a friend, including updating the maps and planning some custom routes, and I've found the process to be a little frustrating. To check for map updates and OS updates a browser plugin from Garmin is needed, but it does not support Firefox on Linux but works with Firefox on Windows and OSX. It also thankfully supports TenFourFox on OSX PowerPC. I updated the software on the device using it but then it needed Garmin Express, which has to be one of the worst programs I have ever encountered. It only works on Intel Macs or Windows and it barely seems to work! I tried about a dozen times and it still failed to download and install the latest maps. Having Googled around for a bit I found out that the older Garmin software, Map Updater, is more reliable, though sadly Windows only, but I finally managed to update the maps.

Next up I needed to export a route from Google Maps to the Garmin. For a few days or so this worked fine, just had to go to Google Maps, make a custom route, click Link, then Send and select Send to GPS. Then suddenly yesterday without warning, Google Maps lost the GPS option. This has meant looking for another way round it. I tried other online maps services but none of them worked the way I wanted.

With a bit more Googling I have discovered Tyre To Travel, and a useful how to on YouTube. Sadly it's still Windows-only, and does not work in WINE (despite what it said on their website), so I'm still looking for a possible Linux option.

The Garmin Nuvi device itself has actually worked well with custom routes, the key to having working custom routes is having plenty of Waypoints, otherwise the device figures it's own route out. Once you have them exported over, you need to go to Apps, route plotter/planner and load the one you want. When Google Maps had the export option, the Garmin plugin sent the route to Favourites too but not so with other software. Interestingly, the OS of the Garmin seems to be Android based, a custom version of Froyo or Gingerbread judging by the lockscreen. It's just a little annoying that for a company that uses a Linux-based OS that they have yet to release any software for desktop Linux, or at least make their browser plugin OS-agnostic. At least my Powerbook comes in handy as it can at least access the storage of the Garmin, which for some reason does not show up on Linux.


Wednesday 12 June 2013

APIcalypse: The State of Twitter Clients on Linux

Sadly the native Linux version of my favourite Twitter client, Hotot, is unsupported and now not working, because Twitter have shut off API 1.0. I decided to use the Chrome app version instead which has meant that I've started running Firefox and Chrome at the same time just so I can use Hotot. On my laptop however that might be a struggle so I tried to use just Chrome on it's own, but I just can't put my finger on why I don't like using it. Perhaps it's the way some plugins feel like they are not integrated enough. When browsing I always seem to feel like I'm sort of on top of the web rather than in it. It's hard to explain, it's just a different feel.  Although Chrome is quite tidy in layout, once you install a lot of plugins there's a whole load of icons appear in the top right of the browser which clutter things up. Also I find Firefox's Awesome bar is better at suggestions and such than Chrome's URL bar. On the whole I just prefer using Firefox.

Several other Linux Twitter clients have also fallen in the APIcalypse, such as Polly and Turpial, which is a shame as they were both great clients. They apparently had plenty of time to prepare for the API 1.0 shutdown so what gives? This means I probably may not spent quite so much time on Twitter, though I do still have a good usable Twitter client on my Android devices, which is Plume. If anybody knows of a usable Linux native Twitter client that works now, please suggest one in the comments!

Update 13/06/13: I have discovered a fairly new native Twitter client called Birdie, it's a little lacking in configuration options at the moment but it mostly does what I need it to. One thing I'd like is a "reply all" option.  Also being in development, it is a little crashy!

Update 2!
I have found out to get Polly working again you need to install the latest builds from the Daily PPA. And it's stable, though I do find the default layout a little simplistic, I went into File and New Stream and added a Mentions stream. Also Search is not yet implemented either. For me, it's not as nice as Hotot was but it will have to do for now.

Monday 22 April 2013

Ubuntu 13.04 Beta on a Dell Latitude XT

I finally got a replacement 1.8 inch hard drive for my Dell Latitude XT, after the old one failed, so I thought, since I have a fresh drive, I might try Ubuntu Raring Beta to see how well it runs. I downloaded and copied it to a USB stick using Unetbootin (it's in the Ubuntu repos), then booted the machine with it (press F12 to get the boot menu up on the XT). The first improvement I saw was during the installer, it picked up my Broadcom wireless card and utilized it, which previous releases did not do. Last time I installed Ubuntu on this, 12.04, I had to have the ethernet plugged in during the install.

The installer was pretty smooth as usual, I did not notice any other changes, though there may be some that I did not notice. After the install finished I was greeted with the Lightdm screen with the new Raring default wallpaper, which though recognizable I'm not too keen on, which I changed later. On a touch screen PC like the XT you can tap on the Accessibility icon in the top right to bring up the on screen keyboard. Unlike on 12.04, this onscreen keyboard now pops up at every login from then on without further tweaking.

Once logged in, the default desktop is Unity of course, which sadly looks like this on the XT, apparently because of shoddy ATI support and the Blur plugin, which apparently can be fixed once you install the Unity Tweak Tool and disable the Blur plugin.

I however shall switch to my preferred desktop, Cinnamon. It's a more traditional desktop environment that might suit those like me who are not keen on either Gnome Shell or Unity. Cinnamon also has a 2D version which can be selected at the login, which is what I'll use on the XT. You can install Cinnamon with the following commands:

  • sudo add-apt-repository ppa:gwendal-lebihan-dev/cinnamon-stable
  • sudo apt-get update
  • sudo apt-get install cinnamon

And here's how my desktop looks with Cinnamon installed. That's the new look Nautilus, it does look very nice, not sure about features though, I have not explored what's been added or removed yet.

The wallpaper tool looks very nice now, I just had to switch from that after-birth wallpaper to something more soothing....

There, that's much better. I have also installed a few apps I like such as Guake drop-down terminal, Gimp, and Pidgin (I'm not keen on Empathy). I have also configured screen rotation using Magick Rotation, as I did before. I may also get the fingerprint reader working again too.

Ubuntu 13.04 is an improvement in some ways such as speed and hardware support, improved Nautilus, but many other improvements are with Unity which won't be of interest to those like me who don't use it. I'm sure I might find some other improvements I have not covered here.

Update 23/04/13

For some reason 13.04 is very sluggish on my XT right now, even with 2GB RAM (minus 128MB for graphics), possibly because of the poor graphics performance, I decided to install the XFCE/Xubuntu Desktop (sudo apt-get install xubuntu-desktop). Unsurprisingly, Xubuntu Desktop is definitely a lot less sluggish than either Unity or Cinnamon,on the XT.

Monday 18 March 2013

REVIEW: Copy, A New Cloud Backup Service

Cloud Backup Newcomer

I've tried quite a few backup/sync apps over the years, including Sugarsync, Spideroak, UbuntuOne, Box, and Google Drive, but I still mostly use Dropbox, mainly because of it's decent cross-platform desktop and mobile apps and LAN-syncing features. Now there's a new contender, the snappily titled Copy. It has Linux, Windows, OSX 10.7+ desktop applications and Android and iOS mobile apps. Since I do not have an iOS device, or an Intel Mac, and rarely use Windows, I shall focus mainly on the Linux and Android apps in this review. Feel free to let me know how well the Mac and Windows apps work in the comments.

Copy is very much like Dropbox in many ways. It has a similar referral process except that, at least for a limited time, gives you 5GB for each referral which is a hefty size compared with Dropbox's 500MB. You can also get another 2GB for tweeting the referral link on the Copy website during their 'Tour'. Here's my referral link, which will give you 10GB initial storage instead of the 5GB when you sign up without a referral. With just a few people signing up with your referral link you can quickly get a decent amount of storage, I currently have 32GB as of now! Also like Dropbox and others, Copy also allows you to share files with others, though only so far through the web interface.

Linux Desktop App

The Linux app comes in a tar file and once extracted, the app runs from that folder, best to unpack it somewhere you'll remember it, then choose the appropriate architecture (32 or 64bit for your system).  For a desktop system, (I'm using Ubuntu with Cinnamon Desktop) double-click CopyAgent and it asks for your account details and other settings. It automatically sets itself to start at login and runs like Dropbox and UbuntuOne do, with a little icon or Indicator. You can also set where you want notifications to appear (it does not use native notifications) and you can pause sync like you can with Dropbox. Also, like Dropbox, Copy syncs over local LAN to save bandwidth. You can set bandwidth limits and like Dropbox has Selective Sync, so you don't have to sync all the files in your Copy account (handy for small SSDs). You can also choose where you want the apps main folder to be, much like you can with Dropbox. You start with an empty Copy folder, apart from a quick start guide PDF. One thing missing with Copy on Linux is there doesn't appear to be much integration with Nautilus, there are no little emblems on the files and folders to show they are synced or syncing. It does create a bookmark in the side pane, but it appears as a blank icon for me. It's also possible to run Copy on a headless, commandline-only system using CopyConsole, instructions are in the Readme file.

Android App

The Copy Android app is a lightweight and simple to use and has image and document previews, though they are not as good as Dropbox's, which you can flick through like a slideshow, while Copy only lets you view them singularly. Copy's app works well though oddly my Android apks I backed up from my phone don't seem to appear in the mobile interface. Edit: They are showing up now. Other than that it works just fine on my Motorola Atrix 4G, LG optimus 2X and cheapo Scroll Engage tablet.

Web Interface

Copy's web interface is quite nice, clicking on Browse to view your files shows a folder structure that reminds me of the way Finder shows nested folders, and shows image previews much like the mobile app.


Overall I would say with a little more polish, Copy could be a good contender for Dropbox and it has certainly come along at the right time as my Dropbox is really rather full right now! Dropbox still has a few advantages like better integration with Nautilus and LAN-sync, and also though not important for most but handy for me, PowerPC Mac support! However for sheer size of storage, especially with 5GB referrals (at least for now, it's not stated how big referrals will be after this limited time), and having most of the features of Dropbox, Copy is winning me over.

Important Update 01/01/2016

Copy is being discontinued and I am not sure when I am going to put my accumulated 300+GB of files, I do not have that kind of storage in any other service, so i will have to rely on having it on 3 different drives on 3 different machines.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Linux on a Panasonic Toughbook CF-27

Having been given a Toughbook CF-27, I decided to see if I could run Linux on it. As you can see from the specs below, it's quite low powered but it's very solidly built and also splash proof. It's also completely silent due to the lack of any fans and has a very nice, bright, screen. I was hoping it would be the touchscreen version, but alas it isn't.


Panasonic Toughbook CF-27 (Mark 2)
Model no. CF-27 EJ6K3EE
CPU: 300Mhz Mobile Pentium II
RAM: 128MB 100Mhz SODIMM
Hard drive: Toshiba MK8113MAT 6.4GB (now 30GB)
Floppy (Interchangable)
Screen: 12.1 inches (None-touchscreen version)
Connectivity: Connexant 56k modem,
2x PCMCIA slots
1x USB port.
Sound: Yamaha YMF-744B
Graphics: Neomagic MagicGraph 256AV

OS Installation and Customisation

As the Bios has a password on it, it won't boot from anything but the hard drive, so I had to take the hard drive out and use another PC to install the OS. I chose Debian Lenny as it's well supported and a little more lightweight than the latest versions of the *buntu family. But first I had to take the hard drive out of it's metal caddy, which was easier than I thought. An access plate on the bottom of the laptop is only held in with two latches, and the caddy comes out quite easily. Removing the drive was easier than other Toughbook models.

Notice the sim-card slot, it also has an extendible flexible antenna. (click for larger images)

I then attached the hard drive to a mini-IDE to IDE adaptor and installed it temporarily in my test box (AMD socket A/Via board, 1.6Ghz). I installed the XFCE and Gnome desktops (type desktop=xfce at the boot prompt for an XFCE-only system), build-essential, lm-sensors, fusesmb and a few other bits. Once finished, I shutdown, removed the drive and reinstalled it back in the Toughbook. I'm pretty sure Windows would have had a fit at this point but Debian booted quite happily, despite the big difference in hardware. I downloaded Google Chrome to replace Epiphany and Iceweasel (aka Firefox 3.0.6). I haven't always got along with Chrome but it's quite handy for low spec PCs since it's fairly lightweight and I like the built-in browser sync for bookmarks and themes using your Google account. Of course there's always the other option of Midori. Due to the lack of an ethernet port or wireless (which was an option), I'm using an Edimax PCMCIA wireless card, which worked once I downloaded the Ralink firmware. I installed the deb package with 'dpkg -i firmware-ralink_0.14+lenny2_all.deb' as root, as the Gdebi tool isn't installed by default.

As I don't plan on storing much on this laptop, I decided to keep the original 6.4GB hard drive but I've seen some with 30GB or 40GB drives. I may upgrade it later. My next job is getting the onboard sound working. I've had trouble before with Yamaha sound cards on Toshiba laptops. I'll update this post once i get it sorted!


Fixed the sound problem thanks to this bug report, that includes the solution. Debian doesn't include the alsa-firmware package anymore so I had to download it from here and compile it ("./configure" and "make" in the alsa-firmware directory once you've extracted it) and copy the firmware files (.fw) to /lib/firmware/yamaha (need to create it). Rebooted and now it works!

Update 2
Added the Debian backports repository and installed the later version of Pidgin so I can now chat on MSN on it.

Update 3
I've now upgraded the RAM to 192MB and using the Gnome desktop as i had problems with disappearing panels in XFCE, plus I generally prefer it.

Update 4
I've just upgraded the hard drive to a 30GB Toshiba drive (often cited as the maximum this can take which is wrong, the maximum is 120GB, limited by the age of the controller) that came from an old defunct laptop and also served in my Compaq N400C at one time. It already had Debian installed, booted straight away and bizarrely has no problems with the onboard sound.

Update 5
I have recently upgraded to Debian Squeeze without any problems, although it did take awhile!
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Tuesday 19 February 2013

Why The Motorola Atrix 4G Deserved an ICS/JB Upgrade

A powerful phone with lots of promise...

I bought my Motorola Atrix 4G (MB860) awhile back, mainly because I liked the idea of Webtop with the Lapdock and Work & Play Dock that allows you to connect to a TV and use a wireless keyboard and mouse like a PC. However though nice at first this turned out to be a bit buggy and quite slow, especially with a few other apps running. It often took ages to switch from phone to Webtop mode, so it wasn't very convenient. Sometimes I even had to reboot first to get it to work.

At the time I bought the phone, an ICS update was on Motorola's schedule so I thought I would be able to upgrade at some point. Sadly Motorola reneged on it's promise, and cancelled particular upgrade path, eventually saying that the Atrix would not give a decent ICS experience. It seems Motorola would rather people buy a new phone than support a phone that was less than 2 years old. Naturally myself and many others were and still are outraged at this, and the hashtag #motofail trended on Twitter at the time. They did offer some trade in scheme but I'm not sure I'm even eligible for that since I bought mine secondhand from eBay.

Gingerbread problems.

I've found the stock Gingerbread can be quite annoying at times, especially with a few apps running in the background. I'm generally flicking between Facebook, Twitter client, and Google+ apps most of the time and maybe Poweramp if I'm listening to music. With stock firmware, no matter which player I use always had stuttering playback. I also often had high CPU and keyboard input lag. Even a quick Google search took longer than I wanted.

Alternate ROMs

There are now quite a few alternate ROMs for the Atrix 4G, including variants of Gingerbread, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. The most well known being CM10, a version of JB, by Cyanogen Mod. I recently upgraded by Atrix to an unofficial CM10 build called Avatar, which puts a MIUI look on a CM10 (JB 4.1.2) base. I mainly chose it because it's a very recent build. Anyway I already had my phone rooted and the bootloader unlocked for a long time so I gave it a go after a particularly frustrating time with the stock Gingerbread. It didn't take long to flash and I was pleasently surprised by the results. It's absolutely blazing fast! Even with the same apps running I had on stock, it's just so smooth and a pleasure to use. I get none of the sluggish feel of the Stock firmware nor the audio lag and jitter. Poweramp works very well in Jelly Bean and also the keyboard lag has gone too. This phone certainly deserved an upgrade to ICS and even JB!

Now the only downside of the third party ROMs for the Atrix is a lack of camera drivers, so the default camera app does not work. Other camera apps work, but have no hardware acceleration. I have installed Camera Illusion and Video Camera Illusion and they are both stuck at 640x480 resolution. Now if Motorola could just quietly release some drivers to the XDA devs that would be great!  Apart from the camera, and also Webtop and fingerprint reader (both of which I I'm not too bothered about), everything else works fine. HDMI video output works, it now mirrors the phone screen (no Webtop), but sound does not seem to output through HDMI anymore unfortunately.


So either I downgrade to Stock to get a working HD camera, but annoyingly sluggish OS or stay on Jelly Bean and enjoy a fast, smooth OS but no HD camera (and maybe hope it gets fixed one day) or alternately buy another phone. Slight problem I have with downgrading is I cannot find the original UK T-mobile firmware for my phone! If anyone can find a working download link, please post in the comments.

Update 13/06/2013
I have switched to CM10 as it is more stable than Avatar which has had a few little crashes here and there.

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Installing Ubuntu Linux Inside Android on a Scroll Engage Tablet

There have been various ways of running a Linux distro inside of Android, but most use a chrooted Live CD and VNC server that you connect to with an Android VNC client app, and it often involved long sessions of commandline wizardry and scripting to get it to work, until recently when some nice coders have packaged them into an easy to use app and disc image. One such version is "The Complete Linux Installer" by Linux On Android, a free version of which is available on Play. But firstly I had to root my Scroll Engage, which is surprisingly easy to do I used an app called Super SU.  Just install it and run it and it's done.

Next, install the free Complete linux Installer app from Play, open it up and tap Install Guides follow the instructions. I chose the Ubuntu 12.04 guide but there's also Arch, Backtrack, Fedora 17 and OpenSUSE12. Follow the instructions and make sure you have all the prerequisites. The Engage supports loop devices that's required. The app offers links to VNCViewer and Terminal apps if you haven't got them already, and a link to download the special Ubuntu disc image. You can also download this separately from their site, which is what I did, then I ftp'd it across. It has to be extracted into a folder called 'ubuntu' on your SD card (it asks for the directory if it is not in /sdcard/ubuntu). Once you have that, click next and folow the rest of the instructions, for setting up Ubuntu's user and password, and VNC connection.

I found when I first tried to start Ubuntu it came up with this error:

Validating image checksum... /data/data/com.zpwebsites.linuxonandroid/files/[74]: /data/data/com.zpwebsites.linuxonandroid/files/busybox: cannot execute - Permission denied

After a little bit of searching I found the solution here.
"Either navigate with a root file manger to  /data/data/com.zpwebsites.linuxonandroid/files/ and set the busybox files permissions to execute.
Or just delete the busybox if you have already got a busybox install on your device itself (normaly in /xbin or /sbin)
Or wipe the apps cache and data then re start the install app and it should ask for root access, grant this and the app will set busybox to executable itself"

I found it easiest to set the right permissions with Root Browser Lite file manager (freely available from Play, but any root enabled file manager should do). Once I did that Ubuntu worked just fine, it boots to a commandline and starts a VNC server. Once all is running fine then switch to your VNC viewer and enter the details (as listed on the last page of the install guide).


IP: localhost
port: 5900

For Ubuntu
Password: ubuntu
24 bit colour

Once saved and the VNC client is started it should connect to the chrooted Ubuntu system. With the large Ubuntu image, it looks like the standard Unity desktop and there's 1GB of free space to play with and you can install any apps that are in the Ubuntu (ARM) repositories. I found it a little awkward to use VNC and I think it's easier with a USB keyboard and mouse, using it like a little netbook. I'm not sure what i'm going to use it for yet, but it's pretty cool to have!