Archive | October 2012

ROM

In January 2011 I acquired my first Android phone, the Sony Ericsson X10. Those of you who regularly follow my blog will probably be aware of the ‘scandal’ that erupted around the X10 and SE’s decision to stop supporting it with OS updates, a mere 9 months after release, leaving the X10 series languishing on Eclair 2.1.

Of course, 2 months later they changed their minds and brought Gingerbread to the X10, so we know how that ended. It was during this interim period though I first started dabbling with Custom ROMs.

Installing my first ROM was a touch nerve-wracking; I had a �400 phone in my hands and was about to do unspeakable, warranty-voiding, things to it in order to upgrade. Ever forwards, I say. The first ROM I installed was a 2.2 version of Cyanogen Mod. I can’t remember the release number but I can remember being thrilled with myself that I’d hacked the phone *and* gotten rid of a load of bloatware.

More experimentation in the weeks and months to come yielded great results and the opinion that while Custom ROMs are a great showcase for third-party development, they can be a hindrance.

Take the Xperia SSpeed ROM, for example. Built for the NXT series and subsequently ported to devices like the Ray and Arc, the SSpeed Roms were/are a great series. The Xperia S was the ROM I used the most and up until the implementation of ICS, things went very well. Very well indeed. This ROM had exemplary speed and none of the bloatware normally associated with a ‘proper’ ROM. After 10.1, things unfortunately started to go wrong.

The developer, krabappel, made a couple of mistakes which put a couple ROMs at odds with everything else that had gone before. There were problems with the custom kernels he was also building – in order to flash the ROM you were recommended to flash DoomKernel’s, er, kernel, just to get the customisable AROMA installer running. After this, you could install the SSpeed kernel if you so chose. But why bother?

After 18 months of messing around with customised operating systems, I find myself back on rooted stock Sony firmware with the stock Sony kernel. Admittedly it’s the latest ICS .50 firmware from Russia, as the rest of the world is catching up slowly. Bin4ry’s amazing new rooting backup/restore exploit tool roots pretty much anything on ICS, so I stripped out as much bloatware as possible and the S runs like the clappers again. I will probably go back to the latest Advanced Stock Kernel from DoomLord, for some slight overclocking and CWM recovery, but I’m happy enough experimenting with the stock kernel. Watch this space.

GOing for GOld

The Sony Ericsson Active surfaced about a year ago as the first phone from the company with water/dust/shockproof qualities. Coming about a year after the Motorola Defy it was a welcome addition to the market that sadly eluded my clutches for testing thanks to handset shortages in the Sony buyout of Ericsson.

Updating the handset for 2012 then it the Go, the spiritual successor to the Active. Ditching the shape of the Active and going for the standard candy bar, it’s a nice looking phone and feels quite meaty in the hand. The case has a nice rubberised feel to it, which should prevent it flying from your hands when slick with whatever fluid you’ve previously immersed it in.

I’ve been using a Go for about 10 days and I must admit I am impressed with how well it performs; it’s the little phone than can, compared to the Xperia U, which is the little phone that’s shit. It’s a sturdy device that really stands up to a significant battering.

I cable-tied my Go to my dog’s harness and turned her loose down the fields near my home. You’d probably need to take some sort of anti-emetic to view the footage as my dog is completely nuts, bless her, so she hammers around fields for all she’s worth producing shaky wobblecame footage that’s nigh-on unviewable!

The phone fares better when not strapped to a high-octane beast; skittering the phone through puddles, lashing it to the front of the car, putting it in the dishwasher and hurling it downstairs all yielded some interesting footage. If you’ve ever wondered what happens behind closed doors on your dishwasher, put said white good on a low-heat quick wash, put the photo light on and bung the phone in the crockery rack for amusing results!

Something else that sets this phone apart from the shitty U and the other, better, entries in the NXT range is the inclusion of MicroSD support. Yes, the tiny little card makes a more than welcome return to Sony mobiles after being conspicuously absent from the Spring 2012 range, the Xperia S, P and U. Being able to take almost 4000 music tracks with me on a 32GB card and still take a load of photos is a major plus point for the Go and I’m glad to see MicroSD support has returned to the the autumn 2012 handsets.

Minor niggles:

When wet, the screen has a mind of its own at times, so that’s something to be mindful of if/when wet finger tracking in a dire emergency. Or taking pictures.

The microSD card doesn’t ‘click’ into place, rather its held in place by a little rubber cap and presumably the outer shell. Be sure you’ve got the cap in place good and tight when you put the shell on as I suspect this could be a major point of ingress for water if its not securely shut. Or you could end up shearing the cap off completely, which would put paid to the waterproof qualities of the phone. Same goes for the USB port as well, make sure that’s closed too!

The Gingerbread OS that comes pre-loaded on this phone, while optimised for this handset and pretty zippy, is 18 months old. Mind you, the recent upgrade to ICS really throws a proverbial spanner in the works as despite being the newer of the operating systems available it’s touch and go whether it’s actually any faster than good old Gingerbread. Still, kudos to Sony for continuing to upgrade handsets.

The lack of a physical camera button is annoying; would’ve been very useful when trying to use the phone underwater, particularly in the bath, where the heat appears to restrict what the touchscreen ‘feels’.

Summation:

On the whole the Go is a pleasing device. It’s a welcome diversion from the perceived bulk of the Xperia S and will stand up to most forms of destruction. The novelty does wear off after a while and I will be back on my Xperia S in the next couple days; I need the 1.5GHz processing power and 1GB of RAM – I feel the need for speed!

Regardless of speed, if you’re looking to upgrade and want a relatively simple phone and something that will withstand the rigours of daily life with pets, babies, butterfingers and hamhands, the Go should be the goto phone for you.

 

Snubbed + Rebutted

Early September saw the release of the Sony Xperia Tablet S, the second generation model of the Sony Tablet S. Bundled with the tablet’s system is an application called Xperia Link, which allows you to setup a Bluetooth connection for sharing your phone’s 3G with the tablet. In essence it’s a quicker way of going to Settings>wifi>other>portable wifi.

So far, so good. The app had promise. Sony hadn’t pimped it out at all but Xperiablog ran an article providing all the necessary information. Read it HERE. Sadly the article failed to mention – probably as the author didn’t know – that the app only works (officially) with the new Xperia Tablet, not the original. And for those of us rocking the non-3G version of the tablet, that’s annoying. Cue grumbles from me about Sony forgetting about the original tablet, hence the title of this post.

I’m going to be honest, I was suitably miffed. I was able to install the app to my phone but visiting the app store with my tablet to download the client app, I was told the app “wasn’t compatible with my device”. Charming. Even installing the app from a system dump of the Xperia tab didn’t work. Bugger.

Thanks then must go once again go to the good folks over at XDA; some kindly soul has tinkered with the tablet’s client app (don’t ask me what they did!) and provided it for download HERE. I can confirm it works well with the Tablet S; setup is straightforward:

* Activate Bluetooth on the tablet and the phone.
* Open the Xperia Link app on the Tablet. Tap setup. You should now be presented with a QR code.
* Open the Xperia Link app on your phone. Tap setup. Scan the QR code on the screen.
* The devices will talk to each other for a couple seconds, you might need to confirm the link but once that’s done, that’s it. Connection made.

With the connection now saved, and as long as you’ve got Bluetooth running on both devices, tapping Xperia Link on the tablet will automatically start tethering the tablet to the phone. As long as your carrier allows you to tether your signal you should now be able to surf t’interweb on the tablet the same as you would at home on wifi – just remember to turn the link off when you finish otherwise your data allowance will be chewed up, especially if you’ve got everything on the tablet set to auto-sync, like I have!

Happy tethering!

Overkill

The wife asked me to change the SD card in her Mini Pro the other night as it was full to bursting. So I copied the contents of her 2GB card to my computer and transferred those contents to an 8GB card. Or should I say, attempted to transfer, as the process stalled at 72% and crashed Windows Explorer/MyPhoneExplorer a good few times.

To get to the bottom of the transfer issue, I started searching through the contents of the 2GB card, trying to find the cause of the stall. Hadn’t quite gotten around to rooting her Mini Pro but I really wish I had as I most certainly would have gotten rid of the User Guide application.

Sony release phones globally, so naturally the phone must come with a few different languages to cater for the diversity of their consumer base. Picking through the detritus of this app I discovered it requires over 15 THOUSAND files in order to cater for the many languages. Crikey!

If you know how to use your phone i.e. you have it rooted, delete the User Guide app and directory at the very first opportunity you get – or at least the non-English language files – and save yourself a load of hassle when changing memory cards!

15,000 files! Thank goodness for Bin4ry and the locked bootloader rooting on ICS!