Nook SimpleTouch eInk Tablet v2

I recently got the nook 1.2.1 firmware and it locks down the device (again). I knew I was likely to lose all my tablet-y stuff but frankly it wasn’t doing what I wanted it to and at the battery life I might as well have a new tablet. I blame the gapps, which never close and sync in the background nonstop. To add insult to injury, nook apps tend to assume you have colors. No colors makes for a very confusing experience. Also the eInk display tended to be hacky with special secret handshakes to activate fast mode, etc. Turns out someone else got really fed up with it also and decided to write a launcher and android ROM which was based on the official 1.2.1 and also knew someone might actually want to use the nook as a nook! WOW! So the smart guys over at XDA put together NookManager which does all this good stuff and still keeps the B&N official applications so you can read their books for free in the store. It even does the right things with the buttons which is really sweet.

That being said, Amazon seems to know something is up because the kindle app isn’t available in this ROM (although I suspect it’s because it upgrades the android core OS on the device) nor through the store. You have to sideload it from here, which is as simple as using dropbox to grap the APK and then opening it on the device. It does have the google RSS feed cacher, which I have desperately wanted and would crash immediately on the old ROM. The browser is still nothing special and will “forget” to update the page if you throw too much JS at it.

The only real rub is that I have to reseat my SD card for the nook to see it if the Nook completely runs out of battery. A small annoyance since I have 30 microUSB plugs next to my bed but still requires fingernails.

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Building Jellybean for the Vibrant MTD (Galaxy S1)

These are Nate’s notes from the FB group. Nate runs ubuntu so all his Linux stuff is horribly broken crap but the bones are here to make this workable:

***ROM BUILD TUTORIAL***
Wanna build a Paranoid Android Vibrant ROM?
I’ll point you in the right direction.
This can be applied to many devices. Want help? Just ask.
Start here:
–Install the repo
–Open your terminal and enter the following

mkdir ~/bin
PATH=~/bin:$PATH
curl https://dl-ssl.google.com/dl/googlesource/git-repo/repo > ~/bin/repo
chmod a+x ~/bin/repo

–Download the SDK here: http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html
–Extract the SDK and place it in your home directory.
–I renamed my SDK to android-sdk to make it easier to navigate to.
–Type
gksudo gedit ~/.bashrc
–in terminal
–Enter your Admin. password to open the document
–Add these lines at the bottom of the file:

# Android tools
export PATH=${PATH}:~/android-sdk/tools
export PATH=${PATH}:~/android-sdk/platform-tools
export PATH=${PATH}:~/bin

–Then save and close

–Now type
gksudo gedit ~/.profile
–In terminal
–Add the following to the bottom

PATH=”$HOME/android-sdk/tools:$HOME/android-sdk/platform-tools:$PATH”

–Then save and close
–SDK now being set up, type this in terminal

android

–If you get an exception error type

sudo mount -o remount,exec /tmp

–and retry

–Now time to install packages (64 bit required)
–Paste this and enter

sudo apt-get install git-core gnupg flex bison gperf build-essential \
zip curl zlib1g-dev libc6-dev lib32ncurses5-dev ia32-libs \
x11proto-core-dev libx11-dev lib32readline-gplv2-dev lib32z-dev \
libgl1-mesa-dev g++-multilib mingw32 tofrodos python-markdown \
libxml2-utils

–Then this

sudo ln -s /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libX11.so.6 /usr/lib/i386-linux-gnu/libX11.so

–Configure your USB

gksudo gedit /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules

–and copy/paste this to your document.

http://pastebin.com/gXcZ7vx7

–Save and close
–This will add all the devices to the list
–Type the following in terminal

sudo chmod a+r /etc/udev/rules.d/51-android.rules

–Creating your working directory and add a repo
–back to terminal

mkdir -p ~/android/jellybean
cd ~/android/jellybean
repo init -u git://github.com/ParanoidAndroid/android.git -b jellybean
repo sync

–Sit back and enjoy a good movie or two. This will take a long time.
–For the time being you’ll need to sync my modified PA vendor with Vibrant support

cd ~/android/jellybean/vendor
rm -Rf pa
git clone -b jellybean https://github.com/ngiordano/android_vendor_pa.git pa
cd ..

–The fun stuff begins!!!
./rom-build.sh vibrantmtd

When complete look in /out/target/product/vibrantmtd for the zip. The one listed in terminal is your choice

Phew!
Looks good but I’m only human. If I made an error, let’s talk about it.

RSS and Facebook

One of the more bizarre things I’ve found recently now that I consume content on the go is that people don’t publish full articles to RSS. A good example of that is The American Thinker. While it started out as a blog, it’s sort of grown into a columnist site. The problem is their RSS Feed just doesn’t have the content. This means that to actually read their site, I have to visit the site. My workflow at the moment is “Wake up, sync my nook simple touch to the RSS via Opera, drive to the train, read”. It works really well. The problem is that it only works via Opera, and it’s low bandwidth. When I say low bandwidth I mean that it has the same speed a typical tablet or cellphone does – if wifi is there, great. If I’m lucky, I can tether 4G. If I’m less lucky, it’s 3G. The final word in all this is that the train spends a good portion of it’s time below ground or in a trench, and the cellphone and wifi doesn’t work at all. My content is either all stored locally, or I don’t see it.

For something like a blog, this is killer. People don’t really want to see the pictures, and for something like a nook people can’t see them well anyway on the 16 color greyscale screen even if they want to wait to see them download. The mobile market is particularly vexing with this since the browsers tend not to load content in a threaded fashion, and to add insult to injury there’s still a lot of web servers (looking at you, microsoft) which can’t use HTTP stream. If theres’s a picture at the top of the page, you don’t see the article until it loads. Sometimes this is simple esthetics, sometimes it’s intentional branding. I tend to think the IT staff doesn’t give a shit either way.

Facebook is particularly hilarious. I had the ah-ha moment when I realized I still didn’t like google+ enough to make the jump but every time Facebook rolled out a “feature” I liked it less and less. The mobile app is a mess, it still doesn’t cache content, text is (bizarrely enough) rendered as images in android land until you go to select it and it changes the font, and now I don’t get a link preview in an email. Instead I have to click on a link to go to Facebook to visit a link I may or may not be interested in. Got help me if I’m at a library or something which blocks Facebook. I used to be able to copy and paste the link text (the link itself always visited Facebook first) but now that’s gone. I find myself reading Facebook less and less except for groups, which is the only leg up it has to google plus, and publishing to my blog more and more.

Yes dear reader this means more content is coming.

Possibly the worst offense is that google plus works with the nook, wordpress works with the nook, but Facebook says it works with the nook and then refuses to install. Now, not only do they make it a pain to read anything, but they make it a pain to update the device which has my eyes most of the downtime in the day from the device itself. Frankly, what’s the point of Facebook? I can’t help but feel like they wanted to get their hands so deep in the phone that they’ve neglected everything else.

I have a weird feeling they’re going to finally produce a mac/windows app which lives on your computer as a service.

All this speculation and ranting aside, if you have a blog, enable content in RSS. While you might not count every single person visiting the blog, your mobile readers will appreciate it.

Nook Simple Touch: A $50 Tablet

I have reloaded my nook simple touch about four times now. Some of it is very good, some of it isn’t so hot. The nook can be a $50 tablet in addition to being an e-reader, etc. If you combine it with a phone that supports tethering, it’s truly a neat piece to have. My one gripe is the android 2.1 OS on the device tends to seriously underperform. At first I thought it was the eink display and then I figured out it really is just that crashy. The nook was developed to be an e-reader and not much more.

So why root it? For one, it reads books really, really well. If you root it, you now have access to Google Books, Google Market, Amazon AppStore, Amazon Kindle Books, Kobo and just about anything else you could want. In addition to all that wonderful crap, you can install Google Reader, which weirdly enough doesn’t support offline reading, and whatever PDF viewer you want. The stock B&N one is pretty good, but I’ve found for older PDFs, Documents Easy Viewer is essential and also lets you view office documents in 16 shades of glorious gray.

Note that the process I used roughly followed the lifehacker article, except that I’ll link to the newest versions of things. You can follow the LH version, just keep in mind you’ll end up about one version behind everything. It was dated pretty much the moment it was written. You should seriously install dropbox first on your nook, it makes the rest of this much easier.

Before doing anything, sign in with your google account and register the device. You must also have a youtube account married to your google account. You will not be prompted after you root it to register and I haven’t figured out how to get to the java object controlling this process and this is why I reloaded my nook several times. You have been warned. Register the device first.

If you follow the lifehacker article, you have more customization with the nook because you’ll be using touchnooter. If you want to bang out this entire process in one flash but don’t mind having any customization, use SalichaNooter. Finally if you really want to hurt yourself, consider minimalnooter. You should read all three of those first posts to know what’s going to happen with each of those ROMs. They’re all fairly interrelated. I went the touchnooter route and that’s what this doc will cover but I ended up customizing it to SalichaNooter’s standard before even knowing about the other ROM. Oops. The big difference is Salicha’s ROM comes with the ADW theme out of box.

Before you do anything, update the firmware. (Current as of this writing). Throw the ZIP into the root directory of the nook when mounted to your PC and then unmount the nook and put it to sleep. It will reboot. You should be on 1.1.2. You will know if you got there because the display will be faster and wifi will actually work. You want wifi working first.

Step 1: Download the touchnooter rom. Use a high quality SD card (go buy one). If you’re using a mac or Linux do something like dd if=touchnooter of=/dev/sdb bs=1M and you windows guys are probably screwed.

The nook will derp around for about 10 minutes then it will turn off again. Remove the memory card.

Step 2: The nook will boot and prompt you to sign into google. You did configure wifi before you did this, right?

Step 3: Open up NookTouchTools. I map my right hand buttons to “options” and “back”. You can actually hit “options” from the menu bar up top but it tends to be glitchy and not display. I make my “n” button map to “home”. When you hit it, it will prompt you to use ADW Launcher or the B&N bar (I forget what it’s called). I set mine to the B&N bar. Observe the right hand side. You will very faintly see an arrow. This is ButtonSavior. Tapping it will always launch ADW from the “home” icon.

Step 4: Open NookColorTools, uncheck and recheck the “allow non market apps” checkbox. Not sure why but it gets screwy quickly if you don’t.

Step 5: Open YouTube, sign in (if prompted). For whatever reason until you sign in you can’t send apps to the nook from google play.

Step 6: Install the eink debug app from this thread. You have to register to see and download attachments. I prefer the regular one. This changes the screen to monochrome, which is really nice for reading text and scrolling it. This is important in google reader and opera.

Step 7: Install opera mobile. Not the one from the google market. Use that link, it goes to my dropbox. It will install Opera Mobile 12.0.2, which is the last version. Using the eink toggle gesture and opera you get that buttery smooth scrolling. The opera baked into the ROM is too old and does funky stuff. Alternative: Install Maxthon.

Step 8: Install vending.apk (google market) to enable updates. Again that’s the known-good version from my dropbox. You want updates.

That’s it. You now have a fully functioning nook tablet and ereader which will work with all the stock stuff (including in store lending) and also read email, read RSS feeds and view PDFs.

Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich): How to Block Calls

This tip will work for Android 4.x phones running Ice Cream Sandwich of all flavors. It works on numbers which you know, don’t know and existing contacts. Between Android 2.x and Android 4.x google changed the procedure. The old way was to long press on a contact and select “add to blocked list”, which also gave you another icon (a blocked list) in the contact list. Google has gotten rid of this.

Unknown Callers: Press on the number and create a contact called “Blocked Callers”. I like to set their picture to an “Do Not Enter” sign but whatever you want. If you have this contact already you can simply press on the call in the call log and choose “add to contact” and then select “Blocked Callers”. Eventually you’ll end up with “mobile 1” “mobile 2” “mobile 3” … and so on but who cares. Now proceed to reading the next part….

Known Callers: Don’t feel like hearing from someone? Open their contact and press the properties button (or menu on some phones). The menu will open. Google added a check box called “All Calls to Voicemail”. You guessed it, it sends all calls from this caller to voicemail until you uncheck it. For unknown callers, I add them to the list and they go into voicemail. For known callers, this is an easy, temporary fix. What if you want all calls to go to voicemail for a particular period?

Turn your phone off.

Ubuntu For Android: A Lose-Lose

Ubuntu for Android has been the talk of the town for the last few days. What is purports to do is bring a Linux desktop experience to you from a phones docking station. It looks like they’re seriously pushing it for the motorola atrix. Reason being the motorola has HDMI out (something standard on androids nowadays) but it also is one of the few phones with a keyboard and dock. Sounds great, right?

Well, no actually.

For the power user, it’s a lose-lose because the power user probably has a linux desktop. There’s really zero incentive to run ubuntu in the background except to eat your battery and storage because you can’t access it while your phone isn’t docked. For the people that do actually use this sort of device, they probably already own a tablet or a laptop. More on the point, there’s two ports of openoffice to the droid, and there’s google’s own office offering along with document storage in the cloud. The services are already there for android without having to switch out from android to another OS.

The second glaring problem for power users is that you can’t install another Linux on the phone. Say my preference is RedHat’s desktop (which is actually the defacto linux desktop in business). What do I do with a phone with ubuntu installed on it? Not a lot, clearly. What if I want to load another OS on it? Too bad. What if I want to run a second android OS on the phone? Too bad.

That last bit is really important. The way the Android OS is engineered there’s a setting for the screen size (pixel density) to determine which apps run in which modes or which apps are compatible for a given device. What I would do if I were Motorola is instead of entertaining Ubuntu on the phone (which really doesn’t bring any value to the device) I would run a second android on the phone and leverage googles sharing services. The first android would be configured for battery savings (no HW acceleration) and the second android would be configured for speed (all HW acceleration). Dock it and you bring up the second android, which looks just like the first except all the settings are geared towards making it a tablet or desktop.

What about the casual users? Casual users will first notice a several GB partition missing from their phones which supposedly have 16GB of storage. Unlike the dual android setup above, each OS in this ubuntu-phone shit sandwich needs it’s own resources. Secondly they’re going to notice the apps don’t run correctly without pixel density being set correctly. Games, which you would reasonably expect to work nicely and look better on a PC screen simply aren’t going to work because their UI isn’t geared towards a keyboard and mouse. Finally why ubuntu at all? Casual users want either a Windows PC or a Mac. They won’t understand why the resources (documents, spreadsheets, etc) aren’t available in both. Ubuntu can use google’s cloud storage, but Android can’t use Ubuntu-One, which makes the biggest sellingpoint of an ubuntu tablet a liability instead of a bonus.

Finally, why a 2.x series android OS?

Ubuntu needs to stay the hell off my phone.