Category: Phones


I recently decided to try Gingerbread, in the form of the popular Cyanogen Mod 7 on my HTC Desire.

How did I do this and what was the end result?

First off, it requires a rooted phone with recovery installed. In my case I had previously rooted the phone and installed ClockWorkMod recovery 2.5.0.7 so that I could upgrade to Froyo, and since 3 were dragging their heels with the OTA update.

You can see how I did the root and upgrade here: Froyo at Last. Remember, you do this at your own risk and I’m not responsible if you brick your phone.

So, my phone is rooted and has recovery installed. Next I installed ROM Manager Premium from the Android Market.

Why did I pay for this? Put simply, it’s because it gives you instant access to lots of different ROMS, not just those from Cyanogen, and all available for download to your SD card, ready for you to install.

There are also a number of other useful features, such as backing up your current ROM prior to any upgrades. I can’t recommend backing up enough before attempting anything like this, as you can restore your phone back to it’s former glory in minutes.

So, my phone is now backed up, and I’ve chosen my Cyanogen ROM and downloaded it to my SD card. I chose the latest at the time, 7.0.3, tough I believe this has now been superceded by 7.1.0-RC1.

Be aware that the Google Apps are not included in the standard build, and you will be asked by ROM Manager if you want to download them. If you don’t, it means no Maps, Navigation, GMail or even Market, so I did.

In ROM Manager, choose ‘Install ROM from SD card. Choose the ROM you just downloaded, and follow the on screen propmts.

Your phone should boot into recovery and start the firmware upgrade automatically, rebooting into the new F/W once completed.

If you have included the Google Apps, you then go into the setup wizard and put in your credentials as you would a new phone. If you didn’t, you’l get a pretty much a vanilla Android front screen.

Ultimately, I rolled back from this ROM because it does not include the Sense UI, which is one of the things that I love about my Desire, and it left me feeling that I was missing certain things that I wanted to have.

HTC are now possibly rolling out a version of Gingerbread for Desire soon, so I may wait for that and see if it satisfies my  upgrade needs.

That said, there are a few other ROMs out there other than Cyanogen, so I’ll have to keep looking and see what I can find.

Have fun trying a new ROM, but remember, if you brick it, it’s your fault, not mine!

Android vs IOS

I recently obtained an older 1st gen iPhone as a spare, and thought it would be interesting to compare the Android and IOS operating systems.

I know that immediately people will say ‘How can you compare a 1st gen iPhone with a relatively new Android device.

Well, truth be told, I’m not comparing speed, since I know the Android device, an HTC Desire will (Should) be faster.

What I’m more concerned with is how do the standard apps stack up in terms of functionality, and how does the phone make me feel?

In fact most of the standard Apps don’t really operate that much differently, so things like Contacts, phone, calendar, maps, weather and web based mail, such as Hotmail or Gmail, or work very similarly, and with those, I couldn’t find anything that made either platform stand out for me.

However, despite being a big Android fan, I can say the iPhone, despite being an older model, does have some features that the Android based phones would do well to pick up on.

Firstly, and quite importantly, the iPhone standard on screen keyboard is much better than the Android one. I haven’t had a chance to properly try the keyboard in Gingerbread, but I know it is an improvement on the Froyo standard keyboard.

That being said, the iPhone is better still, in that it is simpler and more accurately detects the key pressed. There are better Android keyboards available, such as Swiftkey (My favourite at the moment), SlideIT and Swype. For me I’d still go for the Apple keyboard.

The next item that I think the iPhone does better is Exchange email

I run my own Exchange 2003 mail server, and the Android mail client will only let me see my emails in plain text format. The iPhone client lets me see them in their full glory, as intended by the sender, images and all. Why can’t my Droid do this?

Apparently Exchange 2003 doesn’t support HTML emails via Activesync, but if the iPhone can do it, why not the Droid.

I am upgrading to a later version of Exchange anyway, but that would be a big step to take just to get HTML emails on my Droid. Harrumph.

Finally, nobody has yet, IMHO, been able to surpass the iPod, and despite a great attempt by HTC, which now allows you to sync your iTunes to your HTC device, the iPod functionality of the iPhone is still streets ahead.

What does the Android do better then, I hear you ask. Well for me the Sense UI provided by HTC is much slicker than the iPhone interface. I may change my opinion if I get to play with a later iPhone, and if so I’ll update this but for now that’s where I’m at.

In fact, the standard Froyo and Gingerbread interfaces are, for me at any rate,  better than the iPhone UI.

Why is this? Well, I mentioned earlier about how the phones make me feel, and with the iPhone, I feel like it is somebody else’s device that I’m just borrowing. It feels restricted, and I don’t like that.

The Desire, on the other hand feels like it is a blank canvas you can customise to your hearts content, and I feel like its mine, and not just on loan from Steve Jobs! The Droid has proper multi-tasking too.

That’s why, despite the good features of the iPhone, which is an iconic piece of design and a standard setter, I will always plump for the Android device, simply because of the way it make me feel.

These are my opinions, feel free to comment!

It’s been such a long time since I last blogged. I thought I’d better get started again.

I shall try to get something posted soon re a comparison of the Android and IOS UI and what I like and dislke about each.

So come. back soon!

I recently noticed something about my rooted Froyo HTC Desire which had me slightly worried, because I had little idea of when it had happened, and it caused my security to be slightly compromised.

I’d recently done a factory reset and reinstall, and noticed the other day, completely by accident, that when I drew my unlock pattern, I could draw it with one node missing and still get in!

The problem was easily solved, by entering a new unlock code, but just beware to those of you in the same position as me,  check to make sure your security is working after a restore.

I’ve always been looking for ways to try and eke out the memory on my phone, and what with upgrading to Froyo with its App to SD functionality, I’ve been doing pretty well. Don’t forget, my phone is rooted so if you have a vanilla Desire, you can’t do what I’ve done here. Rooting is truly the way forward!!

Now I’ve had 4 days off this week, and this spare time that I don’t usually have, led to a bit of tinkering. In short, I started looking a bit closer at Titanium Backup Pro, which I’d purchased and use as a scheduled backup tool.

However I found a feature amongst the batch processes that intrigued me. It’s called ‘Integrate updates of system apps into ROM’.

When I hit the run button, it suggested 6 apps that could have their updates rolled into the ROM:

  1. Flash
  2. Gmail
  3. Maps
  4. Market
  5. Street View
  6. Voice search

What this means is that updated system apps, that are considered part of the Android OS, can be moved from taking up space in RAM, into the system ROM, freeing up valuable space. This was just the thing I was looking for to give me a significant RAM boost!

So I approached with caution, and moved Flash first. The documentation for Titanium Backup Pro suggests a double reboot after using this batch procedure, so after rebooting twice, I tested Flash and all was good. More significantly a large chunk of RAM was now free.

So, I then moved on and tried Gmail and Voice Search. Again, success! More free RAM, a total of 19% freed by this process, and everything worked fine after a double reboot. A double reboot is nowhere near as classy as a double rainbow BTW!

Spurred on by my success I decided to try Market next. To my dismay, the phone rebooted halfway through, and Market no longer worked, even after a double reboot!

So, in for a penny, in for a pound, I also tried Maps and Street View, with the same reboot problem halfway through and dead apps afterwards. Titanium Backup couldn’t help either, despite my attempts to restore things back the way they were.

So, with a heavy heart, I carried out a factory reset. The phone came back fresh as a daisy, and I set about getting back into the Market and reinstalling Titanium Backup Pro. Since my license file was installed on my SD card, along with the backups, it all came back up nicely, and I was then able to restore my last backup and have my phone back the way it was before I mucked it up. Yes, it was my fault, but knowing better now, I have returned to the process and moved Flash, Gmail and Voice Search successfully again and regained the 19% space. So I went from 89% used, down to 70% used, and though there have been some updates to Market and Maps, I’m still only at 80%, which isn’t bad, since at the last count I had 70 apps installed!

I’m keen to get the rest moved to ROM, but I’m not in a hurry now. I’m probably going to email the dev for Titanium Backup Pro to ask if there are any caveats with the integration int ROM, but if I get any further with this and do successfully move the remainder, I’ll be sure to post here.

The moral of this story? If you have a good backup, you need never be afraid to factory reset!!

To be honest, doing an app of the week is difficult. Especially now I have my phone pretty well settled, so it is getting harder for me to come up with something new on a regular basis.

This week, I have had an app that got me in to quite a lot of trouble. So why is it app of the week? Because it also got me out of trouble, and because the trouble it got me into was really my fault!

The app in question is really only for rooted droids, mine being an HTC Desire, and the app in question is Titanium Backup Pro (Paid).

I’m going to write about how I got into trouble in a separate piece, but basically I had to factory reset my phone. I then restored using Titanium Backup Pro, and the whole process of factory reset to fully restored with all my tweaks took only around 1.5 hours.

If you have a rooted droid, I highly recommend this app, because it does a whole lot of other neat tricks too, not just backups.

Go buy it, its well worth it.

I’d heard a rumour that it is possible to sync your iTunes music with your HTC Desire, using the latest and greatest version of HTC Sync.

So, I went off to HTCs website, and downloaded the software and set about installing it. And it turns out to be true!

I was quite surprised, but not only does music I’ve ripped from CD into iTunes, but also music I’ve purchased will sync and play.

Quite handy really, seeing as I now have my phone with me all the time, and the iPod is permanently attached to the car.

I’m very impressed!!

Well, it’s been a while coming, but finally another emulator has arrived that is this weeks ‘App of the week’.

I grew up with 8Bit computers, starting off with a ZX81, the Spectrum, closely followed by Atari XLs and XEs, and various other less well known machines. Though I was never a CBM64 owner, well at least not until later life, friends had them and got to knew them and the games they played.

For me, the Ataris were better, had more interesting games and add ons, and were, if you knew where to look, surprisingly easy to buy things for.

I still have quite a collection of 8Bit hardware these days, and sometimes fondly retrieve them from the loft for a few days of retro gaming.

So, imagine my joy when I found, in amongst all the Atari 2600 emulators in the marketplace, a full blown Atari 400/800/XL/XE emulator!

I dug out all my old files I used with my PC based 8Bit emulator and copied them over to my Desire, and began to relive my Atari glory days!

Ok, it’s not perfect, and the lack of a soft keyboard is a pain, but it’ll do for now! Off for another session of missile command I think!

Download it and enjoy! Its called Droid800.

I now have Firefox and Opera installed on my Desire. I thought it would be interesting to run the Acid3 test against them, and the standard Android browser. The result was 97/100 for all three browsers, and whilst not top marks is still pretty good. Overall, Opera was fastest, but the on screen rendering looked a bit odd. Firefox and the standard browser gave very similar results, though I felt the image was slightly better quality in Firefox. So, overall, not much to choose between them, though the Opera rendering speed was impressive.

Try the test for yourself here:   http://acid3.acidtests.org/

A quick post this week as I’ve been a bit preoccupied with looking into task manager usage. However, I’ve decided to go with the app I’ve just used to post this with. It’s an app called WordPress and it lets you quickly and easily manage your WordPress sites via your droid. So if you have a WordPress site of any sort, I wouldn’t hesitate t recommend it.

I recently tested battery life without Advanced Task Killer as I’d heard battery life could be improved without, plus after some research, I’m begining to feel that a task killer just isn’t needed.

The red dots indicate the start and end of the period during which the phone runs on battery on the 6th and 7th November, whilst I was at work on a 12 hour shift. When running without Advanced Task Killer, the charge at the end of the day was just 2% higher, which could be attributed to slight differences in what the phone did i.e. Received more/less emails, Twitter updates and slight variances in WiFi usage because of that.

I didn’t feel any noticeable performance boost without the task killer, everything was just the same in fact, however the phone had a habit of doing the odd unusual thing, and without the task killer running it did feel more stable.

So, I’m going to run without from now on, and just use it for diagnostic purposes.

There’s a good article here about task killers: Task Killers Explained, its well worth a read.

You can also discuss on our forum if you’d like to join.

The app I’ve chosen this week, is a utility called BatterySnap.

If like me, you are constantly watching just what is chewing your battery, then this is a great app.

It keeps all kinds of stats in relation to just what your battery is doing, and can produce some nice graphs of what’s going on.

What’s more, is that is both free and free of ads, so worth every penny!!

Go get it today.

I was away with work on Wednesday and Thursday, and got chatting with some new people at one of the other offices belonging to our company.

One has an HTC Desire, and mentioned he was interested in rooting it, so I said I’d pass on the info of how to do it, having successfully done so and upgraded to Froyo. Those of you who have read my previous blogs know that I ultimately did this because Three were very slow in releasing the offical update,

So I began with the obvious statement ‘Have you got auto backups turned on?’ He wasn’t sure, so I proceded to look on my phone, only to find that I couldn’t find the settings anywhere.

So I began to wonder if this feature had been removed. It’s normally found under ‘Settings/Privacy’, however I no longer have the ‘Privacy’ shortcut.

So, I set about trying to find out just what had happened to my ‘Privacy’ settings, and as it happens, they’re still there, just not generally visible.

To get at them, go into ‘Settings/Search’ and allow ‘Settings’ to be searched. From there, go back to your home screen and press the ‘Search’ button on your phone.

Touch the blue ‘g’ icon, and you’ll get a pick list of where you want to search. Pick settings, type ‘Privacy’ and search. You should get a result back, and when you touch it, lo and behold, the Privacy settings open, and you can turn on automatic backup and restore.

How annoying is that!!

The other annoyance was that I use the SlideIT keyboard replacement, and I had to turn it off and use the standard Android keyboard before the search worked properly!

I hope others find this info useful, as it had me foxed for a little while.

I have been tinkering with Android App Inventor a little recently, and have it set up and running on my main laptop at home.

I often work nights and have a second laptop I sometimes take with me, and thought it would be good to get App Inventor up and running on it too, for those quiet late nights when I have nothing happening at work.

Since I’d already used this laptop to root my phone, I thought ‘No worries, all the drivers I need will be installed’.

How wrong was I!!  No matter how hard I tried, the blocks editor would not connect to the phone.

Ultimately, I had to remove everything that I’d previously installed HTC wise, and re-install just the App Inventor Extras Software. Once I’d done that and reconnected the phone, all was well.

I’d also had the Android SDK installed, which had it’s own copy of adb.exe to further confuse matters.

To be sure you’re using the right one, connect your phone, open a command prompt, and navigate to c:\Program Files\Android\appinventor-extras.

Type adb devices and you should see a list of devices attached. It’ll be something like

HT06SPL00260     device

If you don’t see that, then you’ll need to run through the the process here: App Inventor Setup.

It does work, just be sure to follow it exactly!!

Well, I’m a bit late with this this week on account of being on a night shift, and as a result, not knowing my ass from my elbow…..

However, before I got started with the shift this week I did download the full version of, yes, you guessed it, Angry Birds.

With over 3 million downloads, and with so many attempted downloads that apparently GetJars webservers keeled over, it quite a popular app!

And deservedly so, as it’s simple to play, great fun, and has an addictive quality lacking in so many games today.

My only gripe is the Ads, but lets be honest, this means you get a free game, and they aren’t overly intrusive.

If you don’t have Angry Birds, go get it now!

Well, too late for me since I’ve rooted and flashed my Desire to Froyo,  it seems that Three have finally released Froyo.

I found this article tonight (I’ve been working 10:00 til 19:00, so have only just checked up!): Three updates the HTC Desire with Android 2.2.

This is long after the hinted September release, and a month after I went a hacking….

I hope for those who didn’t want to risk ruining their phone that the wait was worth it. Update now, if you haven’t already done so.

I also hope that the extra time taken avoids some of the less enjoyable experiences other operators have given their customers.

But please, next time Three, just start working on it sooner so your paying customers with branded handsets can get more Android lovelyness sooner.

Well, I was wondering just what app that would be my app of the week, when I was caught off guard by SlideIt, a keyboard replacement that works just like Swype.

Instead of typing each letter, you rub your finger across the keys, and your movements between letters are interpreted and word possibilities are automatically added to whatever text box you are typing in. If more than one possible result comes up then you get to choose from a list of suggestions.

I have to say it’s pretty impressive and despite the odd mis-interpretation, it is quite accurate and has handled some quite large words with ease.

There are both paid and free versions, I’m currently using the free one and I like it very much.

My only complaint would be the fact that it doesn’t have the option to hold keys down for characters and numbers, though it does have a direct link to Google voice search and a nifty little drawing area that you can use to enter numbers, and it also gives you four sets of characters instead of the standard two.
Overall a very nice little app, well worth the space on your phone.

This week was a toss up between two apps. Reloop, a music making tool, and the newly released Tweetdeck for Android.
In the end, I plumped for Tweetdeck, due to a lack of time to play with Reloop.

Despite the fact that the HTC Twitter client is actually quite good, I was always a fan of Tweetdeck on the PC, so trying it on my Desire seemed like a natural progression.

I like the fact that it has a nice compact widget, that allowed me to regain some space for other items, and I like the ease of use, with large friendly obvious icons, plus the configurable columns. It certainly gives the standard client a run for its money.

Overall, a very polished app, with the only real letdown being the slightly odd installer as it is currently a beta product, though you’d struggle to tell.

Since it is beta, you need to register with Tweetdeck to get hold of it, but it only takes a couple of minutes, and it’s well worth it.

So what are you waiting for?

Its only taken me a week to notice that Froyo allows rotation both left and right for apps now, effectively giving 270 degree rotation.

A great addition IMHO, and one of the things that I thought the phone needed.

It is slowly revealing itself to me 🙂

I have to say that one app really impressed me this week, mostly because it saved me money.

The app in question is ShopSavvy. If you’re not familiar with the idea of this app, it lets you scan a products barcode, and it will then go away and find the best deals for you online, and lets you link through to the sites that are selling the product.

A colleague lent me a book, and I decided it would be worthwhile getting my own copy, since it was a technical book that would be very helpful for work.

He tells me its around £50 new, which made me wince a bit, and even shopping around manually, the best price I could find was just over £21.

I then fired up ShopSavvy on my Desire, scanned the barcode on the back of the book. ShopSavvy then came back, literally in seconds with a list of prices for both new and used copies of the book.

The price I paid in the end? The book was just over £10 for a used copy, and with the postage, the total came to just over £13. And it was through Amazon, who I’d previously done a manual search on and came up with the price of just over £21.

So next time you’re shopping, and want to do a price check, think of ShopSavvy, and you may save yourself some money.

It’s also available on Apple devices too, and it’s free. What are you waiting for, go get it now!