Thursday, June 24, 2010

What Apple could learn from Android: My experiences with an Apple iPad

So I've been an Android user for a while now - I love Android and the
freedom it gives me - my phone is a Nexus One which I ordered the day
they came out in the USA and had it shipped over especially to me in
So when the iPad first came out I wasn't really interested - it's a
big fricken iPod touch!

Well.. until I saw it - and used one.. and I slowly changed my mind.
My Boss got one and showed it off to everyone and loved it - and I
started appreciating the appeal of a well designed tablet device -
which the iPad definitely is.
My wife noticed this and with my birthday coming up she was wondering
what to get me - out of the blue she asked me - would I like an iPad.

At first I thought.. nah.. what would I use it for, etc.. but the more
I thought about it the more I was drawn to the idea - so in the end I
pleaded guilty and so she ordered one for me.

I love my iPad - don't get me wrong with the rest of this post - it's
an perfect size, well designed, fast, and has an awesome screen. The
battery life is incredible (more than 8 hours of constant game/movie
The Apple App Store is also pretty good - lots of well designed apps
and games and plenty more appearing every day.

So what could Apple learn from Android then if they have such a great device?

Well.. there's a number of flaws with the whole iPhone/iPod/iPad
environment unfortunately..

iTunes sucks - I mean.. its a great music player - but the rest of it
is pretty awful and feels like it was just tacked on.
It's painfully slow to browse the app store in their in-app web
browser - and if you're syncing at the same time its near on
It crashed about four times for me in the first few days - mostly for
totally innocuous. But then I'm using Windows - and Apple has made it
pretty clear that they consider Windows users as second class
citizens. Or maybe they think 'Ahh.. noone will notice - its on
WINDOWS - everything crashes all the time anyway!' .. meh!

Notifications on the iPhone/iPad are primitive - they're all mode-less
dialog boxes that pop up in single file and interrupt whatever you're
doing. There's no way to see them all at a glance or dismiss just the
ones you want to - you need to wade through them completely - very

Soft Keyboard - the soft keyboard on the iPad is actually pretty good
- though I really miss Swype and voice input is also lacking. Apple
don't let you replace anything - so if you don't like the keyboard -
bad luck!

App Crashes/Memory issues - seems that apps/games can chew up memory
and have memory leaks and the OS isn't smart enough to clean up after
them or limit them in any way - no wonder this thing is easy to
jailbreak! Unfortunately it means that eventually you'll go to start
an app or game and it'll run out of memory and bump you back to the
home screen. Apple have a support page for this - all of the game
FAQ's from different companies seem to redirect to it -
Basically the only way to solve the problem is to Reboot!

Lack of Multitasking - iOS4 is out.. why not for iPad! Yeah.. okay..
minor issue and we'll get it eventually.. but why have we been left
out - this device is sorely in need of some multitasking (even if its
only what Apple calls multitasking).

Impromptu Reboots - I've had a few weird reboots from the device since
I got it - one I was able to repeat every time as it seemed it didn't
like an episode of House I was watching. I got to watch the first 10
minutes and then it decided it didn't like the rest and if I play it I
get 2-3 seconds and then boom - reboot to broken Apple symbol.
Totally reproducible - even tried skipping further into the episode
and the same thing happened.

No Back Button - It really needs a back button. I mean.. you're in an
email and click on a web link.. it closes your mail and opens up
safari - sounds fine.. but then to get back to your mail you need to
close the browser and re-open your Mail again. What if you have been
sent a bunch of links! How frustrating! In Android you can just use
the back button and jump back into the app you came from - whether it
be twitter, mail or anything else.

No Widgets - c'mon.. even Windows Mobile has widgets!

So there are my main quibbles so far - I'm loving the device so far
apart from these problems - I spend a fair amount of time on the train
so using this to amuse myself on the trip - and I've found I do like
using it at home too - while sitting on the couch or relaxing in bed
its much nicer than my phone screen. I enjoy the collection of games
too - there's some great ones available for it!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Custom Kernels for the HTC Magic PVT32a!

Awesome news guys!

We (well.. TigerTael from XDA actually, but I helped a little! ;) have now successfully reverse-engineered the HTC Magic kernel source code for the 32A magics.
Why did we do this? Well HTC have been dragging their feet in giving us the kernel patches required to build a kernel for the HTC Magic 32A handset and it's been frustrating the hell out of a lot of us - so much so that we tried figuring out what needed fixing and where the changes needed to go. The end result is a fully booting, wifi-packing, kernel with the full memory of the 32A handset and everything working!

So.. what does this mean for the average joe? Well.. real tethering for a start.

Well if you're interested in getting a customised kernel with full tethering support, kernel optimisation, swap/compcache, apps2sd, tethering support (iptables/tun), etc - then this is awesome news for you 32A handset owners!

Now even if you're not interested in any of the above.. you may just want this massive kernel vulnerability fixed on your phone and not have to wait months for HTC to deliver it like they normally do ;)

Cyanogen (who already builds awesome optimised and cutting edge kernels for the HTC Dream and HTC Magic 32B) has stated in #android that he's interested in a completely 'universal' rom for all Dream and Magic owners (32B AND 32A variants) and will look at adding this to his future roms, while others have started compiling custom kernels already.
There's actually a version of his latest 4.0.1 rom out already with a custom kernel (incl. iptables and the kernel fix, but not with any major optimization as yet) if you're keen to get started.

I'm sure now that this is out in the wild that we'll see a huge step forward in roms for the HTC Magic in future! So keep your eyes out on XDA!!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fully Body InvisibleSHIELD for the HTC Magic

I purchased the Zagg InvisibleSHIELD a while back but been putting off putting it on my phone as after reading the instructions it just seemed like a monumental task to do so. And of course you need to leave your phone OFF for 12-24 hours while it 'cures' - this alone kept putting me off as I've been having far too much fun with various roms and the phone itself for the last few weeks.

Well I had some time today and decided I might as well do it before it gets scratched without it - so I cleared a nice space on my desk and proceeded to apply the pieces.

Now Zagg didn't actually supply any instructions with the InvisibleSHIELD specific to the HTC Magic - instead they included their general instructions and recommended I watch the videos. The videos were for every other phone but the HTC Magic so weren't very useful in figuring out where each piece went - which was a let down to me - I emailed Zagg but after several emails all they would say was: "According to our policies, I am unable to send out a diagram of the invisibleSHIELD pieces for your device." - GREAT - that's helpful guys.. -1 for Support.

So I persevered and managed to figure it out. It was mostly the side strips that confused me but I think I got them right.

I have to say though that I'm less than impressed with the coverage. This is supposedly the 'Full Body' coverage and there's little gaps between it all and there were several spots that didn't line up very well - the worst was the back sheet with the camera and speaker holes.

Take a look at my photos at:

And you'll see what I mean. I've been very underwhemed by the whole experience.

Because of the multiple strips and curves on the HTC Magic I spent about two hours putting it on and getting it to stick on the edges (using the 'pinch' technique that they mentioned on their website and videos). I had to let each strip dry and stick before I moved onto the next one, and since there are a lot of curves on the HTC Magic it required a lot work.
Not exactly a fun experience there either.

The feeling of the film on the phone so far is very sticky on the screen itself which makes it hard to slide and swipe easily like I'm used to. I REALLY hope this clears up when it's cured. Already I've noticed heaps of little mini-bubbles start appearing under the surface in some spots (mostly the sloped/curved parts) and according to their instructions these should disappear within 2-3 days. I've also noticed several scratches in the film itself - again.. I'm hoping that these will clear up as I'm going to be furious if they're not.

Needless to say I will NOT be recommending it to anyone else unless this thing is fricken amazing when it cures properly - it's only been on for about 6 hours so far, so guess we'll see - apparently it takes 2-3 days for the film to cure and the micro-bubbles and imperfections to clear up.

I'll post more pics in a couple of days and let you all know how it goes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Ultimate Sapphire Hacking Wiki now available

I've just finished putting the last touches on the Sapphire Hacking Wiki available at:

I urge any new HTC Magic users to read it to help them get started.
I urge any advanced users to read it and help keep it up to date!

This is a generic Hacking guide for any Sapphire handset - ie. HTC Magic, Vodafone Magic, Rogers HTC Magic, Google ION, even the TMobile MyTouch 3G!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hero on HTC Magic - three weeks in and still loving it!

I have to say I'm still enjoying this Hero ROM.
I'm using the Rogers conversion of Fatal1ty's Hero 1.4 as linked from here for my PVT32A handset: (use the original Fatal1ty rom if you have a PVT32B)

Collection of ROMS for Rogers (well.. any PVT32A phone really...)

Please people.. learn which handset you have and install the correct rom - the two phones have different boot methods and wlan drivers - so if you install the wrong one it won't boot - simple.

Read the XDA Sapphire Wiki!

So back to what this post is about - Hero.. so the first thing I did was switch TouchFlo off - the widgets and everything are lovely, but it's far too slow and just not ready for primetime.
I've applied the Camera fix to this and that's about it really.

Once you have the rom installed you can turn TouchFlo off by going to Settings->Applications->Manage Applications->TouchFlo->Clear defaults

Then press the Home key on your phone and when it prompts you first select the checkbox to Always use this or set it as defaults, then press 'Home' and not touchflo.

Okay.. got Android Home back in! yay. speed!

Actually.. it'll probably still seem a bit sluggish for a while until all of the touchflo stuff gets moved out of the cache. You could prolly reboot the phone to speed this up, but I didn't bother. I'm also not using Apps2SD/Swapper/Cache2SD or any of that stuff - but then I also have the 288MB HTC Magic, not the 192MB crippled one.

So what's so great about this if you don't get TouchFLO? What's the point of getting Hero?

Well.. the applications that also come with Hero are excellent.
Lemme explain why...
  • HTC Peek - if you're a twitterer then this is cool - built in support for twitter with nice notifications. URL Shortening, Image posting, even Geo support!
  • Facebook/Flickr built in. No need for third party apps - it'll automatically grab pictures for your contacts that are also on facebook with the same name, provide you with Status updates and even links to the latest pictures they've uploaded on flickr. And you can now take a photo and Share on Flickr/Facebook/Twitter/etc too.
  • The new 'People' app is awesome - this is a huge revamp of the Contacts that came with cupcake and has lots of other neat stuff like Google Maps support (click on contacts address and it goes straight to Google Maps) and what not - you can also update your own facebook/flickr status through your 'My Contact Page' - you can also click on contacts and see THEIR facebook/flickr status and updates.
  • HTC Keyboard comes as default - no need to install it. Highly recommended though I'm looking forward to playing with CooTek's TouchPal when it's out as that looks nice too.
  • Hmm.. what else.. Power button held down now has extra options including Vibration Mode toggle and Mobile Network toggle.
  • You can set a separate wallpapers for Lock screen now too which is nice.
  • Footprints App lets you post geo-location info - so you can mark your favourite spots, take photos, etc (never used it tho tbh)
  • Other apps that come with it are a nice Weather app, Stocks app, Music app
  • Multitouch Browser - this is awesome and works pretty well - the browser has Flash support too - though I wouldn't bet on it being perfect just yet.
  • Smart Dialer with favourites and call history - I forget whether this is much improved.. but the StarContacts crap that came with that ION rom has nothing on this.

So what are the issues?
  • Broken Bluetooth Headset support. You can listen to music fine over A2DP, but you can't use the microphone for calls. It's broken.. no one has figured out a fix for it yet. And yeah.. no bluetooth filesharing yet either - but then no rom offers this yet as it's not been implemented fully (though there are third party apps that apparently offer it.. kinda)
  • LEDs are mapped incorrectly - no more orange charging LED (just a green light when fully charged) and other LED colour changes won't work in some apps. You still get green flashes and trackball glows for notifications tho! ;)
  • Camera is screwed up out of the box - just need to grab the old camera package and reinstall it to fix this. Takes all of five minutes to fix this.
  • TouchFLO is pretty useless and slow still.. this will improve I'm sure.. but for the moment.. steer clear of it!
None of the above really bothers me much.. the advantages far outweigh the negatives for me really. I tried testing out nk02's ION rom recently and couldn't believe how backward it seemed - StarContacts sucked, Task manager included had expired and it just seemed really lacking.
Within the hour I had reinstalled Hero and was instantly happier.

So I'm on Hero for now.. and here to stay! ;)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How to install a built-in recovery rom with Nandroid backup/restore

Amon_RA and Cyanogen on xda-developers have done some excellent work building a recovery rom with root, recovery mode, and Nandroid Backup and Restore functionality.

The latest 1.1.1 version works on both HTC (PVT32A) and Google (PVT32B) magics and you can find the files to download and instructions on xda-developers.

So what can you do with a recovery rom and why do you want it?

Well.. the nicest thing with this is that you don't really need a PC to install roms and fastboot. Once you've flashed the recovery rom on your phone you can jump into it at any time by powering it off, and using HOME + POWER.

It also has root - so you can install files/etc on your rom without actually needing root access on the rom itself.
And lastly.. you can backup and restore your phone at any point using Nandroid.

Pretty cool - definitely recommend this to you all!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Video of HTC Hero on Magic in action

Hero/Sense UI on your HTC Magic

So last night a very interesting thing happened. Someone on xda-developers released an official HTC Hero ROM for the world to see, and instantly people started picking it up and ripping it apart for all the existing Android phones.

Including.. your very own HTC Magic.

Now there's two variants of the HTC Magic - the PVT32A model that is HTC branded and has 288MB ram and the PVT32B model that is usually Google branded (some times in partnership with a carrier) and has 192MB ram.

As mentioned previously in my blog - I have the former.

And if you too have the PVT32A model - you can follow the following instructions and install HTC's latest Hero/Sense UI interface on your own HTC Magic's ;)

Trust me.. it's worth it!

Next you need the HTC Magic ROM for your device - I used this one provided by skittleguy on xda-developers. I didn't need to change my SPL at all to apply this rom - I still have the stock one listed below in an earlier post. Applying SPL and radio updates should be done with caution - as this is where things go wrong and phones get bricked - but applying a ROM update like this should be relatively safe.

Update - 1st July 2009: the xda-dev guys have released an update to this rom called 1.1 with the wifi fix and a few other fixes for our Magic which you can grab from here. If you install this rom you will not need the Wifi fix below!

Download it and copy it to the root of your SD card and rename it

The next thing you need to do is have a recovery rom and fastboot working on your machine. I used daldroid's recovery rom which you can download directly from here.
You'll want to save this into your tools directory (unless you have the tools directory in your system path like me and then you can put it in any directory)

PLEASE NOTE: Before you take the next step - make sure you've synced all your contacts, backed up any applications from the market you want to keep, and backed up any settings or stuff that you want to keep on your phone - this will wipe it fully!

Now.. drop your phone into fastboot mode by powering it off first (hold down the power button and press Power Off), then hold the back button down when you press power to power it back on to drop it into fastboot mode.
If you see three little androids on skateboards on the screen and FASTBOOT listed then you're on the right track.
If you hook it up to your PC now via USB you it should change to Fastboot USB.
Lets check this by starting a command prompt and first check fastboot is working fine with:

C:\AndroidSDK\tools\> fastboot devices

If it lists a device then you're in business!

Now we need to boot the recovery rom - you do this by:

C:\AndroidSDK\tools\> fastboot boot daldroid-recovery.img

Your phone should start loading the recovery rom now and you should be greeted with a small menu with a handful of options. Its your last chance to do a full backup now and you can use Nandroid 2.1 to do so if you want.
Otherwise you're going to want to select Wipe first - and then once the wipe is complete you'll select Apply

Then wait while it uncompresses the file and installs the Hero ROM.

Once it's fully installed you'll be greeted with a funny TMobile G1 splashscreen (not sure who put that there) and then a cool HTC logo with the little androids peeking out behind it. It takes a while to boot the first time, so be patient.

Now there's just one last thing you need to do to get that Magic of yours working sweet - you need to apply a Wifi fix before wireless will work:

You'll want to download this updated wlan kernel module and save it in your Android SDK tools directory like before:

Then drop into your command prompt and use:

C:\AndroidSDK\tools\> adb remount
C:\AndroidSDK\tools\> adb push wlan.ko /system/lib/modules/wlan.ko
C:\AndroidSDK\tools\> adb reboot

And that's it.. your HTC Magic should now be loaded with a fully enabled Hero ROM with Sense UI! Have fun!!!! :)

Additional Comments after a fair bit of use of this new rom:

* Initial slowness – you'll probably find it'll be slow initially for the first hour or so until it gets the caching right for your usage. Initially you'll probably be bouncing between heaps of apps configuring them and installing them so it'll throw it right out – once you get settled a bit more it'll smoothen up a bit - I've found it pretty smooth once it gets going and that's without the need for swapper/setcpu/apps2sd or any kind of tweaking! :)

* LOUD - the volume is turned up on these roms and it can be annoying at first - especially the bootup – though once it's started up I don't mind that so much really though as at least you can turn it down some. Need some way of disabling the bootup sounds!

* Wifi/3g works great for me – tho not tried bluetooth fully yet – I can turn it on but don't have any bluetooth devices around to test with.

* The new Social Integration - ie. flickr/twitter/facebook integration is awesome.

Twitter is right on the desktop with notification of new tweets, etc and is very integrated – you can even auto-post a link to your current location/lat-long/etc, attach pics automatically, etc.
Facebook/flickr seems to be simply for uploading of images it looks like – so you'll still need another app for browsing/chat/etc.

The new HTC widgets are very cool too - great to have a bit more choice than before! – though I wish the Contacts one was a bit more customisable – you can't sort or shuffle them how you want – it's just alphabetical and in my case my SO is past the bottom of the list which is annoying.

Also noticed that there's no 'Contacts' application anymore - which is a shame as I liked using this to browse my contact list - I guess you could go to the dialer directly - there's probably a htc replacement somewhere as they've revamped it internally (you can do funky stuff like click on a contact and then click on his/her address to see it in google maps and stuff like that which is cool) - can't see how to link this to the desktop directly tho!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Updating the splash screen on your HTC Magic

So you have an appropriate image you want to use for your phone:

Perhaps something like this one?

To copy this onto your Magic you need to first install busybox.
Busybox is basically a small, but powerful shell that contains hundreds of standard linux commands.. like free, top, ipconfig, cp, rm, etc. You'll find it incredibly useful and invaluable once installed.

So if you have busybox installed you can install the splash screen above by first saving your image (like the one above) as boot.gif in your sdk tools directory (or any directory if you have that the android sdk tools in your path!) and use:

adb remount
adb shell busybox cp system/media/boot.gif /sdcard
adb shell busybox rm -r system/media/boot.gif
adb push boot.gif /system/media/boot.gif
adb shell reboot

This will make a backup of your existing boot screen, remove the one off the system (or it's readonly) - and then push a new one out in it's place - and finally reboot the phone so you can see it!

Please note that this is not the first splash screen that comes up.. it's like the third or something.. the one that displays when it makes a sound.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My hard shell case for my HTC Magic arrived today.

It's actually not too bad, much better than the silicon style cases in my opinion - as they tend to collect dust/dirt/sweat underneath and scratch the hell out of the phone. This one doesn't cover the front at all, so doesn't interfere with touchscreen/buttons at all which is good, but its protects the edges and back from scratches and has a kinda smooth rubbery feel.
It actually comes in two parts and clicks together to surround your HTC Magic phone, so it holds together pretty well, though it has no clips at the bottom though which means I get a slight gap of 1mm or so there.
I was more interested in the screen protector I got with this purchase to be honest - it cost me AUD$7 including shipping to get this cover and a screen protector, and the price of 3 screen protectors was much the same - so figured I'd see whether this was any good.
I ended up deciding to get an InvisibleSHIELD from ZAGG for the Magic not longer after I ordered this though - I've heard great things about them but never given them a go - but I really love this phone and so decided to do it this time around ;)