Archive for May, 2012

Alternative to default Android keyboard

Hacker's Keyboard

Are you tired of trying to edit your typing without the arrow keys?  Are you missing the key layout you’re used to from your computer?   I discovered the Hacker’s Keyboard and find that it is much more user-friendly than the default Android keyboard.  It is a full 5-row keyboard including arrow and Esc/Ctrl keys, intended for tablets, and yes it works with the Ployer Momo9 running ICS!

This keyboard has separate number keys, punctuation in the usual places, and arrow keys. It is based on the AOSP Gingerbread soft keyboard, so it supports multitouch for the modifier keys.

It provides working Tab/Ctrl/Esc keys, and the arrow keys are essential for devices such as the Xoom tablet or Nexus S that don’t have a trackball or D-Pad.

The supported keyboard layouts include:
– Arabic (العربية)
– Bulgarian (български език)
– Czech (Čeština)
– Danish (dansk)
– English Dvorak (language “en_DV”)
– English (QWERTY)
– English/British (en_GB)
– Finnish (Suomi)
– French (Français, AZERTY)
– German (Deutsch, QWERTZ)
– Greek (ελληνικά)
– Hebrew (עברית)
– Italian (Italiano)
– Lao  
– Norwegian (Norsk bokmål)
– Portuguese (Português)
– Romanian (Română)
– Russian (Русский)
– Serbian (Српски)
– Slovak (Slovenčina)
– Slovenian (Slovenščina)/Bosnian/Croatian/Latin Serbian
– Spanish (Español)
– Swedish (Svenska)
– Thai (ไทย)
– Turkish (Türkçe)
– Ukrainian (українська мова)

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USB Ethernet LAN adapter

I just received a USB LAN adapter I ordered for $4.99 with free S&H, and I’m happy to report that they work out-of-the-box by simply plugging into the USB OTG cable, turning off WiFi, and then under Other > Ethernet turning on Ethernet.   This allows you to online access to the internet, etc. if you don’t have WiFi available, but have access to a wired ethernet LAN port. 

As a side note, if your wired ethernet port isn’t in a convenient location, you can instantly add an ethernet port by getting a pair of Homeplug AV adapters.   One unit plugs into your router and a power outlet and the other plugs into any other power outlet in your home.  Thanks to the 802.3u standard, the adapters communicate with each other through the power lines.  Since my Netflix was crapping out on my smart TV because of a poor WiFi signal, these adapters were the solution – 200 Mbps ethernet through my powerlines.  And since one unit is hooked up to the router, you can add several more individual adapters throughout your home wherever you want additional “wired” ethernet outlets.

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Upgrading Momo9 (and other Allwinner A10 tablets) 7″ Android tablets to Ice Cream Sandwich

Upgrading Procedure

[UPDATED 11/1/2012:  I’ve heard that the links no longer work as the author was asked to remove the files because of copyright issues – therefore I won’t be sharing those files that I downloaded either (besides I only have the .3 Megapixel camera version anyways).  You may have to go the Jellybean route instead.]

NOTES:

  • It is recommended that you not install any tablet drivers on your PC (as prompted when you attach the tablet to your PC via the USB cable), but rather install them as instructed in this upgrade procedure. There are 2 different sets of USB drivers that will be needed on your PC and it can get very confusing if they are not installed at the proper time (and from the correct source). The tablet USB drivers are standard Windows drivers, and the ADB USB drivers are special Google Android Debugging Bridge (ADB) drivers needed to root/install ClockworkMod Recovery (CWM) or provide ADB access in general.
  • Since Allwinner A10 can boot from USB, never worry about bricking your tablet, but you may lose your data, so it’s always a good idea to back that up!!!
  • LiveSuite can only be run from a Windows PC and you may have to disable your Firewall to get LiveSuite to behave.
  • If the camera is the 0.3 Megapixel version, the firmware image should always start with 97F1
  • If the camera is either the 1.3 or the 2 Megapixel version, the firmware image should always start with 97F2

Download and Unzip Firmware Flashing Tool, the appropriate Firmware Image, the post-flash customization “Super” script and the ADB drivers:

Recommended flashing tool (x86 & x64) used to flash firmware for AllWinner A10 tablets
LiveSuite 1.07 (English) – 3.51MB
– tablet USB Windows drivers for 32-bit and 64-bit PC are included

ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) Firmware (for 0.3MP camera models):
2012-03-14 – ICS 4.0.3 build (4.0.3-97F1-D1-H2-H01-N412.20120314)
– Note: has locked Market apps (the “super” script does fix it, run it immediately after the firmware flash)
NOTE: Check for most recent file here

ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) Firmware (for 2.0MP camera models):
2012-02-28 – ICS 4.0.3 build (4.0.3-97F2-D1-H1-H01-1617.20120228)
– English, clean ICS 4.0.3 with few GApps, no Chinese bloatware, rooted
– get the “super” script below to unlock the Market apps
NOTE: Check for most recent file here

ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) Firmware (for 1.3MP camera models):
2012-04-07 – ICS 4.0.3 build (4.0.3-97F2-D1-H1-H02-1901.20120407)
– latest release verion from Ployer, Chinese bloatware, rooted
– get the “super” script below to unlock the Market apps

Customized “Super” Script for ICS 4.0.3 – Version 5b
eyeoncomputers_script_ver5b_ics4.0.3
– customized “Super” Script written by eyeforcomputer

AllWinner A10 ADB (Android Debugging Bridge) Drivers:
Drivers_AllwinnerA10_32and64.zip
– you will need these if you want to do ADB commands
– with 32-bit and 64-bit drivers

Now to flash the image onto your tablet!!

  1. Unplug the tablet from any power or USB connections, making sure there is at least 50% charge on the tablet.
  2. Start LiveSuite (may also be named LiveSuit) by double-clicking on LiveSuit.exe and then selecting the appropriate image (.IMG) file downloaded above. No need to click on any of the other buttons – just leave the program window open.
  3. Make sure tablet is powered OFF and not just in standby mode.
  4. Plug in the PC end of your USB cable
  5. Hold the Volume Up button down for about 10 seconds.
  6. Keep holding the Volume Up button and plug the USB cable into the tablet.
  7. While still holding the Volume Up button, start pressing the Power button 10 times repeatedly (this wakes it up) and you should hear an acknowledgment sound on your PC.
  8. You can now release all tablet buttons at this time.
  9. If this is the first time the tablet has been connected to this PC, Windows will prompt you to load the tablet’s USB Windows drivers. Go to Control Panel – Device Manager and locate “Unknown Device” under Other Devices. The proper drivers are in the LiveSuite folder under “usbdrivers”. Select either the 32-bit or the 64-bit drivers, depending on which version of Windows is installed on your PC.
  10. Once the drivers are installed, LiveSuite will prompt you asking if you want to “Mandatory Format”.
  11. Click OK to this prompt and again to the “Are you Sure” prompt .
  12. The flashing should start as indicated on the progress bar in LiveSuite.
  13. Wait for the flash to complete (approx 2 minutes), and then turn ON the tablet by tapping the Power button. Select Exit in LiveSuite at this time and then unplug the USB cable from the tablet (leave the PC end plugged in). (See note below *)
  14. Make sure your tablet is USB debugging enabled – this is where the Android Debugging Bridge (ADB) USB drivers will be needed…
    —-> Go to Settings > System > Developer options > USB debugging
  15. Set your display sleep to 30mins…
    —-> Go to Settings > Device > Display > Sleep > 30mins
  16. Plug the USB cable back in to the tablet again. It will now be in USB debugging mode.
  17. If this is the first time the tablet has been connected to this PC in USB debugging mode, Windows will prompt you to load the USB (ADB) drivers. Remember, these are unique and different from the USB Windows drivers, so don’t be confused. Go to Control Panel – Device Manager and locate “Unknown Device” under Other Devices. These drivers are in the “Drivers – AllWinner A10” folder. Select either the 32-bit or the 64-bit drivers, depending on which version of Windows is installed on your PC.
  18. Once the drivers are installed, initialize the post-flash customizing “super” script by running “fullmarket.bat”.
    —-> Choose “a. Complete script installation
    You will then be guided through the remainder of the entire process by instructions that are displayed during its execution.
  19. After installation is complete, press any key to Reboot the tablet.
  20. Unplug the USB cable from the tablet when it has started its reboot process, which may take a little longer than a normal reboot.
  21. *** You are finished!! ***

* Of course, once an ideal image becomes available, only steps 1 – 13 will be necessary, but who knows if that will ever occur for ICS 4.0.3 – perhaps a later version though…

Comments regarding this Upgrade Checklist (which I’ve made “sticky” so that it will remain as the top blog entry) can be made in the original blog entry that this was copied from.

Tweaks

Superuser app – Recommend you  set the Preference “Automatic response” to “Allow”; then you wont have to deal with pop-ups when programs need superuser permissions.

Advanced Wifi Lock (Free) app – Recommend you set “Sleep Policy” to “Never turn off wifi, even when in Sleep mode”; then you wont have wifi connection issues after waking from sleep/standby.

Netflix app – In order for Netflix to work properly, the default browser settings need to tweaked.   Instructions:
– go into the Browser app
– tap the Menu/Option button
– go to “Settings”
– go to “Debug” on the navigation pane (left side)
– tap “Browser Mode”
– choose “Android”
– Now close the Browser, and run Netflix.

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TRRS jack / Improving battery performance

TRRS jack

I have just confirmed that the 3.5mm headphone stereo jack is not a TRRS jack, which means that it will not support a headset that contains a microphone, nor will it support the answer call / end call button common to these headsets.  Although the Samsung Galaxy S2 does have a TRRS jack, and the apps below will work on that tablet, one of the results of running EyeOnComputer’s script on our Ployer momo9 (and clones), is reporting the device as the popular Samsung Galaxy S2  to Google Play, and consequently apps that require this port will report themselves as being compatible, but in fact they won’t function because the jack is just a stereo audio jack.  Among these apps are:

  • Square Card Reader which allows you to accept credit cards and cash on your Android device. It’s only 2.75% per swipe for Visa, American Express, MasterCard and Discover. No contracts, monthly fees or merchant accounts.  The free Squareup magnetic stripe card reading dongle plugs into the TRRS jack and converts the credit card swipe into audio, which then allows the app to communicate to the credit card processor.  I saw the devices for sale at Walmart yesterday for $9.50, and when you create an account, you get $10 back.
  • Rhombus which allows you to use the Squareup magnetic stripe card reading dongle to read any standard format magnetic stripe card . You can use it to see what information is on your credit cards, loyalty cards, driver’s license, and more. When a credit/debit card is scanned, it attempts to determine the issuer. Rhombus reads track 2 by default, but will read track 1 if the card is offset by a small shim (the author’s website shows a twist tie being used as a shim).   Rhombus does not have internet permissions, so it cannot send out any information about cards you may scan.  As an example, the author has adapted this app to read the age from a driver’s license and hopes to sell this to bars so that bouncers can verify the age of patrons.
  • various other headset apps that require the 4 contacts common to the TRRS jack.

Improving battery performance

This is from a blog at TopNotchTablets that I discovered today…

Curious about how to take care of your tablet and make the battery keep most of it’s capacity for the longest amount of time?… here are some tips…

1. Don’t let the device fully discharge. If you can, try to only let it get down to as far as 30- 40% and then plug it in to charge…

2. Charge via the USB port more often. The slower charge (lower voltage) will take longer but if you are plugging it in overnight anyhow, why not? Also, don’t use anything that claims to be a “quick charger” or “fast charge” as they often employ an over-voltage technique to quickly charge the device. This can and will damage the battery over time if not immediately.

3. DO NOT, use your device with a 100% charge while being plugged in. This is one the quickest ways to kill your battery. Heat and keeping the battery at 100% all the time are very bad for Li-Ion batteries. Your device is portable, so stay unplugged until you hit that 20 – 30% mark.

Want more useful tips? I gleaned this stuff from here:
http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/how_to_prolong_lithium_based_…

Very interesting article. You could easily get 5 years of use out of your tablet versus 1 to 2 years by just doing a few simple things.

Cheers!

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