Posts tagged: android

Motorola Xoom: A Disappointing Introduction to Android 3.0

As the old saying goes, “Beauty is only skin deep.” And so it is with Motorola’s new overhyped Xoom tablet featuring Android 3.0. We really wanted to like this device. The form factor sounded appealing, Android 3.0 is awesome, and dual cameras plus a dual-core processor had us chomping at the bit for a chance to try out this bad boy. It’s hard to find a new toy we don’t like, but then along comes the Xoom. It may weigh the same as an iPad, but it feels much more bulky. We personally like the form factor of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab compared to this monstrosity. And the dual core processor was a disappointment as well. We noticed very little difference in performance during our real world testing. You’re not going to hold this device with one hand for very long. It’s too heavy in all the wrong places. So we kept asking ourselves, “Where would you use it?” And the most likely places would be in bed or sitting on it’s $149 speaker dock connected to a big monitor. For both of those options, there are better solutions with an Apple TV and an iMac. The biggest fail may be the power button, positioned on the back of the unit at the exact spot most folks will use to hold the device to watch a movie.

Vaporware: 3.0 Strikes & You’re Out. We’ve saved the real Parade of Horrors for last. Motorola basically ruined the introduction of Android 3.0, designed specifically for the tablet form factor, by prematurely releasing this half-baked product. They hyped Verizon’s 4G network, but there’s not one 4G component in the device. You’ll have to send it back to Motorola for a week to get that upgrade… someday. Motorola advertised Adobe Flash support which still is the Achilles’ Heel of the iPad. But there’s no Flash to be found. Talk about ironic, you can’t view Motorola’s XOOM web site from the device. Flash, too, will be an upgrade… someday. Then there’s the non-functional microSD slot. Yep, you guessed it. Someday. Sorry, but $800++ for a prototype device is insulting. It also says something about Google’s lack of control over manufacturers. Seems to us it wouldn’t be that difficult to write a license agreement that says, if you want to use our trademarks on your device, you won’t release the product until a specified list of functions actually work. And pardon us for stating the obvious but advertising should be something more than a big pile of bullsh*t.

For those that are silly enough to buy the Xoom, there is some good news. The device was rooted in a matter of hours. So you can load all your favorite utilities and functions easily. Here’s a link to the cookbook. Be aware that rooting the device may deprive you of the ability to ever get the vaporware upgraded for 4G, Flash, and a functioning microSD slot. Of course, maybe that was the plan all along.

There are many good reviews of the Xoom and Android 3.0 if you want the usual Silicon Valley PR fluff from the folks that received the evaluation units. Start here and here. Suffice it to say, it’s a major upgrade to Android. We like the new UI; however, we’re not all that keen on the lack of buttons and particularly the placement of the Home and Back icons in the lower left corner of the screen. 90% of the world is right-handed. So why you’d position the most used screen real estate in the most difficult place to access it with your right hand while holding the device in your left hand is a real head-scratcher.

Finally, a word about data plans. In order to purchase our unit at full retail from Best Buy, we had to buy at least one month of Verizon service. In our law school days, this used to be called tying in antitrust law. Since it makes corporations extra money, it’s probably fine today. Verizon, however, has taken greed to a whole new level. And this is just for 3G service. 4G reportedly will cost a few cents more. 1GB of data will cost you $20 a month. That’s about two 4-hour car trips with a teenager using the device. 3GB of data will cost you $35, 5GB runs $50, and 10GB is a whopping $80. As a point of reference, AT&T’s 2GB data plan with equivalent 3G service is $25 for the iPad. So, yes, you’ll be using WiFi a lot thanks to the greed of Verizon and AT&T. Of course, you can’t buy a WiFi-only unit. That’ll be available someday after Verizon has gotten their initial pound of flesh. And, at least for us, WiFi performance compared with the iPad and Galaxy Tab was no great shakes. What is certain is that, with this device, you probably will want to consider tethering from a cellphone that still has an unlimited data plan unless you’re willing to give up eating lunch in order to pay your monthly Verizon bill. HINT: Read our review of the Optimus V and Virgin Mobile’s $25 a month unlimited 3G data deal. Or Sprint’s Mobile HotSpot for the HTC Evo runs $1 a day and provides unlimited 4G data at a fraction of the cost of Verizon’s 3G offerings.

Footnote: Following our return of the device and cancellation of the service, we received a bill from Verizon which included an undisclosed $35 activation fee in addition to the prorated charges for data service. AT&T charges no activation fees on iPads and other tablets. With this addition, it boosts the cost of the Motorola Xoom sufficiently to make it more costly than even the top-of-the-line iPad 2. After 30 minutes on the phone with Verizon “customer care,” a supervisor finally waived the $35 fee. And you thought no company could rival AT&T’s dismal track record. Think again.

My 10-year-old daughter echoed our sentiments about the Motorola Xoom: “Thanks. I’ll keep my iPad.” In case you’ve forgotten, Apple will announce a new iPad later this week, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see a new processor and (working) microSD slot in addition to the oft-reported camera additions. We recommend you wait for a better alternative! There will be many, not someday, but very soon. And, indeed, there now are. See our recent article.

Originally published: Monday, February 28, 2011


Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum or Wiki.
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whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

 

The Perfect Valentine: $149 Android + $25 Virgin Mobile Plan

LG Optimus VJust when AT&T and Verizon thought they’d suckered everyone on the planet into paying $100 a month for 24 months to get a functional cellphone with either an iPhone or Android phone, along comes a breath of fresh air. Close your eyes and try to picture Google’s Nexus One paired with a $25 3G cellphone plan with unlimited data, unlimited messaging and 300 minutes a month. Did we mention NO CONTRACT? Flash support? Nope.1 But tethering is possible for talented geeks and nerds as well. For those that don’t spend their whole life yacking on a telephone, this combination hits the sweet spot. It’s especially appealing for both the older generation who need the security of a cellphone but rarely use it and those under 25 that seldom converse other than in sparkling text messages.

With the addition of the free CSipSimple app from the Android Market, you can place SIP calls through your favorite SIP provider or PBX in a Flash server for little or no cost using either a WiFi or 3G data connection. Or you can use the free OBiTalk for Android app in conjunction with a $49 OBi device we previously reviewed to make free Google Voice calls in the U.S. and Canada.

First, the bad news. It’s not a Nexus One. And now the good news. It’s even better. It’s LG’s new $149 Optimus V for Virgin Mobile. Yes, it weighs an ounce more and is perhaps a few millimeters thicker than a Nexus One, but in return you get Android Froyo 2.2. Aside from that, the phones are virtually identical: beautiful screen, quality feel, 3.2 megapixel camera, Facebook, Twitter, full integration of Google Apps including Google Market, Gmail, Google Voice, Maps, Latitude, Voice-Enabled Navigation with GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth (cell phone and audio pairing finally work reliably in Froyo!), and 3G service on Sprint’s rock-solid nationwide network. The phone is rated at 6 hours talk time and 168 hours standby… and it can be rooted in a couple of minutes if you hurry. The phones went on sale this week at Best Buy, Radio Shack, and other Virgin Mobile retailers. But they won’t last long at least without a patch to close the rooting door. So, yes, it is the Perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Stop reading and start calling until you find one. They’re that good, and they’re available on line as well. Best Buy currently has them for $129.99. Be sure to check out the Comments to this article for late-breaking discounts.

Virgin Mobile actually offers three cellphone plans for the Optimus V. All are contract-free! And all include unlimited messaging, email, data and web services. The only difference is in the cellphone minutes per month. $25 a month gets you 300 minutes. $40 gets you 1200 minutes. And $60 gets you unlimited minutes. The signup process only takes a couple of minutes, and you have the option of recurring billing by credit card only if you choose it. Unlike AT&T and Verizon, international calling is downright reasonable. The big cities in Mexico are 2¢ a minute, most of Europe is 25¢ and other countries are all over the map (literally). Pakistan, for example, is 5¢. So there are no gotchas, at least that we could find.

Once the phone is enabled, you’ll want to hurry over to the Android Central Forum which will walk you through rooting the phone using your favorite Windows machine. The only trick is finding the Windows USB drivers for LG phones. HINT: Look here. Once you get Sun’s JRE and the Android SDK installed, SuperOneClick handles the heavy lifting in a few seconds. Once the phone is rooted, you can download SuperUser, TitaniumBackup, and Barnacle WiFi Tethering from the Google Market. The only trick to Barnacle is to choose Skip wpa_supplicant in Settings. Finally, you’ll want to disable over-the-air (OTA) updates so that the provider doesn’t mess up your perfect phone down the road. Here’s how. Renaming the keys file is all that is required, and the easiest way to do it is using Root Explorer (available in the Google Market for a couple bucks) which is money well spent. Happy Valentine’s Day to all. We’ve listed a few of our favorite Android apps below to get your started. Enjoy!


Originally published: Friday, February 11, 2011


Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum or Wiki.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

  1. Incompatible processor precludes Flash. Sorry. []

Samsung Galaxy Tab: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Photo courtesy of Samsung

We purchased AT&T’s U.S. edition of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab on the release date in November, 2010. It’s been a wild ride ever since. First, the good news. Steve Jobs is dead wrong. A 7″ tablet is far from being DOA. In fact, the Galaxy Tab is the ideal form factor for a business person that wears a suit, sport coat, or jacket. The device fits perfectly in almost all coat pockets. Unlike the iPad, you can hold the Galaxy Tab in one hand rather than balancing the device between your knees. The screen is dazzling. Performance is respectable, Flash works reliably, two cameras are included (even though no app yet uses the front-facing camera), and at least so far, the SIM chip in your AT&T iPad is interchangeable with the AT&T Galaxy Tab using a $2 Micro SIM to SIM card adapter. So all of the shortcomings of the iPad have been addressed. With more than 200,000 apps in Google’s Market, you now can find comparable applications to most that are available for the iPad. And, while the Android apps weren’t specifically designed for a tablet, we never noticed. This contrasts dramatically with the half-baked iPhone/iPad app conversions that Apple attempted to pull off.

Photo courtesy of Samsung

With Android’s open platform and near perfect hardware, what could possibly be wrong with this device? Well, just about everything unfortunately. Between Google, Samsung, and AT&T (and we assume the other U.S. oligopolists aren’t far behind), the device has been crippled in just about every possible way. Not only is the tablet locked to the specific carrier even though you paid full retail ($700+) for the unit, but cell phone usage also is blocked by all four U.S. carriers. No collusion, of course. :roll: This functionality is available on all European models. Fortunately, for those in the U.S., Bria for Android will let you make SIP phone calls using any SIP provider you wish to use.

To add insult to injury, applications for the device are locked down to only apps available in the Google Market. This means, for example, that you cannot load thousands of tech books available in .apk format from O’Reilly. More importantly, you can’t restore your device from a backup. And, yes, Google has been quick to respond to requests to remove any apps that would let you root or tether the device. All of this might be understandable if AT&T offered an unlimited data plan and had to worry about users eating up their precious bandwidth. You may recall that AT&T’s only unlimited data plan offering lasted less than a week with the iPad. But AT&T now charges for Internet service on a pay-as-you-go basis. So there’s really no rational explanation for crippling the device for which you paid full retail and which you own.

While you still can root the device with a little creativity, flipping the setting to permit downloads of non-market apps using the latest Samsung firmware now bricks the unit since Samsung has added a checksum to the configuration file.

It would be easy to blame AT&T for being evil. They seem to regard it as a badge of honor. But Samsung and Google have aided and abetted the carriers’ wishes enthusiastically, albeit secretly. In fact, Samsung reportedly will announce the Galaxy Tab II this week at the Consumer Electronics Show with checksummed firmware that will take device crippling to new lows, far beyond what Apple has been willing to do on the iPad platform. In other words, you can kiss custom ROMs goodbye on Samsung’s “open” Android platform. For all of these reasons, AT&T’s device wins our 2010 Award as the Most Crippled Device of the Year, with dishonorable mentions to both Samsung and Google.

Fortunately, U.S. consumers have a choice. Just refuse to buy any more of this junk until the carriers and manufacturers clean up their act. We really could love this device, and it’s puzzling why the carriers and the manufacturer and Google feel compelled to cripple these devices in the U.S. market when all four of the major service providers offer the same device at the same price with the same (crippled) feature set. It’s almost like it’s part of their DNA to cripple everything they sell that has their name on it. Little wonder that folks are looking elsewhere to purchase new technology.

The other sad reality is that the technical writers in the U.S. for the most part roll over and play dead with these companies in order to secure the latest story and to get the free pass to the Vegas tea parties to yuck it up with their pals. And, of course, for some there are still loads of free toys. It’s easy to find glowing reviews of the Galaxy Tab from so-called pundits, but just try to find an article laying out what we’ve documented. We’re not tooting our own horn here, just wondering why folks that get paid for reviewing these products as their livelihood don’t do their homework instead of regurgitating manufacturer press releases. Unfortunately, it’s much the same reason that all of the cell phone companies are so chummy and cookie cutter comparable.

We couldn’t end this disappointing review without a word about Samsung’s service operation. Apple it’s not! A week after purchasing our device, we accidentally dropped it down a flight of brick steps. HINT: Buy a case. It’s too bulky to hold in one hand while you’re walking unless you have hands the size of Seinfeld’s old girlfriend. One-handed operation works fine sitting in a chair. If you’ve ever seen what a baseball can do to a plate glass window, then you have a pretty good image of what our Galaxy Tab looked like. The device still worked perfectly if you didn’t mind slicing your finger. That was Thanksgiving Day. Three weeks later we still were arguing with the Samsung Repair Facility in Texas which insisted that the IMEI number of their own device wasn’t in their computer system. Thus, they refused to repair it even though we were willing to pay for the repair. After dozens of calls, we finally reached the head of Samsung USA service who managed to manually enter the IMEI into the system so that we could get a quote on the repair. Samsung has only sold a million units. Wouldn’t you think someone might have thought about repairs? Incidentally, the cost was $170 including shipping in both directions which we thought was quite reasonable. And a week later the device arrived with a new screen AND the new crippled firmware which everyone else will get to enjoy shortly.

As for us, thanks to a law degree, it’s only a quick trip to the courthouse next week to drag Samsung into court to explain why they erased our device and installed newly improved crippleware rather than simply replacing the screen which we contracted with Samsung to repair. We’ll keep you posted.

Our Bottom Line for those that haven’t been to law school: JUST SAY NO!

Originally published: Monday, January 3, 2011




Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Is It Time to Get Your Buzz On?

If you’ve been on vacation for the past week without your computer and cellphone, welcome back. Here’s what you missed: Everything! Yes, in seven little days, we’ve watched in amazement as Google the Giant Internet Gorilla with unlimited financial resources jumped off the 1,000 foot cliff without a parachute and then set about discovering how to land safely. Google jumped head first into social networking with a new product, Google Buzz, and decided to kick start the project using the age-old business trick of tying the new product to an old one, in this case their 175 million existing Gmail customers.

In the process of introducing Google Buzz, Google got almost everything wrong. Ironically, it’s the only new Google product that’s ever been introduced without the beta label. We’ll let you be the judge of whether Buzz is ready for prime time. Consider the following. There was the exposure of people’s most cherished Little Black Books to complete strangers. And cross-scripting security issues have been reported with the potential of exposing users’ Google credentials which in turn provides the key to the Google Checkout castle not to mention all of your most confidential emails. Then there were complaints that customer’s geolocation data was being compromised without user authorization. If that wasn’t enough on your plate for one week, Google now has to contend with a class action lawsuit and several government investigations into its Buzz business practices. Aside from that, did we mention Google Buzz is a huge hit!

If social networking is your thing, then you’re going to love Google Buzz. Think of it as FriendFeed on Steroids. Rich multimedia and location-based services on top of everything you always loved about IRC. And, if you have an Android 2.0+ phone, it gets even better with complete integration into Google Maps 2.0.

Unfortunately, everyone has been so busy with damage control and Google bashing that there’s been precious little time to actually explore the potential for Google Buzz in the social networking community. Our brief look at the product and its potential suggests that Google has another winner on its hands. It’s just too bad it wasn’t introduced in a manner similar to Google Wave so that users (and Google) could walk before attempting to fly. Here’s our first crack at how Google Buzz could actually be integrated into the blogging community, in our case making Google Buzz an integral part of a WordPress blog. And there’s also the widget approach from MoreTechTips.net which we’ve tweaked in the right margin below our Google maps. We’ll have more to say about these methodologies in coming weeks. In the meantime, come join the fun and Get Your Buzz On.

Nerd Uno’s Latest Buzz



Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Choosing the World’s Best Mobile Phone… Again!

Up until now, we’ve resisted the temptation to wade into the iPhone vs. Nexus One battle. And there have been many thought-provoking contributions on both sides of the discussion. Our take on it is that, for many folks, it’s now come down to the Ford vs. Chevy debate. We know lots of Ford enthusiasts that would never set foot in a GM vehicle. And vice versa.

In the cellphone world, there are some differences between Apple and Google philosophically that you really don’t see in choosing between Ford and Chevy. If you’re looking for a cellphone that just works, that requires little involvement on your part, and that basically functions as a phone, a music player, and a handheld game device, then you’ll love the iPhone. Apple controls the entire user experience end-to-end, and they’ve gotten it just about right after three years of evolutionary development. If you’re looking for a cellphone that functions more as a mobile office, then the choice comes down to Blackberry vs. Nexus One at least in our book. The Blackberry still is the hands-down winner if your business runs on Microsoft Exchange although the Nexus One performs admirably. For everyone else, the Nexus One is your baby. That’s where we are today. But what about next year, and…

It’s Integration, Stupid! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, Cloud Computing should not be a new concept. The whole corporate world is moving there. Why? Because it’s too damn expensive to manage the complexities of modern data processing technology in house. And when it comes to Cloud Computing, there’s no one better at it than Google. The tight integration of email, messaging, voice communications, directories, calendaring/scheduling, and maps in the Google universe is legendary. And Google is damn close to Microsoft on the document preparation and spreadsheet front. Google’s search technology is simply the icing on the cake. But what icing! It ties all of these components together in a way that others only Bing about.

What the Nexus One brings to the table is a mobile computing platform that is fully capable of taking advantage of all of Google’s integration strengths. Email is always synchronized with your Gmail account. Your Address Book is always synchronized with your Google Address book. Your calendar is always synchronized with your Google Calendar and those of your coworkers. Your phone rings on your Nexus One at the same time it rings in your office or home. And your outbound calls, including your CallerID, can be processed just as if you were placing the same calls from your office or home. Simple, isn’t it? Can Apple do the same thing? To some extent, certainly. But the Apple MobileMe sync technology is archaic compared to the Google model. With Apple you’re synchronizing Address Books and Calendars from Apple-only desktop machines to a central server (for a fee) on a scheduled basis. That leaves 90% of corporate America out of the loop. With Google, there is only one Address Book and Calendar, and they’re both already stored in the Cloud. So you don’t have the endless problems associated with keeping a dozen or a hundred or thousands of users’ information in sync.

Long Live the Soup Nazi. For Seinfeld fans, no one can touch the Draconian deeds of the Soup Nazi. But Apple comes close: pushing out updates that reportedly bricked the iPhones of users that sought a bit more freedom in their software choices, telling the FCC that unlocked iPhones threaten the security of the national cellphone network, ruling the Apple Store with an iron fist. This is not acceptable corporate behavior in our book. For the average cellphone user, this conduct may not matter, but it should. The choice really comes down to spending your dollars with a company that fosters and encourages open source development versus a company that treats you as if you’re too dumb to know what’s good for you.

Our Pick: The Nexus One. We’ll leave you with our Baker’s Dozen reasons for choosing the Nexus One over the iPhone. YMMV! For the best and most balanced technical review to date, visit Ars Technica.

1. Google Apps Integration (see above)
2. Navigation integrated with Voice & Google Maps (video)
3. Phone-wide Speech-to-Text Voice Integration
4. Multitasking and Recent App Switcher Button
5. Back Button to non-destructively back out of anything
6. One-Touch App Directory plus 5 Custom Screens
7. Goggles & Dolphin Multi-Touch Browser
8. SIP and Google Voice integration with WiFi and Cell Nets
9. Intuitive store without corporate content control
10. Unlocked phone, easily rooted, Cyanogen
11. Replaceable battery
12. Expandable storage
13. Flash

In the immortal words of Bernie Mac, “Whatcha gonna do, America?”




Need help with Asterisk®? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.


 
New Vitelity Special. Vitelity has generously offered a new discount for PBX in a Flash users. You now can get an almost half-price DID and 60 free minutes from our special Vitelity sign-up link. If you’re seeking the best flexibility in choosing an area code and phone number plus the lowest entry level pricing plus high quality calls, then Vitelity is the hands-down winner. Vitelity provides Tier A DID inbound service in over 3,000 rate centers throughout the US and Canada. And, when you use our special link to sign up, the Nerd Vittles and PBX in a Flash projects get a few shekels down the road while you get an incredible signup deal as well. The going rate for Vitelity’s DID service is $7.95 a month which includes up to 4,000 incoming minutes on two simultaneous channels with terminations priced at 1.45¢ per minute. Not any more! For PBX in a Flash users, here’s a deal you can’t (and shouldn’t) refuse! Sign up now, and you can purchase a Tier A DID with unlimited incoming calls for just $3.99 a month and you get a free hour of outbound calling to test out their call quality. To check availability of local numbers and tiers of service from Vitelity, click here. Do not use this link to order your DIDs, or you won’t get the special pricing! After the free hour of outbound calling, Vitelity’s rate is just 1.44¢ per minute for outbound calls in the U.S. There is a $35 prepay when you sign up. This covers future usage and any balance is fully refundable if you decide to discontinue service with Vitelity.
 


Some Recent Nerd Vittles Articles of Interest…

Meet The iPhone Terminator: The World’s Best Mobile Phone

Photo courtesy of HTC and androidcommunity.com

With apologies to Arnold’s infamous line, all we can say to iPhone enthusiasts of the world is that once you try this Android phone, you won’t ever go back. Google has done for the mobile phone what Apple did with Mac OS X except Google also opened up the hardware platform. Unfortunately, Apple opted for locked and proprietary hardware and software in rolling out its iPhone. Now that the second-generation Android phones are appearing, the difference is palpable.

Update. There’s now a third-generation Android phone that’s even better than this one. You can read all about it in our latest article.

Choosing the World’s Best Cell Phone is obviously fraught with peril. All other things being equal we would have bestowed the honor on Nokia’s E71 which we reviewed recently and have personally used until a month ago. That’s when we jumped into the Android World which we will tell you up front is still a bit of a work in progress. But, all we can say is WOW! The openness, the technology, and the creativity showcased in the new Android phones point to an inescapable conclusion. Google once again has struck the Mother Lode. Seeing is believing as they say. And today we’ll digress from our usual format to bring you a pictorial tour of the HTC Magic. No. You don’t have to carry a white one like Arnold. Heh. A shiny black one is readily available. We actually had planned to walk through the process of rooting the phone, but we’ll leave that for another day primarily because this mobile phone provides sufficient flexibility in its native state to deliver an almost perfect cellphone experience even without root access.

We’ve already covered our objections to the iPhone in a previous article so we won’t repeat them here other than to note that SIP clients can’t run in the background on an iPhone which makes them next to worthless for inbound calls. Yes, there are kludgey workarounds, but these open yet another can of worms. We’ll dispose of the Nokia product line by telling you they’re headed in the wrong direction just like Microsoft with the wrong operating system(s), the wrong product design, and the wrong technology mix. Just when the world is finally looking for a mobile platform that provides flexibility in transitioning between the cellular networks, WiFi, and WiMax, Nokia kills the SIP stack and SIP client on its entire line of new cellphones. So a company that once was THE innovative cell phone manufacturer in the world suddenly is looking a bit like Yahoo, lots of thrashing around but no cigar. Sadly, it’s mostly the result of self-inflicted wounds. But we’re not going to dwell on the past today. We’re going to look at what the future holds in mobile communications. And the one word that best sums up our hopes for future mobile telephony is Google… more precisely, Google’s totally open source Android Platform.

So let’s again go about this by the book… with a requirements analysis! You can match it to your own wish list. We want a cellphone that makes cellular calls from most locations, and we want the ability to decide which cell provider we use depending upon where we are. We want the option to make phone calls through our own SIP provider, or Asterisk® server, or Google Voice whenever we feel like it with or without a Wi-Fi connection. And, of course, we want VoIP Prioritization. This means we want our cell phone to prioritize incoming and outgoing calls by attempting to use VoIP services first, cellphone carrier second. We also want to be able to check our email using gMail, POP3 and IMAP servers at 3G data speeds. For the business community, we also think Microsoft Exchange support is indispensable. When we need to send or receive something on our notebook computer and there’s no WiFi around, we want our cellphone to provide data connectivity. We’re not going to be downloading movies and 1,000-page books all day long. We just want to get an important file attachment from the office so we can read it on a normal screen. If the cellphone provided a PDF viewer, so much the better. And, finally, we’d like a QWERTY keyboard for messaging, and we want to be able to change our own battery, add a memory chip, and swap out SIM cards whenever we’d like. We also want the ability to gain root access should we ever wish to do so. After all, it’s our phone! Bluetooth for phone calls and A2DP for music in the car would be great, and a good camera as well as GPS functionality would be nice to have on the phone as well. For those in the U.S., we’d add one additional requirement: support for AT&T’s 3G network so you’re not stuck with T-Mobile’s dog-slow (and incompatible) wireless data network. Most of the Android phones currently flunk this test leaving you with nothing but EDGE service if you use a provider other than T-Mobile. Of course, with T-Mobile, you get mostly EDGE service in the U.S. as well. :roll:

And the winner is…

Our pick is the unlocked Rogers HTC Magic phone, the only Android phone that we could find which supported rooting and AT&T’s 3G network in the U.S… albeit from a Canadian provider. That’s the price U.S. consumers pay for a government that continually rewards the telephone oligopoly with exclusivity rip-offs. So how does the HTC Magic stack up to our wish list? We’d give it a 94. It does everything on our Wish List… and more. The images which follow incidentally were taken using the screen capture utility that’s part of the Android 1.5 SDK. It is easily installed on either a Windows or Linux PC or your favorite Mac (except Snow Leopard for the moment). There’s a great tutorial on how to install the Android SDK as well as a YouTube video and tutorial on rooting the Rogers HTC Magic phone should you desire further information on those topics.

Getting Started. Before proceeding, set yourself up a Gmail account if you don’t already have one. As with most provider-specific cellphones, this HTC Magic phone is hard-coded to the Rogers network in Canada. Assuming you want to use AT&T’s network in the U.S., step #1 is to enter AT&T APN settings when you first turn on the phone. After inserting the AT&T SIM and booting the phone, press the Menu key before doing anything else. Next click Add APN. Enter the following values leaving the remaining fields blank:

Name: att
APN: wap.cingular
Password: CINGULAR1

Now press the Menu button again and choose Save. For other providers, try this Google Search.

Main Screen. Once you’ve entered your Gmail credentials, the phone will boot and display a Main menu. It actually is three screens wide. You can move to the other screens by swiping your finger to the left or to the right. You’ll notice a thumb tab at the bottom of the display. By dragging this up, you can access all of the other applications on the phone. Move it back out of the way by dragging it back down or pressing the Back button (←) which is the third from the left button just below the screen display.

Applications. Here’s the first page of our Applications. You scroll through the list using the trackball, or you can drag your finger vertically on the screen to reposition the display up or down. Tapping on an entry starts the application. Pressing the Home button on the far left just below the screen display returns you to the Main Screen. Every app is displayed in this listing except for Widgets. Widgets are more like scripts and typically are used to toggle functions on and off. In the left Main screen above are four widgets to toggle WiFi, BlueTooth, GPS, and Ringer/Vibrate/Silent functions of the phone.

Android Market. All of these applications didn’t necessarily come with the phone. Google’s Android Market has been set up for developers to display their wares. You can become a developer, too. And, unlike the iPhone apps, most of the Android apps still are free. Just another advantage to open source technology. To access the Market from your phone, just choose the Market app and follow the intuitive menus. There’s a great Search function. Again, unlike the iPhone, these applications get stored on a MicroSD card. A 2GB card comes with the phone. Do yourself a favor and start with a $50 16GB card.

Messaging. As you might expect from Google, the Android platform excels at messaging of all flavors. Whether it’s text messaging, Gmail, or POP3/IMAP email connectivity, Android has you covered (see above). And the support for Microsoft Exchange is nothing short of brilliant. In the social networking department, there’s full-featured support for Twitter and Facebook, among others. Using the Search function in the Android Market, you can have your phone set up with your favorite tools in just a few minutes.

Android Security. Securing your phone is also nothing short of brilliant on the Android 1.5 platform. Simply draw an unlock code pattern using your finger, and that becomes the signature for future access to your cellphone. Also works pretty well as a sobriety test. :-) If you can’t unlock your phone, don’t unlock your car! You also can lock your SIM card to your phone and set a password if you’re nervous about losing your $500 crown jewel. What the security system really demonstrates is that the open source community has nothing to apologize for. The quality of this software is every bit as good if not better than the software produced by the other cellphone players.

Placing Calls. Yes, we hear you. What about making phone calls? You’ll be pleased to know that the HTC Magic can do that, too. We were just saving the best for last. In fact, this phone can make calls in three different ways: through your cellphone provider, through SIP using your Asterisk server or another provider, and through Google Voice. Once you install the Google Voice application from the Android Market, simply configure it with either your cellphone number or an intermediate provider such as SIPgate or IPkall. You then have a choice of whether to make Google Voice the primary or secondary calling source. Or you can choose to be prompted for each call as shown above. Google Voice calls that go out through your WiFi data network connection incur no charges in the U.S. and Canada.

SIP calls are placed using the SIPdroid application which also is available in the Android Market. Shown to the left is a sample setup for SIPdroid to connect to your Asterisk server on a private home network. In the SIPdroid Call Options, specify whether to use WiFi and/or 3G/EDGE for the SIP calls. And set a preference for how your calls should be placed, i.e. cellphone carrier or SIP. The only tricky part is the Extension Settings on your Asterisk server. Just create an extension in the usual way using FreePBX. But make sure your settings include the following entries: canreinvite=no, nat=yes, and qualify=no.

To route outbound calls through SipDroid instead of your cellphone provider, just append + to the end of the phone number. You can generate a + symbol on your phone keypad with a long press of the 0 button.

Android Backups. No article would be complete without some mention of backups. The Android platform currently supports four options: Android images, MyBackup, and Google and Exchange Synchronization. Android images can only be created if you gain root access to your phone or load a different image on your phone. MyBackup is a $9.95 app from the Android Market that lets you backup your Applications and Data separately onto your MicroSD card. Unless you’re a techie, it’s well worth the money. Google and Exchange Synchronization you will find under Settings, Data Synchronization. With Google Sync, you can back up your Gmail, Calendar, and Contacts data automatically and as a background task. Be sure to activate it. Finally, you’ll see displayed above a browser display from mundy.org/whereib that you may find helpful from time to time. It displays not only a map of your current location based upon your IP address, but also shows your public IP address.

Android 3Gtest. We’ll leave you with a hot tip about one additional application: 3Gtest. Just download and install it from the Android Market and then run it. You’ll be amazed by the results. Not only will it tell you how good your upload and download speeds are, it also will tell you some interesting tidbits about whether your provider is living up to their oft-repeated promise of Net Neutrality. Our download 3G speed in Charleston, South Carolina was actually close to T-1 performance. Interestingly, our upload speed was pitiful… about as fast as a circa 1860’s telegraph machine.

Android System Backup. We said we weren’t going to cover rooting your phone, but we do want to point you in the right direction and also show you how to get a perfect image backup of your phone. If you’re not comfortable entering system commands, stop here! We are Mac snobs so what follows is the Mac way of doing things which is incredibly simple compared to the hassle with Windows in getting the correct USB driver loaded to make things function properly. If you’re determined to use Windows, be sure to install the Android SDK before you connect your phone to your PC. And read up on how to install the appropriate USB driver for Windows. With a Mac, all of this just works… out of the box. As we mentioned previously, we’ve only tested this with Leopard and Snow Leopard, and Snow Leopard does NOT work!

Before proceeding, you must enable USB Debugging on your phone. You’ll find it here: Settings->Applications->Development->USB Debugging

To get your Mac set up with the proper toolkit, do the following. There’s nothing tricky here. Just don’t skip any steps. And you only have to do this once! First, download the Android 1.5 SDK for the Mac from here. Unzip android-sdk-mac_x86-1.5_r3.zip on your Desktop and rename the folder to android-sdk. Now drag that folder into your Applications directory. Next, open a Terminal window and create/edit .bash_profile: nano -w .bash_profile. Add the following entry: export PATH=${PATH}:/Applications/android-sdk/tools. Then save the file: Ctrl-X, Y, Enter. Now run the same command from the CLI prompt to update your PATH now: export PATH=${PATH}:/Applications/android-sdk/tools. Next, download fastboot-mac onto your Desktop from the HTC Support site. Unzip the file and rename the file to fastboot. Then, download recovery-new.img to your Desktop. Drag both fastboot and recovery-new.img into the Applications/android-sdk/tools folder.

Now we’re ready to make your backup. Plug your phone into your Mac using the USB cable that came with the phone. Open a terminal window on your Mac and change to the SDK tools directory: cd /applications/android-sdk/tools. Run the following command and make certain your phone shows up in the listing: adb devices. You should get a display with the serial number of your phone:

List of devices attached
HT95RNK02843 device

Assuming your phone shows up in the list, you’re ready to proceed with a backup. Turn off your phone. Then, while pressing the Volume Down button, turn your phone back on. Hold down both buttons until you see a screen that says <BACK> FastBoot Mode with dancing Androids on skateboards at the bottom of the display. Press the BACK button (←) and the FASTBOOT USB menu will display. In your computer’s Terminal window (NOT on your phone), type: fastboot boot recovery-new.img. Your phone will reboot and display a screen with several options in blue. Use your phone’s trackball to carefully scroll down to the Nandroid Backup 2.1 option. Then depress the Trackball button to begin the backup. You’ll see a yellow display message indicating that the backup is proceeding. When the backup completes, choose the Reboot System Now option to restart your phone normally.

You’ll find the new backup on the SD card. To copy it to a safe place on your Mac, drag down the Message Bar at the top of the display after your phone has rebooted. Tap the USB Connected Select to copy files to/from your computer option. Then tap the Mount button. A new drive NO NAME will appear on your Desktop. Double-click on it and drag the nandroid folder to a safe place for permanent storage of your backup. To unmount the phone, do it on your Mac desktop first. Then reverse the mount process we initially used on the phone to mount it. Simple!

Rooting Your Phone. We have NOT done this so you’re on your own. You’ll probably void the warranty on your phone by proceeding. The best article we could find on the procedure for rooting and restoring your phone is here. But it doesn’t have the correct backup image. If you restore the wrong image, your phone’s radio may no longer work on your provider’s network. The consensus seems to be that the proper image for a rooted Rogers HTC Magic is here. The best tutorial for actually performing the magic appears to be here. But we would stress again that we have not actually tried this, and you really, really are on your own if you proceed past reading this article. It’s your $500 phone… or brick as the case may be. Before doing anything further, we would strongly recommend you make several backup images as outlined above and also spend some time doing a careful review of the postings in this forum until you are very comfortable with all of the wrinkles and procedures. If something goes wrong, post your problems there, not here. :-) We’re handing you the map, but it’s your choice whether to jump off the cliff. Enjoy!

Update: The unlocked Rogers HTC Magic phone used for this review is now available for purchase from Nerd Vittles. It supports 3G networks of both Rogers in Canada and AT&T in the United States. Just make us an offer we can’t refuse. It’s still a terrific phone!



The Future of Android. For a glimpse of what the future holds for Android, see this Giga OM article published on October 7.


Web Site of the Week. For all of your favorite Nerd gifts, don’t miss the new Mashable collection.

Articles of the Week. For another excellent technical review of the HTC Magic, check out TechRadar UK’s review. And be sure to check out Justin West’s Free Homebrew VoIP with Google Voice and Intel Atom.


Enhanced Google Maps. In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve added yet another Google Map to Nerd Vittles. Now, in addition to showing our location with Google Latitude, we also are displaying your location based upon your IP address. We’ll show you how to add something similar to any LAMP-based Linux system in coming weeks. It’s a powerful technology that has enormous potential. If you’re unfamiliar with Google Maps, click on the Hybrid and Satellite buttons and then check out the scaling and navigation options. Double-click to zoom. Incredible!


whos.amung.us If you’re wondering what your fellow man is reading on Nerd Vittles these days, wonder no more. Visit our new whos.amung.us statistical web site and check out what’s happening. It’s a terrific resource both for us and for you.



Need help with Asterisk? Visit the PBX in a Flash Forum.
Or Try the New, Free PBX in a Flash Conference Bridge.


 
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