Android 2.2 Froyo on my Samsung Galaxy 580 (NZ)

After waiting for months for any word of Froyo coming to the Galaxy 580 (aka Galaxy 3, or GT-I5800) here in New Zealand, including calls/emails to both Vodafone and Samsung here in NZ, I found the following post by admin “johnr” in the Vodafone forums,

Aarrgh! Damn you Vodafone.

Not content with that answer, I decided to take matters into my own hands, void my warranty and flash Froyo onto my phone. In short, I got it up and running on the second try and am stoked to be rocking 2.2. 😀

Pics or it didn’t happen right? Sure, here ya go:

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Here’s the nitty gritty…

Rooting and Flashing.
First up, the standard disclaimer. If you do this, you will void your warranty and you may lose some functionality on your phone, gain undesirable behaviour, or could even totally brick your phone. If that freaks you out or you can’t afford to replace it if it goes horribly wrong, don’t do it! And don’t be blaming me if it goes pear shaped!

That said, there are plenty of benefits in rooting and/or flashing your phone. Gaining root access will let you get at some deep dark parts of your phone and the OS, permitting you to run powerful apps (e.g. Titanium Backup). AFAIK rooting is reversable, so you can undo it. Flashing a new ROM on the other hand may not be reversable, unless you have a backup of your pre-existing ROM, or can get your hands on one to flash it back.

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Froyo 2.2.
My Galaxy 580 came with Eclair 2.1 installed. Since this was my first Android experience (I came to it from a Nokia 6234) I was impressed. However, being the geek that I am I started poking around, installing apps at will, and soon found some limitations that I knew were addressed in newer Android versions. The two features I most wanted was a solid way to disable packet data and the ability to move apps to the SD card to both free up internal phone memory and to allow more apps to be installed. Of course a shinier interface and newer features never goes astray either!

When I asked Vodafone directly about an update to Froyo via email they replied with:

2.2 has been released but to confirm it is available for your model phone and how to get you are best to contact Samsung directly

So I emailed Samsung and got the following response:

Unfortunately at this stage no release date has been set. please feel free to check back with us at any stage

Then I found the forum post in the screenshot above which made me angry enough to immediately flash my phone!

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Resources and Requirements:
All the info, software and background reading you’ll require can be found at xda-developers.com (specifically in the forums) and at SamFirmware.com. I’m not going to duplicate everything here, but you will need USB drivers for your phone, the Odin downloader software and a Firmware to flash.

Here’s the references I used (in the case of the forum posts, I did read most of the threads – not just the top level posts):

xda-developers:

SamFirmware:

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Notes on my experience:

  • I did root my phone first (using z4root) so I could run Titanium Backup, although root isn’t required to flash a new ROM.
  • Backup backup backup! I don’t keep any text messages and all my contacts live at Google which just get synced to the phone. As such, the only things I needed to backup were my apps/data on the phone (which I actually didn’t care about since they can all be installed again later, incl apps you’ve paid for. I didn’t worry about game saves etc, so I lost all game progress – meh, I was over Angry Birds anyway!). Note that anything on the SD card (photos, files etc) is left untouched.
  • Prior to flashing I did remember to record the VFNZ APN settings for both Internet and PXT. These have to manually set after flashing, and are listed online in the Vodafone forum here.
  • I used a stock Samsung Firmware without a bootloader – everything I read suggested this would be more stable and the lack of bootloader means you won’t brick your phone. Initially I tried I5800XWJPF but it didn’t work – my phone wouldn’t startup and hung on the boot screen, so I then re-flashed with I5800XXJPM which worked fine! I grabbed both firmwares from the xda forum not samfirmware – might as well let someone else remove the bootloaders!
  • I didn’t install Kies first – I had it a while ago, but it’s a POS (just like iTunes!) IMHO so I deleted it soon after installing it! This is recommended so you have the latest USB drivers, but you can get them from samfirmware. The only thing you need Kies for is to get software updates, and well, since Vodafone don’t appear to be doing amy more for the 580 I’m turning my back on them and Kies and doing it myself. Note that I can still transfer files to/from my PC via USB using the phone as a mass storage device, or via ftp over wifi – nice!
  • I did do the flashing without the SIM and SD card installed just in case anything went wrong. Some people say it’s not necessary, but I decided to play it safe.
  • Once done, I reset the APN and phone settings, re-installed my apps, synced to Google and other services and it was all good.

And that’s about it! Now, I should probably answer two post-flash questions you might have…

Any problems?
Not really. However I do think the reported size of apps (via the manage apps settings) is incorrect. Not a biggy, as it still reports the correct usage for the SD card and internal storage.

How’s the performance?
Awesome! In fact I think the phone is snappier through menus etc now under 2.2 than it was under 2.1. It could just be the eye candy distracting me, but I think my phone actually runs better now.

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Final words…
So, it does take a leap of faith to do this sort of thing, but I’ve been voiding warranties, flashing firmwares and building PC’s for a while now so I’m quite happy doing so.

If it ain’t broke, take it apart and fix it! 😉

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Schedule a Steam Download

Having a download scheduler is a must if you want to take advantage of your ISP’s (typically overnight) free off-peak period – if you’re lucky enough to have one of course! This is becoming more important as games and online media (such as podcasts) increase in size, thus eating into our woeful data caps at a great rate of bits. Well, until our ISP’s get a little creative and offer cheaper/free data from services like Steam and iTunes I suppose.

Just how big are games these days? As an example, take the last five games I grabbed off Steam: DiRT 3 is 11GB+, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Dead Space are both 7GB+, Medal of Honor Airborne is 6GB+ and Battlefield Bad Company 2 is 5GB+. (Yeah, I got sucked in by some good bargins lately!)

Now that's a big download!

Sadly Steam does not have a scheduler built in, so you either have to set an alarm for the middle of the night (and apologise to the missus in the morning!) or use a little craftyness to schedule a download…

The basic solution I’ve used with success is to use the Windows Task Scheduler to run a game at a set time, which triggers the download+install or update prior to the game launching. Here’s what I did,

  • Buy a game on Steam (well duh!).
  • Initiate the install and start the download, but immediately switch to your downloads list and pause it.
  • Go back to your library, find the game and click the play button (or use a start menu/desktop shortcut) to launch the game. We need to do this to get some housekeeping out of the way – sometimes when you first launch a game you get a “here’s your game key” dialogue that you have to click through first. If you don’t do this housekeeping step the scheduled process will hang on that dialogue box.
  • Click through any dialogue boxes (copying game keys etc) being sure to tick the “don’t show this again” checkbox. This should get the game downloading again (has to happen before you can play it) but immediately pause it again.
  • Start Windows Task Scheduler and create a simple task that launches the game at the start of your free off-peak period. The program you want to run is either the steam executable with the correct game id, or the game exe directly. For example, to run DiRT 3:
    C:\Games\Steam\Steam.exe -applaunch 44320
    where the “-applaunch 44320” goes in the “arguments” box in the scheduler, or,
    C:\Games\Steam\steamapps\common\dirt 3\dirt3.exe
    where your Steam install folder may of course be different. You can find the applaunch id number from a desktop shortcut – right-click the game in your library to create a shortcut, then look at the shortcut properties to see something like: “steam://rungameid/44320”. To find the game exe, look in the game folder inside the “steamapps\common” folder inside your Steam install folder.
  • Once you’ve setup your simple task to run once at the start of the free period, you should probably test it. Either set the scheduled time for a couple of minutes away and watch it execute (then reset the time afterwards), or run the task manually. If all goes well the task will run and the download will start (pause it again!).
  • Leave Steam running (even if you use the first shortcut example), check your task time, and go to bed! Now hopefully in the morning the game is installed and ready to go – or it may even be running! (but more likely you’ll see the updating dialogue that has the progress bar and “play game” button on it ready to be clicked.)

Of course if the download is slow or simply too big to complete in a short off-peak period, then you may need to check it in the morning and pause the download before the free off-peak period finishes, and repeat the task the next night.

I’ve found I need to leave Steam running as I’ve had trouble starting Steam during my ISP’s free off-peak period. This is pure speculation, but I wonder if some automated filter/prioritisation system is incorrectly seeing Steam traffic as P2P traffic or something and thus blocks/drops packets (as is known to happen on my ISP for connections to torrent trackers during the off-peak period).

So, there you go. That worked for me and allowed me to schedule a large game download overnight. 🙂

If you try it, good luck! …and let us know in the comments – or if you’ve got a better solution until they build a scheduler into Steam (but I shouldn’t hold my breath right?!)

New Google UI

When searching on Google today I noticed a new UI for the results page – lots more whitespace, no-underline links and softer colours including grey sites links in place of green. Apparently it’s common for Google to “test” changes on a set of users – no doubt a small percentage but large number of users given their customer base – and it would appear I’m included.

Here’s what the new and old results pages look like for me on Google.co.nz and Google.com respectively (Firefox 4 on Windows 7 while logged into my Google Account),

New UI:

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Old UI:

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Personally I like it, mainly because I’ve been running a very similar colour scheme here on my blog and on my personal site (noble.gen.nz) for some time now. In fact, I think Google just copied my scheme! Ah well, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery right?!

Thumbs down to the new Copyright Amendment Bill

By now most people in NZ are probably aware that the Government rushed into law the Copyright (Infringing File-Sharing) Amendment Bill on Thursday under urgency on the back of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Bill. Formerly dubbed the guilt-upon-accusation or 3-strike law, this new law includes a revamp of Section 92A that sparked much controversy and backlash in 2009. Instead of providing a run-down here, I’ll throw up a bunch of links worth checking out to see what others have to say. Incidentally, the new bill was supported by both National and Labour and only the Greens, Hone Harawira and Chris Carter opposed it.

The bill itself:

Comments and reactions:

And how’s this for the ultimate in hyprocracy – National MP Melissa Lee, who spoke in favour of the bill, has inadvertently ousted herself as a pirate! Check out the offending tweet and subsequent news story from NBR and TorrentFreak.

Finally, I think this cartoon from around the time of S92A in early 2009 sums up the situation nicely,

Oh, and just in case you were concerned, as noted in the cartoon it’s not subject to copyright. It has been released into the public domain.

Bureaucracy

No Tim, that is not a joke. 😛

Inspiration and remix from xkcd.com webcomics under CC BY-NC 2.5 license.

 

Google search for “tilt” on my Android

After seeing this little easter egg mentioned on Google Operating System (-via Search Engine Land) I thought I’d check it out for myself. Here’s the result on my Android:

😀 Nice one Google.

Broadband data caps in New Zealand

Yesterday Ars Technica ran an article titled “It could be worse: data caps around the world“, which took a very brief look at some broadband data caps in Canada, the UK and Australia – no doubt to make those in the US feel better about their own (large) data caps.

Here in NZ we like to pride ourselves on being up there with the best in the world, and pricy capped/tiered broadband data plans are no exception! In fact, I’d wager we were strides ahead of much of the world in introducing tiered plans for both speed and data. I base this assumpution on the complaints I’ve heard over the months/years on the various tech podcasts I listen to (mostly from the TWiT network). On most (if not all!) occasions I could easily refute those complaints with a statement not unlike the title of that Ars article – “hey, it could be worse – come to NZ!”.

So what is the state of broadband data caps here in New Zealand? Here’s a quick look around the five main broadband providers in NZ (as listed by the Commerce Commission in their Dec 2010 broadband quality report)…

Note, the summary below only lists the main plans from the respective ISPs. There are other options available, but these are probably not the norm and are not directly comparible across ISPs (eg Vodafone and Slingshot offer naked broadband plans with similar data caps to their other plans and TelstraClear offer economy broadband with speeds of 256kbps and data packs of 500MB).

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Telecom

Telecom lists a maximum data cap of 40GB – “Great for heavy internet users“. The plan details page also says “Quench all your internet thirsts with a huge 40GB of data, but if that’s still not enough, you can choose to upgrade your Total Home Broadband package to 60GB or even 80GB“. Incidentally, if you want that 80GB package you’ll have to fork out $145/month which does include a landline (a requirement on all listed plans). And if you go over that cap? Don;t worry, they’ve got you covered: “If you exceed your monthly data allowance, you can choose to continue at dial up speed for free, or your usual speed at a $2 per GB rate for the rest of your billing month“.

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TelstraClear

Unlike Telecom, there is no limit on how much data TelstraClear will let you use, you just have to buy another add-on pack for the same price as your usual monthly pack – the largest of which is 25GB for $30 (on top of a baseplan starting at $75/month). That 25GB data pack is described as “Ideal for the more serious user. Approximately 8 hours per day of frequent, heavy downloading of files and services. E.g. 2,500 hours of gaming” and if you go over it “another pack of the same size will automatically be allocated“.

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Vodafone

The largest data cap from Vodafone is 30GB on their “Ultimate” plan  – “Ideal for heavy internet users who frequently download and share music, photos and videos, or use the internet for gaming“. If that’s not enough data, “you have the option to slow down to 64kbps for the rest of the month or buy extra data“. To buy extra data you can double your data on any of the listed plans for a fee (eg $5.10 for another 2GB on the Basic plan, and $30.60 for another 30GB on the Ultimate plan).

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Slingshot

Slingshot offer a max data cap of 40GB on their Elite plan – “If you want full noise, then this is it! Full Speed up and down and a massive data cap“. However, all their plans also come with “free off-peak” data meaning that whatever data is used during the offpeak period (essentially overnight, but varies according to plan) won’t count towards the monthly data cap. Extra data can be purchased in blocks (2GB=$5, 5GB=$10, 20GB=$25, 50GB=$50) or alternatively “If you don’t want to purchase additional data we’ll just ease you back to dial-up speeds“. Also wirth noting here is that Slingshot offer “data banking” explained as follows: “If you buy a data block, the unused amount at the end of the month will roll over into the next month for when you next need it – each block lasts for 12 months“.

(Note, for comparitive purposes with other ISP plans presented here, you’ll need to add Slingshot’s homeline cost of $49 to the prices listed below.)

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Orcon

Orcon have two separate ranges of plans depending on whether you’re in the “Orcon+ Network” or not (ie exchanges that have been unbundled – mostly in Auckland). Either way, their largest data cap is 30GB on their Platinum plans. Additional data is charged at $2/GB or you can purchase a data block (5GB=$9, 10GB=$15, 25GB=$27, 50GB=$55, 100GB=$85, 200GB=$165, 300GB=$245). Line speeds for all plans are listed as “Maximum download and upload speeds that your line can support“.

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So there you go. Whereas in the US you can get 150GB from AT&T or 250GB from Comcast, and in Canada you can get an “Ultimate” plan from Rogers with 175GB, here in NZ the biggest data cap on a base plan is 40GB with free offpeak data via Slingshot. You can of course get more data than the standard caps ranging from 25-40GB, but you’ll have to be willing to pay more than the monthly costs ranging between $100-130 (for both broadband and a landline phone).

As with providers in other countries, data beyond the listed caps is covered by a mix of either throttling or purchased data blocks. For speeds however, no guarantees are made with all ISP’s cunningly listing speeds as “max” for the line – which could mean anything in the real world!