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! 😉

New website for Stuff.co.nz

My favourite local news site Stuff.co.nz got a major overhaul yesterday.

Sticking with recent style trends, they now have more whitespace, larger and more colourful headings, flashy draggable content and they now permit limited user customisation.

Below is a side-by-side of the old and the new homepage – the most obvious change being the page height!

The underlying three-column layout remains, but is now much cleaner and easier to read in my opinion. Obviously, the new site is much longer, requiring a lot more scrolling, but overall I like the layout.

Gone are the dropdown menus from the old site (which were badly broken in the second beta of IE8), but I have mixed views on this. While I like the new horizontal menu at the top of the page, you now have to click twice and pass through an intermediate page to get to some of the subsections, eg, National News, then Education. For this, the dropdown was faster.

The inclusion of a (customisable) weather box at the top left is nice – afterall, that data comes from MetService (my employer for disclosure!). The other side of the header leads to my biggest gripe – the site search, powered by Google. Sadly, only around 50% of the results (during my tests) have dates attached – which is next to useless for searching for specific news items. Bring back the old search! Seriously.

So thus far I think the update is a good one, despite slower navigation and broken search. Final judgement however will have to be reserved until I’ve used it some more…

Gmail UI gets a tweak

Just logged into Gmail and noticed the user interface has had a little update,

Note the row of buttons along the top.

A nice addition is a quicker method to label and archive a message. Previously you had to select a message, then use the “More actions” drop-down to label it, then click the “Archive” button. Now you can simply select the message, then use the “Move to” drop-down to label and move it in one swoop.

Thumbs up Google!

Sneak Peek Out Back

A week ago WordPress updated to v2.7 with a major overhaul of the backend interface for bloggers.

If you’re curious, here’s a sneak peek at a couple of screens I see and use behind the scenes…

The Dashboard,

And the “Add New Post” page,

For a complete list of features and changes, check out the WordPress.com blog and for a video introduction and some history head over to the WordPress.org Development blog.

ImagePref Add-on for Firefox 3.0

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Update – Nov 21, 2008: I’ve updated ImagePref for v3.1 compatibility and given it a homepage at: noble.gen.nz/imagepref

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As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve been playing with RC1 (release candidate 1) of Firefox version 3.0 in anticipation of the upcoming release – possibly later this month. So far I’ve had no problems or crashes with the only annoyance being that some of my favourite add-ons haven’t been updated to work with v3. Of the few add-ons I use regularly that are not compatible, most I’m willing to do without until they are updated and in some cases I can probably live without a few permanently. One however, is indispensable for me and I haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement. That being,

ImagePref

This is possibly one of the most useful add-ons for power surfers, especially those who want to scan and read a lot of different news sites quickly. So what does it do? ImagePref simply places a little check box in your status bar allowing you to toggle the display of images off and on,

As you might guess, removing images from a webpage makes it look ugly and unusable in some cases, but for heavily text-based content (like news sites) it removes all the distracting and unnecessary images and makes browsing multiple sites much faster.

Sadly, this add-on is no longer available on the Mozilla Add-ons website, and my attempt to contact the creator has drawn a blank. There was also no license info with the previous version I was using, so given all of the above, I’ve modified it myself to work with v3. Furthermore, since I couldn’t find anyone else offering an updated version, I’m providing mine for others to use,

ImagePref-2008.06.03 (for versions 1.5 – 3.0.*)

For disclosure, the edits I made changed the “maxVersion” to “3.0.*”, added myself as a contributor, tweaked the description, commented out the homepage URL (since it isn’t valid anymore) and updated the add-on version number and filename. Please note, I am not an add-on developer and this most certainly isn’t the best method(!) for updating an add-on to be compatible with a new major app version. Also, I am not claiming any credit for this add-on and will not be supporting it. If you find this add-on useful, please use it but note that you do so at your own risk (ie don’t blame me if it breaks something!). I’ve tested it with RC1 and it’s working fine for me with exactly the same behavior as under v2.

Enjoy!

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UPDATE: I have just received an email from the creator Omar Khan who is no longer supporting imagepref. Thankfully, he has given me permission to use and modify the code. Cheers Omar!

Update – Nov 21, 2008: I’ve updated ImagePref for v3.1 compatibility and given it a homepage at: noble.gen.nz/imagepref

WordPress update

Following the recently released v2.5 of WordPress for the folks who host their own install, my blog here at wordpress.com has got the same treatment. The changes are all behind the scenes, and if you’re curious what the new interface looks like, here’s a screenshot of the page used to post a blog entry,

Pretty!

Yet to discover all the new features, and only one gripe so far – I don’t like the position of the tags and categories sections – these were better on the right of the main post area.