Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ripping movies to watch on Milestone

Here are the instructions to watch movies by converting them from DVD to a format so that they are optimized for Motorola Milestone. These would also work well for a Droid phone.
  • Install Handbrake Software, make sure to install the CLI
  • Install VLC software, Handbrake will not be able to decrypt DVDs without this software and will give error.
  • I use both of these on a Linux machine but both these software are also available for windows and one can easily figure out how to work these from respective websites. 
Once this setup is done, just insert the DVD and run following command line.
HandBrakeCLI -e x264  -q 20.0 -a 1 -E faac -B 128 -6 dpl2 -R 48 -D 0.0 -f mp4 -X 854 -Y 480 -m -x cabac=0:ref=2:me=umh:bframes=0:subme=6:8x8dct=0:trellis=0 -i -o MovieName.m4v --longest

If the DVD has multiple titles then above command will pull out the longest title. Otherwise one can use --title option for getting specific title. This command scales the movie to correct format for Milestone/Droid.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Application Review: App to QR

Another small and useful app in the android market. This application can give the searchable URL for any application installed on your phone or generate a QR Code that you can use to share via the camera with another friend. I have found it extremely useful. Use the QR Code on the right to go to this application.

Application Review : Ringdroid

qrcodeHere is an application that is available on android market for quite some time. I just never tried it primarily because my ADP1 just ran out of space for installing additional application. The application is called Ringdroid. The application can read any MP3 stored on your phone or you can record any sound and then it allows you to define the boundaries of what you want to set as ring tone.

Works pretty well and I found it useful. Use the QR Code on the right to jump to this application in the market.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Facebook App for Android

Finally after long time, a Facebook app for Android is in market. Since the benchmark app for Facebook on mobile devices seems to be one on iPhone, I thought let me compare how the current Android App stands up against iPhone App. Please note that I do not have a iPhone but a iPod Touch so my comparison is between those two.

Android App
iPhone/iPod Touch
Main Screen
Six main icons, New Feed, Friends, Photos, Take Photo, Profile, Notifications
Nine main icons, News Feed, Friends, Photos, Profile, Inbox, Chat, Requests, Events, photos, Notes
News Feed
New Feed screens look very similar. iPhone has a + button to add comments while Android has long touch. iPhone also has a large Rolodex like menu which essentially maps to facebook menu where you can choose a filter for your feed.
Profile screen is almost identical in both the apps with tabs for wall, info and photos being on top on Android and on bottom in iPhone. Also relationship status on iPhone is better with the photo of the spouse being shown with the name while Android app just says that "Married". Android app also does not show the IM addresses while iPhone app shows them.
Photos is very similar with iPhone app having an additional album for Profile photos which Android app does not have.
Friends screen is very similar in both with Facebook app sorted on last name while android app sorted on first name. Also the first character selection on iPhone on the right hand side of screen is pretty useful to directly jump to a person whose name starts with a specific character.
Screens are very similar but surprisingly Android app does not allow one to click on a name and go to his profile. Also number of notifications in Android app seems to be much less compared to what is there on iPhone. For example I could not find notifications related to people commenting on my status in Android app while these are there on iPhone client.
Very similar screens, similar functionality.
Android does not this option at all
iPhone client allow you to have a look at events.
Android does not this option at all
iPhone client shows the messages in the Inbox and lets you reply to them.
Android does not this option at all
You can chat with online friends.
Android does not this option at all
You can see pending requests and respond to them.
To sum it up, even though Android client is far improved compared to the last version, it still lags too much compared to iPhone client. Many features are really very important omissions. If I had any say in prioritizing these, I would put them in following order.
  1. Chat -- very important, many people are only available for chat on Facebook and can't get them on google talk
  2. Friend requests -- Very important option, since currently the best solution is to click on the email received and go to web browser and then accept/reject the request.
  3. Inbox/Event
  4. Catch up to other features that I have listed in the table above.

Motorola Milestone, Apps that I use

Here is a list of applications that I have downloaded from Android Market and use them.

  • Barcode Scanner -- Really essential app, can use the camera to scan any barcode. This app is also used by many other apps for that functionality.
  • Bubble -- A surface level testing application
  • Calorie Counter -- A client for weight losers' social network http://www.fatsecret.com
  • Cardio Trainer -- Can record your running sessions along with a google map
  • Compass -- A regular direction compass, has analog and digital settings. Pretty useful
  • Documents to Go -- Office compatible document reader and editing capability
  • Facebook for Android -- What would be life without facebook
  • Finance -- Client for Google Finance
  • Fring -- IM client for many systems, supports skype
  • Goggles -- Nifty app that can decipher things based on their pictures, Just point the camera and it would tell you what it is.
  • Voice -- Client for google Voice. I have it but can't use it in India
  • Layar -- Augmented Reality app, overlays stuff on google map. Pretty cool
  • Listen -- Podcast finder
  • Locale -- Very nifty app to change the settings of your phone based on time or your location.
  • My Tracks -- Records your movements. Very useful to share directions with others.
  • My Backup -- Backups all the user data on SD card. Useful when changing phones.
  • Places Directory -- Another cool app from Google, nice to find places around you.
  • Seesmic -- A twitter client
  • Shazam -- Can decipher song details by listening to it.
  • ShopSavvy -- Retail app, not very useful for India but apparently very popular in Japan
  • SMS Backup -- Backups all your SMS messages to your gmail account under a specified Label.
  • Toggle Wifi -- Does what it says, I place it as a shortcut on home screen to control WiFi
  • TouchDown -- Exchange App, I prefer it over what is already on the phone
  • Twidroid -- Client for twitter, I prefer it over seesmic
  • Unit Converter -- Converts pretty much any unit to any other unit
  • Ustream Broadcaster -- Broadcast yourself. Pretty good
  • Voice Recorder -- Record voice
Let me know you any of you people out there use any other app that you find useful. I can try that out.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Motorola Milestone, Review #1

Here are my initial thoughts on Motorola Milestone.
  • I think it is a pretty good phone, I had been using ADP1 form last one and half year and the mechanical quality of the phone is pretty evident as soon as you touch it.
  • The slider is pretty crisp
  • GMail application now supports multiple GMail account which is a great feature addition to the phone since I (and many others whom I know) have a .gmail.com account and another account for their hosted domain. Earlier I had to access one of these accounts via IMAP which definitely is not as efficient as GMail since many of the gmail features like Label and Archiving are not available from IMAP.
  • The new maps is also pretty good, addition of layers and landmarks is better over the earlier version. The one thing is missing is voice navigation which supposedly is available on US droid but it missing in this one.
  • Keyboard take little time to getting used to but one gets used to it. The only problem is that for entering numbers one has to press Alt.
  • Soft keyboard is much better, for me the success rate is much higher compared to ADP1.
  • Browser has pinch and zoom but the maps does not. I am hoping that a future release of maps through the market may carry pinch and zoom.
  • There are many posts on internet that this phone does not allow protected applications download but I could download Calorie Counter from fatsecret.com which I know for sure is a protected application because I could never download it on my ADP1.
  • One of the downside of getting it shipped from UK was that the phone was missing the microSD card which should have been inside the phone and it did not have it. I am trying to follow up with vendor but I have very little hope that I will get it. Anyway I can pick one up here.
  • Gallery is much improved, pinch and zoom works on photos, even the gallery display is much improved with a good way to browse photos.
  • Facebook for Android application is still not available for Android 2.0, one can download Bloo which works ok and the web based facebook is also decent.
  • Twidroid and Seesmic clients work great for twitter.
  • Camera is not great but does decent job.
Overall a great device. Solved many of my problems, Facebook, Twitter, GMail and all other google services.

How to get Motorola Milestone in India

So, I waited and waited and waited some more and could not find anyway on how to get Motorola Milestone in India. There was no news from company so I decided to take matter in my own hands.

It was available on UK online retailer eXpansys on 10th of December 2009, so I decided to order directly from them. In the end, it seems to have worked out very well. I ordered and my order reached in time before they ran out of stock.

Since they were shipping outside EU territory, I did not have to pay VAT which was 15%. That saved me £59.56. I had to pay £22.95 as shipping (in place of £5.95) so I ended up paying £17.00 extra.

The shipping was through DHL international and they cleared customs and charged me Rs. 2002/- as custom charges. In the end I got the phone for a price way less than what I would have paid if I got it shipped to somebody in UK and asked him to bring back.

Total cost to me for the phone was around Rs. 33,500/-. The only downside is that in place of $ symbol on keyboard, it has £ symbo.l. I think I can live with that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Installing Google Maps 3.3 on ADP1

Recently Google pushed Google Maps 3.3 to Android market. But due to a signature mismatch, you can not install it directly from market. It would give you signature mismatch error. If you are owing a ADP1, you should not have problems with getting your hands dirty. Here are the instructions that you can use to install new version of Maps.

Connect your ADP1 to your PC using the USB flashing cable and them perform following steps. Login into the phone using following steps.

  1. $ adb shell
  2. $ su
Now erase the old instance of Maps.
1) Mount /system read/write; as root on the phone:
    mount -o remount,rw /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system

2) erase the standard system Maps.apk; as root on the phone:
    rm /system/app/Maps.apk

3) uninstall the Maps data; on your computer:
    adb uninstall com.google.android.apps.maps

4) Optional; You probably want to mount /system read-only again; as root on the phone:
    mount -o remount,ro /dev/block/mtdblock3 /system

5) You can install Google Maps from the Market as normal now.
As usual, standards disclaimers apply. Thanks to  Zinx at Google Forums for this post.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Geotagging photos from your DSLR

I have never been a great fan of camera phones or even point and shoot ones for that matter. So I always used a GPS logger while shooting photos from my DSLR. Earlier I used to use Nokia Sportstracker application. Now since I have started using a Android phone, I needed to find an alternative to that solution.
From the time MyTracks application was released by Google, it has become easy to take a GPS log. The latest version of MyTracks application also allows user to send the track as a GPX file to any email address. So one can start recording a track, shoot all the pictures and then email the track as GPX file and then use any of the available open source applications for tagging photos.
I use GPicSync which is available for free download.

Android Donut 1.6 for HTC G1

I know it is late but I finally got Android 1.6 firmware for my G1. It adds new market and some other minor improvements. On the downside though now I get more frequent out of space errors so my guess is that the new firmware occupies significantly more space on the device and any further updates may be in question.

Monday, May 11, 2009

ADP 1.5 Cupcake release

Finally HTC has provided the official software update named cupcake and labelled 1.5. and it is available here.

Hope that helps.
Interesting things to look for are calendar widget, auto rotate feature and most anticipated feature on screen keyboard.

Earthquake -- Widget Review

Recently I downloaded earthquake widget on my ADP phone with cupcake build. Very cool widget? It is surprising to know how many earthquakes happen everyday. The package can be downloaded from market and has an application and one widget. Search for Earthquake in market.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Official ADP1 1.1 firmware

I had earlier posted about the software update for my ADP1 device, it seems that was not the official software update. That supposedly contained the software that was provided as part of holiday gift phones that were given to Google employees.

Finally HTC has provided the official software update and it is available here. Please go through the page and the software upgrade should be easy. One things that I faced was that I had setup the USB device into mass storage mode, one needs to set in debug mode. Select Settings->Applications->Development->USB Debugging. This option should be enabled and then the phone will be visible to adb and fastboot.

Another issue that has cropped up with this software upgrade is the fact that to start with Google Latitude is disabled. It seems it is just a software option and can be very easily enabled by using instructions here.
1) Connect your Rooted G1 to your PC via USB and run 'adb shell' (or use the G1 Terminal App no the phone)
2) su
3) cd /data/data/com.android.providers.settings/databases
4) sqlite3 settings.db
5) .dump gservices (to see all your current settings and check if maps_enable_friend_finder already exists)
6) INSERT INTO "gservices" (name,value) VALUES('maps_enable_friend_finder','1');
7) .quit
8) exit

Now the Join Latitude button will be shown in Maps again, no need for a reboot.

If it doesn't appear make sure you have the values
<boolean name="FF_SHOWN" value="true" />
<boolean name="SHOW_MY_FRIENDS" value="true" />

in the file /data/data/com.google.android.apps.maps/shared_prefs/com.google.android.maps.MapsActivity.xml

Hope that helps.

Friday, February 20, 2009

SMS Backup: Application review

Here is an interesting useful application that I got after I asked a question on android developers group. I had almost started developing this application that would backup the SMS messages on the device to the GMail account.

Essentially the application is called SMS Backup, one can search this application with this string in android market. Once downloaded and installed you need to setup your google account in the application and make sure that google account is IMAP enabled.

After this simple setup, your SMS messages would be backed up to the GMail account under a label SMS. This also can be changed from the application settings.

Currently it seems that the restore functionality is missing. I would have liked to have that functionality as well.

I would still recommend this application to everybody.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My Tracks: Application Review

Finally an application that I was long looking for. I used to use sportstrack application on my N95 to log my GPS tracks and use the logging data for photo tagging. There did not seem to be any equivalent application on the Android.

The application My Tracks solves these problems, one can start the application and it will log all the GPS information. I find the application simple. At the end of the track recording the application would upload the track to google maps and google docs. One can use the data for any purpose after that.

The application also provides option to log statistics while the upload of the track and one has access to this data also on the google. The application can run in background and in limited use that I have done with it, did not seem to overburden the battery.

The application has features of exporting maps via KML files or GPX files which comes handy since I use gpicsync for photo synchronization. The only strange things is that these options are buried under "Share with friends" option. I can live with that.

I would recommend this application to pretty much everybody.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

RC33 equivalent upgrade for ADP1

T-mobile in US has just pushed RC33 upgrade for G1 devices, now the RC33 equivalent upgrade for ADP1 has been made available. One can download from following places.



The installation procedure is very simple, download the zip file above to your desktop. Then connect your ADP1 to your PC and mount its SD card as a removable drive on your PC. To do this, just connect the phone using the USB cable and then click on the "USB connected" notification, from there you can click on the mount button to mount the SD card to PC.

Now the phone's SD card is visible on your PC. After that copy the above ZIP file to the SD card and rename it to update.zip.

Now disconnect the phone from PC and shutdown by pressing the power button. Once shutdown completely, press home and power button simultaneously. Keep home key pressed when you release power button. You will see a triangle with a exclaimation sign on the screen. Press Alt-L and you will see a text menu.

Now press Alt-S to apply the update to the phone. You will see following messages.
Installing from sdcard...

Finding update package...

Opening update package...

Verifying update package...

Formatting BOOT...

Extracting radio image...

Formatting SYSTEM...

Copying files...

Writing BOOT:...

Installation complete.

Press Home+Back to reboot

On pressing Home+Back the phone displays
Writing Radio image...

If you encounter an error with following text in it
assert getprop(”ro.bootloader”) == “0.95.0000″

Then you need to download a nocheck image which can be downloaded from below location.


After that you may see the image of an integrated circuit with an arrow and then the phone with power up with the familiar android logo. Once the phone powers up, you are upgraded to the RC33 equivalent version. To verify the upgrade, go to settings, About Phone and check the build number, it will show holiday_devphone-userdebug 1.1 UNLOCKED 130444 test-keys.  Another sign of the fact that the phone is updated is a new menu item called System updates in the About phone menu.

So, go ahead, upgrade and have fun. I have just done this and I will post if I see any thing significant or intereating.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Locale: Application review

The cool thing about android is the number of interesting applications that are available from Market they may be simple but do interesting things. Here is one such application that I downloaded and installed recently.

Locale is an application that can customize your phone based on your location, time and many other parameters. For example you can automatically send out a tweet when you are at a certain location. You can change the screen brightness, ringer and other stuff.

From what I have seen till now, I like this one. Let me give it a try for couple of more weeks before I pass judgement on it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Unexplained running out of space on phone

A bug has been seen on android phones where the device runs out of space. The space occupied on the phone can not be explained by the applications installed and other usage of space.

Here is the email thread where this discussion has taken place.

In nut shell, here is what seems to be happening.
When some applications is uninstalled (or some other activity that deletes files), the system unlinks the files. If the phone goes to sleep before these files are cleaned up, these unlinked files are not removed.

The work around for this bug can be done by creating a scenario where the system unmounts/mounts the un-checkpointed filesystem since at only unmount/mount time the unlinked files are cleaned up.

So here are the steps that one can follow.

  • Shutdown the phone

  • Power up the phone

  • Wait for the phone to get to Home screen i.e. enter unlock code etc. if required.

  • Shut down the phone (before it goes to sleep mode)

  • Turn on the phone again, this should result in the files being deleted.

Optimizing the phonebook

After playing with my android phone and a user device (rather than a developer device), here are my notes on optimizing the phone book.

  • Older phones and SIM card based phone books generally have multiple entries for one individual for work phone, home phone etc. You should go through and collapse all the entries for one individual into a single entry.

  • The is best done using gmail''s contact option rather than on phone

  • Go through all the addresses that you use with gtalk i.e. people with whom you chat, make sure these addresses are part of your google contacts. Once you do this, if these users have put photos in their gmail settings, you will see these as picture ids in your contact book.

I have to say, once you do all these, the phonebook in android phone becomes much better than anything else that I have seen on phone. The best part is that I don't have to manage people's picture ids and they can change their own picture ids.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Application review: PostBot

I installed application PostBot from the android market and it is really cool for posting to your wordpress based blogs. The blogs could be hosted on wordpress.com or at your own website.
The application supports multiple blogs, adding images and multiple categories. It does not support adding tags to posts.
Overall an interesting application you like to blog while being mobile.Way better than some of those SMS based blogging softwares.