Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How to get Google Maps working again: Other Location Providers Can Interfere

If you have a lot of crashes with Google Maps, like there is on the Pipo T9 with 4.4.2 KitKat, then there is a possible solution for you now.

The rare problem can occur if you have Network Location (µg UnifiedNlp for GAPPS-free devices and possibly other Location provider middleware) installed.
These are, like on the Pipo T9, integrated by default. If that is the case, you can't uninstall it, but on most devices you can deactivate it in Settings -> Apps -> All. (It's often referred as "Network Location" in the apps list).

After you got rid of it, Google Play Services should be the only Location provider on your device. Reboot it and Google Maps should work again. At least it's the case on my Tablet. Yay.

There is no definitive explanation why this happens. And obviously it's rare. There was nothing found on the web in particular about Google Maps crashing on almost every Pan & Zoom or when navigating. I assume these alternative location providers interferes with Google Play Services which has its own.

Like always, do this at your own risk. You should be able to reenable it if something won't work, or you have disabled the wrong location provider.

Please note: If you get a warning about Google Play Services being restored to the factory version, cancel disabling. It's not the one you are looking for :). This needs to be installed unless you know what you're doing.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Google Use App2sd And Don't Raid Our Smartphone Memory

Something that bugs me for a long time. Google does not make their apps installable on sdcard or internal device storage. It must be installed to the app storage.
With the ongoing updates to material design the amount of memory the apps need is increasing.
Many devices do have a separate app storage. Devices still selling in stores are sometimes even have only 512MB space for apps. Even more with 1024MB and the better ones with 2048MB.
Not all devices, like the newer Nexus devices can use up the whole memory for apps.
The Nexus S for example has 1024MB app-storage (free to use 980MB according to storage in settings). The other space is marked as USB storage and thus can't be used by Google Android apps.
It really drives me nuts. I have a Pipo T9 Octa Core tablet with 32GB internal storage and 32GB sdcard. And still have to get rid of apps, because Google is not the only one who doesn't care for anything other than app storage. And the Pipo has 3072MB storage for apps.
But let's see how Google is wasting precious memory:

  • Play Store: 15.2MB
  • YouTube: 19MB
  • Play Music 22.3MB
  • Maps 26.7MB
  • Hangouts 33.5MB
  • Inbox 44.6MB
  • Google+ 17.2MB (Data app storage only + 42.7MB) = 59.9MB
  • Chrome 68MB (clean install + much more app storage only data)
  • Google Search 43.9MB (Data app storage only + 29MB) = 73MB
  • Google Play Services 43.5MB (Data app storage only + 43.4MB) = 87MB

Total Google only apps (w/o system services and app storage usage): 449MB
Your device memory for apps:
512MB = 87.7%
1024 MB = 43.85%
2048 MB = 21.92%

With Google+ the only installabe app on sdcard and then uses over 42MB on data, only in this precious storage, is beyond me.
I refuse to install Google Chrome because of that. It could be easily making usage of internal overall storage. If someone has a problem with security issues, okay. Make a warning and let me install it either way. I can't even install games that USES sdcard, because to install it there, the device must have sufficient space left in the app storage.
So, I consequently stop using 3rd party apps that don't let me move it to the sdcard. Do you hear app devs?
But some Google apps, I have no choice. And that is really, really annoying. Every megabyte counts, still in 2014.

Friday, November 14, 2014

FireTV is here at last

Because my PS3 ran permanently, and it used a lot of power cobined with an awesome soundscape of working vents, I decided to give FireTV a try.

It worked out of the box like a Kindle Fire tablet, and I could use it after the update right away. The menus are better than in the PS3 app. And it has a lot of additional features. I can install Android-apps and therefore connect to many TV-stations, video on demand services and even Internet radio. I couldn't get the screen mirroring working by now, but since it's miracast compatible it should work.
It's quick. much quicker than on the PS3. The very tiny, nice little flat box fits everywhere.
Connected to the TV via HDMI and the digital audio Receiver via optical cable it is a good experience.
But there are some caveats depending on your hardware. For example, my TV is a standard 1080p one. But the FireTV only recognizes a 720p resolution. And it won't let me manually switch to 1080p. So while this is no big deal for me, some quality focused people can't accept it. A new TV in my case would be the only solution. I don't know why this happens. I'll keep on investigating and contact Amazon for this.
The biggest downturn is the lack of YouTube! You read that right. No YouTube app that works with FireTV at the moment.  Not good, and make me want to have a Chromecast in addition.

Other than that the box is fast and even games run great. Yes games. Like mentioned you can run Android apps and there are some games optimized for the FireTV. Even with the standard Bluetooth FireTV remote, you can use some of them. For other you might need the separately sold Game Controller. I'll use it for media consumption, so gaming won't be that big of a deal, but the Quad-core heart working inside is fast enough to handle it well.

So after 2 days I can say, it totally will save power, time and nerves using the FireTV instead of the PS3. For the content, you are not only limited to Amazon, but can use other services, too. YouTube is a must for the future. Do you hear, Amazon?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How-To: Pipo T9 Flashed To Official KitKat 4.4.2

It took a while, but now KitKat 4.4.2 is officially available for the Pipo T9.
And I waited for the right moment, with a good reason.

First of all, despite what you can read on the website, you need to take the MTKtool for this, not Rockflash. I got confirmation from Pipo about that. So I downloaded it, used the official update rom file (Chinese version works everywhere), and go. Go? Nope, not so quick.

First pay attention that this update will(!) erase everything on your device, it will be completely wiped. Only the sdcard will be untouched. Backup all you can.
After unrar both files, the MTKtool did not work because of the Chinese directory names. I changed that to something easy, the it worked on Win 8. And to clarify, that is the only way. Now OTA or image copying on the device. Windows and USB, no other way.
What I missed first is you need to install the USB VCOM drivers in the directory of the MTKtool. The install file didn't work and gave an error *sigh*. So I went in to the inf-directory (for me it was x64) and right-click on both .inf-files and chose install. That worked.

Now I started MTKtool, selected the DA "All-in-one" anything and chose the ***scatter.txt in the unpacked update-file, and chose "Firmware upgrade" from the drop-down menu (see screenshot). Didn't start flashing. Yes I made a little mistake.
You'll have to do it exactly in that order: Turn off (!) the device, wait until it vibrates for a complete shutdown. Then after all is set as mentioned above, click on "Download" BEFORE you connect the device via USB.
After I did this, the tablet started flashing, and after some time, it showed Download ok. Then I unplugged the Pipo and pressed the power button to switch on the tablet.
Hold your breath, it takes a while after it shows the new Pipo screen with 4.4.2 as the version number, before it booted up. And voilá, KitKat is on the device.

Some strange things after the update occured.
First of all, like I read before, because my device was build before July 2014, the camera has some problems with focusing. I don't care much about the camera. But if you do, be warned that you won't be able to shoot focused photos again. With models after July 2014, it seems that this problem does not occur, according to Pipo.
Then the MAC-address was different after the update! I recognized it, because my router won't allow it in the network. That is kind of strange and you might get problems if something is tied to your MAC-address.
Maybe this, or maybe not, is the reason why Google did not restore my backed up data from the cloud. Nothing. I had to install everything by hand. This was horrible.
And then there is the Google Authenticator problem. Up until now, I wasn't able to get it to work. It starts, you can scan the QR-code, but the 6-digit code for the 2-factor auth will not be accepted. I checked the time, time-zone and date, tried to sync in the app (which says no need to sync the time is okay with the Google-servers), but nothing worked. I have no clue what this could be. I also set the time-zone and time manually tempered with it but still no luck.
I'll get back to Pipo with this problem and ask if they have more feedback about it.
The internal phone storage is having problems as I can't use it to put anything on it. The apps apparently can not access it due to permission errors. Accessing the sdcard is fine. Strange. Shouldn't it be the other way around with KitKat?

The good things: I have KitKat now, with all the features. The launcher is not the stock look and feel, like with the Jelly Bean rom. Much less bloatware pre-installed on this version. That is nice, even though it wasn't too much on the previous version, too. It's quick and shiny.
Castscreen now works, and it's ready for those wearables, that didn't work under 4.2.2!

You you want to do this, let's be warned that here something can get horribly wrong and let your device be a useless brick. Keep that in mind. If everything is fine, you'll have some sweet chocalte and sugar on your Android.

Update 2014/10/27: You should backup your MAC-Address and your IMEI with MTKtool before flashing the upgrade. This tool can change them. This may cause some problems like mentioned above and more.
The overall stability of the KitKat-Launcher on the Pipo is not as good as the Jelly Bean version. It looks like an early version. The task "launcher3" crashes on boot apparently if you have icons from apps on the sdcard on the screen, as they regulary disappear at startup and show up on relaunch of the task. I ended up installing Nova Launcher which runs without any problem.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Which direction is Android heading? New Nexus Devices With Huge Screens And Prices

Basically, the rumors were safe. But most people didn't believe that the Nexus 6 has an 5.96 inch screen. Yesterday Google not only confirmed, but presented the Nexus 6, the Nexus 9 and Android Lollipop. And not only the screens are huge, the prices are too.

Everyone knew it for week, but only a few believed it. An almost 6 inch screen for the new Nexus 6 device is a shocker for the ordinary smartphone users. Technically with a Snapdragon 805 quad-core processor at 2.7GHz and 32GB in the smallest version, it's up to date. The Motorola made Nexus also comes with a QHD 2560 * 1440 (493 ppi). So the specs are great.
This phone will spark a lot of conversation. Is this even qualified for getting mainstream? What was Google's intend? Are they leaving the consumer with this?
I'm pretty sure, it will not get the most selling device anytime soon if ever. Nexus never were. What Google did is a brave step. It's not completely unrealistic after even the competitor from Cupertino has announced a 6 inch phone. That alone will lead to more acceptance of such big devices.
The price might be the biggest downturn. Yes it's worth it. It's not expensive. But with $649 for the smallest version, it's way above the price that everyone expected from a Nexus device.

Not much surprise with the Nexus 9.
The rumors was adequate here, too. So pretty much all the specs was no surprise. This Nexus tablet with an 8.9 inch 2048*1536 and 4:3(!) ratio is from manufactured by HTC. The NVIDIA Tegra K1 64-bit dual-core processor at 2.3 GHz will bring enough performance. 2GB of RAM seems to be the lowest acceptable value for a 64-Bit device.
Prices from $399 could make it interesting. However, if you want more than WiFi, you'll have to pump out some extra dollar to come above the $600 barrier.

Android L is running on all these new devices from the beginning.
L? Oh sorry, it's now Lollipop. That's right Android 5 Lollipop. Now while I'm having trouble to get this song out of my head, this is a game changer once again. Yes, it's that different. It feels totally like a new system. If that is for good or bad I leave you to decide. But one thing is for sure, Android will never be the same, and at the same time with all the changes we already saw to the apps, it's no longer unusual.
Nexus 4, 7 and Google Play Edition owners visit your dentist, you are getting Lollipop, too. Great news. There will be a lot to say about this in the coming weeks. Enjoy.

In the shadow of all this, the Nexus Player was announced. The direct competition to FireTV and probably the successor of the Chromecast. It definitely can do everything the Chromecast does, and a lot more. With a quad-core Atom processor it has enough power to run apps and games. The magic here is done by Asus. For $99 it's a no-brainer. Buy or miss out.

So, the conclusion of this?
Google is going new ways for Android. A new era for sure. It might be that a Nexus 6 never ends up as a mainstream device. But the platform to show all the new features and new Android versions never was mainstream big time. Nonetheless, it shows the way Android is going. And it will be an exciting new way as Android enters the living room, and all screen sizes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Amazon Video now hits Europe on real Android devices

You might not even knew it, but Amazon Instant Video wasn't available until a few days okay on regular Android devices.

The long proclaimed "Android is not secure enough" looks no longer valid for a apparent change in the politics of Amazon. As pressure rises to establish the relatively new video service, we now see Android is and was ready the whole time.
Whatever drove Amazon to this change, now the Instant Video Player is available at the Amazon App Store. To use it, you also need the Amazon - App to buy stuff. It won't work without. While this is a bit strange, it's no big deal. After installing this, you can even watch Instant Prime movies and tv-series. Great news for many Android-users out there.

Both apps are, of course, available for free in the Amazon App Store, or the Google Play Store.