Archive for the ‘tools’ Category
I’ve been experimenting with hacking Android phones recently, either to extend their functionality, or to circumvent mobile phone companies’ annoying blocks.
This post is really just to detail what I did, with the aim of providing useful reference for others doing something similar. It took ages searching forums and other blogs to find a correct set of steps to do this, so hopeful I can shorten the time it takes the next person.
My first effort with this was with an old HTC Wildfire I’d bought from a friend for about £60 (cheap enough ont to matter too much if I inadvertently turned it into a paperweight), I was to realise that this was not an entry level task.
Normally hacking an Android phone has two basic steps:
1) Find the vulnerability that allows you to become a superuser.
2) Become a superuser (getting root access)
3) Add all the software you want that the manufacturers didn’t necessarily intend.
In many cases, gaining root access is a well-practised function, that some developers have even packed up into a handy piece of software that does step one and two for you. UnRevoked is a good example for a selection of HTC handsets.
S-On / S-Off
Annoyingly HTC have a security setting to prevent you doing this, which leads to the additional step at the start of removing this (S-OFF). Turning it off should normally be simple, again it’s been done so many times that there’s some software which perform all the steps for you, in this case, Revolutionary will do it.
Except it didn’t work for me because the firmware in my phone was too recent and there was no way to hack it to turn S-OFF. I had boot version 1.01.002, and Revolutionary only works with boot version 1.01.001.
So now I had to downgrade the boot software to the earlier, hackable version. This alone was fiddly and time-consuming, and by far the best instructions for doing so are in the Aritrasen blog.
So after all that, only now, was I in a position to begin the superuser process.
Only I then discovered that there was another stumbling block. The superuser exploit only works on Android 2.1 (Eclair) and my Wildfire has already been upgraded to Android 2.2 (Froyo), and I had to downgrade that as well (keep following the Aritrasen guide, don’t skip that step, it is not optional).
OK, now I could finally start at step 1, above! Happily the rest of the process was simple and done for me by the software packaged listed. At this point I chose to use CyanogenMod rather than standard Android as the phone’s operating system because the Wildfire will only support 2.2 (Froyo), but with CyanogenMod 7, it effectively becomes a 2.3 (Gingerbread) device.
It takes a lot longer to boot now than it did (boot screen picture at top of post) and actually pretty much everything about the phone is slower, especially if you want to use Swype, or Opera, but that’s what happens when you start to push the hardware to its limits.
However, I now have the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve made my phone do something it shouldn’t really be able to do, I have a more technically capable Wildfire handset than most other people, and it’s my first play with an Android (ish) phone! Smiles all round
A rare off-topic post. Because flexibility is fun.
I got to my desk this morning and as I’ve got into the habit of doing, I made a rough list of the things I wanted to do today.
Then I made some tea, and looked at my list to work out which one I should start first. And I thought, yep, this list really helps me focus on what I need to do, and it’s a great visual prompt.
At this point I was immediately distracted by wondering how many other people think so to, so I started search for “Why to do lists are great”. I got four words in and google’s autocomplete came up with:
Why to do lists don’t work
It seems the productivity industry can’t agree on whether they’re good or not:
Lifehacker notes that some people have so many things to do, they need a range of online tools to help them keep track. (I go for the pen/paper option)
Morgan McLintic likes To-Do lists, but says you need to do more than just write stuff down.
Although Mike Reeves-McMillan goes into little too much depth for me, suggesting I should “Link To-do Items to Higher-Level Goals”. I think I might spend all day supercharging my list, rather than doing the actual work.
This post on the Harvard Business Review blog shuns lists because they are “setting you up for failure and frustration”.
Actually I think the best advice comes from Leo Babauta’s calm-inducing Zenhabits, with some simple tips on getting things done. Basically, take a deep breath, and start a small part of the task.
I feel better now.
Bandwidth issues solved
I decided the best way to resolve the connectivity issues we were having during the Digital Media Tools training in Nairobi, was to wait till I got back home to London.
In the spirit of ‘practise what you preach’, I uploaded these to Flickr, and edited some of them in Picnik, which you can connect directly to Flickr to import pictures from, and send the edited pictures back to.
I wonder if Google’s purchase of Picnik will affect this fantastic connectivity with Yahoo’s photo system?
A hypocrite speaks
This afternoon I had the pleasure of chairing a seminar hosted by the Media Trust all about how small charities can take advantage of using the web in general and video in particular to further their communication.
- Video’s ability to explain complex ideas and express emotive messages
- The underlying importance of social networks, particularly finding enthusiastic supporters who can at as ambassadors and help a charity develop
- Using existing tools, going where the audience already is and not re-inventing the wheel
- Not spreading your efforts too thinly
- Supporting material for the main message – video has more impact if it doesn’t stand alone
What is clear in modern marketing is that big campaigns still have some use, if you can afford them, but they suffer from a long preparation, followed by a large but short-term impact.
However, you can get a very worthwhile result from regularly putting small and simple messages out there. You’re playing the long game.
My top tip is actually very simple:
Keep a weblog. Add info it regularly. (Sharp eyed readers will notice that I don’t actually manage to do this myself. Oops!)
Link to pictures, video, other writers who resonate with your cause. Use other tools like Twitter and Facebook to send people back to your blog.
Quite apart from the conversation you can now start to have with your supporters, a weblog is a great way to prove your diligence in your chosen field. It’s also a great way of reminding yourself what you’ve been doing for the past few months.
In short, it’s a planning tool as well as being a your archive of actions. Need to get that Annual Report out in half the time? Keep a weblog and you’re doing the work throughout the year rather than in one exhausting block.
Don’t write it down, don’t even think it
For some reason at almost 4am on the 28th February I was surfing the Guardian. Right on the front page was a small link to ‘Chlie sausage’ with other links with earthquake coverage.
Intrigued, I clicked, and got this:
(click for the larger size)
This is clearly a case of a mistaken button push. It came down fairly quickly, and it’s not in Google’s cache anymore, but a search brings up the leftover metadata.
I suppose the lesson here is don’t add anything into a news system which you don’t intend to be visible to the public. I can remember this being impressed upon me during early days at Radio New Zealand. Journalists were actively discouraged from adding private notes in the news system, for the amusement of the newsreaders or sub-editors.
It was pointed out that a court request for information could make the comedy slur of a hapless newsmaker very public indeed, and perhaps lead to legal proceedings! Not fun.
The recent addendum to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines says much the same thing about personal web-presences for BBC staff: If you wouldn’t say it on air, don’t put it on the web.
TVTropes has a whole category of fictional and some real-life ‘Is this thing still on’ moments broadcast on television.
In the end, I’m reminded of the time I saw the Guardian’s mis-publish, nearly 4am. And surreal things happen in the wee small hours, as the poet, Rives, points out in this cleverly written piece at TED in 2007. Enjoy.
The best person to keep your data safe might be you
Matthew Knell writes about how he used to keep his photos on Kodak’s online service. He trusted them so much, he doesn’t have the originals to many of his pictures anymore.
Now Kodak are charging for their Photo Gallery and the choice is stark: Pay up or your photos get it.
“Stupid to put my photos exclusively in the hands of a brand I trusted? Perhaps. But I believed the hype and trusted Kodak to do the right thing with my content — forever. These were my photos, my data, and I had confidence that they would do the right thing. These were my Kodak memories. I had five years of trusted transactions with this company.”
Interestingly Kodak’s site in the UK still appears to have the original storage policy. But this is likely to change and this won’t be the last freemium service to start charging.
My favourite online video editing system, Jumpcut closed yesterday. This was innovative, collaborative and almost certainly ahead of its time. The ability to remix video simply and quickly is a big loss to creative brains.
And the real shock? Jumpcut was part of Yahoo. It bought the site in late 2006. I thought this was a very positive move and that the investment would secure Jumpcut’s longevity.
But forever can be a very short amount of time.