Sunday, August 29, 2010

WiFi Hotspot day two

All is well with my WiFi Hotspot except for Hulu. I played "We Farm" on my iPad, read my favorite blogs, and other stuff till the wee hours of the morning and the network was great. When I got up this morning the network was still up and my wife had already been online. The Dell Streak stayed cool, no heat issues. So if you do not watch Streaming Video online this may still work for you. Sadly Hulu and Netflix online is my TV.

Last night Hulu started out a little rocky and though at times I thought it was working well, by mid afternoon today I gave in unpluged my Dell Streak and plugged my cable modem back in. To get my laptop back on my home network I also had to disable sharing on the PdaNet connection.

As for Hulu I found some settings I hoped would fix it, but no. I've been having intermittent problems with Hulu stalling a few times a week for a few months. I figured it was charter, and I still do but while trying to get Hulu working via my cellphone I found some playback settings in the Hulu Settings tab. While they did not solve my Hulu over 3G issues, I hope it may now work better over charter.

The Hulu default playback settings were "Auto" and it was at 480p. I lowered it to 360p. The problem seems to be it plays faster than the buffer can fill. At 360p the video and sound quality seems the same as far as I can tell, and now the buffer is now staying filled.

I guess I will not be saying bye bye to charter just yet, but I will keep trying. As I said if it was not for TV I could give up cable and go 3G. I can also get my house back online if my cable goes out.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

HDMI output cable

My HDMI splitter cable just came in, but it seems to do nothing so far. I will try again another day.

WiFi Hotspot goodbye cable internet

Last weekend I installed PdaNet to USB tether my Android Dell Streak to my Laptop. This weekend I've unplugged my cable modem. But the whole house is still connected to the internet because the wireless card in my Laptop has turned my standard Linksys router into a WiFi Hotspot.

It really was too easy. I just unplugged my cable modem, went into the network connections on my laptop. Right clicked on PdaNet and clicked properties. Clicked share and selected share using my wireless connection. Then I told my laptop to reconnected to my linksys router. Note my router is not doing DHCP.

I tested using my iPad, two desktop computers, an iMac, my Laptop and my Android. I watched a little Hulu, and Netflix. I did some online banking, checked my email, updated my blog. I played some internet games on the iPad, then unpluged things and went out for a while. When I got back I pluged my phone back in and played some more. I almost think its faster now than it was yesterday. I did have to restart Netflix once, and Hulu seems to work better via the browser than with Hulu Desktop, but lately Hulu and Netflix often give me trouble so I cant blame it on 3G yet.

I plan to run things as is for 30 days and then hopefully cancel my cable internet. I canceled cable TV last summer.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bluetooth Home Phone System

Back in June I picked up an at&t TL92270 Dual Handset Bluetooth Answering System at Walmart, for my house in Florida. Yesterday I picked up another one for my house in Massachusetts.

The bluetooth phone system works with any standard Bluetooth cellphone. The cellphone must be within about 30 feet of the base unit. You can connect two cellphones to the system. The equipment cost is about $80.

I got it so I could walk around the house while my cellphone is tethered to my laptop. It is also great for people who only get a signal in one spot of there home or office.

I love it because it's easy and it works good, but it does requires just a little more thought to use than a normal home phone, so it may not be good for everyone.

You must make sure the cellphone is within 30 feet of the base, and you must look at the bluetooth light on the base unit to make sure your cellphone is connected before you walk away. If it is not connected, you must push a couple of button on the cellphone to connect just like you would if your Bluetooth ear bud did not connect.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

USB Tethered to Android

My Windows PC can now be quickly USB tethered to my Android 2.1 Dell Streak.

I could have gone Bluetooth, I could have gone WiFi, but I choose to go USB and to use PdaNet.

I selected USB so I would not kill my phones battery. I selected PdaNet because I had used it before and many of the other Tether apps I saw required the phone to be rooted. So far it seems just as fast as my current Charter Cable internet. I just watched a little TV on Hulu, and did some online banking, and checked my email.

Android 2.1 Update closing thoughts

It was a long day but time went by quickly. My phone is working good. The 1.5 stock build was good, but the 2.1 with the O2 build is better.

I really only have one issue and that is that Dell removed the Right & Left Arrows Keys when they took the number pad off the stock Keyboard. If I had a track ball I would not care, but now how do we arrow around to edit?

A nice change if you use the stock email client is they added check boxes and stars to the inbox.

The desktop UI is a little different, but there are apps for that. The USB cable connected message and controls are now up in the message bar. The screen lock is different. Because they removed the number pad the keyboard is bigger. I'm sure there is lots of other good stuff I have not found yet.

The whole update process would have gone faster if I had had better instructions before I started. I hope you will find my notes helpful. I did not include where to find files on the internet because those things change.

My first mistake was my phone was powered off when I plugged it into my PC so my PC did not see it, and since I did not realize this I installed and uninstalled the Dell PC Suite way to many times.

Second mistake I did not realize I needed to install another driver in the middle of the upgrade, so I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out why it would not connect.

Third mistake driver issues again while trying to get PdaNet working. The problem this time is I had already installed PdaNet before for my HTC Aria. I had to uninstall PdaNet and reinstall it to load the correct drivers for the Dell Streak.

Many of the directions I found on the web include extra steps that were not needed. You do not need to Root the phone, and no third party apps are needed to upgrade the phones OS. The only 3rd party app I used was PdaNet and that was for the tethering.

In the end even the Dell PC suite is no longer needed. The last time I uninstalled it I left it uninstalled because the USB drive and USB tethering both worked and I had no other use for the Dell PC Suite at that point. My contacts, email, and calendar are all synced by Google.

My Android 2.1 Upgrade Notes

My notes below will walk you through wiping your Dell Streak phone, installing a different stock ROM, and upgrading it to Android 2.1

First let me say NO NEED TO ROOT and NO 3rd party utilities are required.

All you need is your phone.
The ROM's that you wish to load.
The Dell PC Suite for the windows drivers.
The Android SDK for the windows fastboot command

I selected to start with the stock Dell Streak UK/O2 version of Android 1.6
The recovery ROM is the same for both the UK and the US

If you do not care about the O2 build, I think you could skip most of this and just load the Android 2.1 update to your Stock US build, but then you still have the AT&T build.

Warning this will WIPE your phone and restore it to factory Settings

First locate and download
1. The "stock recovery ROM"
2. The "stock official Dell ROM"
3. The Android 2.1 upgrade package
4. The Android SDK

The Android SDK
1. Unzip but do not install
2. Move the folder to C:\ and rename the folder to SDK

To install the Dell PC Suite
1. Power ON your Dell Streak
2. Plug it into your computer using the USB cable
3. Allow it to install the drivers
4. Install Dell PC Suite found on the Dell Streak USB Drive

The two stock recovery files
1. Download the stock recovery ROM and the stock official Dell ROM
2. Copy the 1st file recovery.stock.img to c:\

3. The 2nd file is the stock official Dell ROM. Rename it to 'Update.pkg'
and copy it to the root directory on your Dell Streaks SD card.

Start FastBoot
1. Power OFF your Dell Streak and unplug the USB Cable.
2. Hold camera button when turning on.
3. Press 'Fastboot Mode' button, wait 10 seconds then connect the USB cable.

Your phone will be saying "Wait for USB Fastboot detect"

Install the Bootloader

If this is the first time running FastBoot with this PC
you may need to install the "Android Bootloader Interface" driver

1. Go to the Device Manager on your computer.
2. Look for a yellow triangle ! icon with the name Android next to it.
3. Right-click on the icon and select "Update Driver Software"
4. Click on "Browse my computer..." click "Let me pick..." click "Android Phone"
5. Select "Android Bootloader Interface"
6. You'll get a warning saying installing the driver isn't recommended by Windows.
You must select to install it anyway.

After the installation is complete, "Android Phone" will be listed properly in the Device Manager and "Fastboot_Mode" will be on your Streak's screen.

Load the Recovery Image
1. Make sure the .img file is in c:\
2. Open a command prompt and navigate to your SDK tools folder its where 'fastboot.exe' is located.

3. Type

fastboot.exe -i 0x413c flash recovery c:\recovery.stock.img

The program will now update the recovery image on your Streak.

4. When the phone reads 'Recovery Done' unplug the USB cable and remove the battery.
Then insert the battery it again.

Load the Update.pkg
1. Boot Streak in Recovery mode
(Hold down both the vol Up & Down buttons at the same time while turning on)
2. Use the Vol Up and Down to select option 2 and click the camera button to select.
3. Click the camera button again to start recovery

Relax for a few minutes and wait for the Streak to reboot.

Upgrade to Android 2.1
1. Locate and download the Android 2.1 package
2. Rename the .pkg and copy it to the root of your Dell Streaks USB card.
3. Boot Streak in Recovery mode
(Hold down both the vol Up & Down buttons at the same time while turning on)
4. Use the Vol Up and Down to select option 2 and click the camera button to select.
5. Click the camera button again to start recovery

Relax for a few minutes and wait for the Streak to reboot.

My Android 2.1 Upgrade story

I played with my new Dell Streak for five days while running Dell's stock US Android 1.6 build. As I said five days ago my goal for today is to load the Dell O2 Android 1.6 build and then upgrade it to Android 2.1

I took my time so I could document my steps, but due to several wrong turns, it took me about 4 hours to piece together the fragmented information from several blogs. My Dell Streak is now running a clean non AT&T build of Android 2.1 on the AT&T network. I'm very happy with it and would do it again.

I will post my notes and clean them up as needed as I find things that need to be changed.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wifi Analyzer

Wifi Analyzer for Android is a great app because it allows you to view the signal strengths of all the wireless routers and access-points that are in range at the same time. But be careful if you forget to turn if off when your done, it may kill your battery.

There are several views to select from including ones that show both the signal strength in -db as well as bars. This is a very helpful tool if you are trying to setup or trouble shoot a wireless network.

Knowing the real strength of all the wifi routers in the area will help when trying to figure out where to place or move a router to make it work best.

With the WiFi Analyzer app there are 3 settings that will help save your battery. The first is to enable the "Exit" button on the menu, and the other two are to have the app turn WiFi ON when the app loads and OFF when the app exits.

Not having apps like this one is one things I do not like about the Apple iPad. It's not that the iPad can't run this kind of app, it's that Apple will not allow this kind of app in the Apple Store.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Android Task Manager

On the topic of having a Task Manager app -vs- no task manager app on your Android, my view is I like to know whats normally running -vs- walking around in a daze not knowing. Just because you install an app like Advanced Task Killer does not mean you have to kill any tasks you see running.

I like the "Advanced Task Killer" app because it does not list all the extra system apps you should not be messing with. It allows you to Ignore a task you always want running like Gmail, and it allows you to view and manage (kill) other apps on demand.

In the "Advanced Task Killer" settings I've set the default click action to Popup Menu, and told it to Ignore Gmail, Google Voice, Email, and Advanced Task Killer.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dell Streak a 5” Tablet & Smartphone

My Dell Streak arrived today. It was hard but I took it out of the box, plugged it in and walked away till it was fully charged. Then while it was still plugged in I started setting it up, and installing a couple of apps. Later that night I started playing with it.

The first time I held it to my face to answer a phone call I truely realized how large it was. But at 5 inches it's still smaller than a few cell phones I've had in the past. The screen is large, but at times I still wish it was larger.

I installed the basics. Advanced Task Killer, Wifi Analyzer, Our Groceries, Google Voice, Facebook, TweetCaster, IMDb, Barcode Scanner, setup Gmail, setup my work email using the Android email client, and put a shortcut to Navigation on the home screen.

Now I will play with Dells stock AT&T version of Android 1.6 till the weekend. So far everything works just as I remembered with my HTC Aria, the Dell UI is a little different, but its all good.

My plans for the weekend if everything works out, includes downloading the Dell Streak O2 image, and the 2.1 upgrade image. Then load the O2 image, apply the 2.1 upgrade, I think I have to root the phone at some point to do this and start over installing and setting up the phone with my apps.

The O2 image will get rid of some AT&T crap and 2.1 is just better than 1.6 not that I have any issues at this point. Then to my list I plan to ad PDAnet and hopefully relax a bit.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Dell Streak on Order

I ordered a Dell Streak today. I've waited over two years for this phone and I should have it on Tuesday of next week. It's hard to believe its been almost a month since I returned my HTC Aria. I loved that little phone, but my Blackberry got me through the wait so well that I was starting to question why I cared. But its the big screen, but still small enough to slip into a pocket. The extra functionality and the hopes that this time next year or sooner I will write a story about how I gave up cable internet at home and went 3G all the way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Five weeks with an Apple iPad

I never wanted an iPad but I've been playing with one everyday for about 5 weeks. There are a lot of little things I do not like about it, but my real issue is with the Apple app store. I do not like that Apple decides what apps are OK for you or your business to use. If Microsoft did that with Windows would you except it? I would rather have an Android but the iPad does have its good points.

So lets begin. The 10 inch screen is a good size for a tablet you would use around the house. Its big enough to read an email or browse the web without feeling crowded. The screen resolution is good for watching a video. You can plug in a headset if you want the sound louder or softer. There is a good selection of apps and books, and the weight is ok. But at the same time if you have to carry it around all day everyday while working its a hand full and you can not put it in your pocket even for a few seconds. If you choose to hold it while reading or watching a movie after a while it gets heavy and when holding it one handed you may find your self switching hands often. It's nice that you can turn it in any direction so the home button can be on any side you want, but it sure would be nice if, in addition to the Home button, the iPad a had a Menu, Settings, and Search button so the apps could have a few standards. As it is every app does its own thing, so if it has options you have to look for them. The only thing you can count on is the home button gets you out.

The iPad and its apps and settings need a simple parent lock because its both a tool and a toy. The owner of the iPad needs the ability to mark what apps are open and what apps are restricted so it can be handed to a 3 year old to play a game with only one concern. Is the child going to drop it. You should not have to be concerned if someone is going to touch an icon on the screen.

The iPad seems like a great tool for a school or business, but other than an online website you can not just create your own in-house tools to use on it. Everything you use must come from the Apple App Store. Yes jail break is an option but if apple is not going to include that on off option in the settings then I do not consider it an option for our schools.

There are a lot of good free apps, but at the same time there are a lot of crap apps and many of them are not free, and there is no return option for paid crap apps. I will not mention how much money you can make selling a crap to a ton of people.

The iPad is so slick that without a case its almost impossible to pick it up with one hand. The stock apple case makes a great snack tray, but it also makes the iPad harder to use. The iPad case is an example of something that looks great on paper or for a quick look, but when you use it for any length of time and you find that you have to develop ways to work around its issues.

Now once again the iPad is nice, not great but really nice. Do not expect it to replace your PC unless all you do is read emails, and do very light typing. It does not support websites with flash, and other websites may not work correctly with a touch screen and no arrows or trackball. You will find that for some tasks using the iPad will takes a lot longer while other tasks are simpler.

As with my Blackberry every morning for the past five weeks I still check my emails from bed. But I've added twitter and facebook and I less often have to go turn on my computer before work. Because the Blackberry can multi task and the Apple can not I will still need my Blackberry till I get my Android phone. But the iPad is like reading the paper without the mess where the small screen on the Blackberry was good but not as good.

The video quality for one person at at time watching YouTube or NetFlix is good. But I would hope it would not come to that.

The iPad could be a great tool, but apple blocks tools like the Wi-Fi Analyzer that could really come in handy when setting up and testing the wireless networks in the schools.

So all that said as much as I do not like Apple products and the iPad I have used it everyday for the past 5 weeks. It has been helpful in keeping me off the computer, but I've also spent to much time on the iPad. I would not think of trying to write or edit something like this review with an iPad, yet I may start one just to get my ideas down if a computer was not handy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cellphone Data Plan

Having a phone with a real Gmail app has made a big difference in my life this past year. I do computer support for a school district, and it seems I'm always in the wrong school when things break. We have a lot of 3G dead spots in the school district so I needed a phone with a real email app so my email could download as I move around.

A year ago I bought a Blackberry 8820, I wanted the Dell Streak but it had not been released yet. I'm still waiting. I have to say the Blackberry did the job well. I still want a Dell Streak because I want a bigger screen, a larger keyboard and more apps. But if I had to choose between a Blackberry or an Apple I would still pick the Blackberry.

I setup the blackberry mail app to download my work email and I used the gmail app for everything else. I love how google sync keeps my contacts and calendars up to date. I never had to install the Blackberry software on my computer. Its all gmail, and I love it. My next phone has to live up to the standard that Blackberry set.

Having a phone with a Data Plan at home has also made a big difference also. Before I would get home, turn on my computer and check my email. It seemed that it does not matter how much or little email I had it took at least and hour or more before I turned it off and walked away, and it seemed I was checking email a lot.

Now I almost never use my home computer and when I do its because I knew there was something I needed to look at that required a larger screen or a printer.

Unless things in my life changed I cant see going back to life before a cellphone with a data plan. I'm actually hoping that when I get my next phone it will be an Android Dell Streak and that I will find a way to cancel my home internet service.

TouchTec Penz

Review of TouchTec Penz - The Multi-function Capacitive Touch Screen Stylus and Ball Point Pen. Yes its a cheap pen, but the touch screen part of the stylus looks like someone took a three whole punch to a cheap fake leather jacket and then glued the circle off center on the end of a cheap pen. To use the pen on an iPad you have to touch straight down not at any kind of angle like you would to actually write something. The only thing this pen is good for is the idea to look in your closet for something to glue to your own stick.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Apple iPad Case

So far I feel Apple's stock iPad case is only great for carrying it around. I do not like it at all when I'm using the iPad. So last night and this morning I found and ordered two iPad cases, a USB charging cable, and a stylus. The links for what I bought are at the bottom.

I've tried to use the iPad a lot over the past couple of weeks to fully understand what it does well and what it does not. I've found that as I jump between sites and apps I tend to turn it a lot because I can and because some apps and sites work better that way. I've found that I often prefer to hold the iPad like a book not on my lap and I only set it on a table or desk between using it.

The Bumper case comes in FlipCam yellow!! but I ordered the Gray one to match my bike. I also ordered a snap on case, a USB charging cable so I can charge the iPad from my PC, and a stylus.

I'm hoping the stylus will help me get more words in the note apps, and I think I will prefer the feel of Bumper Case but the Snap in Case may be able to snap on over the screen to transport and on the back for use.

There are a lot of other iPad cases and stuff on
http://www.boxwave.com/ and on amazon. I would love to buy a dozen more but since its my money I did not. All the cases on boxwave are over $20 but amazon has cases for $8 plus shipping.

The reviews said many of the cheap cases were OK but not a snug fit. That may not matter in a classroom. If I was going to order more just to try a cheap case my next choice would be the $8 skin design. I liked the look of the $8 skin over the $8 wrap you can see both at http://amzn.com/B00396R2BC