Tag Archives: android

Good news for Z3 Compact owners

There has been some rather good news for Z3 Compact (Z3C) owners the past couple of weeks. Firstly, Cyanogenmod started releasing nightly CM12 builds for the Z3C. But more importantly, a root exploit was released.

The thing that galled me most about the Z3 was that unlocking the bootloader permanently erased DRM keys which are required for some functionality. Usually this functionality is superfluous (I never intend to purchase any protected content from the Sony store), but in the case of the Z3C, erasing the DRM keys makes the camera worse in low light.

Unfortunately, unlocking the bootloader is required to install firmware from sources other than Sony, which means I can only do what Sony officially sanctions, unless I want to sacrifice camera performance.

I don’t believe I should have to make that choice.

This exploit restores the balance, but upgrading to Cyanogenmod while retaining the DRM keys is a fairly lengthy process:

  • Downgrade to an older, exploitable firmware version (before October 2014) with Flashtool
  • Run the giefroot root exploit
  • Backup the TA (trim area) partition with Backup TA (this saves the DRM keys so you can truly revert to stock)
  • Flash the rom of your choice, safe in the knowledge that it will always be possible to revert to factory condition!

Note that the DRM keys (probably Sony’s camera app as well) can’t be used with Cyanogenmod, so the camera will still be theoretically inferior to the stock Sony firmware. But this does allow me to revert to factory condition, or stick with firmware derived from Sony’s if I am not happy with the trade-off. Previously, this wouldn’t have been possible!

The Z3 is a great piece of hardware (read my brief review here), but Sony’s software and hostile DRM have been sore points. Now, I can finally have the phone I wanted (not to mention paid for).

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact Review

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Flagship smart-phones have been getting progressively larger. My first high-end Android device was a Samsung/Google Nexus S, which was comparable to an iPhone 3GS in dimensions. By modern standards it is chunky, yet it remains a good tradeoff between screen size, pocketability, and handling.

The two phones I’ve owned since the Nexus S have had progressively larger screens – I went to a Galaxy SII, and then a Galaxy SIII. But I never wanted a larger device than the Nexus S, just a faster one.

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Nexus 7 jelly bean update brings home screen rotation

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Brief post as I’m writing this on the device in question – an update to Jelly Bean (4.1.2) came through a few minutes ago. I think this is the slickest handling of screen rotation yet – effectively the layout is the same, the Android engineers simply moved the launcher and (the useless) search to the sides. This is a nice improvement for Nexus 7 owners.

The Search for an Android News Reader

Seriously you’d think this would be easy. FeedingIt on the N900 wasn’t amazing but it did the job and was totally free. I don’t think my requirements are unreasonable here:

  • RSS support – not just via Google Reader
  • Ethical developer – i.e. supports the app and doesn’t demand excessive permissions for advertising purposes
  • White text on black background (for better battery life on AMOLED)
  • A decent user interface (NewsRob is great)
  • Offline cache, configurable sync schedule – I don’t want it to update constantly during the day and chew my battery, just download articles twice daily before I jump on the tube.
  • A reasonable price (yes I am prepared to pay)

Seriously if anyone can find one that fits these criteria please enlighten me, because I sure can’t. The ones I’ve considered so far:

  • NewsRob
    • The current frontrunner. Ad-supported and paid versions, user interface is nice and clean. I’m currently using the ad-supported version (gasp), until I find another. The problems? No black background (discovered the pro version actually does have a night theme), sync is partially configurable but can’t set specific times, based on Google Reader.
  • Feedr
    • Looked perfect and was apparently one of the better ones, but is no longer updated. Rumour has it that the developer is also behind RssDemon…
  • RssDemon
    • From what I can gather from the reviews on the marketplace, the developer of this app prefers to release a new app so everyone has to buy it again rather than improve the original. The app demands location permissions which is totally unnecessary for a news reader, and according to one reviewer purchasing the elite license does not properly remove the ad components. Strike.
  • BlueRSS GR
    • Developer seemed to have a good thing going with BlueRSS then inexplicably threw all that away by removing the old version and starting again with a new “GR” version that is not getting good reviews. There is no option for a black interface, but I didn’t like it anyway – 3D icons very 1998. Absolutely zero reasons to use this over NewsRob.
  • eSobi
    • Poor reviews, expensive (free is only trial), bloated, too many permissions. Again, zero reasons to use this over NewsRob.

Yes I’m picky but this seriously should not be that hard. News reading on Android – fail.

Google Nexus S – the AL4 review

In a moment of weakness I went and signed up to a 24-month contract on O2 a month ago, with the main attraction being the “free” Nexus S that was part of the deal. I did the math, and assuming my current rate of ¬£15 per month spent on pre pay would continue, it worked out cheaper than buying the phone outright by a significant margin. Even after the post-xmas price drop.

My previous device is a Nokia N900, with the result that my standards for usability are rather low, but my standards for functionality are extremely high. There really is nothing the N900 can’t do with enough knowledge, but compared to the Nexus S it is slow and unwieldy for even the most basic functions such as email and calendaring.

As per usual, in this review I make no attempt to provide a complete or even unbiased review. These are my impressions, nothing more, and the review will be of most interest to you if you’re currently an open-source friendly N900 user in their 20s living in London. Yeah, it’s basically the comparison that I would have wanted to read before I switched.
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