Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sony Xperia Z Ultra

Forget about renders of Samsung Galaxy Note III: it's rumored to be smallish 5.5", possibly not powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 (=underpowered) and blissfully avid water sucker as they all Galaxies are.

Forget about Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3 inch underpowered and heavily overpriced phablet: it's a joke. Some Chinese fake Note II can outperform it for a half the price.

Here comes the new king of phablets: Sony Xperia Z Ultra. Here are some specs (as per Android Central, plus some additions and refinements):

  • Colors: Black, white, purple 
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2.2GHz quad-core CPU, 4G LTE
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Dimensions: 179.4 x 92.2 x 6.5 mm
  • Weight: 212 grams
  • OS: Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
  • Cameras: 8MP rear (“Exmor RS for mobile”, HDR for stills and video), 2MP front
  • Display: 6.44-inch 1920x1080 TRILUMINOS display for mobile, touch panel cover glass with Super Hard Coat ASF
  • Storage: 16 GB (up to 11 GB user-accessible memory), microSD expandability up to 64GB SDXC
  • Networks: UMTS HSPA+ 900 (Band VIII), 2100 (Band I) MHz, 850 (Band V), 1900 (Band II), 1700 (Band IV), GSM GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz, 4G LTE
  • Battery: 3,000mAh embedded
  • Waterproofing and dust resistance: IP55/IP58-rated
Qualcomm's quad core Snapdragon 800 2.2 GHz with Adreno 330 is not just a beast, it's a top of the line SoC, equal or better than that nVidia Tegra 4 chip which powers nothing as of today.

1920x1080 FHD IPS Triluminos display offers a feature called X-Reality better demoed here:

This X-Reality mode deserves more thorough testing, but as demoed it can bring in a lots of improvements not only to color, contrast and details rendering in video playback, but to static image renditions as well.

Waterproofing and dust resistance of IP55 rating means Z Ultra withstands dust, moisture, water sprays. Rating IP58 implies Z can dive to up to 5 feet water depths up to 30 minutes. Eat it, Galaxies! (or should I say: Drink it?)

Super Hard Coat ASF cover of touch panel also deserves more testing and demoing, but as per Sony's own description, together with having a screen protecting features it also adds this "pencil-sensing" feature:

The Xperia Z Ultra is the ideal business partner thanks to the super responsive
screen with handwriting recognition which is compatible with any pencil and
selected stylus or pen (capacitive stylus or metal pen with tip diameter over
1mm). You can even write notes or sketches during calls so you’ll always be ready
capture your ideas as they happen. The easy-toggle keyboard makes it ideal for
one-handed input and multi-tasking, with small apps to help you improve
productivity so you don’t lose time browsing between windows.
Looks like needle-sharp pencils are out, but as long as squishy capacitive styli can be thrown out, it's a great feature for note taking and even drawing. "Super Hard Coat" moniker is supposed to state that this coat resists to marks left by relatively "soft" pencil and "soft" touch of metal pen. So, with this phablet you can write and sketch with any pencil and selected stylus or pen (capacitive stylus or metal pen with tip diameter over 1mm). Nothing is said about palm rejection though, so Note II has some breathing space left still.

Self-healing scratches on that Super Hard Coat are also remain to be seen and believed. 6.44 inches of very thin screen in very thin frame also looks like so much more chances to shatter or develop cracks by relatively "light" drops. Scratch resistant feature won't also help if the phone lands flat on screen (or glassy back) on some sort of tile. Think of screen replacement works that may cost in excess of $300.

However, if you're in the market for a combo of prime 7 inch tablet and prime phone, this device may easily serve as both.
(to be updated) 

Samsung Galaxy SII Skyrocket Resurrection From Insane Chip Grip

In my previous articles I described the procedure of reviving my Skyrocket from death caused by severe water damage. Now it must be cleaner than when first came out of the factory.

However, the problems with Skyrocket don't stop popping up: at one point, after flashing custom recovery (CWM Touch 6.3.x, look for it at XDA-Devs, could be also TWRP 2.5), wiping it thoroughly, and flashing a recent official CM10.1 nightly my phone has developed a pattern of freezing up every 5 minutes.

Thorough Google searches didn't bring much remedies for Skyrocket, but the similar bad eMMC chip aka "insane" chip has severely hit some models of Samsung Galaxy SIII.

As of today, there's no simple remedy to get rid of contaminated caches, even this radical procedure by FDisk80 may fail to keep freezes from returning:

OK guys, I am now 28 hours and 23 minutes up time without any freezes.

Also I recommend you backup your EFS. Just to be safe.

This is what I did.

What you need:
Galaxy i9300 International.
CWM Recovery
Android SDK
USB debugging enabled in Developer options

1. Uninstall all your large games and applications. This is so this process would go much faster and not freeze on you in the middle.
I recommend that you leave around 7 to 8GB of free space on your internal sdcard.

2. Connect your phone to your PC and install the drivers if you don't have them installed already.
Open My Computer and go to Phone (internal sdcard).
If you want to save your data copy everything from internal sdcard to a directory on your PC.

3. Right click Phone and format the internal sdcard.
If you want back your data you can now copy it back from your PC to your sdcard.
Do not copy the flowing directories:
Android/data/flipboard.app/files/cache/ (only if you have Flipboard installed.)
There could be thousands of files in those directories.
Disconnect your phone from the PC.

4. Install Android SDK.
Go to /android-sdk/platform-tools
Open CMD in this folder

5. Reboot in to CWM Recovery
Go to Advanced and unmount all your mounts.
While you are there. Format your cache. DO NOT FORMAT ANYTHING ELSE.
Also Delete dalvik cache.
Leave the phone in Recovery mode.
Connect your phone to your PC while in Recovery.
Let it install the ADB Driver.

6. Go to the CMD you opened and execute the following:
adb shell
Next execute the following commands: (If you get a prompt that asks to restore missing directories answer YES.)

This will force a filesystem check even if it's marked clean.
It will check for bad blocks and add them to the bad block list.
And will automatically repair without prompts. (you can remove "-p" if you don't want this to be automated.)
"-v" just shows you the results on screen.

EFS Check and Repair
e2fsck -f -c -v -p /dev/block/mmcblk0p3
CACHE Check and Repair
e2fsck -f -c -v -p /dev/block/mmcblk0p8
SYSTEM Check and Repair
e2fsck -f -c -v -p /dev/block/mmcblk0p9
DATA Check and Repair
e2fsck -f -c -v -p /dev/block/mmcblk0p12
If your DATA mount could not be unmounted in Recovery execute this code in ADB. Then execute DATA Check and Repair.
umount /dev/block/mmcblk0p12
That's it. Disconnect your phone, reboot it, let it boot and optimize the applications again.

I recommend that you also run fstrim on all your partitions before you start filling up your sdcard again. It will clean the free blocks on your internal storage and will increase it's performance.

I'm lazy. ODIN/Kies keep failing for me, to perform some extensive ADB commanding like shown above. There's a simpler routine to employ, it's called Dummy File Generator by nomunomu5678. There's no "official" manual/HOWTO text on use of the routine at least in English (it's a Japanese app), but the obvious guidelines are:

1. Create and delete dummy files 5...10 times (some report success after 20 such uses of DFG) in ROM and eMMC (internal SD card).

2. Try not to use your usual external SD card while cleaning your phone with this DFG. Otherwise you'll be compelled to use this routine for external SD card, too. You just never know where the stray defective cache writes can go ending in bad unreadable blocks.

3. For Skyrocket in service, flashing incompatible modem and turning off WiFi for the period of cleaning might be advised. You can always flash correct radio back when you satisfied with the result. OTA services are the bitch when you perform some house cleaning, and quoted 10 or even 20 repeated uses of DFG may be the result of OTA contamination of the process.

Talking about bad blocks, today's custom recoveries like CWM and TWRP are sadly missing an ordinary e2fsck routine, as the one described in above quote. And yes, addition of fstrim to recovery advanced tools may further improve performance of your Skyrocket. Or Samsung Galaxy SIII. Or Samsung Galaxy Note.

As a thank you, you can send me your freezing Samsung Galaxy SIII or freezing Samsung Galaxy Note any day. I accept also a water damaged Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

UPDATE: The remedy with dummy files was a temporary one: it worked for maybe 48 hours after 10 applications. So, I did another full wipe, replaced TWRP by touch CWM and restored to this CWM flashable stock (official AT&T firmware repackaged to be flashable by CWM) The problem of bad eMMC has gone and never returned in the last two weeks.

It might take the latest CM10.1 nightly (or stable) now, but I'm preparing this phone to cell, so the best I can do for it is supply also a flashable T-Mobile radio as an option.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Water Damage Repair: Part Two

Water damage is a bitch. And it's a returning bitch in that: once I decided I got rid of salts deposits and sufficiently cleaned my Samsung Skyrocket's insides (see my previous article), all it took to strike again was 36 hours of high atmospheric humidity and salty drizzle -- I live 800 metres from Pacific Ocean.

My Skyrocket didn't die though, it just started to stutter on video playback. This means that two cleaning sessions described in my previous article weren't enough, and a more serious approach is needed.

My tools for this enhanced cleaning are pictured above, from left to right: ordinary tooth brush, short hog hair brush, screwdriver, dentist's bloody pick, tweezers, Phillips screwdriver #1, engraver's needle, another screwdriver, blade, nail file, pencil flashlight. 10x loupe and cotton swabs above. What is omitted from this picture is quite powerful hairdryer, 95% ethanol (if the price is of no problem it better be of optical grade 95.63%, an azeotropic solution) and branded automotive electric contact cleaner of this type:

Well, I'm not fooling myself: even after these two extensive cleaning and drying sessions the residual hygroscopic salts deposits may act up again -- say, in rainy weather.

Next step would be using no less than an ultrasonic bath.

(Skyrocket's 480x800 screen is nothing to write mom about these day, but its dual-core Snapdragon APQ8060 is quite a nice media chip to run XBMC on)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Phone Water Damage Repairs

This is a work in progress, most certainly. There are plenty of reports that water damaged phones can't be revived for whatever reason. So far, I have 3 phones from completely different sources (think toilet, kitchen sink, shower, LOL) that I was lucky enough to make work just like before that fatal dive. They will certainly work even better, I'd say, after I put CM 10.1/Jelly Bean on them.

On my picture above, it's dead as door nail. Hence the purchase price of $20. A wager, sort of.

Here goes the procedure:

WARNING! My method is a combination of several methods described in some instructional videos, plus the additions of what was omitted in them. These omissions include but not limited to, exact formulas for treatment of hardness salts deposits.

Sure, you might be lucky dropping your phone in a reservoir with distilled or very soft water: after recommended thorough and prolonged drying your device in dried crushed rice, your phone is usually comes out clean, dry and works properly.

Chances are though that your bath for your phone involves an ordinary tap (hard) water, or even sea water. Both types of water (so called "sweet" water and salted water) leave deposits that both hard to remove and may act as parasitic shorts disrupting normal functioning of the phone.

In such cases, a combined approach to repair is recommended. Namely, a mechanical brushing off salt deposits with a short haired, hard (art "hog hair") brush which is wetted in a domestic cleaner that works against lime, calcium and (maybe) rust in toilets and such. However, wetting affected areas with such a cleaner will render the hardness salts deposit film transparent and almost invisible, so there must be a period of setting aside the phone  for drying after such brushing. A cotton swabs dipped in 95 % alcohol may shorten this drying period. Use of alcohol can also be preferred because of it picking up residual hardness salts deposits and chemicals (usually conductive electrolytes no better than hardness salts themselves) used in that cleaner.

Now, alcohol is no better solvent of hardness salts deposits than water. Then, much stronger (concentrated) professional lime cleaners can be way too strong and damage connectors. So, if you follow me, the whole procedure is mostly about brushing and as such it better be repeated several times. In especially tough spots, a careful work with dentist's scraper might be needed. Then, plenty of surface must be treated, both sides:

In my case, it took 2 attempts of brushing with two hours of drying between them. Second brushing was performed with dry clean brush. All in all, in five hours, my Samsung Skyrocket have started to charge its long dead battery.

After the rescue, we have a nice AT&T Samsung Galaxy S2 running pretty fast Qualcomm's Snapdragon APQ8960 at 1500 MHz on a decent 4.5" 800x480 SAMOLED Plus screen.

 It's alive now! Flat battery was expected, sure.

Previous owner has set a locking pattern before going to swim with this phone. It's a nuisance, but as I don't need to know any data dear to that guy I just rebooted into stock CWM (Vol- + Home + Power) and wiped the device clean.

 We're in the open. It's stock Android 4.0.4 with usual AT&T bloat. Next project will be replacing this broken LCD screen on a Sprint Samsung Epic Touch:

But it's a completely different story, and much more expensive one. The procedure is much more easier to follow though.

Friday, April 26, 2013

HTC Droid Incredible LCD Screen Repair

My HTC Droid Incredible, or as connoisseurs cal it, Dinc, was a piece of a phone dead as a door nail:

That is, a beautiful AMOLED LCD on this Dinc is cracked. Phone itself vibrated and lighted its buttons -- after I charged the battery. With $26.59 LCD screen replacement purchase 5 days later I'm ready to tackle the repair. There's plenty of more or less detailed instruction videos available, as Dinc was one of the most popular phone in its time. Watching these gives you some ideas.
Dincs use two types of LCD screens, mine was AMOLED, so the replacement screen above was matched. Note the magic blue sheen. Repair set from eBay included a torx screwdriver and a prying tool. And another torx driver, instead of claimed Phillips one. Oh well.
Next step was the most interesting one: pulling out the LCD screen's ribbon cable ended in me damaging it. Thank God it was a ribbon from the cracked screen.

Contrary to what videos tell you, the LCD panel can be replaced with couple ribbons sitting still in their connectors. But I pulled them all out anyway: a good picture of Dinc's internals is rare these days.

Assembly went without a hitch except for I didn't notice the tab on optical trackpad connector remained up (not flattened), like it was originally:
Pieces of yellow film should be put back, espevially one with a black gum strip.

 So, trackpad didn't work at the first attempt: tab was up. After the culprit was found and tab was flattened, everything started to work like a charm:

Extra $15 could buy me a new glass/digitizer, as my original Dinc shows some tiny dings. But for a $10 I spent originally on this dead phone it would be an overkill.

Next step: unlocking, rooting, flashing Jelly Bean. It's a pity there's no "official" Cyanogen Mod 10.1 project for HTC Droid Incredible and no 3.0.x kernel for it. The phone running stock Android  2.3.4 is relatively fast and smooth, and the reason going for Jelly Bean is adding better HWA in video decoding/rendering, better camera (8 MPix stock cam is probably the worst among other 8 megapixels), plus some of that JB "butter". Android 4.2.2 ROMs available are all work in progress in these respects. Or is there a good ROM?
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

LG Optimus G Pro: One More "Fassy" Phone

This article on LG Optimus G Pro phablet is basically an update, or addition to my multi-sided comparison of current flagship phoblets and phablets. I was an avid proponent of phoblets/phablets since 2011 when there were none, and I still am: next "big thing" in phones will be bezel-less 6.1"...6.3" "full HD" phablet with SAMOLED or IGZA screen powered by the next Intel Atom chip.
You can check my posts of 2011 for what I said on phoblets and Tabletology in http://fineoils.blogspot.com archives of 2011....2012.

I missed LG Optimus G Pro phablet in my recent comparison called "ZTE Geek" or something. If this LG Optimus G Pro could be included with a decent price, there will be no ZTE whatever as a contender among flagships:

In specs, LG Optimus G Pro is this:

Detailed Technical Datasheet of LG E980 Optimus G Pro

Browse LG devices
Manufacturer:LG Electronics 
Browse all devices manufactured by LG Electronics
Hardware;Designer:LG Electronics
Expected+Release_Date:May, 2013



Embedded-Operating;System:Google Android 4.2 
Browse devices running this OS


CPU:Clock:1700 MHz
CPU:Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T 
Browse devices based on Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T
Width:of;Machine;Word:32 bit
CPU+Core:4x Qualcomm Krait 300
Level;1-cache:16KiB data cache / 16 KiB instruction cache
Level;2-cache:2048 KiB


RAM+capacity:2048 MiB
ROM+type:Flash EEPROM


Display+Type:color IPS TFT display
Display_Color;Depth:24 bit/pixel (16777216 scales)
Display-Diagonal:5.5 " (140 millimetres)
Display_Resolution:1080 x 1920 (2073600 pixels)
Viewable-Display-Size:2.7 " x 4.8 " (68.64 x 122.02 millimetres)
Pixel;density;(dot:pitch):399.7 pixel/inch (0.06355 millimetre/pixel)
Graphical+Controller:Qualcomm Adreno 320
Video-out:1920x1080 (1080p) FHD resolution
USB Series Micro-B (Micro-USB) with MHL connector


Audio:Channel(s):stereo sound
Analog/Digital Converter
24 bit nominal quantization
48000 Hz sampling frequency
Digital/Analog Converter
24 bit resolution
48000 Hz holding frequency
Microphone(s):stereo sound
Loudspeaker(s):mono sound
Audio+Output:3.5mm plug


Cellular;Networks:GSM850, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900, UMTS850 (B5), UMTS900 (B8), UMTS1900 (B2), UMTS2100 (B1)
Cellular;Antenna:Internal antenna
Call-Alert:72 -chord melody (polyphonic)
Phone+Controller:Qualcomm MDM9215M


Dual;Cellular_Network_Operation:Selectable cellular module
Secondary:Cellular+Networks:LTE700 (B17), LTE850 (B5), LTE1700/2100 (B4), LTE1900 (B2)
Secondary:Cellular-Antenna:Internal antenna
Secondary+Phone-Controller:Qualcomm MDM9215M


Positioning:Device:Multi-touch screen
Primary_Keyboard:Not supported
Directional_Pad:Not supported
Scroll_Wheel:Not supported


Expansion+Interfaces:microSD, microSDHC, TransFlash, microSDXC
Supports High Capacity (SD 2.0/HC) memory cards with capacity of up to 32GB
USB:USB 2.0 host/client, Hi-Speed (480Mbit/s), USB On-The-Go 1.3 compliant
USB Series Micro-B (Micro-USB) connector
Bluetooth+(802.15):Bluetooth 4.0, Internal antenna
Wireless_LAN/Wi-Fi+(802.11):IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n
Internal antenna


Analog;Radio:Not supported
Digital-Media;Broadcast:Not supported


GPS:Protocol:NMEA 0183
GPS+Antenna:Internal antenna
Complementary;GPS_Services:Assisted GPS, QuickGPS, Geotagging, Simultaneous GPS
Navigation_Chip(set):Qualcomm APQ8064T gpsOne


Battery_Technology:Lithium-ion polymer battery
Battery:Capacity:3140 mAh


  • capacitive touchscreen
  • 2.5D curved glass screen
  • GPRS Class 12
  • HSPA+ 21Mbps
  • HSUPA 5.76
  • LTE 100/50Mbps
  • Tactile Feedback
  • Bluetooth stereo audio profile (A2DP
  • AVRCP)
  • NFC
  • DLNA
  • 3G/4G Mobile hotspot
  • proximity sensor
  • light sensor
  • gyro sensor
  • HT40
  • micro-SIM
Datasheet:State:Preliminary specifications
Datasheet-Views:2021 times
Datasheet:Added:Mar 26, 13 23:31:12

Whatever Motorola X/Google Nexus 5 would turn out, it would have a hard time to beat this device: smaller 1080p screen just doesn't cut it, no SD slot is always fail no matter what. As it stands now, G Pro's real contender may be revealed only in Samsung Galaxy Note III (powered by Samusung Exynos Octa?).

However, LG Optimus G Pro and all contemporary phablets follow pretty bad design philosophy: scaling up a very flawed and fragile case. IMHO, every 5+ inch phablet should have bumper (gel) case as a default.

In other news, Apple's Tim Cook's lack of desire to launch next iPhone in 5+ inch phablet format may bring about his retirement sooner than later.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Nook Color CM 10.1 Official Nightlies

Nook Color continues to be nostalgically loved by Cyanogen Mod developers. First, there were unofficial builds by fattire and Co. that can be still found at XDA Devs forum. These were quite stable builds, if only with crooked boot animation. Important to note also that the unofficial CM 10.1 development continues.

Now, these builds are accepted and merged into an "official" CM 10.1 tree. You can pick a latest nightly here, and check the changelog here. As always, changes specific to "Encore" (Nook Color) are rare, but you can be sure that so called "upstream" improvements of general, non-specific CM 10.1 code will filter through and "downstream" to this veteran Nookie.

Everything that worked on an "unofficial" Betas of CM 10.1 for Nook Color works on this Nightly of 24 April 2013 just fine. It might be a placebo effect, but UI transitions seem smoother.

As for inherited bugs, audio volume needs Equalizer plus SpeakerBoost still, but I'm sure stuff like System Tuner won't be needed soon.

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