29 11 / 2011
Man tumblr has some cool themes. Had a hard time choosing a new one.
29 10 / 2011
It’s now been a couple of weeks since I first got my hands on the SGT 10.1 and it’s been a bumpy ride. What follows is a few words about what’s good, what’s bad and how I got to where I’m comfortable being. I’ll start with telling where I’m coming from, what was I expecting and then move on the bad, the good and finally the solutions.
So, I’d describe myself as a Linux guy, though I don’t code or do any of the more heavy lifting administrative stuff i.e. my Linux ‘expertise’ is limited to cron jobs and manually editing Samba share configs. Being a Linux guy however is not all about getting down and dirty, there’s also the niceties of (semi)automated system wide software upgrades and the ever present feeling of ‘possibilities’ which is something I haven’t felt with other platforms (i.e. this means the system has not been intentionally limited).
Ok, that explains why I got an Android tablet rather than iPad. Even though I really hadn’t done my research about the limitations set in Android, I probably would’ve still gone for the same tablet even if I had known them (this attitude was made possible by the fact the tablet is work sponsored). Now, if there would be a genuine open source tablet on the market, in the same sense the Nokia N900 was such a phone, that would be something (I mention N900 as that was my choice of phone until this happened ). The Galaxy tab 10.1 again seemed like an ok choice given the options and time frame (now, not later).
Thoughts on the device
Before getting to my device let me tell the fact that pissed me off the most when doing my research for the tablet: strictly a single user environment. To me that is outrageous and completely indefensible. I hope the day soon dawns when a tablet OS with solid multi user support is released. Until then I’m afraid I will stay pissed off. Jeez.
But on to the SGT 10.1.
When I got the tablet into my hands I was immediately pleased at its shininess, but when I got it booted up my stroking of the tablet turned into irritation. It was all so very raw (not unlike iOS mind you). There were very few programs on it, no setup wizard to guide me through the programs that were preinstalled, no manual, no nothing just a bright screen that I could swipe back and forth with. I mean they could’ve thrown in a couple of SGT hype commercials, a manual and/or a demonstration app to show off the tablet. Anyways this is how I felt then - Of course if I’d already have an Android phone in use my disappointments would’ve been different.
Once I got past the initial cold shower treatment, I started looking what was possible with the thing and found out (in the course of a few hours of incredulous browsing) that the thing doesn’t support Samba/Windows share connections out of the box. For a device that for me is a media player (and a browser) that in my mind is quite something. Next I found out the thing doesn’t support adhoc wifi networks, meaning I can’t use my mobile’s data connection as a wifi hotspot. For a device that’s meant to be taken with you that’s… well, you get the point. Later my video woes grew more desperate when I found out that the tablet is not able to play 720p h264 high profile encoded videos (almost all of them are high profile).
These points got me seriously considering taking the tablet back to the office and getting something, anything to replace it. Fortunately I didn’t ‘cause all of these issues were more-or-less fixable (except for the multiuser support). More on those later, but first other weak points:
- Android market selection is quite weak and a large part of it is crap or made for the wrong form factor (or both!)
- Browser’s fixated on mobile sites on 10.1” screen! (although this works for some really beautiful tablet optimized sites, mostly it’s just irritating)
- Multitasking on the SGT is confusing. Are the programs running when they are not on screen? Apparently some are, but they seem to get removed from memory quite uncontrollably(?)
- Battery recharge times are long
- Android community: seemed difficult to get to the right information. Maybe just me, but some site(s?) had an infuriating habit of hiding parts of posts for unregistered users.
If you’re thinking that I’m only about bitching, you wouldn’t be completely correct. I do however think the tablet creates an addictive browsing experience that is fast and can be beautiful (check out NYTimes app for a glimpse of a really nice newspaper experience). The contacts integration is very close to how it should be (social sites info, pics and page links integrated). Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds are fun and pretty on the SGT. The battery seems to last long enough though I haven’t really tested it or gotten stranded anywhere with the tablet. All in all I’ve grown quite fond of the tab during the last couple of weeks and see many happy moments ahead.
Rooting: Unfortunately as it is, the tablet needs to be broken to be useful and by breaking I mean rooting. Rooting is the process of enabling full control of the device software through what on windows is an administrative and on Linux a root user. The process voids warranty, but is reversible so you really should be pretty safe. You need to root to do any of the later fixes (except the Firefox thingy). To do this you need to flash the SGT with some custom software (I’m not clear what technically happens). I followed the instructions on GalaxyTabHacks.com. Take care while getting into the repair modes. Apparently one ends up in some other repair modes if you press the wrong button combinations. Also, you need an actual Windows machine for this or at least I wasn’t successful with a virtual windows setup. Once the device is rooted, you’ll have the superuser app installed on it and then I recommend you install Busybox for future needs.
Samba / Windows shares: To get the Samba going you need to download a CIFS kernel module made for SGT. For SGT 10.1 (10.1v) this one should work. Unzip that somewhere on the tab, start CIFS Manager and tell it where to find the module and you should be all set to use Samba (I’m very happy with the performance of the Samba with Android. Real fast. More docs for CIFS Manager).
720p H264 high profile decoding: Pay up and install Dice player. With it you can play most of the 720p high profile stuff out there. Not all thought so if you want to be sure your stuff plays, try out the 3 day trial. Apparently nothing on the market currently with the Tegra2 chip can play HW H264 high profile… that is without Dice.
Adhoc wifi support: The wifi module in the stock SGT kernel does not support adhoc networks. Follow the instructions at Androidtablethacks.com. Watch both the video on read the instructions as the video has stuff that is not on the page. Also, the instructions were a bit off for me and for another guy (Dave at 12.10.2011). In my case the mount command needed small modifications. I commented about that. After this hoopla, JoikuSpot from my phone was detected without a problem and worked at acceptable speeds too.
Firefox fixes: So, there’s no actual multiuser support in Android, but at least Firefox allows you to have multiple user profiles which enable syncing to your personal desktop Firefox’s state (and the same also for significant others). For this you need the addon Mobile profiles. Change and manage profiles in Settings. Another fix is to install Phony which lets you impersonate a desktop browser and get rid of mobile sites for good (though I’d rather have a site preference) and last I’ve installed of course Adblock Plus.
My collection of essential or favourite apps are (in no order):
- Superuser for superuser rights
- Busybox installer for augmenting the CLI commands
- CIFS-manager for SAMBA support
- Firefox for browsing (link goes to aurora/beta versions as it’s still early days for Firefox on Android)
- Google Sky for augmenting the night sky reality
- Google Earth - what a disappointment this doesn’t have the moon/mars/sky additions
- Google Body for zooming around body parts
- File Expert for basic file management
- IMDB applet is terrific for movie buffs
- Adobe reader for PDFs
- Dice player for HW accelerated video (no free solution available)
- Kindle app for books and Zinio for magazines (my Kindle DX is fabulous for books, but isn’t suited for browsing)
- Fruit Ninja, Angry birds for fun
Unfortunately I still haven’t found a good enough social networking app. My one requirement is that it supports having separate widgets for separate user accounts (or set of user account preferably). Let me know if you know one like this.
Anyways, this was my 2 cents and contributions for clear collection of how to make your Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 a little more nerd friendly. Hope you found it helpful / interesting.