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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What is fastboot?

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What is fastboot? In Android, fastboot is a special diagnostic and engineering protocol that you can boot your Android device into.  While in fastboot, you can modify the file system images from a computer over a USB connection.  It's a powerful, nerdy tool that deserves to be broken down into terms we all can understand -- let's try and do that.

Not all phones have a fastboot mode that the user can access.  It's turned on with Nexus devices by default (as well as a few other phones and tablets) and has been enabled by independent Android developers and enthusiasts on some other phones.  It also requires more than what ships with the Android SDK, and different USB drivers for Windows computers.  Fastboot runs on Windows, Mac, and Linux and all the information about setting it up can be found in the forums if you're interested.  Once set up, you boot your phone to fastboot and you can flash image files to your phone's internal memory.  Flashing a custom recovery like ClockworkMod is a popular use case, as is resetting it all back using factory images after we're done breaking things.  The images you flash don't need to be signed with a particular key, so just about anything will try to flash -- even if it shouldn't be used, so use care.  There are other commands you can use with fastboot, and they're a bit more advanced.  Things like erasing partitions and overriding kernel command line options can be done, and this makes the tool very useful for developing hardware and software solutions that may need customized booting procedures.  With a little bit of knowledge, and the right Android hardware, fastboot can be a great tool.

Previously on Android A to Z: What's an ETF?; Find more in the Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What's an ETF?

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What's an ETF? An early termination fee is something you agree to, albeit grudgingly, when you sign a contract with a carrier. In return for, say, Verizon, selling you a phone for $199 instead of the "full" $499 off-contract price, you agree that you'll stay with that carrier for a given amount of time. In the U.S., that's usually two years. (In Canada, it could be an excruciating three years.) So you get a cheaper phone, and the carrier gets guaranteed monthly payments.

You can break out of that contract, but there are penalties. That's where the ETF comes in. If you want to break a contract and move your service to another carrier, you'll have to pay the early termination fee. It's usually prorated depending on how many months are left on your contract, which is good. But it still can be several hundred dollars. (Occasionally you'll hear about your new carrier promising to pay the ETF for you.)

Here are the ETF conditions for the four major U.S. carriers as of this writing:

  • Verizon: $350 for an "advanced device"; $175 for others.
  • Sprint: $350 for an "advanced device"; $200 for others
  • AT&T: $325 for an "advanced device"; $150 for others
  • T-Mobile: $200 if more than 180 days left on contract; $100 for 91-180 days left on contract; $50 for 30-90 days. With less than 30 days remaining, ETF is $50 or amount of your bill, whichever is less

Previously on Android A to Z: What is Dalvik; Find more in the Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What is Dalvik

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What is Dalvik?  We hear that word getting thrown around a lot on the Internet when talking about Android and its inner workings.  While there's no easy explanation we can give in just a few paragraphs, we can cover the basics and point you in the right direction if you need to feed your nerdly side. In its simplest terms, Dalvik is a virtual machine that runs applications and code written in Java. A standard Java compiler turns source code (written as text files) into Bytecode, then compiled into a .dex file that the Dalvik VM can read and use. In essence, class files are converted into .dex files (much like a jar file if one were using the standard Java VM) and then read and executed by the Dalvik Virtual Machine. Duplicate data used in class files is included only once in the .dex output, which saves space and uses less overhead. The executable files can be modified again when you install an application to make things even more optimized for mobile. Things like byte order swapping and linking data structure and function libraries inline make the files smaller and run better on our devices. The Dalvik VM was written from square one with Android in mind.

Confused yet?  Don't feel bad, geeky programming talk usually has that effect. Think of it this way -- when you build a Java application for your computer, a Java Virtual Machine runs the compiled output of the source code. This is why Java runs on just about any operating system. Dalvik is a mobile-optimized version of a Java Virtual Machine, built with code from the Apache Harmony project, which is open-source and runs better than a standard Java VM would on our limited hardware, designed so that you can run more than one instance of the VM at a time -- ie multitasking.  Because Dalvik is open-source, it's also been ported to other operating systems, like the one on the BlackBerry PlayBook. It's pretty damn complicated, pretty damn cool, and Oracle (the company that bought Java from Sun) hates it.

Android uses Dalvik because while the license for the standard Java Virtual Machine is GPL2 (free and open-source), when placed in a mobile device and using the Java Micro Edition, it is not.  The big dispute between Google and Oracle is all based around Dalvik.  Google claims it was written in a "clean-room" environment without using any of Oracle's code, and Oracle disagrees.  We claim to have no idea, we're just glad it works as well as it does. 

For more on Dalvik, see the Google I/O website.

Previously on Android A to Z: What is CES?; Find more in The Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

How to use BBC iPlayer on the Galaxy Nexus (or any unsupported ICS device)

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The official BBC iPlayer app for Android is great, assuming your phone or tablet is on the list of approved devices. If it's not, you won't even be able to see the app in the Android Market, and the mobile web player will turn you away with an error message. Two devices which still aren't officially supported are the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S (assuming you've got the ICS update), as the iPlayer currently rejects all Android 4.0 phones out of hand.

Never fear, though, because we've got a simple workaround that'll let you enjoy iPlayer content on both these devices with a minimal amount of fuss. Join us after the jump to find out how.

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What is CES?

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What is CES? In just a few short days we'll be back yet again in Las Vegas for the 2012 International CES. That's Consumer Electronics Show, if you don't know, and it's the largest gathering of nerds west of the Mississippi. Or east of the Mississippi. Or anywhere near Mississippi. 

CES isn't just a mobile show, though. It's everything electronics. And while that means you don't get quite as much mobile tech as you will, say, at Mobile World Congress (in Barcelona in late February) or CTIA (in New Orleans in May), we'll still see our share. In January 2011, CES is where we got our first good look at the likes of the Motorola Xoom Honeycomb tablet. And the Droid Bionic, Cliq 2 and Atrix, and the HTC ThunderBolt, Inspire 4G and EVO Shift 4G. And LG Optimus 2X and Revolution.

Here's what's coming up this year:

  • CES doesn't officially start until Tuesday, Jan. 10. That's when the show floors open.
  • But Monday, Jan. 9, is Media Day. Press conference after press conference. It's a little insane, actually.
  • And stuff's actually going down on Sunday, too. Le sigh.
  • Unlike years past, the Adult Entertainment Expo isn't taking place at the same time, adjacent to some of the same venues. There shall be no (or at least not quite as much) accidental mixing of nerds and nipples. (We can't be held responsible for what happens in Vegas after hours, though.)
  • We're going to have more liveblogs than you'll be able to follow. It'll be epic.

So, yeah. There's going to be plenty of stuff to keep us busy.

And you'll be able to keep track of it all at our Android @ CES 2012 page.

Previously on Android A to Z: What is a bootloader?; More at The Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

How to report Android Market scammers and spammers from your browser

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Android Central reader @mjroberts22 this morning alerted us to an evil developer in the Android Market. A number of apps from Quarter MiLL look legit. We've featured Super Why Adventures -- a children's app -- on the site before. But look closely. In the app description, and after paying your $1.99 here, you'll note that it says to download the Amazon version of the app if this one isn't working properly.

That, obviously, should be a big red flag for everyone. In other words, DO NOT BUY THESE APPS.

But if you spot an evil developer, what to do about it? If you're using the Android Market from your phone, it's easy -- just scroll down to the bottom of the app and report it. If you're browing from your desktop, there's a handy link for reporting "inappropriate" apps (including scammers and spammers). We've got the link below. Just out the forum, and Google will do its thing.

More: Report a suspicious Android app to Google

Thanks to @mjroberts22 and @U_Mainah for the tips!

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2 years ago

Android A to Z: What is ADB?

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Welcome to our our latest feature here at Android Central. This one's geared more for you folks who are just getting started with Android, but it's a great refresher for you veterans as well.

Tucked away at AndroidCentral.com/dictionary is -- you guessed it -- a glossary full of Android-type terms that we use every day. Don't know what we're talking about? Chances are a quick look with explain things for you. We're constantaly updating the dictionary. So if something's missing, chances are we're getting to it. (Feel free to yell at us in the meantime, if you want.)

So let's kick things off with an easy one.

  • ADB: Stands for Android Debug Bridge. A tool used to connect and sends commands to your Android phone from a command line on a desktop or laptop computer.

Find more definitions in the Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

How to watch the Android Central Podcast on your Google TV

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Google TV might not have taken off like some folks expected it to, but those of us who use it (especially with the Honeycomb/Google TV 2.0 update) know that it can be a great way to get the web into your living room.  A cool thing I've been fooling with is watching my podcasts on the 42-incher while kicked back in my recliner, so I'm sharing my guide for watching the Android Central Podcast on your Google TV with everyone.  Wait until you see our pretty faces in high-def on the big screen!  Hit the break and follow along.

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2 years ago

Android 101: Logcat explained and detailed [from the forums]

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I know most of you guys and gals aren't used to sitting down and reading stack traces or debugging logs (you're better off, trust me), but sometimes during Android hacking and debugging reading the logcat output is a necessary evil.  When a developer asks for a log, it's usually followed by a command you don't understand with special characters, and no explanation of what you're doing.  That's fine for the busy developer, but every opportunity to learn something should be taken.  Android Central member JHuston456 has done an excellent job sorting out the switches and parameters used for the logcat command, and has done a fine job explaining them for normal folks.  For anyone who has rooted and plans to hack away at their phone, it's required reading.  Hit the forums, have a look, and thank JHuston456 when you're done. 

Source: Learn logcat like a pro

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2 years ago

How to manually update your GSM Galaxy Nexus with the Android 4.0.2 OTA

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So Android 4.0.2's starting to roll out to the GSM version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. But maybe you don't want to wait? (We sure don't.) Here's how to easily flash the update to your phone, same as we did for the volume bug update. Note that this won't erase anything, and it's really no different than if you sat back and waited.

Note that this is for stock phones, and for people who want to update without really doing any real  hackery but don't mind a little command line work. Nothing we do here is permanent, other than the update itself. If you've already flashed CWM, then you probably already know what you're doing anyway. And with that ...

Thanks, Scott, for the OTA location

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