Archive for May, 2010

Desire Android – My Notes on HTC Desire

Desire Android – My Notes on HTC Desire

“I can resist everything but temptation.”

Oscar Wilde

Well, I succumbed and now have an HTC Desire.  This may be the Linux smartphone I wanted to buy 4 or 5 years ago, although that may be premature, based only on a couple of hours with it…

[updated to 1 December 2010]


Comments on Telstra

[2] The offered me “two months’ Free Foxtel!!” on the phone, but I couldn’t think of anything more demeaning than watching foxtel on my mobile phone, so I told them not to bother.  [5]  Lost my hands free so went in to Telstra to get another.  After about 10 mins waiting to be served I left and bought one from Dick Smith.  Apparently it’s very difficult to get wired hands frees.  Everything is bluetooth.

Apps Worth installing:

Google Sky Map (well, it’s been cloudy so I haven’t actually used it yet, but looks interesting – finally got it working and it seems accurate enough, but chews batteries)

Astrid Task Manager (open source alternative to (charged) Remember the Milk)

ASE (well, I think so, although I’m having a look at the Android SDK)

Things from the OpenIntent stable, although they are a little on the basic side.

The Schwartz Unleashed for the kids

ZX scanner (although every (non-book) thing I scan comes up null – must assume US barcodes?)

TTS – you need to download a data file (about 4mb from android market for tts to work)

aldiko book reader (although I’ve not tried others)


Transfer contacts from Nokia phones

Get phone info: dial *#*#4636#*#*  (google for key codes to do other stuff).  This opens a menu.

Install Python – via ASE – first install ASE, then Menu -> View -> interpreters ->menu-> add to add the language you want (in this case, python)

Mount as removable drive – select that from the notifications drop down (otherwise it defaults to charge only). There is a setting to have it default to act as a removable drive (in connect to PC).

Upload apps to phone (using SDK, if you haven’t installed the Android SDK = most people, then this is not for you) – choose htc sync from mount notification drop down; start tools/adb as root.  If it doesn’t recognise device kill server and restart;  tools/adb -d install <app_name.apk>.  Apparently adb can be used to delete preloaded telstra apps (haven’t tried myself).

change SD Card – first copy the data from the existing card onto your computer, then put the new card in and copy it back (or put the old card in to the card reader on your computer, plug the desire in, mount the SD and copy the files straight across).  You need to take the back off and the battery out to get to the SD card.

task switching – took me a while to work this out.  Press the home button, not the back button.  Back exits the app and returns home, the home button keeps the app running and returns to home.

get mp3s onto the phone – See ‘music’ below.  Worked it out – don’t put it in the “mp3” folder – oh – no, that would be too easy.  You need to create a folder called ‘music’ and put them in there.   Heavens!  Even then the music program is cantankerous about what it sees – of the two folders of podcasts in music/podcasts it only sees one of them. [was: I have absolutely no idea how to do this, and believe me I’ve tried. I’ve even read the manual.]

Voice to text – don’t know, but the api is there an it’s enabled (since the voice search app works).  Just need something to redirect it to (eg) a text editor.

Set a ringtone for a group – no idea, apparently impossible?

Delete or rename pre-installed groups – apparently impossible?

Install apps to SD Card:  at the moment, you can’t.  This should change with Froyo update (2.2) (June 2010).  Froyo has been released to manufacturing, but OEMs still need to update their spins before phones in the wild get the update.

Comments on the interface and other notes:

[1/12] Power off is unacceptably slow.  [Update 1/7/11: Much faster, and acceptable with 2.2 update] I discovered this catching a couple of planes last week.  I habitually turn the phone off and on when I recharge it (to reset the timer in the settings… battery app) I have always known it takes a while to turn off, but it really hit me when I had to turn it off for the plane.  It takes something like 7 or 8 minutes (yes – over 420 seconds, I tried it now while doing this update) for the stupid thing to power down.  Moreover, it goes into hibernate in the middle of that, so you need to keep waking it up for it to turn itself off (argh!).  And the only way to tell it’s turned off is (apparently) to hit the power button.  If it turns on, it was off.  It it gives you a “power off” spinner, it’s still shutting down – which is a catch 22 if you have to board a plane (across the tarmac) and want to know its off. [update again: pressing the volume buttons will give a beep if its just turning off, but will be silent if it really is off]

Alternative: keep rubbing your finger on the touch screen intermittently until it turns off.

I guess this has something to do with the size of the SD card (16GB) that is in it.

[Update (1 Nov): Overheard in a coffee shop this morning:

P1 (on phone, but to P2): What’s it called?

P2 (Beside P1): “HCC Desire”

P1 (to caller): “HCC Desire.  H… C… C…”

P2 (getting HTC Desire out of pocket): “Oh, H Tee C”

P1 (to caller): “Sorry, H Tee C – T for Tom.  It’s like an iPhone only better.  Can you get one? Ta.”

A kid’s comment: “Wow, it’s like an iPhone, only better”

Task Switching: Neat.  Have multiple applications running at the same time, doing different stuff.  Use ‘home’ to start another, or long press home to switch between recent apps.

Battery: After about 6 full power cycles and admittedly  comparatively low usage the battery seems capable of lasting at least 72 if not 90 hours.  In short: For a phone the battery is fine.  For a portable computer the battery is fine.  Don’t expect to use this phone, with its tiny battery, as a netbook for any longer than you’d actually expect a netbook to last.  I had a two hour phone call which used about 40% of the battery so 4-5 hours of talk time is conceivable.  Full details at [4]. [3]

Update 1/12: Using the internet to surf the web/use gps and google maps really sucks the battery.  In  a foreign city, checking email, getting maps etc and the battery was at 20% by the end of the day.

Music: While many people could well fall in love with the music application, I’m not one of them.  I don’t want the phone answer button connected to the music player – at least not by default.  It also didn’t seem to occur to whoever wrote the music app that I might want to delete some of this rubbish from the phone.  How do I get rid of it??? [ANS: long touch gives a menu option. Ta ta rubbish… one at a time.  I could probably delete them with a file manager when the SD card is mounted as well?].  Getting music to the phone is a complete mystery.  Copying them across to the music folder on the CD card is not a problem.  Getting the music player to recognise that they’re there is a whole different matter.  I can play them if I start them via the file manager (open intents, which I added via the app store) but can’t add them to playlists.  The in-stream navigation of MP3s is useless as well – for podcasts.

Awful Haptic feedback: Who on earth thought haptic feedback (ie the phone vibrating) for everything you do was a good idea?  They should be slapped with a fish.  A big wet fish.  In the face.  Fortunately it can be mostly turned off.  Unfortunately it has to be turned off separately in different applications <sigh>.

Useless QuickOffice: Having just spent a frustrating morning with QuickOffice, I am ready to write it off.  I had one 30 page Word document to read/flip through.  QuickOffice died inexplicably half a dozen times or so before I gave up on it.  Before it died it was annoying – scrolling would not work properly (because the Word doc contained text boxes so QuickOffice wanted to scroll them, not the rest of the doc.  If a text box filled the screen… well you were stuck) and file navigation was terrible (see comment on file system interface below).  Every time I tried to (re-open) the file it searched the whole 16GB flash card looking for files that it could open, then presented them in one long list.  Recently used were not given any preference, just hidden somewhere in that long list.   Actually opening the file also took forever.  Awful awful awful.  Do designers actually use these applications before inflicting them on us?

Difficult to navigate phonebook:  Touching the tiny little card icon beside a contact entry shows you the content of the entry and allows you to edit it etc.  Touch the same place, but slightly to the left, and you’ll start a phone call to the person.  Annoying.

Annoying Hands Free Answer Button: works as answer if the phone is ringing, otherwise plays music.  Which would be fine if I could just turn that feature off.  Oh, no, couldn’t be so easy.  Whenever it gets bumped up starts the [expletive] mp3s which came bundled with the phone.  Get out of my face!

Acroread: The desire comes with a version of acroread pre-loaded. This is apparently an official Adobe version of acroread engine wrapped by HTC and it’s pretty awful.  Not that it doesn’t have all the basic functionality, but that’s the thing – its functionality is basic.  It won’t, for example, maintain a recent files list, it won’t remember where you were up to last time in the pdf, it will pop up a (all things considered comparatively large) page counter window which obscures a corner of the page  if you touch it, it won’t allow you to just slide bar to the middle of the document or the 60% mark (you can manually enter a page number though via menu or you can zoom out and scroll through four pages at a time).  For reading an attachment to an email once or a pdf from a website once the reader is adequate, but not for any sort of repeated reference.

have had no trouble using phone functions while on a call – eg make a calendar entry while arranging a meeting.

No encryption: no obvious way to encrypt content on the phone.  I could set up an ecrypted file using (eg) truecrypt, but Android couldn’t open it… unless someone cross compiles for arm??  So phone mem could be used for portable backup, but not for portable access to data. Perhaps try FreeOTFE?

Annoying file system interface. Whenever you want to open a particular file (eg quickoffice or pdf viewer) it searches the whole file system for files which can be opened, then after it’s found them all, sorts them by directory.  If there are a lot of them, that’s a problem.  I’d rather tap my way through folders.

Great Info: Really like the amount of information the phone gives about itself (eg 25:32:18 since I unplugged it).

Charging ++: Like the ability to plug it in to usb to charge or plug it in to wall socket. Compare ipod which can only be put into usb. (now I can charge the ipod using the usb cable and the Desire’s wall socket stupid Apple) Don’t like micro usb because now I only have one cord which will fit the phone.  May change my view once I accumulate other micro usb cables.

Scrolling is counter intuitive – with a touch pad or scroll bar if you drag the cursor down, the screen scrolls down, but if you drag the screen on the Desire, the screen scrolls up (and vice versa).  Similarly if you use the visual scroll point.  Pulling down on it makes the screen scroll down.

SMS Widget Turned off sms widget because it wouldn’t automatically mark my smses as read.   So far as I can tell you need to click the sms for it be counted as read.

Having the weather app is neat (even though I’ve also got it on the computer).

I can’t work out where the back button on the touch screen is.  I often get to some point in an application’s hierarchy and can’t get any further and can’t get back… without using the dedicated back button that is.  A touch screen equivalent would be nice.

Typing on the touchscreen seems easy enough, although at times it is a little difficult aligning a press with a virtual key.

Some paradigms take a little getting used to.  For example, to remove a widget, you need to press, hold then, once the remove button appears drag it over to remove it.  I repeatedly take my finger off the screen and confuse it.

The applications menu annoys me. I hate having long lists of applications, most of which I will never use (for a similar reason all the .config files in ~ always annoy me as well, but I’m getting over that).  I’d rather be able to drop almost everything into a folder.

Easy to mount the mobile as a removable hard drive, but you have to select that from the notifications drop down (otherwise it defaults to charge only). There is a setting to have it default to act as a removable drive (in connect to PC).

Having to press the power on button to wake from sleep annoys me. I’d rather a screen touch.

I have loaded up some pdfs to it and they seem readable enough.

The bookmarks the thing comes with appear to be: Telstra, AFL, NRL, V8, HTC and AccuWeather.  I wonder whether they have boys and girls models because the AFL, NRL and V8 entries seem extremely odd choices for bookmarks (and not well matched for my requirements…).  They don’t even have a search engine bookmark (unless Telstra is delusional and thinks itself a search engine) wtf?

The phone feels snappy, especially compared to my old Nokia number (although it was snappy when I got it and got increasingly more sluggish as time went on).

I’d also like an undo key.  Predictive text is a little annoying if you correctly type something it can still “correct” it to an incorrect word (wtf?)  Surely it would make more sense to use the word as typed if it is a valid word????  Maybe I mistyped it and it made up for it for me?

The phone is clearly aimed at social networkers, with tight facebook, twitter and plurker (which I had never heard of) integration.  You can also upload photos to flickr.  Frankly I’d only do any of this if my employer was paying for the data.  I’ll need to get a handle on how much data I’m using (ANS: about 3 MB per day, but that includes downloading the Android Scripting Environment and Python so maybe I can let my hair down a little on the downloads).

Somehow though Telstra believes I have used 78% of my monthly data (ie in the period from this afternoon) hmmmm…. There is a widget which can be put on the home screens to turn off and on the network data connection (my data connection has been off most of the day except to download some email headers and ASE). Telstra billing’s response – if the bill is wrong at the end of the month call us and we’ll correct it. Like I want to go through that pain in 30 days when no one will believe me???

Trying to play a podcast (mp3 format loaded via usb to the sd card) caused the music player to fall over.

Licensing – Apparently the phone includes the text of all of the open source licences that are used on the device – in one very long file under the legal section.

The phone has an application called “quickoffice” which seems to just be a file viewer.  The phone doesn’t seem to come with a text editor or file system navigator.

Me showing off to a friend who has 4 iPhones:

[1] moved 3/6

Haven’t used it to actually call anyone yet [Friday: I have now], but have downloaded and installed the Android Scripting Environment and run This also apparently provides a way to get the command line.

[2] moved 3/6

Five days in and am very annoyed.  When I first checked data allowance (after having the phone a couple of hours) it had 160 MB on it.  I called Telstra shop, billing, online billing and went into the store.  They all gave me the run around. Billing tells me I should wait till I get my bill then any incorrect charges will be refunded.  Like that is a solution???? My hope is that this is from the firmware the phone automatically downloaded on startup and isn’t (should not be) charged (even though assistant in store (Burwood) said it was, I got the feeling they had no clue).

Telstra IVR was annoying – what store do you want? Burwood.  I have Burwood, Leichhardt and Chatswood which store do you want? #@$$!! Burwood

[3] moved 3/6

[31/5]: Battery – the first couple of days the battery wore out by the end of the day.  Today, it has gone 25 hours and is still at ~70% charged.   I have seen some places say that a couple of discharge-charge cycles are needed for the battery to hit its stride.  This battery charge has tracked as follows: @31 hours: 50%, @ 48 hours: 40% @60 hours: 30% – an hour later it was down to 20%.  I will charge it tonight but on this trend it ought to reach the 72 hour mark pretty easily.  This is with what I’d call normal daily usage – standby most of the time, with a couple of times checking email, short web surfing, couple of calls, some other faffing about.

[4] moved 10/6

the previous battery cycle (which I will call cycle 1, although it’s really cycle three or four) lasted a full 60 hours at which it was down to 20% (and I recharged it overnight – see note [3]).  The current cycle (cycle 2) it is down to 30% after 24 hours – then I made a phone call (maybe 15 mins) and it was down to 14%, and hour or so later 9%.   There was a mid-cycle where I changed the SD card and that ended up charging the phone while I uploaded stuff then forgot  it was plugged in so the previous cycle was not a complete discharge.  Usage has not been wildly different although I have downloaded some additional apps.

Cycle 3: let it charge a good while yesterday.  80% @22:30; 70%@35:40; 60% @ 59:00; 50%@61:20; 20% @ 69:39.

Cycle 4 (overnight charge): 80% @14:30; 70% @27:24; 60% @ 35:18; 60% @40:43; 60%@49:20; 50% at59:50; 40%@60:40; 40%@72:00; 30%@75:00; 20%@82:10 “14% or less”@87:15.

Cycle 5: 10%@60 hours heavier use

Cycle 6: 70%@27:26 (used google skymap last night!); 60%@37:10; 40%@48:00; “14% or less” @ 56:47.

Cycle 7: 30% @15:45 (comparatively heavy usage, including playing podcasts and reading ebook)

Using the camera seems to really drain the battery, particularly the flash as does the google skymap app.

[5] Moved 6/7/10

Seems as if the data got reset on June 1, so the initial 160 MB may have been an apportionment for starting late in the month (although I did check that and the numbers didn’t match).  So instead of Telstra telling me to expect that I wasted much time fretting about it and being given the run around by whoever I called.

I like the voicemail-> voice to text ->  sms function.  I assume that is Telstra rather than Desire? Now that I’ve activated my voicemail (I had to ring up help, as 101 was barred on the phone) this voice-> sms service has stopped :’-( [apparently it’s a premium service]

Just as I was trying to work out how to get my voicemail, Telstra smsed me with the 101 details.  Synchronicity!.  However, calling 101 they told me that it wasn’t available from this service. FFS. Have called them and they’re going to set it up but it may take 24 hours.

Three strikes starts in Ireland

Three strikes starts in Ireland

News in that EIRCOM, an ISP in Ireland will begin disconnecting people who are accused of copyright infringement multiple times.   I can’t say I’d want to be EIRCOM.  Whoever they start sending letters to will probably move to another ISP who isn’t sending out nasty letters. Given the choice, you’d probably prefer not to join EIRCOM.  In the long run the idea will be to get all the ISPs doing it, but EIRCOM will take the hit in the meantime.  Equally, users will probably migrate from contracts to monthly plans so they can switch easily.  Are there enough ISPs in Ireland for users to do a round robin?

Whenever ‘the industry’ does things like this I just see them evolving a better infringer – like the evolution of Napster when you couldn’t static host and then the evolution of decentralised peer to peer after Napster.  People will start encrypting their sessions or doing something different.  I can’t see the benefit if they boot people off the net either.  They’ll just make it more of a political issue and make infringers become habituated to swapping off net (you can fit a lot of mp3 onto a 16GB micro SD…).  If they do, any ability to track them will go as well.

Words in Copyright Act vs Time

Words in Copyright Act vs Time

I have run some numbers on how the size of the (Australian) Copyright Act has changed over the past century or so.  With one exception, these numbers were generated automatically from electronic versions of the legislation.   Before counting the words I stripped out the table of contents and everything from “The Schedule” on.  This is because a bigger Act automatically means a larger table of contents and an older Act means more notes about when sections came into force, were repealed etc.  The one exception is the Copyright Act of 1905, a word count for which was estimated by manually counting words on 3 pages, generating an average per page and multiplying by the number of pages. There are a couple of versions of the Act from between 1905 and the 1970s which are not plotted (as I don’t have access to a full copy of them) but everything I could find from 1970 on is there.

The Statute of Anne (1709) has about 2,500 words in it.  It took roughly 200 years to reach 7,500 (in our 1905 Act).  For your reference, the NSW Conveyancing Act 1919 No6 (which actually does deal with property) has about 82,000 words (ie about the number of words added to the Copyright Act in the last 10 years).  We might speculate whether there will be enough paper in the world to even print the Act in 20 years’ time.

Here is the period from 1992

And, for a laugh, the BSAA reported piracy rate (from the annual reports produced by IDC etc) overlaid.  I would not want to endorse the BSAA numbers as they don’t seem to me to be well founded and any variation in them can easily be explained by changes in IDC’s sampling procedures/calculation methods.  In addition, they are advocacy documents so need to be taken with a grain of salt.

It is hard to see any relationship between the amount of legislation and the reported rate of piracy (which seems to be in a long term, albeit slow, decline).  To the extent there is a relationship, the reported rate seems to lead changes in legislation.

Python packaging and adding menu entries

Python packaging and adding menu entries

Well, I am now unofficially an open source programmer.  Having decided to add a hint function to a “GPL v2 or later” python/pygame game called Jools I discovered I had to rewrite much of the game logic simply to understand it.  One thing led to another and I’ve learnt some pygame and forked Jools, changing the object of the game and added some new graphics.  The new version has been released as a “GPL v3 or later” game called Symbology.  It is sort of like bejeweled skinned for maths geeks.

Now is where I get to struggle with the packaging of python programs.  Apparently Nobody Expects Python Packaging.  It certainly seems convoluted and I fear that now that I’ve finished the program I will need to re-engineer it to be able to access the data files which seem like they will end up somewhere I don’t want them (or bounded in a nutshell/zip file) if I use setuptools or distutils.

Another problem I face is how to create a download which will automatically install menu entries in relevant service menus (eg for KDE, GNOME and/or win).  At the moment, the install is just a not very smart gzipped tarball.

Philips’ Munificence

Philips’ Munificence

Got an advertisement in the mail from Philips for a dictation machine.  Apparently if I buy one of their dictation machines (with an RRP of about $800) they will give me “an additional 2GB SD Card Free!!!!!” (actually they only use one shriek).   At around $11 for a 2GB SD card, that is like a discount of 1.5%.  Like that is a big incentive?

HTC Android Desire

HTC Android Desire

Telstra cold called me.  My existing contract has expired so I am a free agent at the moment, so I asked them what HTC Android phones they had.  Apparently the HTC Desire (=HTC Incredible with a 5 MP camera)  is available as part of one of their plans. With a 1 GHz snapdragon processor, this would be the ARM smartbook I have been waiting patiently to buy (except it would be smaller, lighter and with a rubbish keyboard).

Trouble is, it’s Telstra, who, for me have something of a reputation for price gouging, if my experience with their wireless broadband is anything to go by.

Further, I was a little concerned by a report which indicates that “android” phones store their contacts remotely in the cloud, but the Desire manual implies otherwise. [Peter comments otherwise – thanks Peter]

It also has the added benefit that HTC have annoyed Apple enough to get sued by them, so it would be for a good cause.

I wonder whether anyone else is offering the Desire? Vodafone doesn’t seem to be…Apparently exclusive to Telstra for a couple of months – see link below.

Other notes…

Manual doesn’t mention whether it supports ringer id or profiles (are these just taken for granted on today’s phones?) and, in particular, whether it has an autolock feature (which my stupid Nokia doesn’t duh) and whether profiles, if they exist, can be set to expire after a certain time.

Users can also set contact specific ringtones and choose to divert all calls from a specific contact directly to voicemail… Profile support on the HTC Desire isn’t very comprehensive, with just three profiles to choose from.

Apparently it will only be available from Telstra?, at least until after the end of the financial year:

The device, originally scheduled for release on April 27 under a deal that saw Telstra retain exclusive Australian rights to the handset for three months, was suddenly announced as being available today… HTC has confirmed that Australian retailers will now have to wait six months before they can sell the device alongside Telstra.

Plan Charge calculations

Vodafone’s call rate is $0.9/min on a $50/24 month plan, with $350 worth = 388.89 call minutes per month or 7.78 call minutes  per dollar

Telstra’s call rate is $0.8/min on a $79/24 month plan with $750 worth = 937.5 call minutes per month or 11.87 call minutes per dollar.  So perhaps Telstra aren’t such price gougers after all.

Not clear whether Telstra provides free voicemail callback -> hmmm no, it’s $0.6 per minute.

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