Sunday, December 11, 2011

Rooting the LG Optimus M

I convinced my wife to let me root her LG Optimus M (stock Android 2.2.1). After the struggle I had to go through to root my 2.2.2 Ascend, rooting the Optimus was a breeze! Here's what I did:

  • Turn on the following phone settings under "Applications": Unknown sources, USB debugging (under Development).
  • From your computer, search for Gingerbreak and download APK v1.2; here's a Gingerbreak link that currently works.
  • Connect your phone to your computer; on your phone, pull down the top menu, touch the "USB storage" message and turn on USB storage.
  • You should see notification on your computer that your phone's SD card has been mounted. Copy the Gingerbread APK to somewhere on your phone (e.g. the "downloads" directory).
  • On your phone, install the ES File Explorer (or your favorite file explorer/browser) app via Market
  • Open the file explorer, find the Gingerbreak APK and install it (make sure "USB debugging" and "Unknown sources" settings are turned on)
  • Run Gingerbreak, touch the option to root your phone. Your phone should reboot by itself in a few minutes. If it doesn't reboot by itself, Gingerbreak probably didn't work. After the phone reboots, you should see a "Superuser" app in your list of apps.
  • Install Titanium Backup (free version is fine) from Market.
  • In Titanium Backup, touch "Backup/Restore", select an app you want to remove, then select "Un-install". Be very careful about which apps you remove! Removing the wrong one can brick your phone. Here is a list of "safe" apps to remove for LG Optimus M.

Here are the apps I removed. I'd recommend that you stop Boingo WiFi before trying to remove it---I kept getting error messages after removing it and had to reboot the phone before I could continue. Also note that some of these apps provide basic functionality; if you ever think you'll use that functionality or aren't sure, don't remove that app.

  • Boingo wifi (had to reboot after removing)
  • Gameloft free games
  • Loopt
  • Mail@metro
  • Metro backup
  • Metro 411
  • Metro navigator
  • Metropcs easy wifi
  • Mocospace
  • Myextras
  • Pocket express
  • Uno
  • Virtual card
  • Music
  • Sns
  • RSS reader
  • Voice dialer
  • Voice search
  • Weather

Friday, December 9, 2011

Rooting the Huawei Ascend and Upgrading to Android 2.2.2 (Froyo)

Upgrading was the easy part. MetroPCS has a page of instructions on how to upgrade. I took the "Self Upgrade" option. Note that the actual download is from the Huawei Devices site. One thing I was a little confused about is that after you connect your phone to your computer, you must mount the SD card via your phone. I kept trying to run "mount" commands from my computer...

The hard part was obtaining root. First I tried z4root, the app that rooted Android 2.1 for me. No luck. After some searching, I learned about Gingerbreak. I tried v1.2, then v1.3, then v1.1. None of them worked. Argh! And now my battery is draining like crazy! I'm I relegated to a life of recharging my phone every day?!?! Lots of Google searching just turned up more and more references to z4root/gingerbreak. And, I couldn't seem to find anyone with my problem; until...

...I found this post. tokill88 was stuck in a similar situation... had recently upgraded to 2.2.2 and Gingerbreak wouldn't work for him. The thread was dead---3 months old. I registered and added my sad situation. I looked back a few minutes later and there was a reply from "Senior member" ShinySide suggesting SuperOneClick. Seriously? Could that be it? I had a little trouble downloading it and figuring out how it worked, but this video helped a lot. Note that I couldn't run SuperOneClick on XP, but it worked on Vista (yes, it requires Windows).

After rooting via SuperOneClick, I wasn't sure whether I actually had root. I tried Titanium Backup, which is how I removed bloatware from Android 2.1. It couldn't get root. Huh? I found threads talking about this problem and how to fix, but TB didn't even have the same interface. Somewhat randomly, I tried setting TB to "Force System BusyBox". I then restarted via Menu->More->Reload Application. Viola! But, that wasn't all. TB couldn't find the applications I really wanted to remove, like MetroPCS Easy Wifi. This problem was easier to solve (but more expensive). Install Root Explorer via Market and delete everything in /cust/metropcs/us/app. Done!

Was the pain worth it? Yes. I feel like I have a new & improved phone. Everything is faster. Settings->Applications->Manage Applications is useful; it shows me all running applications, not just the ones I started and lets me "force stop" ones I don't want to be running. I still use Advanced Task Killer, but the "Manage Applications" gives me more control and "force stop" really works.

The one thing I don't like about Android 2.2.2 is that I can't control end button behavior. I used to be able to hit the "end call" button to put my phone to sleep. Now I have to hit the power button. Annoying, but I'll live.

P.S. In case you brick your phone, I bet this post would be useful.

P.P.S. This seems to be a good article on task killers. As noted, CPU is more precious than memory; killing and restarting an app uses precious CPU. So, if an app you don't use restarts itself every time you kill it, what you really need to do is root your phone and remove that rogue app.

Mapping Android Version Names to Numbers

I get confused about what Android release names map to what Android release versions. So, I created this post. I got the list of names from this post. I got some of the numbers from Google search; the last two are the obvious guesses. As you might expect, you can also find this information on Wikipedia

  • 1.5: Cupcake
  • 1.6: Donut
  • 2.0/2.1: Eclair
  • 2.2: FroYo
  • 2.3: Gingerbread
  • 3.x: Honeycomb
  • 4.x: Ice Cream Sandwich
  • 5.x: Jelly Bean (?)
  • 6.x: Key Lime Pie (?)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Using Compass and GPS While Hiking

My wife and I hiked up West Tiger Mountain #2 and #3 today. #2 is an elevation of approximately 2700 feet. The most popular route is to take the West Tiger 3 Trail (WT3T) up to peak #3. But, we decided to do a loop, following the Tiger Mountain Trail (TMT) up to peak #2, over to peak #3 and then following the West Tiger 3 Trail to get back to the trailhead. Here is a nice map of the trails around where we hiked. Purple is the TMT; green is the WT3T. I printed out a guide with latitude/longitude and brief descriptions of intersection points and we drove to the Tradition Lake/Plateau Trailhead

The reason I'm telling you about this on a mobile blog is that the Compass app was extremely handy for the hike. I used it for (1) latitude/longitude to match with the guide, (2) compass to make sure we were headed in the correct direction, and (3) elevation to know how far up or down we still had to go. I'll definitely make sure my phone is fully charged for my next hike.

Another reason I'm glad I had the Compass app is that our planned hike was interrupted. Half-way up the mountain, we saw a sign telling us the TMT was closed ahead. It told us to use the K-3 trail (purple dashed line on the map) to access the peaks. The Compass helped me figure out where we were on the map I printed and how close we were to the planned trail. The K-3 turned out to be a great alternative as it took us up to the old Railroad Grade (black dashed line) which reconnected with the TMT. Fortunately for us, the trail signage was quite good, providing trail names, directions to peaks and even distances, occasionally.

I can see why most people stick to WT3T. The TMT was somewhat narrow, steep and overgrown, but it wound through some gorgeous parts of the park, including across two ravines via wooden bridges with streams below. We were pleasantly surprised to find many foxglove plants which we learned about in our daughter's Fancy Nancy books. In contrast, the WT3T has wide, well-defined trail and is never particularly steep. They even had stairs built for the one steep portion. In contrast, the TMT had a number of steep sections with switchbacks built to make it easier to climb. There were a few parts where it took leg strength to pull myself up. We never saw anything like that on the WT3T. We didn't see a single other hiker on TMT; we saw 20+ other hikers on WT3T. Of course, we started the TMT at 8:20am and started hiking down the WT3T around 11:30am. Overall, I like the TMT better as it seemed like an interesting hike versus the WT3T which was more like an exercise walk.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Huawei Ascend Android 2.2 Upgrade

Finally!  It's out.  Here's the official MetroPCS Android 2.2 Upgrade announcement.  But wait.  I've rooted my phone.  Is the upgrade compatible with a rooted phone?  I'm skeptical.  This post describing a bad experience with upgrading after rooting worries me.  'course, it's possible this person wasn't super careful, or the Cricket upgrade is somewhat different from the MetroPCS upgrade.  Does anyone have experience trying to upgrade after rooting?  How did it go?  Which process did you follow: (1) using the App, (2) Self Upgrade, or (3) in-store Assisted?

I'm looking forward to the "Enhanced Processor Management".  Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rooting the Huawei Ascend

I just root-ed my Huawei Ascend. It was surprisingly easy. Tokenpoke at Android Forums provides an easy step-by-step guide to customizing the Ascend. I found it easiest to do everything from my phone. Here's a quick summary of what I did:
I chose not to delete the Metro Web and Android Keyboard apps. I may delete the Metro Web app if I decide I like the Skyfire app better. But, AFAIK, I don't have a keyboard app other than the Android Keyboard and I don't want to be stuck without a keyboard! Is there a build-in keyboard that Android would use if I delete "Android Keyboard"?
As Tokenpoke notes, deleting Boingo and MetroWifi are probably the largest benefits since they will run in the background and you can't permanently shut them off (without rooting your phone). I'm already seeing benefits to rooting my phone and deleting apps. When I play Angry Birds, the animation is much less choppy. Also, interaction with the phone seems to be snappier.
Note that you delete applications from the "Titanium Backup" app. Click on an application, then click the "un-install" button. For reference, these are the apps I removed:
  • Boingo wifi
  • Loopt
  • Mail@metro
  • Metro backup
  • Metro navigator
  • Metro 411
  • Metropcs easy wifi
  • Mobile Im
  • Mocospace
  • Myextras
  • Pocket express
  • Swype
  • Uno
  • Voice dialer
  • Virtual card
  • YouTube
I didn't see the Google Skymap app.

Update 7/6/11: MetroPCS has released the Android 2.2 Upgrade.  If you've tried this on a rooted Ascend, please let me know by leaving a comment.  Thanks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Daylight Savings Time

I got my wife an LG Optimus M when she decided to switch over to MetroPCS with me. Except for the slightly smaller screen size, it seems to be better than my Huawei Ascend especially with respect to responsiveness. The hardware specs aren't too different, so I'm guessing the difference is Android 2.2 (vs. Android 2.1).

There has been one serious disappointment, though. When Daylight Savings Time rolled around on Sunday, the LG Optimus M was still stuck in Standard Time. I checked Date and Time Settings, but there was no option for controlling the clock at all (not even whether the clock should be updated automatically or not). Fortunately, I found a thread on the DST issue where someone suggested rebooting and briefly pulling the battery when the phone is off. I'm not sure why I didn't think of that earlier. But, the good news is that it worked. Now the LG Optimus M is finally in DST. I wonder what the problem was. Did the phone receive a DST update, but it couldn't be applied until a reboot? Please comment if you know.

Monday, February 14, 2011


AndroidForums seems to have a nice set of threads on the Huawei Ascend.

P.S. After searching around on the Huawei web site, I've learned that the Ascend is also known as the M860.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mounting Android and User Manual

I suspected it must be easy to mount the microSD card as a "hard drive" from Linux. I didn't find any devices with "usb" in the name the first time I connected it, so I didn't pursue it further. Today, I had /var/log/messages tailed and noticed an sr1 device message when I attached my phone. Sure enough,

$ sudo mkdir /media/android
$ sudo mount /dev/sr1 /media/android
gave me access.

After poking around a bit, I noticed

/media/android/document/user guide_en.pdf
Ah hah! The missing manual. I figured out most of the details already, but the manual did provide me one useful piece of information---how to upgrade. See sections 12.8 and 12.9. Note that I'm referring to the Huawei Ascend manual...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

It Works

My suspicions were correct. I noticed that my phone was reporting the incorrect phone number. One digit was missing from "Settings"/"About phone"/"Status"/"My phone number". Standard MetroPCS customer service wasn't willing to help me until 72 hours had passed since my number port. Today, I finally got them to help me (but only after they tried to transfer to the porting department which was closed at the time and they didn't believe me when I told them this!). They helped me edit the settings on the phone and enter the correct phone number. And, voila! Google maps worked immediately and after I re-entered my gmail password and turned on synchonization, gmail worked too. I just downloaded the ITA OnTheFly application which I'm excited to try out since I know one of the developers.

I wish MetroPCS had separate "smart phone" agents (not to mention a less crappy automated voice menu navigation system). The agent that helped me gave me instructions which often were somewhat confusing or unclear because I have a smart phone. One example is when she asked me to dial a number to put the phone into setting-editing mode. She just told me what to dial without indicating that I needed to open up my phone's dialer. Of course, I quickly figured out what she meant, but dealing with customer service is hard enough as it is---having to translate from normal phone terminology to smart phone terminology just makes it more difficult.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Android User Guide

It sounds like there is no general purpose Android user guide. But, the Nexus One User Guide is a good approximation to an Android User Guide. Of course, all the hardware details are different, but once you're past that, there is a lot of useful information. In particular:

  • Page 36 provides the basics of how to use the touchscreen
  • Pages 50-51 list the meanings of all the notification icons
  • Page 62 gives you ideas for how to maximize battery life

P.S. I'm guessing that the Google Mobile Forum is a good place to get help for Android-based mobile phones.

Friday, January 21, 2011

How to lock the screen without waiting for the timeout

Android locks the screen after I hangup a call which is usually what I want. But, when I'm doing other things and wanted to put the phone away, I felt that I had to wait a minute for the screen to timeout to ensure it didn't interpret putting the phone in my pocket as (e.g.) dialing random people in my contacts. I didn't want to set the timeout to a shorter value since I found 30 seconds to be too short when using GMail on the phone. Shouldn't there be a way to force the screen to lock. A Google search didn't help---I mainly found articles on how to secure your phone in case of loss or theft. Next, I started browsing settings. Under "General info & options", I found "End button behavior" with options like "Go to home" and "Go to sleep". "Sleep" sounded like it might give me the screen lockout I wanted. I chose the "Home, then sleep" option and found that with two clicks of the end button, I'd have a locked screen. Woo hoo!

Update (3/16/11): I've learned that for Android phones without an "end call" button, you can usually make the phone go to sleep by quickly pressing-and-releasing the "off" button. You have to hold the "off" button for a few seconds to shut the phone down.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Huawei Ascend: Welcome to Android

Last Friday, I bought a Huawei Ascend and signed-up for MetroPCS. Over the past few days, I tested it out. There didn't seem to be any show-stopper drawbacks, so yesterday I ported my number from T-Mobile.


  • For an extra $15/month, I get unlimited text, talk, and web.
  • I can use GMail and Google Maps on the go.
  • Android auto-synchronizes my GMail contacts so I don't have to enter anyone into my phone or worry about losing my contacts. Also, I can manage my contacts from a desktop computer.
  • It's fun to be able to reply to Google Talk messages on-the-spot.


  • Voice quality ain't as good as T-Mobile. Voices sound metallic, volume is somewhat erratic, voices occasionally break-up even with decent reception (2/4 bars).
  • Android 2.1 is slow. Part of the problem might be crapware that MetroPCS included. I may try rootkit so that I can clean-out such stuff. I've heard it may be possible to upgrade to 2.2 which is supposed to be much faster...
  • I currently have no data access. MetroPCS CS thinks it's due to the number port which involved switching me to a new account number. We'll see. They said I could see problems up to 72 hours after the port (last night).

I'm also excited about making better use of Google Voice. I've heard that you can switch off VM on the phone and just let GV handle it (after you've moved everyone to your GV number). I've heard that is a good place to get tips on the Huawei Ascend.