December 6, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Ever since the release of Android 4.4 KitKat, we knew that it was only a matter of time before custom ROM developer teams started incorporating the goodies into their own builds. Accordingly, the CyanogenMod team stated their plans to release their Android 4.4-based CyanogenMod 11 once work on CM 10.2 had finished. Approximately one month later, the CyanogenMod Team has now reached the M1 Milestone in their Android 4.4-based CyanogenMod 11 ROM for certain Nexus Devices.
Not every device is receiving official CM11 M1 love. In fact, it is only available for “actively AOSP-supported Nexus devices.” In other words, this means the Google Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7, and Nexus 7 (2013). Because of this restriction, though, you can expect a relatively bug-free experience. Devices other than the supported current Nexus fleet will be receiving official CM 11 nightlies instead.
What are your thoughts on this new approach to pushing out Nexus device releases a bit earlier? Let us know in the comments below!
[Source: CyanogenMod Blog]
Android is six years old now. One week ago, we presented the first part of the Android story. Now, it’s time to continue the journey.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—located in Mountain View, the first version of the operating system dedicated for tablets was born. Google called it 3. 0 Honeycomb and presented it alongside the Motorola Xoom.
November 19, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Capping off a busy day chock-full of KitKat news, Google has just released a new build of Android 4.4 to the AOSP servers and various recent Nexus devices. The new build comes in at version KRT16S, and it replaces the older KRT16O build.
The KRT16S update is currently available for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (2012 – all variants), Nexus 7 (2013 – all variants), and Nexus 10. Curiously left out, however, is the Google Nexus 5, which features a different build altogether (KRT16M). Also of note, this new KRT16O build is unrelated to the mystery KOT31B build seen a week and a half ago on the Chromium Issue Tracker.
According to AOSP Moderator Conley Owens, the new build is largely a bug fix build. As such, you shouldn’t expect too many user-facing features. That said, users looking to get in on the action can easily do so by going to the Nexus Factory Images page and downloading the latest firmware images. If building from source is more up your alley, head over to the Android Git and Nexus Driver Binaries page.
[Source: Android Building Google Group]
November 14, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Ever since Android 4.4 KitKat was released, the question quickly turned to when devices other than the Google Nexus 5 would get to see the goods. We’ve seen various unofficial builds pop up for unsupported devices. In fact, we’ve highlighted quite a few highly functioning releases for a few of the more popular devices currently available. But up until yesterday, if you wanted to enjoy Android 4.4 KitKat in official capacity, you needed to own a Nexus 5.
Then, Google pushed out the official KitKat OTA updates for the Nexus 7 (WiFi only), Nexus 7 (2013, WiFi only) and Nexus 10, and the OTA links were soon captured. However, the timeframe for the Nexus 4 (as well as the Nexus 7 variants with mobile data) was still up in the air, with the only official statement being that it would come soon. Apparently, “soon” actually meant the following day. To that end, the official Android 4.4 KitKat restore images are now available for the Nexus 4, Nexus 7 (all variants and both years), and Nexus 10. Along for the ride are the proprietary driver binaries, which enable ROM developers to make fully functioning builds for these devices. Curiously, the OTA update for the Nexus 4 has not started making its way out to handsets. That said, we can’t imagine it’d be too long now that the KitKat images for the device have been released.
If you’re an end user, installation is as simple as downloading the images and executing the flash-all.bat file. Alternatively, you can extract the available archive and flash them piecemeal through fastboot by executing the command fastboot <partition name> <image name and path>. This will enable you to flash without losing data.
Update: It looks like some of the update links on Google’s site are currently down. We assume this is because they are likely being uploaded to the website. Keep trying every now and then, as we’re confident that they will be live soon.
[Many thanks to reader Sampo S. for sending in the tip!]
November 13, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
Google has announced on the official Android Google+ that starting today, the Nexus 7 (both 2012 and 2013) and Nexus 10 will receive an over-the-air update to Android 4.4 KitKat. According to Google, the Nexus 4 and versions of the Nexus 7 with mobile data will be getting the update soon as well.
KitKat was released nearly two weeks ago, and it brought many improvements in security and user-facing features. Google promised that older Nexus devices, unfortunately not including the Galaxy Nexus, would receive an update to Android 4.4 within few weeks. Today’s announcement now reaffirms this. It didn’t take long for developers here on XDA to bake some unofficial ports for these devices. But unfortunately, not everything was perfect in these early builds. Now, however, the unofficial builds will also benefit, as Google will also release the proprietary binaries required to build a fully working system.
We all hoped that it wouldn’t take long for Google to push out the OTA updates for all supported devices. And soon, current Nexus owners will be able to enjoy official KitKat. In the meantime, head over to your device-specific forum and keep an eye out for system dumps and OTAs available to flash.
November 10, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
A little under a year ago, we talked about a rather unique multiboot solution available for the Google Nexus 7 (2012). The tool, which was developed by XDA Recognized Developer Tasssadar, differed from most other multiboot solutions available on other devices because it streamlined the process and requires no modification of your device’s bootloader or existing /system partition. It did, however, require modification to the /data partition, but things were still more civilized than most other multiboot solutions due to the integrated installer app.
Now, Tasssadar’s MultiROM solution has been extended to also support the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 (2013). Just as before, the main staple of MultiROM is its ability to allow you to boot into any number of Android ROMs. In addition to adding support for the two new devices, however, MultiROM has undergone a whole host of improvements over the last year.
For starters, MultiROM now allows you to restore from an existing Nandroid backup for use as a secondary ROM. This is an extremely practical feature because it allows you to make a backup of your existing ROM and transfer it to the secondary installation so that you can objectively compare results when flashing modifications.
Tasssadar has also removed one of the key limitations from last year’s release. Before, all ROMs had to be installed on internal memory. This presented somewhat of a challenge to many since modern Nexus devices lack external SD card expansion slots. Now, MultiROM allows you to use a USB-OTG cable and connected USB storage to house the ROMs off of device storage.
To get started, visit the appropriate thread below:
[Thanks to Tasssadar and Nikwen for the heads up!]
November 1, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Ever since Google released the source code for Android 4.4 KitKat, we knew it wouldn’t be long before proper, source-built ROMs were made available for certain devices. And naturally, we all expected these initial builds to appear first on some of the current Nexus fleet. That is indeed the case, as there are now builds for the Google Nexus 4, Google Nexus 7 (2012), and the Google Nexus 7 (2013).
These builds all come courtesy of the Paranoid Android team, and are labeled “4.4r1 by AOSPA.” The Nexus 4 build comes courtesy of XDA Recognized Developer franciscofranco, the Nexus 7 (2012) build comes courtesy of XDA Senior Member EvanA, and the Nexus 7 (2013) comes courtesy of XDA Recognized Developer aaronpoweruser.
At this point, it is unclear what exactly works and what doesn’t work. However, we do know that Paranoid Android’s signature features have not yet been merged. Rather, this is just based on the source code that was released yesterday. And since this is such an early build and source was only released a day ago, we wouldn’t use these as daily drivers just yet. That said, it’s great to see such early source-built progress being made. Kudos to the Paranoid Android team. We can’t wait to see the ROM’s key features merged!
To get started, head over to the appropriate link below!
[Many thanks to EvanA and aaronpoweruser for the Flo link!]
November 1, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
What an exciting day we had yesterday. As was widely speculated, the Google Nexus 5 was finally released, which means that you can finally put that F5 key to rest. However, the new device wasn’t the only important announcement yesterday. We were also given a nice dose of the next version of Android, version 4.4 KitKat. Now the question in everybody‘s mind undoubtedly turns to when their device will get the update. Luckily, we now know the roadmap for certain key devices. READ ON »
October 17, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Back at XDA:DevCon 2013, Ubuntu community manager Jono Bacon gave a talk about the future of Ubuntu on mobile devices. Also at the conference, Ubuntu coder Michael Hall held a Ubuntu Touch Development Workshop aimed at spurring and fostering application development for the soon-to-be-ready platform. Both of these presentations can now be viewed online. Fast forward a few months, and Ubuntu for phones is now available for its first two devices.
Coinciding with the desktop Ubuntu 13.10 release, Ubuntu for phones is now officially available for installation on the Google Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The release bills itself as being feature complete, with quite a few bells and whistles available including gesture control for multitasking and regularly used apps, click packages, cloud photo storage, easy access to search from anywhere, extensive personalization possibilities, and a set of APIs with which to build new applications. And because all of the included core applications run natively rather than through an interpreter, Ubuntu promises high levels of performance.
While today’s release is a very big step forward, not everything is fully baked just yet. Only two devices are currently supported. And even for those devices, the experience isn’t quite perfect. For starters airplane mode and a lock screen have not yet been added. And remember the promise of convergent computing where a smartphone can function as a complete PC, as long as it meets the minimum requirements? Well, that’s not yet available. Despite the limitations, today’s release is quite exciting. It’s always nice to see other software options available for the devices that some of us already own.
Head over to the Ubuntu for Phones splash page and follow the relatively simple instructions. More information about the specific capabilities and limitations in today’s release can be found here. Finally, those looking into community-based progress on Ubuntu for Phones for other devices should head over to the Ubuntu Touch Wiki.
[Thanks to User Experience Admin svetius for the tip!]
August 29, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Did you join the Internet masses in picking up a Nexus 4 now that its price has dropped to a mere $199 and $249 for the 8 and 16 gig models, respectively? If so, I can’t blame you. In fact, I’ll just come out and say it: The Google Nexus 4 is an utterly fantastic smartphone. However, that’s not to say that it’s perfect.
In my opinion, the Nexus 4 most accurately represents the phrase, “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” After all, it has an underwhelming camera, the processor is beginning to show its age (at least in comparison with the latest generation of flagships), and most of all, its screen lacks the vibrance and saturation of better panels. Luckily this last point can be alleviated thanks to XDA Recognized Developer franciscofranco.
Franciscofranco’s Nexus 4 Display Control app does exactly what its name states. It allows you to tune both the color and gamma, as well as backup and restore color profiles. While this won’t fix the bad viewing angles or magically give the Nexus 4 a 1080p display, the app will certainly help you make the most of the hardware. One thing to keep in mind is that as of Android 4.2.2, module injection was disabled by Google so you must be running franco.Kernel in order to use the gamma interface.
Normally, the application sells for $1.99 on Google Play. However, franciscofranko has so generously provided the application free of charge to XDA community members. Head over to the application thread to get started.
August 22, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Not too long ago, we brought you news of the Nexus 7 (2013) Factory Image situation and the drama that ensued. Luckily, it wasn’t too long before the world was made right once again, and the factory images and driver binaries for the device were released. For those keeping track, this was build JSS15J for the 2013 Nexus 7 and JWR66V for the rest of the current Nexus stable. Now, a new build has emerged, and it is build JSS15Q for the 2013 Nexus 7 and JWR66Y for the others.
So what does this update bring? This is essentially a minor revision for the Nexus 4, 2012 Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and the GSM Galaxy Nexus. Aside from a security fix and some camera, NFC, and auto-brightness tweaks, not much has been changed. However, if you’re currently using the 2013 Nexus 7, you’re in for a treat. In addition to the above changes, the latest update supposedly fixes the GPS and multi-touch issues experienced by certain users. Also of note is that driver binaries are now available for the Verizon Galaxy Nexus running 4.3 JWR66Y, which bodes well for a firmware update in the near future.
To learn more about the changes made on the 2013 Nexus 7 build, head over to XDA Recognized Contributor sfhub‘s original thread. To get the goods on your own Nexus device without the wait, head over to the Nexus Factory Images page. Finally, if you wish to build your own ROMs from source for your Nexus device(s) and want the latest driver binaries, head over to the Nexus Driver Binaries page.
Did this update fix your 2013 Nexus 7′s GPS woes and erratic multi-touch? Let us know what you think of the updates in the comment box below!
July 31, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Android 4.3′s launch last week has been nothing short of an almost resounding success. Why “almost?” Well, aside from a few issues with copy/paste, most users seem to be quite happy with the latest iteration of Jelly Bean. This level of user satisfaction is to be expected, as the latest flavor of Jelly Bean brings added performance, improved API support, additional functionality, and a few other features. One of these “other features,” however, is quite important for those of us who frequently transfer massive amounts of data to our devices such as media content and other large files.
Of course, as you might expect, I’m talking about how 4.3 also brings TRIM support to all Nexus devices. Anyone who has ever experienced a massive device slowdown after transferring large quantities of data to and from a NAND device knows what I’m talking about. For a very practical example, one need only look at Google’s original Nexus 7. Back when it first came out, reviews for the popular device nearly unanimously praised it for its high level of performance. However as time went on, most users seemed to notice a rather sharp I/O performance decline. This lead to an overall feeling of sluggishness when using the device, making the once fast tablet almost unusably slow for some. This issue seemed to affect those with lower capacity models more severely, or at least more quickly, than those with the 32 GB model. As you would expect, this was largely due to TRIM not being enabled in previous builds. This then prevented the scheduling of NAND blocks for garbage collection, making rewriting data to these blocks significantly slower. (Note: Traces of TRIM were added back in the Nexus 7 4.1.2 builds, but the current consensus is that it wasn’t actually enabled until 4.3.)
Looking into the Android Git, one can readily find the modifications to Android’s volume daemon (VOLD) to enable fstrim. The next step is determining when exactly fstrim runs. As exposed by some detective work by Brian Klug over at Anandtech:
I’ve learned a bit more on the conditions underlying when Android 4.3 will TRIM filesystems, as it wasn’t completely clear before. The Android framework will send out a “start idle maintenance window” event that the MountService listens for, and then invokes vold to fstrim filesystems when a few conditions have been met – the device hasn’t been touched for over an hour, no idle maintenance window event has been sent in 24 hours, and the device is either off-charger with 80% battery or on-charger with 30% battery. The goal is to have fstrim run roughly once every 24 hours if you’re in the habit of plugging the device in to charge every night.
Fstrim sends the FITRIM ioctl() command to all writable filesystems when invoked, which discards (TRIMs) blocks on the eMMC not used by the filesystem. Without TRIM the controller will track blocks that have data deleted by the filesystem, but the controller still believes has data it needs to track. TRIM is the signaling pathway through which the filesystem and OS can tell the controller that it can now consider those blocks unused and for garbage collection – different controllers will behave differently since it’s their prerogative to decide what happens next however.
In other words, if your device is idle and plugged in for over an hour, it will run the “start idle maintenance window” event. However, this will only take place if the “start idle maintenance window” event hasn’t been sent in the past 24 hours, and if your battery level is either greater than 80% or you are plugged in and have greater than 30% battery. Another way to invoke TRIM is to use a frontend for the fstrim utility and force TRIM to be executed using an app such as XDA Senior Member AuxLV‘s Lagfix application.
All of this is unimportant without tangible performance gains. So what can you expect from 4.3 in terms of I/O performance? Over the next couple of days, I set to find out on two daily use devices. I’m going to be running tests using Androbench Storage Benchmark before and after upgrading from official JDQ39 (4.2.2) to official JWR66V (4.3) on my personal Nexus 7 (8 GB) and Nexus 10 (16 GB). Both devices have received heavy usage, with much data being transferred to and from the devices, and about as many deletions. After the “after” tests are run, I will then root the devices and use the LagFix fstrim frontend to force TRIM manually and rerun the benchmarks. Stay tuned and keep checking the Portal for updates!
July 24, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
We were all expecting it. In fact, we’ve all been waiting for it ever since this year’s Google I/O. However, that conference came and went, without a trace of Android 4.3. But after last week’s Android 4.3 leak, we knew it was finally coming soon. And in today’s Google event, which also marked the release of the Nexus 7 refresh, it has finally been made official.
So what’s new in this latest flavor of Jelly Bean? Here are some of the key changes, courtesy of the Android Developers blog post:
- OpenGL ES 3.0 — Game developers can now take advantage of OpenGL ES 3.0 and EGL extensions as standard features of Android, with access from either framework or native APIs.
- Bluetooth Smart — Now your apps can communicate with the many types of low-power Bluetooth Smart devices and sensors available today, to provide new features for fitness, medical, location, proximity, and more.
- Restricted profiles — Tablet owners can create restricted profiles to limit access to apps, for family, friends, kiosks, and more. Your app can offer various types of restrictions to let tablet owners control its capabilities in each profile.
- New media capabilities — A modular DRM framework enables media application developers to more easily integrate DRM into their own streaming protocols such as MPEG DASH. Apps can also access a built-in VP8 encoder from framework or native APIs for high-quality video capture.
- Notification access — Your apps can now access and interact with the stream of status bar notifications as they are posted. You can display them in any way you want, including routing them to nearby Bluetooth devices, and you can update and dismiss notifications as needed.
- Improved profiling tools — New tags in the Systrace tool and on-screen GPU profiling give you new ways to build great performance into your app.
Much has also been done to improve UI performance. Most notably, the Android 4.3 Platform Highlights page mentions a change to the hardware-accelerated 2D subsystem that modifies the stream of drawing commands to send the commands to the GPU in an optimized manner. And in instances when the CPU is required, these operations are now multi-threaded, allowing the use of multiple CPU cores. Improved window buffer allocation also speeds up buffer allocation, resulting in speedier rendering starts. And to best harness the GPU’s power in 2D hardware-accelerated tasks, the system now uses OpenGL ES 3.0 for optimized texture management and to maintain higher gradient rendering fidelity. Of course, however, the main use of OpenGL ES 3.0 will be to provide game developers with the framework and native API access they need to produce high quality and efficient games.
Another major highlight in this Jelly Bean refresh is a substantial refresh to the notification system, whereby third-party apps can observe the stream of notifications and display them or transfer them to nearby connected Bluetooth devices. And just as before, notifications can be enabled or disabled per app. Building upon this, however, now users are allowed to see and toggle which apps have access to the notification stream.
The tablet multi-user feature has also been revamped. Now in 4.3, users are given the option to set up restricted profiles. This allows owners to easily create separate environments for each user, with the ability to manage restrictions in apps available in those environments. This feature is aimed to sharing your device with friends and use at kiosks.
Other notable changes include Bluetooth Smart Ready to aid in discovery and communication with nearby devices, Bluetooth AVRCP 1.3 support for richer interactions with media streaming devices, an improved DRM framework, and a VP8 video encoder.
You can learn more by heading over to the Android Developers blog post and Android 4.3 Platform Highlights page. If you’re lucky enough to own a Google Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, or Galaxy Nexus, you can expect this update to come over-the-air shortly. And if you find yourself impatiently waiting, you can get a head start and download the images by visiting the Nexus device factory images.