Encabulating Photon Emission Interface

My small lab assistant and I tossed our hats in the ring and were invited to compete in the 2013 Red Bull Creation competition. In short, it was great. Team swan tron didn’t make it to the finals, (this year, suckers) but had a great time and learned a ton. Dual hats off to the six teams heading to NY for the last phase…you all earned it.

Team swan tron entered for consideration an Encabulating Photon Emission Interface.

team swan tron

team swan tron

Red Bull’s concept was simple and brilliant…the accepted applicants were given custom Arduino shields, a whole bunch of LEDs, and a path to a git repo containing a library with which to make them crank. That, about four weeks, and a nudge to do something awesome with lights. We did this…

We used all of the PWM channels at our disposal to handle the colors on our Encabulating Interface, and tossed in some analog stuff for good measure. Our software utilized the Encabulator’s accelerometer values as the interface’s interfacing variables, which is nice. Most of the board’s function was exercised, as was my brain, Emma’s brain, and Emma in general. She liked the feedback in a belly laugh way…so that is that. Pretty sure she and I both came out ahead on this effort.

Here’s to 2014…look out for team swan tron.

The Calm Before the Storm II

Materials, purchased.

busy lab is busy

b&w


I’m a bit further down the road as of this posting, and already in a tool crunch. It looks like Lowe’s is the winner of this round…I’ll be back there tomorrow on my lunch break. “You wore that apron yesterday Lowe’s bro! j/k! Throw ‘er on the tab!”

Anyhow, this goal for the weekend is to have the base infrastructure in a rudimentary complete status. I have a bunch of question marks at this point, but a sharpening picture of where Emma and I will end up with this thing. I need to get saws and edible stuff out of the picture, so I’m hoping to be in the hardware / software phase of this thing in a few days. The generally awesome people at Adafruit have a new Arduino heading towards the Rockies, and I have a bunch of LED strip-centric things to study before that happens…tons to do. Sensors to study…screws to drive…Fruit Loops to eat. We’re busy. Need some Red Bulls.

Stay tuned.

Unbricking an Android Tablet

This whole thing began innocently. D-Rock had picked up an Arnova 9 G3 tablet, and wasn’t satisfied with a few things. I wasn’t satisfied that he bought an off-brand tablet, at a truck stop, for 300% its value without asking me for advice, but that is a different story. Maybe truck stop tablets are mostly great…I don’t know. I suspect most are like the Arnova 9G3: shit.

So, the main two gripes were
1) No Google Play
2) Screen finicky at best

I figured I could have both knocked out with three steps
1) Update firmware
2) Get root
3) Push Google* apps over ADB

Things got complicated by the fact that Arnova’s support site doesn’t include firmware for this device. I’m guessing that is intentional, as the factory method of deploying firmware updates involves placing an updated image on the root of an SD card and updating via recovery. That would be nice, but the Arnova 9 G3 has a bug wherein entering recovery mode spawns a black screen. That’s it…a blank screen.

My Linux machine wasn’t seeing the tablet as a USB device while in ‘recovery’ mode anyhow, so I couldn’t mount and do a dd command. Sort of shit out of luck for my normal way of doing this.

The next resort was to blow the cobwebs off Katie’s old XP laptop and install some software to flash new firmware via Windows software. Not my wheelhouse. I located a custom firmware allegedly compatible with the device, installed some drivers, and started flashing via the Rockchip Batch Tool. Midway through the flash process, the firmware push encountered a driver error. The result was the device being stuck in the killer ‘recovery mode’ screen…aka just a blank, bricked $350 paperweight.

Since the firmware was in a borked state, the reset and power buttons were useless. My last thought was to attempt to create a short in order to get the device to reset, and in turn for the XP box to recognize the device with a new set of drivers. Here’s to that…

opening arnova tablet

access granted

I managed to locate contact points that did the trick…a small click and the device showed up as new hardware. I manually selected the drivers I tracked down, and bingo

bricked tablet

login gained

Up and at ‘em. The flash worked this time around. Worthy of mention, it worked with a nearly dead battery. I was lucky not to brick the thing again…not having a recovery screen makes stuff like that tough to gauge.

The screen seems to work a lot better with the new firmware and without the bloatware. One for two. Also, two for two

play store onarnova

play granted

Let it go on record that this is the last time I intend to work on an Arnova device. Luckily, the camera was functional, allowing me to leave Derek some custom wallpaper:

*REDACTED*

Stop buying electronics at truck stops, D-Rock. Just don’t.

Android Spy App

Suppress for a few minutes any issues you may have about invasions of privacy. I’m going to talk about something very cool from a technology point of view…namely an Android Spy App. The theme alone may send the paranoid looking for their tinfoil hats, but at the core is something pretty impressive.

tron swan tron

tron. swan tron

So, from a technical standpoint, Mobile Spy is awesome. Once the app is installed upon the tracked device, it will run under the radar. It spins a PID and runs undetected. The viewing interface is a live control panel…you can view the remote device’s screen, see the GPS info (overlayed onto a map…you bet) in real-timne, send silent SMS commands…

The next level of interaction is even more involved. Via Mobile Spy, you can view the photos on the device…see Gmail messages…see Facebook and other social network activity. You can view the apps installed onthe device, URLs that the browser has hit, and phone contacts. Sort of creepy.

Perhaps the two items that have been incorporated into the feature suite involve the exit path. You can initiate a block on any of the applications. This would be useful for something along the lines of blocking Astro File Manager, to keep hidden files and apks from being exposed. The second is nothing short of brilliant…a built-in remote uninstall. End of story.

Snap back to reality. This is powerful stuff, and not to be taken lightly. If the usage is legit, this tool is amazingly legit.

4G LTE in MT

4G device-having Bozeman residents awoke to a nice surprise today…Verizon flipped the LTE switch a few months earlier than anticipated.

LTE

blurry pic is blurry


They must be calibrating the network, as my speed tests are all over the board. I have one run that was 14M down / 4M up, but several that sit in the 3G range.

Either way, exciting stuff and incredible timing.

Samsung Galaxy S III

I haven’t had the best phone on the market in my posession since the LG flip-phone era. Until this afterlunch…

samy galy

gally?

Samsung Galaxy S III.

I’ll post plenty about this good-looking thing. This stock ROM is solid, but I’m fighting the urge to dump JB on this sucker and go all out. Stay tuned.

Cruz Tablet Review

As much as I love hanging out at root, there is no way to justify doing so for the sake of a piece of shit eReader.

Velocity Cruz…Android 2.2, awful firmware, and laughable hardware…

useless tab is useless

-1


…sum to a bunch of bullshit. This tablet is the worst.

I’ve made this thing usable by removing the stock apps via ADB, disabling javascript (really?) from the stock browser, and manually pushing the strangely nonexistent Google app set over via the SD card.

The confusing part is the fact that Velocity’s latest firmware update fails to solve the issue that chokes both the stock Android browser and Dolphin HD…I updated thinking my refurb was dated. Nope. Apparently this is exactly the product that the clowns at Velocity intended to hit the market.

Hats off.

I’ll extract function out of this thing..the price-point pretty much ensures that. I tracked down a MIPS version of Opera that should work out, and have some ideas with respect to custom ROMs. It will browse, eRead, and serve some games with a great battery under the hood. A bunch of hacking later.

The Cheapest Android Tablet in the World

Fifty bucks. Fifty.

cheap android tablet

Velocity Cruz Tablet

This thing is almost as rad as a Transformer. Except that it is 7″ and *probably* too under-powered to run Flash.

It has killer battery life, so I will put this to use as an eReader. Not until I can maximize the performance…see if I can flash a ROM on this thing and overclock some stuff. Rooting and getting the Android Market will be the first step. Could be fun.