The Treehouse Blog

Tag: g1

Device Convergence: GPS

by on Jun.01, 2010, under Technology

Are cell phones yet to the point where they can replace a hand-held hiking GPS?  Up until recently, I’ve been quick to dismiss this notion.  The announcement of Garmin’s latest hand-helds that appear to be moving closer to their cell phone brethren has me wondering.  Reports of the new touch-screen interface are about as bad as one would expect.

So, what are the issues?  I tried my G1 running OruxMaps on a 3.5hr / 10 mile hike in the mountains on Monday to get a better perspective.

Battery Life. It barely survived.  I would probably expect twice the battery life from my Garmin GPSMap 76S with a constantly running display.  Can the battery life issues be solved with an external AA-based battery pack to keep the cell phone charged?  I have no experience with these things.  Reviews indicate that ones without regulators aren’t worth much.  I might have to try one.

GPS Hardware. Cell phones may have GPS receivers, but it is not their primary function.  Most Android phones I’ve looked at seem to use the Qualcomm gpsOne chipset instead of a dedicated chipset such as the oft-mentioned SiRFstar III.  This is a cause for concern, since gpsOne currently seems to lack support for WAAS and likely is not as sensitive as the SiRFstar.  The upside of gpsOne is that AGPS will provide a faster lock when within range of the cell network.

Usability. Another major hurdle is the availability of high quality GPS software for the phone.  I’ve tried Maverick Lite, OruxMaps, and My Tracks and found them all to be lacking the necessary features of a hand-held GPS.  My Tracks is the Google-sponsored outdoor activity tracking app that was very recently open-sourced.  Maverick and Orux both provide offline map access (another must), but they seem to accomplish this with saved graphic tiles and not vector data as would be desired.  Any new GPS solution I get should have high-resolution topo maps included.

Durability. Hand-held GPS receivers tend to be waterproof and a bit rugged.  I’ve dropped my GPSmap 76s a number of times – and it once fell off my bike at 15+ mph.  There’s no way any phone I’ve owned would be happy with that kind of treatment.

Bottom line?  Not sure yet.  I do think the concept of a hand-held GPS is already starting to fade.  I’m not ready just yet to give mine up in favor of the cell phone.  I hope the newly open-sourced My Tracks starts gaining some useful hand-held features.

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G1/Linksys Wifi Problems

by on Mar.13, 2010, under Networking

Awhile ago I finally upgraded my home wireless network (a single WAP54G v2) from TKIP to AES.  This has been something on the to-do list since I got rid of the Axim (which wouldn’t support AES).  I tested my two wireless client devices – a laptop and my G1, and they seemed fine at the time.  All was well.

Later I noticed that the G1 was not functioning on my home network, yet worked on other similarly secured networks I connect to.  It would connect, obtain an IP address, but not pass traffic – which is a pretty bad scenario since the G1 wouldn’t automatically fail back to its GSM data connection.  I did the typical troubleshooting with “forget”-ing the network and reconnecting, etc, but this was unsuccessful.  More detailed analysis showed that almost immediately after DHCP completed successfully, the G1 would see no traffic generated from the network, and the network would see no traffic generated by the G1.  With the laptop working fine through all of this, it really seemed to be a problem with the G1.

After essentially exhausting other options, I turned my attention to the WAP.  I tried changing the SSID which didn’t help, and reverting back to TKIP, which worked fine.  I then decided to upgrade the WAP’s firmware, from 2.07 (2004 era) to 3.04 (2005 era – still 5 years old!).  The wireless security settings are more granular than the former version – and after reconfiguring – the G1 works on AES.

Hopefully this time it will keep working.

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G1 migration

by on Apr.12, 2009, under Networking, Technology

I went to a local AT&T store last Tuesday and signed up for service on the G1.  I put the phone on the counter and after the sales guy asked if it were unlocked, and I said that it was, things moved on quickly.  He took my information and began the process.  I walked out with a G1 on AT&T’s network and a receipt for $0 for the SIM.  I checked out data in the car, and it was working despite not having the “wap.cingular” APN settings, which I added later just in case.

I checked my online account access upon getting home.  The sales guy hadn’t setup data access, so I quickly selected the unlimited data and text option.  It also seems that the phone hadn’t been branded a “smartphone” so all of my options were for non-smart phones.  I asked the tech for detailed billing to be enabled (apparently there’s a fee for that in AT&T land) but I couldn’t tell from the website whether it was or not.  Later detailed call logs became available, so I guess it is enabled.  Unlike Verizon, only outgoing numbers are listed, which is a lot less helpful.  UPDATE: Either I missed them before or they didn’t work before, but the detailed call log does seem to have originating numbers now.

I am understandably nervous about data usage charges until I get the first bill.  Recently the bill amount was listed – something like $114 – but I can’t see the bill itself for a few more days.  Some quick figuring suggests this is reasonable for a month’s worth of service and an activation fee, but I’m not sure that’s what it is listing.  Even more recently, itemized data sessions began appearing in the details, all under my unlimited data setup, so I think things are setup correctly at this point.  UPDATE: I have now been able to see the whole bill, and everything seems to be in order.  The changes I made to my account seemed to be retroactively applied on the date I made the change (ie, the date of service start).

The number port from Verizon took about 14 hours.  This was a lot longer than Chris Z. had experienced.

I’ve purchased a few accessories – an adapter to allow both 3.5mm audio and power to be connected simultaneously – for occasional audio use in the car.  Also a mini-USB car charger and additional mini-USB to USB cables for use at home and work. I have not bought a case.  The slide-out keyboard seems to make the possibility of a good skin-type case almost nonexistent.  I also didn’t buy a charging cradle, so even though I have two batteries, I’d have to swap them to charge (like the VX8600 which I also had two batteries and no charger, and unlike the X30 which I had two batteries and a charging cradle).

A few software migrations (updated in previous entry) have been completed, so the X30 will be placed in deprecated status this week.  The 5 items I always check my pockets for before going to work can now be reduced to 4.

One other minor annoyance is that I’ve already found some places that AT&T has lower signal strength than T-mobile had.

I might be turning into an Android fanboy.  The iPhone is still much prettier though.

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G1 Testing – Part 3

by on Apr.05, 2009, under Networking, Technology

Part my “phone decision tree” is carrier selection.  The G1 and the iPhone are both GSM phones that can be unlocked from their respective networks.  I’m somewhat familiar with AT&T’s network – I used to have their service and found it good, and Doug currently has their service, and we’ve compared Verizon/AT&T coverage on occasion with comparable results.  To evaluate T-mobile, I purchased a pre-paid SIM for their network.

At home, I get about 2 bars out of 4 on the G1 with T-mobile pre-paid.  This is comparable to my Verizon EV-3-bars and 1x-2-bars, and Doug’s about 2 bars of AT&T.  At my parent’s place I get full signal, same as Verizon.  At work, I expect full strength being a stone’s throw from their tower.

For further comparisons, I did about a 100-mile road test and managed to get Chris B. to go along and observe signal strengths.  Here were the generalized results:

  • Home to Roxbury:  T-mobile > Verizon
  • Roxbury to Fannettsburg (along turnpike):  T-mobile = Verizon
  • Fannettsburg to Ft. Loudon (route 75):  Both poor, T-mobile < Verizon
  • Ft. Loudon to Chambersburg (route 30):  Marginal Verizon, but mostly no T-mobile
  • Chambersburg to Caledonia (route 30):  Both very good, T-mobile = Verizon
  • Caledonia to Shippensburg (route 233, Ship Rd):  Both generally poor, T-mobile = Verizon
  • Shippensburg to Home: Both good, T-mobile = Verizon

These observations were generally consistent with the published T-mobile and Verizon coverage maps.

With these observations, T-mobile appears to be a viable carrier for the locations I spend most of my time.  But cell service is nice to have places where you don’t spend a lot of time as well.  Looking at the state-wide zoom level for AT&T, Verizon, and T-mobile, it appears clear the T-mobile is really, really lacking.  AT&T and Verizon appear to be about comparable.

In performing this comparison, I found it hard to believe that there were no good tools to show multiple providers coverage areas simultaneously.  Verizon’s coverage map was good, with a google-maps-like drag-scroll interface.  AT&T and T-mobile were not.  In all cases the zoom levels for the maps poorly corresponded, making comparisons that much more difficult.

What about roaming?  I had read/heard about T-mobile and AT&T having mutual roaming agreements.  Can I purchase T-mobile service and use AT&T’s network?  I tried selecting AT&T as the provider with my T-mobile pre-paid SIM, and it did not work.  That does not necessarily mean that it would not work with a “real” T-mobile plan.  However, I would really expect the provider coverage maps to show areas that they mean to cover with roaming, and T-mobile does not show anywhere near AT&T’s footprint.  Besides, I have read of peering agreements changing over time without notice, so even if it worked now, it might not forever.  I’ve decided it’s not worth getting a real T-mobile account just for testing internetwork roaming.

As a break from the analysis, I did manage to get to try T-mobile’s EDGE data service on the G1.  I’m not sure exactly how it happened.  I upgraded to R33 last night, and while around my parents house, a new “G” icon appeared with in/out data arrows.  An app that tracks data usage confirmed that it was the 2G radio interface, and that it was passing traffic.  I was able to play around with Google maps, web browsing, IM’ing, ping, and ssh using EDGE today, and the performance was fine.  This evening however, it stopped working and the browser shows a page saying that the G1 needs a real data plan.  Still, I was pleased to have the brief opportunity.

What about 3G?  If I use the G1 on AT&T can I use 3G?  The answer appears to be no, due to different frequencies/bands used for T-mobile’s and AT&T’s network and handsets.  But T-mobile does not have 3G anywhere near me anyway.  AT&T does, so if 3G is a requirement, the iPhone has to be the way to go.  Otherwise, using the G1 on AT&T locally should be no different 3G-wise than using it on T-mobile.

Conclusion: T-mobile isn’t a viable carrier for me.  The G1 can work on AT&T’s network as long as I don’t need 3G.  If I need 3G, the iPhone, AT&T (and going to Carlisle or Hagerstown, for now, at least) is the only option.  Do I need 3G?  Probably not.

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G1 Testing – Part 2

by on Apr.05, 2009, under Technology

I’ve had more time to play with the G1, so an update follows.

My intention for the G1 (or the iPhone if necessary) is to replace both my Verizon LG VX8600 as well as my Dell Axim X30.  To that end, I’ll list the functions of each, and my current impressions of the G1 and maybe some notes about the iPhone.  This is a work in progress, so I plan on updating things as I find out more.

  • Phone / VX8600 Comparisons

    • Placing and receiving calls. The G1 seems to be able to do that.  I really like the phone-like feel of the VX8600, but having used a Nokia in the past, I’ll get used to talking into a non-handset yet again.
    • SMS reminders. I don’t always feel or hear an SMS when it’s first delivered, or maybe I ignore it as I can’t de-pocket the phone at the time.  The VX8600 has the ability to periodically re-alert unviewed SMS messages which I use.  The G1 does not have this feature out of the box, as far as I can tell.  There is an application “Missed Call” that provides this service.  I’ve seen this app crash once though, and when that happens there are no SMS alerts.  That could be a serious issue.
    • Battery life. I don’t use my phone heavily at this point (no e-mail or Internet after all).  I typically charge it whenever it shows 3 of 4 bars of battery, probably about every three days.  It is charged overnight.  In situations where I’m somewhere with no cell service, the phone will chew through most of its battery in just a few hours.
    • Pocketability. The VX8600 is very pocketable.
  • Pocket PC / Dell Axim X30 Comparisons

    • Password Management. Not sure if it’s the best policy, but I’ve been keeping passwords in the Axim, and before that a Palm, for about as long as I’ve cared about passwords.  On the X30, I’m using “KeePass for Pocket PC 2002” which has some quirks, but works well.  I’ve found “KeePassDroid” for the G1, but have not yet tried it.  It apparently does not have the ability to edit passwords which is a big drawback.  It may not be a showstopper, but it is a disappointment.  UPDATE: I’ve copied my keepass database onto the G1.  The interface feels clunkier compared to the X30, but it works fine.
    • Notepad. When I don’t have something to write on, I often go for the “Notes” application that comes with the Windows mobile OS.  I mostly just scribble something with the stylus and never clean up notes afterwards.  At first glance the G1 doesn’t have such an app, but I downloaded “Note pad” which lets me type out notes, which should be just fine (and more ledgible than my scribble).
    • Wifi Scanning. I manage an rather large wireless network, and often enough need to scan for signal strength and what WAPs are out there.  On the X30, I use MiniStumbler.  So far the best app I’ve found for the G1 is “Tricorder” which lists APs by ESSID and a relative signal measurement.  That’s a lot less information than MiniStumbler provides.  This is another setback, but one that I might have to live work.
    • Playing Music. I sometimes will use the X30 for playing music.  I use “BetaPlayer” for this.  The built-in “Music” app on the G1 plays MP3s just fine, but I need to do more testing/research on what formats are supported.
    • Playing Video. I also used “BetaPlayer” on the X30 to play movies, mostly Divx AVIs.  So far I haven’t been able to make the G1 do that.
    • Battery Life. I think the X30 burns through battery at about 50% per hour while in heavy use, such as playing a movie, or staring at MiniStumbler.  I often go days between charges for mine under typical use.
    • Pocketability. The X30 is slightly thinner, about as long, and about an inch wider than the G1.  I use a belt holster for the X30 and typically only carry it at work.  It’s a bit too wide to be comfortably pocketable.
  • Smartphone Features. These are items that I’ll be expecting to have available from a “smartphone” device.
    • E-mail. I setup two IMAP accounts quickly with the built-in client and it seemed to work fine.  Under further testing though, things were less good.  When you delete a message from the G1, it does not delete it from the IMAP server.  Apparently this is a known issue and might be fixed in “cupcake” but not yet.  That’s terrible.  The workaround is to use the “K-9 Mail” application which is a fork of Android’s mail client that will ideally have its changes merged in eventually.  This client is more featureful and fixes the delete issue.  Neither client yet supports the IMAP idle feature (that is essentially the “push” feature in IMAP).  Apparently the iPhone has IMAP idle support, but doesn’t make very good use of it.  For e-mail being such a basic and expected feature of a smartphone, it is disappointing that this doesn’t work as well as it could.  I’m sure the Gmail support is much better than IMAP however, but that does me no good.
    • Web Browsing. The web browser is pretty good.  It would be nice to have the iPhone’s “pinching” but it is emmintely usable.
    • SSH. Remote systems administration is one of my goals for a smartphone. Google’s own “ConnectBot” application is stellar.  After figuring out the G1’s keyboard (and ConnectBot’s additional quirks) even vim is usable.  This is a big win over whatever SSH client I at one time used on the Axim.
    • Tethering. I hope to be able to use the G1 for tethering in certain situations.  It sounds like with a rooted G1 this will be possible without difficulty.  I have installed this, but no testing yet.  UPDATE: Some preliminary testing indicates this works great.
  • HTC / T-Mobile G1 Notes

    • Pocketability. Not bad.  I had both the VX8600 and G1 in the same pocket today without much difficulty.
    • Battery Life. Under heavy use, I’m seeing the phone drain about 20% per hour, and light use about 10% per hour.  I don’t have good stats on idle usage yet.  This might be an issue.  There are longer life batteries available.  Also, the batteries seem to charge very quickly.  UPDATE: After normal-ish day of use for me with 16.5 hours off-charger, the G1 has about 20% left.  Not too bad.
    • Application Updates. It seems that applications downloaded through the marketplace will automatically notify you when updates are available.  Much better than the X30!  Does the iPhone do that?
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