March of the Droids 2014

It is that time of year again: the days are getting longer and warmer, the fridges have faster turnover of Hooch and/or Cider and some of us have started rocking our solar power banks. Yes ladies and gentlemen, it is almost time for March of the Droids.
March of the Droids is an event organised by Android Enthusiasts throughout the UK and has the backing of several websites and companies. This year one of the sponsors is my employer Skyscanner, and I will be giving a talk on Mobile Application Testing at Skyscanner.
March of the Droids 2014 takes place on May 10th (12:00) in Bournemouth, Dorset (England). The plan for the event looks great with Paul O'Brien (MoDaCo), Jon Love (Clove), Tom Mleko (HyperBees) and myself giving talks. As well as the talks, there will be the usual real life socialising, libations, food, shenanigans and tomfoolery.

At time of writing, there are still some tickets available so if you would like to attend the reasonably priced event (£12.50) you can buy tickets here.

I look forward to catching up with everyone there, delivering my talk (and prizes too) and having a great time. Who knows, we may even end up trying to give away some smartphone cases...

Feel free to pop a comment in the section below if you have any questions.

More details on March of the Droids 2014 can be found here:

If you are looking for flights, car hire or a hotel for the event check out

Jelly Bean on the Huawei G300

I've had a Huawei G300 since May 2012. I've recommended the handset to friends and family because it is excellent value for money and has a pretty good spec sheet. Since mid December 2012 I have been using Dazzozo's excellent CyanogenMod 10 port as the operating system on the device. While not perfect, it has been good enough to use the G300 as my Ingress device (yes, a device just for Ingress).

This morning I installed the January 14th update for CM10 by Dazzozo and was surprised by how much smoother and more responsive the G300 now is. In just one month there seems to have been a massive improvement. The MoDaCo community has come up with a masterpiece again.

If you have a Huawei G300 and want to take Jelly Bean for a spin, I recommend using this ROM. Thanks to Dazzozo and everyone involved in the development of this CyanogenMod ROM. Check it out here.

Nokia Lumia 710 And Ubuntu: They Speak To Each Other!

I've had a Nokia Lumia 710 for a while now.  This week I discovered I can use my Lumia 710 and manage media and content on it through my Ubuntu Linux machines, and I'm a very happy chappy as a result.

The Nokia Lumia 710 is one of Nokia's first Windows Phone 7 devices, the product of the Finnish company's leap of faith from a "burning platform" onto a lilly pad in the middle of a stormy ocean. Windows Phone 7 is Microsoft's smartphone operating system which it pitches as a competitor to Google's Android OS and iOS (which is shipped on Apple devices).
From the beginning of my ownership of the Nokia Lumia 710 I encountered frustration with some of the basic management of Windows Phone 7. Adding and managing media could only be done (up to now) from a Windows or OS X machine running the Zune software. Zune performs similar functions to iTunes, just that it uses a simplistically shiny UI which fits in well on Windows 8, but looks out of place and unintuitive on Windows 7. I have been an avid Linux user for many moons now, and Microsoft Windows is an OS I only boot into rarely if there is some slightly more complicated in phone rooting/ROMming that requires running applications on Windows. Hence my frustration: I have to restart my computer into Windows (7 most of the time on my desktop, 8 on my laptop), wait for the slower startup (it's so much faster in Ubuntu or Lubuntu!), update the antivirus (not an issue on Ubuntu or Lubuntu!) and open up Zune.

Zune is "shiny". I like it. I like it in the same sort of way that I like Windows Phone 7's user interface, and in the same way in which I adore the WebOS user interface. It's all about the UI, its fluidity and how intuitive it is. That's probably why I like the Android 4.0.x UI too: Matias Duarte, formerly of Palm where he designed the WebOS UI, is now the Director of Android operating system User Experience at Google.
Shiny! Shinier with Rachel Stevens
At the beginning using the Zune software didn't work for me. Plugging the Nokia Lumia 710 into any USB port (either primary or secondary) was useless, it didn't show up in the device manager and Zune didn't know there was a Windows Phone 7 device connected to the computer. Only after I had reinstalled Windows 7 on my desktop did I manage to get the Lumia 710 and Zune to talk to each other. Finally I was able to synchronise music folders and podcasts with the device. This was a relief because I had been streaming podcasts over the interwebs through a browser, and this was severely affecting battery life. Once I had got used to the routine of synching the Lumia on a daily basis, things were fine.
When on holiday in Italy I was using my Nexus S as my main smartphone and the Lumia was relegated to being a wifi device when at home for Skype calls, mp3 player functions and playing a fantastic Xbox Live game called Flowers.

After having updated my Ubuntu and Lubuntu partitions on my laptop and desktop to the newest version of the distribution (12.04 Precise Pangolin), I stumbled across the fact that the Nokia Lumia 710 could be mounted as a media player. Once mounted, I could read and write the contents of the folders, manage photos, music and podcasts to the device. On Ubuntu, it even offered to manage the media player in Rythmbox, the media management application bundled with the pinky-orange Linux based OS.
Now that I don't have to boot into Windows so often I'm a happier Wobbles feeder. I can also reply to John C. Dvorak who was reiterating the fact that you HAVE to use Zune on TWiT last week: not any more! You can now live a Windows free life with your Windows Phone 7 smartphone. Until the next OS/firmware update that is... ;-)

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions. I also started a thread on the MoDaCo forums about this so feel free to join the chatter about this there too.

How To Unlock An Orange Monte Carlo (ZTE Skate) [Tutorial]

In this tutorial I hope to guide you through network unlocking an Orange Monte Carlo (ZTE Skate). This tutorial is based on the one by tilal6991 and many others from the MoDaCo forums and they deserve all the credit for the achievement. Credit for the unlock process itself goes to All I am doing here is trying to give you a beginner (Noob) friendly tutorial on how to xiaoxyaoswim network unlock your device. I will try and keep the tutorial as simple as possible and include as many images as possible.
Lets make this a little less Orange...

Network unlocking your device may (probably does) void the guarantee on it in many different ways. There is a risk of total and utter failure of the procedures in this tutorial. I am not responsible for:
  • your phone ending up being unusable and unrepairable
  • the retailer you purchased the device from refusing to take it back as a return, no matter how much you argue with the staff...
  • any tears or tantrums because of your bricked device
  • your ban from aforementioned retailer because of the tears and tantrums
  • you punching kittens in a tantrum
  • the RSPCA prosecuting you because you punched kittens
  • any other of your actions
  • global warming
  • the banking crisis
  • the low number of Jennifer Paige hits in the history of music charts
I am writing this tutorial with the masses in mind. I'll run the tutorial so it can be done on Windows. If there is sufficient demand I may also write a tutorial for Linux users too. (Leave a comment at the end of the post if you would like a Linux tutorial). Ready? Here we go!

To unlock an Orange Monte Carlo you will need a computer running Windows (preferrably Windows 7, but Vista or XP might do) with a spare primary USB port, and an Orange Monte Carlo with its USB cable.

Step 1
Create a new folder on your desktop. You can call it as you wish.
We're going back to IT Skills 101...
Step 2
Download "QPST 2.7 build 366" and install it. You may need an unzip package to do that. Once you have installed QPST, you should be ready for step 3.

Step 3
Download the file from here by clicking on the big green Zip link. The download may take a while because it is approximately 150MB in size.

Once you have downloaded the file, unzip it within the folder we created in step 1 on your desktop.

Step 4
Set your phone up for USB debugging. [Menu=> Settings => Applications => Development] and make sure the USB debugging option is ticked.
Make sure "USB debugging" is ticked
Step 5
Connect you phone (switched on) to your computer through a primary USB port. In Windows, you should have the drivers installed automatically by Windows Update. You may have a problem getting this step completed if your firewall is blocking software from accessing your phone. Try looking through this  MoDaCo Forum thread if you have problems with drivers (hopefully you don't...)

Step 6
Run (double click) “install-recovery-windows.bat” from the preparation folder in the folder from step 1 on your desktop.
“install-recovery-windows.bat” running. No need to try and catch it...
You should get an old style black window that looks like this with text popping up. When the program finishes running, the window will automatically close and your phone will reboot. Don't be alarmed, it may also vibrate.

Step 7
Disconnect the Orange Monte Carlo from your computer, and then remove the back cover and the battery.

Step 8
Wait a few seconds and then reinsert the battery and put the back cover on. Hold the phone and make sure you are pressing the volume down button on the volume rocker on the side when you reinsert the USB cable. Your phone will turn on. Keep holding the volume down button as the green android appears and keep it pressed until a white square with FTM appears onscreen (as in the image).

Step 9
In step 2 you we installed QPST on your computer. Go to your Windows Start button, click it, go to All Programs and there you should have a folder called QPST (you might have to scroll down a bit to find it). In the QPST folder open Software Download.

Step 10
In the Software Download window, select the Backup tab near the top (third tab from the left). In the Port section, select your phone (which should appear if it is in debugging mode and connected to a primary USB port). In the QCN File option, select where to save the .qcn file you are going to generate (I recommend the folder we created on the desktop in step). Once that is done press the Start button just below. The process will take a few seconds and then you will have created a .qcn backup file of your device in the folder you chose.

Close QPST Software Download, but don't forget about it copmpletely, we'll need it again later on... (Thanks to dibbles from the MoDaCo Forums for the feedback on this and many other points of the tutorial!)

Step 11
Double check that the .qcn file has a size larger than zero. This is important, so just go to the folder where you saved the .qcn file, right click on it, go to properties and check the size there. It should be approximately  150Kb in size.

Now go to the Unlock folder on your desktop and run Download.exe. A new window will open which should look like this:

Step 13
When you are ready, click the START button and the program will run. This may take a while, and your phone will reboot a few times in during the process. 

Once it is done (Ratio 100/100), you will get a popup window saying that the download was successful. You can close that program and go back to the QPST Software Download program.

Step 14
Open QPST Software Download, as we did in Step 9. Select the Restore tab near the top (second from left).

Step 15
In the QCN File section choose your .qcn file from your folder on the desktop and then click the Start button just below and wait for the process to run.

Step 16
Once that is done, close the QPST Software Download window and disconnect your phone from your computer. Your Orange Monte Carlo should now be network unlocked and able to use any SIM card.

This tutorial is mainly based on tilal6991's tutorial on MoDaCo forums. I've tried to make it fuller and more newbie friendly by adding pictures and filling it out. Please leave feedback and let me know what goes well and/or doesn't with the tutorial. Thanks to tilal6991 and all involved in the effort at the MoDaCo forums.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions either here or on the relevant post in the MoDaCo forums. Please bear in mind the disclaimer at the beginning of the post.

T-Mobile Vivacity AKA ZTE Blade 2 [Preview]

Today I picked up a T-Mobile Vivacity. Uncertain what type of Gingerbready goodness I was going to find in the magenta box, I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was a ZTE Blade 2 in T-Mobile dress.

The T-Mobile Vivacity is an inexpensive Android smartphone, currently priced at £99 in the UK from T-Mobile. It features a 5MP camera with LED flash at the back, a 3.5" capacitive multitouch display at the front with four capacitive buttons (Menu, Home, Back, Search) beneath and a front facing camera above.
Right side with volume rocker.

Left side with Micro-USB connector.

3.5mm audio jack and on/off button on the top side.

There is a volume rocker on the right hand side of the device, an on/off button on the top next to a 3.5mm audio jack and a micro-USB data/power socket on the left side. The casing of the device is quite plasticky, much the same as the one found on the Orange Monte Carlo / ZTE Skate. Just like the OMC/Skate it is a fingerprint magnet.

The Android version on the T-Mobile Vivacity is a pretty much stock version of Gingerbread (2.3) with a few extra T-Mo apps and wallpapers but nothing too intrusive (unlike the Orange bloatware on the OSF/OMC/OSF II).

Here are some comparison photos with other devices I had lying around on my desk:
T-Mobile Vivacity with HTC Wildfire
T-Mobile Vivacity with ZTE Skate [BAP]
T-Mobile Vivacity with Samsung E1080i 
T-Mobile Vivacity with Orange Mont Carlo (with case) [BAP]
T-Mobile Vivacity with Nokia 1100
T-Mobile Vivacity with Samsung Galaxy Pro
T-Mobile Vivacity with HP Palm Pre 2
I hope these pictures give you an idea of the size of the T-Mobile Vivacity.

The device has been pleasant to use so far. After logging in at the first start up the device took all my usual settings (including homescreen background) and ported them onto the Vivacity. Great stuff!

I ran quadrant and got the results I posted here. Essentially the T-Mobile Vivacity is a T-mobile Version of the ZTE Crescent aka Blade 2. That makes it the magenta sibling of the Orange San Francisco II, which is trickling out in stores at the moment.

I'll eventually get round to a full review of the device, only once I get the tricky Orange Monte Carlo/ZTE Skate one out though. As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below or at the ZTE Crescent forum .

Orange Monte Carlo Unlock Achieved! [MoDaCo]

The Orange Monte Carlo Android smartphone, Orange's rebranded version of the ZTE Skate is now sim unlockable. This means the phone can be used with any network's sim card after the procedure explained in xiaoyaoswim's post on the forums.
SIM Unlock Achieved!
The Orange Monte Carlo is currently being sold in Orange stores for £119, and now that there is a free procedure to unlock the device it looks like an even better buy!

Credit to xiaoyaoswim and the rest of the MoDaCo Android community for delivering a very useful service. Thanks to everyone who made this possible!

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich [4.0]

Sticking to Google's tradition of naming versions of the Android OS after tasty desserts, Android 4.0 was officially unveiled today and it is called Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS for short).

As written on the Official Google Blog:

"With Ice Cream Sandwich, our mission was to build a mobile OS that works on both phones and tablets, and to make the power of Android enticing and intuitive. We created a new font that’s optimized for HD displays and eliminated all hardware buttons in favor of adaptable software buttons. We also dramatically improved the keyboard, made notifications more interactive and created resizable widgets."

ICS will be the default OS on the new Google Galaxy Nexus smartphone, and Google also announced that the ICS OS should run on any device that runs Gingerbread (Android 2.3). I'm looking forward to seeing what the vibrant communities at MoDaCo and XDA Developers come up with for handsets such as the HTC Desire, the ZTE Skate and the Samsung Galaxy Pro...

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below. I would also advise popping into the MoDaCo Android forums and seeing what will be brewed up in the Android kitchens there...

Orange Monte Carlo - BAP [Pre Review]

I've had an Orange Monte Carlo for a couple of weeks now. The ZTE made follow up to the Orange San Francisco (ZTE Blade) is a ZTE Skate under its glossy fingerprint magnet finish. My affectionate name for the Orange Monte Carlo is BAP. BAP is an acronym which stands for Big Ass Phone.
The Orange Monte Carlo. BAP.

To give people an idea of what a BAP (Big Ass Phone) the Orange Monte Carlo is, with its 4.3" capacitive display, I took some photos of it with other devices. A full review of the BAP will be on soon. Here are the photos:
Orange Monte Carlo next to HTC Desire.
The Orange Monte Carlo next to a Nokia 1100.
Orange Monte Carlo next to an HTC Wildfire S.
Orange Monte Carlo next to Samsung Galaxy Pro.
Orange Monte Carlo next to a Royal Wedding Phone.
Orange Monte Carlo next to a HP Palm Pre 2.
Orange Monte Carlo next to a Nokia E71.
This post is a follow up to my original thread in MoDaCo Forums. As often happens, the excellent community at MoDaCo Forums is working hard on getting the most out of the Orange Monte Carlo (ZTE Skate) and a method for rooting the device as well as an early custom ROM kitchen are already available. Thanks to Paul and everyone involved in the MoDaCo community!

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions below or on the MoDaCo Forums. I'm already bracing myself for intense criticism of my photography, lighting and @fatoldgingercat fluff in the photos. Just to let you know, I took the pictures, wrote and published this blog post while in and before getting out of bed this morning.

Oh, and if you liked this article, please also Google +1 it as well.

MoDaCo Forums' Facelift

One of the online forums I use most is MoDaCo. MoDaCo is a forum where a lively and friendly community of people such as myself discuss, communicate and exchange information regarding mobile phones (mainly smart ones), tablet computers and their operating systems (both official and unofficial). Founded and run by Paul O'Brien, the MoDaCo Forums have just had a facelift.
Android @ MoDaCo's New Board Index.
The MoDaCo Forums' new cleaner inerface is in my opinion much cleaner and smoother than the older slightly clunky interface. The right panel is easier to navigate and search seems to be working better for me.
The HTC Desire New Board Index.
The best part of the general facelift Paul gave the MoDaCo forums in my opinion is the new mobile interface. I can now use the forum from my mobile devices more easily and using much less data than before. The mobile forums interface is optimised for touchscreen smartphones and is simple and clean.
Android @ MoDaCo's New Mobile Board Index

The New Mobile HTC Desire Board Index
Well done to Paul and all who were involved in the facelift of MoDaCo Forums. If you have never been on the MoDaCo Forums and are into mobile technology in general, why not spend some time there? The friendly and helpful MoDaCo community will be there to help you get started.

As usual, feel free to add comments and/or questions here. If my blog template is now fixed, you should also be able to Google +1 this post too.

What is MIUI? [Android ROM]

I have often asked myself the question "What is MIUI?" when reading mentions of it in forums such as XDA Developers and MoDaCo. This morning I decided to investigate and noticed the answer to my question had been very close to me for a while.
My MIUI Homescreen on my HTC Desire
MIUI is a CyanogenMod based Android distribution (ROM) with emphasis on creating and implementing a different user interface paradigm from the standard Android one. If you are already using CyanogenMod and/or have ROM Manager installed on your Android device, you may be able to download and install MIUI from ROM Manager. That is the way I installed MIUI on my HTC Desire this morning.
MIUI in the "Download ROM" section of ROM Manager.
Here are some more pictures of the MIUI homescreen with my choice of layout of widgets and apps. The MIUI launcher does not have an app drawer and as you should be able to tell looks like Apple's iOS user interface. The MIUI user interface does keep the classic Android notification pulldown bar, and has its own framework of fonts, colours and UI frames.

MIUI lockscreen. Very sleek!
The version of MIUI I am using at the moment is 1.7.15 which is based on Android 2.3.4. Performance is good, and I'm won over by the shiny and responsive interface. Well done and thank you to all those involved in the development and distribution of this fantastic ROM.

As usual, feel free to leave comments and/or questions and Google +1 at the end of the post!

Orange San Francisco/ZTE Blade - Budget Android Rocks!

I recently purchased an Orange San Francisco (ZTE Blade) to prepare for someone who wanted to have a simple Android smartphone set up and ready to use.

The Orange San Francisco is a UK network branded version of the Chinese manufacturer ZTE's Blade Android smartphone. (As is the Dell XCD35 in other parts of the world)

The best source of information for rooting/unlocking and installing custom versions of Android on the Orange San Francisco is the MoDaCo Forum related specifically to the device:
A screenshot of the MoDaCo Forums
Another simpler and more "I'm afraid of computers" resource for customising the device is
A screenshot of
Using the resource on the MoDaCo Forums as soon as I had unboxed the device, I network unlocked it, rooted it and installed ROM Manager. It was then time to say goodbye to Orange's horrible Android 2.1 ROM and apps and hello to a  newer version of Android by Fibblesan called FLB (Faster Lighter Better). I've been a fan of Fibblesan's since he was putting together FLB Mods for the T-Mobile Pulse and would recommend his Android Mods to whoever would like the most stock version of Android possible on a non Google Experience device.

After the FLB Mod was up and running, I installed a few of my favourite apps to make the user experience a little more pleasant. First off it was the Zeam Launcher which is my favourite because of its dock and lightness on system requirements. Then I installed the MIUI Digital Weather Clock. After that was done I installed a theme from the Unified Theme Thread on the MoDaCo forums.

Currently FLB Mod is based on Android 2.2 FroYo, which means it is faster, more responsive and you have the facility to use the WiFi hotspot feature.

For a sub £100 device this is excellent value for money. If you would like a powerful smartphone but don't want to dish out too much cash, I would definitely recommend it. It is easy (and free...) to network unclock and use with any sim card, it has a decent camera and is easily upgradeable and customisable. 

I would like to thank Fibblesan, Frankish and everyone else involved with MoDaCo forums as well as the author of for making the personalisation of this device so relatively easy.

Feel free to post comments/questions. I'll reply asap.