Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - gidds

Pages: [1]
Astro Slide - Hardware / The Importance Of Screen Cleanliness
« on: April 22, 2023, 05:15:52 pm »
On a few occasions, my Astro has started behaving strangely, leading me to wonder about the hardware or firmware. For example:
  • With the physical keyboard open, my text editor started popping up the ‘Choose input method’ dialog a couple of times a minute, for no apparent reason. And if I tapped on the screen to move the cursor, the onscreen keyboard would pop up too.
  • Another time, it didn't always respond to taps on the right-hand quarter of the screen, and drags would become erratic and sometimes got ‘dropped’ almost at random.
  • Another time, drags or taps would sometimes cause enlargement/reduction or rotation.
However, in each case, after giving the screen a really good wipe (with a microfibre cloth impregnated with cleaning solution), the problem vanished, and everything behaved normally again. So the cause must have simply been dirt on the screen. 

So if your Astro starts behaving strangely, give its screen a good clean before starting to worry!

Now, I generally keep my Astro's screen pretty clean anyway, with no visible/tactile dirt or smears. So, surprisingly, all the problems above must have been caused by dirt that was too small/thin to be seen while the screen was on.

How common is this sort of thing? I haven't used any other smartphones, so I can't compare. (I don't recall seeing this sort of issue with the Gemini, but of course its screen was better protected.) Does anyone know whether the Astro is particularly susceptible to this sort of problem, and whether I might have done anything to encourage it, and/or anything can be done to avoid it?

Astro Slide - Android / Editing hosts file
« on: January 12, 2023, 02:27:16 pm »
Has anyone successfully changed their /etc/hosts file on the Astro (with rooted Android)?

My Gemini has a large hosts file giving the addresses of all the devices on my LAN, and blacklisting a huge range of ad/tracking/malware sites*. On my new Astro, I've got most of the way to doing the same:
  • sudo /system/bin/mount -o rw,remount /’ to make the root filesystem writable.
  • sudo vi /etc/hosts
  • Edit as appropriate.
  • Save the result. ⬅︎ Fails with ‘No space left on device’ error!
df’ reports that the / filesystem is indeed almost full: 1.4G used, 4.3M free. But that should be enough to save a short (few KB) hosts file, shouldn't it? (I can rename the file, and vi creates a .swp file, so I know the filesystem is writable.)

Is there any way to enlarge that filesystem a bit? (Preferably, without wiping everything… I can find several web pages claiming to do that on the emulator, but not on a physical Android device.) Or is there something else going on?

(* pointing them to That's not a full substitute for a decent ad-blocker in your browser, of course, but it adds another layer of defence that applies to almost all apps.)

(⁑ When done, remember to repeat that command, but with ‘ro’ instead of ‘rw’, to set it back to read-only. — On the Gemini, the last ‘/’ was ‘/system’ in both commands, but that's not mounted separately on the Astro.)

Gemini PDA - Android / Firmware Update 2018-10-09
« on: October 10, 2018, 12:11:58 pm »
My Gemini (4G x27) has just offered a firmware update!  When I clicked Download, it crashed; but I was able to download it by going to Settings -> About phone -> Firmware Update.

It promises:
• The latest Android security patch has been applied, device security has been further enhanced.
• Optimize keyboard settings and performance.
• Optimize speaker sound quality.
• Optimize performance and stability.
• Fix other bugs

The PatchID shows as ‘Gemini-7.1-Planet-12062018-V2.<2018-06-1216:54>’.  (2018-06-12 was about when the last one was released; perhaps the ‘V2’ is the significant bit here.)

I'm about to try installing it — fingers crossed…  I'll post my experience here.  Please do comment if you've tried this and/or can confirm what it does!

Gemini PDA - Hardware / Best charging practice?
« on: June 26, 2018, 05:09:01 pm »
What's the best way to preserve the Gemini's battery lifetime?

I charge mine overnight; I have a charging cable on my bedside table, and plug it in when I go to bed.  Is it best to use the power adapter supplied with the Gemini, or a standard USB adapter?  The supplied adapter is a fast charger; will that stress the battery more?  (A standard USB adapter charges much more slowly — though fast enough for my usage, as it's always fully charged when I wake.)

Gemini PDA - Android / Entering other characters
« on: June 25, 2018, 12:49:39 pm »
In Android, you can directly type all the characters you can see on your physical keyboard (assuming it's set up correctly): letters, digits, and all the common symbols.

You can probably also type some extras: for example, in some apps, Alt+E seems to be a dead key for an acute accent, so Alt+E followed by E enters é (just as on a Mac).

And you can also type many more characters using one of the pop-ups; in my UK layout, Fn+. pops up a list of emoji that you can tap on, and Fn+, pops up a list of symbols.

However, there are still many other symbols not covered by the above — including some I use a lot, such as long dashes, curly quotes, hard space, ellipsis, degree, and fractions.  How can you enter characters such as those?

The only options I know about so far are:
  • Copy and paste from somewhere, e.g. a file in an editor or browser: very slow and awkward.
  • Install an app providing a special on-screen keyboard with those characters: very awkward, and limited to a particular selection.
  • Install an app providing key shortcuts, and configure it for the characters you need: not sure if that's possible, and again necessarily limited to a small selection of chars.
Are there any better approaches?

(On the Psion 5 series, you could press Shift+Ctrl+Fn+C at any time to get a pop-up list of every character.  Though that used CP1252 AKA Windows Latin-1, so there were only 128 chars not already covered.  And you could also hold down Ctrl and type the decimal number of the character — less intuitive, but it did provide a way of entering any possible character.  Does Android have any equivalent to either of these?)

Gemini PDA - Android / Apps: Games
« on: June 14, 2018, 07:24:36 am »
What Android games would you recommend?

Of course, this has to come with a health warning: games that are too good are likely to suck up too much time that could be spend doing productive things (especially given the Gemini's nice keyboard)!

The games I've always returned to are puzzles, as they can fill a couple of spare minutes, while still giving an interesting challenge (either a single small game, or returning to a more complex one).  Currently I'm enjoying:
  • Simple Solitaire Collection: a nice app with 17 solo card games.  Fairly configurable, with a range of difficulty levels and themes.  I'm already spending far too much time playing Simple Simon and Spider…
  • Shortyz Crosswords.  This comes set up to download daily ‘American-style’ puzzles (straight clues, few black squares) from several free American sites (Washington Post, Newsday, &c).  However, as a Brit, I eschew such puzzles (and such spellings)!  Luckily, it can also download cryptic puzzles from CruCryptics — and it can use any puzzles in Across Lite format (.puz) that you throw at it, which gives quite a range of options.  It works well.  (Niggle: it's set up for portrait mode, with the current clue across the top; a landscape option would make better use of the screen space.)
  • A crossword solver is also useful (for finding words matching given letter, solving anagrams, &c).  The best I've seen so far is Lexeme which seems to have a big dictionary, a large variety of search types (using its own entry format), and tapping on solutions can jump to their definitions in another app (e.g. Aard 2).  Only niggle is that the large font size doesn't work well in landscape mode, showing no more than 3-4 solutions at a time.
  • Simon Tatham's Puzzles.  This is a collection of 39 Japanese-style logic puzzles: sudoku, hitori, fillomino, light up, nurikabe, slitherlink, and many more (though given different names).  This is also available for Windows, Linux, and macOS, and accounts for most of my wasted time on the desktop!  The puzzles don't work so well on the small screen — especially in the more difficult modes, where the finer detail in larger puzzles is hard to tap on.  But they're all playable from the keyboard too.
  • Fabularium is a player for interactive fiction — i.e. text adventure games.  These have come a long way since I played them on my BBC Micro many years ago…  Now there's a huge range available free in standard formats (Infocom, TADS) that can be played with a variety of apps.  There are several such for Android; this one seems good, but I've not compared them.
What other games or puzzles are worth looking at?

Gemini PDA - Android / Apps: Music playing
« on: June 14, 2018, 06:27:27 am »
What Android apps do people use for playing music?

I have a large iTunes library (3.5K albums), all fully tagged, so I'm looking for something that can play that (or as much as will fit on the SD card!).  I don't use manual playlists much, but have a few automated ones (selecting by genre, play count, date added, rating and/or comments).  I also tend to shuffle by album (especially within a single genre or playlist), and like to view the track info (especially composer, comments, and lyrics).

I don't use any streaming services; it's all local files (mostly MP3, with some AAC).  Obviously, if you use streaming, you'll probably be looking at a different choice of apps!

The best I've seen is Rocket Player.  The interface is a bit whizz-bang (though they all seem to be), but it looks pretty powerful, handles all my tracks, and can shuffle by album.  It shows all the tags, and can even do automatic playlists (though they don't seem as powerful as iTunes's).

Any other recommendations?

Gemini PDA - Android / Apps: Text editing
« on: June 14, 2018, 05:52:02 am »
What Android apps do you use/recommend for editing plain-text files?

I tend to have many files with memos, to-dos, meeting notes, lists, quotes, journals, account details (nothing sensitive), song lyrics, and general notes.  I don't need the features of a dedicated to-do list app, nor the styling &c of a word processor; but the ability to load and save plain text files (for syncing with my Mac), to handle big files (one is 1.7MB), to open multiple files at once, to use a proportional font, to handle both UTF-8 and CP1252 encodings, and to make good use of the screen space.

I'm currently trying Jota+, and it seems to tick all my boxes.  It's very smart about file formats and encodings, has a built-in file viewer, can open multiple files in tabs, can add file shortcuts to the home screen, handles big files, can do regular-expression searching, has only a single toolbar/tab-bar, can count chars/lines/words, and is themeable.

Niggles include failure to recognise PgUp/PgDn/Home/End keypresses, and it seems to have a bit of trouble with my 1.7MB file (with odd slow-downs).  But I'd still recommend it.

I also tried SNotepad, but that wasted far too much screen space on toolbars, title, &c.

There is of course Planet's own Notes app, which is supplied with the Gemini and probably great for occasional note-taking, but it's more for keeping lots of short notes in one place — a replacement for the Psion Jotter app — instead of a file-based app, so it's less suitable for me.

What others are worth looking at?

Gemini PDA - Android / Apps: Text viewing
« on: June 14, 2018, 05:10:04 am »
What Android apps do people use/recommend for reading ebooks and other text documents?

(Rather than hijacking other topics, I thought it would be a good idea to have some dedicated topics for discussing and recommending apps!  I'm new to Android, so having to find apps to cover all the things I used my Psion for.)

My requirements are slightly unusual, in that I have loads of books in Palm DOC (.pdb) format which I've edited/formatted myself.  (I'm very fussy about typography &c!  I used to read them on my Psion using Simon Quinn's EBook program.  But I'll probably be converting them to FB2 or HTML or similar.)

The reader I'm trying at the moment is AlReader, and I'm liking it so far.  It handles .pdb files, has a built-in file viewer, can read files on an external drive, and can add book shortcuts on the home screen.  I like its almost-full-screen mode, with just a thin progress bar along the bottom.  It has a choice of fonts, colours, and textures.  You can configure the actions attached to a wide variety of taps, swipes, and some keypresses.  It has some nice animations (intuitive but fast and unobtrusive).

My main niggles so far are that most keypresses aren't supported (so e.g. I can set the ‘1’ key to the ‘Find’ function, but not F or Ctrl+F; and that it doesn't preserve whitespace when showing text (ignoring any indentation and double-spaced sentences).  Also, ideally it would support the same sort of auto-bookmarking that Simon Quinn's program did (with a tag at the bottom of the file giving the character used to start heading lines — I always used a chevron) — though I don't seriously expect any programs to support that these days, now better formats are available!

Before that, I briefly tried FBReader and Cool Reader, but wasn't so impressed.  (I think they both had character-set and formatting issues, and the former had trouble opening files in other folders.)

What apps are you folks using, and what do you like about them?

Gemini PDA - Hardware / Instability
« on: May 17, 2018, 03:59:08 pm »
I received my Gemini this morning (woo!), and knew roughly what to expect from reading some of the discussion hereabouts.  But I'm concerned about two hardware issues, and wonder whether it's just me…

Firstly, the hinge position.  The unit's very solid when closed, but it doesn't seem to have a fixed ‘open’ position.  Instead, as I type, the pressure causes the hinge to flex and the screen to bounce up and down slightly.  Similarly, when I tap or swipe the screen, it readily ‘gives’ 3–4mm.  (This makes swiping awkward enough that I sometimes have to steady it with the other hand — not ideal.)

I was worried my unit might be faulty, but checking some videos suggests they're all like this.  I'm surprised I haven't heard any complaints, though — for me it seems a bigger issue than the keys being a little more wobbly than the S5's.  Does anyone else find it a problem?

It also makes me worry about the longevity of the hinge.  (Always a weak spot for Psions!)  Is tapping on the screen stressing the hinge?  Am I forcing it too far back?  (I even worry about snapping the unit shut.)

Secondly, the underside is so smooth that the unit slides around on my desk!  The Psion 3 and 5 Series had tiny rubber feet anchoring them in place and giving a solid base on which to type; the Gemini is much more uncertain in that respect.

Anyone know if it's possible to get tiny stick-on rubber feet?  If not, perhaps this is an opportunity for some enterprising accessory maker!

Pages: [1]