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Restore Functionality on Unlocked Xperia Devices – Part Two

Posted by wicked January - 6 - 2015 - Tuesday Comments Off

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As you might have noticed, not too long ago, we featured an article that detailed how to get back lost functionality on unlocked Sony Xperia devices. To recap, a simple system modification allows you to gain back most of the features you lost when unlocking the bootloader of a recent Xperia device. The reason for the reduced functionality is that, when unlocking the bootloader, you lose the device’s internal DRM keys which are required for things like streaming protected media but also for advanced technologies like the BIONZ image processor or the Bravia Engine.

After further discussing the matter with the author of the mod, it turns out that the modified files deceive the DRM system and pretends to have working DRM keys readily available. Luckily some of the lost features only check for the availability of the DRM keys and don’t actually require them to be valid. You can think of it as a car (the specific features) and a car key (the DRM keys). In this case here, the car doesn’t need its specific key, it just needs any key for it to work. It doesn’t even need to match the car’s manufacturer, so to speak.

While this initially sounds like entirely good news, it also brings up a few important questions. Questions that only Sony can answer, but everyone should be aware of them.

 

If a (mostly) simple software modification can bring back features that, according to Sony, need valid DRM keys to work, then why can these features even work without the DRM keys?

At this point it certainly looks like you don’t need valid DRM keys to make certain features work that initially won’t work after unlocking. Various members have posted comparison images (for example here, or also in the OP) which show the BIONZ image processor and Bravia Engine working after flashing the modified files. While not everything seems to be working again right now, the author is constantly trying to improve the results. And after all, even the results we have today do show us that these features can be reactivated without valid DRM keys. They show us that all of the issues are artificial at best.

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The left image has the BIONZ image processor disabled while it’s enabled on the right

 

If these features don’t need valid DRM keys to work, then why does Sony remove them anyway?

Obviously this point is guesswork only, but it sure looks like Sony is trying to hamper bootloader unlocking by artificially killing important features as a tradeoff for the unlocked device. On the other hand, maybe it’s more of an accidental screw-up on Sony’s part because, after all, they do tend to work closely with the development community.

In either case, the future will reveal which is the right answer, Sony has a chance to improve and to remove these restrictions, or they could potentially tighten up the security making it even harder to get back the lost functionality. Let’s wait for the Lollipop OTAs and discover what Sony has prepared for us.

Make sure to check out Part One and the thread for more info, and let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The post Restore Functionality on Unlocked Xperia Devices – Part Two appeared first on xda-developers.

And It Goes On: HTC HD2 Receives Lollipop Port

Posted by wicked January - 5 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

HTC HD2 Lollipop ROM

Recently we spoke about devices outliving their generation by leaps and bounds, and highlighted the Nexus S’ prowess in doing so. Despite a number of devices following similar paths, the undoubted champion that simply refuses to give up, is the HTC Leo, or the HTC HD2 as it is more commonly known. The HD2 has not only received Android ROMs light years ahead of it’s time, but it has also managed to run multiple operating systems, such as Firefox, Windows RT and Ubuntu Touch, making it an easy fan-favorite and a legend in the Android community.

XDA Senior Member macs18max has taken an important step in continuing the device’s legacy, by successfully booting an Android 5.0 Lollipop ROM on it, built on the 3.0.101 kernel. While the ROM is in early alpha stages, and only the display and audio are working at this time, macs18max is committed to continue work on the port, aided by an amazing team.

Head over to HTC HD2 Lollipop 5.0.2 thread to join the discussion, flash the ROM or just witness another milestone in the device’s illustrious life.

The post And It Goes On: HTC HD2 Receives Lollipop Port appeared first on xda-developers.

Enjoy Floating Texting with SMS Small App

Posted by wicked January - 5 - 2015 - Monday Comments Off

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Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other communicators are not intended to be used as foreground applications due to their occasional use. Instead they are usually used as background apps and opened only when needed. These communicators are very popular but are still far behind SMS, which is in use by almost every phone in the world.

Facebook was one of the first applications that made use of floating windows. Floating technology has become quite popular and even found its way to Sony’s firmware. XDA Forum Member luutinhit.1412 decided to connect good old SMS with floating technology and this is how his SMS Small App came about.

With this application you can quickly read and reply to up to 5 persons on the same screen. There are also options to call the person you’re currently conversing with, or even change the background of the window. Application’s name is referring to Small Apps known from Sony’s firmware, however there is no problem with running this application on every device with Android 4.2 or newer. luutinhut.1412 has prepared a dedicated version for Sony ROMs as well, so you can select which version suits you more.

Make texting nice and not disruptive by using the the SMS Small App. Check it out and let the developer know your thoughts.

The post Enjoy Floating Texting with SMS Small App appeared first on xda-developers.

Create Your Own 2D Game With BobEngine

Posted by wicked January - 4 - 2015 - Sunday Comments Off

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Making a game is by all means a challenging task. To become successful, a game has to be well written, interesting and fun to play, otherwise it will slowly die buried somewhere in the Google Play Store. If you have an idea how to make an interesting game and would like to find the tool helping you with development, you are certainly in the right place.

Almost a decade ago, the GameMaker studio was at its peak. It was quite an easy tool to use which allowed users to create interesting games without extensive coding knowledge. If you ever had a chance to use it, you almost certainly loved it. XDA Forum Member Bobbyloujo created a similar 2D game engine that utilizes the OpenGL and makes the game creation as seamless as possible.

BobEngine uses a “BobView” to display the content of rooms, which are nothing more than a collection of objects which have attributes that can be easily set up. BobEngine contains lots of examples that should help the aspiring game developer to understand how the library works. This library will not automatically allow you to make such a hit as Flappy Bird, but with a bit of effort you should be able to create your very own 2D game that has a chance to become a popular one.

You can learn more about this project by heading over to the thread.

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Android App Review: Simple Explorer Receives Material Design Updates

Posted by wicked December - 31 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

Simple Explorer

At XDA we like to highlight projects that are not only from the community, but also open source, and Simple Explorer, a file explorer by XDA Senior Member DF1E, is just such a project. We first mentioned it when it came out and then when it received a root management update soon after. Now DF1E has given it a Material Design facelift.

Simple explorer is just what the name explicitly suggests – simple. It is currently on version 2.2.2 and available for devices on Android 4.1 and up. If you want another ES Explorer, or even the ability to do intricate root functions, walk away. However, if you value a fast and minimal app, and don’t really need all the additions that the plethora of popular file explorers bloat their apps and interfaces with, this could be the app for you. Oh, and did we mention it is beautiful?

There are things that make this application stand out, even as one of the many apps that lately have been striving for a “minimal” approach. First of all, it has just the basic and fundamental permissions, ensuring you have as much privacy as an app solely made to browse your files can offer. This, plus the fact that it is an open source project (and thus, susceptible to peer review to guarantee no maliciousness), ensures that your privacy, identity, or files remain safe – and yours. As another technical side point, it weighs a measly 3mb, and, that coupled with its minimal and efficient interface and code, makes for a very fast, and reliable file browser… if you exclude the occasional bug. More on this later.

SimpleExplorer Simple Explorer

The interface features an even further minimalist conception of Google’s Material Design. While not all guidelines are met (although the diversion is not all that evident), it borrows plenty of elements from it across its interface. The majority of its aesthetics are very consistent, and will not harm your eyes with odd contrast or tasteless color palette choices. If you miss seeing the Play Store’s hamburger-menu turning into an arrow (by far my favorite animation of all of Material Design, why did Google remove this?!), you’ll be pleased to find it at the heart of the app’s functionality, its simplistic action bar. No old, tacky gradients present – plain color and a handful of tidy icons is all you’ll see here. This action bar menu exposes simply two items, “Settings” and “Exit”, both which are self-explanatory. This app takes its name really seriously.

The settings menu also contains some very straightforward configurations, and a dark theme for those of you who don’t want to get blasted by all of the whites present in most MD interfaces, itself a diversion from the guidelines that Google itself should adopt. The app’s look changes the user experience in all the right ways in order to live up to the name. Long gone are the unnecessary amounts of buttons displayed at the bottom, the clashing symbols of the action bar, and the tacky skeuomorphism of the folders and files icons. What you have now is a sleek and mute array of neatly organized elements that seamlessly merge into a nondescript, yet elegant, interface. Considering how outdated the design used to be for a 2013 app, this was a necessary change that deserves recognition.

Simple Explorer Simple Explorer Simple Explorer

When it comes to functions, the app follows a list-based approach to opening and displaying the different branches of folders your system stores. The back key takes you back up a folder in the tree, or you can tap the ramifications to get back around your folders – they are elegantly displayed under the action bar. In the action bar you also find the “i” (information) button that displays basic (very basic) information of the folder you are in. There’s also a search function. This one gave me a headache: it’s rather slow compared to other file explorers, and it tends to crash the entire application. This seemingly happens whenever you search for inputs that result in a lot of hits. If you tap a file, it opens it via its default app. Simple as that. You can long-press a file to copy, paste it, and access to the 3-dot menu that gives you more options: the usual file sharing, file details, name changing, erasing, etc. You can also add bookmarks to the action bar, or add shortcuts to your homescreen that take you straight to the directory you are in. A “paste” button gets added to the interface whenever a file is copied, allowing for a non-intrusive way to move files from folder to folder. A “move” option would have been welcomed, though. The rest is standard browser stuff – you can add files, or add folders.

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All in all, this app is one of the most honest apps you’ll find. It doesn’t try to lure you in with gimmicks or bloat. Instead, its appeal is its simplicity, its minimalism, its basicness, its essentiality, all nouns with derivatives that plague this review. In some ways, these aspects are great – aesthetics and performance benefit greatly from them. The design (both in looks and functionality) is neatly crafted and it will feel natural to your eyes. However, some of it can get in the way of a good user experience (particularly file moving) and the settings could use a few more options. There’s also a couple of UX inconsistencies and bugs that I’m sure will get ironed out with the feedback from XDA members and the app’s users.

This app gets my praise for being truthful to its goal in a humble way. Nowadays, many developers slap the “minimalist” label to lure users who want a design consistent with the modern OS designs. And in my opinion, most can’t really come up with a consistent or attractive look for their design language, and in the end they end up feeling uninspired. This one seems to focus on being good at what it does, and in that regard, it succeeds. You won’t find a lot here, but what you’ll find has no waste.

The Good

  • Minimal beauty in a tiny package
  • No compromising permissions
  • Good use of Material Design
  • Dark theme
  • Amazing performance

The Bad

  • Some crashes and bugs
  • Too simple for its own good sometimes

Try out the app, and let us and the developer know your thoughts and suggestions to improve.

The post Android App Review: Simple Explorer Receives Material Design Updates appeared first on xda-developers.

Don’t Fear Flashing with I Don’t Want You!

Posted by wicked December - 27 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

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The XDA message boards are full of various modifications, with many of these helping you change the look of your favorite apps and add some features to stock-based ROMs. Mods such as these are generally fairly easy to install, but sometimes things go not as we had planned, and our device ends up soft-bricked.

Modifying the /system partition is always inherently risky, and it is imperative that you make a backup of your valuable data before flashing. Unfortunately, making a full backup takes lots of time and can’t be done when we are in a hurry. With a tool made by XDA Senior Member Maciek602, uninstalling a mod becomes very easy. “I don’t want you!” is a Windows application that creates a full backup of the /system partition. The copied files are converted into a signed and ready-to-flash archive. It’s a lifesaver in case when something goes wrong with mod flashing.

This utility should be used prior to any modification flashing. “I don’t want you!” uses ADB to get all the necessary files, so be sure that your driver is working properly and is added to the PATH of your PC. With this utility your device will be able to recover from various kinds of issues.

To learn more about this utility, head over to the I Don’t Want You! forum thread.

The post Don’t Fear Flashing with I Don’t Want You! appeared first on xda-developers.

Turn Your Camera Into a Live Puzzle Game

Posted by wicked December - 25 - 2014 - Thursday Comments Off

Live Puzzle

The classic sliding puzzle game hasn’t changed much, if at all, over the years. Dating all the way back to 1880 with the first sliding puzzle game dubbed the Fifteen puzzle, its only ‘advancement’ has seemingly been making its way onto the computer screen with a convenient reset button. The core mechanic of the game has stayed the same throughout the years, being able to slide tiles along certain routes to end up with a final configuration–perhaps a picture, or a shape, or a pattern.

With this said, XDA Forum Member PacmanAddict has added his own little twist to the classic sliding puzzle with a game called Live Puzzle. This game makes use of your phone or tablet’s camera to generate a sliding puzzle in which the tiles are made up of blocks from the live camera image feed. As said before, the main mechanic of the game stays the same, but instead of a picture or shape, you have to put back together what your camera sees, thus, creating an additional challenge of having tiles constantly moving. There are five puzzle sizes, ranging from 2×2 to 6×6, but it’s recommended that you play modes bigger than 3×3 on a larger screen, such as on a tablet.

This new twist certainly adds to the challenge of a classic puzzle game. If you would like to give this a go, head over to the Live Puzzle application thread to get started, and let us know your highest scores and comments in the comments below.

The post Turn Your Camera Into a Live Puzzle Game appeared first on xda-developers.

Sony Encouraging SmartWatch 2 Development

Posted by wicked November - 24 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

SonySW2

Mobile device companies like selling devices–it’s how they make their money and it’s how they fund the next device that’s already in their pipeline. It also makes it very hard to support those same devices in 6 months when the next iteration is out. There’s one thing that can be said though about Sony, and it’s this: They work really hard to encourage development on their devices, no matter how old they might be. They’ve consistently put out AOSP for their devices, given instructions on how to build custom kernels (which no other OEM does by the way), and provided tools to load custom builds on their original SmartWatch. With the recent release of their 3rd-generation SmartWatch 3 (based on Android Wear), it’s high-time they provide people with a guide for developing Android apps for the SmartWatch 2.

Sony’s Developer World a few days ago published a collection of tips for developers wishing to tackle the SmartWatch 2. The tutorials range from how to get started with creating a new SW2 app, to how to limit battery drain, to creating widgets and clocks, and finally how to port your SW1 app to the SW2. They are presented in very concise form with the necessary steps outlined and help put you on the path you need to create great, imaginative, and original apps for the platform.

If you are interested in getting in on the action and develop some apps for a good, solid smartwatch, head on over to Sony’s Developer World and get started.

[Image taken from Sony Developer World.]

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Chainfire Releases CF-Auto-Roots For Nexus Line

Posted by wicked November - 15 - 2014 - Saturday Comments Off

chainfire

Benjamin Franklin, the US Statesman from simpler times, gave the famous quote in 1789 that “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I can’t fault him for not having the forethought to identify that there would be a few more certainties in life, and those would be “Chainfire releasing root for Nexus devices and providing analysis of the state of root on a new Google release.”

For those not familiar, XDA Senior Recognized Developer Chainfire has become the preeminent source for information related to root on Android devices as well as analysis of how Google is changing system security on their new Android OS updates. His Google+ posts are often waited on with anticipation rivaling the title of the next Star Wars installment. Ok, so maybe that’s a bit of a stretch – there weren’t any Watch Parties for the Star Wars announcement.

With that being said, he recently updated his CF-Auto-Root downloads to include Android 5.0 root for all of the Nexus line: Nexus 4, Nexus 5, Nexus 7 2012, Nexus 7 2013, Nexus 9, and Nexus 10. A few of the key things changed for this release are:

  • The new variants of CFAR have the SuperSU ZIP embedded
  • A second included ZIP (if on Lollipop or newer) patches the current kernel to run SuperSU at boot
  • Current CFARs have SuperSU v2.20 which is not currently available elsewhere and only has CFAR compatibility

For more information, make sure you check out the CFAR thread and his G+ stream to stay current on all Lollipop-related news.

The post Chainfire Releases CF-Auto-Roots For Nexus Line appeared first on xda-developers.

MediaTek Continues Steps Towards Being Developer-Friendly

Posted by wicked September - 22 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

MediaTek Labs

Not too long ago MediaTek was very closed off towards the mobile developer community, especially sites like XDA. They saw no value in working with independent developers who live, breathe and sleep mobile. That has begun to change as of late, and MediaTek is even sponsoring xda:devcon ’14 in Manchester, UK on Sept 26-28. They also recently partnered with Google on the Android One project and are continuing to submit kernel source code to the upstream projects with Google.

One of their recent initiatives has been to embrace the Maker community and plunge headlong into Internet of Things through their MediaTek Labs which is officially launching today. This new program is geared towards developers from across the spectrum to begin to explore IoT and wearables and hopefully integrate them into their daily lives. Marc Naddell, VP of MediaTek Labs said of their new initiative:

With the launch of MediaTek Labs we’re opening up a new world of possibilities for everyone – from hobbyists and students through to professional developers and designers – to unleash their creativity and innovation. We believe that the innovation enabled by MediaTek Labs will drive the next wave of consumer gadgets and apps that will connect billions of things and people around the world.”

Their new initiative also features their LinkIt Development Platform, a reference platform based on the MediaTek Aster (MT2502) chipset. With this new platform, anyone can create wearable and IoT devices easily and with minimal expense. The platform is controlled by LinkIt OS, a new operating system based on Nucleus, and the device functionality itself may be implemented in C/C++ with the variety of APIs provided by MTK for the Aster platform. In addition MediaTek has also provided LinkIt SDK (for Arduino) which allows those familiar with the Arduino platform to integrate their ideas.

With their HW Dev Kit they are making the Hardware Reference Design free to use and alter, and it includes the PCB layout and board schematics, pin-out diagram, Aster GPIO table, and the Aster, Wi-Fi and GPS chipset datasheets. Through a partnership with Seeed Studios, MediaTek is making available their LinkIt ONE device for purchase with all the tools necessary to jumpstart your project.

For more information, and to read the full announcement from MediaTek, visit the MediaTek Labs website. Through a partnership with You can also visit our LinkIt ONE forum to discuss the platform and begin sharing the things you are creating.

We are extremely excited to see MediaTek continue to open up as a company, but we will continue to call on them to honor their usage of the Linux Kernel (and the GPLv2 licensing it requires). We know it doesn’t happen overnight, and so we will be the voice of support for them and engage them in a continual effort to support the community.

The post MediaTek Continues Steps Towards Being Developer-Friendly appeared first on xda-developers.