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Google ATAP Details Project Ara in Developers’ Conference

Posted by Will Verduzco April - 15 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

ara1

ara1Earlier today, the Google ATAP team kicked off its first ever Project Ara Developers’ Conference. Although the conference and its first day of talks are still ongoing, we now have a clearer idea of what exactly will go into Project Ara thanks to several presentations by members of the Ara team.

After giving a brief overview of the Ara platform itself, head of the Project Ara team Paul Eremenko delved into the Ara program and a few of the innovations that have been created to allow for a more personalized experience keeping in line with the the Ara philosophy as a whole. At the heart of it all is the first ever 3D printing system that allows for commercial-level volume. Rather than being based on a reciprocating platform like most current solutions, the 3D printing technology that will be used in Ara will work with a series of tracks in order to provide higher output speed.

3dprinterThe Ara team intends on using this new 3D printing technology along with a shell maker app to create custom built shells that cater to the individual user. There is also the possibility to use Kinect-produced imagery to create what they are terming a “Physigram.” You can think of the Physigram as sort of a Instagram-like filter that can be applied to the Kinect images that can then be incorporated directly into the shell maker app.

3dprint2In addition to customization, the 3D printing technology that will be used in Ara has a few rather impressive practical benefits. One of these is the ability to print using conductive inks. This then allows for various antenna types to be integrated into the shell casting, rather than relying on separate hardware.

Next up, Project Coordinator for Ara David Fishman described the Configurator app framework and device personalization from a user perspective. Within the app itself, users can play with a spatial model that mimics the physical area of a real device. This then allows users to configure each element such as the endo base to the modules that slide into the endo, as well as the enclosures and shells that go on top.

configurator
config2

In order to make the Configurator more user friendly, the ATAP team has developer a pinch-to-peel UI paradigm. This allows users to shift between different hardware layers with a simple gesture.

To prevent the paradox of choice, whereby an overwhelming number of module options then intimidates potential users, the Ara team envisions an extremely low cost device that features only the bare minimal number of components necessary to run the configurator app. Termed “Greyphone,” this device is being targeted at $50 for material costs. In addition, the team intends on having physical storefronts to help give a physical interaction with the products. These may incorporate heart rate and sweat biometric monitoring of consenting users in order to fine tune which modules are displayed to the user. A tad creepy, no?

ara spine
flexible module placement
interface ara
ara architecture

Paul Eremenko then briefly touched upon the process of module creation, platform openness, and the realities of regulatory concerns. He then mentioned that naturally, any radio-capable modules will be subject to heavy regulatory testing. Creation of non-radio modules, on the other hand, will be much more open. And in fact, the team intends for the hardware ecosystem to be much closer to what we see in the Google Play Store versus something more curated.

In addition, Eremenko also mentioned one potential pitfall of having modules from various different manufacturers: the question of where to turn for user support. While an ultimate solution has yet to be developed, the team hinted at one centralized support center for Ara modules so that consumers don’t need to have a rolodex of numbers in order to service their devices.

retirement of risk
risk retirement vs mdk

So what about the proposed timetables? Eremenko envisions a 2015 release to consumers, with various key steps being accomplished along the way. Some of the key highlights include finalizing the capacitive data interface and electropermanent magnets by September, finishing the driver architecture and modularity requirements by December, and getting the 3D printing technology described above ready for commercial volume by January of next year.

Obviously, there is still much left to be uncovered about Project Ara. While we already know many details about the interfaces and technologies involved, much is still yet to be seen about how everything will work together, as well as how independent developers can be a part of this. Luckily, our own Dave Drager, who is onsite for the conference, will approach this question and provide a deeper look at the technologies behind Ara in a future article.

Here’s What You Can Do with Your New Samsung Galaxy S5!

Posted by Will Verduzco April - 11 - 2014 - Friday Comments Off

futurehand80

Well folks, today is  day and Samsung’s “Next Big Thing” is officially here. And although certain South Korean carriers decided to jump the gun and sell the device a bit early, today marks the device’s official worldwide launch date.

So now that you’ve either gotten your grubby little paws on an S5 or you’re eagerly awaiting delivery from your friendly postal courier, you may be wondering what to do with the device. Well, since you’re reading this, there is absolutely no doubt that you’re going to want to root it and get started with a few (or several) mods. But with so many variants, it’s sometimes hard to find exactly what you need for exactly your model.

/r00t

Let’s start with root access, as that’s what’s on everyone’s mind. If you may recall a few weeks back, we talked about how XDA Senior Recognized Developer Chainfire managed to root the SM-G900F International Qualcomm variant of the device ahead of release. Since then, Chainfire has been hard at work, bringing CF-Auto-Root to more variants of the device.

So which devices can be rooted today? Glad you asked:

Naturally, more are on the way, and Chainfire will continue to update this post once stock firmwares become available for other variants.

/recovery

Once you’ve attained root access, you’re probably going to want to install a custom recovery. Thankfully, XDA Recognized Developer Phil3759 has a unified build of PhilZ Touch recovery (which is built on CWM Touch) available for all variants of the device. And so far, it is known to be compatible with the Canadian, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and International variants of the device. From here, you can perform some essential tasks such as creating a Nandroid backup, and installing custom ROMs and kernels once they become available.

/efs

You’re also probably going to want to backup that EFS partition. Luckily, XDA Recognized Contributor ricky310711 created an EFS backup and restore app that should be compatible with the A, F, H, and T variants of the device.

/xda

Finally, and this should be a given, you should bookmark your device’s appropriate home forum. For the vast majority of versions of the device, that is the . But if you’ve got one of the US carrier variants of the device, make your way over to the AT&T Galaxy S5T-Mobile Galaxy S5Verizon Galaxy S5, and Sprint Galaxy S5 forums.

Are you the proud owner of a brand new Galaxy S5? If so, feel free to gloat in the comments below, and don’t forget to let us know about your journeys in r00t!

Qualcomm Announces 64-Bit Snapdragon 810 and 808 SoCs

Posted by Will Verduzco April - 7 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

allinone_cn_0

Do you think that Snapdragon 801-based flagship device you’re eying is high-end? Well, what Qualcomm has in store for early 2015 may make you want to wait for the next generation of mobile chipsets. Today, Qualcomm announced the Snapdragon 810 and 808 processors. So what do these high-end, 64-bit SoCs bring to the table? Let’s take a look.

You may recall that late last year, Qualcomm announced the 64-bit Snapdragon 410. This quad-core chip, which is set to appear in low-end to mid-range devices sometime this year, features four 64-bit ARM Cortex A53 cores mated to an Adreno 306 GPU. Then two months ago, Qualcomm announced the higher-end Snapdragon 4-core 610 and 8-core 615 SoCs, which mate the Cortex A53 to the Adreno 405 GPU. Now, Qualcomm rounded out its first generation of 64-bit SoCs by announcing the high-end Snapdragon 810 and 808 SoCs.

CPU

Both the Snapdragon 810 and 808 run the 32/64-bit ARMv8A instruction set—just like what we saw previously on the Snapdragon 410, 610, and 615. The Snapdragon 810 features four ARM Cortex A57 CPU cores, along with four lower power A53 cores. The 808, on the other hand, features two high power A57 cores, along with four lower power A53 cores.

Both devices are built using a 20 nm die process (compared to 28nm for the 410, 610, and 615), and they are configured using ARM’s big.LITTLE architecture. Interestingly, the Snapdragon 810 and 808 mark the first time that Qualcomm uses a reference ARM CPU design in a high-end Snapdragon part, rather than its own, proprietary microarchitecture, such as the Krait 400 in the Snapdragon 800.

GPU

On the GPU side, the Snapdragon 810 is set to use the Adreno 430, which promises to be 30% faster for games than the Adreno 420 that will be seen in flagship devices running the Snapdragon 805 later this year. It will also be more versatile, as it doubles the 420′s GPGPU compute performance. Furthermore, this increase in performance is accomplished while decreasing power consumption by 20%. The Snapdragon 808 features the Adreno 418, which is 20% faster than the current generation Adreno 330 that is seen in today’s Snapdragon 800 and 801 SoCs.

Memory Interface

The Snapdragon 810 will be the first Qualcomm device to feature an LPDDR4 memory interface. The 808, on the other hand, will feature an LPDDR3 memory interface just like the rest of Qualcomm’s first generation 64-bit lineup. Because of the different memory architecture, it’s highly likely that the two chips won’t be pin-compatible. Thus, it’s also reasonable to assume that the 810 isn’t simply a higher binned 808 with all four A57 cores enabled.

Modem and Image Processing

Regarding connectivity, both devices will support Category 6 LTE Advanced with 3×20 MHz carrier aggregation, enabling speeds of up to 300 Mbps. And in terms of image processing, the 810 will feature dual 14-bit ISPs (image signal processors) that enable support for up to 55MP image sensors. The 808 will feature dual 12-bit ISPs, though no information is given on maximum supported camera capabilities.

Summary

While it’s no secret that this year’s Snapdragon 801 doesn’t bring much to the table in comparison to last year’s Snapdragon 800, the Snapdragon 810 and 808 are legitimately interesting chips. They also serve as the company’s first high-end 64-bit parts. It’ll also be interesting to see if later generations go back to a proprietary microarchitecture, or if they stay on ARM reference designs.

What are your thoughts on the Snapdragon 810 and 808? Are you going to wait so to be able to get one of these chips in your next smartphone or tablet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

[Source: Qualcomm Press Release]

Accessory Review: Lepow Moonstone 6000 mAh Power Bank

Posted by Will Verduzco April - 7 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

IMG_6160

IMG_6160You may recall that a couple months ago, we reviewed the Lepow U-Stone power bank. The 12000 mAh U-Stone set itself apart from the sea of competing power banks thanks to its slim profile and stylish design, but not everyone wants such a large power bank. Instead, many would prefer something a bit smaller that still packs enough juice for a few full charges.

Today, we’re going to take a look at the U-Stone’s little brother, the Moonstone 6000. Is it worth its place in your pocket, backpack, or purse? Read on to find out.

IMG_6144Design and Unboxing

The first thing you’ll notice when you crack open the box isn’t actually the Moonstone 6000 itself. Rather, you’re greeted with a little, velvet-like sleeve filled with eight fun goodies.

The bonus gifts include a pack of button stickers, a gold-plated sticker, a rubber suction cup holder, a microSD card reader, a miniature stylus, a cable wrap fish, a headset wrap key, and a screen cleaner. The stylus and screen cleaner are particularly handy because they can dock themselves in your device’s headphone slot when not in use, and act as little cell phone charms.

IMG_6150

Just underneath the bag of goodies, you’ll find a carry case that houses a micro USB charging cable, a manual pamphlet, and of course, the Lepow Moonstone 6000 unit itself.

IMG_6152

As you can see in the picture above, the Moonstone 6000 is a stylish black square with rounded corners. The unit itself features a glossy plastic shell, and it is available in a variety of different colors. On the top of the device, you have a single button, as well as a 4-LED indicator. Pressing the button lets you know lets you know how much charge you have left. The bundled pouch is made from an almost felt-like material, and the included USB cable features a little bit of flair with green accents that represent the company’s color scheme.

When I first picked up the Moonstone, I was quick to assume that it would be both a fingerprint and scratch magnet. While the former is certainly true, the latter isn’t really as much of an issue as you’d expect from a piece of glossy plastic. In fact after several days of standard pocket use, I couldn’t notice any scratches on the Moonstone with my naked eye.

Functionality

What use is a pretty black box if it doesn’t work well? Luckily, the Moonstone 6000 is more than capable of charging your phone and tablet with its charging slots.

On the Moonstone 6000, the right slot is labeled “fast mode,” and it provides up to 1.2A of charging power. The left slot is labeled “ultra mode,” and it ups the maximum current to 2.1A. And at 2.1A max current, it’s more than capable of charging even the biggest phablets and tablets out there.

The smaller Moonstone 3000, on the other hand, features a “standard mode” at 0.5A and a “fast mode” at 1.2A.

Performance

Most other reviews you’ll find for the Moonstone 6000 focus solely on its stellar functionality and design. However, this is XDA and we wanted to take a deeper look to see if the Moonstone was actually putting out its rated power.

To test its output, we first fully charge depleted a Google Nexus 5 using the free Battery Tester app available on Google Play. After the Nexus 5 powered itself off, we then plugged it into the Moonstone 6000′s 2.1A charging port and turned on the phone. In under a minute, we turned the screen to max brightness and fired up the Battery Tester app, enabling all options other than vibration. At this time, the Moonstone 6000 was not only powering the Nexus 5 running at full tilt, but it was also charging its battery. We then kept track of how long it took for the Moonstone 6000 to: A) fully charge the Nexus 5 running at full power, and B) for both the Nexus 5 and Moonstone 6000 to run out of juice. We also performed the test on a fully charged Nexus 5 under the same conditions, but without the Moonstone. Finally, we repeated each test two more times and averaged the results.

So how did the Moonstone fare? Averaged across three runs, the Lepow Moonstone 6000 was able to power the empty Nexus 5 for 6 hours and 51 minutes while running at full power. And in the process, the Moonstone 6000 fully charged the Nexus 5 while running the battery tester app in just 3 hours and 22 minutes.

A fully charged Nexus 5 without the Moonstone, on the other hand, can last 2 hours and 52 minutes on its stock 2300 mAh battery under the same conditions. So if we are to take the Nexus 5′s battery rating at face value, this means that the Moonstone 6000 effectively adds 5496 mAh on top of the phone’s built-in 2300 mAh. In other words, 91.60% of the claimed 6000 mAh actually end up going to your phone.

While your first instinct may be to fault the Moonstone because we didn’t experience 100% rated capacity or more, one must keep in mind that there are a few steps along the way that eat at efficiency. For starters, the Moonstone first had to not only power the Nexus 5, but also charge its battery. In doing this, charge was going from one battery to the phone and then to another battery—and then back to the phone. Naturally, every transfer wastes energy in the form of heat.

So why did we test this way if we knew going in that it would waste energy along the way? Simple. It most accurately represents how the device will be used in real life situations, as well as how much of a power gain a typical user might expect. And all things considered, it’s quite impressive that the device achieved over 90% of its rated capacity. Because of this, we have absolutely no reason to doubt that the device’s battery back itself is capable of delivering the full 6000 mAh in a more clinical setting.

Conclusions

So is the Moonstone 6000 worth a place in your pocket or bag? Well, if you constantly find yourself running out of power while out and about, it’s hard to find fault with the Moonstone 6000. It’s relatively small, so it can easily fit in your pants pocket, yet it packs enough juice to fully charge your phone at least a couple times. And since its max output is 2.1A, you don’t have to worry about whether it can deliver enough current to charge your tablet or phone while in use.

Then there’s the value. The device normally retails for $60 US, which is a bit steep for a battery pack. However, Lepow is currently offering the Moonstone 6000 in all colors and styles for just $20 on Amazon. We’re unsure how long this sale will last, but at this price, you simply can’t go wrong.

Don’t forget to stay tuned here on the XDA Portal, as we’ll be giving away 25 of these in a couple of days!

build2014

build2014Today in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Microsoft kicked off its annual Build developers conference. Up until now, many had been questioning Microsoft’s continued relevance in this new mobile-friendly age. However, today’s keynote clearly shows that Microsoft doesn’t intend on letting Google and Apple have all the fun.

Does Windows have what it takes to be your platform of choice in 2014? Read on to find out more about what Microsoft has in store for Windows and Windows Phone.

Windows Phone 8.1

cortana 1Microsoft began today’s keynote by talking about the future of Windows Phone. As we’ve known ever since the middle of December, WP8.1 has been poised to provide a major facelift to Microsoft’s struggling mobile OS. Now, Windows Phone 8.1 is official here.

First up, we have Cortana. Just like Google Now and Apple’s Siri, Cortana can place calls, send messages, schedule appointments, set reminders, create notes, set alarms, play music, get directions, and search the Web. This functionality can also be extended via third party apps.

cortanas

Despite its similarities to other digital assistants, Microsoft states that Cortana is able to get to know you more than what you’d expect from “a mere search engine.” While the not-so-subtle jab may vastly underplay Google Now’s features, there is some merit to the claim. Cortana’s keeps a “notebook,” which puts you in control of how Cortana interacts with you. This notebook allows you to customize your interests, inner circle of people who matter most, quiet hours, people who can break through quiet hours restrictions, and much more.

wp81

Next up on the topic of personalization are personalized lock screens and tile customization. Like we’ve already seen for some time on Android, WP8.1 allows developers to take control of the lock screen to deliver highly themed, custom experiences. In addition, users can now heavily customize their start screens by adding backgrounds and configuring how many tiles are displayed.

Windows Phone 8.1 finally brings proper notification handling. Dubbed “Action Center,” Microsoft’s take on the Android notification shade offers four customizable quick settings atop a standard notifications from all apps. This is accessible all throughout the entire UI, including the lock screen.

Windows 8.1 and Beyond

Microsoft also talked quite a bit about the future of traditional Windows. For starters, many will be elated to learn that Microsoft is bringing back the Start Menu with an update coming later this year. The revised Start Menu is essentially the Windows 7 Start Menu with some Windows 8 flair. It’s about the same size as what we’re used to in Windows 7, but with the added benefit of also displaying Windows 8 Live Tiles.

windows

In addition to the new Start Menu, Microsoft is also introducing a new interface mode that allows you to run Modern UI apps while in Desktop mode. Furthermore, a substantial update to Windows 8.1 to improve keyboard and mouse usability is coming in under a week. This will bring an ever present task bar, which allows users to seamlessly switch between apps just like what was possible on Windows 7.

Unified Apps

Finally, Microsoft also talked about making applications easier to code across all of its platforms. Now, developers can create a single app that works on Windows Phone, traditional Windows, and even the Xbox One. With this, developers can allow consumers to purchase an app on one device and access it on any connected Windows device.

What do you think of Microsoft’s announcements today at Build? Does the prospect of Unified Apps help developers and consumers? Are you glad to one day get the Start Menu back? Let us know in the comments below. And if you’d like to watch the entire three hour keynote in its entirety, head over to Microsoft’s Channel 9.

Device Review: Mad Catz M.O.J.O.

Posted by wicked April - 2 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

mojo2

MoJoRecently, Google has been acquiring various companies to possibly expand the reach of the Android platform beyond just mobile devices and tablets. With the announcement of Android Wear, Google is creating a standard for wearables like smartwatches. And perhaps with less fanfare, Google is expanding into set-top gaming Android with their purchase of Green Throttle Games. However, don’t think that Google is blazing the trail in these areas! They are just widening the road. Smartwatches like the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Omate Truesmart were among the pioneers in that arena. Similarly, the OUYA and Nvidia Shield wielded their machetes to slice a path through the Android Gaming forest.

While the OUYA is an Android Gaming device mostly in spirit due to it having its own customized overlay and its own proprietary store, the Nvidia Shield was perhaps the device with the biggest impact in creating this market. But now, there is another device available for you to choose from: the Mad Catz M.O.J.O. It comes in at $199 and gives you access to the Google Play Store. Recently, it was announced that OUYA would make its “experience” available on other hardware, and the M.O.J.O. was announced to be one of the first supported devices.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on one to test it out, as was XDA Developer TV Producer Jordan. To see my thoughts on the device keep reading, and check out the video below to see Jordan’s take.


HARDWARE

The MadCatz M.O.J.O. is an Android micro-console with Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 4 SoC running at 1.8GHz. It has 2 GB of system RAM and 16 GB of internal storage. However, with the size of some of the Tegra-optimized games, storage could fill up quickly. There is a microSD slot built-in for expansion, and Bluetooth 4.0 support. There are two full-size USB ports as well, one that is USB 3.0 and another USB 2.0. These USB ports can also be used f0r storage expansion. An Ethernet port, HDMI out, a 3.5mm headphone socket and an AC adapter to power the device round out the connections on the rear of this device. The hardware is capable and handled everything I threw at it.

mojo2

Since this is a microconsole and it connects to your television, a traditional Android touch interface proves impossible. But have no fear, as the M.O.J.O. comes with a controller. Branded as the “C.T.R.L.R,” the device takes up one USB slot for its dedicated dongle to communicate with the M.O.J.O. When I received the device, it was installed in the USB 3.0 port, moving it to the USB 2.0 port did not impact performance. The C.T.R.L.R itself is a capable device that feels good in the hands, is laid out exactly how you expect a current generation console controller to be, and can be used on other devices such as your computer. It even has a microUSB port under the battery to update the controller firmware if necessary.  Being a Bluetooth 4.0 device, it never lagged during my use. Finally, the C.T.R.L.R comes with a clip that you can attach so you can use it on the go with your smartphone to play games.

So, the M.O.J.O. itself and the C.T.R.L.R are decently speced but there is one area that suffers, and it’s not the M.O.J.O or C.T.R.L.R’s fault. Android is still very much touch-based. So even though the C.T.R.L.R has a switch on it that can change it from a controller to a virtual mouse, navigating stock Android takes some getting used to. In my experience, I became proficient in about an hour. However, typing with the C.T.R.L.R proved to be rage inducing. Luckily, MadCatz has a solution with its line of gaming accessories, some of which include keyboards, mice, and headsets. MadCatz’s GameSmart line of devices can be used on the M.O.J.O. microconsole.

ctrlrclip

SOFTWARE

The M.O.J.O comes from the factory with Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean. The device comes preloaded with Google Play and Nvidia’s Tegra Zone. Once you power up the device, you can go through the MadCatz welcome setup slideshow, which helps you through a recommended setup of the device that includes installing Flash, installing Dolphin browser, setting up Dolphin browser to use Flash, installing any firmware updates, and rooting the device. Rooting the device opens up more possibilities from the Play Store. At the end of the slideshow, MadCatz suggests some games and apps for you to try.

Gaming on the device using a 1080p television is a wonderful experience. Games like Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2, and others show no stuttering or lag, and generally look amazing. Additionally, installing and playing emulators works as well as can be expected, depending on your emulator and ROMs.

Streaming services like Netflix and HBOGo work well. Similarly, Plex and XBMC work without a hitch.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Is this the end all be all of Android consoles? Probably not, but it certainly is a device that is worth its price if you are looking for an Android console. A decent controller will run you $60 and an Android stick or Roku for Netflix streaming will run you around $80, so having all these plus the powerful Tegra 4 is well worth the $60 premium.

Unlike the OUYA, if you already own games purchased on Google Play, you can play them on the M.O.J.O. without having to repurchase them. On the flip side, if you already are invested in the OUYA game store, in a few short months, you will be able to access them as well. The M.O.J.O. is on par with the Nvidia Shield in console mode, but the Shield is portable. That said, there has been no announcement of whether the OUYA experience will land on the Shield. Either way, the MadCatz M.O.J.O. is a solid player in the Android console market and well worth a look if you are considering purchasing an Android gaming device.

Jordan’s Mad Catz M.O.J.O. Unboxing


Video Courtesy of TwilPlays

Latest Android Platform Stats Show KitKat Up to 5.3%, 2.x Down to 18.9%

Posted by Will Verduzco April - 2 - 2014 - Wednesday Comments Off

AprilPlatformStats

AprilPlatformStatsNow we’re talking! And no, this isn’t an April Fool’s Prank. For the first time since Android 4.4 KitKat was launched back in late October of last year, we’re finally seeing some significant adoption for Google’s latest and greatest. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers, shall we?

When we talked about Android’s platform distribution numbers early last month, KitKat was running on 2.5% of devices with access to Google Play Services. While this was a significant proportional rise from February’s 1.8%, the total number still remained quite low. Blame OEM’s, carriers, or even Tom Cruise, but the unfortunate reality of Android is that mass market devices will lag behind Google’s Nexus lineup.

But this past month, something changed. KitKat is now on 5.3% of devices with access to Google Play Services, which is more than double what we had last month. Not only is this a bigger jump numerically, but it’s also a proportionally larger leap. This shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise, however, as various large OEMs such as Samsung, HTC, and LG have been issuing KitKat OTAs to their previous generation flagship and midrange devices.

april2

Now let’s take a look at the rest of the numbers. Last month, we saw that Jelly Bean was approximately the same as it was the month before, hovering at around 62%. This month is no different, as it has only dipped slightly to 61.4%. Similarly, ICS went from 15.2% to 14.3%. But the biggest “loser” this month was Android 2.x, which went from a combined 20.2% to 18.9%. OK, so this isn’t exactly an Earth-shattering change, but it’s progress.

It’s great to see KitKat on the rise, as the whole developer ecosystem benefits from users being on recent versions of Android. And in the coming months, as products announced at this year’s MWC start making their way into more consumer hands, this will only continue to rise. Here’s hoping that we break 10% by next month!

[Source: Android Developer Dashboard]

XDA Myth Busters: Linaro 4.7.4 vs. GCC 4.7

Posted by wicked April - 1 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

printlogo

printlogoThe importance of an optimized toolchain is one of the hottest topics in the Android dev world. Many of you might have heard about GCC and Linaro, which are the two biggest projects of this type. GCC is an old hand that was initially releases in 1987, while Linaro is a relatively young player at only four years old.

Let’s first dive into the history of these two projects. As I said earlier, GNU Compiler Collection is old. Over the years, it has been used to compile various projects, including Android. Google decided to use versions 4.6 and 4.7 as their default toolchains, and I would like to focus on version 4.7 in this series of tests.

Linaro was launched in 2010, and it’s been optimized for ARM architectures. And of course, ARM is used in the vast majority of Android-powered smartphones and tablets. You can find Linaro as a toolchain used to compile kernels or whole ROMs, and many developers claim this toolchain is faster and more powerful than GCC.

Inspired by our Developer Admin Pulser_G2, I decided to give this myth a shot and see whether these claims are real. To do this, I first downloaded the AOSP source. I built an aosp_mako-eng target for my Nexus 4 using the default set of prebuilts from Google. After make otapackage, I got 183115481-byte zip file ready to flash. After, I downloaded the Linaro 4.7.4 toolchain and replaced GCC in prebuilts/gcc/linux-86. I performed the necessary changes to set level O3 of optimization. As AOSP supports only prebuilt kernels (without modifications), I built a kernel on my own with Linaro and replaced the kernel in mako-kernel with my own blob.

 Below you can see the two resultant archives. As you can see, the Linaro archive is slightly bigger, so this toolchain actually does something to bin and xbin folders. The kernel file itself is also bigger.

Screenshot from 2014-03-31 13:33:06 Screenshot from 2014-03-31 13:32:47

But the file size is not the most important thing. Instead, let’s focus on performance. To measure this, I used AnTuTu benchmark. For increased precision, I ran each test three times. As you can see below, the difference is quite big. However, I wouldn’t put too much blind faith in these tests, as the results differed on every test. That said, Linaro was few points better than GCC—but AnTuTu is not that reliable as you may think.

GCC

device-2014-03-31-191204 device-2014-03-31-191138 device-2014-03-31-191123

 

Linaro

device-2014-03-31-131458  device-2014-03-31-131356device-2014-03-31-131419

The following tests were performed with 3DMark to see if a toolchain can impact graphics performance. The difference was even more significant than with Antutu. You may gain few FPS with GCC, but overall smoothness is better with Linaro. The score is also a bit higher.

GCC

device-2014-03-31-193331device-2014-03-31-193339 device-2014-03-31-192745device-2014-03-31-192757 

Linaro

device-2014-03-31-183033 device-2014-03-31-183026 device-2014-03-31-181457 device-2014-03-31-180803

 

The final test was run using the game Asphalt 8: Airborne. Below you can see two videos of the game running on both toolchains. The first was made with Linaro, while second with GCC. Personally, I think that Linaro feels a bit smoother than GCC, but that may just be the placebo effect since this was not a double-blind test. Both kernels were stock and free from tweaks, overclocking, and any other fancy tweaks to improve the performance.

 

So is Linaro Better?

Although I was skeptical at first, I must admit that Linaro seems to be a better choice than GCC—at least on my hardware configuration. The OS felt more responsive and faster than when it was built using GCC. However, GCC is still rock solid, so if you require ultimate stability, it may still be the best choice.

In the next episodes, I will try to compare other toolchains such as SaberMod and Linaro 4.8. Please let us know about your favorite toolchains in the comments below. And if you would like us to test any other toolchains, please say so!

[April Fools! Sort of...] Introducing XDA:BOOT

Posted by Will Verduzco April - 1 - 2014 - Tuesday Comments Off

XDA_Boot

Every year at around this time, we here at XDA-Developers like to take a step back and figure out what we can do to make our little home on the web an even better place. About four years ago, we accomplished this by introducing the world to XDA Core. And then two years later, this meant shifting our priorities to a demonstrably superior operating system.

Today, I’d like to share with you a truly revolutionary idea that was the result of many femtoseconds of reptilian planning. I am, of course, referring to XDA:Ban On One’s Terms, also known as XDA:BOOT or simply “Boot” for short.

Before we talk a little more about Boot, it’d be helpful to shed light on its history and how we came up with this great idea. After taking an in depth look into our community’s website browsing habits, it became clear that the about 36.2247912% of users were spending an inordinately high number of hours browsing the forums. While the remaining 63.7752088% of users were browsing XDA a relatively healthy 23-24 hours per day, the top 5% were browsing the site as much as 72 hours per day! This quickly became problematic for many who often forgot to eat, sleep, or even use the restroom while browsing.

Now wait just one second… How can users browse the forum for more than 24 hours per day? Well, the answer to that question took a substantial amount of heavy analysis on our part. As it turns out, those top 5% of users were browsing so many threads in so many different forums that they were actually breaking the universal speed limit! Our findings, which were quickly shared with and confirmed by the Pokémon at CERN, left us with no choice other than to implement Boot.

So what is XDA:BOOT and how can it save those top 5% of users? As implied by its name, XDA:Ban On One’s Terms is a program where users can request a temporary ban for as long as they would like. All they have to do is visit the official XDA:BOOT thread and craft a reply stating how long they’d like to be banned. Then, a site administrator or moderator will administer the temporary ban as per your specification.

We are Boot. We are the 5%. Head over to the official XDA:BOOT thread to request your temporary ban today!

*Please note that this service is being provided in Beta form, and it may be cancelled at any time—current estimates point to about 17 hours from now.

F2FS Put to the Test Against EXT4

Posted by Will Verduzco March - 31 - 2014 - Monday Comments Off

f2fs

You may recall that earlier this month, we talked about speeding up the original Nexus 7′s internal memory by using F2FS. F2FS was created at Samsung early last year for use on Linux-based operating systems. As its name implies, Flash-Friendly File System is a file system designed specifically to cater to the specific characteristics of NAND-based storage devices.

This log-structured file system is widely thought to be faster than traditional file systems such as EXT4 on flash memory, but is it really faster? And if so, by how much? XDA Recognized Contributor Androguide.fr set out to measure the performance differences on his Sony Xperia Z1 using popular synthetic benchmarks, and the results may very well surprise you.

As one might expect, F2FS proved to be faster on the Z1 than EXT4 in the vast majority of cases. This was demonstrated in various different types of synthetic benchmarks ranging from database operations to the higher-order storage benchmarks found in AnTuTu and Quadrant. And when looking specifically at AndroBench (screenshot shown to your right), database operations were consistently around an order of magnitude faster on F2FS than on EXT4. Storage write speeds were improved to an even greater degree for sequential and random writes in this synthetic benchmark, with both being greater than two orders of magnitude faster on F2FS.

But before you go out and convert your device to F2Fs, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, it seems that at least on the Z1, F2FS is actually about 20% slower in sequential reads than EXT4. Next and far more importantly, these are simply results from one specific sample of one specific device from one specific manufacturer. In other words, your mileage will almost certainly vary, especially if you’re not trying this on an Xperia Z1, as the real world performance gains (or losses) will be subject to the NAND chips and flash memory controller in your device, as well as various other factors that are beyond the scope of this article. That said, we wouldn’t be terribly surprised if your results show similar trends.

If you’d like to read more about Androguide.fr’s experiences and the methodology used in his tests, head over to the benchmark thread. What are your thoughts about F2FS? Do his results parallel your observations? Have you had any issues from switching to F2FS? Let us know in the comments below!