Thursday, 13 October 2011

CyanogenMod 7 Alpha Android port now out for the TouchPad

We knew it was coming soon - I was expecting it in a few weeks - and I was worried they'd try to fix everything before their first release, but CyanogenMod did what I suggested and have now officially released an alpha version of their Android port for the TouchPad. Before you go any further, you should be warned that this will totally void your warranty and there are various risks associated with the alpha install that you should read carefully. Don't go any further unless you really are prepared for the worst and are also fairly technically proficient. If you have any doubts at all, don't install this alpha and wait until at least the beta release.

First stop is the first posting in the RootzWiki release thread - this contains a lot of blurb about the port and also the crucial links to various downloads. There was also a new video posted showing that Netfix works (not in the UK though, something the guy failed to mention), yet another 3D game seems to function and you can pair with a bluetooh phone to make calls. Oh, you might also want to read this blog entry as well as the installer instructions, because it does actually give you some useful further links that you'll need.

Update 1:
Managed to get enough time tonight to install the alpha Android release on my TouchPad and it is seriously good even at this early alpha stage. Love the tablet-styled Android Market and some games I tried (Droid Chess, Sukudu Free, Labyrinth 3D) all worked peflectly full screen. Got a nice dual boot menu to switch between OS'es and wi-fi seems OK for me in Android too. Must say that for an alpha, this is one very impressive port so far.

Only tricky bits for me were that I was using 64-bit Fedora 14, so I had to hand unpack the Ubuntu  novacom .deb file with ar, unpack the data.tar.gz file and soft-link in novacomd (run that daemon as root in another window first) and novacom before I zapped the TouchPad. If you've got Ubuntu, you can just install the .deb file, but make sure that novacomd is running as root (e.g. reboot after installing the novacom package) before you try running the novacom command in the instructions.

Update 2:
After a few days playing with Android on the TouchPad, I'm still impressed by how much works correctly in this Alpha release. The only issues I've had so far are:
  • Regular crashes during Android shutdown. The screen freezes and I have to hold down the power button for 5 seconds to get it to turn off (in fact, it reboots). Doesn't seem to have caused any filesystem corruption, but it is slightly worrying.
  • When the Android shutdown option doesn't crash, it actually does a reboot rather than a shutdown and I have to select "Shutdown" from the initial boot menu to finally get the TouchPad to power off.
  • Hardware-assisted video playback of H.264 has frames go wrong (e.g. green blotches that gradually correct themselves), usually at the very start or when there's a fresh key frame. Tried tons of Android video players - they all had the same issue. Switching to software-decoding of H.264 proved problematic (many skipped frames making it unwatchable).
  • Hardware-assisted audio playback of H.264 is completely silent. Sadly, very few Android players let you set hardware vs. software assistance and of those that do, almost none of them let you split the assistance between video and audio. Software audio playback on the tiny number of players that let you do that with H.264 video does work, but often went into "slow motion deep voice" audio at random points.
  • When Android sleeps after a couple of minutes of idle time, resuming it leaves the Wi-fi off (it should re-connect, but doesn't) and I end up having to manually turn the Wi-fi off and on again a few times to get a connection again.
  • I once had the notification bar crash on me, but it seemed to auto-restart a few seconds later.
 For an alpha, that's a surprisingly short list of issues and I'd say the H.264 (720p) ones are perhaps the most annoying. However, I only download a few 720p videos because of their size and the typical much smaller DivX videos I download play fine in pretty well any Android video player.

Yes, I have used "CPU Master" to overclock the Android setup - got it as high as 1.8Ghz whilst testing various software-based video players, but I'll probably just overclock to 1.5GHz like I did with webOS (Uberkernel+Govnah). Oh and I'm loving the  "Koi Free Live Wallpaper" from the Android Market - got it because of the CM guy's last few videos using it. It made me go on a Live Wallpaper hunt, so I've got about 15 new ones now...

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