Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ainol Novo 8 Advanced 2.3.4 Rooted UK Rom V2.0

Update March 2021:

Fixed the download links at the bottom of the page. All versions can also be found here: Ainol Novo 8 Firmware links

Comments locked as this release has been superseded, head to Ainol Novo 8 News to see the latest version.


Original post:

The first release of my firmware has been a huge success, with downloads in the hundreds, users from across the globe and plenty of feedback I say thanks to you all.

Now that's out the way on to the important part of this post ;) VERSION 2.0 IS HERE! After a lot of positive feedback and because there were things that needed fixing I have been working on a second release quite heavily since the first was posted. It's not perfect, some bugs are still there but it's a definite step forward from the first release. Check the readme at the end of the post for the full lowdown.


Forum Links:


Screenshots:


Download links:

Ainol Novo 8 Adv 2.3.4 Version 2.0

The Readme.txt:

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Ainol Novo 8 Advanced 2.3.4 Rooted English Rom
Version: 2.0 (23/11/11)
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Author: Nebular Nerd (aka Oberth & thedaybeforetomorrow)
Homepage: nebularnerd.blogspot.com
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

About:
After manually de-Chineseing every firmware and trying to cram in
all the basic Google apps and such that are needed I set upon
creating an all English firmware, The result is a that can be flashed
ready to run with all the Google stuff and a few choice extras bundled in.

Using the current 2.3.4 beta as a base I removed, replaced
and added and tweaked various things to give a decent firmware that will
make you proud to show off your tablet with the unfortunate brand name.
(Hands up all those who have had a laugh when telling someone who makes it)
*Non native english speakers may not get this silly schoolboy joke :)

While I take credit for the putting everything together in one easy to use
package the real credit should goto all those people I sourced the component
parts from. As of writing (23/11/11) there have been over 300 Downloads from
hosts with download counters so there are a lot of you out there giving V1.0
a go, lets see what happens with 2.0 :)

Enjoy the firmware :)
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Changelist / Whats New:
19/11/2011: Version 2.0
*NEW* Multi Language support.
...Google apps and firmware seem ok, other apps are dev dependant.
*NEW* Default Wallpaper
...Thanks to EgFox @ DeviantArt eg-art.deviantart.com
*NEW* Google Books, Google+ Added to rom
*NEW* Dolphin HD Broswer added
*NEW* Facebook added
*NEW* Skype added
*NEW* FlashPlayer 10.3 apk added to zip for installation latest 11.x causes
...serious performance issues with any flash media.
*NEW* LCD Resolution added, handy for making things bigger in the
...absence of the normal Small,Med,Large settings. Also semi fixes iPlayer
...performance issue. Use it to set dpi at 200 and iPlayer is watchable.
*FIXED* Calendar now works, no longer force closes.
*MODDED* Headphone volume output level no longer deafens you.
*UPDATED* Better readme.txt layout.
*UPDATED* Latest YouTube and Google Music.

8/11/2011: Version 1.2
Tidied and formatted readme.txt.

6/11/2011: Version 1.1
Minor update to correct bug in build.prop preventing Chainfire and Tegra
games from working.

5/11/2011: Version 1.0
1st Release.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Installation
Flashing this is a breeze, simply copy all the contents of the zip to your
SD Card, insert into your Novo 8 and boot into Recovery with Power & Vol+.

Once booted perform the 3 wipes and then install the update and reboot.

If you spot the error about the factory_update_param.aml file missing
when booting into recovery mode just ignore it. I dumped the automated stuff
as it bricked my unit the first time round when flashing the stock beta and I
had to do a recovery with the original firmware release. The automation seems
to get stuck now and again causing the brick so it's safer to take the manual
route.

When first booting the homescreen will go black/blank for about a minute.
Don't panic this is quite normal it's just everything unpacking and setting up.
Set up your wifi, add your Google account and off you go.

Post install use FileBrowser or AppInstaller to install Flash 10.3 off the SD
card, this seems to be the best performing version I have seen. Do not update
to later versions as performance drops so far that basic flash files seem to
have a hard time playing.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Features:
* Fast and Smooth 160dpi rom with build.prop tweaks to improve various things.

* Full English Rom set to UK region, no hidden Chinese menus to pop out at you.
...All Chinese only apps removed or replaced with english versions.

* Latest Market 3.3.11 with heavily modified build.prop to show as many apps as
...possible. This does actually show and install a far wider range of apps than
...before. Some stuff is still not showing but it's about the best we can get.

* AC3/DTS Hardware Decoder works. Stock Video Player will handle most stuff
...Download Big Buck Bunny from their site in 1080 MP4 & H.264 as test files
...If it all is working both will play smoothly and seek should work. I test
...these and other files from 16GB Class2 MicroSD in a USB reader. It will play
...really large stuff from a NTFS formatted external drive as well.
...Test file for this is a 13GB 1080 AVC/DTS MKV file that plays without issue.
 
* 3G Modem support, confirmed working with these dongles.
...Huawei E160 3G USB Dongle (by ompudsman @ MP4Nations)
...Huawei E1750 3G USB Dongle with Virgin UK sim. (by GFZ @ XDA)
...Huawei E173u-2 3G USB Dongle (by Razy @ My Blogspot Page)
...Any other 3G Dongles working? Help the community and let us know :)
 
* Uses the free version of LauncherPro because it does seem the best for this
...model, the Chinese firmwares had hard coded Chinese menus in the
...LauncherProPlus.apk The market will allow you to purchase the Plus Unlocker
...if you want those features.

* Preloaded with Google Browser, Gmail, Maps, Streetview, YouTube,
...Google Music, Latitude, Google Books, Google+, Google+ Messenger,
...Google Search, Calendar and Car Home.

* Preloaded with Facebook, Skype and Dolphin Browser HD.

* Google accounts will sync Contacts, Mail and Calendars correctly.

* YouTube plays HQ videos just fine without stutter or lag.
...(Assuming you have a good wifi signal and net speeds)
 
* The stock video player plays most MPG, MP4, MKV files with AAC, MP3, AC3
...audio. It's not set as the default player but use file explorer to pick
...a file and it should pop up in the dialog box and it will set all the
...formats it can play to use it.
 
* Most of the Games and Apps I have tried while testing work fine. Get
...Chainfire3D and buy the Pro key to enjoy some of the nice Tegra Games.
...I shall add a list of Tegra games that work to my blog.

* Wifi seems better under the new firmware.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Bugs:
Most of these bugs are related to the base firmware, and are being looked into.
 
* Tablet likes to wake itself up now and then for no real reason.
...(Possible data connections causing it to wake)

* Sometimes the Power button does not work so you can't turn off the screen or
...power off. There are apps that will shutdown the unit but be cautious of data
...loss if you are installing or copying something let it finish first and wait
...a few seconds

* If the Screen is off and the Power button is not behaving another key will
...turn it on.

* Sometimes the Power Off dialog appears for no reason.

* Your Novo may disappear off the Market site for a while or completely. Mine
...went and then came back about a day later, this is down to the modified
...build.prop You can still download apps directly through the Market app on
...the Novo regardless.

* Some of the best apps are still not available in the market, Dolphin Browser
...Facebook and Skype to name a few. This is down to Google Market and not much
...seems to beat this last hurdle. I have added them in but they will not
...update.

* Possible others bugs (Let me know by posting on my blog or one of the threads)
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

To Do List:
* Fix all power bugs (Lots of Work)

* Make Video Player the default app for video files.

* Add widgets to homescreen automatically.

* Work out how to make Flash part of the rom. For now use the apk included to
...install 10.3

* Fix iPlayer performance both in app and browser, close as I can figure this
...one it's Flash not performing but YouTube and other flash files play ok
...so it's a puzzler, best I can recommend is to use LCD Resolution to drop to
...200 dpi and you can get watchable streams at Medium quality through the app.

* Other stuff I think of.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
Sources used:
* https://tinyurl.com/63pnbl6 The base for my rom was this prerooted one.
...(Translated, may not load first time especially in Chinese busy times)

* https://tinyurl.com/64xhw3y I used the Browser and Google Music from this one.
...(Translated, may not load first time especially in Chinese busy times)

* https://tinyurl.com/29c6jlx The rom I currently use on my HD2 which I lifted
...most of the original Google stuff from.

* https://tinyurl.com/6y57c4s The tweaks used for the Market.

* https://eg-art.deviantart.com/ EG-Fox gave permission for the wallpaper used.
 
Other various sources for stuff about some of the other little tweaks.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=

Disclaimer:
As with any custom firmware there is a risk of things going wrong so if it
bricks your unit try a recovery image from Ainol and start again, if you are of
a nervous disposition or the type of person who sues for a hobby please do not
attempt to install this. The rom works fine on my unit and others have tried
without issue, however mileage does seem to vary with this tablet.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Over a 1000 views :)

Thanks to all the people who have been viewing and leaving comments for the Novo 8 firmware, the traffic for the site has been pretty good seeing as it went online two weeks ago for a firmware for a niche Android tablet. As far as I can tell there have been around 200+ downloads from my rapidshare account and there are a couple of mirrors as well that have had a few so it looks like there are a fair few of you giving it a go.
I am currently working on a second release which hopefully will add some requested features and try and smooth over some bugs that have been reported.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Deaf in one ear and need Stereo To Mono? Earphones for deaf in one ear.

Updated March 2021: Fixed broken links again.

Until a while back I thought being deaf in one ear was a fairly unique thing, lately I have met quite a few people who have lost hearing in one ear for a multitude of reasons.

Like me they all like to listen to music on some form of personal player be it their iPod, iPhone, iPad, Android Phone/Tablet, Mp3 Player, CD Walkman etc . . . the problem is that when listening to music with only one ear you're a bit stuck, older rock and pop music by bands such as Queen, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Who and others heavily used the two channels to create all these cool sounds with sweeping vocals and effects moving across the channels or having instruments on one channel while vocals were on another.

As an example I am deaf in my left ear and when listening to Bohemian Rhapsody I only get half the vocals, Money by Pink Floyd the opening cash register section fades to nothing and back again. Radar Love by Golden Earring becomes almost an acoustic/vocal track (but not in a bad way) because I can only hear the right channel, and guess where they put that cool bass guitar riff and drums?

A lot of more modern music styles tend not to use this much as it became a bit 'old' so while there are still issues they can be less noticeable. Years ago when I still had a Cassette Walkman (kids ask your parents) I used to use Winamp to play my MP3 tracklists in mono to record onto tape and this got round the issue, however in the digital world you're stuck unless you have a player that gives you a mono down-mix setting.

Recently I stumbled upon an American company called Scan Sound who make a line of products called the 1Bud's. The rather clever people behind this range have made a unique module for their lineup that actually does proper stereo to mono conversion, unlike the cheap adapters that just join the Left and Right signal wires together (all of which fail) These earpieces have a small unit built into the lead that performs a proper mixing of the left and right channel into a mono track, this gives us mono ears the full experience of our music.

I personally ordered the one pictured below (and then a few years later a spare when I 'lost' then found my original) which has a twin driver design with the little bud giving you the main sound and the larger flat section a incredible amount of bass (they make stereo ones as well which I'm sure would rock your brain loose) The pro version comes in both Left and Right handed designs with dedicated iPhone/iPod versions available as well.

Scan Sound 1Bud's Stereo to Mono earbuds
Right handed Pro version

They also offer a range of other designs with a basic single bud and over ear ones which you can find here:
1-BUD Single-Ear Stereo Earphones

Delivery to the UK was quick and at a decent price, after telling a friend about this who was about to lose his hearing he bought the same design as me and loved it, he also ordered the more basic version for his other half to use at work so she could have some music and still hear what people were asking.
(My friends hearing has since returned after his treatment was finished so while no longer a mono ear he still loves the earpiece)

This post might comes over as a bit like a bad TV advert for these guys and maybe it is, but for us mono ears out there this is the stuff of dreams and it was not an easy thing to find, I've been looking over 10 years for a solution and found this company more by luck than anything so hopefully it will help others in the same situation as myself.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

ASUS WL-520G Heatsink upgrade and DD-WRT

A couple of years back I finally had enough of my rubbish ASUS WL-520G wifi router which spent half it's time overheating (even in the winter) or the unstable firmware would just lock up for no sensible reason despite just sitting there doing nothing much a lot of the time.

It became a case of fix it or bin it so I thought 'what the hell' and set to work, I decided to tackle the heat issue first and removing the lid left me confronted with what you see below. What you see here is a tiny heat sink held on to the Broadcom BCM5350KPB5 200Mhz CPU with double sided tape that was stupidly hot to the touch, along with a the pair of chips to the right (A Samsung K4S641632H-UC60 64mb SDRAM and a Samsung K8D1716UBC 16Mbit Flash) that were baking away nicely as well. Cost cutting at it's finest.

ASUS WL-520g Internals with stock heatsink
The dented fins were from a failed attempt to remove it.

Removing the heat sink was tricky as the tape is remarkable strong so I broke out the plumbers wrench, firmly gripped the heat sink and gave it a good twist.

A suitable tool for precision work
Who said IT work needs delicate tools?

After removing the tape and finding a suitable sized heat sink from an old motherboard I needed to find a way to secure it on, not having any mount points I resorted to an old trick that rescued 486 and Pentiums 1's fitted with cheap heat sinks that were meant to grip the chip firmly but just fell off, enter stage left . . . Superglue!

ASUS WL-520g Internals awaiting a new heatsink
Superglue and Thermal Compound sandwich anyone?

While it might sound odd, Superglue actually has quite a high melting point so a decent dab in the corners and a good helping of Thermal Compound in the middle and you're sorted.

I wouldn't recommend this for your old vintage Socket A chip though they got far too warm, watch this video to see what I mean. (Fun Fact:  The BBC 'borrowed' this video's idea for their recent Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity series. They wanted to demonstrate the amount of heat a 'modern' CPU generates, so they dug out some crusty old Socket A system and promptly set the chip smoking by running it sans heat sink)

The end result was what you see below, I added a couple of old graphics card ram brick sinks to the smaller chips that were overheating and ended up with this.

ASUS WL-520g Internals with uprated heatsinks

Afterwards it did run better than before but still would lock up randomly including when it was idle. I took the next step and installed DD-WRT and all was good. If you have a router that is loaded with second rate, feature restricted and normally unstable firmware I highly recommend DD-WRT, the risk is small but the reward far outweighs the risk.

It's still going strong now with a larger antenna fitted to support the few legacy devices we have at home that lack Wifi N capability (or for an 802.11g signal you could pick up while walking home). It's not the most impressive hack you'll ever see but it did the trick and saved me having to fork out for a replacement.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Ainol Novo 8 Advanced Custom Rom

Update March 2021:

Fixed the download links at the bottom of the page. All versions can also be found here: Ainol Novo 8 Firmware links

Comments locked as this release has been superseded, head to Ainol Novo 8 News to see the latest version.



Original post content:

Well as a first proper post goes this is not a bad way to start.

Ainol Novo 8 in black

About:

I bought one of these great tablets off ebay a few months back from a UK company called Gadgetfreakz, actually it's my second the first was a semi dead unit I bought 2nd hand from someone else and it refuses to be fully fixed . . . for now.

Aside from some minor issues such as screen viewing angles and a bit of back light bleed these things are a cracking buy for the money with a high res 1280x768 Screen, pretty good GPU that can play some Tegra games, HDMI out and USB input among other things.

However the firmware on them left a lot to be desired and is in Chinese by default, thankfully the latter was easy to deal with to an extent, the former not so easy. Recently a 2.3.4 beta Rom appeared on the Chinese speaking boards and was a major improvement over the 2.2 releases however as always they were in Chinese as a first language and contained stuff that was no use to us English speaking types. So I decided it was time to apply a bit of magic and make my own Rom. Download link at the bottom of the post.

This has also been posted up on MP4Nation (I am 'thedaybeforetomorrow' over here), Tablet Republic and XDA Developers (I am 'Oberth' over there)

Screenshot of Ainol Novo 8 firmware

Changelog:

8/11/2011: Tidied and formatted readme.txt.
6/11/2011: Minor update to correct bug in build.prop preventing Chainfire and Tegra games from working.
5/11/2011: 1st Release.

Installation:

Flashing this is a breeze, simply copy the contents of the zip to your SD Card, insert into your Novo 8 and boot into Recovery with Power & Vol+.
Once booted perform the 3 wipes and then install the update and reboot. That's it, no need to install the AC3/DTS license or add Google apps.
If you spot the error about the factory_*blahblahblah*.aml file missing when booting into recovery mode just ignore it. I dumped the automated stuff as it bricked my unit the first time round when flashing the stock beta and I had to do a recovery with the original firmware release. All the automated bit really does is perform the 3 wipes and perform the install so why risk it when it takes only a few seconds to do.
When first booting the homescreen will go black/blank for about a minute. Don't panic this is quite normal it's just everything unpacking and setting up. Set up your wifi, add your Google account and off you go.

Features:

  • AC3/DTS Hardware Decoder works.
  • Fast and Smooth 160dpi rom with build.prop tweaks to improve battery life and speed things up.
  • 3G Modem support is present and has been confirmed working with these dongles . . .
    Huawei E160 3G USB Dongle (ompudsman @ MP4Nations)
    Huawei E1750 3G USB Dongle with Virgin UK sim. (GFZ @ XDA)
  • Full English Rom set to UK region, no hidden Chinese menus to pop out at you. All Chinese only apps removed or replaced with english versions.
  • Latest Market 3.3.11 with heavily modified build.prop to show as many apps as possible. This does actually show and install a far wider range of apps than before.
  • Uses the free version of LauncherPro because it does seem the best for this Tablet, the Chinese firmwares seemed to have hard coded Chinese in the LauncherProPlus.apk The market will allow you to purchase the Plus Unlocker if you want those features.
  • Preloaded with Google Browser, Gmail, Maps, Streetview, YouTube, Google Music, Latitude, Google Search, Calendar and Car Home.
  • Google accounts will sync Contacts, Mail and Calendars correctly.
  • YouTube plays HQ videos just fine without stutter or lag. (Assuming you have a good wifi signal)
  • The stock video player plays most MPG, MP4, MKV files with AAC, MP3, AC3 audio. Plays 1080p quite happily as well if the storage device can keep up.
  • If you need wider format support but still with hardware decoding where possible get MX Video Player and the ARMv7 Codecs from the market.
  • Most of the Games and Apps I have tried while testing work fine. Get Chainfire3D and buy the Pro key to enjoy some of the nice Tegra Games. Check my blog for compatibility of Tegra games.
  • Wifi seems better under the new firmware.

Bugs:

Most of these have been documented as an issue with the base firmware

  • Tablet likes to wake itself up now and then for no real reason. (Possible data connections causing it to wake)
  • Sometimes the Power button does not work so you can't turn off the screen or power off. Install Quick Reboot off the market or hit the reset button.
  • If the Screen is off and the Power button is not behaving another key will turn it on.
  • Sometimes the Power Off dialog appears for no reason. Oddly not when in full screen games so far as I've noticed.
  • Your Novo may disappear off the Market site for a while or completely. Mine went and then came back about a day later, this is down to the modified build.prop. You can still download apps directly through the Market app on the Novo regardless.
  • Some of the best apps are still not available in the market, Dolphin Browser HD, Facebook and Friendcaster to name a few. This is down to Google Market and not much seems to beat this last hurdle.
  • Possible others (Let me know by posting on my blog or threads)

Disclaimer:

As with any custom firmware there is a risk of things going wrong so if it bricks your unit try a recovery image from Ainol and start again, if you are of a nervous disposition or the type of person who sues for a hobby please do not attempt to install this. The rom works fine on my unit and others have tried without issue, however mileage does seem to vary with this tablet.

Links to the firmware:

Novo 8 2.3.4a Firmware UK Edition

Obligatory first post :)

Hello world!

I finally went and made myself a site. This is where I shall be posting my various fixes, tweaks and hacks for the large amount of things I do when bored or in need of a 'If it's not broke, make it better' © moment.  I have little things dotted here there and everywhere and it would be nice to have them all under one site. I shall get round to giving the blog a proper theme and style later . . . but for now let gets some posts up.