Wednesday, April 28, 2010

B-mobile SIM confirmed working on G1 and Hero

And also reportedly working on the HTC Desire.

We've been helping a reader get his G1 working with B-Mobile, which was more difficult than expected, though B-Mobile's customer support was very helpful to our reader. (See here or the only post we made about this.) The G1 finally worked with the B-Mobile SIM after flashing an Android 2.1 ROM but would not connect with both Android 1.5 and 1.6. However, a commenter says that his HTC Hero is working with 1.5.

Based on chatter around Japan, it seems that there is indeed some issue with HTC's radio and Android 1.6 that is preventing it from working.

The reader with the G1 only tried one 1.5 ROM, which was dumped from the Japanese version of the Google Developer Day (GDD) phone, aka the ION (same hardware as the ht-03a). We figured, since B-Mobile officially supports the ION, and since they had been selling SIMs for the ION prior to announcing the USIM 300, that this ROM would work on the G1.

Here are two three things to watch out for:
  • Not being able to access the application Market - may need market enabler.
  • No 3G icon indicating that you are indeed connected
  • An error message saying "Your SIM card does not allow a connection to this network"
Beginning with the latter, the commenter said that services like location need network registration to work. This means that you'll need to rely on GPS alone for determining your position. If you use the weather widget we recommended, it will only serve you locally based information if you turn on GPS, a real battery drainer.

As for the 3G icon, I am guessing this is also due to not being registered on Docomo's network. Further guessing leads me to believe that this is due to the presumed IMEI filtering done by Docomo that prevents non-branded handsets from being used for data. As far as I can tell, the only handsets that B-Mobile officially supports are ones that were originally sold by Docomo or Wilcom, an MVNO like B-Mobile that uses Docomo's network. Aside from the ION of course.

Due to the lack of the 3G icon, our reader's G1 actually connected just fine with the B-Mobile SIM, but he didn't know it until customer support sent him an email:
Your b-bmobile SIM successfully connected on April 22. The last connection it made at 15:20 on April 24.
This is the time when he had the 2.1 based ROM installed. After April 24, he decided to flash the 1.5 ROM since he thought the phone wasn't connecting due to the lack of the 3G icon.

Here are the details for the G1:

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

b-mobile SIM working with android eclair devices

According to this post (Japanese), the b-mobile SIM is apparently compatible with HTC devices running eclair 2.1. The poster claims to have a developer phone running open eclair that is working with the b-mobile SIM and concludes that the G1/Dream and ht-03a/magic would also work with eclair-based ROMs.

So it appears that there is something with some HTC devices running 1.6 that is preventing them from working. I have no freaking idea what.

The guy also mentions he heard someone with an HTC tattoo running 1.6 was able to connect. I did a little searching and ran into a 2ch thread:
479 :白ロムさん[sage]:2010/04/11(日) 01:32:42 ID:7Rg5UahX0
HTC Tattooで開通した。


Basically, he claims to have got it working on a tattoo with 1.6 through a convoluted process and what sounds like a lot of voodoo involving multiple restarts; getting the phone stuck in airplane mode; putting in another SIM card; turning the phone off; putting back in the b-mobile SIM; and then... um, feeling that airplane mode had the tendency to be off. Then he played with a bunch of settings to no avail; set up the phone according to the instructions; left home; came back; and found it inexplicably connected, haha.
253 :白ロムさん[sage]:2010/04/06(火) 21:38:39 ID:fgmTsjI9P

My HT-03a with a custom 1.6-based ROM couldn't connect.
But I flashed a 2.1-based ROM and could.
504 :HT-03A使い[sage]:2010/04/11(日) 16:41:57 ID:QKI+c1Hs0
ベースバンドファームを にフラッシュしたけど

あきらめて Eclair で接続中。もっさー

I prepared my self for creating a paper weight and flashed the base band (radio) but still couldn't connect with a 1.6 ROM. Gave up and am connected now with eclair.
This is the radio the guy flashed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rooted and running latest stable cyanogen ROM

I used the goldcard I made this weekend to root my HT-03a. Really wasn't that big of a deal at all. I could have done it quite quickly but decided to take my time to make sure I didn't flash the wrong file and brick the phone.

If any one cares, I followed this procedure by Amon_RA. It was a little disconcerting that there were no checksums for many of the files, though. The same procedure is outlined in more detail and in easier-to-consume-for-linux-noobs format at the (If you follow TheUnlockr's text, be sure to keep reading to the second page - I just read through the first page and was puzzled why the rooting procedure seemed to end with the flashing of a 32A ROM for a phone with a 32B board.)

Aside from that, I haven't done much else except to install SetCPU to play around with overclocking. Maybe I'll add a swap partition to the SD - still on the fence about that, or perhaps swipe 10MB from the GPU for RAM.

I'd like to hear any app, theme, ROM suggestions. A friend suggested several of the eclair-based ROMs, but since HTC hasn't released the firmware yet, and CM seems to be the most popular, I figured I'd just run with CM for now.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

B-mobile SIM SHOULD work with Android 1.6

Right: b-mobile APN on Xperia
Left: 3G icon displayed on Xperia indicating the SIM is working on 1.6

Our reader who is trying to get the b-mobile SIM U300 working on his unlocked G1 was told by b-mobile customer support that they think the problem is Android 1.6 and he should downgrade to 1.5.

But here's the thing. b-mobile officially supports the Xperia (Docomo SO-01B) which is running, wait for it, Android 1.6! This continues to make no sense at all. The same product page says that the HT-03a won't work with 1.6. I seriously doubt there is something with HTC's firmware that is preventing the SIM from working on HTC devices running 1.6.

B-mobile even has an explanation (PDF) specifically for setting up the Xperia, from which I took the above images.

Friday, April 16, 2010

How to create a goldcard with mac or linux for rooting HT-03a

It has been pointed out that many of the guides for rooting Android are Windows-centric. And they are. Because I've gotten tired of waiting for HTC release a build of Eclair (2.x), I've decided to go ahead and root this puppy, which would be a lot easier if two things didn't specifically apply to my HT-03a
  1. It wasn't already upgraded to Donut (1.6). Cupcake (1.5) had a nasty little vulnerability that would allow obtaining root access with one simple click. Unfortunately, this was fixed in Donut.
  2. The HT-03a has a "perfect" SPL (see section 1.4 here).
The first thing to do is getting around the perfect SPL by creating a goldcard, which TheUnlockr describes as "a special SD card that can bypass a phone's security checks."

Here is what we will need to do (If you already have a goldcard image file, skip to the portion about how to write it to the SD card:
  • Install the Android SDK and a Java Development Environment (INTEL MAC ONLY)
  • Create a goldcard image file
  • Write the goldcard image file to the SD card
Install the SDK and a Java Development Environment

Instructions for downloading and installing the SDK are on the Android developer's site and are pretty straight forward. Eclipse seems to be the recommended environment. I downloaded the 64-bit cocoa version because I am running 10.6 snow leopard. Once you've got this up and running, you will probably want to add the tools folder of the SDK to your path.

Open up and type the following

ls -a ~

If you don't see a file called ".bash_profile", then you will need to create one.  If you are not comfortable with vi, you can you Create a new text file (Format > Make Plain Text) and type in the following text, using of course the path to where ever you saved the SDK and the name of the SDK folder if it is different than the example below.

export PATH=${PATH}:/Users/softbanksucks/Documents/android-sdk-mac_x86-1.6_r1/tools

Now save the file as .bash_profile (the dot is important) and say OK to the warning about this creating a system file or something like that. Do not add the extension txt, though sometimes Mac OS will add it anyway so you need to verify the name of the file.

ls -a ~

If you see .bash_profile.txt, do the following.

mv .bash_profle.txt .bash_profile

Now you should be able to type in adb commands without having to switch to the tools directory.

Create a goldcard image file

This is pretty much the biggest pain in the butt, although it has gotten a lot easier.  Referencing TheUnlocker's How to: Create a Goldcard writeup, follow the first three steps: 1) put in an extra unused micro SD card (I used a 1 GB card), unmount and format it, and activate USB debugging.

Next for step 4, there is no need to switch directories since you added the tools folder to your path.  Check to see that your device is recognized

adb devices

and open an interactive shell. To exit the shell later, simply type "exit".

cat /sys/class/mmc_host/mmc1/mmc1:*/cid

Copy the output and continue with next steps stopping at number 9 when the guide calls for the installation of a windows-only hex editor.  There is a much more simple and easy way to proceed from here on a unix-like operating system.

Write the goldcard image file to the SD card

Next, mount the goldcard-to-be on your computer. You can simply leave it in the phone to do this. I pulled this information from here. Back in the Terminal type the following to figure out what your disk is called.

diskutil list

Your SD card will probably be disk1 (or sdb or something like that on linux)

0: FDisk_partition_scheme *1.0 GB disk1
1: Windows_FAT_32 NO NAME 1.0 GB disk1s1

Next you need to unmount the SD card

diskutil unmountDisk /dev/disk1

Finally, simply make the goldcard with one simple command.

sudo dd bs=512 if=~/Downloads/goldcard.img of=/dev/disk1

Enter your admin password and out should pop the following

0+1 records in
0+1 records out
384 bytes transferred in 0.004157 secs (92373 bytes/sec)

I have verified that the goldcard that I made works by dropping on a sappimg.nbh file and fastbooting. I haven't gone any farther yet because it is late in the day and I've spent way too much time on this already. I've also noticed what seem to be some apparent inconsistencies in TheUnlockr's howtos (like how to name the sappimg file), so I will wait to root until I've properly sorted out the next few steps.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Is the b-mobile SIM not compatible with Android 1.6 and higher?

EDIT: it should work with 1.6

A reader purchased a b-mobile USIM 300 but has been unable to get it working on his rooted and unlocked US T-Mobile G1. He is currently discussing the problem with the b-mobile help desk, and the support ticket is still open. According to the reader, b-mobile has been very receptive to his problems, and until this case is resolved, we won't know for sure if the SIM is truly unusable on v 1.6 a. However, in case any other readers are thinking about purchasing this product, I felt it was important to post this information. I mean, who is still running cupcake?

The supported handset page for b-mobile does not list the G1 or Hero. Both the Google developer phone and the Docomo HT-03a (HTC Magic) are listed as supported but only if they are running Android v 1.5 (cupcake). When I read this after the product went on sale, I assumed it simply meant that the SIM had only be tested on cupcake, but now I am not so sure since our reader has confirmed that his phone is unlocked and has the correct APN settings.

Here are some excerpts from b-mobile support emails. If any readers have advice or thoughts on why the SIM would work with 1.5 but not 1.6, please leave a comment.

Our reader who is having the problem wrote the following:
Under the "Network Operators" menu on my phone, NTT DoCoMo and SoftBank are found, however if I try and connect to either of them it displays the error message "Your SIM card does not allow a connection to this network."
The response was to downgrade to v 1.5, which would of course void any warranty on the phone (APN details removed):
Thank you for contacting the b-mobile Helpdesk again

Please confirm again that you are using the X.X.X APN.

To check the APN network connection you are using
1. Press HOME MENU
2. Touch Settings.
3. Touch Wireless Controls> Mobile networks >
Network operators or Access Point Names.

If you can not connect that we think this problem concern with Android Ver1.6. Please inform what Android software version and base band firmware version.

Our product is fully compatible with Android version 1.5. If you have Android version 1.6 then Please downgrade 1.5 for use.

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us here at the b-mobile Helpdesk.

We thank you for your continued support of b-mobile.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

B-mobile USIM 300 on sale, includes streaming and bandwidth caps

EDIT: added perspective on the bandwidth cap.

I just read through the TOS for the b-mobileSIM U300. Our anonymous source was correct about no streaming media, such as videos or VOIP. In addition there are also bandwidth caps. B-mobile will also collect and analyze traffic data, i.e. (deep?) packet inspection, in order to determine when to cap a user's bandwidth. (Though I haven't checked, I am pretty sure all carriers do this - people tend to freak out though when an ISP does it.)

Here is the link to the b-mobileSIM U300 page. Following the green 購入する button in the upper left gets you to the signup page:

There are two options for payment, credit card and COD. Before signing up, you have to agree to the terms and conditions. I'll paste some of the important conditions below
From the time of first connection, the product is valid for 365/185/30 days depending on the subscribed plan.
The product cannot be used beyond this time. An additional charge is required to extend service. (Service cannot be extended after 60 days have passed from service expiration.)
This means that if you get 30 days of service, let it expire, then renew before 60 days have passed, you can continue using the same SIM. After 60 days, you'll need to re-register and wait for a new SIM to be delivered.
You cannot connect to other providers or "remote access servers."
I guess this means they won't allow VPN pass through, which makes sense if they want to inspect packets.

Below are the most important bits.
This product is designed for activities such as browsing of text and still images or sending and receiving email. Therefore the streaming of videos or the use of P2P application, etc. will result in bandwith limitation/traffic shaping/network management/your @$$ being throttled.
As discussed previously, this was pretty much inevitable.
Customers consuming in excess of 3,000,000 packets within three days may experience additional limitations on transfer rate.
First, how many bytes is in a freaking "packet?" I absolutely hate the use of the word packet because it is just a way to get around saying up front how much bandwidth costs. Rant aside, I believe 1 packet is 128 bytes.

So, 128 bytes * 3,000,000 packets = 384,000,000 bytes.
384,000,000 bytes / 1024 = 375,000 Kilobytes.
375,000 Kilobytes / 1024 ≅ 366 Megabytes.
366 Megabytes / 3 days ≅ 122 MB/day.

Exceeding around 100 MB/day for 3 consecutive days will get you temporarily throttled.


On the train this morning, I pulled out the back of the envelope and calculated how long you would need to sustain a transfer at the absolute maximum of 300 kbps to hit the cap. In short, it works out to an hour a day for three days.

In doing this, I realized that a packet kind of makes since. One packet is exactly equal to one kilobit.

1 packet * 128 bytes/packet * 8 bits/byte = 1024 bits = 1 kilobit

1,000,000 kb / 300 kbps ≅ 3333 seconds ≅ 55 minutes

But we already know that a sustained stream will activate the rate cap after "a few minutes," so in reality, you would need to do a number of burst transfers each day to hit the average daily maximum of 122 MB. If the cap kicks in after 2 to 3 minutes of streaming, you'd need to do around 20 full-speed bursts per day.

I am not a heavy user of packets because I am typically connected to wifi, don't watch youtube videos, and don't have a VOIP app installed. As a result, I typically don't even use half of the 3 million packets mentioned above in an entire month.

迷惑メール対策としてOutbound Port25 Blockingを実施しています。
To prevent spam, TCP(?) port 25 is blocked.
TCP port 25 is the default SMTP port. A few years ago in Japan, and not so many more before that, very few admins forced the use of SSL in mail, which typically uses port 465. Now, most servers I see not only allow SSL but require it. So, this shouldn't be a problem. My guess is that this is to prevent people from sending spam through open relays, though to be honest, I don't think there are so many open relays these days...
Internet connections may be temporarily disconnected
To ensure compliance with the above conditions, we will collect and analyze traffic data
Packet inspection. How deep? I should also mention that the Japanese phrasing does not limit the word "analyze." It says analyze, etc. 分析等(ぶんせきとう/ぶんせき など).
This service is provided as "best effort," and the advertised speeds are not guaranteed. In addition, depending on location and signal strength, actual speeds may be reduced.
Service may not be available in locations removed from base stations or where structures may interfere with the signal.
The provided SIM card remains the property of b-mobile and must be returned upon termination of services.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Japan's four major carriers agree to unlock cell phones

Though I said I would likely not have time to look into this today, I found the time and I'll be damned. It happened. According to the Yumiuri, the meeting yesterday resulted in an agreement to unlock phones.
On April 2nd, the four major cellular carriers and handset maker industry group agreed to lift rules preventing Japanese cell phones from only working on a specific carrier's network.
Actually, that is not literally what that says but is the best I can do to write that sentence in English without it being long and convoluted.

Apparently, the details such as when to begin, whether to unlock existing phones, what to do about subsidized phones, etc. will be worked out later.

The positions of each of the four companies is quite interesting but not surprising:
  • Domoco said 「利用者の自由に任せるべきだ」The choice [of network] should be left to the customer. 
  • E-mobile said「利用者に選択肢を提供できるので賛成」We support [SIM unlocking] and the customer's choice.
  • KDDI said「技術的な課題があり、慎重に検討すべきだ」There is a technological problem that should be properly considered.
  • Softbank said「端末価格が高騰しかねない」This will likely result in the soaring cost of handsets.
Docomo wants in on the iPhone thing and has already expressed an interest in selling SIMs for Google's Nexus One and the iPad. E-mobile primarily sells data plans and is probably looking forward to a flood of tablet and other cellular-radio equipped data devices. AU is just left out of the party with their CDMA2000 network.

Softbank... Um, softbank...

Yeah, softbank, in my opinion has the most to lose from this. Though I am not aware of any customer satisfaction surveys (maybe KenYN is), anecdotally over my years of being in Japan, I believe that Docomo is considered by the general public to have the best network and the best service, while softbank (and vodafone before that and J-Phone before that) is considered to be inferior.

Whether this is still the case today could be debatable, but much of this opinion is likely due to the time, 10 or so years ago, when the network-to-eventually-become softbank's was indeed inferior to Docomo's. Having been a former J-Phone user, I can attest to this fact. While the networks are now using completely different technology, with much better rural penetration, reputations die hard.

According to the article, both softbank and KDDI had to give in to the pressure of Docomo, the largest carrier, as well as to Communications Minister Haraguchi, who said 「日本の孤島化を招いてはいけない」"We can't allow Japan to become isolated [in the world of telecommunications]"

Here is the text of the Yomiuri article:

















(2010年4月3日08時42分  読売新聞)

Cell carriers invoke nihonjinron to defend locked cell phones

Ntj mh sent me a link to the live stream of the Communication Ministry's meeting, yesterday. Unfortunately, I was only able to watch about five minutes of it, but in that time I heard predictable arguments.

Basically, there were a bunch of carrier reps sitting around a table agreeing with each other that everything that happens in the West in not applicable to Japan because Japan is unique, you know, with the four seasons and all. The bit I caught was centering on the iPhone and how foreign handset makers don't work closely with carriers, but in Japan, hardware makers and carriers cooperate to produce a service for customers. Of course unlocked cell phones will ruin that relationship.

I'm pretty busy this weekend, so it might be a few days before I can look up and post more information

Friday, April 2, 2010

Google Antroid

It's fun to see a Japanese blog getting into the April Fool's spirit.


hat tip to KenYN

Xperia apparently has just about every major language

On my way home last night, I stopped by an extremely small docomo shop. They had a working Xperia on display but apparently they just plugged it in and plopped it on the display rack because when I unlocked the home screen, I was greeted by a set your language page. I didn't scroll through the whole thing, but if the top of the list is any indication, it comes with an impressive number of languages. Heck, even those guys who like to add 'u's to words like color will be happy.

So, out of habit, I set it to US English, played around a bit, and then left. I realized a bit later that the two young ladies working the shop might not have the foggiest idea how to set an android device's language, especially if it is already set to English. Oops. My apologies if this resulted in any trauma.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Surprise! KDDI says there is no benefit in unlocking phones

Mr. Koga of the KDDI public relations department had the following to say at a press conference called yesterday ahead of the Communication Ministry's meeting on SIM unlocking:
There will simply be no benefit to users if Japanese cell phones are unlocked.
Actually, I think he got it wrong. There is no benefit to KDDI if cell phones are unlocked since AU uses technology that is incompatible with the other two major carriers, Docomo and Softbank.

Mr Koga goes on to give three reasons why "there is no reason (基本的に意味がない)" to unlock cell phones. First, he mentions what I just did, that AU uses different technology. Fair enough.

Second, he says that each company uses different frequencies. Bullshit. Anyone reading this blog knows that the same handsets are usable on both Docomo and Softbank. Yeah, bankrupt Wilcom uses different frequencies, but who uses Wilcom?  I know exactly one person.

Finally, he rehashes for us the same old argument used when this was discussed several years ago: the walled garden internets won't work. For this last point, KDDI seems to have missed the entire reason this is being discussed again, increasing smartphone adoption and the impending extinction of the "Galapagos Keitai." So what if the walled garden internet won't work. Who will care when they are surfing the full internet, most likely on a webkit browser?

He also adds that even if a common implementation of LTE is decided upon, that carriers will still rely on 3G for voice, so customers still won't be able to take their handset to any carrier.

No, the customers just won't take their handsets to AU.

I borrowed the below images of Koga's powerpoint presentation from keitai watch.

Since Japan didn't use SIM cards in their 2G phones, no explanation of the topic is complete without an explanation of SIM cards.

An explanation of the state of SIM cards in the US and Europe.

The money shot.  AU uses isn't compatible with the other two carriers.

No Keitai mail, walled garden internet, and carrier provided applications when you take your phone to another company. TBH, not having a docomo phone email address can be a hassle, but having my PC and phone mail consolidated into one account with my android handset outweighs the negatives. What!? I can't use your provided applications but instead download free and better alternatives from the android market? How terrible!