Tuesday, May 31, 2011

PdaNet Bluetooth DUN setup for tethering a Mac

I just found out that PdaNet, a popular Android application for tethering without root privileges, is free and with no usage restrictions for anyone outside of the US and Canada! Previously, the free version wouldn't allow SSL connections, and the non-free version was $30US, which is too expensive for me.
PdaNet is completely free for users outside of US and Canada. The free/trial edition already contains all the features and will not expire. Please install "PdaNet Free Edition" directly from Android Market.
And the new version "now allows you to hide tether usage," according to the PdaNet site, but this requires use of their PC client for connecting, and this feature is only built-in to the windows version.

[Speaking of Windows, the whole reason I am making this post is that I gave up trying to find a solution for rooting the Docomo Xperia (SO-01B) X10 Android 2.1 Eclair (2.1-update1 build 2.0.1.B.0.19) that doesn't require windows. (I tried running the flashtool utility in wine, but it couldn't find the dependencies like JDK and ADB etc.)]

So here's what I did to connect a Mac to a Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 running Android 2.1 using Bluetooth DUN. I prefer using what is natively included with my OS, rather than install random software, especially when it is going to make changes to network interfaces, so I did not install the PdaNet client for Mac. This means that I do not have the option for USB tethering, only bluetooth DUN.

Disclaimer: Tethering may be in violation of your mobile carrier's terms of service. Users of capped data plans should be aware that a computer generally consumes more bandwidth than a cell phone even when doing the same activities. In general bluetooth is flakey as all hell and this may or may not work for you at first or at all, or only after multiple attempts at pairing and rebooting, or it could just stop working one day for no apparent reason. You've been warned.

Connecting PdaNet to a Mac with bluetooth DUN

Mac version: 10.6.7
Android version: Docomo Xperia (SO-01B) X10 Android 2.1 Eclair (2.1-update1 build 2.0.1.B.0.19)

It goes without saying that a similar procedure should work with your favorite flavor of linux.

It took me several tries to get this to work, and in the end this is what I did, though this procedural order is not strictly required. Making things discoverable may or may not be required. Disconnecting does not work cleanly for me; I have to change the Network Location to get the disconnect script to stop running. (Sorry, couldn't be bothered to crop the background out of the screenshots.)
  • Install PdaNet Free Edition from the Android Market.
  • Turn on bluetooth on the Mac and the handset and make each discoverable. Do not yet pair them.
  • Start PdaNet and "Enable Bluetooth DUN"
  • If your handset doesn't have an internet connection through 3G or wireless, Bluetooth DUN won't start. Confirm that it has started

  • Open System Preferences, select the Network pane, and click the plus (+) to add a new network interface. Choose Bluetooth DUN and call it whatever you like. Hit Create.
  • Now looking at the newly created Bluetooth DUN interface, click "Set Up Bluetooth Device..." and follow the instructions for pairing, which I'll skip here. Confirm that when pairing is complete that "Access the Internet" or perhaps something similar depending on your OS version, is displayed as a service. If it is not, PdaNet will not work; reconfirm that PdaNet Bluetooth DUN is enabled and try to pair again. Reboot and turn stuff off and on if you think it will help. Light some incense. Whatever.

  • Return to the Network preferences window and click advanced to set up the Bluetooth DUN connection. I chose Sony Ericsson as the vendor (though I don't think this really matters) and "Generic Dialup" as the Model. Everything else I left as default.
  • In the main window, enter 777 (not 123 like I've seen elsewhere) for the telephone number, leaving Account Name and Password blank.
  • Hit Connect.
  • Enjoy.

Here is a snippet of my Mac's log where I connected to PdaNet Bluetooth DUN for about a minute before disconnecting. The disconnect script appeared to have hung, though I admittedly only let it go for 45 seconds before I unceremoniously changed to a different network location at exactly 18:27:00.

May 31 18:25:16 SBSnote ccl[3900]: Apple Base Script.ccl Version 3.3
May 31 18:25:16 SBSnote ccl[3900]: Initializing phone: AT&FE0V1
May 31 18:25:16 SBSnote ccl[3900]: Dialing: ATDT777
May 31 18:25:16 SBSnote ccl[3900]: Waiting for connection
May 31 18:25:16 SBSnote ccl[3900]: Connection established
May 31 18:25:20 SBSnote pppd[3897]: Connect: ppp0 <--> /dev/cu.Bluetooth-Modem
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote pppd[3897]: local IP address x.x.x.x
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote pppd[3897]: remote IP address x.x.x.x
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote pppd[3897]: primary DNS address x.x.x.x
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote pppd[3897]: secondary DNS address x.x.x.x
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote configd[13]: network configuration changed.
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote configd[13]: SCNCController: Connected.
May 31 18:25:22 SBSnote configd[13]: network configuration changed.
May 31 18:26:13 SBSnote configd[13]: network configuration changed.
May 31 18:26:13 SBSnote pppd[3897]: Connection terminated.
May 31 18:27:00 SBSnote ccl[3918]: CCLExit: -6008 (Script Canceled)
May 31 18:27:00 SBSnote pppd[3897]: disconnect script failed

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My current b-mobile Fair SIM status

Here comes a test of using the Google Chart APIs to display dynamically updating data on this page. Hopefully, if I've done this correctly, as I track my data usage in a google spreadsheet, these charts should stay up to date over the coming weeks.

I'm still looking at the API to see what can and can't be customized. This is obviously not as powerful as some commercial tools, but it is a good start.

Below, you can see where I tested the speed of the SIM and it's ability to stream by watching youtube and using skype. If I would have continued consuming data at that pace, I'd have used the full charge in about a month.

This graph allows zooming in on different dates. The flat part of the graph is goldenweek.

Friday, May 27, 2011

JR East Suica for Android from July 23

The Suica fare payment system is coming for phones from the three major carriers that support osaifu-keitai mobile payments. And it is UGLY. At least I think so, though some may consider a smashable watermelon that takes up two columns of desktop real estate to be "cute." (The below image is of the two states of the widget, smashed and unsmashed.)

Technically, this is just an "image," not as in 画像 but as in a "mental image of what it might look like." It could actually be something cool, like a widget styled after a physical suica card. (Note that the app appears to be alpha, i.e. "ver. 4a")

This PDF and a FAQ on the mobile Suica site (both Japanese) have more details.
  • On Saturday 7/23, service will begin at 4:00 for Docomo, 12:00 for AU, and 16:00 for Softbank. (No mention of Emobile)
  • Support for commuter passes of various types
  • Purchase of express tickets "green car" premium seat tickets
  • Net shopping payments
  • View Card autocharge
  • A fugly widget
  • Express reservations (EX-IC) in cooperation with JR Tokai (3-day advance Shinkansen reservation discount service)
  • Suica charge from a bank account (details not yet available)

(See this post for a list of Docomo phones that have support). In late June, JR East will release more details regarding specific phone models that are officially supported. I don't know why the carrier matters, by the way. It would seem to me that if 1) the hardware supports it, 2) you have a mobile suica account, and 3) installed the app, it should work. Apparently this is not the case, though.

No news on a pasmo app for Tokyo subways and private lines. A feature phone mobile pasmo app does not exist.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Life with a b-mobile Fair prepaid data SIM: Week 2

There is now 827 MB remaining and 79 days until the charge expires. I'm still on track to have a good chunk of data remaining.

As expected, my data usage behavior has changed a bit. For example, in the past I would send random pics to random folks at random times for no particular reason at all. I still do that, but I do consider the bandwidth I'll consume. If I am close to wifi, I'll wait and save my bandwidth. Also, I haven't tethered at all yet.

The main reason for the lack of tethering is the lack of a need. Also, using a handset with a generation better chipset has cut down tremendously on my desire to tether. Heavy web browsing and emailing on the ht-03a can be a bit of chore, especially if you having to switch between apps. Even with the extra 15 MB of real memory and swap, two heavy apps cannot be running at the same time. Always waiting for apps to reload and web pages to re-render was one reason to tether. With the Nexus One, I really have to do a lot at once to have that experience.

At this point, I am seriously considering switching to a b-mobile SIM for data, but it is still just week 2.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Updating a Stock Japanese WIFI Xoom to 3.1 with root

EDIT: See here for updating the Xoom to 3.2.

[Note from SBS: It is in the best interest of everyone reading this blog to reward hardware makers who provide unlockable boot loaders. There is really no excuse for locking hardware that was purchased at full retail price. At the same time, it is unreasonable for us to demand unlocked and highly subsidized hardware from carriers.]

There is an easier way to do this but it requires:
1. A "USB Host Cable" (I haven't been able to find one in any shops)
2. A FAT32 flash drive with the correct update.zip on it

but using this method you will not get the unlocked boot loader, better recovery, or root privileges.

Here is the guide if you have the correct cable. I have not tested it though so your mileage may vary
and the update

and a thread that talks about that procedure:

With that said here is the guide to do how I did with my Xoom. 

Okay this guide is "as is" and you accept all responsibility. This will void your warranty. It is best you read all of the links to understand what you are doing. Also this is replacing your Japanese version of the OS with the US version and there may not be an easy way to go back. Also make sure you backup all of your data because this will wipe your Xoom to a factory state.

Also this procedure is for a Stock Xoom if you have done anything to it this may not work so use at your own risk!

With that said my Xoom is a MZ604 bought from AU KDDI so if you have the same it *"Should"* work for you too.

This is asuming you have all of the Android SDK tools (including the fastboot utility) working and added to your path, plus all of the Xoom drivers on your PC working

For Linux see this Guide here

The Xoom introduced something called MTP. This is Media Transfer Protocal and it has it's pluses and minuses. On the plus side you do not have to unmount the SD Card to access the files on your Xoom. The bad side is for us Linux users the support is not there out of the box. Follow the guide above to get it working in Ubuntu.

Once you have that working procede below.

First: enable USB debugging
  • Connect your Xoom to your PC and enable "USB debuging" under settings -> applications -> development -> "USB Debugging"
Second: unlock the Bootloader
  • adb reboot bootloader
  • fastboot oem unlock
  • adb reboot bootloader
Third: install a custom recovery

Download most recent version of the recovery image that is FLASHED THROUGH FASTBOOT (NOT the zip file flashed with CWM) and check the md5 of the file! The command on a mac is md5. Windows users will need to download a utility.
  • md5sum recovery-solarnz-XXXXXX-XXXX.img
  • adb reboot bootloader
  • fastboot flash recovery recovery-solarnz-XXXXXX-XXXX.img
  • fastboot reboot
Fourth: let the xoom boot and then reboot into recovery and make a backup
  • adb reboot recovery
insert the Micro SD Card

use the hardware volume buttons to navigate up and down, and the power button to select.

go into the"Mounts and Storage Menu" mount the SD card and go back and select backup.

Fifth: install the US Stock 3.1 WIFI image using this guide


follow these commands for step 1 make sure you flash the user data or you will get stuck in a boot loop.

Step 1:
adb reboot bootloader
fastboot flash system system.img
fastboot flash boot boot.img
fastboot flash userdata userdata.img
fastboot reboot

Step 2:

Note that in recovery, you use the hardware volume buttons to navigate up and down, and the power button to select.
  1. In ClockworkMod Recovery, select "mounts and storage"
  2. Ensure your Xoom is connected to your PC via USB, then select "mount USB storage"
  3. On your PC, copy MZ604_3.1_ROOT_update.zip to the root of the Xoom's SDCard ("Removable Disk" in Windows)
  4. In ClockworkModRecovery (still on the "USB Mass Storage device" screen) select "Unmount"
  5. In the "Mounts and Storage Menu" screen, if the option "unmount /sdcard" is present, continue to the next step; if "mount /sdcard" is present, select it then  continue
  6. Select "+++++Go Back+++++"
  7. Select "install zip from sdcard"
  8. Select "choose zip from sdcard"
  9. Select "MZ604_3.1_ROOT_update.zip"
  10. Select "Yes - Install MZ604_3.1_ROOT_update.zip"
"Install from sdcard complete." will indicate that the update is completed.

Select "reboot system now"

New bootloader will install. The message, "Congratulations! Your bootloader was successfully upgraded" will be immediately followed by an automatic reboot.
Enjoy your rooted Xoom WiFi, running on Android 3.1!

Unlockable and tetherable: Docomo summer 2011 lineup

Docomo announced their Summer lineup today, with 24 models in total, eight of which are Androids. These are the phones that will be eligible for unlocking.

There are some interesting bits and pieces here:
  • All Android handsets have 2.3 Gingerbread. 
  • All Androids (except P-07C and Optimus) support Highspeed 14 Mbps downlink. 
  • All Androids except Xperia acro SO-02C support tethering but for over ¥10,000 per month.
  • Docomo android home app "Palette UI" unfortunately(?) included on Medias, Aquos 13C, P-07C, Galaxy S II. (Can be shutoff on P-07C and Galaxy.)
  • There are two Xi LTE wireless routers.
It's good to see that there are no stragglers with Froyo or Eclair installed on the Androids. The inclusion of a proprietary Docomo UI sets of warning alarms - please don't "differentiate" your products.

The phones will be rolling out from 5/20 with the Aquos SH-12C, Optimus in mid June, Galaxy (dual core!) in late June, Medias and Xperia between June and July, and the rest from July/August.

In a nutshell, tethering still makes no sense as implemented by Docomo. First off, if you are tethering from a tablet that you purchased from Docomo, or an unlocked smartphone that you brought to Docomo but only activated as a data device, you get the normal flat rate. These devices use a "FOMA Data Plan" and connect through the data-only APNs.

However, to activate tethering on a smartphone, you won't be able to do it on the standard packet houdai plan APN. It sounds like you will use the sp-mode APN, or perhaps switch to the mopera.net APN, any connection to automatically adds ¥4,200 to your monthly bill.  Either way, the cost for "connecting a computer or other external device" (パソコンなどの外部機器を接続した通信) is ¥4,200. This fee is non-negotiable and non-removable, trust me.

While I think it is fair for customers to pay for the services they use, charging such a high price to tether a device based solely on whether or not it is voice capable is just plain dumb. As such, my recommendation for tethering is using a Docomo-branded smartphone that has been rooted to allow activation of tethering through the mpr2.bizho.net APN. While this could change without warning, there is no indication that Docomo is currently looking for people who are tethering in this way.

Many watching Docomo lately are scratching their heads in bemusement at how Docomo is handling tethering. I was commenting to a friend last week how it reminds me of some kids I met 10 years ago in the Australian bush. These kids always chased kangaroos. I asked why. They said it's just what they do. I asked what they'd do if they ever actually caught one. They looked at me with blank stares, which is the look I'm getting from Docomo with respect to SIM unlocking. Now that they got it, they have no idea what to actually do with it. I'm sure they'll figure out it, though... Sometime.

The below graph is from here (J). There is another graph that has screen resolutions and other dimensions here.

 ダウンロード: download
プリイン: preinstalled (I don't know how something can be both preinstalled and a download.)
アプリダウンロード必要: application download required
1: Default home screen
2: Optional home screen
3: NFC on non-SH models requires an application planned for release around summer 2011.
4: Requires subscription to SP mode. Extremely high packet charges can result. An unlimited packet plan such as "packet houdai flat" etc. is strongly recommended. When subscribed to unlimited packet plans, packet fees will be for "connected to computer or other external device." When tethering is active, even if no external devices is connected, data will be for "connected to computer or other external device." Disable tethering when not in use. When using a FOMA data plan, the upper limit will be applied. Other SP mode service may not be available when tethering is active. Client side browsing, games, etc. may not function properly. Default wireless hot spot setting are unsecured. Blah blah. blah. and here it is in Japanese:
ご利用にはspモードのご契約が必要です。 通信料が高額になる場合がありますので、「パケ・ホーダイ フラット」などのパケット定額サービスへのご加入を強くお勧めします。「パケ・ホーダイ フラット」などのパケット定額サービス にご加入の場合、パケット通信料は、「パソコンなどの外部機器を接続した通信」となります。 なお、テザリングを有効にした場合、外部機器が接続されていない状態でも、すべてのパケット通信が「パソコンなどの外部機器を接続した通信」となります。外部機器での通信が終了 次第、必ずテザリングを無効にしてください。 FOMA定額データプランでご利用の場合は、月額利用料金上限額でご利用になれます。 テザリングを有効にした状態では、インターネット接続・メールサービス以外のspモードの機能をご利用になれません。 インターネットに接続した場合、ご利用の環境によっては外部機器においてアプリケーション(ブラウジング・ゲームなど)が正常に 動作しない場合があります。 初期設定では、外部機器とスマートフォン・タブレット間でパスワードなどのセキュリティは設定されていません。任意のパスワード などの設定をお勧めします。
Features on Domestic handsets.
Handset RFID payments
(keitai osaifu)
One Seg TV Infrared addresbook transfers Water resistance
Galaxy S II SC-02C
Xperia acro SO-02C

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Life with a b-mobile Fair prepaid data SIM: Week 1

I started this test with only 890 MB, as opposed to the full 1000, due to testing skype, tethering, and other high bandwidth applications.

Now there is 861 MB remaining and I have 87days (out of the 120 total) to use it.

This week has seen relatively light data usage. I spent most of the time around wifi and didn't have the need to do any tethering. I consumed the most bandwidth on 5/10 because I was out all morning.

It's too early to make any significant predictions, but extrapolating over the next 4 months based on this week's usage indicates that I'd have a significant portion of the charge remaining when it expires on August 10th. I calculated from a linear fit that I'd have 530 MB remaining 87 days from now, and at this rate would only use a total of about 600 of the 120 day life of the SIM, if I don't use more data.

So I guess I'd better use more data.

And I certainly will, just as soon as the need to tether hits, or as I spend more time away from wifi, for example. I will easily consume 10 MB, half of what I used all week, during a short tethering session. All in all I'm not surprised about this week's data usage.

But I am surprised about something. With data deactivated on the Docomo ht-03a, I am absolutely shocked how long the battery lasts.

I've made very little phone calls this week, and the CPU is set to clock down to 128 MHz when asleep. The charge basically last for a full week.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Docomo Xi LTE plans for fiscal year 2011

Docomo's FY2010 end of year report (PDF) includes some more information on LTE plans for this year.

Docomo has seen a steady year over year increase in data traffic and is projecting a doubling during 2011. Docomo plans for increased demand to be partially offset by increased Xi coverage, which will improve overall network quality due to the dynamic network controls and data offloading provided by LTE.

Somewhat interestingly, however, is that projected revenue from data in 2011is to come overwhelming from smartphones, primarily at the expense of feature phones, rather than from data devices. Since only one LTE handset is in the works so far, and the Spring 2012 models would hardly contribute to FY2011 earnings at all, it would seem that most of this revenue would be coming from FOMA 3G smartphones. This means the network enhancements that LTE brings to the game, as mentioned above, would be not have so much of an effect on improving network quality. To be fair, though, Docomo's network seems robust enough to handle the extra traffic.

Of course revenue does not necessarily scale linearly with the number of consumed data packets; there most certainly will be heavy discounts offered to customers who sign 2 year Xi contracts. Also, I am assuming that bandwidth consumed by non-voice enabled tablets is not included in the smartphone category but rather in the data device category (based on the APN and service plan required for these tablets).

Since rolling out service in December 2010, Docomo has amassed only 26,000 subscribers but is aiming to raise that to one million by the end of FY2011. Growth is then projected to slow with only 1.5 million subscribers by 2014.

The slow addition of customers so far is certainly related to the lackluster product offering, which is limited to a USB and an ExpressCard dongle. Planned for release this year are a router in summer, followed by a (Fujitsu?) tablet this fall, and finally a (Samsung?) smartphone in winter. (brands via juggly).

By April 2011, there were approximately 1,100 Xi base stations covering around 8% of the population. By July 2011, service is planned for roll out in Sapporo, Sendai, Kanazawa, Takamatsu, Hiroshima, and Fukuoka. By April 2012, coverage is expected to grow to 20% with a total of 5,000 stations this year.

A word of warning to those eagerly awaiting the start of service. Note the patchiness in Tokyo at the moment. While less urban areas would be easier to blanket, be certain to confirm that you are in a coverage area before signing up.

Finally, two words on the potential problem of interference with GPS in Japan: No Problem.

A few more words. LightSquared has tentative approval from the United States FCC to build a wholesale LTE network using a ~ 1500 MHz frequency that is directly adjacent to a band used by GPS. US GPS manufacturer Garmin tested the proposed system in the lab (PDF) and determined that it will create significant interference. A representative car navigation system began to be jammed at a power level equivalent to an approximately 6 km distance from a single tower, with complete loss of signal at around 3 km and 1 km in urban and open areas, respectively.

In the US, the issue arrises from the repurposing of a band originally not intended for relatively high-power terrestrial transmissions. Docomo, as far as I can tell, is using a different 1500 MHz band that was set aside for cellular use, band 21 that doesn't interfere with GPS signals. Besides, given the coverage map above, we'd know already if jamming was an issue. Obviously it is not (in Japan).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Real world test of B-mobile Fair SIM

EDITED to reflect that the saving would be on my Docomo bill but not reflect the amount I paid to B-mobile.

I previously posted that, based on my actual data usage over the past year and half, using a B-mobile Fair SIM would have cost me about half of what I've paid to Docomo for my smartphone data plan. Now it's time for a real world test, so I'm going cold turkey on my Docomo paket houdai data plan.

I've disable data on my Docomo ht-03a and will be using that handset for voice only. For data, I will also be carrying around a Nexus One with a B-mobile Fair SIM. I will do this until I exhaust the prepaid 1000 MBs, or until August 10, 2011, which ever comes first.

The charge on the SIM is currently 890 MB that expires on August 10th. The test will start from today, May 7th.

While it would be preferable to start this test with exactly 4 months and 1000 MB, I used about 100 MB in mid April testing the SIM with skype, etc. Having to carry two handsets is not exactly ideal, but since I am subscribed to Docmo's two-tiered packet-houdai data plan, I have incentive not to use my Docomo handset for data, since I will actually save money if I don't.

The MyDocomo site tells me that I have used zero packets so far in May and have only incurred the minimum charge of ¥372 for data so far. (This is because I was out of Japan during Golden Week.) If the B-mobile Fair SIM lasts me for all of May, June, and July, that would be a savings of over ¥15,000 (off my Docomo bill), since this would encompass three full billing cycles.

In the interest of a "Fair" test, I will try to not change my data consumption habits. Background data, automatic syncing, and market notifications are all enabled. However, it is impractical not to make some changes to my habits, since I will no longer have an unlimited data plan. Settings I changed on the phone are:
  • Turned off picasa web album syncing.
  • Turned off automatic updating for all installed apps
  • RSS reader (new rob) is set to download only on wifi
  • Rooted to install an ad blocker (AdFree)
The most significant change I will make is using wifi when available. I purposely don't use wifi now simply because it is a drain on my battery, even though I could use it at home and at work.

This is a bit off topic, but to root the Nexus One with the Android 2.3.4 OTA installed, I:
  • booted into fastboot and fastboot oem unlock the bootloader (requires the SDK and fastboot)
  • fastboot flash recovery Amon_RA's recovery for the Nexus one
  • booted into recovery and flashed su.zip
  • removed the Gingerbread files that overwrite custom recoveries on boot (otherwise you have to reflash the recovery every time you need it)
  • installed superuser from the market to control which apps can invoke su.
  • installed busybox from the market because it is a dependency for many apps that require root.
I am not aware of any way of rooting the N1 with Gingerbread without unlocking the bootloader. There is no need to use any exploit apps.