Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Nexus 7: first thoughts.

Have had a chance to play with the Google Nexus 7 that runs Android (I think was built by Asus ) for little over a month now.  Generally have a good thoughts about it though there are just a few reservations which I may discuss later. Since the unit has been out a while, you probably already know the specifications of the unit (you can use you web search engine to get the details if you have not.) I was lucky enought the get the 32 gigabyte version of the unit. Getting anything less than that could make real challenges for you.

What was the first thing I added to the unit. first was some experimentation with some home made stands. Even the dollar store had a plastic stand. I based one of my experimental stands off of it.

The main reason why I wanted the unit was to see how web applications work with touchpads and maybe also develop some software for the unit. Found out right way that the touchpads react differently than the traditional web browser does with web pages. That meant I would have to rewrite some code on the server to better accomodate the new technology. Even the Chumby had for the most part no problem with existing web pages. That leads to the second part about developing software for the unit. Well the Android development package despite preaching to the otherwise became pretty much closed. Or as they say, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, and acts like a duck. then it is a duck. The Android development system was forked. That means it was  copied and the copy is still open source. More about that at some other time.

In using the Nexus 7, I found that they had an app store by Google of course. There are a lot of good free applications that you can download.Some will automatcally download and install on your unit and others require you to give special permission to allow for installation of an application. You could also uninstall applications fairly easily, if you found a bummer of a program.

Installed several applications to help fullfill my needs. One was an secure shell application that would allow me to access the servers I manage so that I could access them as if I was at any computer using the keyboard to do admin duties. Another application was an RDP client that would allow me to remotely access remote systems using the gui interface of those systems rather than the command line as I would do with SSH. Had a bit of trouble with that. I may get out my old MSWindows XP box Insteal of using linux as a server to see If I mave the same kinds of issues, Then maybe I can remedy the problems I am having with rdp. The ssh app works just fine.

Though the Andoid development system is not really my cup of tea, I did download dosbox and "x11 basic"applications to do any special project I want to use. That also means all the source code I have developed for other systems can be used immediately without reinventing the wheel. Also downloaded an office package, but have not installed it as of yet. You really probably need and external keyboard to take advantage of that software.

For relaxation you can always listen to music from the web. Of that takes some bandwidth. Already have most of the music I like on a local server. I downloaded an applicaton that will play music from a server that supports the daap protocol. Traditionally daap was used in the Itunes world. Even Fruit has changed the way that works for them. Ironically I can access a daap server with no problem at all. Apple based systems do not want to access that kind of server unless you want to reinvent the wheel of your securty or your Apple Ipad or the like. Another reason I did not want an IOS based device. You can always get movies and other video from Youtube and the like. 

The last major area I wanted to talk about is connectivity. Have to admit that like most seasoned computer users, you like to attach goodies to your system. Out of the box, with the Nexus, 7 out of the box you are out of luck to add anything such as usb drives to your unit. Not to say you can not, but you are expected to do everything over the wifi connection. There is special hardware you can attach to the single microusb port, but that cost big bucks. My second gripe in that direction is that if you want to hook a usb drive to the Nexus 7 you have to have super powers to do that. That means you have to disable the security on your unit to use the device. Not good.

Another issue is that a lot of companies will not let you use a wifi enabled device at their location. Again you feel kind of frustrated. At home I do not like to run wifi either. In fact I have a special router just for wifi that usually stays off unless I have to use it. But there is an answer.   You can get what is known as a OTG (on the go) cable for your unit. Good luck getting one for your local Nexus 7 from a local brick and mortar store. You can get one from off the internet from places such as Amazon. One advantage of the OTG cable is that you can connect keyboards, mice, and "usb to ethernet" devices to your Nexus 7 without super powers.

After searching the web, I found way to modify an existing usb cable so that it works like an OTG cable. You do have to have a female to female adapter to hook up the extra goodies. The easy way would have been to just put an female adapter on the usb to micro usb adapter. I just took two usb female adapters and made an adapter cable (shown above). As a tech it always seems like you are making adapter cables such as the one in the last article to program microcontrollers. Now I can and do connect keyboard, mouse, and ethernet adapter to my Nexus 7. Though use of the battery is reduced by some amount when you do that.  Since I have made my own OTG cable, I will need to get a replacement for it. Off to the brick and mortar.....


OTG adapters are now being carried by more and more stores. Please get the professionally made cable.

Notice: do this at your own risk  Get a professional to help if you are the least bit unsure how to do it.  We are not responcible for and and all issues.  Do not do this on the cable that works with the charger!!!!!!!   Use a separate cable.

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