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Nexus 7

Important update: I got a new 2013 model Nexus 7 by simply walking into a Staples store, and I've done a Camera and Screen comparison. I've also done a case modification for better wireless charging.

Ordering and Tracking Saga

I was thinking the 7 inch tablet form factor would be just about perfect for my AardRemote app, and at the same time I was having that thought, Google was announcing the Nexus 7 tablet with the latest Android operating system and an incredibly appealing combination of price and performance, so I broke down and pre-ordered one on the day of the announcement:

That gave me plenty of time to catch the pre-order rumors frenzy from places like this and this.

Eventually, the frenzy gave way to actual facts, a text message from my bank:

My credit card has actually been charged, so it looks as if my Nexus 7 will ship on the highly auspicious date of Friday, July 13, 2012 :-).

And at 8:40pm this showed up in my inbox, so it did indeed ship on Friday the 13th:

Hey! Monday has finally come and at 6:30am eastern time, I finally have an entry in the UPS database:

Note that it says the label was created last Wednesday and it is due to arrive last Friday. The comedy has now exceeded the irritation :-).

Wow! It looks like UPS actually does have the package and working back in time they probably really did get it on Friday or Saturday (but definitely not last Wednesday :-). It is now scheduled for delivery tomorrow, having made it to the UPS facility in Kentucky:

...and a little while later, I got email from UPS telling me the same thing:

Apparently, the plane got to Miami without being abducted by aliens or anything, and now on Tuesday morning, it is actually on the truck and out for delivery today:

Ha! It showed up at about 2:00pm (and said it originated from Lexington, so I guess google arranged to ship them directly from the general vicinity of the UPS hub):

I watched this video earlier...

...but getting the box open was not really all that hard. The little pieces of tape were quite tough, but my dull pocket knife finally made it through them, and that was the only tricky bit.

First Impressions

The back definitely has an unusual texture. My fingers are almost tempted to classify the feel as fuzzy like a peach.

The battery came with just enough available energy to say “Help! Charge me!” then it shut itself off. It took about 4 hours to fully charge.

The USB cable that comes with the charger is not very long, so playing with it while it was charging restricted my motion quite a bit.

The first problem appeared when running the initial setup: It insists on getting through the Wi-Fi setup and getting connected to the internet before you can do anything, but I had MAC address filtering enabled on my router. Unfortunately, the MAC address of the Nexus is not printed on the box or on any of the little peel off bits of plastic on anything (I just went through all of them and checked), so my only option was to disable the MAC filter on the router, get connected so I could then find the MAC address on the router connections page, then add it to the MAC filter list and re-enable MAC filtering (whew!). Of course, I could have found the MAC address in the settings info, but I couldn't run settings till after I was setup.

It was also quite spooky to see it come up with my gmail address and ask if that was me (but it had my name as some wacky nickname I probably once used to register for something, somewhere, sometime that I didn't really want to register for). I told it that wasn't me, then filled in my email info from scratch. (I did finally find the nickname buried way down in some gmail settings page on the web and was able to erase it. No doubt it came from some obscure google service and got merged when google merged all their web services.)

Google books: Seems OK, but the font size setting increments in microscopically tiny increments. I have to click the enlarge font setting about a dozen times to actually percieve a change in readability. Another annoying thing is that the font size seems to be stashed on a per-book basis, so I have to crank it back up in each new book (yet is apparently not stored in the "cloud" since when I rooted and reinitialized, the font sizes were all tiny again, yet it did remember my position in the books).

Google movies: The screen definitely looks very nice, but it felt extremely silly to be sitting in front of a 46" LCD TV watching a movie on a 7" screen, and the audio quality was not exactly high fidelity.

Google music: Seems to work fine, but like movies, you'd definitely need something better than the built in speaker.

Google magazines: “meh.”, and I also have what appears to be bug.

Overall the media apps seem awful average for a device google seems to intend to be their flagship assult on all things media.

Chrome browser: Definitely works better than other mobile browsers I have tried. It is the only one that seems to be able to scroll inside the kind of scrolled div regions lots of web pages use for code listings and wot-not.

YouTube: Amazingly, the youtube app actually works on this thing. On my phone all it does is show an endless spinning circle if I try to play a video in the app.

After playing with it all evening, I've also decided that the 7 inch form factor is nice to hold, but it is still a little tiring to keep in one hand for a long time. If I get a case for it, I'll definitely want one with some kind of strap or something on the back I can slip my hand through to hold it. (Note: I decided to order this case.)

After playing with the google provided apps, I've been comparing other ebook readers and decided I like FB Reader the best.

Manual Root

I wanted to be able to run Titanium Backup and Gemini App Manager on this thing, and maybe StickMount as well, so rooting my device is required.

I prefer to do my rooting from a linux box, since that is where I do all my work, so finding a Windows box and using the Nexus Root Kit described in the Nexus 7 - All Things Root android forum was going to be a last resort. I also like to know what is actually being done, and the best way to do that is do it manually.

A different post in that same forum pointed me to this xda-developers thread on rooting the Nexus 7.

That did indeed work, but only after I spent a heck of a long time ferreting out a bunch of information that may be obvious to an XDA developer, but isn't remotely obvious to someone who has never gone through this particular process before:

I've created the Nexus 7 Hacking page to record things I need to do in low level “for dummies” like detail.

First: if you follow the links to download the su app and the recovery image, you'll reach a place where hovering over the link makes you believe you'll download a .zip or .img file. But you'd be wrong - if you try to "save link as", you get a file full of html for a redirect to a downloader service. You have to just click the links normally and hope your browser will let you save the file when you finally get to a real file.

Second: the "Pre-Steps" section says you should adb push the su .zip file to the sdcard folder on the phone. This does absolutely no good as the sdcard is erased when you run the fastboot oem unlock command. You might as well just do the unlock, reboot, rerun the tablet setup, then push the .zip file onto the sdcard.

Third: Speaking of stuff being erased, no one seems to be clear on what all is, in fact, erased. For me, the /sdcard partition was re-initialized to factory state (I didn't have any important personal data on it, so this didn't matter to me - just junk like a random picture I took to test the camera launcher app I had installed). All downloaded apps disappeared as well, and all settings that were tweaked in any other preinstalled apps were reset to their initial state. I also had to rerun the initial setup to tell it my gmail address, etc.

What did NOT disappear were any "cloud" stored items (the cache was gone from the phone, but once I told it I was me the preloaded movies, music, books, magazines, etc were all back). I was even able to sign in to the Wallet app again and discover my $10 credit was still hanging around (but now there is a warning that I have an unsupported device since I've rooted it).

Fourth: The casually tossed off phrase "Boot into recovery" is the first item listed in the "Make CWM Permanent" section. What isn't remotely obvious looking at the screen on the phone is that the volume keys can be used to change the line at the top of the screen (which is apparently a one line high menu) so a "Boot Recovery" choice appears and you can press the power button to do the boot to recovery. This was the source of much searching since absolutely no one seems to believe you need to know this.

Armed with these missing bits, this would have been a trivial process, but it took hours to discover what "Boot into recovery" really meant (the info is out there, but only mentioned in about 1% of the 47,632,221 web pages that talk about this stuff :-). Anyway, after re-downloading apps I had installed and new apps that need root, I finally have things setup the way I want them (at the moment, anyway):

OTG

If I'm going to use the OTG feature with StickMount, I'm going to want a very compact external USB storage device, and nothing is ever likely to get more compact than this one. It is cute as a bug, but if you sneeze, you're likely to blow it into a corner and never find it again :-).

I also got a 32GB sdcard for it, so that will give lots more space than the tablet comes with natively (if it all works).

I'm still waiting on an OTG cable to arrive, so I haven't tested any of this on the Nexus 7 (but it works fine on my desktop).

Hey! It is Aug 10th, and an OTG cable arrived in the mail a full 12 days sooner than the estimate (the customs guys must have needed to make room for more packages).

I have tried it, and it works fine. The kernel was rumored to not have NTFS support, but a NTFS format sdcard mounts fine, and I can do things like play movies from the sdcard (even a movie bigger than 8GB).

My main problem seems to be that once I play a movie, something is hanging on to the sdcard, so it always looks like it is in use when I try to unmount it. (This is intermittent - sometimes it works with no problem).

And now on Aug 15th, the second of my 3 OTG adapters has arrived. This one isn't a cable, but simply an adapter plug. It is much more convenient to use than the cable in landscape mode since it doesn't flop around and get in the way of the headphone jack, but it needs lots of clearance in portrait mode. It works fine as far as accessing the sdcard reader goes. This will definitely be the one to use when watching movies from the sdcard.

The wide variation in the time it takes things to get here from Hong Kong is demonstrated by the fact that my third and final OTG adapter did not arrive until Sep. 1st. It looks absolutely identical to the 2nd adapter even though the pictures on amazon make it look different.

Case

I ordered a YooMee Case and it arrived here in Florida ahead of the projected delivery date all the way from California (kind of a surprise for a USPS shipped item :-).

It seems to work quite well. The magnet turns it on and off when the cover is closed, but isn't so strong that it turns off when you fold the cover back to use the handstrap (which will probably be my most frequent mode of operation):

Here you can see (if somewhat dimly :-) the handstrap, and the clip used to close the cover:

The landscape mode stand works, but you have to unclip the two corner clips next to the fold to swivel the tablet out to fit in one of the slots in the front cover. Naturally since the clips are intended to hold the tablet in the case, it is a tad difficult to unclip it (practice will probably make it easier):

And here's what it looks like closed:

I have since switched to the nearly identical, but slightly more convenient MoKo case. The MoKo has a better cutout along the edge for access to the power and volume buttons and a strap that can be looped over the top to keep it from flopping around when you are using the handstrap in portrait mode. The magnet in the MoKo case is quite weak though and often does not trigger power off or on. I have sort of decided I prefer it with no magnet so I don't consider that a disadvantage :-).

And if I wanted to photoshop in a brighter screen image in the above photos, I'd use this one:

Page last modified Mon Sep 2 15:38:08 2013