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  1. #1

    Learning to swim in the Android pool

    I'm a long time computer geek, starting on an IBM mainframe at a bank in the 80s, and working across and down through DEC minis and other devices. I was active since the original IBM PC with a 4.77mhz 8088 CPU, two 360K floppy drives, and CGA graphics running MS-DOS 2.X was first appearing or corporate desktops, and I had a Unix machine (an AT&T 3B1) at home before getting my first PC. More recently I've been a systems, network and telecom administrator, in mixed vendor environments with Unix, Linux, and Windows in the mix.

    A couple of months ago, an Android tablet joined the family. Midwest computer retailer Micro Center opened a couple of outlets in NYC, and an ad with a coupon for a $20 7" Android tablet popped up in my mail as part of an opening promotion. It was an Azpen A727 model. Azpen is Yet Another Chinese Consumer Electronics Manufacturer targeting the budget end of the market, and Micro Center is a channel partner.

    The specs are low end: 7" 800x480 screen, dual core 1.5 ghz Allwinner A23 ARM Cortex 7 CPU, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of internal flash storage, with a slot for an optional microSD card, running Android 4.2 Jellybean. But for $20, it was in impulse purchase, and a good way to learn about Android and better prepare for the larger and more powerful device I intend to get down the road.

    The principal use case is eBook viewer, using the open source FBReaderJ app, which handles ePub and Mobi (Amazon Kindle) files, as well as PDFs through a plugin. (It doesn't handle volumes with DRM, but I don't get those.)

    The biggest limitation is app storage: it has only 767MB. I've had to drop a few large apps to have space available for updates to existing ones. Google apps are particular problem children, as they are all huge, and cannot be partially moved to the internal card.

    I was able to successfully root it, which addressed on limitation: the FAQ says you can't use an external keyboard - only an on-screen virtual one. Well, you can if it's rooted, and my Logitech Portable was recognized and worked when plugged in.

    I'm still learning, with the current focus of whether it's possible on a rooted device to redo the partitioning of internal storage to expand space available for applications. I'm at the point now where installing something new may mean removing something existing.

    Still, it's been fun, and what I can do with it more more than justifies the cot.

    I look forward to comparing notes with other Android users here.
    ______
    Dennis

  2. #2
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    36

    Device(s)
    Kyocera Brigadier Dell Venue 8
    What FAQ says you can't use an external keyboard? Android has supported BT keyboards for several versions and IIRC USB will too if your tablet supports USB host mode.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by enine View Post
    What FAQ says you can't use an external keyboard? Android has supported BT keyboards for several versions and IIRC USB will too if your tablet supports USB host mode.
    The FAQ for the A727. It's a restriction by the device manufacturer on that model. I know Android supports external keyboards. The A727 doesn't have Bluetooth as a design to cost measure, so it was USB or nothing. I guessed no support for external keyboards was a configuration limit in the stock image used, and would go away once rooted if USB host mode was supported.

    As it happened, I was right. My Logitech keyboard was recognized and worked when plugged in, and a Logitech section appeared in Settings where I could select the desired keyboard layout.

    The Logitech uses a regular male USB plug, so I got a female USB->male microUSB adapter to test it. Worked fine.

    That made me curious, so I grabbed a four port USB hub, connected it to the tablet, and plugged in both the Logitech keyboard, and a Logitech USB mouse. the mouse worked too, and a mouse cursor appeared on the desktop. I could use the mouse to do things that would ordinarily require screen touches.

    The next thought was "What about hard drives?" I have a 512MB Seagate Free Agent USB drive. The solution was the free Paragon exFAT, NTFS & HFS+ driver from Paragon software gmbh. It adds NTFS, exFAT, and HFS+ support. Plug in the drive, and it gets mounted at /mnt/usbhost1 and may be accessed.

    The Seagate drive is not powered, and expects to get it from the host. The tablet lacks the power to really support it - plugged in alone, Paragon's driver sees it, tries to mount it, then loses it again. The solution is plugging in through a powered hub, with external power for the hub from a power supply plugged into an outlet. It then works reliably.

    I don't see myself using the capability often, but it's nice to know I can.
    ______
    Dennis
    Last edited by DMcCunney; 07-16-2014 at 10:09 PM. Reason: typos

  4. #4
    Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    36

    Device(s)
    Kyocera Brigadier Dell Venue 8
    Yep, you'll need a powered hub for hdd's/ USB flash drives work fine and you can get USB SD/MicroSD readers and pop the SD out of say a camera and read the pictures off of it.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by enine View Post
    Yep, you'll need a powered hub for hdd's/ USB flash drives work fine and you can get USB SD/MicroSD readers and pop the SD out of say a camera and read the pictures off of it.
    Needing a powered hub was no surprise, and what I expected.

    I have a "22 in 1" multi-format USB card reader that handles Compact Flash, MMC, SD, and Sony Memory Stick formats, though it's been some time since I had to deal with anything save SD. The microSD cards come with full SD adapters, and I've used them on occasion to read microSD cards on systems that don't have microSD slots.
    ______
    Dennis

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