Updating my Android tablet on the Mac

Leidensbericht über das Aktualisieren eines Samsung Galaxy Tab mit dem Mac.

There are a couple of things I dislike with the Android platform:

  • You almost never know beforehand if you will get a newer firmware for your model,
    because the manufacturer has to adapt a new Android version for every supported model.
    And even if a new firmware is made available, you may be out of luck if you don’t own
    a Windows PC to install the new firmware on your phone. More about this issue below.
  • When you don’t want to use the Google cloud to synchronise your contacts or calendars,
    you may need to jump through hoops.
  • I’ve never even tried how to sync my multiple dozens of smart iTunes playlists.
    I’m told that there exist solutions, but for my music and podcasts I use an iDevice.

To be fair, there are also a similar number of things where iDevices should improve:

  • Apple is utterly arrogant in dictating what I’m supposed to do and not do. One of my favourite examples:
    • For about 15 years every somewhat capable handset has been able to display delivery reports for text messages.
    • With iOS 5 Apple introduced delivery reports, but only for iMessage. And no app that would replace the stock Messages is allowed into the store.
  • Another example of Apple’s mysterious way is the decision that German and French keyboards
    don’t need 11 key rows (with delayless access to ä/ö/ü or à/é/è resp), while Scandinavian users get 11 key rows with æ/ø/å or ä/ö/å. It sounds like a sick joke that during the beta for iOS 5 this very same 11-key keyboard was there!
  • I’ve yet to find a good, location aware profile manager in the App Store like Llama for Android!

My Samsung Galaxy Tab shipped with Android 2.2 and I was quite happy with it. If it only didn’t have this nasty bug: whenever I switched off the WLAN hotspot, it would crash. So I wanted to update it to a newer firmware, without using a Windows PC (that leaves OTA or with a Mac).

  • Note that you must be very careful to follow instructions on any sites references very carefully, or you may end up with a device that won’t boot anymore (a.k.a. Brick). I can’t give any guarantee that what worked for me will do so also for you!
  • You should be comfortable using a command line.
  • To download the firmware to your device, use Heimdall. Don’t try to install Samsung Kies in a virtual machine, it wasn’t working with me.
  • Install the Android SDK to get adb.
  • Probably the best option is using a Cyanogenmod firmware. There is no officially supported one, but this Gingerbread Beta from November 2011 worked for me.
  • To get into firmware download mode, you need to switch off your tab and the press Power and Volume Down together until a screen displays “downloading…”, then connect to your Mac. You can use heimdall detect in Terminal to see if your tablet is ready for new clothes..
  • Follow the full flash and repartition instructions to flash your new firmware.
  • After you’ve booted successfully, you may want to add some apps from the market. Some like Google Maps didn’t show up at all, some displayed a banner that they aren’t compatible with this device. This is mainly due to the LCD density checks in the market app. Editing /system/build.prop helped here:
    • You must have a rooted device. I believe that a full flash achieves this, but I also played with these instructions.
    • Use adb shell to get a root shell on your tablet, then you can mount /system for write access:
      mount -o remount,rw /dev/block/stl9 /system
      You can check your filesystems with df or mount.
    • I recommend you make a backup of build.prop; to edit you can use vi or transfer it to your Mac and copy the changed file back.
    • To transfer the file to/from your Mac use:
      adb pull /system/build.prop build.prop
      adb push build.prop /system/build.prop
    • The needed edits are once again documented on the same page.
  • Enjoy!
This entry was posted in Mobile Life, OS X/Windows/Linux. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.