Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How To Replace The LCD Cable

Here is a video by Evil Dragon of the Open Pandora team detailing how to replace your LCD cable.

If I was extremely daring and fancied my chances by not RMAing my Padora, my bank holiday would have probably looked like this, except with a lot of additional frustration, swearing and struggling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pandora (atlast) RMA-ed

Been pretty busy these past few months, so much so I requested an RMA to fix my LCD cable issue, but didnt send the unit back until two months later! Now it has been 5 days since Open Pandora have confirmed receiving my unit, rather than fixing it will be replaced so will take a little longer before I get a unit to play with again.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Display Problem

Oh noes!! As you can see in the video below I got a nasty display issue whenever the screen is at an angle. Everything seems to be fine when the screen is flat, however this needs to be resolved, either by myself once I have acquired the replacement parts, or sending to Open Pandora to repair which I am somewhat reluctant to do as that means a lengthy period of being Pandoraless!

Got Flash Working

While a form of Flash is shipped with Pandora, it has unfortunately never worked for me.  However now there is Maemo Flash plugin which being ARM compiled can be used with FireFox on Pandora.

As it stands performance is not great, although YouTube is watcheable when you change the video quality to 240p. Other Flash heavy sites for example Groove Shark fails completely. The good news is that the plugin is not making the most of the Pandora's capabilities and once hardware acceleration has been unlocked, then surely together with other optimisations the experience will improve significantly.

 Here are the four simple steps to get of Flash working with FireFox4:
  • If you have not already done so, get hold of FireFox4.pnd, beta version 7 can be found here. Once you have downloaded, fire it up to ensure that it creates its own entry for App dir.
  • Remove the original Flash plugin by running the following command into the console:
sudo opkg --force-depends
remove swfdec-mozilla swfdec-gnome swfdec
  • Install the new plugin by typing this in:
    sudo cp libflashplayer.so /usr/lib/mozilla/plugins/

I noticed by mistake that the plugin when installed using the above steps also works in the Chromium browser, although for the moment FireFox would be the weapon of choice as it is far more stable for the time being.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


In a previous posting discussing Pandora’s potential, I was quite excited by the prospect of tethering. Yes the Pandora has WiFi, but outside of your home there are not many opportunities to (safely) get on the net. While my particular phone has a very good 3G connection, the full potential of this is limited by the small screen size, processing power. and not having a "sexy" o/s such as Android Being able to comfortably view and edit my online calendar or checking out Google Reader is not  practical on my handset. Another scenario I often find myself in is when abroad and needing to get on the net quickly without having to go to a net cafe. The possibility to channel my 3G connection from my phone to the Pandora via bluetooth  was for me a killer app. You could ofcourse use a MiFi which makes use of your 3G connection from your SIM card and then distribute that using WiFi. This would have required me to either buy a separate sim card, or to keep pulling out my existing one from  my phone and into the MiFi unit - not much fun when you are standing on a crowded train. 

The initial attempts to tether were unsuccessful, although I did manage to establish a blue tooth connection between phone and Pandora. In so doing I accidentally discovered a nifty feature where I could use the phone to remotely control the Pandora, could be handy if I am presenting something and the pandora is hooked up to a projector. Further attempts to tether were proving very frustrating, not helped by the fact that it was difficult to tell whether it was something wrong with the phone or Pandora. However progress was eventually made, again thanks to a tip from one of Evil Dragon’s daily videos. Once I had established a bluetooth connection, I then had to instruct the Pandora to make use of the 3G connection. However this was still not the end as it seemed I could only get a connection randomly with what felt like a 10% success rate. Trying to resolve this was frustrating enough to drive a saint round the bend, again because it was difficult to establish whether the problem was due to the phone or the Pandora. It appeared to be the phone at fault because it seemed to refuse to give the Pandora permission to connect. In the end it turned out to be an issue of sequencing. Once the bluetooth connection has been established, an icon on the phone appears to show that it is ready to share 3G, however this times out fairly quickly. So the trick is to get the Pandora to "grab" the 3G connection from the phone before it times out. I will produce a video to make it clear what steps need to be taken, but I would also be interested to know if other Pandora users have suffered similar issues to me.

Monday, January 17, 2011

PND System

This blog seems to be characterised by some seriously infrequent posts, even though for the past 2 months or so I have finally received my Pandora. However, having a two week stint in Siberia, followed by starting a new job in a new city AND not having a net connection in my flat makes finding the time and ability for blogging a challenge. Enough of excuses though, as I am sure at least one or two people might be vaguely interested as to how my experiences have been so far. A detailed review of first impressions is coming up, but for now I would like to introduce you to one of Pandora’s unique features: the PND System.

The PND system has been developed in order to make installing software a walk in the park. However there is an obvious obstacle, all software has to be installed on one of the SD cards (you COULD use the on board NAND memory but that's a bit crazy) If you have a desktop cluttered with shortcuts and remove one of the SD cards, wouldn't you then have a desktop full of broken shortcuts? Not so, because PND not only automates the installation of software, it also dynamically makes your programs available, akin to mounting a USB device. If the SD card was removed, then all the desktop short cuts (thats pointing to programs on the removed SD of course) will disappear because they have been “un-mounted” from the Pandora. Heres an example: (sorry photos are not great - had to make do with my camera phone)
 So as you can see there are only a couple of icons on the desktop which presumably means theres not a lot of interesting stuff installed. However heres an earlier prepared SD card, loaded with a Genesis emulator, some freeware games and the Chromium web browser. Insert the SD card and voila! We magically have some desktop icons!

But why is the Genesis emulator not on the desktop? No it did not fail to mount, I specified that it should appear under the menu rather than the desktop so as you can see in the screen shot it is right there.

The PND system was something I could not get to work initially. I assumed that the O/S would scan for all PND files regardless of their location. Also, having looked at the forum, other users were also having similar problems. It was suggested in those threads that the cause of these issues was a bug in one of the hotfixes for the O/S. This was not a blocking issue for me because you can directly execute a PND using “pnd_run" command. This is not a great solution because the command has to be typed into the terminal which means if you close it, your application will also close. If you are running several applications you will have a rather cluttered task bar due to all the open terminals. Also I suspect the application data gets stored on the NAND which does not have a lot of spare space so filling that up with the likes of cache and saved states is not particularly smart.

I assumed that PND files could be located anywhere. However, having watched one of Evil Dragon’s daily videos talking about PND, I realised I had missed the fact that PND files need to be located in “/pandora/desktop" if you want deskop shortcuts or under “pandora/menu" if you want them to appear under the Pandora menu.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Enabled AdSense

I have enabled AdSense to the blog today. This normally is something I am extremely reluctant to do - nothing worse than cluttering a web page with tonnes of rubbish. However a friend of mine suggested to me that AdSense could be used as a way of allowing your readers to say thanks if they enjoyed or found your blog useful. All they would have to do is click one of the adverts. A nicer way of giving and receiving appreciation than having a donate button I think (& besides, aren't we all supposed to be ditching PayPal in support of a certain spiky haired blond guy?)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Best email ever??


This is to confirm your Pandora has been shipped.

If you are in the UK you can look forward to recieving your order in the next 24 hours (weekends not always included), if you chose UPS shipping you should recieve your order in the next 48 hours (weekends not included). Airmail will take 2-12 days.

We want to thank you for sticking with the Pandora project for all this time. We hope you will enjoy the final product. You can head over to gp32x.com to talk on the forums and soon enjoy your Pandora.

Thanks so much,

Craig and the Pandora team.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

So nearly there...

Wow I did not realise I have yet to post in 2010... so errr Happy NYE.

Now onto more interesting things. Today a forum user who ordered his Pandora exactly 10 minutes before me has received his shipping confirmation. Roughly 20 or so Pandoras are assembled & ready for shipping each day, but its virtually impossible to calculate how much more waiting time is required.

So at long last, this blog can eat some more bandwidth!

There was the opportunity to get a Pandora even earlier, there was a batch of units with a slightly faulty but possibly fixable right nub. Those who ordered through the UK arm of Open Pandora (gbax.co.uk) were offered immediate shipment of one of these units. A tempting option for those with little patience or who fancied a bit of queue jumping and did not mind taking a gamble. A significant number had decided to join the so called One Nub Club and posted their experiences. It seemed to be an issue with a bit of dirt affecting the contacts, so some users had no issues at all. Some just used an air can to solve the problem, while others did not have quite the same amount of luck. My reasons for not joining in, was that while you could fix the issue for now, how long would this fix last and would it affect the life span of the nub. To date only a single user has dared to open up the nub to have a closer look and better understand the problem. I do not think it will be long until a proper solution is devised. This could be particularly important as this problem might be affecting all Pandoras as a user who was shipped a NON One Nub Pandora has reported having issues with his left nub. This is concerning, but for now the excitement of finally getting a unit in my hands is easily over-ruling any desire to cancel the order and go for an iPad instead.

On a closing note, there have been Pandoras recently sold on eBay for over $1500. Investing £200 twenty one months ago to get a possible £800 profit might be shrewd move, but something I could not easily stomach having waited so long. Plus I suspect by the time my unit arrives, there will be many more Pandoras released into the wild, killing off any extortionate going rates seen on Ebay lately.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pandora's Potential

Long time no post! Well of course, this blog is charting the adventures of something that only exists in the form of a couple of prototypes! However after an epic wait, the final delaying factors were a Chinese holiday and some additional corrections to the case. Now these delays are behind us, the Pandora's arrival is imminent.

I thought it would worth writing an article of the eagerly anticipated applications I plan to use on the Pandora, and then in a later article see if those ambitions were achieved and how well they have performed.

The flag ship feature of the Pandora. Coupled with impressive processing power for a portable device and awesome gaming controls that have been cherry picked from the best features of various controllers including the Sega Saturn & XBox. As a platform, all the required ingredients for a superb gaming experience are there - however initially it will not suit the masses & will have a very hard time converting those who already have an NDS or a PSP. This was the same challenge Pandora's predecesor the GP2X faced. The simple reason being the lack of commercial games. There is no sense in a software house investing large sums of money developing a title that can only be aimed at a small user base. This will be no different with the Pandora given that the first batch will only be 4000 units. However the excellent potential of the hardware and the fact that the Pandora is an open system may prove enough to lure the smaller and more independent commercial developers. The most notable commercial game to be spawned from the GP2X was the superb PayBack (also now on iPhone). This arguement does however focus on titles written from scratch, unlike the GP2x, there is arguably a greater potential for porting of commercial titles to the Pandora. The major obstacle with this approach is the availability of the source code which usualy is only freely available to rather old titles. However this could change very rapidly if there will be a second batch of Pandoras, one can only speculate how the Pandora will fare on the commercial gaming front.

The lack of a wealthy catalogue of commerical titles however will by no means be the death of the Pandora. One of the GP2X's greatest strength was emulating old skool systems such as SNES, Genesis and coin op arcade games (running MAME). This will be immediately available to the Pandora, but there are some new very exciting additions to the list of emulated systems including Dream Cast, PS1 & N64. If I can multi play Sega Rally by pairing two Pandoras on WiFi, then without doubt the Pandora can claim the title of iPhone killer.

However, if even that was not enough to counter a lack of commercial titles, there is also the Home Brew scene which already has an ecclectic mix of interesting and querky games in the pipeline. This topic alone deserves a seperate article.

So we have seen iPhone people using SatNav to find their way to their local pub. Together with a USB GPRS dongle and mapping software (most likely from Google) Pandora should be able to achieve the same. Personally I find Google Maps accessed via my mobile more than good enough for navigating on foot. So any SatNav I would be using (predictably?) would only be in a car, and given this will be pretty rare (e.g. driving in a foreign
country or trying to fight my way out of traffic) I would prefer a more temporary solution than say installing a dedicated incar SatNav.

Specially for the task I have bought a Gorilla Pod. Although this has been developed with cameras in mind, it can also be used as a tripod/mount for a multitude of mobile devices. Hopefully this will allow me to mount the Pandora safely on a car dashboard while giving me an unobstructed control and view of the screen. The fact that this is a touchscreen should make it pretty easy to control despite being behind the wheel. What would be pretty cool is to use this setup to warn the driver of nearby speed cameras by matching the current GPS location against a database of locations of the cameras. So the Pandora may have quite a fight being an iPhone killer, but perhaps would probably have a much greater chance of being a TomTom & Garmin killer.

Mobile Media:

The Pandora is no iPod. Imagine having it playing through your entire record collection in shuffle mode but then suddenly it starts playing something terrible that mysteriously managed to sneak onto your playlist. You will have to yank out the Pandora from your pocket, open it up and then do whatever command to skip over to a more desirable track. Too much effort. While there has been talk of developing some sort of remote control, for this task I will most likely leave to my trusty cheap and tiny MP3 player. However, theres no harm sticking the entire record collection onto an SD card using a lossless format.

The use of media onboard the Pandora is more likely to be used to make travelling less tedious, by watching movies, catching up with missed TV or even eBook reading. The GP2X handled media tasks very well, so one can only expect more of the same but perhaps more intuitive or glam GUIs.

Mobile Surfing:

With its built in WiFi, surfing the net within your WLAN should work out of the box. However the whole point of the Pandora is to allow you to have a good substitute to your laptop while you are out and about - so how can you surf when you outside the confines of your local network? You could do a little bit of war driving and being a Linux based system cracking the encryption AHEM! running security audit software should not be too challenging, so you can publish that all important Tweet while in the pub or on the bus. A simpler solution could be just to use a USB dongle provided by a mobile network. However I foresee two obstacles, firstly pricing. In the UK at least, using a 3G dongle can cost almost as much as your home broadband connection. Personally I cannot justify nearly doubling my Internet bills just on the off chance I desperately need net access while on the road. I am still in the frame of mind that most online activity can wait till I get home, plus now I have unlimited net access on my mobile. Using a dongle abroad would be fantastic, but as with any form of roaming, this can prove very expensive and in some cases only available in contract form rather than my more favorable Pay As You Go. The second issue is compatibility, this may not prove to be a huge stumbling block, however support it often only made available Windows PC & Mac only. Having mentioned earlier that my phone plan includes unlimited net access, it may be possible for my mobile to act as a modem, delivering packets to the Pandora via bluetooth or USB.