Hack of the Day: QClock

July 21, 2012 11:22 by docbliny 

I spent a moment this morning slapping together another application for the Nexus Q. This one is really simple, and all it does is to use the LEDs to show the time. There are three “hands” that show the hour in white, minutes in blue, and seconds in red.

The video doesn’t do full justice to the ability to read the time. The camera picked up too much light around each hand due to the diffusion the LEDs have. For example, the second hand looks fully red in real life, and doesn’t have the rainbow band around it as seen on the video.

Nexus Q LED Applications

July 5, 2012 11:59 by docbliny 

This is just a quick post to list out the applications that I’m aware of that use the LEDs on the Nexus Q and their priorities within the system. The priority determines which application gets to control the LEDs at any given moment. Higher numbers represent higher priority. I haven’t looked at the code close enough to see how duplicate priorities are handled, but I’m guessing that that situation is not deterministic.

I haven’t put a lot of effort into verifying whether the descriptions match reality of what the applications do. I’m sure I’ve missed applications, too. Feel free to let me know if something is off.


Priority Application Description
0 / 100 TungstenLEDService Master volume. Uses 100 to override everything when volume is changing and switches to 0 otherwise.
5 Visualizer Displays theme-based animations.
10 NetworkLedController Network status indication.
20 HubBroker Bluetooth Pairing portion of the @home broker.
25 HubBroker NFC handler.

How to Root Nexus Q (Temporarily)

July 1, 2012 21:53 by docbliny 

Do the following at your own risk!

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some caveats:

  • The internal “SD card” will be erased (mine only contained empty folders).
  • You will unpair the device from your other Android devices and will need to set it up again.
  • I wouldn’t flash the boot ROM I’m providing below. I know I haven’t. 


  • Nexus Q
  • Android Development Kit, including the adb tool and fastboot.


  1. Plug your USB cable between your computer that contains the Android developer kit and the Nexus Q.
  2. Run adb reboot-bootloader . The LED ring will stay solid red. You should also be able to do this by holding your hand over the mute LED when it boots. Just let go when the ring turns red.
  3. Run fastboot devices to make sure you’re connected.
  4. Run fastboot oem unlock to unlock the bootloader.
  5. Within five seconds, run fastboot oem unlock_accept . The Q will erase user data and reboot.
  6. Pair your Android device again with the Q.
  7. Turn on debug mode again.
  8. I also put together a new boot.img file that modifies default.propwith the following values:


  9. Download nexusq-boot.img.
  10. Run adb reboot-bootloader .
  11. Run fastboot boot nexusq-boot.img to start the Q with root permissions.
Now you can upload su and back your regularly scheduled Android hacking. 


adb reboot recovery results in pulsing red LEDs. Touching the mute LED flashes white. I didn’t see anything show up via the HDMI connector. The only way to get out of this mode was to tap the mute LED repeatedly (about five times).

Running a Backup Command of the Nexus Q Using adb

July 1, 2012 19:54 by docbliny 

You can run the adb utility to initiate a backup, but you’ll get a prompt on the screen to approve the backup. Since there’s no keyboard, you can’t type the password and click OK. Here’s how to do it without an input device.

  1. Open two command prompt or terminal windows.
  2. Run the desired backup command in the first window, such as adb backup -apk -shared -all –system .
  3. Enter the following commands in the second window to trigger keypad movements (down, right, and enter):

adb shell input keyevent 20

adb shell input keyevent 22

adb shell input keyevent 23

You'll now have a backup file named backup.ab on your local machine.

Putting Nexus Q in Debug Mode

July 1, 2012 13:28 by docbliny 

Here’s a really quick introduction on turning on debug mode for the Nexus Q.


  • Micro AB USB cable (careful with that connector!)
  • An Android device with the Nexus Q application installed
    • You may need an Android tablet, see Troubleshooting below.


  1. On your Android device, turn on USB debugging in the device settings.
    • Go to Settings, and then scroll down to Developer Options.
    • Slide Developer options to ON.
    • Check USB debugging.
  2. Set up the Nexus Q on your network by installing the Nexus Q application on an Android device.
  3. Start the application, and then select your Nexus Q device.
  4. Select Advanced.
  5. Under USB debugging, move to slider to ON.
  6. Go back to the previous screen.
  7. Plug on end of the USB cable into the Nexus Q and the other into your computer.


  • If you can’t see the USB debugging option in the Nexus Q application, You will need to turn on USB debugging in the Android device settings first (not the Q application, the main device settings control panel).
    • I could only see this option on the Nexus 7 tablet, not on my Nexus Galaxy phone. The Nexus 7 had the USB debugging turn on in the main settings by default. Thanks to Ryan Warner for figuring this out.


Turn on USB debuggingNexus 7 with debugGalaxy Nexus without debug

Nexus Q

June 29, 2012 20:01 by docbliny 

Nexus Q... Another Google IO giveaway. Problems so far:

  • Only getting 2 channel stereo for movies. Unacceptable.
  • Continuous buffering issues on a 30M cable connection. Unacceptable.
  • No basic remote. I need to unlock an Android device just to hit pause. Unacceptable.
  • Both my tablet and phone are now stating that my account isn't allowed to make changes. Unacceptable.
  • MAC address not printed on device or box. A pain to set up my firewall and WLAN since they limit access by MAC address.
On the other hand:
  • Design. Nice. Funky.
  • I can turn off the the LEDs. Excellent.
  • Integrated power supply. Yes, please.
  • HDMI connector. Thank you.
Overall, I'm here trying to watch a movie and... I don't have an option to download (to avoid the buffering issues), and it stops every few seconds to buffer. Sorry, but #fail.
Update: So I got bored waiting for the buffering and decided to check Google+ and watched a YouTube video. Now I can't continue watching the movie. All I get is a message stating "Playback stopped because you began playing this video on another device." #epicfail
Update 2: Did I mention the fact that I can't configure the Q anymore? Yes, I did. All I get is a message stating "Only the owner of this Nexus Q can modify its settings." As far as I know, I didn't rent it for 24h, it was given to me. Do I really need to pull up the Android SDK to reset the damn thing to get it working again, like I had to do with the Samsung Galaxy Tab?
Update 3: I ended up finishing the movie using Google Play / YouTube. But guess what? I paid for HD and YouTube only provided me with a 480 quality stream.
Update 4 (7/10/2012): Just got an email from Google that they've refunded my rental based on the issue I had. Plus one for Google. I stopped using the PlayStation Store for anything a long time ago when they declined to refund me for a movie that simply wouldn't play and they couldn't solve the issue.

Google Asus Nexus 7

June 28, 2012 22:35 by docbliny 

I know I bashed Google after last year’s Android tablet release of the Samsung Galaxy Tab, and I still stand behind that. In fact, the situation got worse. I ended up having to use the Android developer kit to reset the device every few weeks after it got stuck in an infinite boot loop. This was made worse by the fact that I’d bought a case and keyboard dock for the tablet, and I effectively had a brick on my hands. Though, it must be said that the Google IO units were prerelease specimens with custom firmware for developers.

In any case, things look much brighter this year. The Asus-built Nexus 7 is a solid unit and Android 4.1 addresses my main concern, namely the smoothness of the user experience. I’ve only had a chance to play around with it for a day, but it’s night and day compared to other Android devices I’ve used in the past. I’d even go so far as to extend that to the Samsung Nexus Galaxy that was handed out, too (but I' haven’t been able to use it as a phone yet since I don’t have a micro SIM to mini SIM adapter).

Now if there was only a public SDK for the Nexus Q so I could add it to my home automation system…

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Android #FAIL update

July 8, 2011 08:23 by docbliny 

In a previous post, I gave my impressions on Android on tablets based on my experience with the pre-release Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with Android 3.0. The final version has come out, along with the all-important Android 3.1 update. So how do things look now?

  • The time zone issue has been resolved. I can now set the time and date without formatting the device.
  • The word “phone” has been cleaned out, and I see “tablet” as expected.
  • The worst Chrome rendering issues have been resolved.

Unfortunately, the worst problem, jumpy and unresponsive scrolling, still exists. This is of course a comparison against iOS, but the different is substantial. On iOS you don’t even notice you’re scrolling. On the Galaxy Tab, it’s like turning pages in a book that are slightly stuck together: irritating.

Where Google and Android #fail

May 15, 2011 11:39 by docbliny 

Google handed out a stack of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets at Google I/O 2011, and just like last year, I’m not impressed with Android. I got my first iPhone from a contest, and I’ve never been a fan of iTunes, but iOS is so much more user-friendly and refined. The experience has improved from my tests with last year’s Evo giveaway (wow, what a dud), but still not there. Here are some of the highlights:

  • If you set “Network preferred” (or similar) to allow the device to set the time/time zone automatically during the initial setup, YOU CANNOT change the time zone manually without a factory reset!?!
  • The device has a dual core processor, yet scrolling is less-than-refined and touch input seems slow, or at least not as responsive as iOS.
  • Tablet-specific: The OS states “phone” in many places. For example, when you hold the power button, you get a “Phone options” dialog. I know I saw similar wording elsewhere, too.
  • The device has two cameras, microphones, and such, and yet there is no Google Voice application available!
  • Chrome has horrendous rendering issues when you scroll longer pages. I need to zoom in/out to get it to render the rest of the page.

Yes, yes. The device isn’t even on sale yet, but these issues seem to have more to do with the Android OS than the device.

The best feature so far has been the cloud/Google account integration for backing up settings (all the apps I’d installed got automatically reinstalled after the factory reset to get the damn clock to show the right time), syncing with Chrome and other Google services.