There’s a Rub with Android

I love Android. I love my EVO. I’m grateful that Google opened my eyes.

But, there’s a rub with Android. It’s the same one with Linux.

They’re both too hard.

Let me qualify before you break out the flamethrower.

Obviously, they would be similar, since Android is based Linux kernel. When I talk about Linux, I specifically mean Ubuntu, which is the distro I run. Yes, the very same one that’s decried by uber-geeks as too easy.

It’s not too easy.

Case in point, I spent many hours this week bringing my laptop from 9.04 Jaunty to 10.04 Lucid. I decided to try to upgrade initially, but that died going from 9.10 to 10.04. I did get it all running on a clean install of 10.04, until a power management setting I tweaked caused it to fail on restart.

Ugh. All I was trying to do was set power management to turn off the monitor after a certain point of inactivity. The GUI accepted my settings, even though they borked up the configuration. Now it won’t start. Not exactly expected behavior.

So, I’ll need to invest a bunch more hours to get it back to normal.

What does this have to do with Android?

Today, I had a similar experience with my EVO. I decided to take the OTA that would upgrade my phone to Android 2.2 (Froyo) to get at all the goodness, especially the stuff announced yesterday. It downloaded just fine, but on the restart, it failed with a warning screen.

No message, no logs, just the Android guy and a big triangle-exclamation point.

Very helpful. Thanks for that.

Removing the battery and restarting brought it back to normal just fine, but on 2.1.

I tried a few times, then called Sprint technical support. They said something about ActiveSync being the issue. So, I tried removing Touchdown’s contact syncing, then the app entirely. No dice.

I called Sprint back, and they were officially stumped. So, they punted me to HTC technical support. They too were stumped and recommended a hard reset or trial/error removal of applications to see if any was causing the issue.

A hard reset means loss of data, and removing apps for giggles sounds like a great way to frustration land.

No thank you.

Luckily, my complaining via Twitter yielded a protip from Friend of the ‘Lab Bob Fraser (@bobfraser1), i.e. find the OTA in archive form, copy it to the SD card root, rename it, boot into recovery mode and install the new ROM.

This process was definitely a bit scary, but it worked like a champ. I found the OTA (bonus for a rooted version) and applied it, the radio update and the Wimax update all successfully.

My point is simple: Android (and Linux) need to be more forgiving in order to succeed with mainstream customers. I’m by no means a n00b, even though some of you reading this may think so.

People have busy lives. Most of us don’t want to throw hours or days geeking out to take an OTA or an upgrade. In this particular case, a less persistent person would have ended up with a factory reset phone, not a good experience at all.

The technical support problem is fodder for another post.

Linux suffers from the ivory tower nerd syndrom, i.e. if you can’t make it work, you’re not worthy. I’d hate to see Android go that route too. I suspect Google and its carrier partners won’t let it, but I’m not at all comforted after today’s adventures.

If they don’t make Android easier, then the Apple apologists win.

We can’t have that.

Find the comments.




  1. Ivory tower nerd syndrome. Exactly why I abandoned linux 9.5 years ago. Except it was more “you aren’t worthy if you can’t anticipate every rootkit attack.”

    Pack-rat syndrome is why I still have 3 dozen 10+ year-old distributions in my home office…

    Rub harder, down and a little to the left, please.

  2. Bizarre. My wife upgraded my (okay, now her) EVO without even knowing or understanding what she was doing (what’s this Froyo thing?) and didn’t have any problems.

    I had explicitly instructed her to leave all updates/upgrades to me. Probably I’d have run into the same issues as you 🙂

  3. Not that bizarre really. Based on the abysmally lacking technical support I got, the culprit was likely an app, but of course, they didn’t know which one. Also, based on their cluelessness about a problem with the OTA, I’m in the minority.

    It worked out well in the end, since I applied a rooted version of the OTA.

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