Tag Archive | "ac100"

AC100 Gets Froyo. The Smartbook Lives! – Video

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Back at IFA in Sept 2010 Toshiba told us the 2.2 update was due in 6 weeks. To be honest, I had lost all hope of ever seeing Froyo on it but sure enough, there it is as a downloadable firmware upgrade through the Toshiba Service Station application today.

I’ve downloaded, installed and tested and can confirm that not only are you getting V2.2 of Android with a noticeable performance boost but you’re also getting Flash support which finally enables a reasonable YouTube experience. There’s also the Toshiba market for apps, music and radio and, of course, some nice features in 2.2 like the 3G hotspot feature for those of you with 3G versions. I’ve also noticed an increase in compatibility with sideloaded applications. Streaming audio through applications like Last.FM now work and there’s better graphics compatibility. Previously, many games just weren’t working.

One of the big question marks though is about standby. Original versions of the AC100 would often jump out of standby, an almost off state, and never fall back into it meaning batteries would be dead by the morning. I’ll be testing that tonight [Update: This morning it was still in standby. More testing needed thought] but in the meantime I’ve been checking to see if Toshiba have improved the active-idle battery life. They haven’t. Screen off idle, with Wifi on and apps able to use the Internet results in about 2.5w continuous drain. That is, in ARM-platform terms, quite embarrassing for Toshiba. I’m not able to test Internet-connected idle mode with the 3G here. [Previous testing here] In-use battery life still seems to be around the 6hr mark which is good for 800gm of device with a 25Wh battery but they really should have worked on the active-standby figures before the product went out of the door.

Performance increase is noticeable with browsing, UI actions and measurable in Sunspider and other tests. Sunspider results have improved from 4800 seconds to 3900 seconds – a 19% improvement. Quadrant results are at the 2000 mark and Linpack returns 34MFlops, an impressive figure.

So does it bring the AC100 back from the dead? I just had a look at the prices and I certainly think there’s value here now. The model I have under my fingers right now has just broken through 200 Euros in Germany. That’s with 512MB of RAM and 8Gb of storage, USB OTG and 1080P playback (with uPnP support) a good keyboard, about 6hrs battery life (10+hrs max) in an 800gm chassis. You don’t get Google applications (I would happily pay 50 Euros for that enhancement) and you’ll pay 40 Euros for the addition of 3G but still, that’s a great deal. Remember that a Novatel MiFi costs at least 150 Euro and you certainly can’t type docs, play music and 1080p video or Angry Birds on that! It’s not a netbook, but it’s a good value gadget.

I captured my download, install and testing on camera this afternoon:

 

Toshiba AC100 Still Broken – 3 Months After Launch.

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About 3 months ago I bought a Toshiba AC100 ‘smart’ book for testing. While I didn’t believe it would provide me with a netbook experience I was very interested in continuing my testing with ‘always on’ ARM-based devices. Unfortunately, that ‘always on’ experience highlighted in marketing and videos, has still not been delivered 3 months later. It’s time Toshiba actually stood up, removed the false claims, started apologizing to customers and fixing this broken device. More importantly, potential owners need to keep fingers off until we can confirm the problem is fixed.

We highlighted the standby battery life problem just a few days after we got the AC100 and a few weeks later delivered the message direct to Toshiba at IFA. The product simply doesn’t provide anywhere near the claimed ‘up to 8 days’ of standby battery life. You’ll be lucky if the AC100 still has a charge 24 hours later. Many many users have confirmed the same issue.

A promised upgrade to Froyo was the light at the end of the tunnel that most owners clung on to but that is now many weeks overdue with no official word about a timescale. In fact, a surprise firmware update last week that failed to install was followed by another firmware update that doesn’t seem to have fixed the problem or updated the device to Froyo. Do you trust them to deliver 2.2 AND fix the battery life problem?

In attempts to actually get something useful out of the AC100 I hacked the bootloader (yes, forgoing any rights to a return or repair under guarantee) to install Ubuntu and after trying the update a few days ago, I now have a bricked device. I’m sure others will fall into this trap.

I’m not going to address this email to Toshiba because their forum should be alerting them to their problems (link) instead, I’m addressing it to current and potential owners. The AC100 is still broken and I advise you to check your standby battery life and if you think I’m right, return the device. [If not, please let us know – we’d love to strikethrough and update this article.] Potential owners should refrain from a purchase until there are clear confirmations that the problems have been fixed. Better still, pass the message on and highlight that the AC100 is not yet the device with the ‘ultimate battery life’.

Productivity Testing on a SmartBook

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There’s very little need for a WYSIWYG HTML editor on Android. Who in their right mind would want to do that on a smartphone? The requirement pops up though when you use Android on a large screen device like this AC100 smartbook i’m using right now. I’m testing a few right editors right now and although there’s nothing that hits me as being 100% perfect, I think there are enough solutions and workarounds out there. What would be perfect is to be able to work through the browser in AJAX applications like Google Docs or the rich editor in the WordPress back-end. With Android 2.1 that’s just not possible.

The AC100 gets an upgrade to 2.2 that fixes that soon (apparently) but in the meantime I’m using three applications.

1 – WordPress. This is a basic editor for offline posting to WordPress. As you can see here, it works!
2 – QuickOffice. I’m testing this as a way to acces my Google docs and Dropbox. It’s basic but if you need to get some text down, it works.
3 – Documents to Go. Similar to QuickOffice. As I get further into testing the differences will appear.

Why am I doing this: The 1K Challenge

Toshiba AC100 Ubuntu Demo Video

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Open Office on AC100You might have caught my excited tweets and posts about getting Ubuntu running on the AC100 over the last few days and if so, you might be starting to realize how close these ‘smart’ books or ARM-based netbooks, effectively smartphones in a netbook-style case, are getting to the netbook experience. The overall experience is certainly not ready for the average customer but take this video as a demonstrator that 1) Processing power is significantly better with dual-core devices to the point where Web browsing is not slow 2) A productive experience is possible through Linux applications 3) that the AC100 is well positioned as a device for further hacks. MeeGo, Android 3.0, Chrome OS and other Linux builds included.  At 800gm for 4hrs productivity, Intel need to take note. I’m definitely looking forward to see if the same hacking process works on the Toshiba Folio 100 tablet.

Before you watch the video though, note that there are problems.

  • 512MB RAM – Ubuntu 10.10 netbook build needs to be a lot slimmer for the AC10. 512MB might work if swap space was fast (not on the SD card.)
  • Battery life – The AC100 is lasting 4 hours but should last 6 or more. A big part of the problem is the lack of screen brightness control – it’s on 100%, all the time. Also, Linux is very uncontrolled when it comes to networking and disk access too and with 152 process running (gulp!) I doubt there’s a moment’s silence for the silicon inside the device. Take the iPad as a benchmark in this area because with a similar size screen and battery it’s getting 10hrs or more.
  • You can’t run a full Linux build from an SD card without disk access blocking from time to time.
  • No sound, video, 3D graphics support or WebCam at the moment as far as I can tell.
  • Installation requires flashing the BootROM of the AC100 – A risky process
  • I’ve seen a few too many crashes.

For HOW-TO articles on how to do this, see the forums mentioned in this post.

Update: Toshiba have obviously taken notice of this work as they’ve allocated someone to take a closer look at it.

Again, this isn’t a solution that anyone could use on a day-to-day basis yet but I regard this as a seminal moment for ARM-based ‘netbooks’ because it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to efficiently run my desktop work processes (Web apps, blogging, image editing, twitter) on an ARM-based device. With the doors open now, I expect the AC100 to get picked up by quite a few hackers in the coming weeks and for progress to accelerate even faster. My testing continues but i’ll refrain from posting further articles on Carrypad unless anything significant happens.

Coming To You from Ubuntu on the ARM-based AC100. (Update: Video)

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I’ve installed Ubuntu on my Toshiba AC100 ‘smartbook’ and I’m accessing my WordPress back-end via Firefox 3.6. This is a test to see if I can create and post an entry.

You should see a photo on the right (uploaded from the filesystem on the AC100)

Wifi is obviously working and considering i’m running this from an SD card the experience isn’t too bad. It’s locking-up from time to time as the OS works with the filesystem but i’m seeing some quite impressive CPU-related performance.

An interesting example of the performance is the SunSpider result i’ve just got from Firefox 3.6. Its the fastest result i’ve ever seen on an ARM-based device.

Firefox SunSpider Test on AC100.jpg

Click to enlarge that image and click here to view the gallery i’m creating as I go. (You’ll see OpenOffice is working!)

This feels like a seminal moment for productive smart-books. There’s lots to fix and improve but for a base install, i’m impressed.

 

 

HACKED! Toshiba AC100 – Ubuntu 10.10 is Running.

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Firstly, thanks to these forums (I’m just putting the pieces together here and testing it all out)

The work of the uber-Linux and Tegra Lords of these three forums allowed me to do this today:

Ubuntu 10_10 on Tegra2 _Toshiba AC100_.jpg

Yes, you’re looking at Ubuntu 10.10 (RC) running on a Toshiba AC100 smart book.

This is the most exciting thing I’ve done in a long long time. It’s not quite there yet (the boot hangs at this point but the people-that-know are working on it) but apparently everything works apart from sound.

If I can fire up Firefox and get 7 hours battery life out of this 800gm slim-n-lite then I’ll be shouting “See. I told you the smart-book wasn’t dead.”

It took one Linux box, some Nvidia Tegra tools, a new bootloader (dangerous) and Ubuntu built for ARMv7 on an SD card. Clearly the doors are now open for other installations although if Ubuntu is fast enough it should be good enough for most people.

I’ll be doing more work on this when the new tarball arrives.

See this new post for more info, images, early test results.

How does the AC100 look to you now? Did we just boost sales?

Full AC100 specs, info and buy links for UK and Germany (!) are here.

Toshiba AC100 – Sideloaded Applications Test

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IMG_4426 Despite the incomplete nature of these ‘smart’ books I’ve been testing, I’m still positive that the form factor and ARM-based processor has a lot to offer and that it will greatly influence the netbook of the future. People will say that the smart ‘book’ is dead but I guarantee that if Apple were to release a MacBook iAir running on iOS, the worlds axis would change and it would become the next best thing. Smart ‘books’ aren’t dead, they’re just gestating.

I’ll be continuing to test various devices with various operating systems and applications and in this video you’ll see me test a number of applications that are working out well on the AC100. Many applications don’t work well but the nice thing about a marketplace with thousands and thousands of applications in it is that you have options. All applications shown have been sideloaded using this method.

I have a 3G AC100 on order and am looking forward to new Froyo-based firmware soon so stay tuned for more testing.

In the video you’ll see Documents To Go, NewsRob, Raging Thunder, Wave Blazer, Astro, WordPress, Touiteur, Google Maps, Photoshop Express and XiiaLive.

Official: Toshiba AC100 to get Froyo in 6 weeks. [Updated]

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Update: 4th Nov. The latest I have is that Froyo will be available in Germany on within the next 2 weeks. (3rd week of Nov) Yes, it slipped

We had a great chat with the product manager for Toshiba’s AC100 in Germany at IFA yesterday and we covered a lot of ground about the target markets and future for these smart-books. Toshiba seem quite committed to the ‘smart’ sector and already have a team of 25 working on their Android builds. The next two milestones for the team are the Froyo-based Folio 100 Tegra2 Tablet and Android 2.2 (Froyo) upgrade for the AC100. Yes, it’s coming in 6 weeks and I’m excited because not only will it bring a Cortex core optimised version of Android to the device but it will also bring important browser improvements. We should get access to Google Docs and for me, that’s a huge step forward.

I’ve made Toshiba aware of the battery issue and I’ll be following up with an email. We’re also planning to get up to Toshiba’s HQ near Duesseldorf to get some quality time with the Folio soon. Yes, i’ll be taking the chance to tell them how important the Market is and encouraging them to kick Google hard!

I’m hoping to get my 3G / UK version of the AC100 from Amazon soon so if anyone want’s to buy a German (QWERZ keyboard) Wifi-only version, let me know!

Specifications in the database.

Tablet Toshiba Folio 100 – Its an AC100 Without the Keyboard!

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There’s two ways of looking at this. Either you think about the issues of the Toshiba AC100 (no Google Apps, Market, Browser issues, crashes, standby battery life issues) and you think OMG – This is a fail from the word go, or you hope that the 2.2 upgrade and a touchscreen are going to fix it. Certainly if you take away the keyboard you won’t be tempted to try anything silly like writing a document so that at least solves one problem but I fear that the Market is still going to be missing.

There’s no way Google will licence Market for a device that is simply not supported by Android. Developers have no way at all to write screen-efficient apps for this screen size and the apps that do exist look annaemic on a 1024×600 screen.

I don’t want to be too negative but its difficult when you’ve tested three potentially great bits of hardware that were spoiled by having only half of an Android-based OS product.

I like the idea of Tegra 2 (with Android 2.2 it will, seriously, blow everything else out of the water in terms of Android benchmarks – i’ve seen it today) and the tablet form-factor at least ‘fits’ Android a little better but without the Google licensed apps, its only half of what it could be.

If I’m wrong about Google Market then great, we’ve got progress but i’m not holding my breath because I think only Android 3 can fix that.

Tablet Toshiba Folio 100: caratteristiche tecniche – Notebook Italia.

Toshiba AC100 – Hardware Fault? – (Battery Life)

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For the last two nights I’ve been testing the ‘standby’ battery life on the Toshiba AC100. [Unboxing and overview video here] On the first test the battery was at about 30% capacity. I closed the lid and expected to have plenty of battery life left in the morning. When I woke up, the AC100 was dead. On the second test the battery was again at 30%. This time I turned the WiFi off before closing the lid. In that scenario I’d expect next to no drain at all. Again, when I woke up 7 hours later, the device was dead. Something’s wrong.

Looking at the battery information I’m seeing something strange.

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Can you spot the issue on my WiFi-only AC100?

Yup, somehow the 3G subsystem is draining power which is really quite strange considering I don’t have 3G on this device. Have they left the 3G radio on the device and just removed the SIM slot? Have they forgotten to turn the 3G off in the firmware? Does ‘cell standby’ actually mean something else? I can’t imagine another subsystem in the AC100 that would take more power than the screen and Wifi. On my Android phone here, cell standby is taking only 9% of the power. When the firmware contains strings like ‘eng/test-keys’, commonly found on test builds, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on.

I’ll have to raise a support issue on this with Toshiba Europe.

Note: 12mins later, the graph was still the same. Cell Standby is taking 77% of the battery drain. Going to ‘airplane mode’ doesn’t appear to help.

Note: 30 mins later and ‘cell standby’ is up to 81%.

Anyone else experiencing the same on their AC100 (Is there anyone else out there with an AC100?)

Update: Just to be clear – active battery life is around the 6hrs mark (50% screen, wifi on) so there’s no problem with that. I’ve also found a lot of threads on forums that question the ‘cell standby’ measurement. One response says it’s a known issue in Android 2.1. Currently manually measuring screen-off drain.

In a third test last night I went to bed with about 60% drain. I woke up with 20% left – and the screen on. Something is turning the screen on and causing the drain. Have now done a factory reset to remove any of my sideloaded apps that may be turning the screen on. I’ll do another overnight test tonight.

Update: 1535 -  31 August.

With a fresh factory reset I’ve been testing the battery life over the last few hours.

With screen off, wifi on, idle, no usb subsystem, no sdcard i’m seeing 6 mins per 1% battery drain. That’s really not that good. – 2.4W average drain. I’m expecting more like 1W.

With screen off, AIRPLANE MODE, no USB subsystem, no sdcard, idle, I’m seeing 13 mins per 1% battery drain. That’s 1.14W drain which is terrible for an ARM system. A smartphone with screen off and airplane mode would take about 20-50mw. Remember, the AC100 is effectively has smartphone internals so when you turn the screen off, there should be no difference (i’ve turned the USB host subsystem off and removed the SDcard to remove that from the equation.)  Something is sapping over 90% of the battery – which brings us back to the cell subsystem which, after these tests, was taking 84% of the power according to ‘battery status’ under Android.  At this stage, i’m tempted to pull it apart. Will I find a surprise 3G module inside?

Update2 – 31st August.

I won’t be doing any more review work on the AC100 until I get to the bottom of this power issue because it’s a huge problem that takes away the main reason to have it in the first place. ARM-based devices do a good job at ‘always on’. Take the Archos 5 for example. It’s a Cortex-based Android device and just 30 minutes ago I checked some stats on it. It’s been sitting on my desk in a screen-off, wifi-off state for 4 days and 8 hours and get this, it has a battery that’s less than half the size of the battery in the AC100. Not only that, there’s 45% of the battery left. That’s under 50mw of drain. 20x less than the AC100. There’s the problem with the AC100!

Update 3: 5th Sept.

Toshiba Germany tell us that Froyo will be delivered in 6 weeks (Mid October) for the AC100. We have also reported the details of the above issue directly to the German product manager.

P.S. Don’t forget to check out my Toshiba AC100 unboxing and overview video. (embeded below)

AC100 First Impressions

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After 24 hrs with the AC100 its a an easy task to summarise what’s going on. We’ve got an impressive computing platform in a productive form factor with great screen and keyboard that’s let down by a limited operating system and aplication suite.

You’ll look at the AC100 and see some interesting elements. Always on, light weight, flash storage, long battery life and the Android ‘brand’ but let me tell it to you straight before you go and buy one – don’t buy it as a replacement for a netbook or laptop.

Taking it from it’s worst angle we’ve got a device that has none of the normal single-account convenience of the Google Mail, Contacts and Mail applications you find on an Android smartphone. There’s a read-only word processor included (laugh out loud please, this is a device with a decent keyboard!) and a video player that plays 1080p…until the application crashes. There’s a USB port that takes mouse, keyboard and USB hard drives but will error at the sight of a printer or DVD player. If you’re wondering what’s in the marketplace as downloadable apps then please think twice as this comes with the Camangi app store for large-screen devices which, with about 80 apps, is hardy the widest choice around. The browser can’t handle Google Docs or the WordPress back-end, doesn’t support Flash and is slower than a netbook. The YouTube and social networking widgets are fixed-size jokes. There’s no GPS but worse still, there’s no network location service. That’s part of the Google licensed app suite which doesn’t exist on this device. Overall, I’d say ‘forget it.’ Go buy a netbook. Android is nowhere near ready to be deployed on such a productive-looking device.

Like the Airlife 100 though there’s huge potential here. Netbook designers need to watch carefuly because the idea of an always-on device is a killer one. A full Google suite would elevate the AC100 into a different position and if you consider the potential of the Market, it would make a great addition to any netbook. Being able to pump out 1080p onto an HDMI screen kicks netbook-butt and 870gm is a joy to hold, carry and use compared to the netbooks that average 50% more weight. I like the idea of the indicator lamps too.

In a way, Android is a better fit for a ‘netbook’ style device. We’re looking at lower processor requirements, half the memory you would find in a netbook and a reduction in internal complexity that serves to bring prices down. Starting with a basic operating system makes complete sense and highlights just how bloated the 5-10GB install of a Windows 7 OS is. It needs time to develop though.

The AC100 is another smart device to watch. But don’t buy just yet. We’ll give you the nod!

Other notes:

Glossy screen looks good. No brighter than soem other devices I’ve seen tho.
Row of activity keys is useful
The 5 screens can be assigned to WiFi APNs meaning that when you connect to a given APN, the home screen changes
uPnP support in the media player is good to see, as is multiple format support, WMV, H.264 and DivX were tested up to over 6Mbps
Speakers are OK
No case or cover included
Keyboard is good. I prefer it to my current Touchnote netbook.
There’s no heat or noise, even when charging (I*m using it on my lap right now)
Opera Mobile is slightly slower than the stock browser but is slightly more capable
Games play very smoothly
…but there are issues with programs that only run in portrait mode.
WiFi reception is very strong
Single Click Connect allows remote desktop usage and remote printing (using the Single Click Desktop software)
Only 5.5GB of the 8GB flash storage is available
From the home screen you only need to start typing to search (for a website, program or file)
The device can be locked with a numeric password
There is no screen rotation or accelerometer
No Bluetooth on the test device.
No 3G on the test device

This article written on the AC100 using the WordPress application (sideloaded from an Android phone.)

Toshiba AC100 Unboxing and Overview. (Updated with Live Videos)

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Fresh from the DHL van it’s the first Tegra2 device to hit the ground. Most will be calling the Toshiba AC100 [details] a smartbook and it certainly creates a smart impression. Super thin and light with a great-looking 1024×600 glossy screen and nice user interface. This may be running AOS (Android Open Source) 2.1 but it doens’t look like it. Toshiba have done a resonable job of filling in the gaps.

Plastics are a little on the cheap side but the keyboard is good as is the mouse-pad with scroll area and dual mouse buttons. One point to note is that the video player, while blowing me away with a 1080p playback and ability to handle a 8.5Mbps WMV and 6.5Mbps DivX out of the box, is somewhat buggy. Three lock-ups (requiring reboot) in the first hour left me feeling that the firmware was rushed out for IFA. Fortunately, Toshiba include an OTA firmware upgrade app so i’m going to be checking it regulaly.

Oh, the media player suppors uPnP devices too.

Finally: YouTube Unboxing Video now available.

We’ve also got three much longer  videos from the live session:

1 – Unboxing and overview.

2 – UI and Apps

3 – Deeper look at browsing, video, YouTube and other features.