Making the White Pandigital 7″ Novel Useful (Without rooting it, hacking it, or doing anything else risky)

Here’s a video showing the general performance and feel of this device:

I always told myself that once Android tablets dropped below $100, I’d pick one up. That has now happened with the $85 PanDigital 7-Inch Tablet Computer – White. I’ll skip the review and the full tech specs, as those are widely available. The only caveat I will add is that you should ignore complaints about the original item’s locked down software. The device, as it ships today, is infinitely more useful than the original.

If the review you are reading shows images of the device looking like this, then ignore the review.

The reviews you should pay attention to are the ones written after the major upgrade to this device of January 2011, and images in the review should look like this:

If your device looks like the second image above, ignore this paragraph. If you already have an older one and it looks like the first picture, then the first step in making it useful as more than an e-book reader is to click here if you are a Windows user or here (link 1 and link 2) if you are not a Windows user. I’ll assume for the rest of this article that you are not using the locked-down firmware either because your device is more recent, or because you’ve loaded the more recent OEM firmware.

We will not be rooting our device. Many guides are available for that, this instead will document how to make this device useful without taking that risk. I’m going to sharing a few tips and pointers that I’ve found made this device much more useful than intended, including by breaking free of the Barnes & Noble and SlideMe duopoly over the software available to the device.

App Stores that Work On This Device.

As you have probably already realized, the Pandigital 7″ is not officially supported by Google and so all of the “standard” Google apps are missing — including the Android Marketplace. If you open this article on your Pandigital and click these links, you will be guided through the process of enabling these various alternatives to the Android Marketplace.

  • Amazon Appstore. One paid app for free every day, and a fairly wide selection of apps in general – It is of sufficiently high quality that I have this installed on my cell phone that does have the official Android Marketplace too. This is probably the closest to a drop-in replacement to the Android Marketplace currently available. The biggest downside is that if an app doesn’t officially support our device, then it will not allow us to even attempt to install it. This includes, mind bogglingly enough, the Amazon Kindle app.
  • Opera Mobile Store. But fear not! The Opera Mobile Store does allow you to install the Kindle App onto your Pandigital and it works just fine. Though it has a smaller selection, there appear to be many cases wherein the Opera Mobile Store will let me attempt to install an app that the Amazon Appstore does not.
  • Soc.io Mall. This seems marginally better than the SlideMe app store, but worth including because it is still nonetheless better. You must go hereon your desktop computer to register before you can log in on your Pandigital, as there seems to be a bug in the app itself.
  • Freewarelovers. Use this to manually download .apk files for those apps that are not available in any of the above, but that are still normally free from the Android Marketplace.
  • Thepiratebay.org. Do not use this unless you live in Sweden and have the written permission of everyone that has ever published an app in the official Android Marketplace. It works just fine for everyone, but if you don’t meet the two above criteria and use it then you are a bad person and going to hell after being put to death by DMCA agents who will fastrope into your house in the middle of the night and shoot your dog. I’m going to trust you on this one using the honor system, mmmk?

Some Useful Software Now Available to you.

The following are available at one or more of the above stores, and I’ve confirmed that they work on the Pandigital 7″.

  • Kindle. Best-in-breed e-book store reader. Available from the Opera Mobile Store.
  • TV.com. Allows watching of a few TV shows, including the original Star Trek series. Available from the Opera Mobile Store.
  • Opera Mini. Best-in-breed web browser for Android. Available from the Amazon Appstore.
  • Skyfire. Web browser with mediocre flash video playback capability.
  • Dropbox. Available here, this is the easiest way to move files back and forth between your desktop and your device without plugging things in and unplugging them, and without moving SD cards back and forth.
  • Launcher Pro. Replaces the default home screen with a much nicer one and is the best-in-breed alternative home screen. Available here.
  • Star Traders RPG. Available from the Amazon Appstore, it’s a fun little game that can kill time.
  • Bathroom Reader. Takes you to a semi-random Wikipedia article, such as “Random Sports Article”, “Random Celebrity Article”, “Random Technology Article”, and several other categories. Available from the Amazon Appstore.

Well, that is most of what I have discovered about the possibilities of this $85 device so far. What have you discovered?

Making the White Pandigital 7″ Novel Useful (Without rooting it, hacking it, or doing anything else risky)

Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

I just went ahead and used URemoteDesktop to turn my Android phone into a remote control for when I am watching movies or listening to music on my computer, and don’t have immediate access to my keyboard.


(Image Credit: From here, published under this license.)

The app I used and its Linux support is good, but the official English documentation is not that great.  Also, much of the website is in Spanish (something I can not read!). The official English documentation works if one is already savvy enough to understand it all, but still leaves the user having to type numerous terminal commands to get it going.

One advantage of this app over others, in my opinion, is that it doesn’t try to be smart and tailor itself to specific desktop software. It sends generic play, volume up, etc, commands and leaves it to your computer to interpret. It seems to work everywhere that the identical buttons on my keyboard work. I like that, because it doesn’t place barriers between me and trying new software out.

Hopefully these instructions will simplify the process, and require only one terminal command on your computer. It will even tell you your current “Host IP Address” needed by the Android phone. I hope these directions are basic enough to be accessible to all – if not, please let me know what I need to clarify.

These directions are for Ubuntu. If you aren’t using Ubuntu, you probably already know how to translate the directions into your distribution’s lingo. If you aren’t using gnome, you probably know how to translate directions into gnome.

Install Instructions:

1 ) Install the app on your phone. You can search the market for “URemoteDesktop” on your phone, or point the barcode scanner here:

2 ) Download the needed .zip file from here. That is the desktop server that talks to the app on your phone. Double click on that .zip, and extract it to your home folder so that it is at /home/YOURUSERNAME/URemoteDesktop_Server.

3 ) Install the xautomation and curl packages, needed for the server to work: sudo apt-get install xautomation curl

4 ) Go to places -> Home Folder -> URemoteDesktop_Server

5 ) Right click on launch.sh -> Properties -> Permissions -> Verify that “Execute” is checked next to “Owner”. Do the same process with vd.sh.

6 ) Type this in a terminal: gedit ~/.bashrc

6 ) Copy and paste this line of code at the end of .bashrc, replacing ‘whatever’ with whatever you want (I used ‘amote’), but leaving the rest the same:

alias whatever='echo My IP is && curl http://www.whatismyip.com/automation/n09230945.asp && echo && cd ~/URemoteDesktop_Server && ./launch.sh

7 ) Save and exit.

8 ) CLOSE THE TERMINAL, and you are done. If you leave the terminal open, you aren’t done yet.

Use Instructions:

1 ) Open a terminal (you did close it when you were done installing, right?).

2 ) Type ‘whatever‘ or ‘amote’ and hit enter.

3 ) On the next line in the terminal, it will tell you your IP address.

4 ) Turn your phone’s wifi connection on, connect to your home wireless network. Start the app on your phone.

5 ) Put the IP Address from step 3 into the app.

6 ) Works!

Android -> Linux Desktop Remote Control (better documentation than official)

Elastcal: Simple Cross-Platform App for Econ Students to Calculate Elasticity Coefficients

This BASIC code could be modified for pretty much any repetitive formula that crunches four numbers together. The only real pain is keeping track of parenthesis.

I’m sure similar code has been written thousands of times to do the exact same task, but I thought I’d share mine. As it stands, this calculates the “Elasticity Coefficient” of a good or service from one price/quantity point to another price/quantity point. Google can help one find websites that do these calculations, but Google is generally not allowed to be used on tests. The formula used here is the ‘midpoint formula’ of supply or demand elasticity.

Platforms this works on:

  • Your web browser.
  • TI-83 and perhaps other TI- calculators that use BASIC.
  • Android phones.
  • Probably a bunch of other things, too. If you port it to something else and it works, please let me know!

Microeconomics Formulas this works for:

  • Elasticity Coefficient of Demand
  • Elasticity Coefficient of Supply
  • Cross-Elasticity of Demand
  • Income-Elasticity of Demand

I just added a few lines so that it also spits out the slope of the line at that segment.

It just spits out the numbers, it is up to you to interpret it.

IN YOUR WEB BROWSER

Click here to run elastcal in your web browser. Requires Java. I have not done extensive testing on this version, and it looks like crap. It should still work, though. If you run into errors, please inform me and include as many details as possible.

Once it pops up, click “run” to start.

Point your smartphone’s barcode scanner at the below image to be directed to the website if you wish to attempt to use it on your smartphone.

qrcode

TI-83 USERS

TI-83s are very crummy computers and BASIC itself is a very crummy language, but that’s the most advanced thing I’m allowed to use on tests in my Economics class.

elastcal asking for input on TI-83.


elastcal showing results on TI-83.

On your TI-83 press “PRGM” and arrow over to “NEW”. Give it a name, and you should then be faced with a screen containing a “:” in the upper left corner under “Program:”.

Enter these lines of code. For “Disp” or “Input”, you enter that by pressing “PRGM”, arrowing over to “I/O”, selecting either “Disp” or “Input” and hitting enter. Make sure you keep track of parenthesis!

Disp "ELASTCAL V1.0"
Disp "BY C.T. MASON"
Disp "PUBLIC DOMAIN"
Disp " "
Input "OLD QUANT-",A
Input "NEW QUANT-",B
Input "OLD PRICE-",C
Input "NEW PRICE-",D
Disp " "
Disp "ELASTICITY"
Disp "COEFFICIENT-"
Disp ((A-B)/((A+B)/2)/((C-D)/((C+D)/2))
Disp "SLOPE AT THAT"
Disp "SEGMENT-"
Disp (D-C)/(B-A)

ANDROID USERS

I did a simple port to BASIC as implemented on the $0 Android app called “BASIC! + SQL” that you can find in the Android Marketplace. All three methods below work equally well at installing elastcal, pick the one that seems easiest to you.
elastcal asking for old quantity.


elastcal asking for new price.


elastcal returning the elasticity coefficient.

Method 1 to install:

Install “BASIC! + SQL” on your Android phone from the Android Marketplace, plug your Android phone into your computer click here to download elastcal, and save it to “rfo-basic -> source” on your Android’s MicroSD chip.

Method 2 to install:

If you don’t want to do all that, point your Android phone’s barcode scanner at this, and install it, to get the BASIC interpreter app:
QR Code that refers Android Phones to the BASIC! + SQL app in the Android Marketplace
Point your barcode scanner at this for the app I wrote, and download it to the rfo-basic/source folder on your phone’s SD card:
QR Code that refers Android Phones to elastcal.bas

Method 3 to install:

Install the “BASIC! + SQL” app, and enter the source code manually:

print "elastcal v1.0"
print "by C.T. Mason"
print "Released to Public Domain"
input "old quant",a
input "new quant",b
input "old price",c
input "new price",d
print " "
print "elasticity coefficient:"
print ((a-b)/((a+b)/2)/((c-d)/((c+d)/2))
print "slope of that segment:"
print (d-c)/(b-a)

Putting the Icon on your Home Screen:

Long-tap on the home screen to bring up the “Add to Home Screen” dialog.

Select “Shortcuts”.

Select “Launcher Shortcuts” with the telescope icon.

For “Program File Name”, enter “elastcal.bas”.

Leave “Icon File Name” blank.

For “Shortcut Name” enter “elastcal”

Hit “OK”. Hit “OK” again.

Done!

APPLE USERS

Elastcal for cellular phones relies on a piece of Free and Open Source Software covered under the very ethical and reasonable terms of the GNU General Public License, and as such it is not compatible and will never be compatible with the Terms of Service of the Apple App Store unless Apple’s ToS are altered significantly.

The copyright license of the software that makes elastcal work is the GNU GPL v3, and it says this:

You may not impose any further restrictions on the exercise of the rights granted or affirmed under this License.

The App Store’s various terms and conditions place significant restrictions on recipients’ rights that are not compatible with the section in bold above. If you would like to see elastcal and “BASIC! + SQL” available natively on Apple devices, please e-mail Steve Jobs ( sjobs@apple.com ) and ask him to modify the Terms of Service of the App Store to be more inclusive and open to people with different ethical codes than his own.

If iPhone and iPad web browsers are standards-compliant, then the web based version above should work for you. If not, there isn’t much I can do about the situation.

Elastcal: Simple Cross-Platform App for Econ Students to Calculate Elasticity Coefficients