Google Nexus 7 setup notes

by Edward Z. Yang

I acquired a Google Nexus 7 (Wi-Fi only) over winter break. I don’t really like getting new devices: they invariably require a lot of work to setup to my liking. Here are some notes:

  • Jailbreaking the device from Linux is still fiddly. Ultimately, it’s probably easiest to just find a Windows box and use the Nexus Root Toolkit. The tool is somewhat racy; try the detection code again if it fails the first time.
  • Transferring files to/from Linux is a pain in the ass. I have SCP over SSHDroid working; I also tried both DropBear SSH Servers but they did not come with scp binaries and were thus fairly useless for the purpose of file transfer. SSHDroid didn’t work out of the box: I needed to apply comment 14 to make the real scp binaries get picked up in the path. By default, these apps are configured to accept password-authentication (not even keyboard-interactive!) with extremely weak default passwords: make sure you disable that. Still looking for a good rsync implementation. On the USB side, Ubuntu/Gnome/Nautilus natively recognised Nexus in PTP mode but when I tried copying files it hung. MTP is fairly unsupported by Ubuntu 12.10, but go-mtpfs works decently well given a sufficiently modern libmtp. Adam Glasgall has packaged libmtp for Quantal, so go add his PPA, and then follow the installation instructions of go-mtpfs. Update: Transferring files directly to removable media has also worked reasonably well.
  • The tablet really does feel like a phone, courtesy of both being on the Android platform. But no 3G means offline is a lot more important, and the larger screen makes certain types of applications a lot more pleasant to use (Update: I’ve settled on MX Player as my video player of choice, since it supports Advanced SubStation Alpha subtitling and MKV files. Unfortunately, it doesn't support deep color (e.g. 10-bit).)
  • Micro USB to USB OTG cable is really handy, esp. for hooking up keyboards or external media. I’d dare say, it’s a more essential accessory than a cover. Note that the micro-USB port isn’t able to power USB devices with high power requirements (e.g. spinning platter external disks), so you’ll need a powered USB hub to connect them. (One symptom of this is if you try to mount an under-powered hard drive, the directory listing will persistently come up empty. It may also may make clicking noises: probably not good for the drive.) I use USB-OTG to perform mounting.
  • I tried to get my paper database on Mendeley mirrored onto my tablet, but it's been pretty tough. I’ve been trying to use Referey, which is a Mendeley-client for Android, but it requires me to somehow propagate my Mendeley SQLite database and all of my PDFs. Dropbox seems like a good match here, except that the official Dropbox client doesn't support keeping entire folders synced (only favorite files). If you’re like me, and you don't know exactly what papers you are going to be reading, you have to use something different, e.g. Dropsync. (BTW, if you, like me, have the clever idea of putting the SQLite database with your PDFs, so they all get synced in one folder, don’t ever "Tidy Up": Mendeley will happily delete your SQLite database as a “foreign object”.) Mendeley and Dropbox seem to interact poorly with each other in various ways (case-sensitivity; also, Mendeley likes to make filenames that are too long, and Dropbox will stupidly and happily accept them).
  • The “open windows” button doesn’t appear to properly respect when an application is closed through its own volition (i.e. through an exit button natively supported by the aplication.) This is a bit annoying.

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year. :)

Update: I had my Nexus 7 inexplicably brick itself. Fortunately, once the phone is unlocked, it is very easy to reflash the image (and I didn’t lose data, which normally occurs when you first unlock a fone). I did this by fastboot update while the phone was in the bootloader (hold down both volume keys while powering up, and the image was downloaded from Google), and then applying the last set of steps from here to get SuperSu installed again (i.e. fastbooting into ClockworkMod and then sideloading SuperSu).