Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cube U55GT-C8 Octa Core Tablet Firmware Flash

If you happen to have bricked your Cube U55GT C8 then you might well find the guide below, and the links provided, to be of some use. While it is a fine device with a great screen my particular one really didn't like factory resets as they essentially broke Android, causing there to be little or no UI left once the resetting was complete. It was very strange and many tech people were confused by it. While I never found out exactly why that used to occur I did find out how to reflash Android on to it even when it seemed as if the device had become bricked (dead). Much of the appreciation for the information below should go to a friend of mine called Nick for going above and beyond the call of friendship to help me out with fixing mine, which in turn has allowed me to put together this guide.

Tools you may need:

Before you follow the steps below it is assumed you have a knowledge of SP Flash Tools and of how to replace drivers within Windows Device Manager. This is not meant as a full tutorial so please refer to other widely available guides on these matters before proceeding with this if you are unsure. This guide is for Windows only I'm afraid!

A - Firmware and SP Flash Tools software: or

C - (This page was very useful as well even though the author refers to Windows 10

D - Nirsoft USB Devices viewer is free and allows you to see what USB ports are active and connected. It proved very useful for this as it also tells you the name of the connections in a handier way than Windows own Device Manager:

Follow these steps:

1 - Make sure you have the right Mediatek drivers installed on your computer. The ones on the website link B, specifically one named MDMCPQ (for Windows 7), worked for me. If you downloaded the firmware from the Mediafire link the drivers are included within the folder "MTK Drivers 32 bit and 64 bit..." Search for "Alcatel xxxxxx" in Device Manager as Windows installs a driver for the tablet automatically and it is, obviously, the wrong one. Replace that driver with the Mediatek driver.

2 - The connection will appear and disappear frequently within Device Manager but this is normal. On my install it came up as Mediatek MTK (Com 13) or something like that under Network. You can check more details using Nirsoft USBDevices software through the website link D above. If all is going well you should see "Mediatek DA USB VCOM Port" and "PreLoader USB VCOM (Android)". 

3 - Open SP Flash Tools, ensure it is set up correctly with the right scatter file etc. The scatter file is located in one of the folders in the Firmware folder you will have downloaded from web link A above. You may have to look for it yourself - it is a text file (Notepad format) called MT6592_Android Scatter). 

4 - Keep the tablet plugged out and when the scatter file is loaded up and ready to go click on the dropdown menu below the scatter file address bar. Select "Format+Download".

5 - Click on the big "Download" button and then connect the USB cable to the tablet. Ensure that you do this when the device has appeared in the Device Manager window (remember it will appear and disappear every few seconds so keep an eye on it). 

6 - Watch the progress bar until complete, disconnect the tablet, power up (it will take longer than usual for the first boot).

7 - The tablet will now be in Chinese but you can switch back to English easily by swiping from the top-right-corner of the screen and going into the menu structure (you'll find it eventually!).

8 - If the tablet had previously been rooted you can download the KingORoot apk (not available in the Play Store but available from which will root it for you once again (it may take a couple of attempts and ensure to keep the screen awake while it works) and allow you to uninstall any bloatware from the system using App Master or a similar app.

Further resources which may be of assistance (they were to me):

2 - China Phone Arena on Youtube, video on using SP Flash Tools to unbrick a device like above (extremely useful to watch):

Friday, May 1, 2015

Rough thoughts - Are Motorcyclists Too Conservative?

This is by no means something that I have ruminated over for days on end but rather a rambling thought. It probably isn't correct but it might end up spurring on some thoughts of your own on the subject...

I was saddened to hear that Erik Buell Racing had hit a wall last week and filed for receivership. As Jensen Beeler of Asphalt and Rubber stated, this does not necessarily mean the end of EBR as an entity, as the receivership process basically tries to reorganise the companies debts and assets in order to see what can be salvaged. I have first hand experience of going through it in Ireland (twice in a football club I was working for at the time), and the club came through both much stronger and is now, perhaps, the most stable football club in the country from a business point of view. The purpose of this post is not to debate the merits, or not, of Wisconsin's receivership laws (as Wisconsin was where EBR were/are based), rather it is to ask the question "are motorcyclists too conservative?".

Erik Buell's products were always a bit different, from his very first bike to the fuel-in-the-frame idea to the strange ZTL rim-mounted braking system. Was this part of the reason for the downfall of EBR? Is it that we motorcyclists are just not imaginative enough? When you really think about it, the motorbike, as a basic idea, has not changed all that much over the last one hundred or so years. There's an engine stuffed in between two wheels with a frame keeping it all together, a chain driving the rear and forks with springs in them at the front. Simple and effective. Buell's products took that basic idea and attempted to make fairly significant refinements to it in order to make their bikes better and more distinctive. They were not giant leaps but they were certainly different enough to make the bikes stand out from a crowd and, maybe, in doing so, people were a little afraid of them.

There are some motorcyclists who like to cling to the idea of being a reincarnated Dennis Hopper, riding across the US on a bike with front forks long enough to use for Olympic high jumping. (Come to think of it those same forks are probably about as structurally stiff too!) While they certainly were not the type of motorcyclists Buell was marketing his bikes too, they are often the group with some of the most money to spend. They tend to be older people who use their bikes as leisure machines rather than everyday transport. As such the bikes, for them, are a novelty. Some fine china plates are novelty items. There's a comparison there if you think about it. Fine china plates do their jobs just fine but are not exactly cutting edge technology either. The low-revving and traditional cruisers favoured by the older crowd impersonating Mr Hopper do their jobs just fine too but to the detriment of the cutting edge technology that Buell was bringing to market.

Indeed, when I talk bikes with someone who isn't all that knowledgeable about them, they tend to bring up images of long straight roads, great weather, Harley's and "living the dream". So then, not only does the general public (from what I can tell) see motorcyclists as all aspiring to own traditional cruisers of the fine china variety, but that exactly is what many older motorcyclists want to do. A funny-front-ender would be anathema to them because it simply would not look the part (even Buell, to my knowledge, did not go there). No forks? That's crazy talk! Rim-mounted front disc brake? More crazy talk!

Now that we have dealt with that section of the motorcycling tent, it's time to deal with the other groups. Are we ALL averse to technology that looks out of place with the idea of a "normal" bike? Maybe, but the reality is more complicated than a binary answer I'm afraid. Sportbike riders tend to be younger and more technologically oriented than our cruiser riding brethren but even with sportsbikes the name of the game has been evolution, quiet evolution, rather than revolution. I mean, how many Bimota Tesi's do you see on your daily commute? (Unfortunately your's truly sees none)
Yes the BMW S1000rr and the Ducati Panigale are loaded with electronics and even semi-active suspension but they use conventional forks, and in the case of the German machine, a conventional frame. At least the Panigale is a monocque design in that it doesn't really have a frame as such, rather it uses the engine as a stressed member and mounts components to both that and the airbox. They don't depart massively from the original idea of the motorcycle that I outlined above. Many engineers agree that forks are really not a great idea for front suspension and steering duties on a bike as they have to deal with too many forces, especially when cornering, and cannot isolate on force from another. You might be thinking about BMWs telelever front suspension design now but did you notice that they made it look like a conventional fork? Why did they do that? And why not perfect it and add that to the S1000rr? Yes it would be a massive engineering challenge but could the answer also lie in the thought that many of riders in their target market would, even if perfected, eschew the strange telelever front suspension system because it was not something they were "used" to?

Even in the field of adventure bikes and dual-sport bikes the focus of innovation has really been on electronics and engine power output. The basic look of the bikes, which a funny-front-end would alter, has been much the same throughout the years. This altered look wasn't really a feature of Erik Buell's creations, for while they were different, they still had classic bike "shapes". This being said I read plenty of comments online where people were happy to question the purpose of the ZTL rim mounted braking system and idea of putting fuel in the frame. In some cases you could almost feel the "I told you so attitude" which I found to be quite sad and which made me think of the original question behind this post, are motorcyclists too conservative?

I am no way close to a definitive answer but but I think there is some merit in the thought that, on the whole, motorcyclists may well be a conservative bunch. They (we) like what they (we) know. New stuff is ok too but only if it's an evolution of what we have and therefore have, in some way, "previewed" it already. For those on traditional cruisers this is often not even the case, as anything that deviates from the look and "feel" of what is regarded a proper cruiser, is deemed sacrilegious. Such attitudes are not exactly useful in helping the industry as a whole to progress. Vilifying bikes like Yamaha's GTS1000 with it's hub-centred steering front end only drives manufacturers away from really experimental designs (ironically the look of the bike, apart from the front, was quite bland but maybe there was a reason for that...). It keeps the public image of motorcyclists the same as the one I outlined above, and stops operations like Buell's from flourishing.

It's true that I have ignored a ton of factors here such as economics, manufacturing scale, reliability and ease of maintenance of the machines themselves for the user but still, there's food for thought there.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cube Talk79 U55GT Tablet Review

Have you been looking around for a tablet for some late-night reading, watching a few clips on Youtube, or perhaps even writing a few short pieces on Google Docs? Well these were some of the reasons I was on the lookout for a cheap tablet. After hesitating for a long time I began to do some research into tablets from various Chinese OEM manufacturers and ended up buying the Cube Talk79. For less than €150 it's hard to go wrong with it.

This picture from gives you a good idea of the overall look of this tablet. It's not all that different, from the front at least, to an iPad Mini but the back is distinctly different. It's very thin as you can see from the side profile.

The technical details of the tablet are here:

The Talk79 is a slightly smaller version of another Cube tablet, the Talk9X which was released a few months ago and was billed by some as China's best Android tablet. The specification of the Talk79 which I bought, is very similar to it's larger brother and will leave most users very satisfied with its performance.

Because tablets spend so long being held I always think that how they feel in the hand is very important and this one feels properly solid, almost in the same way that an iPad would feel. The similarity with Apple's products doesn't end there, as you can see from the pictures in the link above, it looks quite similar (at least from the front) to the California-designed products. The buttons on the right side, controlling volume and power, are fairly solid but there is more movement in them than is the case with a real top end device. At the same time it is not something I am worried about, I am confident they're going to last the lifetime of the tablet.

Turning on the tablet is easy and running through set-up is also easy. Cube kept the Android OS fairly clean with very few pre-installed apps so it's a clean slate for you to work from. It's a very sharp slate to work from too, the screen resolution and colour production are very good. Apparently it uses the same display as the iPad Mini and it shows, especially when watching HD videos or looking at sharp hi-res pictures. Indeed it is really useful for watching TV shows on if you like to do that with a tablet. The one thing which is noticeable is that brightness is not very adjustable, especially on the "auto" setting, but again it is no great problem and especially so for those of you used to phones or tablets which do not dim/light-up abruptly depending on ambient light. This is not to say that it doesn't work, it's just not all that sensitive.

I rarely use a tablet's, or a phone's own speakers as you can never expect much from them in the way of bass or sections of midrange due to their physical size. In saying that the speakers on the Cube are decent, clear, and loud without being too tinny. They do their job well but linking it up with some speakers or headphones (you can use the 3.5mm jack for this or use Bluetooth) makes a huge difference, obviously. Sound, in this regard, is clear, loud, and far more customisable through an EQ manager.

But what about the overall user experience? Is it smooth, flowing? Is it a joy to use or is a frustrating package of lag and force-closures?

Overall the Talk79 has been very smooth running your usual array of apps such as a music player (Google Music in my case), Chrome, VLC, Pocket Casts (for podcasts), Pocket (for text), Mightytext, Gmail etc. It can handle all of these apps easily and can run them all simultaneously without any hiccups. The screen's touch sensitivity is very good and typing on it is surprisingly easy (I use the Swiftkey app). There have been the odd time when I have pressed the power button the wake the tablet up and have not had a reaction for a few seconds but this has since mitigated (no idea why but maybe the power button was a little stiff from the factory).

Another very important aspect in tablet usage is battery life and the Talk79 did not initially impress me in this field seeing just about 8 hours of usage before it would need to be recharged. However, as I have cycled the battery through a few charges now, that has improved somewhat but a much bigger change resulted in much greater battery gains. This tablet can accept a nano-sim for phone services, and at 13cmx20cm (approx) it is just about small enough to hold in one hand if you DID want to use it as a phone. I've never seen the appeal of that though and rooted the tablet with a PC programme called KingOroot. This allowed me to install "App Master" which will allow you to delete apps which are usually not deletable. I made sure to get rid of all apps to do with phone services in order to save battery life. Even without a sim card the tablet will attempt to search for mobile networks either way and in Android's built-in battery monitor this was taking up quite an amount of battery. In deleting the phone services I can now squeeze out about 12 hours of battery or more.

One caveat to all of this - I don't play any games on my phone or tablet so cannot comment on any of that sort of stuff and I have yet to bother with the camera on it but reviews elsewhere say it is quite good.

Overall, for less than €150 this is a very good 7.9" tablet which will handle all that is thrown at it. I'm not an Android fan-boy but I do wonder why so many people spend so much on Ipad's when they will never use the full capabilities of that device. They could save so much money with something like this and still never use this device's capabilities! If you're looking for a decent tablet on a budget this is a great choice.