Category Archives: Tablet

HAC and Developing on the Kindle Fire

Yesterday we took our initial look at Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet and were surprised at its quality of build, display and touch response especially as compared to our budget Android tablets. The Kindle Fire runs a modified version of Android Gingerbread and therefore has some differences from the official Google Android Gingerbread. For instance it doesn’t have the buttons Home, Back and Menu that most Android devices have but instead uses a special menu bar at the bottom of its screen.

Running HAC built Apps
Once we had the Kindle booted up and wifi working we used the Kindle Fire’s web browser to load some of the example apps built by HAC from our website’s projects web page. Kindle Fire’s built in web browser is easy to use and we tried several of the demos including Solar System and they all worked. The Android Info demo accurately identified the device hardware as Kindle Fire so anyone building apps with HAC can be sure their app can successfully detect if it is indeed running on a Kindle Fire.

Some Android developers using the official Android SDK have reported a menu bar problem with the Kindle Fire and we were keen to check this out. At the present time the Kindle Fire’s bottom menu bar cannot be programmatically removed by apps built with the official Android SDK and so the bottom 40 pixels of such apps are always hidden. Amazon do make their Kindle SDK available to developers aiming to create apps specifically for the Kindle Fire and their SDK has the necessary functionality to hide, show and detect the bottom menu bar so allowing apps to use the full screen. However, as HAC won’t be using the Kindle SDK we have a fix in mind to limit the affects of the menu bar problem.

We wanted to connect HAC to the Kindle Fire so as to build and debug apps but amazingly the KIndle Fire doesn’t come with the necessary USB micro B connection cable so we had to order one.

Using HAC to launch and debug apps on Kindle Fire
Today our USB connection cable came but before we could connect up the Kindle Fire to our Windows XP development machine we had to modify a couple of files associated with the Android ADB and USB driver. Soon we will have more details on this but for now here is a link on how to do this :-

By the way, there is a free editor called Notepad++ that is great for editing such files:-

Once we had the USB drivers set up we plugged in the Kindle Fire and started up HAC. From HAC’s “Manage Devices” menu we could see the attached Kindle Fire and therefore ran the DDMS debugger before testing a few projects. Please note that the current version of HAC (v1.12) was used and had not been modified in any way in order to work with the Kindle Fire so we weren’t sure what to expect.

We tried several demo projects such as Hello World, Android Info, Preschool Sums and Lunar Lander. They all worked but we noticed a few problems such as the Kindle menu bar remaining at the bottom of the screen, sometimes images not updating after pressing the Home button and then returning to the app. At least there we no crashes, the button response and graphics events worked as well. The Lundar Lander game ran smoothly and below is a screenshot that shows the Kindle menu bar at the bottom of the screen.

Lunar Lander on Kindle Fire

The Kindle Fire is a very good tablet even though it is running a modified Android OS. Apps built by the current version of HAC do run on it although the bottom menu bar is an irritation as it take valuable space that an app could use.
Our next move is to modify the forthcoming v1.13 release of HAC to work even better with the Kindle Fire.


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Device Roundup

HTC G1 Dream

The HTC G1 Dream is a smart-phone running OS1.6 with a 320×480 capacitive screen and a physical keyboard. Testing on a device with a physical keyboard is a must because the emulator’s soft keyboard has some problems and sometimes getting the soft keyboard out of the Chinese mode when doing API calls to it can be very awkward. Also the G1 is a good test of orientation handling as when its physical keyboard is flipped out an orientation change to landscape is signalled by the OS. Note, G1’s generally don’t come with an SD-Card and one must be fitted for HAC apps to run on it.

HTC Hero

The HTC Hero is a smart-phone very similar to the H1 except it runs OS2.1update 1 and has no external keyboard. It also has a 320×480 capacitive screen and more RAM at 288MB compared to 192MB on the G1 . Both the G1 and Hero use a 528MHz processor.

HiPad IMX515

The HiPad IMX515 is a tablet usually running OS 2.1 although it can be upgraded to OS2.2. It has a 800×600 resistive screen, 512MB RAM and an 800MHz processor. USB seemed to run well on OS 2.1, but after updating to OS 2.2 our USB no longer works reliably necessitating the use of wireless ADB debugging.


The EPAD 10″ Wireless tablet uses OS2.2 and has 1024×600 resistive screen. It use a 1GHz processor and has 512MB RAM. For input it can use an external USB keyboard and mouse. Ours has problems with USB debugging as apparently there are no USB drivers for it yet, but wireless debugging is very reliable.

Debugging and ADB Connectivity

For the Android developer the main issue is of getting one’s apps to run under ADB on the device so they can be debugged by the debugger. Unfortunately, many devices have poor or non-existant USB debugging so for them the only option is to use wireless debugging and for this some of them must be rooted (either fully or partially).

Both HTC devices have excellent USB debugging, although they lack wireless. On the other hand, our two tablets have poor or non-existant USB debugging, but wireless debugging works very well for them.


If you are serious about the quality of your app then you need to test on at least one Android device. Which device you need depends upon the functionality of your software. Our G1 has serious problems playing most media, but is great for many other things, including testing keyboard functionality. Our tablets have large screen areas and can show how your app will scale up from a smart-phone screen. As our tablets use newer Android OS they are more likely to play the media you need and also offer greater OS functionality. All our Android devices are budget buys from eBay, but once you start developing on an Android device then the emulators seem very slow and archaic even though they are still a must for testing purposes.

If you could only afford one device then a tablet covers most options as in HAC you can set your card/screen size to say 320×480 and use the unscaled option that employs absolute pixels so the card appears as smart-phone size. HAC also has fit option to scale proportionally your card so it appears in the centre of the screen. The last display option is stretch, which fills the entire screen. The distortion can be unsightly, however.

There is a lot to consider when buying an Android device but hopefully this very short blog might help when you look for that bargain on eBay or you hit the high street.


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