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LeapFrog Epic part 2: An open letter to the company (bootloader and ROM development)

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OK, so a bit of a rant, though for one I gotta give LeapFrog some credits to this. Sure, repairs are a service centre away, and the main market for this device are kids and their parents, but what about the more tech-savvy parents (e.g. geeks or tinkerer types) who'd certainly re-purpose or service their kids' Epics either because it broke down or gone on a boot loop for some reason?
You see the main thing with this is the preloader, or other words the bootloader, is locked from tampering, making it next to impossible to use custom ROMs or kernels. You can somehow subvert this by editing just the system.img offline assuming you extracted it off your device, or in the case of backups, backing up the whole ROM image, boot/recovery and other images included, to a single ROM_0 file, and flashing it back using the hidden Write Memory feature in SP Flash Tool.
The problem is when you need to replace boot.img with a different one - you simply can't. Flashing unsigned images give…

LeapFrog Epic part 1: The hidden Lock Screen.

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So I got my hands on a pair of these units from a friend of mine who was generous enough to donate for free. While getting these in-store demo units to work as a retail device is a pain and a half to do (more on that in a later post), I've had fun modding and poking into the internals to see what can be done with it. There are actually a LOT of hidden and/or dummied out features in the tablet, most of which can be accessed through the open-source Activity Launcher.
For instance, LeapFrog dummied out access to the lock screen settings by removing menu references to said options in Settings. They disabled the AOSP lock screen presumably to save children the (supposed) frustration of having to unlock their device upon using it. It is however possible to re-enable it and add a lock pattern or a simple slide to unlock prompt in case you need one:
On the home screen or the parental controls menu, go to your browser and download this APK:https://f-droid.org/repo/de.szalkowski.activityla…

Stock ROM for Galaxy S7/G930FD MT6580 clone (Z6U030; 512MB RAM/8GB ROM)

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Felt like sharing this as most of them South Asian GSM bloggers are, suffice it to say, being scrooges or something, asking for $$$ to have the firmware package's password to be unlocked as a rather low-brow way to earn money. Not that I have anything against them, mind you, but as I said on my previous post, this business model of theirs only serves to inconvenience both clients and technicians alike.
I dumped this off my Galaxy S7 clone, a few weeks or so after I got the phone off the service centre when they repaired it as I made the unfortunate mistake of flashing the wrong ROM. It should work with certain Galaxy S7 replicas using preloader_gxq6580_weg_l.bin as the preloader; mine's the one with the plastic frame and the microphone pin on the wrong side of the device.
Firmware info:
CPU: MT6580 SW:0000 Ver: CA00
Downloading Boot8 ...
EMMC Size: 0x01C3000000
Flash Type: EMMC
INT/EXT RAM  Size: 0x0+0x0
Reading infr(EMMC)...
id:Z6U030HA_V105En
version:5.1
model:gxq6580_weg_l
brand:alp…

An angry rant at the "paid firmware" business model

OK, this isn't to say that I have anything against those who maintain "GSM" repair sites and such, nor am I going to be too sour at them either. It's that if there's anything that truly grinds my gears when it comes to smart device servicing, it's the practise of locking down most if not all firmware RAR/ZIP files with a password, and charging people a fee to have that particular SP Flash Tool package unlocked.
Let's say you, or your client, has an obscure Xperia clone bought off some flea market stall or on DHGate (assuming you managed to troll the Customs bureau or DHL). You, or that client of yours, forgot to back up the stock firmware, and out of haste managed to mess it up royally and ended up with a non-functional device. In the case of a name-brand, legitimate handset, it's only the matter of googling for "Lenovo A369i stock ROM" or something like that. Some lesser-known phones or tabs would understandably be harder to find firmware-…

Macintosh in a pinch: Sierra on a Pentium G3258/ASUS H81M-D

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Let me say first that while I've been into the Hackintosh scene for like seven or eight years, I am still learning the ropes with some aspects such as DSDT and a few other things. But let me share this install guide for you lads and lasses who are interested in cobbling up a Hackintosh of your own.
This guide is mostly based on Elad Nava's El Capitan installation guide, albeit with a few tweaks to account for the new OS and system to be installed on, assuming that you're on a G3258-based system. In my case, I am using a PC with the following specs:ASUS H81M-D (BIOS revision 2204)Pentium G3258 @ 3.2GhzKingston ValueRAM 8GB DDR3 GeForce GTX 750 2GB GDDR5Western Digital WD10EZEX 1TBYou'll also need an existing Mac or PC to prepare the USB stick to be used for installation. There are guides and/or tools out there that allow for a doing so without a Mac, but I'm not sure about that myself. If you don't have an existing Mac, I recommend using a virtual machine image f…

The Tale of the Tiny Showstopper

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So a friend of mine gave me a copy of American Girls Dress Designer for the PC, and while it seems fine and dandy for the most part, it has this one major flaw, something which accounts for why it fails to run properly on Windows systems post-98/ME:

As you can see, using anything that invokes a pop-up window, such as Print, Quit or Select Dress, leads to this error. At first I thought it had something to do with DirectDraw as what some of the lads over at Vogons suggested, but none of the hacks at hand were of any use. Neither does Wine despite my expectations with it being able to run older games with ease. :/

So what I did next was I fired up OllyDbg and got an INVALID_WINDOW_HANDLE error upon reproducing the bug. To further clarify things I used this API debugger and ended up with this:
As you can see, the debugger says the application is calling an invalid menu handle - the CreateWindowEx API call allows programmers to define a menu to a window. But since there aren't any dro…

The hypocrisy of some sure is appalling.

The Filipino mainstream sure aren't the only ones known for ad-hominems and brash mud-slinging. I may not be close friends with the Chrisman couple, i.e. Sarah and Gabriel, but I can somehow relate to how people with dissenting views are being put down by the status quo.
Sure enough, they have some points as to how the Victorian era isn't the best time period ever, but as some would rebut, is the present any ideal either? And while the couple's hobby of theirs may sound like serious business, what's with all the fuss and arguments against them? They may have made a mistake or two along the way, but it isn't in their goals to get in any person's way or be like those swag/yolo/whatever freaks who care more about superficiality and childish hedonism.
Free speech sure is a double-edged sword, as they say. You'd rally for stuff like LGBT rights and whatnot, and yet when it comes to stuff like what Sarah and her husband happily does, or in my case, adult women a…