More Archos 70b/BQ Voltaire fun – USB Host Fail and FBReader

Mini USB Keyboard and leather case – Don’t buy it for the Archos 70b!

Earlier this week I splashed out £10 on a leather case/mini usb keyboard combo, in hope that it would let me use my ereader as a cheap netbook for writing. It arrived today, so when I got home from work I plugged it in, expecting it to work once I enabled USB hosting.

I’d read somewhere in one advert for this product that the vendor didn’t recommend anyone buying this for Android 2.1, for some reason I thought my device was currently running a version of 2.2 so I assumed it would work. It was then that I discovered that I was running 2.1.

“No matter,” I thought, “I’ll just flash my device again with a more recent ROM.” And so I did just that, following these instructions for installing Voltaire Android 2.2 (Froyo), and after a brief while – thankfully free of the scares I had the first time around – my device rebooted with Android 2.2, with an added bonus of this ROM coming Rooted for added usefulness.

Again I plugged in the keyboard, and went looking for the options that would finally allow me to use a hardware keyboard instead of that infernal software keyboard that is so unusable on a resistive screen.

It was then that I discovered a second problem. There is no USB Host mode in 2.2 either, and not just that, but having googled and read up on the subject, I discovered that to use this keyboard and other such USB devices, I’d need something capable of USB Host mode. As it turns out, the Archos 70b eReader doesn’t appear to be. It’s not even something that is hidden in the background awaiting unlocking once you have root access.

So, having googled some more, it now looks like my only recourse would be to purchase a mini USB to full USB host cable and a second converter to switch back from full USB to mini USB, and even then, it’s highly unlikely to work as the eReader device probably isn’t capable of enough power to actually power a USB device like that.

So, I grudgingly admit defeat on this. My dream of being able to run a basic word editor on the device and type out passages of novels and screenplays while on the move appears to be dead in the water. I may have to splash out on a new battery for my old linux netbook instead. This will mean carrying around three devices on my daily commutes: my Phone, for general communication plus the defacto games for any capable devices – Angry Birds and Draw Something; my eReader, for doing the obvious and expected thing of being able to read books; and my netbook, for doing productive things like writing. Thankfully all of these things are rather small and light, so it shouldn’t be too much to bear. The downside is a bag full of (albeit it cheapish) technology that I would hate to lose, either through my own doing or someone else’s nefarious actions.

On the bright side – having installed the new ROM, and begun re-installing my apps again, I managed to get FBReader working with the keymapping, which I had failed to do last time. There were some key differences in the installation compared to last time. Not sure how many are relevant, but perhaps worth noting here should anyone else have a similar problem and come across this post via Google:

  1. Last time I had tried keymapping with the actions nextPage and previousPage. Tonight was the first time I used the volumeKeyScrollForward/Backward actions.
  2. The second thing that is different this evening is that I now have an external SD card installed (courtesy of upgrading my ZTE Blade’s SD card today so that I had more space for apps, music, games, photos and videos), so the file went on there. not sure if that is relevant?
  3. I may also have a more up to date version of FBReader, having downloaded it from the market tonight..
  4. I don’t know if order of appearance in the xml file is relevant, but I noticed in a forum post by someone with a similar issue that their keys were listed in reverse numeric order. On mine I now have:
    <?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
    <keymap>
    <binding key="21" action="volumeKeyScrollBackward" />
    <binding key="22" action="volumeKeyScrollForward" />
    </keymap>
  5. Finally, I can’t rule it out, but perhaps I simply didn’t restart FBReader after editing the keymapping last time? 😀
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6 thoughts on “More Archos 70b/BQ Voltaire fun – USB Host Fail and FBReader

  • Cyberwizzard

    After reading your post (its high on Google when seaching for USB host stuff for the Archos 70b or BQ Voltaire) I deducted from your post that it was unlikely that the USB host mode worked.

    It turns out that it does: USB OTG requires a special cable to tell the device that it should switch to USB host mode: while rare, there are in fact mini-USB to mini-USB OTG cables.

    However, you are correct in assuming that the tablet does not power the cable in host mode: most tablets seem to lack the circuitry to do this. However, using an externally powered hub is enough (no need for Y-cables as some guides suggest).

    I know this does not help you in your quest to build a tablet type-writer but it might help others who just try to get the USB host mode going 🙂

    Reply
  • aps

    Hi,
    I wanted android 2.3 for my archos 7ob so i could use more API’s.
    So i also found that the bq voltaire firmware was usable.
    But i also found out there is alternative firmware called cyanogenmod. So when you google for the words archos voltaire and cyanogenmod you will find firmware that gives you android 2.3.7. Here is a photo of my archos http://apsdev.dyndns.org/dscf0464.jpg Now it thinks it is a bq verne plus tablet instead of an archos 70b ereader.

    Greatings AP.

    Reply
    • Andrew

      I actually use cyanogenmod 7 on my unlocked San Francisco/ZTE Blade phone, so I was aware of it, and did notice that it could be used on the Archos 70b as well, but I wondered what the performance would be like on it. I did see one person moaning that it made it unusable, but I think that was just because he hadn’t tweaked it t disable certain features. Does it work well? Could you compare performance to the Voltaire rom?

      Reply
  • aps

    Well .. i only installed it a couple of days ago, it seems a lot faster as the original 70b prolly because of the JIT. We do have an original 70b to so i can do some comparisons i guess.
    The swipping seems to work better, browsers are fast.
    The first time it switched on in spanish, you have to find an icon in the settings with an ‘a’ in it to change the language to english.
    There is no touch calibration, keyboard seems to be off a tiny bit to the right. But you can prolly hack it to switch it on.
    The home button is now at the bottom, but disappears in a number of apps so you cant get out. However in the tablet tweaks you can switch “full screen off” and then there is no problem as you have a home and back button. Youtube only worked once in the default browser, later it only made sound.
    However .. the the dolphin browser and the “my youtube viewer” app youtube works fine in fullscreen. The original youtube app seems to be uncompatible.
    The opera browser doesnt seem to support youtube.
    Wifi doesnt switch on automatically but there is a wifi settings button on the main page. For some reason ereaders as aldiko dont seem to install .. maybe something with DRM. With adobe pdf viewer you can read books, but i am looking for something easier. Default the device can install apps on the SDcard .. which i switched off now, maybe thats the problem with the ereader apps. There is a slight problem that the G-sensor seems to be off 90 degrees, which makes it great if you want to use it in bed i guess :b Howver in the menu you can switch it to 270 degrees, so the screen is normal. And when you start a youtube movie it automatically goes to landscape.
    There is no volume control, there seems to be an app to change volume. But havent seen that as a problem yet.
    I had this weird thing, that i swipped over the bottom button bar, and suddenly i was in a menu to switch host mode of the usb port on/off .. but i cant reproduce that ?!
    I now can use the google play app store, which means you can install apps by browsing on a PC in the google play shop.
    There is one ereader which installed called moon+ reader, but the free version doesnt support PDFs. It seems that PDF readers dont install for some reason.
    So with the update its a nice little tablet, at the moment i connected it with the USB to a linux box so i can develop apps on that in C and start them on the tablet.. Maybe i will try to port my little program to it that needs usb host mode, its a program that acts as a display for microcontrollers.
    So a couple of things could be better, like an option to calibrate the screen, or use the left/right buttons as home/back buttons or something like that or a volume icon in the bottom bar..

    Reply
  • aps

    Oh it has an app called USBModeSwitch .. i guess i must have swiped over that. As that produces the menu i saw earlier.

    Reply
  • aps

    Just to show that it’s possible.
    A before and after picture with apps and widgets.
    http://apsdev.dyndns.org/dscf0466.jpg

    Reply

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