Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Android and Your PowerPC Mac

A week ago my wireless provider texted me saying they'd no longer support their 2G network and I needed to upgrade my phone. Up till now I'd been living my namesake and happily using my candy bar 2G phone, but now that reality has come crashing down on me and I have to join the 21st Century or something. So I thought I could buy another dumb phone that supported 3G, but then I thought for a little more I could get an Android phone and maybe milk it for a blog post or two about using Android with our PowerPC Macs. So here we are!

I got an unlocked Motorola Moto E, which was the least expensive smart phone that still got good reviews. I don't expect to be a heavy user, so it suits my needs. I'll miss my lighter than air Nokia whose battery lasted forever and also didn't nag me about software updates every five minutes. Apparently progress means being a perpetual beta user. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to share data between the Moto E and my Powerbook, and not just over a wireless connection. It works through USB, too.

Right out of the box with no additional software, you can upload photos through USB by tapping the notification that appears when you connect the USB cable and then changing the transfer protocol from Media device (MTP) to Camera (PTP). If the notification doesn't pop up, you can also go to Settings --> Storage and tap the upper right button and select USB Computer Connection. There you'll see the same MTP and PTP options. Shortly after you select PTP, your default photo importer in OS X such as iPhoto or Image Capture will automatically open and you can select which photos to import. So far so good!

However, to transfer all other data such as music and documents, you need MTP which doesn't play natively with OS X. Fortunately there's a piece of software for Tiger that allows you to connect via MTP and transfer all your other data. It's called XNJB, and though the official version 1.5.9 claimed PowerPC support, it doesn't work. That's where Cameron Kaiser came in and compiled his own version that works and has made it available for download through Floodgap. It must be noted, though, he offers absolutely no support for this. So please don't bother him with bug reports or feature requests--he compiled it for his own use and is throwing it out there in case anyone else finds it useful.

Those disclaimers aside, I found it works perfectly (just make sure your phone is set to MTP, not PTP). You start the application with your phone connected and you're shown two browser panes for uploading and downloading. You can also create new folders on your phone with the Create Folder button. The "X" button predictably deletes items.

With that, I can move all the data I want back and forth. As for sharing data over wifi, you can set up your Mac as a Remote Login server in Preferences --> Sharing and then use an Android file manager that supports SFTP to establish a connection and move files. I tried it with ES File Explorer, and it worked fine.

For transferring via USB, Linux users don't need to do much except install gvfs-backends if they don't already have it, and their Android device will mount in their file manager. A supported operating system does occasionally have its charms.

I haven't really looked into pure syncing for things like contacts and calendars, but perhaps there's a way to do it by using Google services as a go-between. Syncing email is easy if you have IMAP.

So I hope this blog post served you well and was worth me giving in to the smart phone fascists. I've been tempted to throw it into a wall a few times, but maybe that'll subside. I still have a few weeks left to return it for a refund ;)


  1. XNJB doesn't seem to work with my Nexus 5 or 5X anymore after I updated to Lollipop, but I have a better solution: get a USB OTG cable and a thumb drive. A tool like Nexus Media Importer (in the Play Store) will copy your data easily to and from the flash drive and then just connect it to the Mac.

    I don't let my phone sync to the clown^Wcloud, so I can't advise about that.

    Android is a lot friendlier to Power Macs (and Power Macs running Linux).

    1. Thanks. I forgot to write our experience may vary depending on our device/manufacturer.

      It looks like the USB OTG solution is somewhat future proof, and there's the app USB OTG Checker to check if our devices are compatible. Cool news!

  2. By the title of this article, I was hoping my PB 5300 could become my new flip phone...

  3. Why not use Android File Transfer ? It has PPC support and can run on 10.5
    sh-3.2# lipo -info /Applications/Android\ File\ Transfer.app/Contents/MacOS/Android\ File\ Transfer
    Architectures in the fat file: /Applications/Android File Transfer.app/Contents/MacOS/Android File Transfer are: i386 ppc7400

  4. I have a Nexus 4 with android 5.1 lollipop. I tried with your method and it does not work (the phone is recognized only in ptp mode but it does not allow you to do anything, while in mtp mode it is not recognized at all). I tried with Android File Transfer but this app crashes as soon as you connect your phone. So according to me there are no ways to connect android phones 5.0+ to a PowerPC Mac trough usb connection. The best way is to use airdroid on tenfourfox

  5. XNJB works great for me with Leopard. I have a Moto G (3rd gen) with Android 6, and Android File Transfer simply doesn't work for me. It must be an Android 6 issue, since it worked with 5.

    If I have a lot to transfer to the phone, then I prefer taking the 32GB microSD and plugging it directly to my mac with the USB adapter. It's just easier when transferring a lot of video or audio.