Sunday, October 27, 2013

Plants vs Zombies 2 not loading in Android - fixed for Samsung S2

Plants vs zombies 2 is great fun, not sold on the microtransactions but then you don't have to be. Not so much fun when it won't load. Thankfully a little tinkering allowed a install that fixed the problem for me. Note this may not hold for all devices, especially if it never worked to start with.


Battery low, crazy amount of peas on screen with multiple 'Threpeaters'. Doing first challenge star on level 7. Have 13 stars plus all base levels of pirates complete. Game freezes. Have to restart phone. Load game, PopCap loading screen for a good minute, then drop to home screen. Never progresses to EA loading screen or music. Continues to fail to home screen after PopCap loading screen.


  • Tried reinstalling from google play, no joy. But noticed not actually downloading as too fast.
  • Searched on internet, few things on syncing for iOS and lots of nexus 7 and S2 on android having similar problems with no fix.
  • Decided to search for any spare files by hooking up to PC.
  • Location of two folders with likely suspects:
    1. Phone\Android\data\
    2. Phone\Android\obb\
  • Uninstalled pvz2 app again then deleted both of those folders above on the phone via PC.
  • Reinstalled pvz2 app via google play
  • Loaded game - it works!
  • Clicked on 'google+' sign in bottom left - all achievements intact
  • Loaded up profile, no loss of save data.
So there you go, hope that helps some of you out there. Let me know in the comments if any ideas why this happens. I suspect you would need to have set up your google+ account to keep your saves intact but unconfirmed.

Safe Journey


Grumblings continue...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

SSD failure... rules to live by.

The Solid State drive (SSD) has been the most cost effective and performance enhancing upgrade I've ever seen in my years building PC's. When I upgraded 3yrs ago on an early second generation SSD I never looked back... until it failed me.

The Symptom

Heres how it happened:

Watching a you tube vid, sound cut out. Reloaded page, video froze then sound cut out. Reloaded page, computer froze. No BSoD. Hard reboot PC, loaded fine, watched vid, 10mins in computer froze; hard reboot. Rinse and repeat with progressively shorter up time, computer freezing now doing anything, browsing windows explorer speeded up the freeze.
My set up is SSD (OCZ Vertex2 120GB) for the OS (Win7 inc. chrome, avast, adobe, office and drivers etc.) and HDD for storage and most non-critical programs. My HDD failed for another reason last year and fixing it was 'simple' because the OS still worked fine (minus the potential data loss that was saved with a new second drive and an image transfer using testdisk). This fail was very different from that and seemed system critical, leaving me to suspect the SSD as the culprit.

Unfortunately I couldn't run my PC long enough to establish for sure, but a scheduled disc check kept failing on file verification in the same place for the SSD, and the fail took longer in safe mode (where there is essentially much less disc access).

The Saving

So tool up and dismantle to remove the SSD, then test it on another PC with a sata-USB bridge (very handy and bought for back-up and data recovery on the HDD fail last year). Interestingly I could access the drive and even save some of the core documents, but certain files (those created most recently), would cause the drive to lock up and the other pc forced to reset windows explorer. A few restarts of the bridge allowed saving most of my files, but the tricks I learnt last year with testdisk would not allow me to create an image, although I did learn the partitions were fine.

The Fixing

The web is full of suggestions. Some programs to check the life of your SSD, others to plan for the failure with regular image creation. While the first could be helpful in planning when to get a replacement and the latter avoiding data loss, neither fixed the problem. However the OCZ forum covered two bits of advice for rescuing a drive: 1. Try a firmware update or 2. Try a secure erase. The the first option is related to power management issues with earlier firmware that can cause partial fails and data loss(as far as I can tell) and the second to reset all the NANDs to 'factory default' giving it a clean slate.

Now SSDs if you didn't know fail because the NANDs (tiny semiconductor switches) which store the information can only switch on and off a certain number of times before they break, same as a light bulb really just on a smaller scale. There are various firmware, motherboard, OS and technology improvements that reduce the impact of this, but ultimately those switches in the SSD will fail; it will wear out just like everything else. If enough fail the SSD will die simply because it cannot access what it needs to function. This said most 'fails' for SSDs are catastrophic, in that you simply cannot recover your data, because the systems in place to prolong its life (cycle through the switches so they are used evenly) mean most of the drive fails around the same time. Some data from this excellent website:

Fortunate for me then that I could still access my drive, but more of this later.

To do either of the OCZ fixes I would need to access the drive with their toolbox. Unfortunately this does not work on a bridge connection, it has to be a direct SATA connection, so I had to hook up the SSD back to my PC, use a linux boot disc to access the tool box and then update the firmware. The tool box also told me how unhealthy my drive was. The results were not reassuring with 3 pre-fail paramenters.

The process is actually quite easy, but the firmware upgrade can wipe parts of the drive. Unsurprisingly after rebooting my PC I'm left me with a 'no system disk, please insert system disk and try again' message... Sigh.

Option 2 it was then secure erase from the linux boot, and then a full reinstall of the OS...

...3+hrs later the OS is installed, drivers updated, core programs downloaded/installed, steam (on my HDD) was reunited with an OS (this takes time but as my set up hasn't changed so I just ran the exe WITHOUT deleting anything and after 20mins everything was working again with no further downloads necessary) and everything is working fine!

The prevention

Finally I was back in business, feeling good but also pretty warey, this drive is going to fail again, how could I get the most out of it with the least pain before it fails again.

From the groundwork in fixing the problem, it is clear my motherboard (8yrs old) sucks and was never designed for SSDs. Also there are definitely some settings that need to be changed in the OS to prolong SSD life (essentially avoid unnecessary disk access eg. never defragment an SSD) so following the OCZ forum is helpful in this again as I had done some but not all of them when first setting it up. Saying that, my drive probably only partially failed because those systems to prolong the life were imperfect to begin with, allowing the recovery process to include saving the drive this time.

Prevention long term for me will include, planning a purchase of a new SSD (3rd gen probably), motherboard, CPU, RAM, case (as they are all woefully old or not really designed for use with SSD), regular back up of SSD data and storing important stuff elsewhere.

The lessons

  • Your SSD will fail.
  • Set up your SSD to ensure it's life is maximised.
  • The more you do to extend the life of the drive, the more catastrophic the failure will be. (speculation)
  • Because of the above have a good back up system.
  • You can check the degree of wear and tear with certain SSD software, have a look at your respective brand.

    I also learnt that as of present the OCZ SSDs have some of the best performance but are known to fail more often while the current market giant Samsung has some of the most reliable tech and is a close second in performance. Price is a factor in choosing an SSD but performance and reliability need to be considered too. Also if a HDD fails there is more you can do to recover your data.

    Well thats the end of that journey for now. Hope this is useful for someone out there. Links to all the resources I used to fix the problem all within the text.

    Safe Journey

    Solar out

  • Grumblings continue...