December 20, 2013 | Posted in Android, Mobile | By Richard
Following the debacle that took place after Samsung updated their android version of the Galaxy S3 (The phone that caused me to completely adopt android) to an incompletely tested version of Android 4.3, and ended up locking down phones, causing random reboots, lagged lockscreens, losing the ability to receive phone calls, savagely cut the phones battery life and a host of other problems, I must confess that my phone was causing me no end of grief.
Because I used a few of the Samsung apps most of the time, I toughened it out for over 6 weeks until a new update fix came through. The problem was that the update wouldn’t install on my phone when it eventually came through. I went through the usual re-installation techniques, blanking of caches etc. recommended by the forums scattered throughout the web, the final straw was when, (in desperation) I rang the Samsung helpline only to be told that my phone was running the latest software despite the fact that it kept telling me that there was an update available, (it was downloading it but it wouldn’t get past 30% installation before coughing up an error).
They suggested bringing it into a local repair shop to have it blanked and software re-installed under warranty, however I was going to lose the use of the phone for a few days. But it had gotten to the stage that it was totally unusable after the ill-fated android 4.3 update back in November. The fact that the phone was going to be blanked and factory reset made my mind up for me, I was going to give cyanogenmod a shot. Now I had previously looked at changing roms, but most of them didn’t include the stuff that I liked about the phone. I’ve done it before on tablets (Most notably the HP Touchpad which is now sporting android 4.2 instead of WebOS), but it’s not a job for the ordinary Joe Soap or the faint-hearted.
Before we go any further please read the following:
WARNING: Modding is not recommended, can nullify your warranty, and can cause a whole host of problems to your phone, can brick your phone to make it useless rendering it no good to be used as anything except a doorstop for a dog-kennel. I am not recommending that you root your phone, mod it, or do anything to it. Who knows it may cause the end of the world or civilisation as we know it. IF YOU DO IT, YOU DO IT AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!!
Having said that:
The difference with the Samsung S3 was that it was suitable to use the famed cyanogenmod app on it to make the modding process easier. They had the app on the Google play store but Google have pulled it in the last week or so as it could lead to people potentially voiding the warranty on their phone. In my case, the warranty period was up anyway. These guys (Cyanogenmod) seem to know what they are doing, they have just gone public having changed from a traditional modding hacker group to a public company within the last month. They’ve received over $25M in initial funding to get set-up. How they are going to monetise themselves remains to be seen but there is some serious mumblings that some of the traditional hardware companies (like Samsung, HTC et al) are going to use them to keep android updated on their phones in a much speedier fashion than they can do themselves.
Going to the cyanogenmod home page and clicking on “get started” kicks off a beautifully easy process which literally walks you through the whole thing from start to finish (If your phone is supported). You need a good cable to connect to your laptop or desktop computer, (it will tell you if it doesn’t think it can work or if it is having problems) a bit of patience and overall the willingness to do it. In my case, it wasn’t the first mod I had completed successfully, and I had reached the end of my tether with my beautiful S3 so it was a matter of giving it a shot before bringing it in to be blanked again anyway.
Following the installation (which took about an hour and a half or so, most of which time involved the downloading of the 200mb package to the desktop), I am now running Cyanogenmod 10.2 stable version (Android 4.3.1) and it is silky smooth, lightning fast, runs for a day and a half on the battery again with my heavy usage and all is well with the world. I absolutely love it, it’s like a brand new phone. it just works like it should again, without the bloated Samsung Touchwiz software killing everything and running like treacle. Some of the things are located differently but I was used to it within two days.
I’ll do another post outlining a few apps that I did download to compensate for the lack of one or two of the Samsung Apps that I missed, including the ability to swipe a contact left or right to decide between calling or texting them from the contacts screen, but I’ve downloaded a Dialler that can do this and even put a samsung skin on it so that it looks and acts the same.
I’ll give my views on the whole system after 14 days of using it, including a list of apps that I added to have things feel the same.
Cyanogenmod are currently working on CM 11, their version of android 4.4 which Samsung may or may not update the S3 software to sometime in the new year (I have my doubts as they are probably reeling still from the mess and subsequent PR nightmare they got themselves into with the 4.3 update).
I will be updating to CM 11 when it becomes available in a stable form, they are currently running nightly versions of CM11 which are for testing purposes only as they haven’t deemed them ready for daily use as of yet. I trust these guys, results speak for themselves and when they have it ready, I’ll update again.
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November 8, 2013 | Posted in Android, Mobile | By Richard
How to restrict data usage and stay under your limit
With an Android smartphone, you can be online anywhere as long as there is coverage. This access to information and communication comes with a price tag however if you’re on a limited plan for 3G with your carriers or using ready to go style payments. However, with a little tweaking and careful selection of some of your settings on your device, you can make sure that you’re not eating your data without your knowledge.
Watching 15 minutes of streaming video a day on your phone—a couple funny YouTube videos or just half an episode of a sitcom on Hulu or Netflix—is enough to add 1.25GB of data to your monthly usage. Stream some music while working out at the gym? Listening to Pandora for a daily 30 minute workout will add 800MB of data to your bill. Snap a lot of photos and sync them to your Dropbox account or Facebook? Uploading a dozen high resolution photos a day can easily add 300-400MB to your usage.
I’m including below a selection of ways to reduce the amount of data that you need to pay for on your phone package. It’s cobbled together form a few various lists I’ve come across over the last few months.
Google Play: Update only over WiFi
A big one with Android devices would be enabling to allow updates to your apps only when you’re connected to WiFi. If you head over to your Google Play App and click on the settings, you can specify yourself when you want Google Play to download updates (OR TURN THEM OFF EVEN). I have set this to update over WiFi so that all this can be done while my device is plugged in at home and connected to my home network.In-app settingsIn addition to limiting Google Play from updating itself when you’re out and about, you can usually also customize individual apps to do the same thing. For example, apps such as Facebook, Google+ or Dropbox might be defaulting to sync photos and files that you have on your device in the background. If you’re uploading your entire photo collection on your device, this can quickly add up and get you to your data limit in no time if it goes unchecked. (After the last update my phone was defaulting to uploading photos both to Dropbox AND Google+) As such, much like with Google Play, it is often advised to have these set to either not auto-backup photos at all or to have it set to only do it when your device is connected to a WiFi network.
Download and Streaming: WiFi onlyAs above, the same can be applied to services that stream or download data on the go: streaming movies via Netflix, listening to music via online radio, and whatnot can also be super data intensive. And while the ability to watch a movie no matter where you are is pretty awesome, maybe it might be for the best to connect to that WiFi network before starting on your How I Met Your Mother binge watching session. Save most streaming for when you’re on Wi-Fi, or check out for a service which lets you cache music stations.Caching and offline use:
Many apps also offer you the option to download data beforehand and cache it on your system. With Spotify, you can download playlists, songs, and full albums to listen later “offline”. Google Maps allows you to save maps in advance so that you can look at them later. To do this, search for an area that you’re interested in having the map for and then type in “Okay Maps” in the search bar. Google Maps will automatically download the map for offline use later.
Restrict Background Data:
In the settings menu, you can find out which apps you have consume the most data both in foreground (as in, when you’re using the app) and background (as in, when it not being used actively). When you click on each app, it’ll break this down in a handy pie chart and you’ll be able to customize the time period in which you want to view data consumption. You can limit background data by checking off “Limit Background Data” at the bottom of the screen when you click on a particular app.
Increase email checking intervals:
Use the settings in the email app to leave it longer between logins. It may not be much if there’s no emails to download but checking in every five minutes may not be essential. Make sure you can also set it not to download attachments automatically therefore ensuring that you only download the attachments that you need to actually read.
Google Account: Check synchronization settings
One of the great things about your having a Google account is being able to synchronize your many Google accounts across many devices and PCs. While this is a gift for many, this may also suck extra data that you’re saving on your mobile device if gone unchecked. In the settings menu of your smartphone, you can specify what exactly you want to be synced with your Google account. For example, you can pick and choose that you want your contacts to be automatically updated across devices, but perhaps, not all the movies in your Google Play Movies or the music in Play Music.
Browser: restrict data usage
Mobile surfing is a great way to pass time on the go, whether you’re waiting for a meeting or on public transit. However, a media intensive site or something not customized for mobile browsing may be pretty data intensive. Browsers such as Google Chrome and Opera offer options to compress data before transmitting it to your device, helping you reduce the amount of data you’re consuming with these browsers.
Data Use Checking:
Check your past usage: The easiest way to check past data usage is to log into the web portal of your cellular provider (or check your paper bills) and look at what your data usage is. If you’re routinely coming in way under your data cap you may wish to contact your provider and see if you can switch to a less expensive data plan. If you’re coming close to the data cap or exceeding it, you will definitely want to keep reading.
Check your recent usage: Checking your old bills is a great way to see your data usage over the previous months/years but it will always lag by a billing cycle. In order to check your current usage you want to monitor consumption from within Android.
If your phone has Android 4.0 or above you can check your usage via the OS. If your phone is not currently running Android 4.0 or above you’ll want to skip down to the next section where we talk about third-party monitoring tools.
Navigate to Settings –> Wireless & Networks –> Data Usage. You’ll see a screen that looks something like the first screen:
Here you can set warnings and limits on mobile data use even for individual apps.
So, these are a few tips and tricks to limit the data consumption on your mobile device but by no means is it an exhaustive list. It is worth checking using the App settings what exactly each app is connecting for and how much data it uses in the background which is costing you money each month unnecessarily.
Third Party Tools:
You could also Check out MyDataManager (free). The app tracks your data usage in real time and offers you a detailed breakdown of how much data each app is hogging. This way, you can identify which apps use the most data. The best feature? Data threshold alerts. MyDataManager lets you set thresholds (like 200MB, 1GB, 2GB, and so on) and get notified whenever you pass a threshold.
Onavo Count is another : Not only is it an improvement over the built-in monitoring provided by Android 4.0+ phones it works on phones with Android versions as low as Android 2.2.
You could also install an ad-blocker, modern ads take up a surprising amount of data. Alternatively a lot of the free apps out there have a facility where you can pay a small fee (0.99) to get the upgrade which reoves the ads altogether.
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November 6, 2013 | Posted in Android, Mobile | By Richard
24 hours later, I’m really starting to like the Jellybean 4.3 update to Android on the Galaxy S3.
Now, don’t get me wrong, it has been a bit of a tough ride for me with this since Vodafone Ireland were the first country in the world to roll out this official update for last years “Magic Bullet” which created the beginning of the world domination of the Smart-phone market by Samsung. I was a little disgruntled (And I’m not alone in that) at the lack of upgrades already provided as Samsung had skipped over the 4.2 update and went straight to 4.3. It took a little while to get it on the phone out here in the sticks as I don’t have superfast broadband and the download took a little over 40 mins, the installation routine took another 10-15 to complete and then the phone had to update the apps and download all of my offline available saved downloads and Google drive documents.
Overall 24 hours on I think it was worth it. As usual it has taken this long for the software to “Bed in” a bit onto the phone. and for me to get used to it.
I like the new look email software, the new camera apps (Android and Samsung) both bring new things to the table including the new Photosphere ability.
I look the new lock-screen widgets, the new method of dealing with the drop-down icon list, the new settings tabs breakdown seems logical.
One or two upgraded things I haven’t figured out a use for quite yet, however the home and lock screens seem responsive.
I did however have to turn off a multitude of settings including some of the motion settings and automatic “eye Following/viewing” stuff as I don’t like them, they sometimes get in the way of the way I use the phone, but then again that is the gift of android, the unending ability to customise the experience just how you wish to use the phone that the Apple systems just don’t have. I am getting used to some of the quirks and the phone has been almost constantly updating Apps to cater for the new OS ever since. I am loooving the new version of Google cards and the widget that shows up the stuff on the lock-screen with the same layout.
One odd little quirk that it sometimes seems to take a long time for the phone to come back when locked and the screen blanked. But maybe that’s a clash with some setting or other that I just haven’t figured out how to tweak yet.
There are wagon-loads of online copies of the release statement which outlines all of the available and new features but in my opinion whether you need them or not, I think the upgrade is a must have. If you’re using a vodafone model I9300 then the upgrade is as simple as going into “settings, about phone” and checking for the update there and giving it the time to download it. (Don’t do it on phone data, wait until you are connected using wifi for your own sanity) and wait until you have an hour or so to let it run. You may be waiting a while for some of the other models of the galaxy.
It has given a “new Phone” feeling to my one year old galaxy and will very likely keep my going until upgrade time next year. I’ll do a much fuller overall review after a fortnight or so of using it, but so far so good.
Previous Post on Galaxy S3
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October 14, 2013 | Posted in Android, Mobile | By Richard
Coming from a strong love of the Blackberry system, and all that it stands for, when I got offered the Samsung Galaxy S3 by my provider as a free upgrade, I said I’d try it out to see what all the fuss was about. I could always just return to the trusty Bold 9780 as soon as I tired of the touch screen.
It had happened before with phones. I couldn’t be turned. It’d probably end up in my daughters hands and she was getting ready for it.
Then I got this beautifully light, almost fragile feeling piece of computer craftsmanship into my hands and I fell for right at first sight. From the very moment I opened the solid feeling box it just felt right. The advertising slogan goes something like ” made for humans”. With me, this just clicked.
I had prepared for the transfer of over 1400 Contacts (the main reason I had become an early adopter of serious hardware beginning with the HP ipaq’s to cope, I had outgrown the Nokia and loved the idea of a full keyboard) by downloading a tool from Google to the blackberry which promptly locked up the phone and when coupled with another blackberry system crash or failure across Europe, eventually resulted in having to do a complete system reinstall of the blackberry system.Down at the first fence.
We soldiered on, the blackberry and me. I created a new Google account for the transfer, set up a transfer again and had the whole thing done before the Galaxy arrived.
Setup took all of twenty minutes. Most of that was the multitude of other email addies I deal with. The contacts transfer from the new Google account was almost instantaneous once I stuck in the account name and password. Then I started to play.
12 months on, I have completely forgotten my love of the blackberry system and all of its quirks. While I await the return of BB messenger this week finally for the android just to see whether it will create a longing again, I seriously doubt it. My daughter ended up getting another android as she failed to get her hands on mine, she did do a run with my 9780 for a while but dropping it while it was charging put paid to that, I didn’t get it repaired.
I have become immersed in the android universe over the last 16 months or so, to the extent that I now cannot imagine ever returning back. With the sad lightning fast demise of the Blackberry system in the same timeframe, the opportunity may never arise again.
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August 23, 2013 | Posted in Android | By Richard
Quick Fix for Android Calendar sync problems.
Image via CrunchBase
I had a problem (getting slightly worse over the last month or so) where my calendars were doing slightly weird things on my phone and tablet (Samsung Galaxy S3, the GT-I9300 international version, updated to 4.1.2) and a HP Touchpad running Cyanogenmod Version 9.2 (Cyanogenmods version of Android 4.04).
I use Google’s calendars quite a lot, in fact I have a few that do fairly specific jobs for a couple of websites (including one where a rugby clubs Match calendar with multiple teams is run using it). My main personal meeting calendar was showing up twice in the calendars list.I also subscribe to a pair of sports calendars found using the browser version by going through the “other Calendars-Browse Interesting Calendars” link on the desktop.
Google calendar is a simple and useful tool for sharing information about events and tasks with colleagues. You can also gather many calendars that are shared with you and sum them up in a single view. Everything flows smoothly into your android mobile, so you can have a collaborative real-time calendar in your phone.
This is actually how I discovered that there was a synching problem, one of the shared sports calendars I was subscribing to was updating on the desktop version but not on the phone at the start of the new season.
So, what was the Problem? Well, the web-based calendar runs perfectly, but sometimes Android messes up: Repeating the synchronization using the phone settings didn’t fix it.
I came across this quick fix on the web, Basically it involves deleting the calendar data stored on the phone/Tablet, shutting down calendar itself and then re-starting from scratch.
Go to Settings > Applications Manager > All > Calendar storage
Then, click “Clear data” and “Force stop”. The first one wipes out the local cache; the latter stops the calendar.
A quick hold of the power button and clicking on restart finished the job, the phone rebooted and then Calendar downloaded and re-synched everything from Google (This did take a little time)
Problem Solved (On the phone).
The process was much the same on the tablet, except the route to the cache was:
Settings > Apps > All > Calendar Storage, Then “Clear Data” & “Force Stop ”
Reboot Cyanogenmod by holding down the power button for a couple of seconds and selecting “reboot”.
Again it took a little time for the calendar app (I have calendar widgets on screen pages on both units) to download and update the calendars but then everything worked perfectly.
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