Category Archives: Android

Stop annoying pop ups on your phone’s web browser(s)

When using my Android phone, I’ve become reluctant to click on links to unknown webpages because many — maybe most — of them contain obnoxious pop ups. I’ve stopped this by disabling Javascript in my phone’s web browsers(s). Each browser is different, but in general go to the Settings for your web browser and turn off Javascript. This will work on both Android and IOS (Apple iPhone) phones. 

Most browsers will allow exceptions to this Javascript off rule. Your webmail hosting service, bank, etc. probably require Javascript. Add these sites to your browser’s list of sites on which Javascript may execute.

I know — it’s inconvenient to configure, but you’ll be glad that you did, when you’re no longer bothered by those awful pop-ups.

 

Dropbox Uploads (Needlessly?) Consume Available Space On Phones

I notice that the Android Dropbox app, when uploading a file to the Dropbox server, first copies the source file to a cached file in a hidden folder on your phone’s system storage. Then it uploads the cached file to the Dropbox server.

Why? I don’t know for certain. Maybe the app developers wanted to ensure that the source file isn’t altered or deleted during the upload process. First caching the file is a conservative tactic. 

So what?

The cached file consumes precious system storage space on your phone. On my phone with 8 GB system storage, this is significant.

Regain lost storage space

To regain that space, delete the Dropbox cache. You can do this from within either the Dropbox app or Android’s settings (Applications, Application Manager, scroll down to Dropbox and press the Clear Cache button).

Dropbox explains that Dropbox’s cache folder is hidden.

It would be nice if the Android Dropbox app allowed the user to choose whether the Dropbox app first cached the file before uploading it. Oh well, no app is perfect.

Speed Up Twitter On Android 

I’ve been using Twitter on my Android phone and noticed that over a period of days or weeks it slows to a crawl. A simple way to kick Twitter back into high gear is to exit Twitter and just delete all of its data, and then restart Twitter.

On my Android 5 phone, I go to Settings, Applications, Application Manager, and scroll down to Twitter, then press the Clear Data button. You’ll be asked to confirm. Click CLEAR – you do wish to clear all data.

Exit Settings and Restart Twitter. It should find your profile(s) and download your tweets. Now it should be faster.

Try this at your own risk. It works for me, but your mileage may vary.

ES File Explorer devolves into junkware

I’ve become fond of — maybe addicted to — ES File Explorer on my Android phones. It allows me to quickly manage folders, files, drive space, etc. I wrote a gushing article about it in early 2014. However, the latest version (v 4.5) is a mess. Apparently the company changed ownership last year, and we now see the new owners’ values. It’s an old story in computer software: the original developer carefully perfects his baby ’til he sells it, then the new (often clueless) owner tries to cash in and ruins the product.

I’ve stored earlier versions of ES File Explorer apk files that you may download and install:

  • Version 3.2.5.5 is a rock solid release of ES File Explorer from early 2015. It’s my favorite version. Its older user interface requires fewer keystrokes than the newer user interface.
  • If you’d like, you can try the newer version 4.05. It has a new user interface, but hasn’t yet devolved to the awful state of version 4.5.

To install either of these apks, you’ll need to go to your device’s Settings / Security screen and temporarily allow installation of applications from unknown sources.

New Samsung SM-G360T phone

My trusty Samsung SGH-T399 phone began to flake out last week. First it insisted that a number of apps needed to be reinstalled, then some apps lost their data. These sound like memory failures. Within a few days, the phone refused to re-start.

samsung galaxy core prime
Samsung SM-G360T

I replaced it with a low-cost Samsung SM-G360T, for $140 from the local T-mobile store. T-mobile calls it a GALAXY CORE Prime™. It’s small (4.5 inch screen), includes LTE, a quad core CPU, 8 GB of memory, 5 megapixel camera, replaceable battery, and a slot for a micro SD card up to 200GB. To keep costs low, Samsung seems to have deleted the magnetic sensor, the automatic screen illumination control, and lighted “back” buttons. I can live without these niceties.

The phone includes Android 5.1.1, which in most respects is an improvement over my old SGH-T399’s Android 4.

I notice on T-Mobile’s website that they’re now discounting this phone for $99. I recommend it, if your needs are similar to mine.  At that price, I may buy a second SM-G360T, as a backup phone.

T-mobile updated my SGH-T399 phone

(Originally published December 9, 2015) Last week,  without warning,  my Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone from T-mobile began to download and update its system software to version T399UVUAOH2. Stagefright Detector now reports that my phone is no longer vulnerable to the Stagefright virus.

My phone’s About screen reports that its Android operating system remains at version 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean), but its kernel is now dated August 25, 2015 (Korean standard time).

t-mobile stagefright 480w

  • Tip: If your Android phone is vulnerable to the Stagefright virus, you can reduce (but not eliminate) its vulnerability by, within the Messaging app, turning off the Auto retrieve setting. The Stagefright virus arrives within an SMS (short message service) multimedia message, so if your phone is vulnerable, you do not want to download these messages.

Update, February 27, 2016: T-Mobile again updated my T-399 phone. It still reports Android version 4.2.2, but now reports baseband version T399UVUAPA1 and is dated January 4th, 2016, 20:32, Korean Standard Time. According to T-Mobile’s note that accompanied the update, it improves voice over LTE (VoLTE) and unspecified security features.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

 

 

Restore phone orientation sensing

Last week, my Samsung Galaxy Light SGH-T399 phone with Android 4.2.2 stopped responding to orientation changes. When I rotated the phone from vertical (“portrait”) to horizontal (“landscape”), the display no longer rotated accordingly. In vain I clicked on the Screen rotation button.

sensor test screens markedupI feared that I’d physically broken the orientation sensor when I dropped the phone the previous day.  I loaded a rotation app, but found that it was a pain to use.  Eventually I discovered (thanks, Google) that by typing an odd sequence of keys, I could peek beneath the operating system and directly examine the data streams from the sensors. When I did this, the phone’s screen rotation function returned.

Here’s how:

  • Run the phone app, which displays the dial screen.
  • In sequence, press the *#0*# buttons on the dial screen.
  • A hardware test screen with 14 buttons should appear.
  • Tap the Sensor button
  • You’ll see the numeric outputs of the Accelerometer, Proximity, and Magnetic sensors
  • Press the IMAGE TEST and Graph buttons for the Accelerometer. The displays should respond to movement of the phone.
  • Cross your fingers
  • Restart phone

That did the trick for me. Your mileage may vary.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A big voice for little phones

I love my little Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone. One disadvantage of its small size is that its tiny speaker produces a tiny sound.

Etekcity Roverbeats T30 wireless mobile speaker

The Etekcity Roverbeats T30 wireless mobile speaker solves that problem. It gives my diminutive phone a big sound, yet is small enough (about two cubic inches) so that when I’m at home I carry it with my phone from room to room.

It runs on battery power for hours, but you must provide a battery charger with a mini USB connector.

Its only problem is that occasionally it disconnects its Bluetooth connection. This suggests that it needs to be reset, but there is no reset switch. I’m not convinced that turning off its on/off switch actually resets its CPU. Nevertheless, leaving the T3 off for hours does seem to restore its willingness to remain connected.

With that one connection caveat, I recommend this neat little speaker . . . and it costs only about twenty dollars.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Listen to podcasts on your smartphone

I just realized that I’ve not described how I listen to podcasts, recorded audio, and live radio broadcasts on my phone.

Prehistory

Winamp website
Winamp for Windows Screenshot

My first streaming audio experience was in 2000 with the Windows-based MP3 player program called Winamp. Its Shoutcast network of streaming sites is built upon the traditional broadcast model: content on each channel is delivered in a continuous stream. A listener may not demand or replay any content. There are (or were) thousands of Shoutcast channels. I still occasionally listen to Shoutcast streams on my phone using Winamp for Android (which may no longer be available). I wrote an article or two about Winamp’s latter day rough sledding.

Content on demand

I began listening to both live and pre-recorded audio with an older version of TuneIn. Its creator sold TuneIn to a company that has ruined it with too many ads and unnecessary “features”. I’ve stored an early version for Android. This older version is much better than the new version that’s available in the Android Play Store. If you have an Android device, feel free to download and install my version.

RSS Podcast iconWhen Tunein began to degrade, I turned to Podcast Addict on my Android phone. It’s very flexible, and its many options can intimidate a first-time user. Have patience. Its power is worth climbing the learning curve. I now use Podcast Addict for most of my phone-based audio listening.

  • Tip: If one of these programs responds slowly, go to Android Settings, More, Application management. Select the sluggish program. Press the Force stop button. Press the Clear Cache button. Restart the program.

Apple iPhone or iPad?

I recommend all three of these programs for Android. If you have an Apple (IOS) device, you may find better alternatives. I see on alternativeto.net that Apple supplies its own podcast program.

Tune in, turn on, and drop out in.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Listen to articles on your Android phone

When you want to read an article but don’t have time to sit down and read every word, have your phone’s @Voice Aloud Reader text-to-voice app read the article aloud to you.

@Voice app iconFirst, display the article on your phone (probably in a web browser). Press the Share button or icon, and choose the @Voice Aloud Reader. Allow a few seconds for the @Voice Aloud Reader app to start, load the article’s text, and begin reading.

On my Android 4.2.2 phone, the female voice is remarkably clear. It tends toward a monotone, and occasionally messes up (especially abbreviations), but is quite listenable. Within the @Voice Aloud Reader app, you can pause, rewind, etc., the reader.

Just plug in your earbuds, start up the @Voice Aloud Reader, and go!

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Restore TuneIn Android app

I’ve used TuneIn on my Android phones until recently. Its creator sold it years ago. For the past year or so, it’s been devolving, confirming the theory that adding programmers to a project only degrades it. (Read The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.) Here’s my current TuneIn review on the Google Play store:

2013 version was okay. 12.9.2 version is broken.

TuneIn iconIt WAS very good. Now it’s broken. Bloated. Sluggish. Meaningless error messages.  Too many ads. Frequent crashes. Stupid social net UI. Lacks setting to choose continuous sequential play or stop playing at end of each episode. Its new continuous play behavior of episodes confuses ads with episodes so you hear ad + previous episode instead of your chosen episode. Frequent false complaints that it can’t find stream. The Search function is now broken and its results are unsorted.

I uninstalled TuneIn, downloaded version 9 dot something from uptodown.com, scanned it with Lookout, and installed it on my Android 4.2.2 phone. Whew! It works much better than recent versions.

I’ve made TuneIn version 9.3 available for download at this link. It’s 8 Megabytes in size. (The disastrous version 12.9.2 is 14 Megabytes.) Feel free to download and install it on your Android device. (You must first change an Android security setting to allow installing apps from unknown sources.)

Update I ended up installing TuneIn version 6.7. It’s “only” 3.9 Megabytes in size, feels responsive, and doesn’t display obnoxious ads or play pre-roll audio ads. I’ve made it available for download at this link.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Record bike ride info

I recently installed MapMyRide on my Android phone. I’m very happy with it. It uses GPS data to record speed, distance, and route of each bike ride. I use all of its default settings except Auto Pause; I turned it on so that it pauses each time that I stop the bike.

MapMyRide scheenshotI like hearing my split stats (time, distance, and speed) read to me at mile increments.

When you return home, tell MapMyRide that you’ve ended your ride. You can view your route on a map as well as your total distance, average speed, Calories burned, and average speed for each 1-mile segment. You may save your workout details for later viewing.

The free Android version does everything that I want. The paid version allows real-time tracking of your ride by a friend or family member and apparently it also integrates with a heart rate, bike speed, and cadence monitor. There are also Apple IOS and Blackberry versions available.

I know that we can mount dedicated bike computers that will provide much of the same ride information, but that requires careful mounting, sensor wire routing, and calibration. With this app, a rider just needs to run the app, press Start Workout, stick the phone in his pocket, and go.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Restore Android contacts

I drowned my three month old Samsung SGH-T399 Galaxy Light phone. It slipped into my bath water as I was using it in the tub. I quickly rescued it, yanked out its battery, SIM card, and SD card, and tucked it into a nice dry bed of uncooked white rice for the night. In the morning it started normally, but its display flickered and failed after warming up.

Import contacts.vcf screenshotI purchased a replacement SGH-T399 phone and installed my favorite apps on it. My Google Mail contacts were restored,  but the remaining contacts were not restored. By moving quickly,  I was able to go to the Contacts app on the old phone and export them to a contacts.vcf file. Then I used a USB cable to make the old phone a slave to a Windows 7 PC host. I copied the contacts.vcf file to the host PC’s store. (The contacts.vcf file is located in the phone’s /storage/emulated/0/ folder.)

Then I removed the old phone from the USB cable, and replaced it with the new phone. Next I copied the contacts.vcf file from the PC’s store to the /storage/emulated/0/ folder on the new phone,  ran its Contacts app, and imported contacts.vcf. Done!

My new phone now has the contacts from my old phone. Both phones run Android 4.2.2.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Liberate storage on Samsung SGH-T399 phone

I discovered a method of freeing storage space on my Samsung SGH-T399 Android phone. Podcasts had stopped streaming, probably because the phone had run out of free storage space for caching. How could I create free storage space? I learned that the hidden /mnt/sdcard/.face folder had grown to 2.65 gigabytes and contained 67,000 files(!). I gambled that the facial recognition files contained there were nonessential.

I deleted the /mnt/sdcard/.face folder, then created a new empty /mnt/sdcard/.face folder. Suddenly the phone had 2.65 GB of free storage. Yesssss!

I used a terrific Android app, ES File Explorer, to discover this bloated folder, delete it, and create a new empty one. Its SD Card Analyst tool displays folders sorted in descending order by size. The .face folder was at the top of the list.

Note that the folder named sdcard isn’t actually the physical sdcard. For some reason, Samsung’s Android file system calls this phone’s internal storage folder /mnt/sdcard. The physical sdcard is named /mnt/extSdCard.

screenshot by xda-developers

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Samsung Galaxy Light 4G LTE SGH-T399

My trusty Samsung SGH-T679 phone stopped accepting touch input last Friday. I replaced it with a Samsung Galaxy Light 4G LTE SGH-T399 for T-Mobile phone. Like the T-679, it’s small and lightweight, but it’s much more powerful. T-Mobile is discounting them for $99, unsubsidized. At this low price, I didn’t expect such a great phone.

Samsung SGH-T399The phone’s performance is amazing. Apparently it has a quad-core CPU with separate GPU, 1 gigabyte of RAM, and 8 gigabytes of storage. It includes a slot for an SD card. The phone is fast and smooth. Its operating system is Android 4.2.2, which includes many refinements. Its email client — in fact, everything — allows more tweaking than my old SGH-T679 did.

The radios include LTE (true 4G), 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC (near field communication). Ookla SpeedTest reported 14 Mbps download speed while connected via LTE with a signal strength of about -100 dBm. I’ve seen download speeds of 29 Mbps via LTE with stronger signals.

Here’s a 12 minute video review by a happy SGH-T399 owner. This phone delivers megatons of bang for the buck.

Addendum: Like my old SGH-T679, the SGH-T399 occasionally refuses to accept a battery charge. I’ve found that the same reset procedure works for the SGH-T399.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695