Tag Archives: Android

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.

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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 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

Listen to podcasts when streaming fails

I listen to loads of pre-recorded and live podcasts on my Android phone. podcast icon headphonesMost are technical; others are about ideas, current events, science, and sports. Duration varies from a few minutes to a few hours. My go-to podcast listening app is Tunein. It works fine 9 times out of 10. Occasionally, though, I’m unable to stream the entire pre-recorded podcast file.

Usually the problem seems to reside with the podcast server, but sometimes the IP transport is at fault. Regardless, I then resort to plan B: I first download and save the mp3 file, then use the Winamp or VLC app to listen to the downloaded file. On my (2.3.4 Gingerbread) Android phone, both players are more flexible than Android’s built-in sound player. Winamp works well, but it may no longer be available.

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

A quick fix for Android net connect problems

Airplane Mode screenshotOccasionally my Samsung Insight II phone (SGH-T679 running Android Gingerbread 2.3.6) quits communicating via IP with Internet hosts. Often, a wireless connection to a T-Mobile tower exists but there’s just no IP communication. Also, occasionally my phone insists that it can only establish a (low speed, perhaps 50 kbps) EDGE wireless connection to the tower; it refuses to connect at higher speeds (such as UMTS, HSDPA, or LTE).

A simple fix — short of shutting down and restarting the phone or system troubleshooting — is to temporarily place the phone in Airplane Mode (which shuts down its wireless radio transceivers) and then turn off its Airplane Mode (which starts its wireless radio transceivers). Your phone should connect to the cell site with the strongest signal — which may be different than the site that it was connected to before. Nine times out of ten this works for me.

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

Disguise your smartphone’s phone number.

Burner screenshot on smartphoneWhile watching a Youtube video clip about the recovery of a stolen bicycle, I learned about Burner, a smartphone app that allows a smartphone user to temporarily mask his or her phone number with an alias phone number. It’s available for iPhones, but not yet for Android phones. (originally published on 31 December 2012. 9 July 2014: Burner is now available for Android phones, as well as IOS.)

Theft recovery seems like a perfect use for telephone anonymity. The victim, who’s a Portland, Oregon resident, responded to a Seattle Craigslist for sale ad for what seemed to be his stolen bike. He used Burner to make his phone calls appear to originate in Seattle.

Bike theft is a low-risk occupation. Watch a NYC resident steal bikes in public view.

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

Use Glympse.com to share your location in real time

Are you ever late for appointments? When traveling to rendezvous with someone, you may now use Glympse.com to keep your friend or business contact apprised of your geographical progress. Portable apps for IOS, Android, and Windows Phone smartphones are available.

Glymse dot com

Your friend / business contact (and no one else) will be able to track you from any Internet-connected web browser as you approach your rendezvous point. You can also periodically securely share your location via email, SMS text messaging, Facebook, or Twitter.

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

Samsung SGH-T679 not charging

Occasionally, for no apparent reason, my Android phone refuses to accept a battery charge. (originally published 15 February 2014)

Samsung Exhibit II SGH-T679 phoneHere’s the only way I’ve found to fix this problem on my Samsung Insight II SGH-T679 with Android 2.3.6 Gingerbread phone:

  1. Remove charger
  2. Turn off phone
  3. Remove battery
  4. Remove SIM card
  5. Remove SD card
  6. Wait at least 3 minutes. (I’ve had to wait as long as 60 minutes.)
  7. Replace SD card
  8. Replace SIM card
  9. Replace battery
  10. Turn on phone
  11. Plug in charger

This reset procedure works for me. It may or may not work for you. (8 Oct 2014) It also works for my new SGH-T399 phone.


Update

7 August 2014Samsung charger This may or may not be a coincidence, but I’ve found that since abandoning third-party battery chargers and returning to a Samsung manufactured charger, my phone’s battery behaves better, without loss of charging function.

I’ve also stopped buying third-party batteries. They’ve been short-lived. I found what seems to be a genuine Samsung battery on Amazon. The combination of genuine Samsung battery and Samsung battery charger seems to provide both longer battery discharge times and better charging behavior.

I’ve not needed to resort to the charging system reset procedure since installing the genuine Samsung battery and using the genuine Samsung charger.

Extra credit article: How to prolong lithium based batteries

Also see: Repair and prevent battery charging problems on GSM phones.

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

Shall we play a game?

image

Numberphile uploaded a brief video clip of John Conway, mathematician and inventor of the Game of Life. The interesting thing about the Game of Life is that the only player input that’s needed is initial setup. Then, a computer applies a predefined set of rules to your initial configuration and you watch as your creation either prospers or dies with each iteration. Surprisingly complex patterns can emerge from simple origins. It’s been called “a fun way to consume otherwise unused CPU cycles”.

There’s a good free Game of Life in the Android Play Store.

Dr. Conway is the Von Neumann professor of mathematics at Princeton University.

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

Free up Android storage

My Android phone was running out of free storage space. I discovered that the phone’s /mnt/sdcard/Android/data/com.cooliris.media folder was consuming about 500 Megabytes(!). Apparently this folder contains the cache for Gallery3D, an app that I never use, and thumbnail images and indexes for Gallery.

Samsung Android SmartphoneShortly after startup, either Gallery or Gallery3D appends indexes in the folder until the drive is nearly full. The phone slows to a crawl while this indexing runs in the background. I haven’t found a way to stop this behavior on my unrooted Android Gingerbread phone, so periodically I must liberate storage space.

I use Task Manager’s Storage option to check available storage space. If there’s almost no storage space available, I use ES File Explorer to delete the /mnt/sdcard/Android/data/com.cooliris.media folder. Don’t worry, the folder will soon be recreated.

What’s in a name?
Note that Samsung names its RAM drive device sdcard. It’s not actually an sdcard — it’s just a RAM drive. In my phone, the actual sdcard device is named external_sd. It’s confusing, but we must live with it.

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

Listen to books on your phone, gratis

Last year I wrote an article about my delight when I discovered librivox.org, where I found excellent audio versions of terrific public domain books. Today I was just as delighted to find a Librivox app for Android.

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The Librivox Android app makes finding and listening to books simple. (Using the Librivox web interface on a phone can be awkward.) You can find the Librivox app in the Android Play Store.

The Librivox app works smoothly, revealing the results of fine-tuning. While listening, you can read the book’s description, listeners’ reviews, table of contents, and suggested books by same author, same reader, or same topic.

One tip: by default, the Librivox app streams and downloads only when your phone is connected via Wi-Fi. To stream and download via your carrier’s cell towers, you must go into the app’s settings and check the Stream over data plan and Download over data plan options.

I give this app two big thumbs up.

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

Provide more memory to Android apps

My Android phone arrived with useless apps that were installed by T-Mobile. Some of them load at start time and needlessly consume processor cycles and memory.

I’ve found that I can free up about 60 megabytes of memory shortly after starting up the phone. I run Task Manager by holding down the phone’s Home button. Next I press the Task manager button, followed by the RAM button at the top of the screen.

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Before
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After

Next, I press the Clear memory button at the bottom of the screen. This stops at least ten useless apps and frees at least 50 megabytes of memory.

On my Android Gingerbread phone, these extra megabytes of available memory make the difference between long YouTube videos crashing the phone and streaming to completion. YMMV.

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

Manage your Android device’s files

Until recently I used ASTRO File Manager on my Android phone to copy, move, delete, etc files and folders. It did most of what I needed, but could be unbearably slow and resource hungry.

ES File Explorer screenshot imageI now use ES File Explorer. What a terrific program! It’s much quicker than ASTRO and its refined user interface reflects a product that’s been polished by many hours of work. I can quickly tag groups of files and move them to a new folder, even one that doesn’t yet exist. (To access the Move command, first press the Select button and select one or more files which you wish to move from the current folder to a destination folder. Next press the More button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Next choose Move and define the destination folder for the files you’ve selected.)

Versatile

imageES File Explorer includes other useful tricks. It can provide lists of folders sorted by size of folder content. (Within ES File Explorer, click on the globe/phone icon in the upper left corner. A menu should appear. Under Tools, choose SD Card Analyst.)

It can turn your phone into a wi-fi hotspot.

You can find ES File Explorer in the Google Play Store.

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

Microsoft, Apple et al as patent trolls

When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.

Rockstar logoThat consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website www.ip-rockstar.com, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.

Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:

Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.

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