• How-To

    by Published on 05-19-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To,
    4. Apps



    I spend a lot of time here making the case for smartphones as true pocket computers, not just Internet and app-enabled appliances. I try to demonstrate how you can fully exploit the potential of an Android-powered device with an unlocked bootloader and root, and how you can use these tools to blocks ads, backup, restore or freeze apps, change your theme or even your file system.

    But I'll let you in on a little secret: a couple of weeks ago I bought a Kindle.

    I know, right? Hypocritical much? This single purpose device riddled with DRM is pretty much the polar opposite of a generative computing device. But the Kindle is technically a tablet and tablets are technically mobile, and that's the justification I'm using for what I actually want to talk about, the Kindle DRM—which can be easily, almost trivially, stripped out of your Amazon purchases using a desktop computer.

    To be clear, I did buy a Kindle and I think it's a fine ebook-reading device, but I would never had bought the thing without the means to liberate my legal Amazon ebook purchases from it.

    You'll need two bits of software to do the same, both of which are 100% free. The first is the Calibre ebook management app, which you can install on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. You'll also need a plugin called DeDRM, which you can read about on the author's blog and download from GitHub. Both the app and the plug are open source—that is, free as in freedom as well as free as in beer.

    Get your plugin installed by following the instructions on the author's site and you're nearly done. If you're on a PC or Mac you'll also need the desktop Kindle app (free as in beer only) as this will include Amazon's encryption key. On my Linux box I had the extra step of entering my Kindle's serial number.

    At this point you can open your legal Amazon purchases in Calibre, and export them to any file format of your choosing. Stripping DRM may technically be illegal depending on where you live, but it's certainly better than pirating books—this way Amazon, the publishers and authors all get their money, and you get full property rights to the ebooks that you've paid for. Of course I would prefer if Amazon sold DRM-free books in the first place, but as workarounds go this one's pretty easy.

    So that's why I bought a Kindle... and if none of this is mobile enough for you, what about my first purchase for it?

    Links: Calibre, DeDRM

    ---------
    by Published on 01-23-2017 08:00 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Tips



    I don't know if this will be a regular feature here, but I feel obliged to pass on any pearls of wisdom gleaned in this very specific area of expertise where and when I can. Root, custom ROMs and the like are, after all, the only thing that really differentiates Android from iOS at the end of the day.

    The video above is from a thread on the official OnePlus forums, a guide for unrooting a OnePlus 3 and returning it to stock (as in "shelf stock") condition. You would do this if, for example, you were prepping your device to be sold; you might also follow this procedure if, like me, you were flashing a major OS upgrade to your device. For anyone used to a Nexus there are some peculiarities as to how OnePlus does things, which I learned over the course of a few hours last Friday afternoon, and will now share with you.

    So let's say I was upgrading from Android Marshmallow to Nougat... On a rooted Nexus I would back up my apps and data using Titanium Backup, along with other local media like photos and transfer those files to a desktop computer. Then I would download a device-specific factory image from Google, flash all the partitions manually (I never bother with the "flash all" script) log into my new Android OS and after re-rooting the Nexus would then restore my apps with a fresh install of Titanium Backup from the Play Store.

    Like I say OnePlus has their own way of doing things; they do offer downloads of Oxygen OS (and the major revisions to it), but only as flashable zips. So how is one to restore Oxygen from a custom ROM on their OnePlus 3, or perform a clean upgrade to Oxygen v4.x (Nougat) from v3.x (Marshmallow)? The key is OnePlus' own recovery image, the one partition you can flash to your OP3 via fastboot.

    Once you've backed up your phone the procedure, in broad strokes, goes like this:

    1. Download the desired flashable zip of Oxygen OS, and also the OnePlus recovery;
    2. Reboot your OnePlus 3 into fastboot mode and flash the OnePlus recovery;
    3. Still in fastboot, re-lock your bootloader via fastboot oem lock—this will wipe your device, and also whatever OS is installed on your phone;
    4. If the phone reboots after Step 3 immediately press and hold the Volume Down key to boot into the OnePlus recovery—understanding that at this point you do not have a bootable operating system on your phone;
    5. Use the OnePlus recovery to flash your zip of Oxygen OS via adb sideload;
    6. Boot into your new OS.
    7. If you want to re-root your phone don't bother signing in to your Google account—instead go back into fastboot, unlock your bootloader, flash a custom recovery and then use that to flash a SuperSU.zip.


    The OnePlus restore method does have some advantages over a Nexus-style restore; if something goes wrong you've at least got a working bootloader and recovery partition. There's just that one tense moment when your phone will try to boot into an OS that isn't there!

    Source: OnePlus Forums

    ---------
    by Published on 08-22-2016 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Tips
    Article Preview



    At some unknowable point in the future, someone on these forums will be looking for advice about getting a local SIM card in Norway. This person either won't have a bundled "roam like home" service from T-Mobile, or will have deduced that the $10 CAD per day equivalent from Bell, Fido, Rogers or TELUS isn't actually the amazing deal those carriers make it out to be. If you're that person, then this post is for you.

    Telenor is the largest carrier in Norway, but the best they could offer my girlfriend and I was a paltry 500 MB of data for our 8 days there. So we went instead with the number two choice, Telia. The prepaid plan that I had researched was as follows:

    3 GB data, free domestic calls, texts and MMS for 31 days @ 299 NOK

    If you were wondering 299 Norwegian kroner works out to about $36 USD or $47 CAD. Not exactly cheap, but cheaper at least than the $80 CAD that we'd have to hand over to a Canadian operator for the privilege of roaming in Europe. Our current carrier, Koodo, doesn't even offer a roam like home option, so we'd be paying an extra $5 per megabyte of data while abroad.

    Nuts to that! ...
    by Published on 06-30-2016 07:55 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
    Article Preview



    A thoughtful person who goes by the handle Kitze has taken it upon himself to create an online directory of over 150 Google Now voice commands and their more than a thousand variations. His site, ok-google.io, must have had a lot of traffic yesterday as word of it got out on reddit; I wasn't even able to connect to it until this morning.

    I already knew at least one particularly useful command, the one where you can save a list to Google Keep and then say:

    "Ok Google, add [item] to [list]."

    And now, thanks to this guide, I also know that I can also use Google Now for device control—I can increase/decrease the screen brightness, toggle Bluetooth, even take a selfie. The site has many other categories of commands, including messaging, navigation, travel, weather, web browsing and others. ...
    by Published on 06-15-2016 07:55 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
    Article Preview



    Yesterday at 12:30pm Eastern Time OnePlus launched their Loop VR experience, where customers could purchase a OnePlus 3 for a full two and a half hours before open sales began at 3.

    I remember last summer's OnePlus 2 launch (the first-ever phone launch in VR) as kind of a gimmick, and didn't really have high expectations for this year's Loop. But I ended up coming away rather impressed—despite not receiving my free VR headset in time and having to deal with a last-minute 604 MB download before launching the OnePlus app.

    Being able to actually buy a phone from within the app gives an obvious purpose to the proceedings, but OnePlus also added a clever feature to this year's experience: the ability to participate without a VR headset. Thus, I'm able to show you these non-stereoscopic screen grabs from my OnePlus One. ...
    by Published on 04-13-2016 07:57 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview



    When I travel, nothing beats the World Watch watchface for Pebble. Monochrome though it may be, no other face I've tried lays out so clearly the local times at my stopover, destination and back home.

    Grabbing a screen from my Pebble, however, is needlessly complicated. So much so that I thought I'd post a quick guide so that other smartwatch users can share their favourite watchfaces as well. If you wear a Fitbit you can stop reading here. ...
    by Published on 02-29-2016 07:25 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To
    Article Preview



    Howard, this is all your fault...

    You'll recall that he posted last month about how to clean up scuffs on a smart or dumb watch. Shortly thereafter he showed up for lunch with yours truly sporting his "dumb" mechanical watch affixed to a NATO strap. What's a NATO strap, you ask? Well, it's exactly what you see here.

    It's not to be confused with a ZULU strap, no no no no no. See, the NATO style features an additional strap that slides through the two lugs, and also squared-off buckles. ZULU straps have just the one long strap, are made of thicker ballistic nylon cloth and have thicker rounded buckles—either three or five and OH MY GOD I'M A WATCH BAND GEEK!!1! ...
    by Published on 01-31-2016 09:36 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Tips
    Article Preview



    One thing a lot of people wish they could get in Canada is Google Voice. Well if your one of those people ...
    by Published on 01-06-2016 12:24 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview


    I’ve been reviewing smartwatches on and off for the past few years. If you look closely you’ll notice that I’m not generally a big fan of them. I don't like how they take 2 hands to operate; you need one wrist to hold it up and your other hand to operate it. By the time I’ve done that I’m better off taking a phone out of my pocket and using it with one hand.

    So check it out, I got so dissatisfied with Smartwatches in general that I started wearing regular or ‘dumb’ watches again even though I stopped wearing them all together a few years ago.

    I guess I missed the feeling of having something on my wrist. As I tried more and more smart watches I got even more annoyed and purchased my first mechanical watch or should I say watches.



    What is a mechanical watch? Smartwatches store power in a lithium ion battery. Mechanical watches store energy inside a spring which powers the watch as it unwinds.

    So why am I talking about mechanical watches on HowardForums? Well, you know that feeling of disappointment when you get a new watch and scratch it? That’s something to common to both smart and dumb watches.
    ...
    by Published on 12-14-2015 07:35 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview



    Where there's a will, there's a way.

    What we're looking at here is a Nexus 6P, wirelessly charging on a TYLT charging stand. If you weren't aware, Google has dropped Qi charging as a spec from 2015 Nexus phones, much to the dismay of Nexus fans like myself. So one redditor (imgurian?) took matters into their own hands with a clever hardware hack.

    There's not much in the way of a description accompanying the photo gallery posted to r/Android, but I think I've more or less figured out how it was done. ...
    by Published on 11-05-2015 08:25 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
    Article Preview



    Yesterday I ran through one of the ways you can root a Marshmallow-powered Nexus device, and customize your experience by blocking ads system-wide. Today we'll tap into the power of Android 6.0 and explore a possibly better solution to CyanogenMod's Theming engine.

    I first came across the term "RRO" while investigating a custom ROM for my Lollipop-powered Nexus 6. The acronym stands for "Runtime Resource Overlay"—its a theming engine developed by SONY for their Android products. Turns out good guy SONY contributed the code back to the Android Open Source Project, and in Android 6.x RRO is supported natively. High-fives all around.

    To use RRO on your Marshmallow phone or tablet you'll need two apps from BitSyko Development: Layers Manager and Layers Showcase. ...
    by Published on 11-04-2015 08:26 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To
    Article Preview



    Yesterday I told you about the Tao of this Android modder:

    Buy a phone (usually a Nexus);
    Figure out how to root it;
    Wait for custom ROMs;
    Try out custom ROMs;
    Settle on a custom ROM (usually CyanogenMod);
    Be happy.


    Today I'll show you how to root a new Nexus running Android 6.0 "Marshmallow". Only catch is, I don't actually have a Nexus 5X or 6P at the moment—Howard is working on that. For this tutorial I'll be using an old Nexus 5, sans "X". ...
    by Published on 08-27-2015 08:10 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Tips,
    4. Commentary and Analysis
    Article Preview



    As Android vulnerabilities go, this one's pretty bad. In fact, it's probably the worst security scare that the platform has ever seen—despite being only a theoretical vector for attack. At least for now.

    "Stagefright" gets its name from libstagefright, an engine deep within the Android OS used to decode videos in MMS messages. What makes it so potentially scary is that it can be executed remotely on almost any Android device; it requires only the user's phone number and grants the attacker root access and the ability to run arbitrary code.

    So what can you do to protect yourself? ...
    by Published on 08-20-2015 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview



    This week at the Intel Developer Forum in Shenzhen, China, Fossil was on hand to very briefly tease an Android Wear-powered watch. Apparently only LG can make round smartwatches—either that, or the Moto 360's signature "flat tire" has become an acceptable design aesthetic.

    Anyway, having another traditional watchmaker on board as a Wear OEM is a big break for Google and an important step towards owning the wearables market, along with all the biometric data that comes with.

    Serious question, though: Does Android Wear have a killer app yet? That is, beyond Google Now? ...
    by Published on 08-07-2015 07:55 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview



    What a mess.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely loving my new Pebble Time—it's the black one on the left. I maintain that Pebble has the most useful smartwatch OS available today, and the addition of their new Timeline UI only makes it better.

    No, my problem is with Kickstarter, and the fact that I live in Canada. And also me leaving any shred of common sense behind in the quest to be an early adopter. It's a long and sordid tale, so grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable before reading on. ...
    by Published on 07-30-2015 09:04 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To
    Article Preview



    It's a matter of fact that since I've been a regular contributor to Howard Forums I've travelled to Hong Kong, Malaysia, the USA, Australia, Taipei and Mauritius. And as you'd probably guess, I've done my fair share of travelling before that. It's my jam.

    But I'm not here today to brag (honest!), only to reiterate that the best prepaid SIM I've ever had the pleasure of using in any foreign country is the Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM Card. Just pop it in to your phone, reboot and you're done.

    If only the last two SIMs I had to use were as easy to set up as this. ...
    by Published on 06-02-2015 07:15 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview



    Where there's a will, there's a way.

    With its removable storage, dual SIM support and up to 4 GB of RAM, all for the insanely-low starting price of $249 CAD / $199 USD unlocked, it's easy to see why the Atom-powered ASUS ZenFone 2 is such a hit. And now, thanks to some clever XDA-types, there are two ways you can root this device and make it your own.

    The catch? Both are exploits, and Windows-only ones at that. ...
    by Published on 04-27-2015 08:30 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. News,
    4. Tips
    Article Preview



    Tech blogs—and HoFo users—are reporting that the ASUS-made 2013 Nexus 7 tablet has been quietly removed from the Google Store. Here's something else Google isn't telling you: OTA updates seem to be bricking a lot of 2013 Nexus 7 tablets!

    Last weekend there was a story on Android Police citing numerous reports of these cheap and cheerful tablets failing. Right in the title of their piece is the disclaimer that these incidents are not likely due to firmware updates, and yet this past weekend Android Central blogger Andrew Martonik had his own N7 bricked during an update to Android 5.1.

    I've a vested interest in all of this because I'm a Nexus 7 owner myself; it's currently my Lollipop test machine as I wait on the Slim Team to release a 5.x-based ROM for my OnePlus One. My tablet is happily running a CyanogenMod 12.1 nightly, and I'm fairly certain that it was my upgrade procedure to Lollipop that saved it from being bricked. ...
    by Published on 04-07-2015 07:58 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
    Article Preview



    It's been pretty quiet on this new Apple smartwatch forum, so I thought I'd pass on some news about the forthcoming Apple Watch.

    With pre-orders set to begin at 12:01 PDT this Friday, April 10th, Apple has begun posting guided tours to its YouTube channel. The first four in the series are:

    (1) Welcome (2) Messages (3) Faces (4) Digital Touch

    According to Mobile Syrup, a total of 10 video guides are planned. I don't remember seeing anything like this since the release of the original iPhone back in 2007. Apple's first smartwatch is clearly a big deal for the company—and with a starting price of $519 CAD / $399 USD for the larger 42mm model, likewise a sizeable investment for any interested parties. ...
    by Published on 04-02-2015 08:20 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To
    Article Preview



    I've said it before and I'll say it again: if you use public WiFi networks you're putting your data at risk.

    Last week Intohand's Matthew Rollings posted a guide for transforming a humble Nexus 7 tablet into a "compact penetration testing toolkit". The same tools can be installed on a Nexus 5 and OnePlus One.

    So while you're sipping a latte at your favourite coffee spot you may be entirely unaware that someone else in the joint has successfully cracked the wireless network, capturing passwords and all sorts of other data from everyone on it.

    Amazingly, even WPA-protected networks are vulnerable to these tools. ...
    Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast