• How-To

    by Published on 11-22-2019 08:05 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To

    If the title of this post doesn't make any sense then you can go ahead and stop reading now.

    For those still here, the few, the free, the control freaks... there's been an interesting development with Android 10 and root, one that potentially removes the requirement of a custom recovery partition.

    A custom recovery has, until now, been a critical component of the rooting procedure. My Nexuses and OnePluses of yore were, without fail, rooted by taking the following steps:

    1. Unlock the bootloader;
    2. flash a custom recovery partition;
    3. boot into custom recovery and flash a superuser zip.

    Back in the days of the Nexus One my custom recovery of choice was ClockworkMod, eventually supplanted by the TeamWin Recovery Project or TWRP. Unfortunately in its current form TWRP doesn't seem to work with Android 10—if you're interested their official explanation as to why can be read here. Fortunately this hasn't stopped the XDA hive mind from finding another way.

    After poring through forty-plus pages of this XDA thread, I think I've got the gist of it; these steps seem to work for the latest OnePlus and Pixel devices:

    1. Download a factory image for your device;
    2. extract boot.img from payload.bin*;
    3. transfer boot.img to your Android device;
    4. use Magisk Manager to root boot.img (via "Select and Patch File" command):

    5. reboot device to bootloader;
    6. use fastboot to boot device into rooted boot.img;
    7. install Magisk via OS;
    8. reboot and enjoy root!

    * Extracting an image from a binary file is no trivial thing; as a less-secure alternative you can use a modified boot image posted to that same XDA thread.

    To keep root after an OTA update follow these steps:

    1. Download update but do not reboot;
    2. use Magisk Manager to root inactive slot:

    3. reboot (into inactive slot) and continue to enjoy root!

    I'll be attempting all of the above when I get my OnePlus 7T in the next couple of weeks. So yes, this is a tutorial for myself—which I'm posting here for the benefit of anyone else who may need it.

    Source: XDA

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 10-30-2019 10:55 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To

    So I'm back on an Android-powered smartwatch, for reasons I might write about in another post. But first I'd like to share a helpful tip for my fellow Android smartwatch sufferers, one that will hopefully help rid your watch face of this most annoying icon:

    Thanks to a thread on r/WearOS, I've been able to confirm what the icon means—that the watch is offline (ie. connected to the phone but somehow not the Internet)—and, more importantly, I have a fix to make it go away:

    Here's what solved it for me:

    1. Open settings on your phone
    2. Go to "Lock Screen & Security" (or whatever it's called on your variant of Android)
    3. Go to "Trust agents"
    4. Turn off "Smart Lock (Google)"

    As with anything, your mileage may vary (edit: and may require a reboot of the phone and/or watch, and may take a little time to sort itself out), but I haven't had a problem since I did this a couple days ago.

    Here's what the relevant setting looks like on my OnePlus phone. The exact path was as follows:

    Settings > Security > lock screen & Trust agents

    And I'm happy to report that the offending icon has pretty much disappeared from my Skagen Wear OS watch. I've seen it once or twice first thing in the morning after my phone has been in a deep sleep, but otherwise not at all.

    Hopefully this works for you as well as I did for me... Feel free to confirm or deny below!

    Source: reddit

    Andrew Currie has been blogging about mobile phones since 2001, smartphones (depending on how you define them) since 2002 and smartwatches since 2014.
    by Published on 11-29-2018 04:00 PM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To

    According to DHL my annual phone upgrade has been loaded onto a delivery truck and is bound for my front door. Once it arrives I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon unlocking its bootloader, installing Magisk and transferring over the apps and data from my current phone; here's how that's going to go down...

    Disclaimer: What I'm writing below is only broad strokes; you should definitely watch the video above and check the link at the bottom of this post for more detailed instructions.

    So, even before my new 6T arrives the first thing I'll be doing is making an app backup from my current 5T using Titanium Backup. If you ever want to do the same Titanium's Pro Key is a must-buy; without it you won't be able to batch restore your apps.

    Next I'll be cracking open my new phone and deliberately skipping through the setup process, since unlocking the bootloader will also wipe it clean. I will, however, be enabling developer settings, then toggling the specific options to allow OEM (bootloader) unlocking and ADB debugging over USB. Then the fun starts!

    I've already got the android-tools-adb and android-tools-fastboot packages on my Linux Mint computer, so I'll be launching a terminal window and testing its ADB connection. Once that's confirmed I'll use ADB to reboot into the bootloader and enter my favourite terminal command ever: fastboot oem unlock.

    At this point a bit of backtracking is required before I move on. I'll reboot into Oxygen OS proper, set up the phone with my Google credentials and then re-enable developer settings, OEM unlocking (why not?) and ADB debugging over USB. Now back to the fun stuff!

    I'll reboot back into the bootloader and use my desktop computer to boot the phone into TWRP. Then I'll use the adb-sideload terminal command to flash a zip file of this same recovery onto the phone. From the phone to reboot from my temporary recovery into the permanent, just-flashed one, and from there I'll sideload my zip of Magisk.

    Almost done... I just need to boot back into the OS, check "allow unknown sources" and use Android's native installer to install the Magisk Manager apk. Then I can download Titanium Backup from the Play Store (plus the Pro Key) transfer my old Titanium Backups to the new phone and then—with root—restore all apps and the data associated with them.

    For more detailed instructions, and to grab the necessary images and zips, check the link immediately below. Rest assured, I'll be doing the same.

    Link: XDA

    by Published on 07-17-2018 06:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. Devices,
    3. How-To

    In honour of the continuing Prime Day festivities, Brad Linder of Liliputing has put together a helpful guide to making that cheap and cheerful Android-powered Amazon tablet a bit more useful. Take it away, Brad:

    In a nutshell you can root the Amazon Fire HD 10, but not the latest Fire HD 8 or Fire 7 models. But you can install the Google Play Store and/or alternate app launchers on any of Amazon’s current tablets.
    Further to that, the Fire HD 10 isn't actually available to Canada—so if, like me, you're a Canadian who wants a rooted Fire tablet I'm afraid you're out of luck. There's still some neat tricks you can pull on the HD 8 or 7 model, though... Brad posted a separate guide on how to get Google Play on the HD 8 (which also works on the HD 10); for the Fire 7 there's either a sketchy-looking Windows tool or a more straightforward collection of downloads from the reputable APKMirror, run by Android Police.

    As for the Fire HD 10 there are at least two known exploits tested by XDA. Unfortunately none of Amazon's tablets have unlockable bootloaders like the Nexus tablets of days gone by. Anyway, all the links you need are in the post directly below. Happy modding, and be careful!

    Source: Liliputing

    by Published on 05-23-2018 10:45 AM
    1. Categories:
    2. How-To,
    3. Apps

    You can guess by the graphic above how that went.

    A recent update to my Amazfit Bip added an option for wrist-based payments with Alipay. Here in Canada the Chinese m-commerce giant is becoming an increasingly common option at the payment terminals that I see.

    Some quick facts about Alipay, via this stats site:

    520 million registered users as of May, 2018;
    150 million active monthly mobile users as of May, 2018;
    100 million active daily users as of December, 2016;
    175 million daily transactions as of August, 2016;
    42.3 billion total transactions as of December, 2014;
    $519 billion USD in total payments as of May, 2014.

    Being the self-professed tap-and-pay geek that I am, I looked into hooking myself up with an Alipay account. According to this site you need the following to register for an account:

    A valid passport;
    a Chinese phone number;
    a Chinese bank account.

    Despite not having the second or third thing I went ahead and downloaded the official Alipay Android app from Google Play. I entered a junk Canadian passport number (same combination of letters and numbers) and was able to verify my Canadian mobile number, but could not enter my Canadian VISA card as a method of payment. So much for mobile first.

    I then tried to get an account via my desktop PC. Clicking on the global Alipay site redirected me to AliExpress; I signed up for an account there, and adding a payment card seemed to give me an Alipay account. BUT... when I went back to the app and used my credentials to log in I was told that my account "did not exist".

    I've looked a bit further into the Alipay account created on my PC and discovered that it's actually registered to a Alipay's Singapore operation. On the Play Store there's a separate app specific to Hong Kong, but nothing for Singapore. Even if there was I likely wouldn't be able to register my Canadian credit card on it. So yeah, the last two days I've spent on this have basically been for nothing. Hopefully this post will prevent someone out there from wasting their time as well.

    by Published on 05-19-2017 07:00 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 07:30 AM
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    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 06:55 AM
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    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
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    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 06:55 AM
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    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
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    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 06:57 AM
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    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
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    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
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    2. How-To
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    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
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    2. How-To,
    3. Tips
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    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
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    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
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    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
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    2. Devices,
    3. How-To
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    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
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    2. How-To,
    3. Apps
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    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
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    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 07:10 AM
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    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 07:30 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 06:55 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. ...
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