Category Archives: mobile

Note 4 can’t connect USB to Windows 7 PC

Tried a few things trying to connect Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Only thing that worked was uninstalling the Samsung driver in the Device Manager of PC. Then when you connect the phone with a USB cable, there should be an auto detection and installing of the drivers. Three things are installed

Of course, your cable must be the right kind (not just a power cable) and so forth.

I got the tip by “xfaega” at: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showpost.php?p=49040275&postcount=19

Strange that this was always working then stopped. I wonder if it was that attempt to update Android recently that was continually interrupted. Darn amazing phones.

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Why not store numbers as diff of previous number?

This morning had a thought. We store numbers in a fixed sized memory space. So if we use four bytes to store numbers we would need eight bytes to store the numbers 5 and 6. But, what if we store 5 in four bytes and then 6 in two bit, as a delta? The bits can indicate +1, 0, -1., here an increment of the 5 by one. Larger increments would use more bits of course. Thus, we naturally get compression.

Subject areas: mobile computing, Internet of Things.

True, this wouldn’t work as a ‘live’ memory storage, the I/O would be complex. Or would it? In constrained devices such as Wearable Computing, for example, a smart watch, or in an Internet Of Things remote device, memory limitations may require compressed storage.

As usual, this is not a new idea. It is related to “Delta Encoding” or “Data differencing”. An interesting article on how delta coding could be used for compression is “Effective compression using frame-of-reference and delta coding”.

I have not seen this delta encoding memory approach mentioned anywhere yet.

Links

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OCR using Smart Select on the Galaxy Note 4

In my last blog post I had to copy some text from some old photocopies I made years ago. Not wanting to retype the whole thing I wanted to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This is 2015, do we really have to copy by typing?

Google Drive is capable of doing this, but did not work for me. So I finally tried to do this with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Here is how:

  1. Take out the pen and you’ll get the circular menu for some pen features.
  2. Ignore that menu for now
  3. Take a picture of the page using the camera
  4. Open that picture
  5. Bring the pen tip close to the picture and double click the pen’s button
  6. You get that circular pen menu again from step 1 above
  7. Now pick Smart Select option
  8. Draw a rectangle on the text you want from the photo
  9. When you finish the rectangle, the image is captured, and half second later that image will get a “T” in top right corner.
  10. Click that “T” text icon.
  11. Now the text will be presented and a share symbol.
  12. Click the share symbol and pick someplace to send the text

Sounds like a lot of steps, but once done its pretty effortless.

I used Google Keep to share the captured text. That way I could open Keep on my desktop using Chrome Browser and access the text snippets I captured on the phone. Pretty awesome!

Updates
November 23, 2015: There is a report that the OCR portion of Smart Select related to photos is gone from Note 5. See http://forums.androidcentral.com/samsung-galaxy-note-5/571790-smart-select-has-been-downgraded-3.html

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Cracked screen, can’t access data

Just came to my attention that cell phone data can be inaccessible if you can’t unlock the phone via the screen. Scenario, you have thousands of pictures and stuff on your phone. You drop your phone, screen is broken fully (not just the glass), and now you can’t unlock the phone to access your data.

You would think that just connecting a USB cable would be enough. Well, how secure is that? You may be able to get at some storage, like an added micro card, but not phone storage. You still have to unlock the phone. You did copy your data to the microcard or put it on some cloud service?

Here is the bad news if you didn’t back up your data, your in trouble. If you did not prepare your phone for remote control, your in trouble. If you have to search the web to find a solution to this problem, your in trouble. If your want to pay to replace the display, your in trouble.

Prevention

  1. Your phone should have a drop proof case. Yeah, your phone won’t look so thin, hip, and expensive.
  2. Backup your junk to multiple places. Everyone is giving away cloud storage so they have access to your data.
  3. Use the microcard storage. Can’t add storage to your phone, what lame phone is that?

Solutions?
None. Well, that are easy to use, are secure, and are foolproof. I just went to a service page that was totally inadequate and didn’t even present the latest OS process of their own phone. A lot of apps claim to help with remote access, but you have to first install them, and they have to be running, hogging memory and bandwidth. Plus, do you trust these apps?

What should be the solution?
This should be fixed by the system creators and vendors. This is not rocket science, when you connect a USB cable a phone should use that system, if capable, as a remote display. I’m sure this is doable or even a standard by now. It will be just as secure as the phone is, you’ll still have to unlock the phone using a pin or gesture.

This is available by WI-FI using server apps running on the phone itself. However, afaik, you have to be able to enable them via the phone itself. Also, is not as good as a USB, which is more secure. A remote control app is a prime attack vector.

Some links

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Double tap to widen a column for reading mobile text

Instead of resizing the screen in order to read a column of text, just double tap on a paragraph of that column. The column will then widen to full horizontal width of screen.

Most web pages are composed of vertical columns with ads and other features on the side columns; the main text is on the center line. Thus, the double tap works most of the time. Even when it works, there still may be a need to drag the page to reposition the newly expanded column.

I don’t know how common this ‘gesture’ UI feature is. Do all browsers running on Android or iOS phones have this capability? They probably have some version of a “smart zoom”.

Tested on Samsung Galaxy Note and Galaxy S3.

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BitTorrent Sync on mobile

Just tested the new free file share and sync software from BitTorrent Labs, BitTorrent Sync. I shared files between my home PC and my mobile phone, Samsung Note. It works and was easy to set up and use.

Test
Installed on Windows 7 PC. Copied some files onto the shared folder. Installed BTS on Android phone. Added a new folder to share. On PC copied the secret code (a very long alphanumeric string) to the BTS running on the mobile phone. Saw the files from the PC. On PC copied a new file into shared folder. Saw that file on mobile device. Sweet.

One thing I noticed is that if you turn off WiFi you lose connectivity. I saw no settings on the mobile device for turning on 4G use.

About
You can read all about BTS on their official site or search web. In a nutshell it allows you to share your own files among your computer and devices without using a central server. What that gives you is security, privacy, speed, and no size limits. No cloud. Note that this is still in beta mode.

Corporate issues
Of course, this gives another avenue for corporate information to be compromised, by Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiatives, or just careless use.

Alternatives
The number one alternative is DropBox, of course. One of many advantages of DropBox is that it doesn’t require that both devices sharing files are turned on and connected. But in “Roll your own Dropbox with BitTorrent Sync on Amazon EC2” Sam Glover shows how to use your own server to do this. He shows how to use the Amazon EC2 system. If you run own home based server, it of course would be much easier.

Further reading

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Speeding up the Samsung Galaxy Note

In my post “Galaxy Note is slow with Jelly Bean?” I was frustrated with the slow down after I updated my Note to Android Jelly Bean.

So far this has helped:

  1. Removing seldom used apps. This phone has a measly 1G of RAM, and many apps cannot be moved to sdcard.
  2. Clearing each apps cache (in application manager). This must be done periodically.
  3. Limiting background processes to 3 or even 2 (in development settings),
  4. Setting to 0.5x the three windows animation scalings (in developer settings). Some say they should be turned off.
  5. For browser, turn off “allow web sites access to location info”.
  6. Removing recently installed apps. These may have had side effects.
  7. Do not keep activities (in developer settings) But this will slow down app startups time.
  8. Use GPU rendering
 

However, the phone is still much slower than when it had the Ice Cream Sandwich Android version. What is still slow? Everything except in app scrolling and use. App switching and setup suffers. This seems to be a memory or cache problem with the new Android update. If it were hardware, the older Android version would have had a problem. The phone has only 1GB of RAM, and this could be acerbating the situation.

Here are some things other people are recommending:

  1. Factory reset: I did not try the factory reset approach. Not sure of backup and restore capabilities. Also, I read some posts that said a reset did not improve the speed.
  2. Move apps from card: Is the memory card too slow? Move the apps back to main memory. I did not try this.
  3. Turn off power saving settings
  4. Recalibrate the battery? Some say this is never necessary, just do a full discharge and charge cycle.
  5. If you have “S Voice”, turn off the ‘open via the home key’ setting (in S Voice)
  6. Is Google Now turned on? See if turning it off has an effect.
  7. Clear memory via the home button. In Android, unused apps do not have to be stopped, and memory is automatically reclaimed. However, one can try clearing the memory to see if this has any effect. Hold down the home key, then in the app list’s bottom, click on the pie shape.
  8. Remove bloatware. If you can’t, try to disable them.
  9. Turn off auto update of applications
  10. Turn off automatic sync. Unless your making money from social stuff, it can wait
  11. Restart the phone
 

You get to the application manager and the development settings via the phone’s Settings menu.
Unfortunately, some of these settings will revert if you turn off and restart your phone. If the above don’t help, the next steps would probably be removing or disabling any newly installed apps. One user even suggested turning off many high end apps like ‘Google Now’, ‘S Suggest’, and so forth.

Legal recourse?
Since this Jelly Bean update was via the approved carrier’s channels, it should be supported. If you bring in your automobile to the car’s dealers for an official upgrade sanctioned by the manufacture, the car should not begin to stall on the highway. But, this is a complex legal issue, I guess. Reference: SOFTWARE PRODUCT LIABILITY: UNDERSTANDING AND MINIMIZING THE RISKS

The custom ROM solution?
Whenever a plea is posted on a forum regarding smartphone issues, some geek will chime in and suggest that rooting and a custom ROM is the way to go. Perhaps, but that is not for the faint of heart and is very complicated. Maybe there will be some advances in this area, for example, see “CyanogenMod for All! ”A mobile revolution” coming [UPDATE].” There is a video on the updater: Install CyanogenMod on your Android Device with the CyanogenMod Installer. Is the Note supported?

Warning

Some of the advice out there and even some urls are “suspect”. Be careful trying to root and install a ROM. If you read closely you’ll find these ROMs are beta and unsupported. Also, the install process can fail and your phone can be bricked.

What caused the slow down with JellyBean update?
In this post the author has argued that the install process without using a reset will cause these issues. In the post, the author also says that one cannot correct a bad JellyBean install; it requires a real ROM flash: “… you want the phone cold/hard flashed to 4.1.2 as if the phone were fresh off the assembly line with no OS flashed to its ROM (meaning they should wipe the ROM, first) ….”

This is the problem I have with all these advice pages on the web, they contradict each other. In this post, the author says something about making batteries last longer that is directly called bogus in other web pages. So, while a minor quibble, I then wonder if the rest of the information is correct.

No information is available from Samsung, this is the standard response on their support page:
“Thanks for your inquiry! Unfortunately, we do not have any information about a future update release at this time. Stay tuned to Samsung.com for information.”

Compute devices slow down
From searching for solutions I did find something troubling. All smartphones slow down after months of use. There should be tools to handle this and manufactures and vendors should be more honest about the capabilities of the actual storage and cpu. I tried a monitoring app but it was useless, same thing for a battery diagnostic app. I guess a smartphone requires a smart user? 🙂

There is an alternative. When you buy something it should be guaranteed to work at a certain capacity. When you buy a car you don’t expect it to start slowing down if you give it normal maintenance and don’t change its major components. That is the tricky thing, a compute device is meant to be extended.

Related post: Bloatware should be outlawed.

Updates

  • November 3, 2013: Added a section on custom ROM use.
  • May 27, 2013: One thing that is needed are tables or a database of what apps can be removed or disabled on various smart phones. The average user is at a loss in determining what is really needed or not. The often made suggestion to root one’s phone is not really very practical for most situations.
  • Dec 24, 2013: Some buzz on web seem to indicate the first Galaxy Note will not get an Android update. Time for a custom ROM install? Unfortunately, everything out there seems unstable. An example, for the AT&T i717, we have: “This device does not support the newest version of CyanogenMod.
  • Dec 26, 2013: I got a new battery for the phone. Hmmm. It’s faster. I’ll give it a few days of use to make sure it is not a fluke. The original battery was 2500mAh, the new is 2700mAh. Should not matter?
  • Feb 19, 2014: It is not the battery. But, the battery did fix the battery drain issue, and when it does run well, it is slightly faster. Can’t wait to get a new phone one day. 🙁
 

Links

Some things I’m playing lately …

Meeting Of The Spirits/You Know You Know –
The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Live in Germany 1972
John McLaughlin – guitar, Billy Cobham – drums, Jan Hammer – keyboards, Jerry Goodman – violin, Rick Laird – bass

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Swype keyboard review

I was using the trial version of SwiftKey. At the end of the trial period I had to decide, buy it? It was good, but i was not convinced. Typing was still a clunky affair. Suddenly the real Swype was released. After such a long beta period.

I’m amazed. Using Swype, the keyboard becomes a non-issue. It is almost 100% accurate on most approximately correct gestures. The word prediction does not get in the way and since it gives more than three potential matches for each word, one can usually spot the desired word.

Issues
Of course, it is not perfect. For example, starting on the wrong first letter of a word is invariably a problem with gesture based keyboards. I want to type “quick”, but I started my actions on the “b” key, thus I get “buick” and related options. That is ok, perhaps, we don’t have artificial intelligence in keyboards yet.

But, correcting a word is not the best; you click on it and you get an edit cursor. This is fine, unless you want to re-swype. To re-swype the word you have to click and hold the text until it gets fully highlighted, then you can re-swype. Since swype is the text input mode, I would expect that touching a word would select it for re-swyping, if you need to edit it, the second touch would change mode. Not a big issue.

Another problem I have with it is finding the non-alphabetic characters. Where the heck is “-“? Not easy to get to. And, the font size of the alternate characters above the keys is just too tiny and too faint on all the keyboard themes.

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Galaxy Note is slow with Jelly Bean?

Finally got Android 4.1.2 on the AT&T SGH-i717 phablet, the original Note. Looks great, the graphics are better, sound is clearer, many nice things. But …

One thing that seems slower is switching from app to app. It could be my configuration, number of apps, and so forth. Still looking into it.

Interesting how the ram load increases on this phone after a restart: an initial 450MB climbs to 527MB/743MB. Then when you click ‘clear memory’ you see ’18 applications closed’. Now there is 352MB/743MB.

Updates
May 5, 2013: I got some speed up by clearing each app’s cache. Some app’s Cache button are not enabled.
May 26, 2013: Continued topic: Speeding up Galaxy Note

Is a factory reset really needed?
How safe is that? Sure you can save your settings in Kies, but we all know about backup software, getting things back is not guaranteed. “Full Backup of non-rooted devices” has some an interesting information.

RANT
In the PC world there is a saying “Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away”. Is the same true in the mobile world? ARM gives, vendors take it away? So much cruft pre-installed, sneakily added, hard to disable or remove, hidden, and so forth. Also, the social frenzy. Must everything be connected. I tried a simple app once, very simple, it wanted to connect to my social network, promptly canceled and deleted. Then there is the location aware “helpers”, really advertising revenue streams and consumerization culture enforcers. No wonder they are talking about octo-cores!

Links

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