Tag Archives: Android

Google Cardboard

If you’ve been hankering after an Oculus Rift then Google Cardboard might be something you can use to whet your appetite for virtual reality. It’s basically a cardboard enclosure for your Android phone with two lenses, a magnet and NFC tag. Once assembled you launch the Cardboard app on your phone, put it in the enclosure and use the magnet at the side as a trigger button. Warning, there’s some NSFW language in the video below.

The Tested guys have a blog post with a few more insights and thoughts about Cardboard.

If anything, Google Cardboard brings more credibility to the rumor that Oculus is working with Samsung to create virtual reality goggle frames that can use Samsung Galaxy smartphones as the display. Cardboard’s cheap construction belies its effectiveness–the secret sauce here is in the 40mm lenses and the brilliant magnet-based trigger button.

I’d love to try one out. I wonder if I can get those lenses anywhere nearby?

Turn your Android phone into a steering wheel

I was looking on Amazon over the weekend for PC steering wheels when I remembered that my phone could do the job! Install JD SimWheel from the Play Store, grab the device driver and server from here for your PC and you’re 90% of the way there.

It might take a few minutes tinkering with the settings in-game but Euro Truck Simulator 2 works fine with it. I still can’t reverse properly but now I can take corners smoothly and two of the buttons on-screen are already configured for left and right indicators!

Here’s a howto video and demonstration using the game GRID created by user MyHD2AndOthers on Youtube.

Next on my todo list is using a WiiMote as a steering wheel as I already have the steering wheel adaptor for it and it should be more comfortable than holding a phone!

Amazing Android Audio with ViPER4Android

If I was in any way skilled at writing prose I’d continue the alliteration in this post but alas I’m not so you’ll have to make do with the amazing ViPER4Android that makes Android devices sound absolutely amazing.

Their about page says that “ViPER’s Audio is an audio enhancing software to provide everyone with better audio experiences in various platforms such as smartphones and PCs.” It has a graphic equalizer and controls for changing surround sound, bass, treble, clarity and gain settings in the driver. I mostly used the default settings but pumped the clarity up to 12dB. There are different settings for headset, phone speaker, bluetooth and USB/dock. Music and voice sources sound so much richer, even through the phone speaker. I have yet to try the “sound of the kettle boiling” vs podcast test but hopefully it’ll help.

What first led me to try ViPER4Android was “Adapt Sound” on my Galaxy S4. The difference when using Samsung’s stock music player was like night and day. Unfortunately it didn’t change the sound out of any other player like Google’s Music Player. I needed an alternative.

You can download the apk file here. I installed the FX apk for the extra settings and installation is straightforward if your phone is rooted already. It may ask you to confirm a change to core configuration files that can cause damage. It warns you to make a backup first but I allowed it to do so and the phone rebooted without a hitch. I chose “Super Audio Quality” which the app warns might drain battery more quickly but I’m at home 99% of the time anyway so that’s not a major issue for me.

If you need further help, there’s some good illustrated installation instructions here.

Root and remove Knox from your S4

tl; dr: Knox still bothering you after installing CF Auto Root? Install SuperSU from the Play Store to disable it!

Knox is a security tool that came in an update for the Galaxy S4 that helps protect your phone from any app doing nasty stuff to it. Unfortunately it makes life difficult for anyone who wants to root their phone to use useful apps like Greenify, Titanium Backup or any of the apps out there that need full control of the phone.

I had rooted my phone a good while ago but when I flashed Android 4.3 on it root functionality was removed. I thought CF Auto Root would fix it but it didn’t. Any time an app tried to gain root privileges a security warning would popup saying,

An application attempted to access system on your device without authorisation. This attempt has been blocked. Changing your security level to normal may solve this problem. Deleting applications obtained from unauthorised sources may improve security.

Oddly enough, Greenify worked still, and I think Adaway worked too. The oddest thing was that they worked without the usual root elevation message displaying. A later firmware update stopped those apps working as well. I think it’s SELinux that displayed that message as Knox was never actually installed.

I gave up in frustration but this evening I tried again. CF Auto Root has been updated, I flashed it and rebooted. Again the security warning showed, and there was no sign of SuperSU. Eventually I found that someone recommended installing SuperSU from the Play Store again and let it detect Knox and remove it. I tried that and, hey presto! It worked!

Now, my phone is rooted, Greenify works, and I’ve backed up a few key apps. I’m waiting on a larger capacity SD card to do a nandroid backup and then I may look at installing a KitKat ROM. I know that KitKat is rolling out but I don’t like what Google/Samsung have done with SD card access and I’m hoping ROMs won’t follow suit. Any recommendations?

Galaxy S2 + Android KitKat = new lease of life

I have an old but capable Samsung Galaxy S2 that has remained unused for several months but when my Nexus 7 tablet was stolen (along with most of my camera equipment, but not my Canon 6D fortunately) a week ago I wanted another device my son could use.

One of the requirements for any such device is that only I install new apps or games. I already have a PIN on purchases but there’s so much spam on the Play Store that I suspect at least some of those Minecraft clones are up to no good. On the Nexus 7 I could use a restricted account and choose what apps or games my son could run but my S2 was running an old version of Cyanogenmod and it looks like CM isn’t supporting it any more.

NeatROM for the S2 to the rescue! It’s a KitKat 4.4.2 based ROM for the Galaxy S2 and it was a fairly painless install. You’ll need to flash a KitKat compatible CWM Recovery first, then the ROM and then Google Apps. All those things are listed on the page above.

NeatROM

It was then I realised and remembered that the multiuser support in Android 4.2+ is for tablets only. Luckily the code is already there but it’s switched off and someone else has already taken care of it with the Modaco toolkit for Xposed. Unfortunately after installing this the first time the phone wouldn’t boot so I had to start from scratch again but the second time it worked fine. I enabled multiuser support in Modaco and the Users menu appeared in Settings!

Unfortunately I needed to login to the Amazon Appstore in the restricted account, but a PIN should stop any accidental purchases.

The S2 is showing it’s age. I suspect the flash memory is starting to wear down. When I tried to install multiple apps at one time the Play store stopped downloading them and I had to stop the download. The original battery is rubbish but a larger replacement lasts a few hours.

It plays a mean game of Angry Birds however, which is all my son cares about now!

Samsung’s floating keyboard flies high

This is neat. The Samsung keyboard on the Galaxy S4 can float over whatever app you’re typing on. The keyboard is slightly too small my fingers but that’s not really an issue as I swipe everything anyway.

One of the annoying things about using a popup keyboard is that the text box doesn’t always scroll up as the text his the bottom of the window. I just move the floating keyboard up to see what I’m typing when it’s floating.

I’ve typed all this post on it and it works well but I’ll have to check the other keyboards on my phone for this feature as the Samsung one isn’t my favourite. Touchpal X is what I usually use these days.

What’s your favourite Android keyboard? Do you tap or swipe?

Android 4.3 finally on my Galaxy S4

OK, so I really didn’t put Kitkat on my S4 but I did put Android 4.3 on there. Most people will be able to upgrade the S4 with an OTA or KIES update but if you’ve modified your phone by rooting it then that doesn’t work without intervention.

That intervention relies on flashing a “stock rom” on the phone which is just as risky as flashing the new rom so I decided to wait until it appeared here and then grabbed the file, backed up my photos, music, settings from various apps and with some trepidation fired up Odin.

odin

Odin is the tool used to flash Samsung Android phones and once begun, the process is painless.

So, Knox started complaining about the apps on my phone that needed root access to work. Get rid of that then! Thanks to CF Auto Root that was easy. Flash that on there with Odin and Greenify works once more and Facebook is hibernated. I sent Chainfire a donation too as I’m sure this is about the third time I’ve used his tools.

I haven’t noticed many differences, or really any except that Disk Usage works a lot faster now because of the TRIM being done on the flash memory.

Oh yeah, before I forget. I won a bar of chocolate with that KitKat. Got myself a nice Yorkie this morning. Didn’t win that time though. Ah well.

Edit: Noooooo! Knox stopped Disk Usage from scanning / which requires root. Greenify still worked which is more important but I guess Knox has some parts of the system still locked down.
Chainfire has more info on Knox and how to disable but also this bad news that disabling Knox may void any warranty on the phone. Grrr.

Kitkat on the Samsung Galaxy S4

KitKat on the Galaxy S4

While the rest of the world is waiting for or installing Android 4.3 on their Samsung Galaxy S4 phones I decided to skip ahead and put KitKat on my S4. In the end it wasn’t too hard either.

Meanwhile, if you’re not able to upgrade but you’ve rooted your phone you can use the photosphere function in the Google Camera from the Nexus 5 to shoot great 360 degree panoramas. Here’s one I shot near Blarney Castle this morning.
You’ll need the camera APK from here and since it will likely force close go here and download that zip file. Copy the required libraries to /system/lib/ on your phone and photosphere will work on your stock S4!

You can try the Android 4.4 Launcher too but I haven’t. Nova Launcher works well enough for me at the moment.

Oh, and sorry :)

I forgot my Android unlock pattern!

Damn. I changed the unlock pattern on my Nexus 7 and stupidly locked it “to test” the code. Unfortunately I got it wrong each time and now my inbox has 20 emails from Cerberus with pictures of the top of my head and occasionally my eyes.

Panic! Luckily there is a way out. Fail enough times and the device asks you to login to your Google account. It’s supposed to appear after 5 or 6 attempts but I have the 20 Cerberus emails and the “Forgot pattern” message did not appear that quickly.

Nothing easier than logging into Google which I try but it says my email or password are incorrect. I try again. No, nothing. Then it hits me. Two step auth. I had to generate a new application specific password. That worked!

A few minutes later and there’s a notification warning me my Google login has failed. After using an application specific password on the lockscreen I had to login again using my real password. Weird.

Phew.

tl;dr If you have two step auth enabled use an application specific password to login to Google if you forget your Android unlock pattern. Breath again.

Adapt Sound is like night and day

adapt-sound

The Galaxy S4 has a very useful feature hidden in the settings. It’s called Adapt Sound and the difference in sound before and after is like night and day. I’m using the old ear phones that came with my Galaxy S2 and they’re fine for podcasts but after enabling this feature music is a lot clearer and richer. It’s quite amazing.

So, go into Settings, My device, Sound, Adapt Sound to run the sound test through your ear phones. Once that’s done and it only takes a minute or two and it will let you play a music clip with Adapt Sound on or off. The difference is quite startling.