Unhide passwords on your Android Device

One of my pet peeves about logging into sites on my phone is the password field. On a large screen it makes sense that the field is obscured by * characters but what about on a small device only you can see?

I can’t be the only one bothered by this because the wifi login form on Android devices has a handy “Show password” setting. Maybe it’s because people use the default wifi password set by their ISPs so much it’s their only “strong” password. Anyway, I wished there was a similar setting for other login forms.

Well, now there is, sort of. A handy Xposed Framework module called HideNoPasswords that reveals the letters behind the dots. I found I could even swype my password which makes logging in with phrases so much easier.

logging into twitter

There are downsides. Security is the most obvious one. An application could take screenshots in the background when it detects the keyboard is in use and send that data somewhere. Someone could look over your shoulder and see the password.
Also, your phone has to be rooted, and you need the Xposed Framework installed but if you’ve conquered those hurdles installing this module is simple.

Here’s the XDA Thread on the module, and the XDA blog post where I found out about this handy extension.

Ipega 9025 Controller and Terraria on Android

The Android version of Terraria is on sale right now on the Play Store and Amazon App Store so I bought it last week and it’s a pretty decent port of the PC original. Controls are reasonably good although I’ve sometimes found the movement swipes (left side of the screen) get confused and my character uses his weapon/tool instead. The local multiplayer over wifi is great!

Anyway, I had ordered a Ipega 9025 controller on dealextreme and it arrived a few days ago. It’s a bluetooth controller designed to hold a smartphone in a cradle so I was interested to see if it would work with Terraria. Initial tests were not good and various forums said Terraria didn’t support the controller. I tried Tincore Mapper but could not figure out how to map anything.

I finally read the manual for the controller and found it mentioned something called the ipega game lobby. You can find the APK for it here. It’s the file called “IPEGA Game Center_ENG.apk” and should be side loaded on your phone. Most of the app has been translated to English but Chinese characters still show up in a few places. Getting it to work is a bit fiddly too. My Galaxy S4 wouldn’t always connect to the controller, but the game lobby would usually find it and launch the test app. Moving the analogue sticks around moves a green dot on the screen to verify it’s working. Terraria now works fine and is very playable with the controller!

Ittle Dew worked perfectly and I also tried RetroArch, the multi-system emulator. It didn’t pick up the controller until I defined the keys explicitly and told it which “keyboard device” or IME to use.

Here’s where the major downside to using the game lobby comes in. It doesn’t require root which is great, but it does ask you to set the controller as the default keyboard. That means when you later use your phone to send tweets, emails or type anything it’ll be through this keyboard. I’m rather fond of Swype, and TBH, I don’t fully trust them that they won’t try to download everything I type.
There is a way around it however. By using Llama Profiles I set up an action to catch when the controller disconnects. It then used the secure settings plugin to change the keyboard back to Swype and display a brief message saying, “Swype activated again”.

The Ipega 9025 is also available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. The controller feels good in my hands. It’s not going to feel as good as an Xbox 360 controller but it gets close and it’s super convenient being able to clip the phone to it. Recommended!

First Impressions of the Power Up 3.0 Paper Airplane

Ever wondered what it would be like to fly a remote controlled paper airplane?

I backed the Power Up 3.0 Smartphone Controlled Paper Airplane last year and received my airplane in the post this morning. Excited? I was, just a bit.

I like the packaging. It comes in a plain cardboard box in a sleeve with a transparent plastic top containing the engine and brains of the device. Inside are a manual, papers for making various types of planes, a charger and a usb cable. There’s also a spare propeller and tail fin.

For my first airplane I decided on the Invader design they recommended. The instructions for making it are simple enough, although all the folding to strengthen the wings makes it more complicated than a regular paper plane.

How does it fly? Well, they’re not joking when they said you’d need around 150×150 meters. For my first flight I used a public grass area at the end of my street that’s maybe 15x15m and the plane flew so fast it had barely left my hand when I had to turn it. It didn’t respond too well to the Android app running on my S4 but that might just be my panic at seeing the thing fly away and heading towards a nearby tree at high velocity!

After a few goes we moved to a larger area that’s on a steep slope. So, up to the top, and there’s a wind blowing. “That’s going to cause havoc”, I thought. I was right. I released the plane and it was flying towards the hedge at the end of the park within seconds. A quick twist of my hand to tilt my phone and the plane changed direction and I cut the throttle. It glided to a stop just a short distance from a fence. Phew. The two kids watching the plane fly were a bit awed I think. :)

Next test will be tomorrow. I think the square in Blarney village is probably big enough..

Photos from Helios XM Anomaly in Dublin

Last weekend I took the train to Dublin to take part in my first Ingress event, the Helio XM Anomaly. All I knew was that both Resistance and Enlightened would be there fighting over portals but not much more than that.

Fights for portals were intense 15 minute battles. It must have made a strange sight watching two groups of adults bent over their phones on a street or park tapping at their phones. The only thing heard were the frequent shouts calling “DEPLOY”, “MOD” or “CUBE” as we shouted what we were doing. Who won? The Resistance of course!

The next (closest) Helios event is in Manchester but if there’s another one in Ireland I’d like to go if I can. Good fun, lots of walking.

Almost 23,000 steps around Dublin

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?