To Root, or not Root?

June 24, 2012

For Android phones and tablets, it’s called “rooting”. For Apple iOS devices, it’s called “Jaikbreaking”. Either way, you’re hacking into the OS of your device to give yourself “root” privilege or commonly know as, “super user” access. People in the Android world will also install custom ROMs, which are customized versions of the Android OS containing various tweaks and enhancements. Using such ROMs can be an issue, since they can bring along some incompatibility issues themselves.

With my old Samsung Nexus S 4G smartphone, I did root it and install a custom ROM. This ROM was based on the released OS code for the Nexus S 4G, so I wasn’t deviating much from the original OS. Why did I do it? Primarily for enhanced performance and the ability to access certain features and functions. I’ve also rooted and installed custom ROMs on my Acer Iconia A500 Android Tablet and Amazon Kindle Fire tablet for similar reasons.

With my new HTC EVO LTE smartphone, I’m hesitant to go the rooting route. Everything is working ok as-is, and I don’t have any issues with performance. The one big problem with rooting is that once you do, you technically void the warranty. Also, you won’t get any automatic updates over the air when they are pushed to your phone. You can get around this by un-rooting your phone from time to time to get the updates, but that may require you to re-do the rooting process. That’s something that was always a hassle with my previous iPhone when I jailbroke it, and also my Nexus S 4G.

The only reason why I might consider rooting my phone would be to have the ability to use Sprint’s Hotspot feature. Currently, that’s a paid option, but if you root your phone there’s apps that will allow you to use it as a wireless hotspot for your other WiFi devices. Since this is an option that I would seldomly use, I probably will hold off rooting my phone for a while.


Samsung Galaxy S III

June 24, 2012

It seems that smartphone manufacturers are coming out with new devices on a regular basis, which seems to be every 8-12 months. HTC came out with their flagship “Hero” smartphone line called the HTC One X and HTC EVO LTE a few months ago. Now, Samsung is releasing the Galaxy S III which falls in that same category. Based on some forum postings, I’ve noticed that there are several smarphone junkies that switch phones whenever a new smartphone appears on the market. One forum poster was all excited about pre-ordering and getting the HTC One X, and reporting how wonder the phone is and it’s the best thing ever, then shortly later switched to a SkyRocket phone and a few weeks later switch to the Samsung Galaxy S III. That person is definitely a phone chasher, and probably switches phones within the 14 to 30 day return policy limit. And, I’m sure there’s lots of other smarpthone junkies that do the same thing (and spend lots of money doing so).

Several weeks ago I was in the position of upgrading my smartphone and I had the choice of getting an Apple iPhone, HTC EVO LTE, or wait for the Samsung Galaxy S III. Since my previous Samsung Nexus S 4G had such poor radio and GPS performance (and the fact that Samsung historically has poor radios), I decided to stay away from the Samsung line of phones. My HTC EVO LTE is working great, with very long battery life and no issues, and much better radio/GPS functionality. I have no interest in looking at any other smartphones unless something comes out that offers a substantial increase in productivity (e.g., LTE network).


Latest Android App: Tasker

June 24, 2012

I stumbled upon the Android app called Tasker while I was researching the use of NFC tags. Tasker is used to run defined tasks under specific conditions on your Android phone. Here are a few examples:

  • When in the proximity of your home, Tasker will turn on WiFi and connect to your home network. When away from your home, Tasker will deactivate WiFi automatically.
  • During certain times and days of the week, Tasker will adjust your volumes to whatever levels you’ve set.
  • When at a certain location at a certain time, Tasker can send out an email message with your defined information.
  • When launching your Navigation app, Tasker will also turn on your GPS.
  • When plugging in your headphones, Tasker will adjust the audio volume to a certain level.
  • When in your car and you’re moving more than 5 mph, Tasker will respond to all incoming text messages with a predefined message.
  • Silence your phone ringing by turning the phone over.

These are just a few things you can do with Tasker. It’s just amazing the functionality that Tasker brings to the Android phone, however, it does take some time to “program” these tasks into your system. Being a programmer myself, it took me a while to figure out the Tasker system, so it’s not a trivial process. Read the rest of this entry »


Experimenting with NFC Tags

June 24, 2012

The Samsung Google Nexus S 4G was the first smartphone to come with an NFC chip which allowed the use of Google Wallet (payment system). Since then, several smartphones have come out with built-in NFC chips, and it now seems to be the standard. In fact, Samsung has just released their TecTiles, which are programmable NFC Tags. If you have the right app, your NFC-Enabled smartphone can be used to read and write NFC Tags.

Since my HTC EVO LTE 4G phone also has an NFC Chip, I decided to experiment with NFC technology for my every day use. If you do a Google search on “NFC tags android” you’ll get lots of hits with various explanations and usages of NFC. The first thing I did was order some NFC Tags online. buynfctags.com is probably one of the best place to learn about tags and order them. There are lots to choose from: small sticker tags, wristband tags, keyfobs, plastic cards, and laundry token tags. Most of which are very inexpensive, ranging from $1-3 US. www.tagstand.com is another good site for ordering NFC tags.

Tags can be programmed to execute one or more tasks on your smartphone. You then touch or tap your phone to the tag and those tasks are executed. What I’ve found, is that the NFC reader on my EVO LTE has very limited range (approximately 1-2 cm), and thus required me to physically tap the phone to the tag. Read the rest of this entry »


Latest Android Widget: One More Clock Widget

June 24, 2012

My HTC EVO LTE 4G phone came with the standard HTC Sense’s Clock/Weather Widget, which works fine but I’m a bit neutral about it. My EVO came with lots of other clock widgets to choose from, but the one I like the most is called One More Clock Widget (OMC) available from the Google Play App Store. The free version works just great, and it has numerous different clock formats to chose from. A very well constructed and stable widget, which has been running just fine on my HTC EVO for the last few weeks.

I can see the time, date, weather, and battery power all in a single widget. Since the free widget worked so well, I purchased the full version to support the developer.


Apple Support Experience

June 17, 2012

My primary home computer is an Apple 27″ iMac (self contained monitor and system), which has worked flawlessly since 2010. However, over the past three days I’ve noticed at times a rather loud clicking sound coming from the back of my iMac. It’s somewhat random, and may last for 3 seconds one time and 12 seconds another. I know from past experience that such sounds aren’t good, as they probably mean my hard drive is about to go bad. Since I purchased AppleCare (Apple’s hardware warranty) when I bought my iMac, I decided to find out what could be done about this annoying clicking noise. I checked apple.com and from their support page initiated an “Apple Express” service request, which resulted in a live person calling me about 2 minutes later. Mind you, it was Sunday morning when did all this, so I was surprised to get a live call so quickly.

The Apple support rep was very helpful and asked a few questions, and had me do some checking on my iMac. I rebooted a few times, ran the Disk Utility Check (which didn’t reveal anything bad), and ultimate determined that I should take my iMac into my local Apple store to have one of their “Geniuses” take a look at it. So, the rep made an appointment for 11:15 am and packed up my iMac and drove down to the store.

After lugging my big iMac through the mall, I arrive at the Apple Store to find it packed full of customers. I had never seen it so full, and this was on a Sunday 15 minutes after it first opened for the day. In contrast, I walked by the Microsoft Store which was twice the size of the Apple Store and had virtually no one in it. Hmm, what does that tell you? Read the rest of this entry »


Amazon ordering strangeness

June 10, 2012

I’ve ordered through Amazon.com many, many times in the past because I trust my purchased order will be shipped promptly and arrive on my doorstep in good shape. I know that Amazon.com will guarantee most of the shipped products if Amazon is the “fulfillment” entity.

Recently, I ordered a $10 case for my new Sprint EVO LTE smartphone from Diztronic which the product is fulfilled by Amazon.com. Since I’m an Amazon Prime member, the case was shipped free for 2-day delivery. After seeing online that my order wasn’t making any progress after 4 days, I contacted Amazon.com via their online chat and was told that they couldn’t ship me a new one for some reason and all they could do was refund my purchase price and have me re-order it.

It seems that in some cases they screw up and the product that you order from them doesn’t get shipped. I did indeed re-order it online, and the case showed being shipped almost immediately. So be prepared and check your online orders with Amazon.com because in some cases it may be stuck in limbo!