Magnetic Car Mount for my Samsung Galaxy S6 Smartphone

May 9, 2015

Normally when I’m driving in my car, I have my Samsung S6 smartphone connected via Bluetooth to the Ford Sync system and I’m listening to music streaming through the Pandora app or a podcast from the Pocketcasts app. My phone is either sitting in a center console cup holder or resting flat on a wireless charging pad on the front passenger seat. But, there are times when I wish I had my smartphone mounted up near the top of the dash so I can use it for navigation maps or seeing if I have any urgent notifications.

There are quite a few car mount options available, ranging from spring loaded holders with suction cups to attach to your car, or vent mounted devices. After reviewing several of them on Amazon.com, I decided to try the magnetic cell phone holder made by DAFQCO.

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This holder mounts to your car dash using a 3M self sticky pad. There is a metal ball attached to the mount, and on top of that is a magnetic base which can be swiveled around on the ball for different angles. You then place a small metal disk on the back of your phone, and you can then magnetically attach your phone to the car mount. What’s nice about this, is that you can place the holder base at any convenient location in your car, and your smartphone can be attached and detached very quickly with one hand.

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I’ve used this holder for two days now, and here’s my short review of the product. First, the 3M sticky pad does a very good job securing the holder base to my car dash (see below). I have no worries that it will fall off.

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Since I have a tight-fit rubber case for my S6, I didn’t want to adhere the small metal disk to the back of my case. So instead, I place the disk in between my S6 phone and the case. Even through the rubber case, the magnet holder was strong enough to securely hold my S6 upright on the base. Note, that since my S6 has a wireless charging coil built-in near the center of the back of the phone, I place the metal disk near the bottom of my phone to not interfere with the wireless charging operation. I’m actually quite pleased so far with this product, and below you can see some photos of my previous HTC One attached to the mount in my 2013 Ford Explorer.

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Here’s a photo of my Samsung S6 on the mount (you can see I placed the magnetic disk near the bottom of my phone).

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I have to say that even though the magnetic base is pretty strong, the phone case I’m using does reduce the magnetic hold considerably. So far, my phone has stayed attached to the base while I’ve been driving on the local surface streets and on the highway, but could see running over a big pothole in the street and having my phone fall off the mount. Everything has been good for the last two days, but time will tell. I do know that having my phone mounted near my main console has been great for using Google Maps navigation and checking for incoming notifications. Extremely convenient, and doesn’t require me to hold my phone in my right hand when using Google Maps.

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Amazon.com’s “Guaranteed Delivery”

October 19, 2014

My wife and I purchase items online from Amazon.com routinely, for both the convenience and cost savings. Since we make so many such purchases, it made sense for us to pay the $99 to become Amazon Prime members and get 2-day shipping for free on our “Amazon Prime” online purchases.

Now, being a prime member with the 2-day shipping, when I order an item I usually get a “Guaranteed Delivery” Date on the order page like what you see below:

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Recently, I made a very simple purchase of a book which had the “Guaranteed Delivery” promise on the order page, and the book didn’t arrive on the promised delivery date. I really wanted the book by that date, so I could take it on a business trip and read it on my flight. So, I initiated a support chat session with Amazon asking about my missing delivery.

The Amazon chat person stated he could only refund my order amount, or resend a new book to me. Both options wereimgres not satisfactory to me, since I wanted the book delivered by the promised date. So, I asked the chat person this question: “Does ‘Guaranteed Delivery’ mean that my order is guaranteed to arrive at my doorstep by the given date?”. The response by the chat person was, “Yes”. However, there’s really no “Guaranteed Delivery” by the true definition of the word, since Amazon doesn’t guarantee anything other than they will refund your order or send you a new item and make you wait longer.

This really perturbed me, because my order would have most likely arrived by the guaranteed due date if they didn’t use the US Postal Service to delivery my book. It seemed that the USPS actually delivered my book to the wrong address, and they have done this on a routine basis. For a 2-Day order, why would Amazon trust the USPS to deliver an order for a guaranteed delivery? If it was FedEx or UPS, I would think the chances of it being delivered on time would be much higher than the USPS.

 

Being frustrated with all of this, I emailed Amazon Support with my complaint, asking that they send me another book at no-cost to me, and fully refunding my charges. To me, that should be the penalty for Amazon deciding to use USPS to delivery my book with a “Guaranteed Delivery” date for one of their Amazon Prime customers.

Surprisingly, I got an email response back from Amazon within 5 minutes stating they would comply and send me a new book with no charges. So my book arrived by Next-Day air delivery by FedEx (after my business trip, of course), at no cost to me.

Now when I visit Amazon’s site I find this message when you click the “details” line next to the “Guaranteed Delivery” statement:

 

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Even by this statement, there’s no true guarantee of anything but a refund of your shipping costs if it arrives late. There is no Guaranteed delivery, period. I understand that such things can’t truly be guaranteed, so why should Amazon make such a statement on their web site?


Resucitating a 1st-Gen Kindle Fire Tablet

July 5, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-05 at 10.53.39 AMWhen Amazon first released the Kindle Fire Tablet back in 2011, I purchased one since it was such a great deal. Amazon was apparently selling these tablets at a loss, hoping to make it up with owners making additional purchases with special offers, Amazon Prime subscriptions, etc. The only bad thing, is that it ran a forked version of the Android OS called “FireOS” which was severely handcuffed from the regular Google-Android world. For example, you could only officially install apps that were on the Amazon app store, and not from the Google Play Store.

Over the course of a few years, I ended purchasing a Google Nexus 7 tablet (I actually got it for free with a special iPod Touch trade-in offer at GameStop) which had the full Android OS experience. As such, my Kindle Fire tablet became a dust collector sitting on my bookcase shelf for the next few years.

Fast forwarding to 2014, my Nexus 7 tablet is having some very common issues with the audio output through the headphone jack. I’ve tried the different remedies posted on the web, but I’m still having issues. I often have to twist the body of the Nexus 7 to get both headphone channels working at normal volumes. Really annoying.

So, I decided to resurrect my Kindle Fire and see if I can install a custom ROM to make it useful again. The least I could do is use it as a backup tablet if my Nexus 7 does finally crap out, or if the battery runs down and I need a substitute tablet. So, I spend a good half day researching the web to find that I could install the latest version of CyanogenMod 11 (Android Kitkat 4.4.2) on my Kindle Fire. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but do-able.

You’ll first need to root your Kindle Fire, then install a custom bootloader. After that, you can download the CyanogenMod OS installation and install it on the Kindle Fire. With a little luck, you’ll have a custom Android ROM running on your old Kindle Fire and have it as spare or primary tablet with the latest Android OS!

Note, that when I went through this procedure I did get some locked screens and had to do some researching on the web to resolve those issues. So don’t be surprised if you “brick” your tablet along the way and have to jump through some hoops to fix it. And remember, Google is a wonderful thing to help fix all issues! 🙂


Amazon’s Fire Smartphone: Success or Flop?

June 22, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 8.31.36 AMIt’s been know for the last several months that Amazon would be coming out with a new smartphone for the masses. Very little was know about it, but people speculated that it would be released in a similar fashion as the Kindle Fire Tablet. That is, it would be a well constructed device running Amazon’s custom version of the Android OS, and sold for a below-market-value price. The thought being, Amazon would make up for the low price by getting people to use more of it’s paid services.

I was surprised to learn of the actual details of the “Fire Phone” after Amazon’s press release this week. Jeff Bezos talked about all the great technical wizardry of their new phone, with the 4 front facing cameras for head tracking and the “Dynamic Perspective” mode for a 3D screen display. The “FireFly” app was also touted as a way for this new phone to quickly identify bar codes, phone numbers, email address, etc. But in my opinion, all of this was gimmicky. Cool tech stuff, but still gimmicky for the general public.

All of these advanced features do make me wonder two things: (1) How much compute power is required to do the Dynamic Perspective, and at what cost to battery life? And (2) How much of the FireFly processing is done by the Amazon online servers and would require large amounts of data the user’s cell phone data plan? None of this was mentioned in the press release, but it makes me wonder what resources and cost is required to use this advanced technology.

The Fire Phone itself didn’t look very advanced from the outside. It actually reminded me of an minature 1st Generation Kindle Fire Table. It was smaller, but looked like a thick Kindle Fire. With other smartphone companies like Apple, HTC, and Samsung striving to make their phones thinner, lighter, and with less bezel area, I was surprised to see the Fire Phone looking so antiquated.

Finally, there’s the cost of the Fire Phone. I thought it would be priced below what comparable smartphones are selling for today (being heavily subsidized by Amazon), but it wasn’t. Instead, the cost seems on par with most Android Phones. This seems strange since the trend is to have cheaper smartphones (i.e., Motorola’s line of phone and OnePlus).

Will I consider switching to the Amazon Fire Phone. Even without seeing the phone in person, my answer is probably no. I’m perfectly happy with my current HTC One M7, and I anticipate my next phone to be lighter, have more battery life, thinner, and have more storage space and faster processor. Unfortunately for Amazon, that future phone is not the Fire Phone.


Custom ROM for Kindle Fire

February 12, 2012

If you’re in to using custom ROMs for your Android devices, you probably already know there’s two Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) OS ROMs available for the Kindle Fire Tablet. Both are still very beta, and unusable for my purposes since I use Netflix and these beta ROMs don’t have video decoding working yet.

One alternative custom ROM that I found that seems “safe” is Paul O’Brien’s MoDaCo Kindle Fire ROM. I say that it is safe, since it is based on the stock Kindle Fire 6.2.2 ROM with some custom tweaks to increase performance. Another big plus (actually, a really big plus!) is the inclusion of the Android Market App in this custom ROM which allows you to access and download apps on the Android Market.

I’ve been using this custom ROM for the last few weeks and runs very stable on my KF. I’m also using a 3rd-party launcher called “Go Launcher” which replaces the Kindle’s bookshelf app launcher with something more similar to Ice Cream Sandwich’s App launcher.

The hardest part with installing a custom ROM on your KF is rooting it, but once you’ve done that and installed an app such as TWRP future ROM updates is a piece of cake. I suggest you check out this site for tips on rooting your Kindle Fire.


Side Loading Apps on your Kindle Fire

December 26, 2011

If you own an Amazon Kindle Fire tablet, you’ve quickly learned that you only have access to the Amazon App Store for downloading and installing Android apps. The Android Market (which is used by all other Android phones and tablets) is not available for the Kindle Fire. Since most of the available apps are in the Android Market and not in the Amazon App Store, this is a real drag.

Some KF owners have rooted their tablets to gain access to the Android Market, but as you may have read in one of my previous postings I decide to not go down that route for a number of reasons (include voiding the warranty of your tablet). Instead, I’ve taken the “side loading” approach which allows me to install desired apps outside of the Amazon App Store.

If you do a Google search on “kindle fire side loading” you’ll come across many web sites and blogs that explain the process. Basically, you need to install a desired app on another Android device (like a different tablet or cell phone), then use a File Explorer app to make a “backup” of that app. Next, you copy the backup file of that app (which is a standard .apk Android installer file) over to your Kindle Fire and install it. It’s a multi-step process, but you don’t need root access to do this procedure.

In my case, I have an Acer Iconia 10″ Android Tablet that I use to install my desired apps. I then use the app called Astro which is a file explorer app on my Acer tablet to do a “backup” of selected installed apps to the internal SD Card. For convenience, I’ll then use the DropBox app on my Acer tablet to upload these apk files to my DropBox cloud account. Finally, I run the same DropBox app on my Kindle Fire to access my online account, and just tap on the apk files. They then automatically download and install themselves. Using Dropbox in the manner is convenient for me, but you can always transfer the apk files from your PC or Mac over to your Kindle Fire via a USB sync cable.

Note, that not all 3rd party apps will install on the Kindle Fire, as some required Google libraries are not present. For example, the Pageonce Travel app that runs fine on my Nexus S phone and Acer Tablet  won’t install on my KF (I think it’s because certain Google Location Libraries are not present on the KF). So be aware that not all apps can be loaded using this side-loading method.


Should you root your Kindle Fire Tablet?

December 24, 2011

I received an Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet for my birthday last month, and it’s been a great device for most of my needs. Although I don’t read many digital books (in fact, none!), I do like to watch videos and movies, read news sites, checkup on weather, listen to music, etc. So far, the Kindle Fire can do all those things and more.

The one bad thing about the Kindle Fire, is that Amazon has tied it down so you can’t access or install apps from the Android Market. The only place you can download apps is from Amazon’s App Store which at this moment, has some what limited number of apps compared to the general Android Market. There is a way to circumvent this by using a technique called “side loading”, where you install 3rd party applications from an apk file (standard Android installation file), but getting the apk file for a specific Android application is a manual process (Do a Google search on “android side load app”).

Using the side loading method, I was able to install other apps not available on the Amazon App Store like Dropbox, Engadget, Evernote, jVault, Netflix, Mocha vNC Lite, Wunderlist, Twitter, etc.

Now, I’ve been reading in different forum postings and tech blogs that it is possible to “root” your Kindle Fire which would allow you access to more capabilities (like installing Android Market). As such, this prompted me to look into rooting my Kindle Fire.

After reading directions and tips from several different web sites and forum postings, I was able to root my Kindle Fire. Rooting basically gives me permissions as a user to make system changes. It can be a bit dangerous, and definitely voids your warranty. As I jumped through all the hoops to getting Android Market installed, I could never get it to work. I would always get a “Forced Closed” error when I tried to access the Market. I suspect that when Amazon upgraded the Fire’s OS from 2.6 to 2.6.1, the apk files that I downloaded and installed on my Fire for Android Market access just didn’t work any more. So, instead of fussing with my Kindle Fire further, I decided it just wasn’t worth it.

Therefore, I began the process of uninstalling all the “extra” apps I installed pertaining to Android Market and then un-rooted my Kindle Fire. So, now I’m back to my original system (but, still with my side loaded apps intact).

I’ve concluded that it wasn’t worth it to root my Kindle Fire for my needs. I’m sure others really like the freedom of having a rooted Fire tablet and being able to install many more apps, but I just found it to be a pain in the neck. Also, I’d be worried that when future OS updates or app updates came out, my tinkering with the OS and privileges would cause problems down the road.

If you’re interested in rooting the Kindle Fire, just do a Google search for several different sites with directions. But be warned: It’s not for the faint hearted..