Android: What to Look for When Purchasing an Android Device

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iOS and Android are currently the most popular mobile operating systems on the market. Both iOS and Android are based on the rock solid foundation of Unix/Linux powering many devices from smartphones to tablets. iOS gets updates directly from Apple when they come out thus enabling the majority of iOS devices to remain secure. Apple does not allow third parties to have any control over its platform, which is excellent for both Apple and the consumer. This is not the case with most Android devices.

With Android, manufacturers are the gatekeeper for their respective devices. The current hierarchy is: Google -> Smartphone Manufacturer -> Customer.

If you bought your phone from a carrier, such as T-Mobile, AT&T etc the hierarchy is: Google -> Smartphone Manufacturer -> Carrier -> Customer.

In other words, when Google has released a security patch for their Android operating system, the manufacturer then decides whether or not their respective devices will receive the update. This is a serious problem as it means that many devices will be left venerable to hacks and exploits.

To add to this problem many manufacturers/carriers still produce and sell low-cost Android devices running out-dated software (as old as Android 4.2.2 JellyBean) and with no chance of upgrading. It is this phenomenon that has led the term known as Android fragmentation.

Today, I show you how to have your cake and eat it. Today, I’ll show you what to look for and what to buy.

Why You Should be Concerned About Security

Outdated devices provide a nest for hackers to thrive. Compromised apparatus enable them to gain full control. Once the device has been compromised hackers will be able to read your SMS messages, access, send and receive emails on your behalf from your device among other things. Hackers can activate your device’s camera and microphone thus enabling them to view or listen in on conversations taking place while in use or at that location. Stored financial information can be obtained and used for malicious purposes. It is therefore critical to maintain a secure and up-to-date device. Do Not Compromise!

What to Look For

  1. Only purchase devices running the latest version of Android (Android 7 Nougat at the time of writing)
  2. Only purchase devices from manufacturers with a reputation for updating their respective devices on time.
  3. Opt to purchase devices running Pure Android. You will thank me. Many manufacturers believe they are doing their brand justice by customizing every last detail of the OS and installing irremovable software that provides duplicate functionality of the features already present in Android but the truth is this just causes more bugs, more bloat, weaker performance and an overall inconsistent experience. I’m not asking, It is a fact! Over-customization also makes it a lot more difficult for the manufacturer to release device updates on time as new updates released by Google have to be tested against their customizations before they are pushed to their devices.
  4. Look for devices based on Qualcomm processors. They are currently the most compatible, secure, and stable processors on the market for use with Android devices. In addition when you device becomes obsolete you will have a better chance of installing a third party ROM such as Lineage OS to keep your device up-to-date.
  5. The device should have at least 2 GB of RAM and 16GB storage space.
  6. Purchase your devices online, carrier unlocked and directly from the manufacturer.

What to Buy

The Pixel line replaces the Nexus line as a premium set of devices made by Google running Pure Android. Pixel devices are made by Google so their is no 3rd wheel in the picture. Updates from Google will always come to these devices first. The Pixel line promises to provide “the best Android has to offer”.

If you stick to the devices on this list you should have no problems in the security and stability department. You will have an Android phone as Google intended. Clean, pure and free from all the junk that manufacturers and carriers love to put on their devices.

– Alexander Lindo

Android: Sustain Mobile Data

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Many Android users have been plagued by the issue of their data plan depleting even when the “Data Saver” option is enabled. I looked all over the Internet and did not find a solution. This led me to go back to the basics and think of the basic primitive protections put in place before the age of smartphones. In today’s quick tip, I am going to show you how to prevent data hemorrhaging on Android.

The first question many people will ask: “Why is my mobile data depleting even though I have disabled data usage?” Great question. Cellular Data is used on boot before the device’s settings come in to play. Once the SIM Card is present and has mobile data access available it will be used during boot. So how do we fix it? Well the answer is quite simple.

Enable SIM Lock

AL Android SMD2.jpgGo to Settings > Security > SIM card lock > SIM Lock settings and toggle “Lock SIM card” to the on position. Change your default SIM PIN (default is usually: 0000) to something else. When SIM Lock is enabled, the device will boot without access to services provided through the SIM card, thus retaining available data. Once device has booted, Android will ask you to enter your SIM card’s PIN. At this point Android won’t use your data (unless data usage is enabled).

I cannot say whether this is a bug or if it is done by design however above tutorial should help to alleviate this common problem. Please note that the above tutorial is not applicable if you have just factory reset your phone as Android will require you to enter your PIN immediately before the phone is even setup. In this event, it is best to boot the phone without the SIM card. Once the phone has been set up, install the SIM card.

Upgraded to Sierra

LPX & Waves on macOS Sierra – Inst

I upgraded to Sierra and I am glad that I did. The OS feels much faster and lighter than El Capitan and the new optimized storage features are certainly a welcome addition. Logic Pro X appears to be working much better than it was on El Capitan and best of all, I am no longer having audio drop outs / distortion when using applications such as iTunes.

After coping over all my useful content (such as music, photos, videos etc.) from a backup, my first step after installing a new OS was to create a backup. For this, I used Time Machine. The backup when through just fine with the exception of “iCloud Drive” which took a while to download content during the backup process. Once all iCloud content was downloaded, the backup process was complete.

I opened up Logic Pro X and tested it without any 3rd party plugins installed. The DAW was as fast as its ever been since the OS X Mountain Lion; certainly a plus in my book. The next step was to install 3rd party plugins. Many companies in this area have warned users not upgrade to Sierra yet. Of course that did not stop me as I tend to keep 3rd party plugins at minimum. I opened up Waves Central and installed a local backup of my plugins after which I authorized. At first it did not authorize but this may have been due to the unstable internet connection at the time. After trying again it worked.

I opened up Logic Pro and my Waves plugins were fully operational. Recorded, mixed and mastered a song. Performance wise the improvements are certainly visible.

Plugins from Plugin Alliance do not work officially yet as told by the manufacturer however, I found a temporary solution that will work until the problem has been officially fixed. See below:

  1. First copy the auvaltool file from the /usr/bin folder from your El Capitan install on to a USB Stick.

  2. Restart your Sierra install and hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo and loading bar.

  3. Once in recovery mode, Open Terminal from the Utilities menu and type csrutil disable

  4. This will disable System Integrity Protection, which will enable you to replace the auvaltool on Sierra with the one you copied from El Capitan. Be sure to keep System Integrity Protection disabled while you use the previous auvaltool otherwise the it will not work anymore.

  5. Once a fix is officially released, simply replace the auvaltool you copied from El Capitan with the one installed by Sierra.

  6. Reboot your Mac and hold down Command + R until you see the Apple logo and loading bar.

  7. Once in recovery mode, Open Terminal from the Utilities menu and type csrutil enable in order to re-enable System Integrity Protection.

After following steps 1-4 you may need to configure file permissions. Do the following:

cd /usr/bin

sudo chown 0:0 auvaltool

sudo xattr -c auvaltool

sudo chmod 755 auvaltool

Disclaimer: Please note that this temporary fix is not endorsed by Plugin Alliance and you must use at your own risk. Plugin Alliance say that they are working on an official fix. SIP must be disabled in order for this workaround to work and should be re-enabled as soon as an official fix is released by Plugin Alliance. Disabling SIP (System Integrity Protection) poses a security risk and should only be disabled when it is absolutely necessary.

My EP entitled “Progression” has been released recently and is available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon MP3 and Google Play. BUY IT NOW!

Once again than you all for the support.

Alexander Lindo

Download: auvaltool from El Capitan

Upgrade Your Icons on Ubuntu

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You may have installed new applications, however those new applications come with not so new icons. They may provide you with ugly low resolution icons. Or you may have installed a beautiful icon theme like Numix-Circle and may be wondering why some of your icons have not changed. Never fair, you do not have to suffer with the presence of these low resolution icons, as the solution is simpler than you might think.

First look for the Application.

LowRezIcon
This is the AVI Demux application icon. I obtained this variant of the application from getdeb.net as it was more up-to-date than the one present within the official repositories. As you can see, this application has decided to stick its low resolution icon instead of using the one present in the Numix-Circle icon suite.

Avidemux Icon Numix

In order to solve this problem we must first understand the basics of how Ubuntu handles applications and their icons.

Ubuntu stores the Unity Dash shortcut configuration files in /usr/share/applications 

All configuration files in this directory feature a .desktop extension to indicate that it is an application launcher configuration file.

And all icons referenced by those configuration files are normally stored in the /usr/share/icons directory.

You will need to gain root access to edit the configuration files. This is Ubuntu’s way of protecting you from yourself, so to speak. A lot of things could go wrong if you were to be the root user 24/7 for this very reason you are not a “root” user.

First open a Terminal window (Ctrl + Alt + T) and type sudo nautilus
This will open a Nautilus window with root privileges.
Go to usr/share/applications

The following window will appear:

usr/share/applications

As you can see, the Avidemux icons “appear” to be present in this folder. This is not the case as these are simply just shortcuts referring to the actual icons located in usr/share/icons

Let us go there and investigate.

usr/share/icons

You can see the icon I have highlighted is avidemux.svg. It is there but it is not appearing in the launcher or the dash. This simply means that the application’s shortcut configuration file is not referencing the icon from the Numix-Circle icon suite but is actually sourcing its icon from another directory (either from within the usr/share/icons folder or sometimes in it’s own folder).

An example of this is the Xdiagnose application. It sources its icon from /usr/share/xdiagnose/icons/microscope.svg 

This means that, no matter what icon theme you use it will completely ignore it.This can be resoloved using the same method mentioned in this tutorial.

Close all your open windows and then close your terminal window.
Open a terminal window and type sudo gedit
This will open up the text editor with root privileges, enabling to edit configuration files editable only by the root user.
Hit the “Open” button and navigate to usr/share/applications

usr/share/applications
Click avidemux2.6-qt.desktop and click Open

The following window will appear:

usr/share/applications
Look at the Icon field. You can see it says: avidemux2.6-qt
Change this to avidemux and hit Save.
Or, alternatively, If you would like to have a backup in case you mess up just comment out the Icon=avidemux2.6-qt with a # so it will look like #Icon=avidemux2.6-qt
The field will become blue indicating that it is inactive.
Now you can hit Enter and type: Icon=avidemux in the next line.

usr/share/applications

Hit Save, close all windows, log out and log back in and you’re done.