Archive for the ‘Android’ Category

Best Android Applications for Your Tablet

Friday, March 9th, 2012

by Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group

Before I begin this article on Android Apps, I’ve written several other articles on the Android OS that you might find helpful:  the Android versus iOS, rooting an Android device and installing customized ROMs.

In this last of the series, I’m going to talk about my favorite Android applications and why I like them.

For starters, note that I’m running an Asus Transformer TF101 tablet, not an Android phone.  My app list for a phone would be different as it serves a completely different purpose. Note that in addition to the applications below, I talk about quite a few others in my other articles – a few of which I consider mandatory so check out those articles with the link above.

It should be pointed out that many of the applications I’m going to talk about are also available for the iPhone or iPad (iOS).  I have no doubt that they will be as helpful to iPad users as they are for Android users.  I’ll note each app as I go through my list as to whether or not it’s available for iOS as well.

I’m going to focus on several categories that comprise what I do with my tablet:  reading (books and magazines), watching film and video and general utilities.

There are, of course, thousands of apps to do a great many things.

I primarily use my Transformer for the above, so your list may be different.

OK, let’s get started:

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Installing an Android ROM on an Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

by Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group

Important notes and disclaimers:  I take no credit for the products mentioned in this article – all credit goes to the respective authors of their products.   Installing a non-standard and customized ROM will void your warranty.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you might render your device inoperable.  Read any and all documentation to familiarize yourself with the process before you get started.  This article and others in the series are not meant to be process guides – they are simply pointers as to what to consider, what you can expect, where you need to go and what you need to read as well as a report of my experiences.

In a previous article I talked about “rooting” the Transformer and using ClockworkMod to prepare for installing a new ROM.

As I also mentioned in that article, a ROM is a modified version of the stock OS (operating system) that includes more functionally and is typically faster and more stable.

Before you install a ROM you obviously need to choose which one you’re going to install.  Click here to read a great article on how you’d go about choosing a ROM and why.

ROM’s are posted typically on the developer sites like xda (which, by the way, is an excellent forum for you to do your preliminary research and general reading).

Another valuable link can be found here – it’s the closest thing to a general listing of ROM’s that are out there for the Transformer (and other devices).

In my particular case, I wanted a few things from a ROM for my TF101:

1.  Increased speed with over clocking.

2.  Added functionality to the boot process.

3.  Options for different kernels and ease of use in installing them.

4.  Superuser functionality to continue to use the apps I’ve found that require it (like Titanium).

However, I didn’t want to venture too far out off the beaten path to turn my device into a research and development platform, so that meant focusing on stable and well tested ROM’s that for starters used a stock Asus kernel that I could fall back to if I ran into problems.

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Rooting an Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Monday, January 30th, 2012

by Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group

If you own an Android Operating system based tablet such as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, you have probably run across the topic of “rooting” your tablet.  Before I get into that discussion and the processes involved, a few caveats about this article:

The processes described here are not mine and I take no credit for them (or any responsibility for their failures).  They were developed by others, primarily the good people at the xda developer’s site.   Credit goes entirely to them for this wonderful work.

Take care to read all the warnings outlined below and understand that the processes described below are specific to the Eee Pad Transformer TF101 revision B70 with firmware .21 and will not work for other models and revisions of the Transformer (such as the newer Prime) and other Android tablets (although similar procedures for other types of Android tablets are well documented on the ‘net).

What exactly is rooting?

Rooting an Android device refers to a process where one obtains “Superuser” or “root” access to the device and file system.  The term “root”, by the way, originated from the Unix (and later Xenix) operating system and is also used in its more modern variant Linux.  The use of the word root in this context derives from the fact that this directory is at the very top of the directory tree diagram (which resembles an inverted tree).  In short, these accounts are the equivalent of the more generally titled administrator accounts in the Windows world.

There are many references and web sites devoted to this process of rooting – you can click here for starters if you’d like to learn more, but basically it involves using a flaw or exploit to gain access to this privileged (and possibly dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing) account.

Be aware:  while rooting your device typically won’t fry or destroy it, there is the certain possibility that this can occur rendering it useless (“bricked”) or damaged beyond repair.  Rooting will also void your warranty. 

You alone must make the choice as to whether it is worth the risks and take full responsibility for that choice.

Make sure you read any and all documentation for the particular process you’re embarking on for your device before you start.  Download all the tools first and familiarize yourself with the entire process before you begin.   Also make sure that you find sound resources for your upgrade process.  There are quite a few web sites offering not only incomplete information but out and out bad information on what you need to do.  Try to find your source documentation at the developer forums like the xda site mentioned above.  This is where you’ll find the guys who live, breath and eat this stuff.

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Android Versus iOS for Your Tablet

Friday, January 27th, 2012

by Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group

I’m going to start this article by saying that I look at gadgets (tablets in this case) as well as the operating systems that run them as tools.

A tool is designed to do a particular job (or jobs).  Whether or not that particular tool is suitable to the task at hand depends on several factors.  I’m going to attempt to explore this topic by looking at a few key differences between these two operating systems and their respective environments.

Let’s talk about tablets in general for starters.  What exactly is a tablet?

A tablet , to put it simply, is a slate-like mobile computing device typically with a touch screen used for input.

There are various types of tablets (and operating systems that run on them) but I’m going to focus solely on the iPad and Android versions (and more specifically the Asus Transformer TF101).

For some people, they will find that the Android OS based tablets are a better tool than the Apple iPad.

Others (and probably many) people will find that the iPad is better suited to the task.

In fact, depending on what your needs are and how much you enjoy “getting under the hood”, an iPad might very well be better suited to being your tablet of choice.  I’ll talk about specifics of exactly why I feel this way throughout this article.

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iOS 5 Features Review

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

by Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group

In spite of the lackluster media reaction to the new iPhone 4S (and the exact opposite from the buying public), iPhone and iPad users now can update to iOS 5.  With over 200 new features it represents a new and exciting level of functionality for users of these devices.

First, let’s talk about a couple of disappointments:

Airplay Mirroring (the ability to link what you’re doing on the iPhone or iPad to your wide screen TV) will only work on the new iPhone 4S or iPad 2 (click here for more details and specifications).

Siri, the new voice recognition/assistant feature will only run on the iPhone 4S.  Technically, Siri is a feature of the iPhone 4S not iOS 5.  This is strange since the Siri app existed in the app store well before the release of both iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S and before Apple purchased it.  It certainly seems that Apple may have purposely hobbled this app simply to get people to buy an iPhone 4S.

Siri I won’t miss, but I would have loved to test Airplay for my photo albums as it’s always difficult to show someone photos on the iPhone.

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99% of Android Phones Leak Secret Account Credentials

Friday, May 20th, 2011

A few articles (here and here) have appeared in recent days about a possible security breach that allows users running Google’s Android operating system to have passwords and other data compromised.

Basically, the problem stems from “ClientLogin“, an authentication protocol for exchanging what should be secure data with Google’s servers.

This operating system has become prolific over the past couple of years as it runs on many different types of cell phones.  In the past 6 months it has surpassed Apple’s iOS (the operating system for the iPhone) as the deployed operating system of choice for smart phones (with RIM’s Blackberry a close third, but losing market share as the days and months go by).

One of the primary reasons for this is Android’s open development platform which allows anyone to create applications (or “apps” as they are frequently called) without going through an approval process (which Apple requires).

While an open platform might lead one to believe that it would present more opportunities for security problems, this may not be the case and the iOS versus Android operating system security issue is an often hotly debated topic on the ‘net.

The bottom line is that there is no operating system that is 100 percent secure.  If you’re using a smart phone to connect to the ‘net, there is always a chance that an unknown bug will surface leaving your data vulnerable.

Regardless of which device you choose, you can best protect yourself from these types of problems by making sure you run your respective gadgets update procedures to make sure you have latest revision of the operating system.  And if you’re running Android be wary of the applications you install.  If you’re using an iPhone, jailbreaking your phone opens you up to yet more vulnerabilities.

Google released a patch to fix this problem in version 2.3.4 but users don’t have to worry about a patch if they don’t have that version of the OS – it will be deployed as a server side fix (meaning Google will fix it on their servers).

Christopher Tippins for the Software Synergy Group.