SwiftKey Flow Public Beta Available

I personally have used the Swype keyboard on my android phones since it was in beta. It was exciting to see SwiftKey launch its own variation on this type of keyboard. Swype has always had issues differentiating between “if” and “of” and other similar letter combinations. It was a nuisance to go back over every message and proof it for these typographical errors. I used SwiftKey 3 for a few days to test it out a few months ago. Their prediction is vastly superior to Swypes built in dictionary and word prediction. SwiftKey learns from your writing style and increases it prediction accuracy over time. There are even options to scan your text messages, emails, and facebook posts to learn your writing style. I didn’t mind letting it scan my text messages, but I was not interested in it reading my emails and facebook posts. A major difference between Swype and SwiftKey Flow is the option to never lift your finger until your done typing. Using Flow you simply move your finger across the space bar and move on to the next word. Being used to lifting a finger to either allow Swype to insert a space or manually hitting the space bar, it took some time getting used to swiping down to the space bar and continuing on. Once you get used to this method of typing you will notice a nice boost in your typing speed.

Being a Beta (the first Public release) there are still some issues to be worked out. Currently once SwiftKey predicts the incorrect word the only way to change it is to stop typing and delete it. There are ideas being thrown around in the VIP forum on how to fix this. The two methods I liked are either you swipe left from the delete key to remove the last word typed, or be able to swipe up to the prediction bar to the word you want, then continue on with your message. SwiftKey also has problems properly predicting words that have two of the same letter together like “too” and “fell” which becomes “feel”. It is also currently having issues with words that incorporate an apostrophe. Surely the SwiftKey team is working on ironing these issues out and the release version of this keyboard will be fantastic.

Overall I can see myself using this keyboard going forward. Even in its Beta form it is more fun, and more accurate than Swype. If you do not currently own SwiftKey 3, now is a good time to grab it. It is on sale for $2.00 in the PlayStore at this LINK!

The Flow Beta can be found HERE!

To Root or Not?

A question I get asked often is why should I root my phone? Typically if you have to ask this question, that is a great reason why you should not. The risks involved are not for the common user who wants to sound cool by saying their phone is rooted. In my experience if someone goes around boasting about their device being rooted, they are one of the suckers who paid someone to do it. Furthermore, they have no clue what their device can actually do that sets it apart from the stock OEM setup. Look I have a SuperUser icon! The benefits of rooting / bypassing the security on your Android device are nearly endless for the right person.

I just wanted to take a few minutes and share my thoughts on what I believe are the powerful benefits of rooting Android devices. This will not be a how to root, flash custom software, or unlock bootloaders. There are plenty of forums and websites dedicated to that.

First off let me start with discussing the risks associated with rooting, flashing, and unlocking bootloaders on these devices.

1. The Android Paperweight: This is a term normally used for a Hard Bricked device. What is hard brick? When your device will not power or show any signs of life. If you pull the battery (not possible on all phones anymore) and after replacing it your phone shows no signs of life whatsoever you may very well have yourself a brand new few hundred dollar paperweight. Most of the time unless you really screw something up it, is hard to truly hard brick your device. If your leds light up, you notice screen initialization, or other signs of your device booting up, you are more often than not in a category called Soft Brick. Soft bricks are caused by a number of issues but normally easy to fix.

2. Your warranty is now void: All manufacturers will void your warranty if they know that your device was rooted. Sometimes it is possible to unroot your phone or tablet before sending it in for warranty work. If done properly the manufacturer will never know it was rooted and your warranty work or replacement will be covered. Some Samsung devices are shipped with a Flash Counter. This will count how many times your device has flashed a custom kernel, or ROM. There is also speculation that simply rooting your phone will increase this counter as well. What does this mean? If you take your phone in for warranty they can tell even if you have unrooted. I personally have not had to deal with this yet. There are posts around the www that claim to have discovered ways to flash without triggering the counter, or claim the ability to reset the counter.

3. You have the power to screw your Android device up now: Once you are rooted you can modify the software however you want. This also means you can delete important files and brick your device. Lets say you choose to root your phone to remove bloatware, if you delete these files completely and your carrier pushes and OTA (over the air) update your phone will most likely not boot once the installation was initiated. The ota will verify the currently installed software and if it notices a missing file you will typically end up on a blue screen with angry Andy in the middle of it. There are ways around this. Do some research before you dive into the world of a rooted device.

There are other risks associated with taking control of your phone or tablet, but I feel those are the three most important.

The advantages of rooting, like I mentioned above are endless. You gain total control of what is on your device, and how the kernel operates. I’ll cover a some of my favorite benefits.

1. Bye Bye Bloatware: Unless you buy a pure google phone the carrier will always add garbage to the OEM software. Blockbuster, NFL mobile, and so many other apps come preinstalled it drives me nuts. If I want the app I will gladly download and install it. The fact that it is impossible to remove these preinstalled applications without rooting is what makes this so annoying. Once rooted you have the ability to remove these apps. Like I mentioned earlier if you plan on remaining on OEM software and simply gaining root access it is important not to completely remove these apps. It is good practice to use an app like Titanium Backup and first freeze the app. By freezing the applications you remove them from the system data. Once they are frozen you can ensure that they will not cause your system to become unstable. After you have used your device for awhile and confirmed that it will still operate as intended you can safely make a backup off the app and then delete it. When you know there is an OTA available for your device all you need to do is restore the applications you have removed and then let the upgrade install. Loading a custom ROM is another way to avoid bloat and experience the true capability of your phone.

2. Free wireless tethering: When I first started rooting devices this was a major benefit. There are some apps available now that can achieve this without actually rooting. The fact that carriers want to charge for a feature that is part of Android is absurd.

3. Faster, Stronger, Meaner: Custom ROMs give you the option to change the look and feel of your phone. There are numerous developers that can take your phone to the next level. The tweaks and performance you gain make it totally worth checking into custom software. If your stuck waiting on an update to ICS or JellyBean there is a good chance there is already a custom ROM build out there if your device can handle it. With custom kernels you also gain the ability to overclock the processor. Of course this is a risky process just like in full size computers. Unlike your fullsize computer though, your phone does not have any active cooling. They can get HOT. Play around with different frequencies and make sure the phone will remain stable. Do not load the settings at boot until you are completely sure your 100% stable. Locking these settings at boot will cause bootloops if you set the frequency to high. Most of the time the performance gains are significant.

4. Backing up your device: It is wonderful to have the option of completely backing up apps and settings. Apps that store data on the SD card are handy, but what about progress in a game or if your SD card dies? With apps like Titanium Backup, or My Backup you have the ability to back up everything you want and send those backups to the cloud. If your phone gets lost, broken, or stolen you can now restore your information when you get your new device. If you end up flashing multiple custom ROMs these backup utilities make setting your phone back up significantly faster. With batch restore options you can simply initiate a batch install and the apps that you backed up on your Sdcard will be installed with one click. No more waiting for downloads and searching for the apps you want.

5. Squeeze a couple more hours out of your battery: Very few phones are good at battery management. Custom ROM developers have to take the time to make sure that their software is not going to decrease battery life. If they do not the community will give them a severe tongue lashing. Removing unnecessary apps and software will stop some of the random data connections and wasting battery power. Many of the ROMs out there come with various settings and tweaks that help increase battery life. Overclocking under load, underclocking while the phone is asleep and undervolting give a nice speed boost with less battery consumed.

By now it is obvious that I am for rooting and unlocking bootloaders. With lots of research and patience most people should be able to do most of this on their own. Paying to have someone root your device teaches your nothing. Nor will you have any idea what was done and what to do if you screw something up. Hopefully this has helped some of you gain insight into what the advantages and disadvantages of rooting are.

Public WiFi – what is the cost?

Question for the readership:

What is the true cost of providing public WiFi (unsecured) in say an airport?
Leave answers in the Comment section…

In this age of 3G, MiFi, etc. does anyone really need to pay to use WiFi service to get work accomplished? Sure I’ll connect all day long if it is free. A good WiFi connection is usually faster than my 3G BlackBerry or Droid Pro connection. But I refuse to pay for this.

On a recent trip, the hotel I was staying at, charged €6 for 30 minutes of WiFi which is close to $17 per hour. The Burger King less than a block away had it for free and served beer, cheap. Another hotel on the same trip had it free in the lobby. Good enough… Based on my fairly extensive domestic travel, it seems that the ‘higher-class’ the hotel, the more it charges for what is a simple service.

I realize that there are real non-recurring and recurring costs but these days, every business needs some sort of Internet connection for daily operations.

I will now step down from the soapbox.

– habanero_Joe

Tethering WiFi Only Galaxy Tab To Motorola Droid

Bought my signifigant other a Galaxy Tablet for an upcoming trip and decided to get her up and running with WiFi tethering. I tether my laptops to my Droid’s frequently and love it. Long story short, it wasn’t as straight forward as I had hoped. After several hours of frustrating work trying to get a wifi only Samsung Galaxy tablet connected to an ad-hoc network, I finally have found a solution. The problem is that I needed to be able to connect the tablet to one of our rooted Droid 1 phones which are running wifi tether. This is quite difficult (thanks Google) to do because Android filters out and hides ad-hoc networks. After trying many things including switching out the wpa_supplicant for a different one via Root Explorer, I have found the following to work well. Keep in mind that simply allowing the OS to connect to ad-hoc networks would be ideal.

Be sure to have a working setup of wifi tether running on your phone if that is where you are sourcing the ad-hoc connection.

Step 1: Root your tablet using Z4root and reboot as required.
Step 2: Install ZT-180 on the tablet from the Android Market.
Step 3: Configure the ZT-180 application to connect to the SSID of your wifi tether application.
Step 4: Switch to ad-hoc mode within ZT-180 and enjoy 🙂

It appears to me that the ZT app acts as a proxy between the tablet and the ad-hoc peer.

Truly shame on Google here, there are so many user forums filled to the brim with requests and issues. I can only begin to think of the number of people who have to void warranties and/or for go support by rooting their devices to do something the iPad allows by default.


Recreate OWA Virtual Directory IIS7 / Exchange 2007

Ran into an issue today where a clients SBS 2008 server stopped servicing requests made to hostname/owa. I am still unsure as to what caused this issue but find a fairly simple way to recreate the OWA virtual directory for IIS. Many admins are familiar with this procedure / howto for Exchange 2003 but are unable to find something similar for Exchange 2007. While the step that I will describe below is not as in depth as the previous link, it did resolve my issue.

If your OWA is giving you the dreaded 404 treatment try this: Open IIS Manager and delete the OWA virtual directory. Next you will need to open the Exchange Management Shell. Enter in the following command and press enter afterwards: New-OWAVirtualDirectory -OwaVersion:Exchange2007 -Name "OWA" .

That will rebuild / recreate the OWA virtual directory and start accepting client requests immediately. Please note that this recreates the OWA virtual directory under Default Web Site, not under SBS Web Applications like a default SBS / Exchange 2K7 install.

Hopefully, this one liner will save you some trouble.


IRC Client for BlackBerry

Looking for a no-charge BlackBerry IRC client? (or any J2ME device) I was and found jmirc. It is fairly basic and I feel that the interface is sort of clunky but it gets the job done. Current version is 0.96.

One of the nice features is that you can create profiles for various IRC host, channels and/or nicknames.

“This project started as a fork of Sverre Valskrå’s WLIrc but eventually led to be a complete rewrite project. Its aim is to be as small and lightweight as possible still trying to maintain the ease of use and all needed features. At the same time it tries to be some kind of hybrid implementing all the most useful features from other clients.”

Main info page: jmirc.sourceforge.net

Blackberry download: jmirc.sf.net/beta/jmIrc.jad

– habanero_joe

Android Apps You Need

I am still buzzing with joy over my recent Android phone purchase. The Android Marketplace has proven very useful, I have found many useful apps and wanted to share a few worth trying out.

1. Listen – This Google app is a must have if you listen to podcasts. Forget the old days of downloading them and syncing them to your mobile/DAP. With Listen, you subscribe, download, and stream right from your phone.

2. Seesmic – This great little app is for those Twitter users on the go. After installing and logging into my account, I was able to perform all of the tasks that I expect from a Twitter client. Simple and intuitive.

3. NewsRob – If you are a Google Reader user you probably are familiar with using GR from your mobile browser. It isn’t any fun. NewsRob is simple, fast, and free. With numerous options for reading and syncing, this app is great.

4. Advanced Task Killer Free – The name is pretty self explanitory, it kills running processes. This is especially useful on the Android operating system which seems to leave everything running in the background even though you think that you exited.

5. TorrentFu – This app is excellent for controlling Transmission and other torrent clients. Uploading, starting, pausing, and all the other basic controls are available. A neat feature is the ability to search for torrents right from the phone and submit them to any of your configured profiles for downloading. There is also a built-in barcode scanner which converts barcodes into torrent searches. Perfect for those times in the movie/music aisle.

6. Katawa – Web comics! If you are a fan of XKCD, Indexed, Dinosaur Comics, and the like, this app is for you. It pulls the latest strip on demand.

There are many others… far to many to list actually. Anyways, I hope that this short list helps out new Android users.