New Samsung firmware fixes nasty ICS Exchange bug

Last Friday I downloaded the newest official ROM from Samsung for my Galaxy SII from and flashed it. I had no time over the weekend, but I just now deactivated the workaround solution I found on xda-developers and did some tests with meeting invitation responses and read receipts and I’m glad to confirm that I9100XWLPD indeed seems to solve the “connection error”-bug which ruined my initial Ice Cream Samsung experience. Yay!

Firefox Mobile Beta: native UI at last!

The wait is finally over, no need to go through the daily Aurora upgrade process any more; Firefox Mobile 14 beta (available in the Google Play store) is out with all the improvements that were in the Aurora builds.
The main differences with the previous (non-Aurora) versions: Firefox on Android doesn’t use XUL (the Mozilla cross platform UI toolkit) any more, but switched to native Android UI elements. This (and other less visible changes) results in faster startup time, lower memory usage and better overall performance. There’s Flash in it as well, but with ‘tap to play’ option so the impact, I’m happy to report, is pretty limited. And the start-page is pretty nifty, with “Top Sites”, “Tabs from last time” and “Tabs on other computers” on one nice screen.
I must admit I was slightly worried at first, as I couldn’t get Sync to work at all (“could not connect to server” and similar error messages), but after uninstalling Aurora, Firefox Mobile Beta can sync just fine. All in all Firefox Mobile is an even greater browser than it was before.

Fix Samsung ICS Exchange connection errors

[Update 21-5-2012: Samsung released new firmware, version I9100XWLPD, which seems to fix the bug.]
Since updating my Samsung Galaxy  S II to Ice Cream Sandwich, I’ve regularly been experiencing the dreaded “connection error” in the mail client when trying to fetch mail from the corporate Exchange server. A colleague of mine, who agreed to have me upgrade his SGS2 after I promised  everything worked flawlessly, had the problem even more regularly.
Searching the web turned up this interesting thread on xda-developers, which had amongst others a fix for the adventurous, but also this eye-opening comment:

The messages in question are Read Receipts, Delivery Receipts and similar messages. Once there is one of those in your inbox, you’re stuck until you delete it. […] A better solution which has worked for me is to create a folder for your receipts. Then, on your PC, create a rule to move the receipts to the folder on arrival. This will obviously also work when your PC is off, as the rules are stored and executed on the server. You will have to create a rule which processes emails on arrival, matches a series of strings in either subject or body of the message and moves them to the folder.

And that’s exactly what I did; mails sent only to me with “Declined:” or “Accepted:” or “Tentative:” or “Read:” or “Not read:” in the subject line are automatically moved into a “tmp” folder. Your mileage may vary (apparently there are other conditions under which the Android/ Samsung mail client has problems downloading items form Exchange), but based on my limited experience up until now, this workaround gets most problematic items in my Inbox out of the way. Now let’s hope Samsung fixes this blatant error (and that it isn’t in the ICS-version on that beautiful Samsung Galaxy S III)!

7 days with my Ice Cream Samsung

Last week I flashed my Samsung Galaxy S II with the official Android 4 firmware from Samsung. Here’s some information and semi-random thoughts about the upgrade and my Ice Cream Sandwich on Samsung-experience so far.

  1. About the upgrade:
  2. What Ice Cream Samsung is like:
    • Battery life actually seems a bit better than with the Gingerbread-based firmware.
    • Ice Cream Sandwich seems slightly faster as well, more responsive.
    • ICS isn’t all that different, from a user interface point of view. Some small tweaks and usability improvements, but nothing major.
    • Face unlock (having Android unlock your phone after recognizing your face) is a nice gadget, but it’s of little use if you value security.
    • More interesting, from a security point of view, are “encrypt device” and “encrypt SD card”. Should give that a try.
    • The data usage app is really great, allowing you to monitor and manage data usage for the entire device and on a per-app basis. “Data Usage” is, as far as I’m concerned, one of the hidden treasures in ICS!
  3. Tailoring ICS to my liking:
    • I’m not a fan of Samsung’s TouchWiz, which also features in their ICS implementation, so I don’t use it.
    • At first I installed Nova, an ICS-only launcher, but I wasn’t blown away, so I reverted to good old ADW.
    • I rooted the phone with CF-root to be able to install SetCPU.
    • SetCPU, which I had previously used on my HTC, seemed to work all right at first, but it sometimes put my phone into a deep sleep during phone calls or when idle, with nothing but a forced reboot to wake it up. I uninstalled SetCPU (and am still looking for a similar tool to save battery mainly).
    • I also installed AdFree Android, which adds known ad-domains to your hosts-file, having them point to localhost. Only for rooted phones, but it works like a charm. More privacy and better battery-life will be yours!

So I’m good, for now. But I’m sure I’ll be very tempted when Cyanogenmod 9 for the Galaxy SII comes out. Go TeamHacksung!

Making do with Windows Phone, loving Metro

Every now and again you should go out of your comfort zone to get a new perspective on things. Or so they say. I love my comfort zone, it took me 43 years to build the damned thing after all, so please leave me be, will you?
But things break and in this particular case the screen of my trusty old Samsung Galaxy S2 went dark, literally. I brought the phone in for repairs and grabbed the only test-device left at work as a temporary replacement. It was a Samsung Omnia 7 with Windows Phone 7. Now look at this little droid-boy getting pushed out of his comfort zone!
I’ve been using it for 5 days now, so why not make a small list of what sucks and what’s great? Here goes:
What sucks:

  • The browser. It’s not I can’t live without Firefox Mobile, but boy does Mobile IE7 suck.
  • No Internet connection sharing (not over USB, not over Bluetooth, not over WiFi)
  • The fact that the phone doesn’t present itself as a USB storage device when I connect it over USB with my Ubuntu netbook
  • The lack of an SD card slot
  • I can’t login with my Live ID (my ancient Hotmail address) on my phone (but it does work in Zune), which means I can’t install applications from the Marketplace (I’m asked to call support! Seriously?)
  • The fact that after installing Zune on my work PC and then waiting until I got home because Zune doesn’t do proxies, I still wasn’t able to upgrade to Windows Phone 7.5 (which does have Internet connection sharing and a more decent browser)
  • There’s no way to reliably fetch information from the Exchange servers at work. Every once in a while mail gets downloaded, but in general there’s error code 8501001D ruining my Exchange experience

What’s great? Just one bullet point actually;

  • The UI!

Really, despite my grievances about how poorly the device integrates with the outside world, my general feeling about Windows Phone is positive, and that is because Metro really is that great! The screens are sober, with lots of space and a prominent place for content (text & typography). Applications scroll horizontally to display different views and it’s the typography that makes this pretty discoverable. The graphics effects and sound add to the great responsive “feel” of the UI. And tiles are a radical break form the icon-based approach that is typical of iOS (and Android, classic Mac OS, Windows 3.11 and …), you could compare them to widgets (as seen on Android), but without the anarchy and clutter.
So yeah, really, I Metro! I hope Google (Android), Mozilla (b2g) and Ubuntu (Unity) take clues from what is, in my view, a pretty radical break in graphical user interface design, because I would love the computing environments in my comfort zone to be more about content and less about chrome as well!

While waiting for Firefox Mobile 11

I’m on the beta-release channel for both my desktop and mobile Firefox and my desktop has been running version 11 (with SPDY) for over a week now, but there hasn’t been an update for Firefox Mobile Beta in the Android Market yet. Apparently the Mozillians are working hard to finish the complete overhaul of the front-end, which integrates with Android UI (instead of using Mozilla’s own XUL) and services (synchronization in particular).
As I’m an impatient guy, I installed the Aurora version of Firefox Mobile, which is already at version 12 and that runs surprisingly well. Firefox Mobile already had the best HTML5-support and superior JavaScript-performance, but the new version (be it 11 or 12) adds a lower memory footprint and (much) faster start-up-time to that (and it has Flash, which I don’t care for really).
Mozilla is doing a great job in the mobile space, with the browser, but also with WebAPI and B2G. No, I don’t think I’ll switch to Chrome Mobile any time soon.

Chrome for Android finally arrives

Just in from Google Mobile Blog: Chrome for Android is out in beta for ICS (Android 4) devices. I won’t bore you with the marketing video, but this “Under the hood” video is a lot more interesting:

Chrome for Android Beta: Under the Hood

Looks like the superb Firefox for Android is (finally) getting some competition. I guess it really is time to upgrade my Galaxy SII to the recently leaked ICS rom!

jailbreaking !== jail

Jailbreaking is not a crime, but we shouldn’t take that for granted, because as Bunnie (XBox hacker) writes;

Three years ago, the [U.S.] Copyright Office agreed to create an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so that folks could jailbreak their smartphones. But that exemption is about to expire.

Given the fact that the U.S. jailbreaking-scene is an important contributor, I signed the EFF petition which asks the Copyright Office for continued support for jailbreakers;

Being an avid Android-user, jailbreaking permits me to replace heavily customized (and in some ways crippled, think CarrierIQ) vendor-specific versions of Android with clean, crisp, fast and secure after-market “mods” such as CyanogenMod.

You should really sign this as well!

Sample eens een ringtone; Bicycle Race Bells

Stel dat ge een nieuwe GSM hebt, een heuse SmartPhone misschien zelfs. Dan wilt ge dat toestel natuurlijk personaliseren, er uw eigen stempel op drukken als het ware. Want ge kunt U toch niet belachelijk maken met pakweg de default wallpaper of een standaard ringtone?
“Fietsbellen!”, riep ik onlangs dan ook in het midden van de nacht tegen m’n schone slapende vrouw. “Ik wil fietsbellen als ringtone vrouwtje” en m’n echtgenote stemde, nadat ik het oorstopje een beetje wild uit haar liefelijke rechteroor pulkte,  enthousiast in met deze briljante vondst. “Ik ben wel nog erreugh moe liefje” pruilde ik geslepen en nog voor ik m’n zin kon afmaken sprong mijn supervrouw fluks uit bed. “Geen probleem”, zei ze, “laat mij maar doen!” Toen ik voor de formaliteit nog wat protesteerde, snoerde ze me de mond met “Wat Chloe O’Brian kan, kan ik ook”! “Doe maar die van Queen” probeerde ik nog te roepen, maar zalig slapen de simpelen van geest en ik droomde psychedelische taferelen van fietsbellen, naakte vrouwen en luide gitaren:

Queen - Bicycle Race (Uncensored).avi

Enkele uren later werd ik wakker, met Veerle die geduldig naast het bed op de grond zat te wachten. “Luister”, beval ze me en ik luisterde;
“Prachtig!” riep ik en ik gaf haar een beschaafd schouderklopje, “Hoe heb je dat klaargespeeld dan?”. M’n ûberVeerleken keek me aan alsof ik een kleuter was die voor de 100ste keer “Waarom?” vroeg en antwoordde toen zuchtend met een perfecte bulleted list, die ik hier trouw copy/paste:
  • Je wilde Queen, die hun “Bicycle Race” staat natuurlijk op YouTube, dat als mp4 rippen kan het kleinste kind.
  • VLC wilde die mp4 niet naar een mp3 audio-bestand omzetten, ik heb er dan maar Ogg Vorbis van gemaakt.
  • Maar Ogg Vorbis is voor freaks, dus ik heb er met mp321 een mp3 van gemaakt
  • Die mp3 heb ik op de SD-kaart van je nieuw speelgoed gekopieerd
  • Ik installeerde Ringdroid van op de Android Market en knipte die magistrale fietsbellen tenslotte uit de mp3

“Je bent geniaal schat” riep ik, “laat ons nog eens uit de bol gaan op die ultieme fietshymne van Freddie en Brian!”. We sprongen recht en begonnen stevig te rocken en te rollen op het echtelijke bed. M’n liefde voor het leven danste haar prachtige borsten bloot en ik maakte me klaar om de solo van Brian May op m’n kleine ukelele te spelen toen plots de fietsbellen weerklonken. Ik nam verbaasd op en een grijze man van SABAM kwam -telefoon in de hand- de kamer binnen om ons erop te wijzen dat het rippen van audio om een ringtone te maken, zelfs al gaat het maar over 12 seconden, onderhevig is aan de wetgeving op het auteursrecht en dat we de leden van SABAM dan ook een billijke vergoeding verschuldigd waren die hij -en terwijl hij dat zei kleedde hij zich uit- nu kwam innen. Zo werd ik deze nacht badend in het zweet wakker, m’n Veerleken zacht snurkend naast me. Ik wilde haar nog even wakker maken om haar te vertellen over de fietsbellen en vooral over Brian May op ukelele, maar de gedachte aan die man van SABAM was er te veel aan. Ik denk dat ik de fietsbel-samples op FreeSound maar eens ga beluisteren.

Pimping my Samsung Galaxy S II

didn’t really like the look & feel of my Galaxy S II’s GUI, so I decided to customize my experience to feel a bit more at home on my “personal digital assistant”. One of the first things I did (after installing some apps) was extracting my old wallpaper from the Cyanogenmod 6 zip-file to replace the ugly Samsung wallpaper.
Next on my hitlist: getting rid of Samsung’s iPhoney TouchWiz. I was very fond of the simple elegance of the open source ADW launcher on my Cyanogenmod-ized HTC Magic  (which is for sale by the way), so I installed ADW.Launcher from the Android Market. I then configured ADW to display 5 instead of the default 4 rows to better use that incredible screen resolution.
A small inconvenience of ADW.Launcher is that you don’t get notification-bubbles that display the number of new mails, messages or missed calls on the icons of those applications. ADWNotifier, an ADW.Launcher plugin, solves that problem just fine.
What’s next? Rooting that fabulous GT9100, I guess. And maybe try this early Cyanogenmod 7 build for it?