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Archive for the ‘Mobile Computing’ Category

Yes, after many months of waiting and a few weeks of even more tension, Samsung has finally made the update for the Galaxy S7 available in Belgium: Android 8 aka. Oreo is here. I installed it yesterday.

I’m still discovering little differences with the previous version, but the update went smoothly. For general use, the end result isn’t that different from Android 7 – from a user’s point of view, that is good news. The only disappointing item I have discovered so far, is the security patch level: in June, I expect more than a mention of April 1st.

 

So, on to Android 9 now ?

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News flash: a few hours ago, SAM Mobile reported: “Galaxy S7 Oreo update rolling out in various European countries“. Belgium is mentioned, but so far my Samsung Galaxy S7 is reporting that Android 7.0 is the latest version available… Things may change in the coming days, I hope!

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More than a year ago, Samsung (finally!) delivered Android 7 to the Belgian Galaxy S7 smartphones – and my device is still claiming to be up to date while displaying Android version number 7.0…

Google released the first version of Android 7 in August 2016, and a few weeks ago they released the Android 9 beta… Samsung (like many other vendors) is taking much, even too much, time to support their products.

Much as I like the quality of Samsung hardware (at least when it comes to phones), the lack of software support makes me more and more appreciative of Apple’s efforts. I have been using Apple hardware – mostly Mac computers in all form factors – since 1991, but Mac OS has never been as as closed as iOS, and that was one of the reasons I preferred Android smartphones. I am not disappointed in Android as such, but given the increasing number of threats to mobile devices it is important to get regular and speedy updates. Apparently, for Samsung there were no security updates worth mentioning during in the last six weeks (the latest security update on my S7 was installed on April 9, probably days after its release)… It’s a good thing the S7 is far from worn out, or I might be very tempted to switch to an iPhone.

There is still hope for Android Oreo, by the way: SamMobile announced its “imminent release” a few weeks ago. Without a firm planning, however, S7 users can only continue to hope… and remember that Oreo will probably be the last official upgrade for the S7 !

PS. Yes, My Samsung Galaxy S Plus is still working. But I have no plans to try and upgrade it beyond its current Android 5.1.1 (CyanogenMod 12.1).

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Just to make the update history complete: my Samsung Galaxy S7 has been updated yesterday with the February 2018 Security Patch. The current version is now called NRD90M.G930FXXU2DRB6. There’s still no sign of a real Android update to version 7.1 or 8.0…

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I like our new car a lot, even though it is more than three years old. Buying a second-hand Audi has consequences, one of them being the difficulty of upgrading the maps and POI data for the navigation system. The 2014 Audi A3 uses an SD-Card to store its data. Unfortunately, there is no simple way to update that card, since it seems to be protected with special encryption and/or certificates, possibly even linked to the VIN. The Audi website offers no solution, not even as a paying option.

The MMI (the car configuration and navigation interface) has no way to add POI manually. That is a shame on a car that is only worth its higher cost if you can run on CNG as much as possible… but finding that fuel type is difficult when the list of gas stations in the car is outdated by four years! Neither has the 2014 MMI the possibility to use Apple Car Play or Android Auto (how hard would it be for Audi to add that option? It would relieve them of the need to continue and support navigation and other apps to “older” cars!).

So I had no choice but to install a smartphone holder to use my phone for all the latest apps with realtime road information. Luckily, I took my time to research the possibilities. I am not keen on suction cups and glue-based solutions, but what are the alternatives?

Well, in the case of a few Audi models (the A3, the TT and the Q2), there is the Clearmounts solution. It’s an aluminum bracket that you can easily mount between the circular vents in the dashboard. The bracket can take all kinds of cradles and holders, as long as whatever you want to use can be fitted to it. I haven’t tried it yet, but I pretty sure the cradle for my Garmin Zumo will fit onto the bracket as well – at least the reverse, mounting Clearmounts holders on the suction cup of the Zumo, works perfectly.

The mounted bracket

I went for the charging cradle, but you’ll get a simple cradle as well as a magnetic holder (with magnets to glue to your phone or slip into its case) in the same package. Mounting is simple and quick, and I like the result. Too bad there is no simple way to hide the charging cable, because that would make the complete setup perfect.

The charging cradle on the bracket

You might think that I have installed the cradle upside-down, but that’s how I prefer it: this way, the release button for the clamp is on the underside of the cradle, forcing me to have a hand below the phone, thus preventing it from falling to the floor. All in all, this is I a solution I can strongly recommend.

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From time to time, I spend some time (sometimes way too much) to check out the applications I’m using. Certainly on mobile devices the available options for a given function can change quickly, and it’s always useful to see if you’re missing out on something a newer application has to offer.

My most important app on any platform is, of course, a password manager. I have already spoken out in favour of the KeePass family of tools. Currently on the iPad Mini I’m using MiniKeePass, which is not very sexy to look at (or to use). But the app can read your database when stored in the cloud (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.), and the source code is available on Github – so we are reasonably certain that the app does what it is supposed to do, nothing less and certainly nothing more.

The MiniKeePass settings screen

My search for ‘Keepass‘ on the App Store turned up another candidate: KeePass Touch. Glancing over the specs made me want to try it out. Indeed, the “Touch” part of the name indicates that you can unlock access to the passwords by using Touch ID, and I must admit that I have grown fond of that functionality on multiple mobile devices.

However, a bit of study stopped me from switching from MiniKeePass. Here’s why:

  • KeePass Touch displays ads, that can only be avoided by paying.
  • KeePass Touch claims to be “Open Source”, but I’m guessing the quotes are there for a reason: I wasn’t able to find the source code of this app, nor did I even find any website for the company that publishes the app.
  • As I found out by comparing both apps, MiniKeePass can also be unlocked by Touch ID. That’s perfect for use on my new iPad Pro ;-)

I’m very suspicious of KeePass Touch, since there are no guarantees that your passwords are safe from the eyes of its developers.

I would be very happy if someone made MiniKeePass read and write its files directly from/to Dropbox, Google Drive or a similar cloud service. But even without that I will continue to use MiniKeePass – if only to prove that real Open Source is important to me.

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Yes, Samsung distributed another update for my Samsung Galaxy S7. No, it wasn’t an update to Android 7.1, and certainly not Android 8. Just security patches, I suppose – but no word on which holes were effectively taken care of. I hope that the famous KRACK attack vector of November 2017 is taken care of; I’m not betting on any resolution, partial or complete, for Spectre and Meltdown. I guess we’ll just have to be happy with the fact that security patches do come through, no?

Build G930FXXU1DRA3 for SGS7 looks like this ;-)

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