Samsung Galaxy S III Software Update Issue

If you’re like me and always checking to make sure that you’re running the latest updates on your phone, you may encounter a curious message when checking for updates under Settings –> About device –> Software update –> Update.

Software update

Most likely this message indicates that Samsung has released a new update for your phone but that their servers are currently too busy to service your request. If you can’t wait to receive the update over the air, you could try downloading and installing the update using Samsung’s Kies utility.

Samsung Kies for Mac and Windows

Taking a Screenshot on a Samsung Galaxy S III

Not sure if this will work on other Android phones from Samsung, but here’s a rather simple way to take a screenshot of whatever is on the screen of your Galaxy SIII:

First, make sure that the use “Palm swipe to capture” option is enabled in the “Hands motion” section under Settings –> Motion. Once enabled, you can take a screenshot simply by swiping the side of your hand across the screen from right to left or left to right. Although the gesture is called a palm swipe, you want to use just the edge of your hand – not unlike the motion you would use to brush crumbs off a table.

How to take a screenshot on the Samsung Galaxy S3 (free – no app required!)

Straight Talk – Unlimited Voice, Text, Data for $45/month

Many long-time cell phone users may be surprised to learn that they can save a great deal of money by switching to a pre-paid plan. Most people are paying top dollar for plans they are barely using or are hanging on to unlimited plans simply because they still can. Unless you are a heavy mobile data user, someone who insists on streaming video 24×7, or use your cell phone as a network tether, you’d probably be better off going pre-paid. Depending on your current plan, you may find that you can cut your monthly cell phone bill in half without noticeably limiting your cell phone usage. If you’re an existing AT&T or T-Mobile customer or have an unlocked GSM phone, you should seriously consider switching to Strait Talk’s bring-your-down-device plan. For just $45 per month, you get unlimited voice, text, and data. Of course, the data portion isn’t truly unlimited as Straight Talk reserves the right to cancel your service due to excessive data use. However, most Straight Talk customers do just fine provided they keep their data usage below 1.5 to 2 GBs per month or under 100 MB per day. That may not sound like much but most people use a lot less. Newer Android phones running “Ice Cream Sandwich” or “Jelly Bean” have built-in data usage monitoring allowing you to place a hard cap on your mobile data usage. You can also install data usage monitoring utilities such as Onavo on older phones to monitor and manage mobile data usage. You won’t be giving up much in terms of coverage by switching to Straight Talk as their AT&T SIM service has access to the same network as a regular AT&T customer. You’ll only lose out on roaming and the ability to call internationally — although even that won’t necessarily be an issue.

Going with one of these pre-paid plans also means you’ll likely have to get used to lower quality customer support. Some customers report having their service abruptly terminated for “excessive” or unauthorized (tethering?) data usage, even losing their phone number in the process. You can help alleviate some of the headaches of going prepaid by first porting your existing mobile number to Google Voice. (Bear in mind that porting your mobile number to Google Voice will likely result in the early termination of your current cell phone contract and may subject you to rather costly early termination fees!) Once your number has been ported to Google Voice, you no longer need to worry about losing your mobile number. Most people already know that Google Voice can automatically forward calls to any cell phone you choose although few are aware that you can configure the Google Voice app on your Android phone to route all outgoing calls through your Google Voice number. No need to launch the Google Voice app when making outgoing calls, just use the standard Dialer. I first saw this working on a Samsung Galaxy S3 running “Ice Cream Sandwich” so I’m not sure it will work on earlier releases. You can also use Google Voice to place international calls from your cell phone, closing this service gap in some of the prepaid plans. (Google’s international calling rates are super cheap meaning that you could save even more money.) With the “Ice Cream Sandwich” release, Google Voice messages can now appear in phone’s call log. Why does all this matter? Once you have all of your incoming/outgoing calls routing through Google Voice, you can change prepaid service providers at any time. No one will ever need to know your real cell phone number.

Not convinced? Check out the following links and decide for yourself. Note that not all of links are for prepaid plans for GSM phones and not all of the prepaid service providers allow you to bring your own device.

Is there any reason not to get a prepaid phone? – Mobile – CNET News
Straight Talk SIM Card + iPhone 4S = $45 Unlimited Prepaid Plan » My Money Blog
Geek Factor › Straight Talking With Google Voice and A Locked iPhone
Straight Talk SIM: The BFF of a Galaxy Nexus or iPhone
Straight Talk: Keep AT&T Humming While Chopping Your Cellphone Bill in Half
7 reasons to shred your wireless contract and switch to pre-paid
I hate Verizon, so I decided to compare all the carriers’ plans including pre-paid options to see which is the best
Straight Talk

And here are some links to help configure Google Voice and manage your data usage on Android phones:

Track Android data usage with Onavo Count – How To – CNET
Optimize data usage – Android OS Help
The Best Data Usage Tracker for Android
Google Voice for Android, now with Ice Cream Sandwich voicemail integration – Google Voice Blog
Google Voice gets an ICS update, brings visual voicemail to the missed call log — Engadget
Place calls with Google Voice – Google Mobile Help
Making International calls – Google Mobile Help

Preparing a Sprint Epic 4G Touch for Sale

Some people might be surprised to learn that performing a factory reset on a Sprint Android phone won’t clear out all of your personally identifying information. In fact, a factory reset will only erase your previously installed applications, user data, and configuration settings. It won’t clear the phone’s NVRAM nor will it remove your Sprint mobile number or user name which usually contains your full name, e.g., sallysmith@sprintpcs.com. You probably don’t want that kind of personal information left on your phone if you plan to sell it on eBay or Craigslist.

To clear your phone’s NVRAM, you’ll need to locate your Master Subsidy Lock (MSL) code. You may be able to get your MSL by calling Sprint or you can try to locate it on your own. Assuming that you haven’t already performed a factory reset, the easiest way to find your MSL code would be to use one of the MSL lookup apps available on Google Play such as Get My MSL. Alternatively, you could install one of the free terminal emulators such as Terminal IDE and use the following command:

getprop ril.MSL

Note that the above command is case-sensitive. Some custom keyboards may auto-capitalize the “r” in ril.MSL preventing the command from working properly.

Your next best option, assuming you’ve already factory reset your phone, would be to install the Android SDK on your computer and use the Android Debug Bridge (ADB) to look up your phone’s MSL over a USB connection. This procedure is somewhat more time consuming but doesn’t require reconfiguring your phone. To install the Android SDK and adb tool on your computer, please do the following:

  1. Download and install the latest Android SDK from http://developer.android.com/sdk/index.html
  2. Run the Android SDK Manager. The first time you run the SDK manager, you will be list of packages to install. If all you need is adb, select the “Android SDK Plaform-tools” and “Google USB Driver” and de-select all of the other options. Note that you’ll need to scroll down to confirm that the Google USB Driver is selected. Most likely both options will be selected by default.
  3. Android SDK Platform-tools

    Google USB Driver

  4. Click the button “Install 2 packages…”
  5. Next, you’ll be prompted to accept the license agreements for each of the selected packages. Either click “Accept” under each one or click the “Accept All” radio button.
  6. Choose Packages to Install

  7. Click Install to download the packages and begin the installation.
  8. Click Close when done loading packages then close out of the Android SDK Manager.

Once installed, you should see a platform-tools folder inside your Android SDK folder, e.g., C:\Program Files (x86)\Android\android-sdk\platform-tools. To make it easier to run adb as well as the other SDK and platform tools, you can add the tools and platform-tools directories to your PATH.

With the Android SDK and platform tools installed, you’ll want to connect your Android phone via USB and verify that adb is working.

  1. On your Android phone, go to the home screen, press Menu, select Settings –> Developer options (ICS) or Settings –> Applications –> Development (Gingerbread), and enable USB debugging.
  2. Click OK or Yes when prompted whether to allow USB debugging.
  3. Now connect your phone to your PC using a USB cable. Windows should automatically launch the new hardware wizard and install the required USB device drivers.
  4. Android USB Driver

  5. Verify that adb is ready to be used with your device by opening a command prompt on your computer, typing adb devices, and pressing Enter. If properly configured, you should see the serial number of your Android device listed in the result.
  6. adb devices

  7. To get the MSL for your Android phone using adb, type the following command: adb shell getprop ril.MSL

Finally, to clear the NVRAM on the phone, perform a ##72786# reset from the Dialer and enter the MSL when prompted. After pressing OK, the following message should appear prompting you to confirm that you want to reset your phone to factory defaults:

SCRTN
SCRTN is change to factory default value for DSA.

Click Yes to clear the NVRAM. The phone should restart automatically.

Confirm that all personal identifying information has been cleared by going to the Home screen and pressing Menu –> Settings –> About Phone –> Status. Note that you will likely be prompted to perform a handsfree activation. This indirectly confirms that all user identifiable information has been wiped.

At this point, I recommend performing one final factory reset.

  1. Select Settings –> Privacy –> Factory data reset
  2. Select the option to “Format USB storage” then click the Reset phone button.
  3. Click “Delete all” to confirm.

Your phone is now ready for sale. 🙂

What Is ADB And How To Install It With Android SDK

Trackpad++

Users of boot camped Windows on a Mac most likely have already run into issues with the built-in trackpad. Although the trackpad works great on the Mac side and includes features such as “palm rejection,” the Apple drivers for Windows fall painfully short. Vladimir Plenskiy’s recently updated Trackpad++ helps to resolve some of these issues by bringing some of the great OS X trackpad features over to the Windows side. Note that Windows 7 64-bit users must also install the associated Power Plan Assistant for Windows 7 to override Microsoft’s strict digital signature enforcement policy. The Trackpad++ driver installation will fail otherwise. So, if you’re tired of seeing your cursor jump erratically on the screen or entire blocks of text disappear while typing, you might want to give this a try. I’ll report back once I’ve tried using it for a few days.

Trackpad++ Greatly Improves Your MacBook’s Trackpad in Windows

Trackpad++

Odd Windows 7 Notification Area Behavior

Following the reboot after installing a new application, I noticed that all of the icons in my Windows notification area (formerly “system tray”) were appearing in my taskbar rather than collapsing into the corner.

Expanded Notification Area

Somehow, the “Always show all icons and notifications on the taskbar” option was re-selected under Control Panel –> All Control Panel Items –> Notification Area Icons. (Note that you can also get here by right-clicking on the Start Button, selecting Properties, then clicking on the Customize… button on the Taskbar tab.)

Notification Area Icons Options

Clearing this option restored my taskbar to its original configuration.

Collapsed Notification Area

HelloFax

Here’s a link to a new web-based fax service called HelloFax, which was recently featured on the Chrome Web Store:

https://www.hellofax.com

Their free account allows you to send up to 5 fax pages free per month then charges 99 cents/fax thereafter. If you need to receive faxes, you’ll need to sign up for their basic plan which costs $4.99/month and includes up to 50 fax pages per month. As an added bonus, all HelloFax plans support digital signatures saving you the hassle of printing and scanning signed documents. You can also request a signature from someone else via email providing a low-cost alternative to document signing services such as RightSignature and DocuSign. At H2, we already use a more basic virtual fax service from Nextiva which is slightly cheaper when billed annually — $4.95/month for Nextiva vs. $4.99/month for HelloFax — but lacks the digital signing capability. Nextiva’s virtual fax service is also not as easy to use but it gets the job done.

For a small business looking for an easy-to-use web-based fax service, this one’s hard to beat. We’ll likely make the switch once HelloFax allows us to port our existing fax number.

Chrome users should definitely check out the HelloFax Chrome app:

https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/hellofax—free-online-fa/bocmleclimfnadgmcdgecijlblfcmfnm

07/19/2012 Update: According to HelloFax support, the cost to offer number porting is prohibitively expensive so they don’t plan to offer this option any time soon. For some people that might be a deal breaker as managing multiple fax numbers or reprinting business cards is too much of a headache. On the other hand, you could look at this as a rather low-cost way to get a personal fax number.

ZippyKid

We recently moved our blog from WordPress.com to ZippyKid.  Although WordPress.com provides a great service at a very reasonable cost, it didn’t provide us with enough flexibility and peace-of-mind to meet our needs long term.  After several weeks of searching and research, we decided to give ZippyKid a try.  For $25/month for an individual site, they promise to keep your WordPress site up-to-date and your load times to a minimum.  They don’t have much of a knowledgebase and don’t have any real user forums so if run into any issues or need some guidance getting your site up and running, you’ll have to open a support ticket.  So far, they’ve been very quick to respond so I can’t really complain.  They do offer SFTP access and allow you to install our own plugins — neither of which WordPress.com allows — so we can already see some real benefits from making the move.  Here’s hoping this proves to be a long term solution.