Tag Archives: Android

How to Forget Out-of-Range WiFi Networks on a Samsung Galaxy Phone

Samsung’s Android skin won’t let you tell it to forget a saved WiFi network unless it can see it right now. If it’s present, sure. If it’s out of range, it won’t let you tell it that no, you really don’t want it to automatically connect the next time you’re in range.

This is both annoying (your Galaxy S7 or Note 5 is going to keep looking for those networks all. the. time.) and a security risk (imagine someone sets up a rogue hotspot called “Starbucks WiFi” and you happen to park your car* or sit on a bench within range of it).

Note that the stock Android settings do allow you to fix this, with a Saved Networks section in the WiFi config. Samsung deliberately removed the feature** for some reason.

Apparently it used to be possible to remove saved networks using a third-party app, but new security protections in Marshmallow prevent that. (Ironic, that.)

Workaround (source):

  1. List all saved networks by going to Settings → Data Usage → More → Restrict networks. (This doesn’t let you remove them, just limit background transfers on them.) Take a screenshot if you have to.
  2. Remove the ones you don’t want anymore by tediously renaming your own WiFi hotspot to match each in turn [edit: you also need to match the security type (open vs WPA2)], removing them one by one in the regular WiFi settings, then renaming your hotspot back to its normal SSID.

It’s a pain, but at least it’s possible.

Update May 2017: The Android 7 update finally restores this capability directly in the Settings app, at least on the Galaxy Tab S2. You can now go to

Settings → Connections → Wi-Fi → Advanced → Manage networks

to remove saved networks of just turn off auto-reconnect on a case-by-case basis (so you can keep saved passwords). But for older Android versions, we’re still stuck doing it the long way.

*I once stopped at a Coffee Bean and left my tablet in the car. I don’t remember why I pulled it out when I got back in the car, but it had connected to the WiFi while I was grabbing my coffee. It couldn’t actually load anything but the login page because it was the real hotspot…but if it had been a fake hotspot, they could have intercepted or modified any non-encrypted traffic going on in the background.

**At best, Samsung forgot to include it when they wrote their own settings app years ago.

I miss my Galaxy S4

I recently dug out my old Samsung Galaxy S4 for some Android testing. I replaced it with a Nexus 5x last fall, and for the most part I love the newer phone, but there are a few things that I really miss about the S4.

  • The size is perfect. It’s literally as big as it can get and still be comfortable to use one-handed and fit in my pants pocket. The Nexus 5X is barely 1/8″ wider and 3/8″ taller, but it’s just enough that I can’t quite reach the whole screen with my thumb. I have to loosen my grip until it feels like I’m going to drop it, which means I’m extra motivated to keep it in the case, which makes it even bigger…
  • The Galaxy S4 display is polarized diagonally, so I can use it in landscape mode while wearing sunglasses. This is helpful for things like daytime GPS navigation. The Nexus 5X is not.
  • The volume buttons are positioned out of the way of the middle, making it easy to clip on a dashboard mount.

Those are three things that the Galaxy S4 does better (for me, anyway) than the Nexus 5X. They’re all form factor. Of course since giant smartphones are all the rage these days, good luck finding another one that’s just the right size for my hand.

Otherwise, I love the Nexus 5X’s display, the up-to-date Android OS without Samsung’s modifications (and knowing I’ll actually get security updates), the camera, the convenience of the fingerprint sensor, the speed, and just about everything else about it.

I wouldn’t go back. I considered setting up the S4 as a dedicated GPS until I realized that it wouldn’t be able to get traffic data without a SIM card. (Maps can store the actual maps offline now, and GPS works independently of cell service.)

But if Google releases their next Nexus device in a form factor just 3/8″ shorter, I’ll be tempted to upgrade early.

Android Phone: Died and Reborn

Friday afternoon my phone finally got the OTA update for Android 5.1. After several hours stuck on the swirling boot animation, I decided it was time to admit that the phone wasn’t going to finish booting on its own.

I tried everything: Pulling the battery. Clearing the cache from recovery mode. Removing the SD card. Even a factory reset. I’d tried to avoid that, but eventually decided all the important stuff was backed up, and dammit, I needed a phone for the weekend!

If it had been a carrier phone or an actual Nexus device, I could have flashed a fresh system image, but it’s a Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Play Edition. Nobody wants the responsibility of supporting it.

In the end I bit the bullet and installed CyanogenMod. Even if I messed it up, the phone was already unusable and long past any warranty it might have had two and a half years ago. I didn’t really have anything to lose.

I had to read through the instructions a couple of times, but the process was actually pretty simple since I already had the ADB tools and could install Heimdall on my Linux desktop through Fedora.

  1. Flash a more capable recovery partition.
  2. Upload the right CyanogenMod .zip and the corresponding Google Apps .zip.
  3. Install the images from the recovery partition.
  4. Sign in to Cyanogen and Google.
  5. Reinstall apps.

It’s a bit weird because the UI feels like I’ve gone back in time a couple of years.

But the phone works again, and I was able to do it overnight. I didn’t have to spend three days emailing tech support back and forth. I didn’t have to go into a store on Saturday and be told I can either buy a new phone or wait a week while they send it in for repairs.

I may still end up replacing it in the near future — it is 2 1/2 years old, after all — but I don’t have to, which makes a big difference!

Update!

The phone worked great for camera, navigation, texting, and everything else I wanted to use it for at an event Saturday and at Long Beach Comic Con on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the dial pad doesn’t always respond during calls, which makes phone menus unusable. It’s not just the problem with the proximity sensor thinking my face is next to the phone and blanking the screen — I’ve had that on the official firmware for ages. I can get the keypad to display, but it won’t react to touch.

My carrier has an app for voicemail, but I’ll have to do something to be able to deal with other phone menus.

Amazon Apps won’t Install on Android? Check Screen Dimmers

I mostly use the Google Play Store on my phone, but I have a few apps through the Amazon App Store. I recently found that I couldn’t update them — or the store itself. I could tell it to download the app, but at the point that I was ready to review the permissions and click on Install, the Install button wouldn’t respond. At all. Nothing. Cancel worked. Everything else worked. But not that one.

A forum thread pointed me to screen management apps. Lux, Twilight, etc. – the kind of apps that will alter your screen to red-shift it at night, or adjust brightness below the range of the screen’s backlight.

Sure enough, I disabled Lux from the pull-down, and the Install button worked. Once the update was done, I re-enabled it. Just an extra two seconds of work before and after.

It probably happens on other third-party app stores and stand-alone installers as well.

The cause wasn’t completely clear from the discussion thread, but reading between the lines and adding my knowledge of software and web development suggests that it’s a security issue: Apps like Lux and Twilight work by altering the appearance of the screen (“draw over other apps” permissions). It makes sense that Android would prevent installation (outside of its own privileged update system, anyway) actions when it can’t be sure that what the user sees is actually an Install button.

Imagine a malicious app that overwrites the screen to hide an Install button under something more benign. In web development, we call this clickjacking.

Anyway, that’s the issue and the workaround, and why I think it hasn’t been fixed in all this time: Fixing it would open up a security vulnerability.

Fortunately, the workaround is pretty easy!

Update: It occurs to me that Facebook also requires the “draw over other apps” permission, which was why I finally uninstalled it. I expect that might cause issues if chat heads are visible when you try to install/update an Amazon app.

Ode to the Nexus 7

The Nexus 7 Android tablet has been discontinued in favor of the Nexus 9. (via Slashdot.) I’ve had a Nexus 7 (2012) almost since the beginning, and while it’s showing its age, I’ve been trying to stretch out its lifetime, because I actually do still use it on a regular basis.

Most of what I do these days with it is reading. Email. Books. Comics. Feedly. Pocket. Some photo management and searching. My four-year-old plays games, most of which run fine once they’re up but they take forever to load. I’ve also started introducing him to photo editing apps like Pixlr and Aviary. I used to do more typing and web browsing on it, but it’s just gotten so slow that it’s actually faster to pull out my phone or go over to a computer. Katie doesn’t use it much at all because she has a Note, which is almost into tablet territory already. (She’s not alone. Since the iPhone 6S came out, Pocket has noticed that people with both tablets and phones use their tablets a lot less often if their phones are larger.)

But the 7″ tablet form factor is perfect to keep with you at the breakfast or lunch table, or kick back on the couch.

The thing to remember about the Nexus 7 is that the original release was a proof of concept. There were android tablets before, but the market was still considered something of a joke compared to the iPad, and Google wanted to prove that (a) there was a market for a good Android tablet, and (b) there was a market for a tablet larger than a phone and smaller than an iPad. The iPad Mini didn’t exist at the time, and Apple was still ridiculing the concept.

It succeeded. But they made some mistakes with the hardware that were corrected in the 2013 model. Unfortunately those mistakes have made the first edition notorious for slowing down.

Mine was getting close to unusable around the time Lollipop was released, and upgrading finished the job. Fortunately wiping it and doing a fresh install cleared up a lot of the problems, though as I’ve added more apps, it’s continued to slow down. Chrome is too slow to use, and while Firefox is a little faster, I basically can’t surf the web on the tablet anymore.

But for a core set of apps, it’s still useful. I’ll read/reply to email and skim Feedly in the morning at breakfast, saving items to Pocket to read later. Then at lunch I may read a book or catch up on those saved articles. Since Gmail and Pocket both work offline and sync in the background, I can still use them in places without WiFi. Mobile data would be nice, but offline+sync makes it less critical, and I’ve saved a few hundred over the last three years by not having an extra data plan.

I am going to have to replace it soon, but I can’t decide what with. I don’t want the larger size that the Nexus line is moving toward, and while I’ve been looking at Samsung’s Galaxy tablets, the models I’ve tried all feel a little too small or a bit too big. I don’t want a 10″ tablet, and I don’t want a giant phone. I want a device that’s just big enough to read a full comic book page on it, but still small enough that it feels like a paperback book.

Note: I didn’t actually post this when I wrote it. I’ve backdated it to the original date because it’s no longer timely, but I wanted it online so I could link to it.