Tag Archives: Android

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.

Android App Crashing on Start? Clear the Cache

I ran into some problems with the ComiXology app on my Nexus 7 tablet the other day. I tried to add a comic I’d unlocked on the website (the backer pre-release of the next chapter of Code Monkey Save World), and it crashed. From that point on every time I tried to launch the app, it would crash immediately. At the time I was in a hurry, so I set it aside for later. Within a day, an update with “bushels of bugfixes” came out, so I figured it was probably a known issue and put it out of my mind.

I didn’t test it until this morning, though. Wednesday = new comics day, of course. The same thing happened, even though I’d powered the tablet off overnight.

Great.

I figured I’d follow the standard troubleshooting pattern of clearing data (but that would mean re-downloading all the comics that I hadn’t read yet, or was keeping on the tablet to re-read), uninstalling/reinstalling, etc. A pain, but a necessary step before submitting a bug report.

So I opened Settings, then Manage Apps, then the Comics app… Continue reading

Apple opens dictionary, abandons lawsuit over “App store”

Apple and Amazon have settled their two-year legal dispute over the term “app store.”

It’s about time common sense prevailed. Even though Apple had the gall to deny it, “app store” is as obviously descriptive of a store selling apps as “book store” is of a store selling books, or “grocery store” of a store selling groceries. Insisting on trademark protection was ridiculous.

Actually, that reminds me of the time way back when that Barnes & Noble (I think it was B&N, anyway) tried to bring a false advertising claim against Amazon for saying that they were the world’s largest book store. The idea was that since Amazon didn’t have a physical storefront, they weren’t a book store, but a book seller. I seem to recall that didn’t stick either, but took a similarly ridiculous time to settle out.

Apple: Supported After All

The other night I had to take the MacBook into the Apple store to get it checked out after a toddler-related spill. I got there for my appointment and waited…and waited…and waited….

Killing time with my Android phone felt a bit weird. If I hadn’t needed to stay close to the Genius Bar I could have at least browsed the gadgets and played with an iPad or a newer laptop with a Retina display, or something. There’s only so long you can spend looking at boxes of headphones and cases for devices you don’t own. I briefly considered reading the new Flash comic book I’d picked up earlier in the day, but thought to myself, “Nah, I bet this isn’t supported here.”

Then I saw this on the wall:

Flash at the Apple Store

Well then, I guess it’s supported after all!