Tag Archives: mobile

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.

So Much for the Pebble Smart Watch

For a long time I’ve thought that if I wanted to get a smart watch, it would be a Pebble, because they actually understand that a smart watch needs to work as a watch. So when they announced their Kickstarter for the revamped Pebble 2 and Pebble Time lines this summer, I decided it was time to try out wearable computing. My Pebble 2 arrived in late October, just in time for LA Comic Con, and I’ve been figuring out how best to use it over the past month and a half. I feel like I haven’t really found the watch’s full potential yet, but I’m not sure what point there is now, because I’m not sure how long it’ll be supported.

Today they’ve been bought by FitBit, and will be discontinuing the entire hardware line as FitBit picks up the software, cloud services (for now), and part of the development team.

Getting to Know the Smartwatch

Pebble 2 does work great as a wristwatch. You only need to charge it once every 5-6 days, and the screen is always on, so you can see the time and date at a glance. I’ve already gotten back into the habit of glancing at my wrist for the time instead of reaching into my pocket and pulling out a bulky phone.

Third-party watch faces range from the aesthetic (mimic classic designs) to the informative (cram every bit of time, weather, and health tracking data you can onto the main view) to the whimsical (show time using a binary counter, or Pac-Man, or the dots on a pair of dominoes). My six-year-old loves picking new designs and seeing them show up on my watch, but I keep coming back to the basic one because it works for the key thing a watch needs to do: let me tell the time quickly.

Notifications and calendar events are a key use case for a smart watch, but you have to manage them. I always pare down my phone’s audio notifications in order to avoid getting distracted, and that goes double for something that buzzes on my wrist. Once I got it down to just texts, calls and calendar appointments, it helped me avoid missing texts…for a while. Eventually I started missing them anyway. I’m not sure whether they’re not reaching the watch or my brain has started tuning it out.

When I do catch them, though, it is nice to see a preview of the message so that I know whether I should pull my phone out right away or it can wait a few minutes.

Fitness tracking is most useful if you have an actual workout routine (which I don’t) or you wear the watch constantly. It checks your heart rate every 10 minutes, counts steps, and tracks sleep and deep sleep. The watch shows your current status, and the phone app tracks daily, weekly and monthly stats. It’s interesting, but I can’t wear the watch 24/7 because the wristband ends up irritating my skin. A nicer watchband might help, but it might not, since I need to wear it tightly to keep the heart rate sensor in place.

I haven’t explored the Pebble app ecosystem as much as I could (but who knows how long it’ll be around). A few things I’ve looked at:

  • Music control is nice: you can pause and skip your phone’s music player using actual physical buttons.
  • I don’t want to play games by tilting my wrist.
  • Transit apps would be helpful if I rode the bus or train more often.
  • There’s a to-do list app that syncs with Google Tasks, which seemed great at first…but it’s a lot easier to pull up the tasks on my phone and look at a dozen items at a time than to scroll through three items on a tiny screen.

And that brings me what I think is key for smartwatches:

What a Smartwatch Needs to Do

To really be useful, a smart watch needs to be better than a phone at certain tasks. Cases where it definitely works:

  • Always-on at-a-glance info. Time/weather/step counts/etc. most of the time, with notifications and events as they occur.
  • Health/activity sensors.
  • Quick actions. Dismiss a reminder, or reply to a text message with a pre-canned “OK.” Menus are a pain, but I can imagine voice commands would help a lot.

If it takes longer to do something on the watch than to dig out your phone, unlock it, and do it there, the watch has failed at that task. If the watch makes it more convenient, then it’s succeeded.

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.

Remember Netbooks?

It’s weird to look back on all the posts I made agonizing about whether or not to buy a netbook.

It was never anything I would have used on a regular basis, and I knew that (which is why I never went through with buying one). It would have been something I used on trips, mainly conventions, and only to overcome the shortcomings of late 2000s smartphones.

Mainly: photos and typing.

Back then, I always carried another camera to get the “good” pictures, because phone cameras were still crappy. So if I wanted to post something online, I had to get it off the camera, onto a computer, and then upload it. Today’s smartphone cameras and apps are so much more capable that they mostly solve the photo issues.

It’s still painfully slow to type anything of length on a phone, but tablets have emerged since then and are a lot easier to type on. Hybrids like the Surface Pro and add-on keyboards make it even easier.

Touchscreens have solved the crappy trackpad problem netbooks had.

Faster phones and cell networks, and a more mobile-friendly web, have made a lot more things possible directly on the phone.

Netbooks, meanwhile, are pretty much forgotten, at least in the form they existed in at the time. Chromebooks are doing OK, at least in schools, but they aren’t quite the same thing. You’d think “netbook” would refer to something more like the network-dependent Chromebook, but it typically referred to the tiny form factor of a mini-laptop.

Looking back at the Tori Amos signing that I mentioned in the series’ first post: These days I probably would have taken the pictures directly on my phone and posted to Instagram within minutes. As for the blogging, I might have powered through on the phone and added the pictures directly, or I might have done so on the tablet and added the pictures that would already have synced from the phone over WiFi.

I wouldn’t carry a laptop of any size around the convention floor, that’s for sure. And I probably wouldn’t bring one on a short trip at all unless I was planning on working during the evenings.

Tablet Blogging is Actually Convenient!

For short posts, I’m actually more comfortable sitting on the couch and writing on my tablet than firing up my computer and sitting at my desk. This is something I discovered during NaBloPoMo. My workflow typically went like this:

  1. Write the post in the WordPress App.
  2. Set categories/tags and upload as a draft.
  3. Switch over to the admin interface to finalize and post: customize the URL, description, share options, etc.

What would send me to the computer are the things that are difficult to do on a tablet:

  • Layout and formatting.
  • Linking to other posts & sources.
  • Major editing.
  • Image size and filenames. Even if I use a file manager on my phone to rename the image, the WordPress app is going to change it on upload to something like wpid-123456789

I’m not sure how much of that is the couch and how much of that is the fact that I’ve been putting off upgrading my home computer in favor of the devices I use more often. I finally replaced the ancient Nexus 7 with a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 a few months ago. (It’s awesome!) It’s FAR more responsive (the Nexus 7 was basically a proof of concept, and doesn’t deal with modern software very well), so I can actually use it for stuff.

Plus it turns out even at 8″, a 4:3 screen has a much better balance of onscreen keyboard and text area than the 8:5 screen did. Being able to see more of your document, even a little, has a surprising impact on how comfortable it is to write it.