Monthly Archives: July 2012

Samsung Galaxy SIII – Third Thoughts

Ten Days on, I am getting used to the phone. I have gotten over my initial resistance and have come to the conclusion that I will not be returning this phone.

  • The phone is FAST! Slow-loading apps such as Amazon Kindle and WAVE3 weather load in a second or two. Boots like lightning. Reboots in under thirty seconds.
  • Battery life is excellent – I get a whole day of use, including half an hour of Netflix viewing, on a charge – and that is with Wi-Fi off and Sync on. Under similar circumstances, the Droid ran dry in 4-6 hours. I’ll still get a second battery, but I suspect that I won’t be needing it very often.
  • 4G is as fast as Wi-Fi, sometimes faster; in spite of Verizon continually begging me to switch to Wi-Fi, I only do so when I need to (mainly to sync songs and ratings with iTunes).
  • Perhaps unsurprisingly, my data consumption is up – twenty days into the month I have used 2.4GB, which puts me on target for 3-4GB/month. And that will go up when I start streaming movies; thank God for unlimited data.
  • Connection to my home network is blindingly fast – it takes only a second to establish connectivity once Wi-Fi is switched on. The DX2 used to take 15-20 seconds.
  • When I plug the phone into a PC it appears as a separate device (SCH-I535), rather than a set of external drives. The advantage is that the phone can still access memory while plugged in; the disadvantage is that there are some things you cannot do – like search the phone or SD memory.
  • The naked phone is very glossy, which makes it slippery, especially when your hands get sweaty. The Droid had a black rubberized coating which gave excellent grip. Ah, the price of fashion…
  • One-handed use is difficult, even if you have big hands.
  • The phone is LOUD. The built-in speaker can deliver the goods.
  • Takes ages (as long as an hour) to go from “nearly charged” (95%) to fully charged. It is best charged when switched off.
  • I have rooted the phone without any problems. Now I can backup and restore apps from the old phone with all the data intact.

Irritations

  • The symmetrical design means that it is easy to accidentally pick up and hold the phone in an upside down position, which can be embarrassing if you are making a phone call. And it’s big enough that righting it is a two-handed exercise.
  • Occasionally the phone loses the ability to update widgets for no readily obvious reason. This has happened twice so far, and in both cases, a reboot has fixed the problem. Hopefully this will be fixed in a future update.
  • Button placement continues to be an irritation. Putting the volume button on the left means that the phone needs to be tilted 90 to the right when watching videos… which puts the “Back” and “Menu” buttons on the left, which is VERY counter-intuitive. I’m getting used to it, but it’s still wrong – doubly so for a phone that is touted as “designed for humans”.
  • Grammar Error: Settings>More Settings>VPN: “Set a screen unlock pattern, PIN or Password before you using credential storage” (this may be on the rooted version only).

Annoyances

  • The phone keeps begging to connect to Wi-Fi. This “nag screen” keeps returning to hound me on a daily basis and cannot be turned off. Seriously, Verizon, why are you doing this? It’s almost as if you didn’t have sufficient bandwidth…
  • And finally… curse you Verizon for locking the bootloader. Yes, I have mentioned this before, but it is such as big grip that it is worth mentioning twice. And my experience with the DX2 has me convinced that you are unlikely to change your mind and unlock it anytime soon.
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Galaxy SIII – Second Sight

I finally got around to activating the phone today.

First things first; the phone is big. It is one of the biggest phones I have ever seen. I thought that the DX2 was a big beast when I bought it, but this monster makes it look small by comparison. Someone called it “a small tablet with a built-in phone”, and that’s not far from the truth. Folks with small hands — such as Her Ladyship — might find it hard going, but even for me, it feels a trifle over-sized. Oh, and did I mention that it’s big?

The upside of this is that the screen is huge — and exceptionally clear, thanks to the high-resolution screen (1280×720 up from the DX2’s 960×540).

Things I like:

  • It is fast. Of course it is never entirely fair to compare a heavy-laden year-old DX2 with a brand new SIII, but the latter boots ICS far faster than the former ever booted Froyo or Gingerbread. The new phone takes less than twenty seconds from the beginning of the animation to the lock screen, another  fifteen or so for apps to settle down to the point where it is usable (according to Usage Timelines). The DX2 takes a hundred seconds to get to the lock screen and another ninety seconds to get settled. This tells me that the DX2’s much-ballyhooed dual-core 1GHz processor is not being employed to its fullest potential…
  • The camera comes up in less than a second (and even better, it can be invoked from the lock screen) — the DX2 took at least five, and I lost a lot of beautiful shots because of it. The camera quality is also excellent – blows the DX2 into the weeds.
  • Four shortcuts are accessible from the lock screen. Now I have to figure out how to customize them.
  • The accelerometer works when the screen it turned off. This means that pedometer apps like accupedo will work on this phone, unlike the DX2, where it quit working as soon as the screen went black.

Things I don’t:

  • The screen is a grease magnet – far more than the DX2. After a couple of hours of loading and setting up apps, the screen is filthy. Good thing my T-shirt is clean…
  • The automatic screen brightness setting is a little dim. There should be a setting to fix this, but I cannot find it.
  • Power button placement is annoying. I am used to the power button being on top. Instead it is on the right side (where the volume control is on the DX2). This means that it is easy to accidentally switch off the phone when trying to change the volume while watching a movie in landscape mode. I’ll probably get used to it, but it’s still annoying.
  • Get rid of the shut down/reboot confirmation! I already made two presses to get here, I don’t have to do a third..

More bone-headed moves from Verizon:

  • 4G is so fast that I don’t need Wi-Fi, but once a day phone begs me to switch to Wi-Fi, with no way to turn it off. This is particularly galling since I have an unlimited plan. (**Fixed**)
  • Stupid, lame-o, non-replaceable Verizon boot animation — the DX2’s Droid animation was far cooler. For Heaven’s sake, the boot-up sound is at least five years old! (**Fixed**)
  • Major Bonehead move. Of all six of the US carriers offering this phone, only Verizon had the audacity to demand a locked bootloader. For the average consumer, this is no big deal, but for those who want to exercise control over their phones — such as backing up/restoring apps and data, or removing/hiding bloatware — this is a big issue. Coincidentally, much of the bloatware on the machine is supplied buy Verizon, and most of them — including wireless tethering, GPS and visual voicemail apps — represent cash cows for Big Red. This seems to be another plank in Verizon’s new “how-can-we-screw-you-today?” strategy. (**Fixed**)

The good news is that I have succeeded in rooting my phone, but I should not have to resort to hackery in order to gain control of my phone! Verizon obviously prefers consumers to customers.

Love the phone. Love the unlimited data. Somewhat less much love for the carrier.

Galaxy SIII – First Flight

I must be the only person in the country who has had a Galaxy SIII for four days and has still not activated it.

Perhaps it is because I was not planning on this upgrade – Verizon sort of forced me into it by changing the rules. I had to upgrade if I wanted to keep my unlimited data plan and not pay full price for a new phone.

Any road up, the wee beastie arrived on Tuesday. All I have done is open the box, install the battery and charge it. I haven’t even turned it on. Partly because I want to back up everything important before switching over, partly because I was waiting for a belt holster to arrive… but mostly because I haven’t had the time to dedicate to the non-trivial task of setting up a new phone and migrating my apps and settings.

The outgoing phone is a Motorola Droid X2. A pretty big phone, it is dwarfed by the Samsung – a monster if there ever was one.

Thankfully it uses a standard micro-USB charger. I am so grateful that smartphone manufacturers have (mostly) abandoned all those silly proprietary connectors (except Apple, but we won’t go there).

Stay tuned… more later.

DNS Changer explained

Once upon a time…

About a year ago, a piece of malware was released. One of the things that this did was to change your computer’s DNS settings.

All computers on the Internet have a numeric address (known as its IP address). But humans are not good at remembering numbers, so the DNS system was designed to convert human-readable characters (like “www.google.com”) into the number that your computer can understand. This is done by a dedicated computer called a DNS server. Your computer’s DNS server is usually provided by your ISP. Actually, there are two – a primary and secondary DNS server, just in case. Think of a DNS server a a giant phone-book. You can change it if you wish, and that is what this malware did.

Why would it do this? One reason might be to send you to “drive-by download” sites that try to load more malware onto your computer. Another would be to misdirect you to bogus sites that pretend to be your bank, steal your passwords and empty your account. But in and of itself, DNS changer does not do any major harm.

What the media failed to tell people us that most anti-malware programs have been able to detect and remove this malware for many months.

Anyway, the FBI was able to catch the folks behind this and roll up their operation. They were also able to get hold of the DNS servers. But simply pulling the plug would have left those with infected computers without internet, as they would have been looking for servers that weren’t there. So instead they decided to take the most painless option – they turned these “evil” DNS servers into “good” ones.

They needed a court order to do this, and the court order ran out last Monday. They had to shut the machine down. That’s a little different than the “your internet access can be turned off on Monday by the government!!!” crap that is being circulated by the Newsies.

In spite of the screaming hysteria from the Media, very few people have been affected. Some 277,000 computers worldwide are still infected, including a trifling 64,000 in the US. “DNS Changer is last year’s malware… Only about 0.01% of Internet users are affected by it.”

The moral of this story? Don’t tech tech advice from talking heads on TV.