Monthly Archives: January 2013

Google… Later?

When I upgraded my phone to Jellybean, I was presented with a new feature – “Google Now” (GN). Lacking the time to explore this, I left it switched off for the time being.

A few days ago I decided to turn this feature on, as it looked useful. Since then I noticed that battery life was poor and the phone was routinely getting hot. The last straw was last night, when it went from about 70% to 14% in about three hours during which it was not being used. Uninstalling those apps that I had added over the past few days did not help.

It appeared that a process called “System Storage” was causing the problem – but why?

I did a little Googling and found that one of the culprits was Google Now.

“Simple”. I said to myself. “I’ll just turn it off”. The setting is deeply buried. Open the Google Search App, then hit the “Menu” key and open “Settings”, then “Google Now” and simply turn it off!.

No such luck.


I tried several times, verifying that my network connection was OK. Finally in exasperation I uninstalled the latest version of Google Search (, which reverted to the installed version ( On bringing up Google Search I was presented with this:


I then NEXTed my way to this…


and then hit “No, maybe Later”. So far so good.

Google->Settings-> Google Now shows:


Success! Finally I went back to the Android Mark… *cough* “Play Store” (sounds like a toy shop), and upgraded Google Search back up to the latest version. Checking the settings I now see:


Problem Solved :). Note that “Privacy and accounts” has now been  changed to “Privacy & accounts”, showing that we are running a different version.

One warning: don’t re-enable GN unless you really want to, as you can’t turn it off again without repeating the process. At least until Google fixes this problem.

On Frugality

Over the years, I have seen many families who are “gadget-rich/cash-poor” (Big-screen TV, Kitchen full of appliances, all the latest toys, video-games and diversions… but no money). I am related to some of them.

And every Christmas, I see good folks running out to buy the latest must-have gadget for their children, whether they can afford them or not; they are unable to tell their children “No” — but this is hardly surprising; they are often unable to tell themselves “No” either.

They are ruled by impulse, and easily-manipulated by shrewd marketers. They watch the news, and believe everything that they see, and as a result are horribly depressed and prone to hysteria. Not surprisingly, they adopt a “victim” mentality, and often expect the Government to fix their problems.

These days, frugality is a dirty word. But some of the wealthiest people I know are frugal — that may be why they got wealthy in the first place.

Here are a few pointers and principles that I use that help me save money.

  • Never buy anything on impulse. There is a multibillion-dollar industry that is dedicated to separating you from your money. It is called the marketing industry. Like the WOPR in “War Games”, the only way to win that game is to refuse to play. Quit watching TV ads. Quit reading ads in magazines, Quit clicking on web ads. You don’t need what they are selling.
  • Learn to say no to yourself. For most of us this means finding someone who will hold us accountable by asking questions like “Do you really need it?”. That usually means a spouse or a really close friend – but not someone you are trying to impress.
  • Know your weaknesses and avoid temptation. I am a sucker for shiny things, so I have to stay away from places like Best Buy. You may be a sucker for makeup. Or cute shoes. Or sports memorabilia. If you spend too much money in the mall, don’t go there.
  • Eschew plastic. We pay our regular bills online, but for groceries and personal purchase, we use cash. We hit the ATM once a week for grocery and “blow” money, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. The hard fact is that you spend more when we use plastic. When we first went to cash, we was uncomfortable. But we stuck with it, and now we wouldn’t have it any other way.
  • Hide money from yourself. I don’t know about you, but when I see a large sum of money in my bank account, my inner six-year-old goes “WOO-HOO!”, and starts thinking of ways to spend it. To combat this, I have my salary paid into a savings account, and each month I transfer enough money for that month.
  • Pre-spend your money. Know what your expenses will be and when they are due, and put enough money in the bank to cover them. That makes it much easier to tell yourself: “We can’t afford it”, as that big hunk of cash in the bank has already been spent.

No such thing as FREE

“FREE” is one of the most horribly mis-used words of our time. Marketers use it incessantly, as they know that it catches people’s attention. “Buy one get one FREE” (they love to capitalize it) sounds so much catchier than “Two for the price of one”. So when I received an e-mail informing me that my company was offering free birth control, my attention was somewhat piqued.

This is actually part of The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) that is being phased in over the next twelve months. It only applies to women, though; apparently, somewhere along the line, women became a privileged class. For all the talk about women’s rights, women’s issues and women’s reproductive freedom, there is no equivalent conversation about men’s rights/issues/reproductive freedom – mention those and women look at you as if you were speaking Swahili.

As things stand, when a woman gets pregnant, the husband/boyfriend/baby-daddy has precisely two options – watch helplessly while she “makes the choice” to have an abortion, or pay for the upkeep of the kid for the next eighteen years.

So much for equality

What about free birth control for men? Don’t make me laugh; some men were never meant to breed — and these are generally the chaps who do. And while we’re on the subject of our right to guilt-free sex, where’s my free Viagra? Ridiculous. And yet the principle – the idea that you can merrily make whoopee inside or outside of marriage without worrying about the consequences – is the same in both cases.

But wait! There’s more! This “free birth control” applies only to women who have private health insurance. No insurance? Tough – pay up. Even so, this legislative giveaway benefits over forty million women. That’s forty million co-pays that “someone else” has to pay. Who? The insurance companies. And who do you think they will pass that cost on to? That’s right – the rest of us.

Now I am old-fashioned enough to believe that sex is best enjoyed within the confines of marriage. Guilt-free, disease-free, regret-free; absolute trust and rampant lust rolled up into one delightful package. It’s the best thing on Earth – trust me on this one. But, ladies and gentlemen, sex – guilt-free or otherwise – is not a human right. It is a privilege reserved for the grown-ups. And if you can’t afford contraception, maybe sex is a luxury you can’t afford.

I have no problem with birth control – if you don’t want children, you probably shouldn’t have any. Some people weren’t meant to reproduce; I’m one of them. But seriously, folks, isn’t this whole “free-birth-control” thing sending out the wrong message to our young people?

Better. Stronger. Faster.

I recently upgraded my Galaxy SIII from Android 4.0.4 (“Ice Cream Sandwich”) to Android 4.1.1 (“Jelly Bean”) a week ago. For me, the problem was a little more complicated than it is for most, as I was trying to keep my phone rooted, while my cellphone carrier was trying their best to break root. It took some reading and research, but naturally I triumphed. A week later, I am able to report on the story so far.

Immediately after the upgrade, things ran slowly, but within a day or so they settled down nicely. I use Battery Widget Reborn to track battery usage, and JB is definitely more power-efficient than ICS; I get 10-12 minutes of up-time per 1% of battery life – about double that of ICS. What this means is that I have about 45-50% of battery left at the end of a typical workday, while under JB it was more like 15-20%.

Another result of the upgrade was Google’s much-ballyhooed “Project Butter”, an initiative to make the User Interface (“UI”) smoother. I was skeptical, but I have to admit that JB does, in fact feel smoother than its predecessor.

The final area in which I noticed a massive improvement was in stability. My previous phone (a Droid X2 Running 2.2 Froyo then 2.3 Gingerbread)  was notoriously unstable, requiring two or three reboots daily. In addition it had an annoying habit of spontaneously rebooting, particularly when GPS was playing up. Nothing as annoying as suddenly losing GPS navigation on a strange road on a dark night. ICS on the SIII was a massive improvement, but even so I found myself rebooting daily. But JB takes stability to the next level; there is simply no reason to reboot. If you want proof, check out the screen shot.


More than eleven and a half days of up-time without a reboot.

Yes folks, Android is now officially more stable than Windows.

There are a few things that Jelly Bean is missing, in my opinion, but they are minor cosmetic issues. I would rather have a fast, stable, secure operating system than one that just looks pretty (I’m looking at you, Microsoft). But that list – along with my solution – is another story for another time.

No good deed goes unpunished

Yesterday I ran half a mile first thing in the morning.

I took 10,000 units of Vitamin D

I ate THREE oranges.

I had a fabulous day.

Today I woke up feeling ill.


From Kindle Fire to Android Tablet in thirty minutes

Or: When is a Kindle not a Kindle?

Yesterday, I purchased a Kindle Fire from a chap selling it on Craigslist.

That is not remarkable. This is.


That’s right, it is now an Android Tablet, thanks to a wonderful hack that I recently discovered. Some very bright people discovered that it is possible to Install Android 4.2.1 — known to aficionados as “Jelly Bean” — on the Kindle Fire.

This is totally legal – the Android operating system is Open Source, though I am sure that Amazon does not like it at all. You see, the Kindle Fire was sold at a loss to entice folks to buy all their stuff through Amazon. So Amazon installed put a customized version of Android on it, to make it difficult for you to go anywhere else.

This hack only applies to the Mark 1 model, released in September 2011, and sold until September 2012. It does not work on the Mark 2 version, which has a faster processor and more memory. The process took about an hour, but half of that was reading, downloading files and installing drivers

It’s a three-step process.

  • First you replace the Bootloader. This is a bootstrap program that starts the machine, similar to your PC’s BIOS.
  • The second stage is “flashing recovery”. the Recovery Partition – this is a special program that allows you to recover from problems without booting the full OS.
  • Finally you replace the operating system itself.



  1. Download The new ROM and Google Apps (GAPPS) and copy them to Kindle Fire External Partition.
  2. Download Kindle Fire Utility (KFU)
  3. Unzip KFU, install KF drivers,
  4. Plug in your Kindle Fire (KF). It should show up as an external drive. Copy ROM and GAPPS that Drive
  5. Run KFU
  6. Install FireFireFire bootloader. KF will Reboot.
  7. Install Recovery partition (I used TWRP). KF will Reboot
  8. Backup Recovery/Reboot into TWRP
  9. Backup Old system (optional, but it gives you a way back if you ever want it)
  10. WIPE/Factory Reset
  11. “Install”. You have the option to “queue” installs. I added both – ROM first and GAPPS second, then “Flash”
  12. Reboot System. First-time bootup takes about five minutes, as it has a lot to think about. Subsequent reboots are much quicker.

First impressions are that this thing is fast, smooth and stable — a poor man’s Nexus 7. Of course the N7 more memory, has twice as much storage, two extra processor cores, slightly higher resolution, Bluetooth, camera etc, but this has most of the functionality at less than half the price, which makes it almost disposable.

Me likey!

Fighting fire with fire

This just in: The “Tinley Park Five” have been sentenced to up to seven years in jail  (more information here and here).

These five were part of a gang of up to 18 people who, armed with hammers and clubs, descended on the Ashford House Restaurant in Tinley Park, Illinois, on 5/19/2012 and basically trashed the place. They were part of an Anti-Nazi group, and had been informed that a bunch of White Supremacists were meeting at the restaurant. Afterwards, they fled the scene in several vehicles.

One car, carrying five of them, was stopped by an off-duty cop. They were detained and charged. Finally, they pled guilty (against the advice of their lawyers) in exchange for leniency.

It is true that a gathering of white men, claiming to be an Irish Heritage group, were eating there at the time. But they were not troubling anyone at the time. To make matters worse, the marauders also assaulted others, including the owner of the restaurant and several other patrons.

These bozos have done something I never thought possible; they actually made white supremacists look good. Their claim to being “Anti-Nazis” is belied by the fact that they also attacked three other patrons of the restaurant who had nothing to do with the white supremacists/Irish Heritage group, along with the owner of the restaurant.

So why is this important to me? My wife was having lunch in the restaurant at the time. But for the courageous action of a cousin, she would probably been injured, if not killed.

As my mother once said: When you fight fire with fire, you just end up with a bigger blaze