Tag Archives: android

Enhance Android privacy with Blokada app

Are you privacy conscious, but you realized you don’t actually have any options? You can either use a dumb phone, a ridiculously overpriced iPhone or Google infested Android. There are literally no other options unless you sacrifice everything that makes a smartphone virtually “smart”.

So, you’re stuck with Android with all its Google shit. There is a cure for that. It’s called Blokada and it seems to be so effective Google removed it from GooglePlay because it was “going against their business practices” (which just means it blocked their ads and data hoarding). You can also grab it on F-Droid Android software store and if you still have doubts, you can also check Blokada source code

Blokada

Blokada_3_5.png

How does it work?

In an essence, it works as a local VPN, so you don’t have to root your device. Just install it from its webpage (you’ll have to manually allow installation of a 3rd party app, under Android Oreo it should give you access to controls for this directly with the popup, at least on my Xiaomi Mi5 it does) and fire it up. It’ll connect as VPN service, but it’s not really redirecting traffic anywhere, it’s just a neat trick to filter traffic without having to root the phone.

Blokada is using blacklists just like AdBlock, AdGuard or uBlock. It’ll block ads, trackers and even allow you to change DNS to whatever you like.

It gives you a huge selection of various blacklists as well as DNS servers and also has a whitelist where you can exclude apps from filtering in case they get broken or you want to support the devs of that app specifically by allowing ads.

Potential problems

In general, not many apps have problems with it even though I’ve removed most of predefined whitelist exclusions. Some banking apps may refuse to function when any kind of VPN is enabled and since those apps can’t differentiate from actual VPN or a local VPN like Blokada, you’ll at least know what is causing the problem and you need to turn off Blokada entirely for the time you want to use such apps. Whitelisting doesn’t seem to help since those apps seem to detect VPN of any kind is on and just plain refuse to work properly.

Does it work?

Can’t say for sure other than my battery seems to last for quite a bit longer now, I’m not seeing any ads anywhere, not even on Youtube (could be just that I watch videos without ads), but the notifications do show a lot of trackers being blocked and the number of total blocks is in the thousands after just few days of using Blokada. I guess it’s working alright.

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Can’t use Bitwarden or LastPass with Firefox for Android

Ok, I don’t get one thing with Mozilla and this is also the ONLY reason why I’m not using Firefox at the moment and am forced to use Opera whether I like it or not.

I have 3 systems which have to be connected with Sync function. I also have a phone where I want my bookmarks. And for all the countless pages, I also need tons of secure logins. And frankly, I don’t trust Firefox password manager because it’s really badly designed and doesn’t give me the flexibility I need. It’s far from secure. So, I use tools like Bitwarden or LastPass to handle passwords in a secure way.

And on Android, only way for this to work is to allow lets say LastPass to have Accessibility Access to apps so it can detect login fields inside a browser.

Only problem here is, for some monumentally dumb reason, Firefox for Android doesn’t allow Accessibility Access function AT ALL for privacy/security reasons. That’s the single DUMBEST thing I’ve heard and seen, ever. It’s so stupid they don’t even allow users to turn this crap off. Nope, it’s hardlocked into Firefox browser. Only way to get rid of it is to use Firefox Focus. Which is an useless cut down, dumbed down version of regular Firefox for Android. This one, super privacy and security focused one does work with Accessibility Access for some retarded reason. WTF Mozilla?! WHY? Firefox Focus is useless, it doesn’t even have ANY Sync function. What good are countless passwords if I don’t have the god damn bookmarks to even access pages comfortably?!

Add the damn setting to allow Accessibility Access to interact with Firefox for Android. I don’t care if it’s disabled by default, at least give us a god damn option to disable this crap in Firefox settings so we can at least use LastPass, Bitwarden and similar apps. And I don’t care if they support Oreo login thingie. We’ll get old before people actually get any Oreo updates on their phones. We want the old access back damn it.

This is such oxymoron thing, on one end they want to boost security by blocking access to Firefox, but at the same time, preventing you from using an actual secure password management tools. How on Earth does that make any kind of sense!?

Stay away from Onavo Protect VPN app!

Recently, Facebook started promoting Onavo Protect VPN as means of protecting user privacy when browsing online for smartphones. Without disclosing that Facebook owns Onavo company since 2013! I find it absolutely disgusting that they weren’t disclosing this even back then and not surprised they still haven’t done the same today.

Now, ask yourself, Facebook, the cancer for privacy that it is, would you trust them routing ALL your traffic through their VPN “pipeline” to “protect” your privacy? I sure as hell wouldn’t, I have all their shit blocked on all webpages and stay as far away from their services as possible. I can’t really say anything more than to stay away from this shit. It’s sleazy, low and it’s not even protecting anyone’s privacy, it’s just moving literally EVERYTHING you view online through it, served to Facebook on a silver platter. Even data passing through is encrypted, they still see who is visiting what website and that’s already too much. AVOID!

Make your Android less taxing on battery

While there are loads and loads of so called “battery saving” apps for Android, they are in 99% one pile of useless rubbish which promises a lot but delivers very little. The problem is that pretty much all of these apps only turn off battery draining functions like 3G/4G, WiFi, Bluetooth, change the screen brightness and that’s about it. If you’re a power user you already have that disabled through toggle switches on your home screen, so why bother with some “battery saving” app that does the same thing and won’t really do anything for your phone if you keep that disabled yourself anyway? Well, now you can make your battery last even longer and avoid crazy battery drain from active apps.

Have you ever used an app, closed it, thinking you actually closed it and that app consumed your entire battery in like 1 hour, because it was hammering the CPU for no reason at all, turning your phone in a boiling brick with empty battery? It happened to me several times, mostly with browsers like Chrome for Android which you can’t even exit properly. Or how bloody Hangouts and Phone apps keep on staying active in memory eating battery much faster even though everyone everywhere always say they do not. I beg to differ, because i have different experience. And I was like super furious when my battery was flat an hour after i got to work, expecting battery to last for several another half a day easily. Well, these apps I’m about to mention will deal with these battery sucking apps.

How they work?

They aren’t task killers, that’s one and most important thing. They don’t kill processes, they just put them into native Android sleep mode (hibernation). The apps are sort of still active, but are placed in hibernation state where they don’t eat resources like crazy but are saved in their last used state. They might take a fraction longer to start than if they are fully loaded in memory, but I really can’t notice much of a difference on my SGS2.

Greenify

Greenify is an app that works like a Disable button in Apps manager but without actually disabling the apps. So, you can still use them any time you want, but you can be assured they never keep on running in memory and consume your phone behind your back. Free version offers “hibernation” of installable apps (from GooglePlay), but for system apps, you’ll have to go with the donate version. It’s cheap and well worth it if you need this kind of feature. But for the most part, free one will keep resource hogs at bay. You just assign the apps you want to keep an eye on with Greenify and then it will do its job by itself. Just make sure you don’t place services or resident apps like antiviruses, alarm clocks and other active gadgets under its supervision, because they might not work when you restart the phone.

Hibernate

The other one is Hibernate. In an essence the same thing as Greenify, does pretty much the same job and also covers system apps that already come with the ROM (also in free version). Only downside is that interface is far less intuitive and user friendly. It works, but you’ll have to fiddle with it a bit.

Here, both apps should take care of the battery hogs and keep you in control. I use both because I prefer the GUI of the Greenify, but since it doesn’t control pre-installed apps, I kinda have to use both (I can’t purchase the paid version of Greenify just yet). So far they seem to behave exactly as I needed them to. They automatically put down apps that would otherwise stay active in the background, keeping my battery safe and my phone also seems to last quite a lot longer now.

CyanFox ROM for SGS2 (i9100 Int)

I was a long time user of CyanogenMod ROM for HTC Wildfire in the past and currently on Samsung Galaxy S2. The problem is, I seem to be stuck on CM 10.1.3 (Jelly Bean 4.2.2) which is sort of pretty old build now. But then, I found out about CyanFox. A CyanogenMod fork which is currently based on KitKat 4.4.1 which I think is the very very latest version right now. And guess what, it works on Samsung Galaxy S2 Int (i9100, non G version with Exynos chipset)! Installed it on top of CM 10.1.3 and even though I had to manually update Gapps and re-install Youtube app, everything seems to be in perfect order. Runs really fast and looks really good. I love it!

CyanFox:

http://www.cyanfox-rom.com

Gapps for CyanFox:

http://cyanfox-rom.com/downloads/?folder=_gapps

CyanogenMod 10.2 nightlies problem solving…

CyanogenMod (CM) team released a brand new major release, version 10.2 based on Android 4.3. But it didn’t go without problems, especially for all those who were using CM 10.1 and updated to CM 10.2 directly through the updater. I’ll try to list few major and most common problems and how to solve them. I’m using Samsung Galaxy S2, but I’ve seen the same problems across different devices using CM 10.2 nightlies…

I flashed CM 10.1 on top of CM 10.2 and now my phone gets stuck on rotating CM logo…

If you tried to go back to CM 10.1 because things were too broken in CM 10.2, that unfortunately isn’t possible without using the full backup/restore option. But doing so made your phone stuck on rotating “stargate” CM logo. To solve that, boot your phone using “Volume Up + Physical button (middle) + POWER”, hold that for phone to boot into ClockWorkMod (CWM). Then flash the latest CM 10.2 again (don’t worry, it’s not really broken).

Apps say i don’t have root access!?

Go to System Settings, scroll down and open #Superuser menu, use Menu button and tap Settings. Select Superuser Access and select “Apps and ADB”. Changes in Android 4.3 now require both options to be selected. And you also have to make sure you’re running cm-10.2-20130815 or later, because cm-10.2-20130814 doesn’t ask user for permissions when needed.

Google Apps don’t work…

Existing Google apps are not compatible with Android 4.3 anymore, so you have to download latest Gapps from: http://goo.im/gapps . Boot into CWM and flash the Gapps ZIP through there. This should get all the Google stuff working again.

Can’t download or update any apps…

If you always get “Error downloading X” when you try to download or update any app through GooglePlay, you have to remove Google account from the phone and re-add it. This will do the magic and you will be able to update existing apps and also download new ones again.

Phone icon not working in the dock…

If you want to open Phone app (to make calls or see keypad) and it complains over “App not installed”, it’s not actually broken or not installed. It’s just the shortcut that is wonky. Remove it from dock and drag it there again from the apps drawer. That should make it working again. I didn’t see this problem at first because I’m using exDialer…

Banner ads causing black screen workaround

I found out a tiny trick to get around black screen issues in apps where ads appear and make the whole screen go black. It’s not an ideal solution, but it does work. When you open up an app, ad banner is displayed and screen goes black, just drag down the notification panel and close it again. This will force the screen to redraw and you should see the app normally again.

The other trick which doesn’t work for internet aware apps is to use avast! Mobile Security app and use the firewall to block connection for offline only apps. Since they will be forced offline, they won’t display any ads and they also won’t get this black screen problem. However, respect the makers of the apps and don’t block the ads in free versions unless you are getting this black screen issue. This obviously doesn’t work for apps that need internet connection to operate, because avast! can either fully block the connection or fully allow it. There is no middle way…

No 3G or H+ connectivity

It might happen for you, like it did for me. I lost 3G/H+ connectivity with very latest CM10.2 ROM’s. I had to update my Baseband from i9100BULS1 to i9100XXLS8 and now 3G is working again. You can get latest SGS2 Baseband firmware here: http://veyka.co.uk/sgs2/radios/

Be aware that flashing wrong Baseband can make your phone unusable since it won’t be able to get any signal. Be very careful, especially if you are not using SGS2 Int phone (which i have). But if your calls and connectivity work fine, then don’t update the Baseband. It’s a safe rule, if it ain’t broken, you haven’t fiddled enough with it. 😉 So, if it works fine for you, just leave it at that.

I hope these quick tips will help you get the latest CyanogenMod 10.2 nightlies fully working. There are a lot of trouble getting it to work, but once you do the above steps, you see it’s not really that bad if you know what to do. I will add more quick tips here if i find and solve them so others won’t be as frustrated as I was at first 🙂

Onavo Extend not working on Android 4.1.2 ?

Due to my low mobile phone data plan I have to use technologies like Opera Turbo/Off-road and of course Onavo Extend to save bandwidth, which unlike Opera technologies works system wide in most Android apps. Or so it did, when I still had Android 4.0.3 and 4.0.4 on my Galaxy S2. But ever since I’ve updated to 4.1.2 (official Samsung OTA update, firmware i9100BULS1), Onavo Extend stopped saving bandwidth. Everything seems to function, VPN service is working, data within it is counted, but it doesn’t save me anything at all. It’s always 0KB saved in the stats page no matter what I browse or view through 3G.

I have also contacted Onavo support, explained them situation, sent some data to them and then silence. Few days have passed and I haven’t got any answer. Searching the net also yields zero results. Only thing that I find is info on how Onavo Extend saves bandwidth, no matter what I search for.

Is anyone successfully using Onavo Extend on Android 4.1.2 or later? If yes, are you using Samsung device with stock firmware? Or is it some other device vendor? I’d really like to get it working again, but apparently I’m left on my own with it, as there just aren’t any resources on why it’s not compressing the data…