Archive for the ‘How to Guides’ Category
Friday, March 27th, 2015
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Android is pretty good for phones and tablets, but how does it work on a laptop? Surprisingly well, actually. If you’d like to try the free OS for yourself, you can take advantage of the Android-x86 project, a cooperative effort that brings Android support to desktops and laptops running x86 processors. You’ll get access to the same Android apps that you’ve installed or bought on your Android tablet or smartphone, and benefit from a slick OS that runs quickly on even dated devices. You likely won’t have a touchscreen to use, but Android still supports trackpads, keyboards and USB peripherals just fine. It seems like a fair trade, and if you’ve got an old laptop sitting around then it’s a fun experiment to try.
A few years ago I covered the install process for what was then the latest Android-x86 release, which was 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Since then, Android-x86 has been updated to follow each major Android release, and now sits at version 4.4 KitKat. (An update to 5.0 is planned too.) With that in mind, I thought I’d revisit Android-x86 to see how far it’s come. Why don’t you join me? Here’s what you’ll need to do.
Part 1: Preparation
First, you’ll need to prepare your materials. You will need:
- The latest ‘live & installation’ ISO file from the Android-x86 site. I am using Android-x86-4.4-r2.iso.
- UNetbootin (downloadable here)
- A USB stick with 1GB or more of storage space (I used an 8GB stick)
- A working computer to prepare your USB stick (Windows, Mac & Linux are all fine)
- A computer with an Intel x86 or x64 processor (could be the same computer as in step 4).
Now we have to prepare our USB drive. Plug your drive into your computer, and format it to the FAT32 file system. You will lose all data on the drive, so be sure to back up anything of value before you perform this step!
Once the format has been completed, start UNetbootin.
Click on the button with the ellipses near the bottom of the screen, and select the ISO file that you’ve downloaded. Then, select your USB drive from the dropdown menu at the bottom. Make sure your selection is accurate! When you’re ready press OK. Android-x86 will be copied to the USB drive, and the drive will be made bootable. When it’s complete, close UNetbootin and remove the USB drive from your computer.
Part 2: Boot from the USB drive
Now we need to boot into the USB drive from our target computer. Plug in the USB stick and turn on the computer (if it is already on, restart). In order to boot from the USB, you’ll need to make sure it is the first device that your computer attempts to boot from.
You can do this by pressing a key as the computer turns on. The key is different on different computers, but common keys include F1, F2, F10, F11, F12 and Delete. The hotkey will usually flash on the screen as the computer first boots, or can be Googled with the phrase “[name of motherboard / computer] BIOS key”.
Enter the BIOS and change your boot order so that your USB drive comes first. You may also need to make some changes to ensure the drive is recognised on newer devices – for example, I had to change to a ‘legacy boot’ instead of ‘UEFI’ on my laptop. Make your changes, then press F10 to save them and reboot.
If all goes well, then you should see a screen like the one below. You will have several options here for installing Android-x86, but I recommend you choose ‘Live CD – run Android-x86 without installation’. This will let you try out the OS to see if it works well on your machine, without messing up your currently installed operating systems.
If you do decide to install, you’ll be asked to choose which drive you’d like to store Android-x86 on. Choose your drive, then choose the maximum size when asked how large you’d like to make the installation. This will provide more space for programs later on.
Whether or not you chose to install Android, after a few seconds / minutes you’ll be into Android proper!
Part 3: Android!
If all goes well, then you’ll see the Android logo, then a setup screen. As this is the first time you’re booting into Android-x86, you’ll need to go through the same setup process as on a real Android tablet. You’ll be asked to join a wireless network, sign into your Google account, and all the rest of it. With luck, your wireless card, keyboard and trackpad will all work during this stage. I had no issues here, so hopefully the same holds true for you.
Once setup is completed, you’re free to explore the OS! Android-x86 comes with the Google Play Store, so you can access this and download any apps that you like. Some apps won’t be available for install (or will crash immediately), so it’s worth testing out your favourites.
I installed Chrome, Google Music and a few games, including Minecraft Pocket Edition. Not all apps and games work well, but those that I tried seemed OK!
I hope this guide worked for you. Let me know if it did in the comments below, and if you’re having problems I’ll try to help you if I can!
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
The Galaxy S6 seems to have less bloatware than previous versions, but there are still some ornery apps that you might prefer to disable or remove – including ones installed by your carrier or by Samsung themselves. Here’s how to do it.
How to disable bloatware apps
Disabling an app is actually quite simple on the Galaxy S6.
Simply open Settings, then tap search in the upper right corner. Type in Apps, and then click on the result. You’ll have a big list of downloaded apps, currently running apps and all apps. Find the app you want to disable, then tap on it. Then, click Disable to stop it, and prevent it from running in future. Read the warning, then press OK. The app should now be disabled.
Repeat the process for other apps you want to disable, but remember that other apps that rely on one that you disabled might start going wrong.
How to fully remove bloatware apps
Disabling apps is useful, but you might prefer to fully remove apps instead. If you’d like to do that, then you’ll likely have to root your phone to do so. Once your phone is rooted, use an app like System App Remover to remove the app for good. Once again, remember that this may cause problems elsewhere.
For more details on rooting your Galaxy S6, check out our recent ‘should I root my Galaxy S6?‘ article.
I hope this answered your question. Please let us know what you think of the article in the comments below, and if we can help more we will certainly try.
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
“Should I root my phone?” It’s a question that many Android users ask about their new phones and tablets, and it’s just as relevant for the Samsung Galaxy S6. The practice refers to gaining root (admin) access on your phone, allowing you to make changes that go beyond what is normally possible. You can modify system files and run powerful apps, letting you customise your Android experience and unlock new functionality in your phone.
However – should you do it?
In general, if you don’t need to root your phone, don’t do it. It’s a bit of hassle and a potential security risk. In addition, some apps will refuse to run if they detect you have root access. However, there are some benefits to rooting that might make it worthwhile. Here are just a couple:
Installing root-only apps
Many of the most powerful Android apps are only (fully) available to those with root access.
- Adblock is a popular one, allowing you to block ads on Android the same way you would on Chrome or Firefox on a PC.
- Greenify is another cool one, allowing you to prevent apps from using your battery up unnecessarily.
- Helium is a clever way of backing up your Android apps and their data.
Customise your OS with Xposed
Xposed is a helpful app that serves as a framework, letting you easily find and install custom tweaks. There are a wide range of modules available, dedicated to various tasks. For example, you can find modules which allow you to customise the look of your Galaxy S6, save battery life and control your apps’ permissions. There’s even a module called Wanam Xposed that includes a massive laundry list of changes and improvements for Samsung phones.
Installing custom ROMs and kernels
Custom ROMs allow you to completely customise the software running on your Galaxy S6, including running a stock version of Android or a souped-up version like Cyanogenmod. If you’re not a fan of TouchWiz, then this is a nice option to have. You can also install custom kernels, which change low-level system settings in order to boost performance, battery life or network connectivity.
Removing network bloatware
While the Galaxy S6 comes with much less bloatware than its predecessors, your carrier may include its own apps which take up valuable space. You could disable them, but with root access it’s possible to completely remove them.
I hope this article answers your questions! If you have any feedback or we didn’t cover something well enough, please let us know in the comments below. You can also write to us on Twitter @mobilefun!
Monday, March 16th, 2015
It’s easy to perform a factory reset of the Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge, wiping your data and returning the phone to factory-new settings.
- Open the Settings menu.
- Click search at the top left, then type in Factory data reset.
- Select Factory data reset.
- Read the warning and then press Reset device.
- Your device will perform the factory reset, then reboot.
If there’s anything we haven’t answered for you, let us know! You can leave a question in the comments below, or speak to us on Twitter @mobilefun.
Thursday, March 12th, 2015
USB Type-C is the future. It’s a new type of USB, recently featured by Apple in their new MacBook, and should replace USB 3.0 on computers and mobiles alike thanks to its ease-of-use and universal application. Before we take a look at the new standard itself, let’s take a quick look into the dark ages before USB came onto the scene, and just how different things were…
A potted history of USB
For a long time, everything you connected to a computer had its own special connector. Printers used the parallel port. Monitors went on VGA. Network connections were done on serial ports. Hard drives used SCSI. Keyboards and mice used PS/2. Game controllers used the game port (usually on a sound card).
That changed in the late 90s with the introduction of a new, universal port: the Universal Serial Bus, or USB. As USB got faster with each revision, it replaced more and more of these ports, and were once there had been two USB ports, you’d get a half-dozen or more. Today, you’ll get a dozen USB ports on many desktop computers, allowing you to connect flash storage, network peripherals, printers, keyboards, mice, gamepads and more. But there are still some unique ports left, mostly for monitors, network cables and power.
A new connector champion
In the future, that might not be the case, thanks to a new standard called USB C. Added in the USB 3.1 standard, Type-C ports can be used for everything older USB ports were, but provide enough bandwidth to drive 4K high definition displays and enough power to charge laptops. In theory, you can connect any kind of device over USB Type-C, finally letting USB to truly live up to that ‘Universal’ part of its name.
As well as being universal, USB-C is also easy to use. It’s fully reversible, so you don’t have to try three times to get it in properly. It’s also reinforced, ensuring that it can take the strain of supporting a phone or tablet in a dock without suffering damage.
Apple and Google have already included the port in their 2015 flagship laptops – the 2015 Macbook and the 2015 Chromebook Pixel – and Apple have gone so far as to strip out all other ports on their laptop, save for a single 3.5mm audio port. It’s not just laptops either; Huawei are expected to deliver a Google Nexus phone with USB-C later this year.
USB Type-C seems an inevitability for more computers and mobile devices down the road, and should be the prevailing standard in the next couple of years. Given its strengths, it should be an easy sell.
Our first USB Type-C cables and adapters
We’ll help you get prepared. We already have a trio of USB 3.1 Type-C cables in stock, allowing you to connect USB 3.1 Type-C to common connectors like Micro USB and full-size USB 3.0. Check out the product pages below:
We’ll have many more USB Type-C accessories over the coming months and years, as the standard is more widely adopted.
Thanks for checking out the article, and be sure to check back for more USB 3.1 Type-C accessories from Mobile Fun!
What do you think of USB Type-C? Let us know in the comments below, or write to us on Twitter @mobilefun!