Thursday, May 7, 2015

Samsung Galaxy S6 Tweaks

UPDATE: See below for proof of over 5 hours of effective screen on time after following the instructions in this post. I've also added my personal list of disabled apps for you to use as a reference as you debloat your S6.

I finally bit the bullet last week and replaced my Samsung Galaxy S3 with a Samsung Galaxy S6 (SM-G920W8). The internet does not lie, the S6 is a beautiful phone and seems to have been packed with some of the best hardware to date.

That being said, the software is a bit of what I expected... bloated. The 8 core processor shows no sign of strain with all the extra bells and whistles, but I'm a big fan of longevity and speed. The Samsung phone comes with way too many processes running, a lot of which are unnecessary for most users. Sure, Samsung cut parts of TouchWiz out, but they didn't cut deep enough. We can free up a lot of processing power and ram by clearing out the unnecessary apps and processes. Here are the 3 best bang for your buck steps to get the most out of the Galaxy S6.

Step 1 - Swap that Launcher. TouchWiz is Samsung's launcher, it is what you see when you look at your home screen and app drawer. TouchWiz is known for excessive features, but at the cost of speed and efficiency. What you really want is something similar, but with half the bloat. I'm a big fan of Nova Launcher, that being said, you'll have to invest a few bucks to get Nova Launcher Prime if you want all the fancy customization options. Even still, the free version of Nova Launcher is less resource hungry and generally faster than TouchWiz. Swapping launchers is the first step to a smooth Galaxy S6.

Step 2 - Come to the dark side. The Samsung line of devices use Super AMOLED screens. The brighter the color on the screen, the more power they use to display them. So if your wallpaper is a glistening image of a unicorn under white clouds and bright rainbows and you stare at it endlessly, you'll be able to watch your battery life drop off. However if you have a picture of my hero, Batman against a night sky, you'll have significantly improved battery life. This is true not just for wallpapers, but anything you view on your phone. Switch text messaging apps, browsers and even your system theme to "night" mode or customize them dark for maximum battery life.

Step 3 - Cut the fat. With all my favorite apps installed, my new Samsung Galaxy S6 (android version 5.0.2) has 436 packages installed. Thats personal apps, system apps, processes and everything else in between. That is a LOT of things installed. Of course, Android is smart and doesn't run all of these at the same time, but you have to think, the less I have, the less there is to drain the battery. Now obviously you don't want to start uninstalling everything at random, as some apps are very cooperative and won't run in the background unless you tell them too, while others are sneaky and refuse to disappear. The S6 comes with an easy to use app called Smart Manager. Take a look in that app under the Ram section and Detailed view. See all the active and cached apps? All those have been running, are running or will be run at some point. Some of those apps you'll want to stay like important system and social messaging apps that provide core functions or important notifications. However a bunch of them are apps that came with the phone that you have no intention of using, and just sit there collecting dust. Lets get rid of them...

Debloater by GatesJunior
Download a program called Debloater from here. I didn't make this program but fully support GatesJunior in its development as it works wonders to remove bloatware from our S6's (and most other Android phones). I'm not going into great detail on the specific use of the Debloater software, so if you need your hand held with it, try these instructions. Essentially, without rooting your phone, this software can disable/hide these apps from your phone with virtually no risk as you can simply restore them at any time. That being said, disable a core package and you could find your phone crashing and/or not booting, so take some caution.

You need to identify the apps you don't think you need, and check them off in the Debloater software. Don't just start rapid clicking everything or you'll end up with force closes and maybe boot issues. I've disabled 112 packages on my S6 so far, and still find one here and there worth disabling. Some things include the "S" apps like Health, Planner and Memo. Other system apps like Email, "Play" store apps, Print Spooler, Printer Service Facebook Account Manager, GearManager, GalaxyApps and Context Service just wasted ram too. Some apps you might use a lot and won't want to disable them, such as Ebay, Amazon and Youtube. Each of those apps have individual notification settings that when turned off, prevent the app from running in your Ram list, thereby preventing unnecessary battery and performance drain. If you're not sure about a specific package, google it and prevail. Keep in mind, disabling apps and notifications improves performance, but costs you the luxury of live updates and sometimes popular smartphone features. I'm willing to make certain sacrifices and my S6 is running super smooth and battery life has increased noticeably. Check the shots below, over 4 hours moderate use. Probably could of gotten another 15-20 minutes out of the remaining 5%.

UPDATE May 15 2015 - I did the same process listed in this post to my wife's S6 and had some great results. She's a stay at home mom who uses lots of wifi, Facebook, bluetooth, NFC and some GPS navigation. I almost crapped my pants when I noticed she broke 5 hours screen on time. She's my hero. 

UPDATE May 20 2015 - After many requests, I typed out a list of most of my disabled apps. Quite a few were themes and other unimportant apps. Disabling the apps I've listed will have postive effect on ram, performance and/or battery life. Keep in mind disabling some of them can also stop certain features (Facebook notifications, Samsung Finder search function etc.) so read my descriptions and choose wisely. I have had no issues with my phone after disabling these apps, but I will not guarntee you won't. Enjoy!

Show Ian's Disabled Apps List


Friday, April 24, 2015

Chocolates from Bell Mobility

The weirdest thing happened today.. I received a random box of Leonitus chocolates from my cell phone provider. A little card with the Bell logo saying "Just a little treat to say thank you for being with Bell" and inside, "We look forward to continuing to serve you".

I have to say I've never received an edible gift from any kind of service provider, and never would have thought I'd get one from a cell company. Usually cell providers spend all their money attracting  new customers, not thanking loyal ones.

Nice work bell, now let's get me an even bigger discount on my next phone!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Frustrating Situations

I went to visit my Grandmother last week and stumbled upon a very frustrating situation. Prepare to read a short story as I set this up properly. A couple years ago she went through me to find her a laptop, meeting her requirements, for a good price. I searched high and low and decided on a Dell 17R 7110. It's not a powerhouse, but for browsing the internet and checking email, it is a great desktop replacement. The only issue she's had with it is the wireless connectivity. It seems to drop WIFI connection every 6-8 months and for whatever reason, will not reconnect. It's actually to the point where I have to do a system restore to get the internet back.

Now I know you know I write this blog, and have talked a lot about phones, and getting deals on things, but it's important for you to know I have over 20 years experience with computer hardware and software support. I can assemble and disassemble any computer and understand it's workings. I have the experience and the certification to do so. I am no means an expert at everything, but I'm proficient enough to never need to take my own computer to a shop, which leads me to the frustrating situation...

It turns out my Grandma has had this connectivity issue a few more times than I had known, and decided to take the computer into a shop a couple times. The first time the technician charged her $80 to clean some things up and eventually do a system restore to resolve the problem. I've walked my Grandmother through the system restore process a few times so this technician didn't really fix anything, but he did get it working for her, and for a reasonable (?) price. When I went to visit her the laptop had been having the same issue and was in the shop with a different technician. She dropped it off on Monday morning and it was now Friday afternoon. Grandma explained she had called the tech a few times over the week and he was very short with her, telling her he hadn't gotten to it yet. She said she called him earlier today and he said he still hadn't gotten to it yet. That's almost 5 days in the shop with it just sitting there, collecting dust! Some people need computers for businesses and important communication and he was just holding on to it for her. I decided to give them a call as I could make further attempts to fix it myself since I was physically there, and not on the phone. I called the tech and he said he had just started working on it, and had found some infected files in a spyware scan. I explained my experience with the issue and he proceeded to talk about how he had plans to replace protocols and the network stack (good ideas but still not likely the solution as I had done it before), but it would likely take a few hours and he wouldn't have time to finish it today. It's Friday, and he won't finish it today!!! That means the earliest it could be done was Monday. I asked him what the "damage" would be if I picked up the laptop right now. He said he had invested an hour into it and it would be $50. I won't argue with the rate as some shops charge $70-100 an hour, but I was annoyed with the fact he had done nothing over the week and wanted $50 for a quick scan. I spoke with my Grandmother and she agreed it would be fruitless to leave it with them as they had plans to do several hours of work, that likely wouldn't fix it, and she would probably end up with a $150-200 bill.

We rolled down to the shop and spoke with the technician directly. He was a social reject who was clearly computer smart, but hardly ever left his mothers basement. I very kindly advised him we would be collecting the computer and we were concerned about the bill, as a full hours rate was high for a quick scan, over a 5 day period. He just sat there, said nothing, and eventually handed us the laptop and a bill for $49.99. He immediately said we'd have to talk to his manager about the cost. We approached the manager, a slightly older fellow, who clearly had less computer knowledge, but more customer service skill. I explained the above to him and he was quick to ask "what do think would be fair to pay?" as I replied "I just don't think the full amount is fair" when he quickly repeated "what do you think would be fair to pay?" I thought about the fact it took them a week to do a 5 minute scan, and that the problem was not addressed at all, and decided paying even $1 would be too much. I told him it should be free and he scoffed at my suggestion, telling me he wouldn't lower the price at all, but he would ensure it was fixed without increasing the price beyond the original $50. The offer wasn't bad, but it took them a week to do nothing, so how long would it take to get the problem solved. My grandmother wanted it fixed 3 days ago, not a week or two from now. We reluctantly paid the $50 bill and vowed to never return.

I won't get too nerdy with you, but I ended up having to wipe the whole computer clean, and install everything from scratch. It definitely fixed the problem, but I'm not confident the problem isn't hardware related and/or something to do with the internet service in the home. Needless to say, these computer shops are like automobile repair shops, they pray on people who need their help and charge whatever they want for services people may or may not even need. These sort of situations are frustrating for everyone.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Small Batteries for Big Phones

I think almost anyone can recall the cell phones of the 80's. They were those massive bricks with the thick 12" antennas. They were horrible, but that's where technology was at the time. Slowly over the years, the cell phones minimized and became almost too small. The thought usually makes me think of a Nokia flip phone, sitting alone on a bus stop as it fell out of a pocket unnoticed. Now, Smart and Superphones are the cats meow and they are getting bigger, and bigger and sometimes so big we're not sure if we are holding a tablet or a phone. With the device changing dramatically over the years, one thing has stayed the same, the size of the batteries. 

Obviously I'm not being literal about the size, but the running capacity has stayed poor since the beginning of the era. Cell phone manufacturers have tricked us for years by advertising the "standby time" and kept the focus away from the "talk time" and now more important "screen on time". Sure, my Samsung Galaxy SIII can standby for a week without using it, but 3-4 hours with the screen on and you'll find yourself begging for a charger. Of course the Galaxy SIV and the iPhone 5s are the current models, and are better then my example, but not by a lot. Each new device model increases in processing power, and with the advancement in app graphics and function comes higher battery demand. The way I see it, these devices are designed to operate from one plugin to the next. Cellular phones have become a lifeline of our social and professional lives and should be able to stay on, while we're on. Having to plug your phone in at night is totally reasonable and should be encouraged. If you can purchase a phone with different colors, processors and memory capacities, you should be able to pick battery life too.

Don't worry, I'm here for you. I wouldn't waste your time letting you read this if I didn't have a solution. Take a look at extended batteries. As an example, my Samsung Galaxy SIII battery is 2100mAh (the higher the better) and this ZeroLemon 7000mAh extended battery clamps on to the back of my phone and puts my 4 hours of screen time to around 15. That means I could literally have my phones screen on all day and not worry about battery life. Now, if phone girth or cuteness is a major factor for you, consider a more conservative option. Batteries are big and heavy so if you want big power you are going to sacrifice something. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Turbo Camaro

Over two years ago I wrote a post asking Can 6=8 For My Camaro? The only logical answer would be "sure, if you want it to." Since then, I've purchased books, DVD's, magazines and read hundreds of articles on engine swaps, crate motors, performance upgrades and several months ago I finally made a decision. My 250 cubic inch Chevy Inline 6 engine will not only equal 8 cylinders, it will surpass the norm. I've got the parts list together to rebuild the engine and outfit a forced induction system.

For those of you who don't want to go read Wikipedia on forced induction, I will give you the straight goods. I'm going to install a Turbocharger, which takes the exhaust gas and recirculates it at high pressure back through the engine, allowing for an accelerated fuel burn. If that makes sense, then you should guess more burn, means more power. This upgrade allows the engine to remain mostly stock, thus keeping stock fuel economy until the gas pedal is firmly pressed. I'll end up with a unique engine, decent fuel economy and the performance of a V8.

I'm actively tracking down the required parts off Ebay and Craigslist and hope to have them pooled together within the next year or so. There will be some fabrication to be done, but nothing I can't manage. I probably won't update my blog as I go, but will certainly post the outcome.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Block the Ads Now!

I think it's interesting to see how people manipulate the internet. I find myself opening web pages, skimming paragraphs and targeting new links at a great pace, but "less experienced" users seem to sloth through pages, look at all the pictures, and even spend time trying to distinguish the legitimate links from the advertisements. I find I can look at a page, and not even notice the advertisements where as others not only see them, but are... yikes, actually tempted to click them. I've heard people actually make money off online advertising ;O

Some of you might not notice the advertisements on common sights like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube because you use them so often, but they are there. The average Facebook page has 5-10 advertisements on it. That's 5-10 extra images your browser has to download on each page! That means bandwidth, data limits and of course, patience is being crushed because of excessive advertisements. Even if you have "the gift" and can see right through them, you owe it to yourself to block them out.

Advertisement blocking software exists for almost every platform. Android has a few ad blocking apps, I use AdAway. It's free and is updated often. Unfortunately you need to be rooted to use it, but shame on you for not rooting if you have an Android phone. 

If you're like me and use Google Chrome on your PC, you should get the Chrome extension Adblock. It installs right in the browser and never bothers you again. I like it as I can see how many ads were blocked on the current page and I can easily check the total number of ads it's blocked for me. As an eye opener, my current counter is over 50,000 advertisements. There are several other extensions and other methods of purging online solicitation, but these suggestions will point you in the right direction.

Some of you might be thinking, what about my Apple gear? I suggest using Google Chrome for Mac! :D

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