I surely don’t have to mention that AOSP Android lacks a solid File Manager. That’s why users are forced to download external applications from the Play Store or XDA to get this functionality. Most of them are closed source and lack root privileges, so modifications are almost impossible without working some smali magic. Luckily, there are some interesting new offerings on the market.
XDA Forum Member anurag.dev1512 put his efforts to create an open source file manager with many cool features. In addition to the standard tasks that file manager should do, File Quest has some unique options. First of them is transparency, which makes it look quite different than most file managers. Superuser support gives an ability to modify the /system partition. But of course, your device must be rooted to provide full shell functionality. File Quest is still in the development, and many of features will be added in time. Being an open source projects has its perks as well, as people can contribute the code and make this project even better.
XDA has always supported open source projects. That’s why File Quest should be an interesting option for all Android enthusiast. If you are looking for a solid file manager, go to the application thread and give it a shot. Don’t hesitate to contribute to the project as well.
December 8, 2013 By: eagleeyetom
As many of you undoubtedly know, Android is built atop the Linux kernel. This means that most of the commands known from Linux can be used in terminal emulator or adb shell. It’s a limited list, however, as Linux offers a more extensive stock set of commands as well as easily addable external modules.
Unfortunately, Android doesn’t support so many commands, but this can be easily changed thanks to XDA Forum Member jaromil.rojo, who ported the ZSh to Android. ZSh is a shell designed for interactive use, although it is also a powerful scripting language. It gives an ability to use a lot of external commands on our device. As of now ZShaolin supports following projects:
And smaller tools like:
As you can see, it’s a powerful tool that allows you to do things such as push your repo to Github or even decode a movie on Android. Everything can be done on an unrooted device, which makes this app even cooler. Jaromil.rojo compiled the app by using his own toolchains, but the project is open source, so everyone can build it and add his or her own code contributions. Most of the features are available in free version, which lacks binaries for ImageMagick, FFmpeg, Vim fully featured, Emacs, RSync, and more ASCII games. If you want to use ZShaolin for those services, consider supporting the developer with the premium version.
ZShaolin is a small, but yet powerful application. So if you are looking for a tool to give you access to many services on your Android device, make your way to the application thread and get the newest APK.
For many, Tasker is a big part of their smartphone or smart-gadget experience, offering the flexibility to perform a wide range of tasks with simplicity and ease. In fact, it’s usefulness and practicality has been covered numerous times on the XDA Portal and video series.
With this in mind, it’s obvious that the next logical step in the Tasker journey is integration with the smartwatch world. This is especially true, considering the increasing amount of rumours in the past year of big OEMs working on ‘the next big thing,’ and with Sony and Samsung both releasing their own take on the wearable device concept, namely the Sony Smartwatch 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Gear.
One example of this is the Tasker extension for the Sony Smartwatch 2 developed by XDA Forum Member babanomania. Once installed on your connected phone or tablet, the app allows you to conveniently see the Tasker tasks you have on your device, as well as execute them with only a couple simple swipes and taps—very useful, especially when on a watch. The extension is open source as well, so you can tinker with it if you feel the extension is missing something.
If you would like to give this a whirl, check out the original thread for more information.
December 8, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Despite its limitations, the Google Chromecast is a great little device for its paltry $35 asking price. However, it’s certainly not perfect, and one of the main limitations is in the limited number of content providers.
Those lucky enough to have rooted their device before the first OTA blocked the root method have some fun options to play around with such as a custom ROM and the like. But those who received the automatic OTA before getting a chance to root are unfortunately out of luck.
Now, it appears as if new first party functionality is coming soon to the device. This comes in the form of two new APIs new to Android 4.4.1: CAPTURE_SECURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT and CAPTURE_VIDEO_OUTPUT. These APIs will only be available to Google and OEMs, presumably for copyright-related reasons. And if that’s the case and proprietary DRM is used, this means that the previously covered Cheapcast and other Chromecast emulators will probably not work.
Regardless of the issues, this is very good news for Chromecast owners. Since the cheapest Miracast receivers are approximately twice as expensive as the Chromecast, this could be quite useful for budget-conscious users looking to mirror their Android devices onto the big screen.
This, along with rumors of a Nexus TV, has us excited to see what Google has in store for the living room in the months to come! What are your thoughts? Do you own a Chromecast? Do you actually use it, or is it just needlessly sagging the HDMI ports on your TV, preamp-processor, or A/V Receiver? Let us know in the comments below!
December 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Remember that ambitious modular smartphone platform project that Motorola announced a little over a month ago? Despite the backing from Motorola and now a 3D Printing hardware manufacturing partner, many have written off Project Ara as technically improbable and realistically impossible. Well, perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to downplay this potential game-changer.
According to Motorola CEO Dennis Woodside, Project Ara is very much real. So real, in fact, that Dennis stated in an interview with YouTuber Marques Brownlee that a working prototype is just around the corner. While not much was revealed about the device will function, he reiterated the goals of the project:
There is a prototype, and it is pretty close. The idea is you have a skeleton that holds together a set of components, and the components slide in and out. If we have the interfaces and the protocols that enable the speaker to speak directly to the CPU, then this would all be possible.
While vague, this hints at an interface protocol in the MDK, which will be used to standardize all input directly interface with the device processor. Unfortunately, no such standardized protocol currently exists, so there are some large technical hurdles to be overcome. Furthermore, with modularity and standardized interfaces generally comes added bulk. And given recent hipster trends, an extra millimeter or a fruity logo can mean the difference between a device that is considered cool and one that is not.
In addition to the technical challenges, the rest of the increasingly disposable mobile technology industry may not be ready to adopt a user-upgradeable and user-serviceable alternative. This could potentially limit OEM and ODM adoption, as well as keep prices prohibitively high.
Finally, Dennis Woodside also briefly touched upon the success of Moto Maker for the Moto X, and the consumer demand for customizable devices. As such, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that if and when Ara comes to fruition, it will be launched through Moto Maker. As stated by Dennis:
Moto Maker was the beginning of a more exciting and longer term story, which is how do we involve consumers and give them more choice. Ara is much further out, but you can see how those two things tie together and how as we introduce new materials into Moto Maker we’re gonna pursue that theme across our product line going forward.
What we’d like to eventually get to is functionality within the device, and that’s where Project Ara and Moto Maker may converge.
What are your thoughts on Project Ara? Are you hopeful about its potential or are you too skeptical that its lofty goals will see fruition. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below, and also be sure to make your way over to the MDK Hacking and Discussion forum to get in on the MDK action.
The full interview can be found below, and it is definitely worth your watch if you have any interest in the future of Google-owned Motorola, its upcoming products, or Project Ara and customizable smartphones.
I am, and have always been, an early adopter of a lot of things, particularly when it comes to technology. My cell phone voyage started back in the year 2000 with a Nokia 5110. Back then, only a handful of people had phones, and seeing someone on the street with one was a somewhat rare sight. Nowadays, the same cannot be said. Cell phones have become a massive commodity—one that gets a lot of attention, and certainly one that is likely one of the most profitable industries in the world today (in the tech sector anyways).
Every Joe Schmuck and Jane Doe sport the latest Galaxy devices or one of Apple’s latest iconic iPhones (just to mention a few manufacturers). Sure, they all have a somewhat interesting appeal, and many of them are loaded with more unique functions and capabilities that (in theory) make life a lot easier. However, looking at the overall market and trying to overlay an innovation line through the timeline from the early 2000′s (when Nokia reigned supreme) ’til today, we can easily notice a few trends that are worrying and don’t necessarily correlate with what anyone would expect from “progress” or “development.”
Going back to the very beginning of my article, I mentioned owning a dinosaur of a phone, the Nokia 5110. The device was a jewel, and it did exactly what it needed to do (and far more). The device was relatively cheap to get with a 2-3 year agreement. So, the device manufacturer (again, in this particular case, Nokia) knew that in order to have a good customer base, the devices needed to last that long. After all, not everyone could spend $400-600 USD on a phone upgrade while still being locked in the middle of a contract, nor were they willing to do so either.
Nokia designed the 5100 series with a few crucial engineering concepts in mind: good battery, reliable, easy to service, and durable. I had my device for the length of my contract before I decided to upgrade (mainly due to swapping carriers). I have to admit that it must have been one of the best cell phones I have ever had the pleasure of using. Not because of the usage per se, but rather how the device gave me 0 issues in the course of 3 years of ownership. Needless to say, the thing was built to last, as the body was virtually indestructible (exaggerating a tad here, but it was a tough device). When I upgraded, I went with a Nokia 8210. They had done a good job because with their mindset, they created a device that prompted me to want to see what else they could come up a few years down the line—all that without compromising my ability to enjoy the one I currently had. Ah, those were the days.
Fast forward to 2007 (big jump, I know). The iPhone was released and the (back then) current king of smartphones, Windows Mobile HTC devices and Blackberry, were dethroned. Because of silly mistakes, loads of bugs, and a simple yet effective marketing strategy to get people to buy more, the iPhone 1G sees a successor not much later down the line. Seeing how many other manufacturers were now jumping into the bandwagon, stable and decent cell phone manufacturers saw themselves in dire need to release more products in a shorter timespan. This was primarily done to keep up with their competitors, who were quickly gaining market share due to shorter intervals between new products. The next thing that happened (and still does to this day), new models are released every 6-9 months, each one promising to be “better” than their predecessor(s). This last statement is the cornerstone of this entire article. Why are manufacturers releasing devices that are NOT designed to be the best they have to offer? It isn’t that they develop new tech for newer versions. Rather, they make enough (in)significant changes to the existing one, such that it can be labeled the “next best thing.”Does any of this sound familiar?
I myself am an engineer, as many of you are as well (or studying to become). It honestly makes my blood boil when I consider the engineering teams behind the product development of some of these devices. No longer are devices durable. Rather, they have gone entirely to the other end of the spectrum and have become practically disposable. I simply cannot believe that a $500-1000 USD item becomes “irreparable.” Product design basics dictate that any engineered product is designed to have a certain life expectancy under normal conditions, tear, and wear, and even leave some leeway for accidents. If products need repair, they should be perfectly serviceable by the manufacturer without having to charge the consumer exorbitant amounts of money to get the product back in working order. Needless to say, whenever a phone does break this day and age, sending it in for repairs is a fruitless ordeal due to the fact that more often than not, the device will be deemed as “not repairable” due to directions coming from engineering design teams.
Make the world a better place through the application of science? That is what product engineering should be about. Squeezing every last drop of sweat over your own design and making sure that you put your very best efforts into making something that people will have for years (not months) to come is what every engineering company should strive for. Unfortunately, this was quickly replaced with “ooh, look how shiny this new toy is,” which is then followed by “oh, your old one? pfft That is so 3 months ago…. you won’t get two pennies for it on eBay, and don’t even think about repairing it.”
We as consumers have allowed these companies to throw basic engineering practices out the window so that they can squeeze more juice out of us. Now, I have no issues with companies trying to make money. Hell, that is what they do after all. But when greed takes over your most basic principles, I simply have no sympathy. I still recall our friend XDA Senior Recognized Developer AdamOutler doing an unboxing of the new Droid Razr when it came out. His words have been stuck in my head ever since. “Motorola made this device to be disposable.” Why? What was the point of making the device “disposable?” Why did such an important part of engineering a new product (ease of service) gets tossed aside like this? Would it kill you to make your device fixable? Another example: I tried to fix the digitizer of my HTC Titan a few days ago, but ended up destroying the LCD entirely. Why would there be any need to superglue both LCD and digitizer and superglue that combo to the device’s body? To keep them in place you say? There are small, low profile screws that will do the job just as well without jeopardizing the serviceability of the device or its overall design (read: they will not make it any thicker).
The entire world has been sucked into a game that the companies play on a large scale. They are trying to see just how much they can shove down our throats, all while expending the least amount of effort in doing so. These practices not only have the effects mentioned earlier, but they can also have dangerous consequences (bulging exploding battery of SGS2 devices anyone?). The core activities here on XDA-Developers actually somewhat put a damper on this, as the allure of “a new OS version exclusive to a device” is now mitigated. But unfortunately, software is just but a small part of the overall equation.
Next time you are out there shopping for a cell phone, just think about a very important thing that goes beyond specs or pretty colors. Just think about how well the product you are about to purchase was engineered. Let that be your deciding factor, and don’t simply fall in line with the rest of the masses who will jump at anything shiny like fish in heat. There are manufacturers out there that still care about trying to keep their core engineering values. To these companies, kudos. To the ones like HTC, which used to be like this (my HTC Wallaby that I bought in 2003 and that has been through hell and back still works), look at your early years and try again. Get off the path you are in right now because you will lose this race. And to the companies that simply don’t give two flying feathers about engineering, progress, and making the world a better place (looking at you Apple), I sincerely hope that your lack of engineering values comes back with a vengeance and bites you where the sun doesn’t shine.
If I have to choose between a phone that is 0.0001 mm thick but that will break upon looking at it without any way to fix it or my old 5110, I’ll take my old Nokia any day of the week. At least, that has engineering at heart.
December 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
So far, Google’s attempts to conquer the living room have been a bit of a mixed bag. Despite some rather ambitious goals set by former CEO Eric Schmidt and showing quite a lot of potential, Google TV has largely failed to take off. Similarly, the beautifully crafted Nexus Q never even made it to consumers’ hands outside of those who attended I/O 2012 and the lucky few who preordered and then received their devices for free. On the other hand, the highly regarded Google Chromecast has more than demonstrated that there is still space for another content distributor in the livingroom. In fact, Time Magazine recently named it the #1 gadget of 2013.
Now, rumors state that Google may be planning to release a “Nexus TV” as early as the first half of next year. Rather than an actual TV, the Nexus TV is rumored to be a set-top box, similar in form to what we’ve already seen in various Google TV devices. The rumors also state that the device may feature a Kinect-like motion sensor and a touchpad-based remote control. It’s also not unreasonable to speculate that this device may also be controllable by your Android-powered smartphone.
Perhaps most interestingly, the rumors also point to non-traditional content delivery. By that, I mean that rather than trying to bring traditional content providers on board, the device will instead focus on online content. This is markedly different from the existing Google TV, which relies heavily on live broadcast TV.
What are your thoughts on the rumored Nexus TV? Do you think Google has what it takes to make a dent in the world of smart TVs, Rokus, Apple TVs, and other set-top boxes? What “killer features” would you need in order to purchase one yourself? Personally, I’d be happy with a great UI, a full-fledged browser with plugin support, and a great Netflix app. Feel free to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Here at XDA-Developers, we always encourage and maintain an ethical standard of behavior with regards to all areas of mobile development, be it ROMs, mods, or apps. Because of this, it’s extremely disappointing to see developers out there who do not believe that honesty and transparency with their customers is necessary. Thankfully, one such app developer was reprimanded by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for doing precisely that.
Ever since 2011, GoldenShores Technologies, the developers behind the app Brightest Flashlight, lied to all 100 million users of their app regarding its data collection policies and activities. The FTC recently uncovered that GoldenShores has been secretly collecting and selling information on users’ locations and device ID data to third-party advertising networks.
The worst is yet to come though. On top of that, the FTC revealed that the “option” to refuse the data collection in the first place was deceitful as well. Former users of the app may remember being prompted to choose between allowing and denying local data tracking that would be used strictly for internal purposes. Well, for the sensible folks out there who denied the app the permission to do so were also mislead. As it turns out, pressing the button ‘deny’ didn’t really do anything, and GoldenShores continued to line their pockets by continuing to sell your private data.
Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, criticized Erik Geidl, the owner of the app with:
“When consumers are given a real, informed choice, they can decide for themselves whether the benefit of a service is worth the information they must share to use it. But this flashlight app left them in the dark about how their information was going to be used.”
Unmasked and vulnerable, GoldenShores has agreed with the FTC to stop “misrepresenting how consumers’ information is collected and shared and how much control consumers have over the way their information is used.” Also part of the settlement is GoldenShores’s guarantee of providing a disclosure that fully informs consumers “when, how and why their geolocation information is being collected, used and shared,” as well as an explicit permission of data collection that actually works.
[Source: Washington Post]
December 6, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Not too long ago, the Google Play Store was given a major update to version 4.4.21. This previous update gave a rather significant UI overhaul to the Play Store, bringing the new slide-out navigation drawer as well as a few other tweaks. We also recently saw Google place tablet apps front and center in the Play Store. Now, Google is rolling out Play Store version 4.5.10, which brings another round of new features and UI revisions, albeit more subtle than the last.
Perhaps the most noticeable change in 4.5.10 relates to user reviews. The new version offers more a prominent placement of stars, encouraging users to rate applications. It also prompts you to rate certain applications in order to receive better recommendations.
In-App Purchases have also been tweaked. The new version highlights when applications have in-app purchases. In other words, you’ll no longer download a “free” game, only to discover later that to complete the mission and rescue the princess, you’ll need to fork over some real cash. Unfortunately, the update doesn’t provide any insight into the quantity or price of in-app purchases. That said, at least this is a step in the right direction, as it should help you know what you’re getting yourself into when trying a freemium app.
Finally, the new Play Store brings an activity feed. This lets you share your Google Play activity such as ratings and +1s in your your Google+ feed. You can also browse other reviewers’ profiles.
The update is gradually rolling out, but it may take some time to make its way over to your personal device. Thankfully, XDA Senior Member Abhiheart has mirrored the APK for your download pleasure. You can find the APK, as well as additional screenshots in the original thread.
Have you updated to Play Store 4.5.10 already? If so, what’s your favorite new feature? Are you most excited about the IAP notifications, or are the better reviews and G+ integration more important to you? Let us know what you think in the comments section below!
December 6, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Android 4.4.1 KitKat is now available for The Google Nexus 4, 5 and 7 (2013 LTE). That and much more news is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is the announcement that the source code for the just released Android 4.4.1 has been released to AOSP and the OmniROM project has announced nightlies for more devices. That’s not all that covered in today’s video!
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer TK released an Xposed Tuesday video for XHalo, Jordan showed us how to root, install TWRP and OmniROM on the Oppo N1, and TK gave us an Android App Review of MacroDroid Automation. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
READ ON »
December 5, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
With increasingly powerful GPUs and a growing number of high quality game releases, gaming on Android is becoming a very real thing. As such, more and more users are delving beyond casual gaming titles like Angry Birds, instead investing decent amounts of energy playing large-scale releases.
Alongside our powerful mobile devices, we’ve also seen the emergence of a new class of device. Rather than simply playing games on standard mobile phones or traditional game consoles, people are increasingly turning to Android-powered gaming devices.
We’ve decided to create a place where gamers can discuss all things related to this new class of devices: our newly created Android Gaming Consoles and Handhelds forum. Inside, you’ll find forums for the Ouya Game Console and the Nvidia Shield, as well as the upcoming Mad Catz M.O.J.O.
Make your way over to the newly created Android Gaming Consoles and Handhelds forum to get started!
December 5, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Today, Google released a rather significant update to its Google Play Music app for Android. The update brings a few usability improvements such as the ability to shuffle all songs by an artist in Play Music All Access and an easier method of sharing links to your favorite songs, artists, and albums. While important, these new features pale in comparison to the other new feature that this update brings: SD Card support for offline music storage.
Ever since the arrival of the Nexus S, Google has shown its distaste for external SD cards. While having an external storage expansion slot gives users a bit more flexibility when it comes to managing storage limitations, these card slots also add complexity to casual users who aren’t well versed with file management. The removal of Apps2SD support in recent versions of Android also reinforces Google’s apparent view on such functionality. This makes it incredibly curious that today’s update to 5.3.136M brings external SD card support for offline music storage.
Google Play Store Listing Change Log:
v5.3.1316M* SD card support for offline music on KitKat (Experimental support on some older devices)* Added ability to shuffle all songs from an artist in All Access* Made it easy to share links of songs, artists and albums to your favorite social networks
Make your way over to the Google Play Store listing to get the latest update. But since this is a staged rollout, the update may not be officially available to your device. Luckily, those looking to get in on the update a little early can do so thanks to XDA Senior Member androiduser44 who posted the APK for anyone to download. And for those looking for a themed version with a transparent widget, XDA Senior Member ecs1984 has you covered with his modified offering.
December 5, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Here at XDA, we like to make things easier in life with the use of technology. That’s why we’ve had numerous videos on automation. We’ve shown you how to use Tasker, Llama, WEMO switches, and more. However, sometimes you just want a simple and easy-to-use app.
XDA Forum Member UndeadCretin offers an easy-to-use macro automation app. In this video, XDA Developer TV Producer TK reviews MacroDroid. TK shows off the application and gives his thoughts, so check out this app review.