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Global Communications and Computing
Fun with Android

This started as a transcription from various diary entries so parts are still in a chronological order

Contents

Introduction

My first experiences with Android were with a Network media Player box without any touch screen and it seemed like going back to the dark ages prior to Windows 95 after using Linux for many years but it did allow me to do most of what I wanted. The basic nature of the Apps available at the time was a real surprise when Android is used extensively on Tablets and even high level phones have far more computing power than my netbook. Fortunately the situation has improved considerably now with, for example, Android versions of Firefox, Opera and VLC now being available and Office suits such as WPS offering good viewing with some editing of Microsoft Offfice compatible files.

The biggest problem one finds is that Android severely restricts the use of external storage by Applications and much of and additional memory is only available read only to user applications so, for example, one sets up an application which is capable of lossless rotating of old images which are on their sides but then one finds it can only work on the very limited internal memory so one is faced with using the internal file manager to copy files to the internal storage (4 Gbytes but only a part is available) viewing and rotating then copying back onto the hard drive. The restrictions vary with Android version but the KitKat 4.4.2 on most of our machines has the greatest restrictions and many users are finding programs they were using fail after the system is upgraded.

As time has gone on we have gained a number of pads and phones with touch screens and I have gradually learnt more about the interface and various tricks so I have warmed much more to it. That said most of the best interfaces and functionallity come from the Pre loaded apps on our Samsung machines and generic machines seem very basic even after loading apps which seem to mimic the missing functionality over the Samsung machines. The big advantage of the generic machines over Samsung is in interfaces where the functionality has been castrated by Samsung for USB input and output and there is no HDMI output at all. In exchange the Samsung machines both have excellent battery life.

A Generic Android 4.2.2 Network Media Player

My first Android device (in 2012) was a Generic Android 4.2.2 Network Media Player with Dual Core Processor, HDMI output, 4 USB sockets and a simple remote from 7Dayshop.com. It has a SD card slot and also allows me to plug in a 640 Gbyte USB 3.5 inch drive which has all my music, all my pictures including 'print files' from the last 10 years and most of my old videos transferred from VHS tapes and some 200 Video8 tapes from my camcorders up to 2000 when I went digital. For under £45 this is an exception bit of kit, especially when used with an external mouse and preferably keyboard and plugs straight into a HDMI input on a monitor or TV. It has its own sound output but my HDMI monitor has a headphone output which seems to give less interference and better sound. Using Android without a touch screen seemed like going back to the dark ages prior to Windows 95 after using Linux for many years. Adding the remote mouse helped and it does allow me to do most of what I wanted with Media and learn about using android and its strengths and weaknesses before investing more heavily.

I referreded above to restrictions user downloaded apps have in external memory access. One of the Apps I have been using to display pictures sorts the pictures on file creation time rather than the Exif data and but supposedly has the ability to change the creation dates to match the Exif data (camera shooting time). However I find it can not write them to the hard drive unless one copies them to and from the local memory in the file manager - duh. I found a simple command line program which does it on my Linux machines in a couple of minutes so it is quicker to move the hard drive and do the whole 50 Gbytes than mess around for even a couple of folders.

You can however run several programs at a time so I can set some music playing then start the Pictures displaying but changing the volume even with the remote stops the slide show.

Android obviously handles email in phones and tablets but again it was a trip down memory lane. Few email apps in 2012 would even display html mail and it seems only two (which are not free) can write html mail. I suspect most people are driven to web mail. On the good side contacts do get automatically synchronised if you have gmail account which is almost manditory to even download your apps from 'Google Play', the source of 'approved' apps, even the name is a give away to the level of sophistication Google offers in Android. I have set up Inomail on the box which is not bad and handles html mail (even writes it if you pay £3.00) and the integrates and synchronises gmail contacts. The system does not properly synchronise calendars so I had to use the web version of google contacts at present on the box but it is looking more like a simplistic but workable set up. This seemed to be a google rather than android box problem and got fixed. Certainly the calendar and email sync on the other machines is now excellent and the Samsung programs are well thought out for small screens.

I never not got network file sharing working on the media box. I installed Samba Filesharing but there there seems to be a fundamental problem as Android seems to block ports below 1000 so SSH and other file sharing requires non standard ports on unrooted machines.

Apps I used on the Network Media Player (NMP) box:

Apps tried which are likely to be uninstalled

To be investigated:

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7 inch (8 Gbyte)

This proved to be a very different story to the NMP box and almost everything we needed worked out of the box. This improvemmnt is partly because the basic built- in Android programs have improved in the last year but also a large number have been enhanced by Samsung for their phones and tablets. For example the built in Gmail, Email, Calendar and Contacts apps are perfectly adequate and work out of the box for Gmail, POP mail, Google Contacts and Google Calendars which all syncronise with Thunderbird and my Blackberry. The Samsung Tab 3 is light (300 gms) and has exceptional battery life, it can be running in the background for days and has a good ten hours of in use with screen on. There is a built in GPS which is not very sensitive and is slow to obtain lock but even so proved very useful during our time in Holland.

The Samsung Tab 3 however does have severe shortfalls when it comes to interfaces.

Samsung Tab 3 USB Interface

The major shortfall is that it only has a single microUSB connection, primarily used for charging, which does not implement OTG.

USB On-The-Go (OTG)

USB On-The-Go , often abbreviated to just OTG, is a specification first used in late 2001, that allows USB devices such as digital audio players, mobile phones and tablets to act as a host, allowing other USB devices like a USB flash drive, digital camera, mouse, or keyboard to be attached to them. Use of USB OTG allows these devices to switch back and forth between the roles of host and client devices. For instance, a tablet may utilise an external USB keyboard or read from removable media when acting as the host device, yet present itself as a USB Mass Storage Device when connected to a computer. In other words, OTG introduces the concept that devices can perform both master and slave roles – whenever two USB devices are connected and one of them is an OTG device, they establish a communications link. Whichever device controls that link is called the master or host, while the other is called the slave or peripheral.

The microUSB connector on the Samsung has another problem in that it does not implement the USB Mass Storage file transfer system which is used by most devices such as cameras, media players and earlier Android devices. This is not unique to Samsung - since Honeycomb, Android devices have by default, starting using MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) instead of USB Mass Storage file transfer. Arguably there were good reasons to swap but the support in hosts has been so patchy that it is still a major problem.

MTP and PTP versus Mass Storage for USB transfers

The problem with a USB mass-storage device is that it operates at the granularity of a mass storage device block, rather than at the logical file level. In other words, the USB mass storage class gives a host computer undifferentiated access to bulk mass storage, such as compact flash, rather than to a file system, which might be safely shared with the target device. In practice, therefore, when a USB host computer has mounted an MSC partition, it assumes absolute control of the storage, which then may not be safely modified by the device without risk of data corruption until the host computer has disconnected.

In contrast USB Mass Storage uses a block-level protocol which means is that a partition can not be mounted on two different systems at the same time. Each partition that needs to be mounted on a host computer must first be unmounted from the device. This is impossible on a device with only a single partition, since if the system partition was unmounted, the device would crash. To work around this issue, the first Android phones either had two partitions in the internal memory or had a microSD slot. Phones with microSD slots would just provide access to the microSD card partitions to the connected computer. When MTP is used this restriction is lifted with the associated advantages of a single partition allowing flexible distribution between application and other data.

However MTP access is much less flexible as the main purpose of this protocol was to only allow the transfer of media files and associated metadata to and from portable devices, one transfer function, in or out, at a time. Productive activities such as open, edit and modify require copying the whole file to the hosting system for these functions then copying back in their entirety to change the data.

We are primarily interested in access from Linux and versions of Ubuntu and Linux Mint have some built in MTP support - see webupd8.org for earlier versions of Ubuntu/Mint. On connecting to my machines running Mint 17 I get the occasional error message but generally it mounts. On the pad I get a little USB symbol in the top right corner of the notification area and if one swipes down there is a notification one can tap to chose the USB interface options. Chose Media Device (MTP) details and screenshots follow.

Screen Shot

wipe down to

Screen Shot

tap to get to

Screen Shot

and tap the select and a Nemo (file manager) window should open on the computer if it has not already showing an additional device 'Samsung Android' with folders 'Tablet' and 'Card' which correspond to Sdcard0 and extSdCard.

AirDroid

The MTP and PTP Interfaces do not always seem to be very reliable and I have started to make use of Airdroid to transfer files. Airdroid is a very flexible piece of software and allows one to access many features on our Android devices via Wi-Fi and a Browser interface on any computer or even another Android device. It works over your local network or even by a Wi-Fi tethering Hotspot on the Android machine if Wi-Fi is not available (I believe a USB orBluetooth link is also possible). It becomes even more flexible if you use their web site for 'login' and lost phones can be found etc., but I have only tried the 'Lite' features so far which do not require any 'cloud' connectivity. I will write it up more fully but my experiences so far show it to be a very flexible and easy to use way to transfer files and access TXTs.

Screenshots

The screenshots taken above use the built in Android function activated by the combination of Home and Power keys until thee screen shakes. On other machines the Volume Down and Power key combination is more common.

Bluetooth on the Samsung

Bluetooth seems to work very easily on the Samsung. Initially I only tested with the BTR006 audio receiver which paired easily and the music output switches automatically when Bluetooth is on. More recently I have made internet connections via Bluetooth tethering from an Android phone, again very simple - see below.

Updates

The Samsung Tablet has received an operating system upgrade automatically downloaded from Samsung from 4.1 to 4.2 Jellybean just before the phone received an update from 4.2.2 to 4.4.2 Kitkat, both of which caused no problems.

Sumvision Cyclone Voyager II Quad Core processor (16 Gbytes).

The Sumvision Cyclone Voyager II Quad Core bought from 7dayshop is a much less refined machine than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7" in many ways but is also much cheaper especially from (£69 v £116), has more flexible interfaces, has, in theory, a much more powerful processor, but all at the expense of battery life. It is also significantly heavier (355gms v 300 gms) and has a smaller display area on the screen as it uses software 'buttons' at the bottom of the screen. The software buttons are however much more flexible and arguably easier to use and as they re-orient with the device rotation and are reprogrammed with context.

Much of my time using the Sumvision has been taken in restoring the level of functionality and refinement to match the Samsung Galixy Tab 3 7 inch I bought for Pauline. This has involved installing several additional Apps, each of which needs configuration to get the best out of them. The important ones are;

USB Keyboard

I bought a Sumvision keyboard and case at the same time as the Cyclone Voyager II which works well with it, however I also like some of the features of the inbuilt keyboard and to be able to rotate to a portrait view so it is often unplugged. The keyboard, as expected does not work with the Samsung because of the lack of OTG covered above.

Bluetooth on the Sumvision Cyclone

Despite the Sumvision web site stating Bluetooth is only available on Cyclone Voyage II 8" and larger screen pads it is present and works well with the BTR006 audio receiver which paired easily and the music output switches automatically when Bluetooth is on. I have found that Music sometimes stops a few minutes after the screen timeout - changing settings in Battery Doctor seems to solve it although I advise not using the automatic functions to close down background programs can again cause Bluetooth problems. I have failed to make a successful internet connection via Bluetooth tethering although the set up seemed to work just the same as on the Samsung Tab 3

GPS on the Sumvision Cyclone

There is an GPS receiver (undocumented in the sales bumf) - the sensitivity does not seem high but neither is the one in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3. I installed:

Connection of Cyclone to Computer (USB Mass storage Mode)

Connecting to my Linux Mint computer is very easy. When the tablet is pluged in the tablet shows a screen asking if you want to connect and warning that programs using the plugged in microSD and the internal sdCard may have problems (because they will not be accessible whilst the connection is active). Two drives showed up called CYCLONE and Kingston ( my 32 Gbyte microSD is made by Kingstone)

I checked both the Samsung and the Sumvision had good connections by transfering most of my music collection (10 Gbytes) directly from one to the other. The average speed showed as 3.8 Mbytes/sec and the transfer took ~40 minutes. The battery did not seem to go down much (max 3%) on the Cyclone so it is possible it keeps topped up although it did not show as charging - otherwise it must use very little with the screen off. The Samsung gained 5% charge whilst on the cable as one would expect a slow rate.

Power Pack and other extras for Sumvision Cyclone

I have purchased a 7dayshop RPB52 Universal Portable Backup Power Pack 5000mah and a 7dayshop DC 2.5mm to USB 2.0 High Speed Charging Cable for Bluetooth Receiver / Transmitter & More so I can recharge the Sumvision when away from a mains supply - the battery life is so bad it is essential and I have ended up buying a second pack. I also bought a LMS Data Gold Plated HDMI to Mini HDMI Digital / Audio Cable - 1.8m to test the HDMI output which worked perfectly for Sound and Picture on my LG Monitor. I bought and fitted a 32 Gbyte Kingston microSD card. I also have dual OTG microUSB and standard USB 32 Gbyte minature dongle for transfers and Music.

Android Phones - Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and S3 Neo

We now have two Android phones, a Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and a Samsung Galaxy S3 Neo. The S3 Mini runs Android 4.2 and the S3 Neo Android 4.4 but otherwise they are very similar. Both were older models reissued at very reduced prices when we bought them but both are are still perfectly adequate and run everything we need at a good speed. They both have similar software installed to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 , the only difference being that we do not use the S3 Mini for email and rarely for browsing whilst the S3 Neo is used for browsing a lot as it has a very high resolution 4.7" screen. The S3 is also often used to reply to emails when a quick response is adequate.

Tethering an Android Phone (Wi-Fi Hotspot)

One of the most important attributes of Android phones is that they are very easy to set up for tethering which allows connection of other devices to the internet via the mobile connection on the phone and Wi-Fi. When tethering the the mobile phone is turned into a mobile hotspot and the Wi-Fi connection is it is protected by a WPA connection and password. You can also set it up to only allow certain devices to connect dependent on their MAC code so you are very secure.

Although it is simple there are a few useful tricks which it is as well to know when setting up and when using from another Android device to control the use of data. Most Android devices can be set to only update when connected to Wi-Fi so you need to tell them that although you are connecting via Wi-Fi it is actually a mobile connection so they should not use it for updates etc.

Tip: You can do all the setting up of tethering without having Mobile Data turned on including the Wi-Fi connection from each device you will use. This means that you can do all your set up and put your restrictions in place without risk of vast amounts of data being accidentally used.

Setting up the Quick Settings Buttons to optimise use of Power and Data and give quick access to Tethering: There are always many ways to setup Android devices but fortunately they are fairly standard between versions. I find the best way to control Tethering on a regular basis is from the 'roll down' Notification Panel and use of Quick Settings Buttons which are across the top of the notification area. You may need to add the Tethering Button (Often called 'Wi-Fi Hotspot') it and position it where you want. The Quick Settings Buttons are configured from Settings -> My Device -> Display -> Notification Panel which contains sufficient help to add and reorder the quick settings buttons. I like to have Wi-Fi, Mobile Data, Wi-Fi Hotspot, Sound and Flight Mode visible without scrolling as these control the most important usage of power and data. The others I have accessible by scrolling are Bluetooth, GPS, Power Saving and Sync. Settings can also be accessed from the top right of the Notification Panel.

Wi-Fi Hotspot Configuration: The final setup of a Hotspot is now trivial. Turn off Mobile Broadband and Wi-Fi and Turn on Wi-Fi Hotspot using the Quick Settings Buttons. You will now have an entry in the Notification panel saying 'Tethering or hotspot active Tap to configure' - Tap and you will at the Tethering and portable hotspots configuratiion screen (Also Accessible by Settings -> More Networks -> Tethering and portable H#hotspots). Tap Portable Wi-Fi hotspots and then Configure to give a meanimgfull SSID, leave security as WPA2, provide a memorable password and Save. That is all you need to do unless you want to restrict access to allowed devices which you can only do easily when they are connected. Now when you want to use the Hotspot you just turn it on and turn on Mobile Data using the Quick Settings Buttons in a few seconds and kill it just as quickly.

Using a Mobile Hotspot

You can connect to a Mobile Hotspot as your would any other Wi-Fi point from your other machines but remember it is easy to use expensive mobile data very fast on 3G or higher and get a big bill. On Computers and Laptops make sure all automatic updates are turned off and other potentially data hungry applications such as Skype and Dropbox are not running. Have a look in the Startup Applications and turn off autostart on everything which is not essential which may consume data. Likewise turn off automatic email collection and other syncronisations - carry them out manually. Some programs such as Firefox may update add-ons automatically so be vigilant. A Usage Monitor such as NUMA is desirable with an automatic switch off option when a data limit is exceeded and monitor your normal usage for a few days before using a mobile hotspot.

Connecting an Android Device to the Hotspot: Most Android devices can be set to only carry out automatic updates when connected to Wi-Fi so you need to tell them that although you are connecting via Wi-Fi it is actually a mobile connection so they should not use it for updates etc. However you need to make the initial Wi-Fi connection before you can mark it as a mobile connection. Fortunately you can however make the initial connection whilst your Mobile hotspot is enabled but with Mobile Data Off on the Tethering Device so you are safe. Once the connection is made in the usual way you can turn off your Mobile hotspot again before proceeding. This setting you are looking for on the tethered device is in an obscure location and you need to have Wi-Fi on but it does not need to be connected to anything. Go to Settings -> Connections -> Data usage -> Menu (bottom left button below screen on Samsung devices) -> Mobile hotspots - You now have a list of all your Wi-Fi connections and can tick boxes for for those that should be considered as mobile hotspots. You can also tick the Restrict Background Data from this menu but I rarely use that feature as just marking the wi-Fi connection as a Mobile hotspot seems to be sufficient.

 

Common Software, Apps, Tips and Tricks

With five android phones, tablets and other machines now in our hands much of this write up will now be common to all the machines. In practice the Samsung Galaxy Tablet and Phones are used all the time and what follows is mostly appropriate to them.

Encryption - Truecrypt and Android implementations.

Up until recently we have made extensive use of Truecrypt on all our computers, mainly to store sensitive information such as passwords and pins. One of the first tasks was to investigate the use of Truecrypt underAndroid although we now use a better mechanism to handle passwords called KeePass2 which is Open Source, Cross Platform and free. Truecrypt is still useful as it:

We use the Truecrypt facility to create a Virtual Disk with the contents encrypted into a single file or onto a disk partition or removable media such as a USB stick. The encryption is all on the fly so you have a file, you mount it as a disk and from then on it is used just like a real disk and everything is decrypted and re-encrypted invisibly in real time. The virtual Drive is unmounted automatically at close down and one should have closed all the open documents using the Virtual Drive by that point just like when you shut down normally. The advantage is that you never have the files copied onto a real disk so there are no shadows or temporary files left behind and one does not have to do a secure delete. I have had it loaded it onto all my Windows and Linux systems. Truecrypt obviously installs deep into the operating system in order to encrypt decrypt invisibly on the fly. Making new volumes (encrypted containers) is now trivial – just use the wizard. One has to have administrative privileges to mount ones volumes and under Linux this means that one is asked for ones administrative password on occasions as well as the volume password when the Truecrypt volume is mounted. Truecrypt has now been withdrawn under rather odd circumstances by its original writers and its future is ill determined allthough the formats will no doubt continue to be supported and developed. At present the work and downloads of existing versions is concentrated at truecrypt.ch.

Opening Truecrypt Containers (Vaults or Files) in Android using EDS Lite

There are a couple of options to open TrueCrypt containers on the go using an Android device. Cryptonite is in some ways the more elegant solution but unfortunately it requires the device to be rooted in order to handle TrueCrypt files. For those who don’t want root their devices, there is EDS (Encrypted Data Store).

EDS Lite is a free and open source app that works with containers (vaults) that are stored locally. These can be transferred using USB, or downloaded from a cloud service to an Android device. Of course, once modified locally they can be uploaded to the cloud again for cross device and platform syncing. This is known as ‘normal’ mode of operation, and is the only mode supported by the free version of EDS. For TrueCrypt containers to be compatible with EDS, they must:

EDS can create Truecrypt vaults (containers), display the 'linked' containers, open them and display the contents in a File explorer which can also display normal files and launch applications.

This mode of operation is not as good as full 'on-the-fly' encryption and decryption as there will be times when the temporary file is availabe unencrypted and it also depends on how well it is overwritten, it should involve multiple overwrites with random data for complete security. The full EDS can do 'on-the-fly' encryption and decryption but only on 'rooted' machines.

In practice the process of viewing and editing encrypted files from a Truecrypt Vault is quite practical and is done within EDS Lite.

EDS Lite Use and Settimgs

For the most part EDS Lite worked out of the box although the interface is however not completely intuitive or consistent with other apps, but few are!

The one major problem I found when I installed it on the Samsung Galaxy S 3 Mini smartphone was that it initially froze the complete machine when I came to open one of my 5 Mbyte vaults. I compaired the settings to those on the tablet and found that Maximum Temporary File Size was lower on the freezing machine and increasing it to twice the size of the vault file solved the problem ie from 5 to 10.

This is reached from the Android Settings Menu -> Settings which gives long EDs Main Settings screen which you will have to move down to find Maximum Temporary File Size it is not obvious why this has to be increased as the folder should be able to be opened in read write mode but it worked. I do not recall doing it on the other machines. It seems unreliable even after this change on the S III Mini and I have also tried reloading. At present it is unusable without a change in its settings before opening a file - very odd.

Syncronising data between computers and mobile machines - Combining Dropbox and Dropsync

Dropbox works somewhat differently on a mobile device to on a computer. On computers one has a folder (Called Dropbox in your home folder under Linux) which is syncronised to the Dropbox in the Cloud and then syncronised with similar folders on PCs running Linux, Windows or on Apple computers. As soon as a file has been changed it is uploaded and other machines have it available and are downloading almost immediately. This would provide an unacceptably large data flow for mobile devices so only the file names are available on mobile devices and they are downloaded for use on demand when an appropriate application is available. They can also be stored locally if they are marked as favourites for offline use. The only major exception is with ones pictures which can beuploaded automatically with an option to hold upload until a Wi-Fi connection is available. This means that it is difficult to keep even small files continuously and automatically in syncronisation as is desirable for a Truecrypt Container.

This is where an app called Dropsync comes in. It uses the Dropbox api (application progamming interface) to syncronise a folder (or multiple folders in the paid version) between the Android device and your cloud based Dropbox in the same way that Dropbox does on real machines. Upward syncronisation is immediate and the download syncronisation frequency can be set up to reflect data restrictions as well as obviously being available on demand. It is very easy to set up the Folder correlation after which it is all seamless. The free version has restrictions on the number of folders and the size of each file which can be uploaded (8 mbytes). To summarise Dropsync provides:

Dropsync, once set up gives us a home for one or more Truecrypt type containers (Vaults) which can be used to keep encrypted information in sync between many computers and mobile devices. In the free version these are limited to 8 Mbytes each. There may be the occassional conflict if there are several users who change files frequently and do not close the Vaults when they are not in use but no more than with Dropbox. It is prudent to do a manual sync if you have chosen a long autosync interval or if the automatic upload conditions are not met (eg a low battery).

Summary of accessing and modifying a shared encrypted document.

This is what I have writen for Pauline on how to access and possibly edit an encrypted document on an Android pad.

That sounds long but it takes me under a minute in and to get to view a file with the main time being carefully entering a pass phrase on a small onscreen keypad.

Tethering via Bluetooth to an Android Phone

This proved to be very easy and provides access to the internet via an Android smart phone - in my case a Samsung S3 Mini (GT-I8200N) with Android 4.2.2 although this should work with most phones and equal or higher versions of android. The phone needs an active internet connection which can be a mobile phone connection with Data enabled or a Wi-Fi connection. One might ask why bother in the case of a Wi-Fi connection, why not connect directly? It has obvious advantages if you are on a 'pay by time' connection as you can connect several machines as well as the phone which has been checked on a typical 'login connection' on a cruise ship. It also gives extra security in an internet cafe. In may cases the phone can be set up to log in automatically to a Sky or similar Wi-Fi connection. I have also found it useful to put the phone in an area with a good Wi-Fi signal (or mobile signal) when one has poor connections, ie the doorway or windows on a ship or our steel narrowboat.

First we need to set up and pair the Android Phone to the Computer

Screen Shot

That is basically it - when you click on the network manager applet in the panel you should have an extra heading Mobile Broadband with the new connection GT-I8200N under it.

Screen Shot

You only need to pair once after which you just need to click on the GT-I8200 connection after ensuring the following are satisfied:

To disconnect or after disconnection

I have found it is possible to make duplicate connections which show up in the network Manager Applet and there is ne simple way to remove them. The only way seems to be to do to the folder that contains them /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/ and delete the duplicates - you need root privaledges so use

gksu /etc/NetworkManager/system-connections/

There is no quick links in the notification panel on the Android phone for switching tethering on and off but you can add a Settings widget to the home screen to take you straight to the tethering settings.

Note that you can use data very fast from a computer especially if there are automatic upgrades etc. Experiment with a Wi-Fi connection on the phone first and use a data monitoring applet such as NUMA. Check data use frequently on the Phone.

More about the connections used by Android for Bluetooth Tethering - PAN, NAP and BNEP

The Android Bluetooth tethered connection uses a Personal Area Network (PAN) which is a computer network used for data transmission among devices such as computers, telephones and personal digital assistants. PANs can be used for communication among the personal devices themselves or for connecting to a higher level network and the Internet. A Bluetooth PAN is composed of up to 8 active devices in a master-slave relationship (a very large number of devices can be connected in "parked" mode). The first Bluetooth device is the master or in this case the Network Access Point (NAP), and all other devices are slaves that communicate with the master. The communication protocol is the Bluetooth Network Encapsulation Protocol (BNEP) which is used to transport common networking protocols over the Bluetooth media such as IPv4 and IPv6. The packet format is based on Ethernet.

More on Using Bluetooth Tethering from Linux Mint or Ubuntu.

In Linux Mint the Bluetooth Manager detects that the Android device supports PAN/NAP when you pair and, by ticking the box, creates a connection for the Network Manager. The Network Manager (in the form of the applet) makes this available but the support is incomplete. As mentioned above one easily ends up with duplicate connection which have to be deleted from the terminal as root. The connection is also identified by the Bluetooth address and it delivers this rather than the actual connection interface which is bnep0 and is displayed as a Mobile Broadband Connection which is an approximation to the truth! This causes a problem with my NUMA applet which depends on the interface delivered by the Network Manager so I have had to add an exception as I have with the ppp0 interfaces used by Mobile Broadband connection.

AirDroid

Airdroid is a very flexible piece of software and allows one to access many features on our Android devices via Wi-Fi and a Browser interface on any computer or even another Android device. It works over ones local network when at home or by a Wi-Fi tethering Hotspot on the Android machine if Wi-Fi is not available (I believe a USB orBluetooth link is also possible but I have not investigated). It becomes even more flexible if you use their web site for 'login' and lost phones can be found etc., but I have only tried the 'Lite' features so far which do not require any 'cloud' connectivity. My initial experiences show it to be a very flexible and easy to use way to transfer files and access or send TXTs from a Computer.

My initial use has been whilst traveling, hence without a convenient Wi-Fi network always available. I have therefor been using the phone itself to provide a Wi-Fi Hotspot. This is very easy to set up the first tie and even easier to use. As always you can reach Settings Screens many ways but Settings -> Connections Tab -> Tethering and Wi-Fi Hotspot -> Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot is a good way. Once you are there you have to set up a password the first time and can also set it up so only'allowed devices' can use the Hotspot which then enables MAC Address Filtering in addition to the Wi-Fi Password for improved security. You need to turn the filtering off when you connect a new Device and when you give it a name you can then add it to the allowed list before renabling the filtering

Once you are connected to a Wi-Fi network from the Phone and Computer you can run Airdroid and it its simplest form it will give you an address to type into the browser on the Computer (of the form 192.168.xx.yy:8888) and when you do so the phone will come up with a confirmation screen which you have to agree within 30 seconds. This means the phone has to be in your hands. If you have an account with Airdroid this can be done remotely if you have internet access on both machines as well as being on a local network - useful if the phone is at the other end of the house in the wifes handbag! Once you are connected the web interface enables you to download and upload files or folders (large numbers of files will be zipped together for efficiency when transfering to the computer). You can also send and read txts on the computer. There are many other facilities which I have not tried

Overall Airdroid is a very convenient way of moving files to and from the Phone without the inconvenience of USB cables and gets round the current unreliability of the USB connections using MTP and PTP protocols from Linux.

How to use AirDroid without Wi-Fi or other network connection?

If the computer can access Wi-Fi and the Android device supports Wi-Fi hotspot:

  1. Create a Wi-Fi hotspot on your Android device. The detailed steps may vary for different devices, but should be similar to this: Go to Settings > Wireless & networks > More > Tethering & portable hotspot and enable Portable Wi-Fi hotspot.
  2. Connect your computer to the Android hotspot wireless network
  3. Open AirDroid on your device, tap Tethering. A new AirDroid url like “http://192.168.43.1:8888” will be displayed.
  4. Visit the url on web browser to start using AirDroid:

Skype

I have been very impressed with the ease of use of Skype on the two phones and the tablet - it works as one would hope out of the box both in the conventional way with or without video and also the use of Skype credit to call conventional landlines and mobiles very cheaply anywhere in the world. Skypeout is sufficiently intergrated that it is easy to use your normal address book. Finding and adding Skype contacts also seems much easier than it used to be. It would be nice if there was a way to sort your Skype contacts so it showed those on line.

What Apps have proved Desirable or Essential - in progress

My Definitions of Desirable and Essential are themselves somewhat moving feasts and also depend on the devices. For example a combination of the Galaxy S3 Mini phone and Galaxy S3 7" Tablet can together satisfy the essential requirements whilst the small phone alone would be inapropriate because of screen size whilst the S3 Neo with a 4.8" 1280x720 display can do everything that counts as essential by itself although the larger keyboard on the tablet is better for bulk text entry.

Essential Functionality - on all appropriate devices

Firstly we will look at the basic functionality we desire - in practice the preload software is adequate

Desirable Functionality - in use on at least one device

Downloaded Utilities some in use

What is still left to a Desktop, Laptop or Netbook

Conclusions - How does it all fit together, or why have an Android tablet and/or switch to an Android phone?

This addresses our thinking now we have experience of using a mix of Phones, Tablets, Netbooks and Laptops for mobile computing so we can develop a strategy for the future.

We first looked at Pads when Pauline started complaining that her old MSI Wind U100 Netbook was getting very slow but could not see any way tablets could be a replacement - however we began to see other roles that they could play. This was followed by Pete having to help set up and explain the use of an iPad to John which again gave some more ideas. Finally it came down to a spur of the moment purchase in Guernsey, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7" was on a very good special offer and well under our duty free limit so it seemed a good way to really see if one could be useful. We had already laid out a list of things which would be needed to make a contribution to our existing collection of 'tools' for round the house and whilst travelling and the Galaxy seemed to make a good shot at many of them. The applications seemed to have come a long way since we got the android media box, certainly the preloaded and enhanced versions from Samsung and we could see a gap where it fitted between the excellent, always available email, contacts and diary through the Blackberry and the internet and office functions on the Netbook, especially for use in Wi-Fi Hotspots when one did not want the weight of a netbook to carry or the risks of being compromised.

What we felt was needed was an enhancement of the functions of the Blackberry onto a screen capable of handling simple web browsing and basic office functions yet light to carry and cabable of lasting for long periods between charging. The netbooks/laptop also handles our music played through bluetooth, web authoring and as an image organizer and viewer and editor for digital photos from our cameras. A sensible target would be to extend the time away from a day with just a phone to a long weekend (or even a week) with a phone and pad with a saving of several kgs over a phone and netbook/laptop. The Samsung Galaxy S3 Neo has been a great success and handles Email well and is used for a surprising amount of web browsing with its 4.8"1280 x 720 screen, small but very clear. We have just added a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 8" which is amazingly powerful and practical and a week or two without a laptop now seems very practical.

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