Context Menu. Context Problem.

For months I’ve been fighting with search options in the little bar that appears over text on the various Android devices I’ve been working with. When Microsoft came out with the Microsoft launcher and their next big blue E browser, Edge, for Android phones, I thought “why not check it out?” and let it install on my Nexus 5. I fiddled with it a few times and then forgot I let the Microsoft stuff install, and then the Nexus 5 power button broke and it went into a bootloop and I had to have it repaired, and then I had to have it replaced, and then I had to replace the replacement that wasn’t what I was sold…

So anyway. The Microsoft launcher is still on my current phone. I don’t mind it being there, but it is still there and something that it did is driving me nuts now. At some point after I changed phones the first time, the bar over selected text changed. It looks like this now.

Three searches. Three, and two of them are Bing searches, and they don’t say which ones are Bing. Now, I don’t mind the Big Blue E being on my phone. I don’t even mind the amusement of occasionally switching to the Microsoft launcher just to see what Microsoft thinks will sell me on coming back to their operating system on my phone (never mind that it is still at heart Unix/Linux/Android) but what I do object to is the Microsoft launcher and/or Edge changing my search options and not giving me a way to take out the searches that I’m never going to use.

Today I decided that I would humor the Son and I installed the Ecosia search app (it plants trees!) thinking that adding a search engine to the phone would at least allow me to alter the system parameters and I could finally get Bing out of my phone or at least off my search options, but still no dice. I can’t get at the search options in the pop up over a text selection.

So now it’s time to start searching for a solution to this problem. None of the search engines can figure out what I’m asking for. It isn’t a menu; at least, that word doesn’t produce useful search results. Using pop up or popup as a search term gets me results that offer to help me remove malware and unwanted popup advertising. It isn’t a bar. It isn’t a task.

I’m finally reduced to asking the various search engines

what is the thing called that appears over selected text in android

Google Bing DuckDuckGo Ecosia

None of them give me exactly what I want except Google. Google, who has been spying on my searches for the better part of twenty years and so knows me best. DuckDuckGo did offer me this article on Popular Science – 24 hidden Android settings you should know about which was interesting at least, if not what I wanted. Also? I have something hidden that needs adjusting. I don’t know what the name of that thing is, but that thing should have been on the list of things in an article that purports to tell me how to adjust things that are hidden. Quod erat demonstrandum. Clearly there should have been 25 hidden things to talk about.

However. This article:

For some, especially those of us in the approaching-the-over-the-hill gang, working with text on our phones can be cumbersome. Because smartphone text itself, context menu entries, and all the other tools for working with text are so small that they render simple tasks, such as selecting an address or phone number, copying it, and then pasting it into the target app, is not only hard to see but also somewhat difficult to manipulate.

The good news is that, with features like Smart Text Selection and Text Magnification, later versions of Android (versions 8 and 9, or Oreo and Pie) have found ways to alleviate some of the tedium.

online-tech-tips.com

…offered up by Google, didn’t actually answer the question but it at least gave me the phrasecontext menu. Now I have a name for the thing I want to change. That makes the job easier. Well, I should say, it makes the search manageable. I don’t want to program a new menu so the article on Tutlane.com that is part of the explanation for what a context menu is, isn’t going to help me. But that article gave warning that maybe what I wanted to do wasn’t explained anywhere because it was going to require learning to program in order for me to do it. Using the search string:

"android context menu" change search

I came up with this hit on Reddit in which the solution they found for removing Bing from their context menu was to,

Found a Microsoft launcher that I was testing out a long time ago still installed.

Uninstalled

Resolved

Redditisfun

Pulling the Microsoft launcher from my device did alter the context menu in question. To completely get rid of Bing I have to remove Microsoft Edge too. That’s too bad. I was entertaining using the Microsoft launcher and possibly Edge as well. There isn’t much hazard in doing this now because they are no longer dominant and so no longer the prime targets. At least, not in the mobile computing realm they aren’t. Google and Chrome are the prime targets there. But I’m not willing to put up with Bing search in order to do any fiddling around with alternative launchers for an Android device. Microsoft shoots themselves in the foot once again by forcing me to use Bing as a search engine in the context menu. Context is key.

I don’t know that Reddit is fun, but I finally have to admit that Reddit is useful. So much for the article where I blame Reddit for destroying the Blogosphere. And it had such a good title too.

Why 4:04?

Time Not found

The HTTP 404404 Not Found404Page Not Found, or Server Not Found error message is a Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) standard response code, in computer network communications, to indicate that the browser was able to communicate with a given server, but the server could not find what was requested. Further, when the requested information is found but access is not granted, the server may return a 404 error if it wishes to not disclose this information, as well.

The website hosting server will typically generate a “404 Not Found” web page when a user attempts to follow a broken or dead link; hence the 404 error is one of the most recognizable errors encountered on the World Wide Web.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This is why most of my backdated articles will include the timestamp 4:04. If I don’t have a timestamp to put on the article, it becomes a 4:04 for me. Sometimes it’s high noon or midnight, but usually it is just 4:04, time not found.

Time not found. Again.
Editor’s note

There were 406 days between these two images. The 203’d day was June 7, 2018. That’s “why this date?” The images are screenshots taken on my Nexus 5 smartphone, may it rest in peace. I cried the first time I dropped and shattered my Handspring Visor. We can get quite attached to our tech, us geeks.

Going Blu

The battery on my second Nexus 5 is cycling about every other hour now; that is two hours of battery life just sitting in my pocket with GPS, wifi and bluetooth active.  If I’m listening to podcasts that life drops to about an hour. This qualifies as pathetic battery life in my opinion, and not at all what it was when I bought the phone or what it was on my first Nexus device. On Nexus devices the battery is wired in, so replacing the battery isn’t a simple switch-out process.

The power button which failed on the first Nexus 5 is also failing on this second device. It’s already acting squirrelly, shutting down abruptly and/or opening the camera (the default function when you double-click the power button) it went into bootloop today, a clear sign that the time to switch to a new device is now, not later. I managed to get it to stop looping by whacking it a few times (the last ditch effort of any engineer worth his salt) but I really, really need to work on getting the only other smartphone in the house up to speed if I don’t want to spend a few hundred additional dollars buying a phone I like.

The only other smartphone in the house? A Blu Energy X 8 gigabyte phone. I refuse to call the two iPhone 4’s that we still have smartphones. They’ll work in a pinch, but I’m not going to willingly start using one unless I have to. And I don’t have to if I can make the Blu dance and sing to the tune I want rather than the tune that Blu installed on it. Getting that to happen means swapping out the OS or ROM as the programmers refer to them, and that means rooting the device and getting a recovery mod working on it.

Rooting is the first hurdle. I’ve been down this road before. I’m inclined to suspect every program that offers to root my device for me, because I know that rooting the device is a violation of most software contracts, voiding the phone’s warranty and essentially placing you at the mercy of the sick sense of humor of the programmers who prey on the uninformed who enter their domains.

Doing some searches for rooting on this device reveals that there are no clear tried and true methods for getting from where I am to where I want to be. Blu’s are simply not that popular of a phone, and they go through a pretty frequent cycle of promoting whatever new thing they’ve come up with, giving it a new name and loading it with new hardware. Pretty much the way every other hardware manufacturer does. But this particular phone has a good battery life. I’ve kept it running for longer than a week on a single charge, so it should be able to handle heavy use and not require charging more than once a day. It is the low overhead (8 gigs onboard memory) that is the problem, and the only way to solve that is to alter the OS. Rooting is a necessity for this to occur.

There are several websites that come up the first time you try to do a search for root. Getting root access or rooting is a throwback label to the Unix orgins of Linux and the most popular OS on the face of the planet today, Android. Root access, also called Superuser or SU, means you can control all functions of your hardware directly, which also means you can permanently screw up all sorts of things that you don’t even know are in your computer without even realizing you are doing it. This is why system administrators jealously guard their access privileges. You never know when some random user might try to reformat every hard drive linked to a network or maybe just deny everyone access to them. If you have SU access, you can do a lot of damage to your information at virtually the speed of light. It is best not to go doing random things just to see what happens.

The fact that several websites come up right away, offering to root my device for free, is the first warning sign for me. The existence of these sites means that a lot of people are allowing these companies access to their information and not even thinking about what granting someone access to their information means. They just want their devices to work the way they want and they don’t care who profits from knowing the minute details of their lives.

I decided to try Kingroot first, because I had run across that name several times in the forums. With a healthy dose of skepticism, I created a testing account on Gmail for the purposes of accessing the Google play store during this phase of the process. Kingroot did manage to successfully root the device on the third try, which was a good sign. As soon as I had it booting stably with root access, I installed Malwarebytes from the Google Play store and had it do a full scan, just to see what I had signed up for. As I suspected there were several pieces of malware currently installed on the system, two of which came pre-loaded with the OEM software that Blu shipped on the device.

Getting root access, and keeping root access are completely different animals. This is especially true when you have rooted your phone with software that wants to make sure it stays on your phone. It tends to keep you from replacing its SU binaries, requiring you to come up with creative ways of digging it out of your system.

porting to new device? For TWRP and LineageOS? Possible for me to do?

I now needed to find a recovery mod and firmware for the recovery mod to install onto the system memory. Almost immediately I discovered that the world in Android had changed in the few years since I last tried this.

Postscript

I got this far in the process of rooting the Blu phone, and not much farther. I did get root access and then I promptly deleted parts of the Blu installed software without making sure I had a rom I could install on the phone in place of its original programming. It is still sitting in a box at the back of my desk here in the office, waiting for me to finish screwing around with it. Since it was a cheap phone, and since I didn’t need the phone after we changed from Ting and got new phones from T-Mobile, I’ve never bothered to revisit the problem of installing a new rom on the cheap Blu phone and running it through its paces. My lack of interest in this challenging programing problem should prove that I’m really not that much of a programmer at heart.

iPhone Not Home

I will be incommunicado till next Thursday, from the look of it. Power switch went out on my phone. Replacement phone (twice the memory, half the price) is taking a slow boat. Internet access and phone conversations will be limited to desktop and laptop via Google or Skype until then.

I don’t know if I will survive the depravity.

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It got worse. This Android/Open Source lover has now been saddled with the burden of using an iPhone 4 for a week. Kill me now, please. I have returned to the years of chisels and stone tablets. The iPhone was the only extra phone in the house.

The good news is the Nexus may be revivable, so I may have a backup next time a phone goes kaput.

All kidding aside, I’d like to offer a heartfelt thanks to Eric Buck for the phone. This is the second time it has come in handy. The Wife is likely to be using it next. She drove over her iPhone a few times on her last movie location. She drove over it, an 18 wheeler hauling dirt drove over it, the three dump trucks also hauling roadbuilding materials drove over it, and it didn’t break. It has been a little special ever since.

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The iPhone is now a Googlish iPhone. I have forced it to accept Google apps that replace functions that Apple wants to handle for me.

Just create a Mac address. We know you want to.

It is suffering almost as much as I am. I take a vicious pleasure in this fact.

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Postscript

I took delivery of that last Nexus a few weeks later. It too ended up failing on me, and it did that a few months after my mother died. That caused a panic because I had been recording audio of mom for the last few months of her life, trying to get her to open up about her childhood. When I got that phone’s power switch fixed (the third Nexus to develop the exact same problem) just to get the audio off of the phone, I decided that it would also be the last Nexus I was buying. Google had already abandoned the Nexus brand and decided to call their new devices Pixels, and they priced them to be in the same market as iPhones.

I don’t buy iPhones because they are too expensive, so I don’t buy Google devices anymore. I was sad to see the last Nexus go. I’m not sure if I was sad that I didn’t have that device anymore, or sad that I couldn’t say I had a Nexus 6 anymore. It’s nice to have a humanoid android to help out around the house, even if that is just your imagination filling in the gaps.

iPhones, Healthcare and Cake

I’m using a three year old Google Nexus that was gifted to me by friends. I have the cheapest available phone service in the United States here is my referral code.

I use old tech and cheap services because I’M POOR. I don’t have an iPhone, Chaffetz you asshat.

Don’t buy an iPhone get healthcare is the modern version of the clueless let them eat cake myth. These congressional idiots have no idea what poor people face in the US today. No idea. 

Sidelined Due to Illness

Sports metaphor.  That should be the first sign I’m not myself.  I have no use for sports, but an upbringing at the foot of a man who never missed a game (Baseball, Football, you name it) has layered my subconscious with a multiplicity of sports metaphors that lend themselves to almost any situation.  Sadly.

Was working on a piece for the blog a week ago when this latest round of Meniere’s fun started.  Haven’t had a spell like this in living memory.  I’ve had short-term worse recently (a drop attack about a month ago lasted less than 10 hours) but I haven’t felt this ill for this long since I gave up work in 2005.

I have been on the Meclizine for the last few days. The affected ear has been hypertussive (all sound hurts) for over a week now. The tinnitus has been off the charts loud, and I’ve been off and on vertiginous for the whole time. Every thought feels like it has to be forced through jelly to get out of my head and onto the page.  More than a week avoiding sound, bright lights, etc.  Going a bit stir crazy, I think.

I’m pretty sure this is my allergies acting up. I haven’t been eating or doing anything out of the ordinary that could have caused it.  Unless the excavation going on in the neighbor’s back yard is releasing something into the air (mostly joking) I can’t think of anything else that could be the cause.

Which is the big problem with this disease.  It just hits you.  You’re down, can’t think of anything you might have done wrong, so you play association games trying to figure out what triggered this attack that you’d rather die from than suffer through.  That’s how you get to conclusions like low-salt diets and alcohol and caffeine causing the symptoms.  The truth is that there doesn’t need to be a cause, and nothing you remember doing actually is as fault.  It is a disease, and the symptoms occur because you have it.

Allergies are a known trigger with me, though. Pollen levels for various plants are generally elevated when my symptoms are bad. It was spring and fall pollen season that first triggered symptoms for me way back in the 1980’s and 90’s. To top it off I quit getting my allergy shots a few years back because I had concluded that I wasn’t getting any additional benefit from continuing them.  I had been getting shots for over a decade, I really didn’t see the point in continuing.

Given what I’m suffering through now, perhaps stopping treatment was a mistake. Time to head back to the allergist and see if the shots can’t get me back to something resembling normalcy.  Shots twice a week again, really looking forward to that.  Beats the alternative, as the saying goes.


07/14/2015 – Woke up to a Huffpost story on chronic pain in my Twitter feed. 15 things no one tells you about chronic pain as a 20-something.

I identified with number 4 on the list almost immediately,

4. There are good days and bad days.

…since the first order of business today was to take my first shower since Friday or Sunday. Given that I can’t remember when it was, combined with my inability to stand my own smell, today is shower day one way or the other.

It was glorious and at the same time frightening, since balance in the shower is of paramount importance.  I try not to think about how clean the shower walls are when leaning on them.  Cleaner than I am after 5 days, in any case. Now back to vegetating and re-watching last season of The Walking Dead.  Prepping for next season early, since in my currently hazy state I barely remember watching the episodes before anyway.


I posted this on the 13th of July.  It was July 8th when I started the piece I wanted to write next. Today (July 21st) I finally got out of the house and went for a three mile walk.  First time I’ve gone on a decent walk since (checking Endomondo) the 10th. My how time crawls when stuck in a rut.  Felt like it had been a month or more.  Got dizzy while walking but I’ll take it. Best day in over a week so far.

Postscript

I gave up updating this every day that I felt moderately well enough to write. On my birthday it was a month since I wrote this piece and today (August 22nd) I felt like writing again. Felt like writing if only my ears would stop trying to pop out of the side of my head.

I received a brand new Nexus 5 for my birthday, and that has kept me beautifully distracted since I got it. I can finally play some of the games I’ve been wanting to play and install several apps that just were too big for the HTC Evo Shift that I’ve been using for the last two years. My heartfelt thanks to the friends and family who made the gift possible.  It really was the only thing I wanted, one of the few things I can use while essentially bedridden for days at a time.

But I don’t write on a phone, I write on a keyboard. I have to feel well enough to get out of bed, not collapse in the easy chair with Netflix to comfort me, sit down in front of a computer or with a laptop and write. Then I have to have something in mind to write about.

Back to the ears again. Pressure and sensitivity to sound again today.  The tinnitus drowns out thought and makes long chains of reasoning virtually impossible. Next week I will go to the allergist and probably get myself tested again, start shots again.  I don’t know what else to do, so I’ll return to allergy treatments and see if that helps.

Just felt like letting everyone know I was still alive.  Here’s a picture of my dog wearing my walking hat to cheer everyone up.

My Blog entry on Treating Meniere’s & Its Symptoms.  A frequently referenced post for me.

Rooting Android

The Wife’s phone is dying. She’s insisted she didn’t need a smartphone for decades, but now she wants one.  One problem; we’re dead broke.  We had to steal from Peter to pay Paul this month in the first place, large phone expenditures aren’t in the works for us.  If you want a phone that works well with today’s apps, you seem to need a new phone.

There are actually multiple problems here. We found a service called Ting.com a while back, a service that saves us serious amounts of cash on cell phones. Ting.com makes them cheaper per line than standard wired service if you don’t spend hours on the phone every day. There is only one problem with this service, you have to provide your own hardware.

Luckily there is a service for that, too. Several of them, in fact.  I like Glyde.com, I bought my current HTC device from them. My first foray into this strange world of buying used phones, I bought a different device, only to discover that the memory constraints on the phone were so limited I couldn’t update the phone to the current software. Couldn’t unlock the bootloader (whatever that was) much less root it. I picked HTC the second time out because HTC allows you to unlock the bootloader right on their website. Gave the first phone to my son. His first cell phone. That he leaves everywhere except in his pocket. Perfect phone for him.

Bootloaders. Rooting. It was a whole new language that I had resigned myself to learning, so I began exploring exactly how to even talk about what I wanted to do to the device, trying to figure out what the verb rooting really meant outside of swine behavior.  I apparently needed a new rom to flash after this rooting thing; and I was certain I wanted to avoid bricking the phone, because that sounded bad.  I mean, you can’t call with a brick, even the rocks know that.

I quickly discovered that it’s a minefield out there. Even if you find the right boards, half the links don’t work. Even if you find links that work, most of them lead to shady back-alley websites that I wouldn’t want to visit without protection; much less disable security on my phone and engage in behavior that my phone warns me I shouldn’t do even with people I know.

I’m under time pressure here.  The Wife wants an iPhone. The cheapest one is twice what I could pay for a comparable android device. She’s listened to me whine about this HTC device for months now, I’ve convinced her that you can’t fix old phones to do the things we want them to do, and I haven’t even gotten to the point of trying to modify my phone. It is time for me to bite the bullet. Now or never.

About 12 hours ago, I jumped in with both feet. I got my token from HTC, Unlocked the bootloader. Rebooted. Yep, there goes all those old text messages.  Glad I didn’t want to save those. Well, it doesn’t seem like I did anything else.  Head scratcher.  I scrounge around for old links.  Hey, what’s this? I can just download one program from xdadevelopers and it’ll root my phone? Well, getting superuser status on the phone is the next step (what rooting means. SU, superuser. Known to those of us who Linux. Yeah, I knew that) so that’s probably the right thing.  Xda’s users seem to be some of the more knowledgeable types out there, so I’ll bite.

Works like a charm. Now what?  Can I delete apps? No. All that damn garbage like Sports & Racing apps still clogging up the system. I really, really don’t want to go find a rom (image) to flash (load) while under time pressure.  That is the kind of thing you do to phones you’re not counting on using for a bit, altering all the interfaces and playing around trying to break the software.  I just want a program.  An app.  Something that will delete crap I want gone, move crap that I want somewhere else so that the 500 megs of phone memory stays as open as I can get it. Back to the Google. Wait, there’s a root uninstaller? Really? On the Google store, even? Nice.

Bye bye Tweeter. Sports you are out of here. Racing, go drive somewhere else. All you old pre-installs for Twitter, Facebook, etc.  All of you are now uninstalled. I’m going pro with this app. Hey, I can move stuff to the card with this puppy.  This is what I’m talking about! Where was this power months ago? I feel like a programmer, which is a dangerous delusion for me.

I’ve been tweaking, deleting, and tweaking again for the last 12 hours. Convinced The Wife that we could save a few dollars on a second HTC device, and I can make it do what she wants it to do (fingers crossed now) so the time pressure is off.  Now I’ll have a play phone for a few days at least. Time to find an alternate rom I want to play with.  And backup.  I need to find a rom builder.  Back to the Google.

Postscript

I received a brand new  Nexus 5 for my birthday, and that has kept me beautifully distracted since I got it. I can finally play some of the games I’ve been wanting to play and install several apps that just were too big for the HTC Evo Shift. My heartfelt thanks to the friends and family who made the gift possible.  It really was the only thing I wanted, one of the few things I can use while essentially bedridden for days at a time.

‘Former’ Palm user?

I’m beginning to think it’s time to trade up.

I’ve carried a Palm device since Handspring first offered it’s Visor. While I was content to nestle in the (expensive) corporate software world that Bill and his buddies have carved out, Palm desktop’s Windows exclusive interface was not a problem. Now that I’ve struck out into the (nearly) trackless wilderness of Linux, trying to get my Palm devices to reliably sync with any version of Linux has proven to be more problematic than I had ever envisioned.

Consequently, I was heartened to hear that Android rolled-out the long awaited open source OS for the as yet sight unseen gPhone.

By creating an open platform, Google is trying to make money not on software or hardware sales, but by creating vast hordes of ad-susceptible phone users. Google can be less selfish about design, and less worried about stumbles on the road to perfection. Google boss Eric Schmidt told us today that they would not be in the business of clamping down on independent development, and from the sound of it, would be encouraging carriers to adopt a hands-off policy toward third-party development.

Gizmodo – Analysis: Google’s Android Phone and the Four Carriers

Intrigued by this development, I wandered by the Engadget site, only to discover that

Palm, which has been struggling for years through countless setbacks to introduce its own Linux-based mobile OS, in the mean time using a continuously cobbled-together version of Palm OS 5 (originally introduced in 2002) throughout. Palm’s first attempt at a next-gen mobile OS, dubbed Cobalt, is announced in 2004 and quickly becomes the stuff of vaporware legend, delayed over and over until ACCESS eventually buys the flagging PalmSource (more here on how that whole thing went down); ACCESS pledges to finish development of Palm’s misplaced next-gen mobile OS, and then license it back to Palm (among other companies).

But Palm’s had enough, so earlier this year it announces its intentions to release its own Linux-based OS — again — but this time without the help of its spin-off sister company Palm Source (which, of course, is now a part of ACCESS). And that new OS is quickly hyped and lauded — and then delayed. Yet again. Pushed back into late 2008 at the earliest (although we won’t be surprised if Palm revises and makes that 2009 or even later). And so we ask, Palm, where the hell were you when Google was rallying its Open Handset Alliance?

engadget – Palm: assimilate with Android or die

Yes, where the hell were you, Palm? Why am I still forced to juggle an OS that has essentially remained unchanged since 2002 with newer and faster PC’s and their constantly updated OS’s? Why hasn’t a shift to a Linux based Palm OS come about? Why is the Palm Desktop still exclusively set up for corporate software solutions (Windows/Mac)?

Most importantly, will I have to endure a brain transplant? Long before the iPhone ad, or even the iPhone itself, I frequently referred to my Palm device as my brain. So will I need to get a brain transplant? Will I have to find some other smartphone manufacturer’s product that I can make myself understand in order to get a device that plays well with the OS that I intend to use for the foreseeable future? A Linux OS?

Will we ever see a gPhone? Google executives won’t say … yet. For now, Google CEO Eric Schmidt says there will be a variety of Android phones offered by several wireless carriers. But even without a dedicated gPhone, we can all look forward to a software platform designed to better the user experience, while also being light on the pocketbook. All the while, Google is extending its seemingly endless grip on the technological world.

TradingMarkets.com Google platform challenges Mac, PC markets

So, in the meantime, I’ll keep carrying my Treo 650. I’m just not sure what manufacturer I’ll be purchasing my next device from.

Postscript

It was LG. That was the next phone after the last version of the Treo that was made by Palm. It was an LG, then it was an HTC and then it was a Nexus 5. I’m currently using a Motorola/Lenovo G5. Get me as close to pure Android as I can get, please. That’s what I’ve determined that I want. As open source as I can get without having to program it directly myself, please.