Category: Tech

SystemUpdates by Zzte on Axon 7

My secondary phone line (used for work) is on a ZTE Axon 7 running Android 7.1.1. A little while ago, I found an app that was running called SystemUpdates by Zzte. The app can not be uninstalled nor easily disabled. (You can use Settings > Apps > Show system apps > System Updates > disable, but this has other repercussions like no longer being able to perform system updates.)

The reviews of this app on the Android Play Store imply that SystemUpdates is malware. A quick Google search on the app seems to confirm it. Until you dig a bit deeper and find out that apparently SystemUpdates by Zzte is an official ZTE application, confirmed by a ZTE community rep on the Axon 7 forums. However, after reading an article on Digital Trends about Chinese spyware installed on devices, I have my doubts. (ZTE is on the list of devices manufacturers, but Huawei is not.)

Like the other people on the Google Play store who found this app and had no idea what it was doing on my device, I opted to do a hard reset and restore the factory default settings on the phone. Other people had claimed that this got rid of the application. It does not. App is still present on the phone. Now, this makes sense if the SystemUpdates app is indeed an official ZTE application required to perform system updates.

So now I’m stuck with a reset phone and can no longer access my work email on any of my devices. Tech support and I are going to have some fine quality time on Monday at work.

Meanwhile, given the questions I have about the ZTE phone and the possibility of the manufacturer installing applications I don’t want to have on the device, I’m looking at other options.

I’m investigating unlocking the bootloader on the ZTE Axon 7 and installing Lineage OS 15.1 (Android 8.1 ROM). This does not look like a method for the faint of heart. My phone is a USA unlocked model on build b35. The steps required for installing a different ROM on a phone varies depending upon the build number and version of Android that is installed. Honestly, it gets confusing. I’ve watched several hours of YouTube videos watching how people have tried various ROMs which gave me an idea of the overall process. I’ve read a lot of posts on the XDA, ZTE Axon forums, and reddit.

The method I’m going to try is this one: [GUIDE][TREBLE] Axon 7 Custom OREO ROM installation for newbies – 2018.08.05 by Oki. It seems to be a safe, all-in-one solution. (Well, as much as any of this process is safe when there is a good chance I’ll brick the phone.)

I will post updates on this process as I do it. This is the first time I’ve flashed a ROM on an Android phone. I used to flash the ROM on the Nokia N900 to various versions of developer ROMs, but that was easy because the phone was completely unlocked and was meant to be a developer’s device. And it was a great phone.

Bookmarking the pages I’ve been using: 

Kindle Keyboard

I originally purchased a Bear Kindle keyboard case for my Kindle Fire 8.9″ tablet. They keyboard was rather like typing on a chicklet keyboard and was unresponsive. I am a touch typist and very picky about the touch on the keyboards that I use. I never used the keyboard case because it felt too bulky and was frustrating to type on. I hit more incorrect keys than correct ones.

After reading some reviews, I opted. to try the Belkin keyboard case for the Kindle. It feels like typing on a regular small laptop keyboard. Like any tablet keyboard case, it takes some time to get used to the smaller key size and layout. The touch on the keyboard is excellent. Amazon had the Belkin case as Warehouse deal for about $40. What a steal.

This blog post is the first thing I’ve used the keyboard to type and I’m quite happy with it. Except that the quote key is farther in and I keep hitting return instead. Just a matter of getting used to it.

Post-update Ubuntu woes

I posted too soon. We had the system doing updates (including kernel updates). Nick pointed out that the kernel update might delete the driver so we held our breaths and waited. The system rebooted and gave me a login prompt. And then a pretty cursor and then nothing but a black screen.

Nick, luckily, was still here and was able to help. We did some research and found things that might have been it (problems with the Catalyst drivers breaking Unity desktop, for example). But it seemed odd that the login screen would appear but then X wouldn’t load for the desktop…

Just in case, I searched for new drivers, and found updated Catalyst drivers from AMD for Ubuntu. We installed them and lo! the Acer booted with a lovely login screen and desktop!

To get the drivers to be available from the terminal, I had to mount the USB device by figuring out which device to mount first using this command:
dmesg | grep -e sda -e sdb -e sdc

Then mounting the USB device proper:

mount /dev/sdb1 /mnt' (if sdb is the thing that the usb stick is)
cd /mnt

Here are the commands I used to install the drivers:

wget http://www2.ati.com/drivers/beta/amd-driver-installer-catalyst-13-10-beta-x86.x86_64.zip
unzip amd-driver-installer-catalyst-13-10-beta-x86.x86_64.zip
chmod u+x amd-driver-installer-catalyst-13-10-beta-x86.x86_64.run
sudo ./amd-driver-installer-catalyst-13-10-beta-x86.x86_64.run

Little cuteness has Ubuntu

After many many hours of trying to install Linux Mint on the Acer Aspire V5-122p, I enlisted the Linux  Mint expert at work. (Wave at Nick!) We spent additional hours after work trying to get Mint to work and failed. Horribly. He was as perplexed as I was as to why we couldn’t get Mint to work. (Maybe it had something to do with secure boot or EFI?)

So… we tried Ubuntu 13.04 AMD desktop using the instructions found on the Ubuntu forums which explained how to download and install the correct graphic drivers. We had some wifi issues because the guest network requires a browser to authenticate and that’s not an option available during installation. We ended up copying the drivers to a USB stick and then installing them to the Acer.

Reboot and voila!
ubuntu on Acer V5.

Squeaky was most impressed.

20130926_225155The only trick might be that we might have to reinstall the drivers any time there is a kernel update. That’s okay. It’s working and it’s purty and it isn’t that abomination of an operating system!

New little cuteness

I took the little Acer Aspire One D150 to gaming on Saturday night. I had spent hours on Friday night trying to figure out what was wrong with the computer and concluded that it wasn’t able to charge any more from the power cord. So. Several of the guys at the gaming group are sys admins, so I let them look at the D150 too. They concluded that it was dead as well.

The netbook was my only personal portable and I used it every day for writing emails, blog posts, and general web type stuff. The netbook was three years old and for a cheap little portable, that is a pretty good life. I’ve been mostly pleased with Acer’s quality of stuff. The netbook felt pretty solid. I am still not sure what caused the power to fail on it, but other people had had similar issues (although I don’t remember reading anyone else hearing a popping noise before the charger cut out).

I searched online to see what might be available locally at the stores. Best Buy and Tiger Direct are the better options for finding a small portable at reasonable prices (especially in the open box areas). My criteria for a new system was cheap, reliable, good battery life, small, light, and expandable. I wanted something with more than last year’s specs. The D150 had a whopping 2 GB of RAM (maxed out) and a 180 GB hard drive. I wanted something faster but it didn’t necessarily have to have a huge hard drive. That didn’t matter (although I wanted more than 16 GB flash like most of the Chromebooks have).

I ended up with an Acer Aspire V5-122P-0679, which Tiger Direct had on sale for $150 off. Not too bad. It isn’t a power house system, but it’s one of the first with the quad-core AMD A6-1450 low voltage chips. The cores run only at 1.0 Ghz (1.4 in overclocked mode), so they aren’t powerhouse, but it should be better at running the multiple applications I tend to have open. I switch between a word processor, browser with about 10 tabs open, and usually a photo editor or screen shot application. The V5 has 4 GB of RAM, 3 ccell battery, and a 320 GB hard drive. The 11.6 inch screen is an LED screen with amazing clarity at almost any viewing angle. This is the first touch-screen laptop I’ve had.

This Acer has Windows 8 installed. I HATES Windows 8 precious, hates it! Wow it looks like a Windows smart phone on a lap top. Fugly. Luckily Windows 8.1 will be out October 17 with the capability to run the desktop in a regular mode instead of the Win Phone-esque abomination. I had forgotten how annoying trying to do Windows Update was.

So. I’m going to partition the hard drive and dual boot Windows 8 and Mint Linux. If you are considering the same kind of endeavor, it looks like people have had mixed results. One person had great results out of the box without any issues (touch screen worked too!). Others on the Ubuntu forums have reported some issues with the V5. Here are the sites I’ve found with information:

This will be my project for the next few days. I’m going to give Win 8 a few days and see if it annoys me as much as I think it will.

Little netbook is dead

My little Acer Aspire One D150 has officially died. Can’t get it to boot and not sure what’s wrong with it. It’s dead dead dead. I’ll have to pull the hard drive and RAM and reformat it to remove any old data. I’m just glad that I don’t use anything local. It’s all backed up on cloud storage.

I’m kinda annoyed because I spent a lot of quality time with it lately. Once I had Mint Linux installed on the D150, I was using it every night for email and writing blog posts. And now I’m left with my desktop (which I almost never use except for gaming and doing things that require some processing power).

The worrying thing is that the last session I used the netbook, I heard a loud pop from the netbook or the power cord. I’m not sure which. From that point on, it hasn’t charged. I’ve used different power cords, done keyboard combinations to tell the computer to boot into bios mode, had the battery in (and out) while trying to power the D150 on. Nothing. No power lights, no screen, no charging light. Nothing.

It’s dead, Jim. (You grab the tricorder, I’ll grab his wallet.)

Random reboots fixed?

For the past several months, I’ve had a disconcerting issue with my iMac. The iMac randomly tries to log me out. My old Mac Mini, which has been retired to the household media server, never had this problem.

Googling the symptoms resulted in a mixed bag of possible causes: failing hard drive, faulty memory chips, logic board problems, etc. I looked on the Application > Utilities > Console application for any log files that might indicate a sudden quit, logout, or restart command. Nothing. At least nothing consistent or obvious. Tech Tool Pro did detect some serious hard drive issues. According to Google, the symptoms my iMac had could be caused by a malfunctioning hard drive.

Back in November, I received an email from Apple stating that my iMac model was suspected of having a faulty Seagate hard drive and Apple would replace it for free. The hard drive replacement was scheduled over the holidays so I could get my Mac back and then restore the data using the Time Machine backups. (That is another story all together.) If the random reboots and logouts were caused by hard drive issues, then replacing the hard drive should theoretically fix the problem.

I got my system back a few days ago, restored the primary partition using Time Machine flawlessly. However, the second partition with my working data didn’t restore cleanly. I kept getting permission errors. I’ve spent the past two days manually restoring files from the Time Machine backup files. It’s now back to normal. Except my old 1TB Time Machine drive didn’t have enough space to complete a backup. I wasn’t willing to delete the only backup I have, so I bought a new 2 TB Time Machine drive today.

The bacukp has been running for over two hours so far. Twice, I’ve come back to check on the backup and have found that the system had tried to log me out and quit running applications. (Luckily I learned that leaving Safari open with multiple tabs prevents a log out because Safari prompts if you really want to quit the application.)

I did some more searching and discovered a setting I didn’t know about from a posted question and answer on the Apple Support Communities. The System Preferences > Security panel has an option that says “Log out after 60 minutes of inactivity.” This option is checked by default. I’ve unchecked the option now.

System Preferences for Security in OS X 10.6.8
System preferences in 10.6

I’m leaving the system on over night (to hopefully complete the backup) and then will post whether or not the system tries to log me out again.

Well-behaved Note 2

A few weeks ago, I traded in my old Note 2 for a new one due to issues with the micro SD card and not receiving phone calls. Kinda hard to have a phone that doesn’t function as a phone. It’s been right about three weeks since I traded in the other phone and everything seems to be going fine. I haven’t had any issues with the memory card and all of my phone calls appear to come through (both incoming and outgoing).

The wifi calling issues still come up. Periodically the phone disconnects from wifi calling with an invalid certificate error. Reconnecting wifi calling corrects this issue most of the time. It’s annoying. I’ve told my friends to leave me a message and I’ll call them back. When wifi calling doesn’t work, I don’t get a notice that I’ve missed a call. Leaving a message is the only reliable way to make sure I call back.

I’ve been very pleased with the camera’s responsiveness and image quality. While the larger phone size makes it harder to keep the phone still (low light pictures are prone to blurriness), I’ve still been able to compensate by taking multiple images. The G2 was so slow to focus and write an image after it was taken. The Notes’ camera is responsive and snappy. The video quality has also been very good. Now I just have to post some of the images I’ve taken.

Overall, I’m very glad that I have the Note 2 and not the Galaxy S III (which is also a nice phone). I can type on both of the screens, but the features in the Note 2 fit better with what I want to do. I’m slowly learning more about the feature set. The S Pen is something I still play with. I’ve used it for drawing and editing some images. I’ve also used it for note taking, although I can type faster than the S Pen keeps up (with worse accuracy though). I have a feeling the S Pen and it’s associated applications are something you have to figure out how (and if) they fit into how each person uses the device. There are a lot of capabilities I like theoretically but haven’t put into practice yet. Those items will end up in other blog posts.

Strange SD card behavior on the Note 2

I was dressed for the gym and went to load Zombies Run. The playlist option was missing half of the play lists. WinAmp showed only two locally saved playlists and no music. A few days ago, the phone was randomly mounting and unmounting the microSD card. The vibration notice going off on Friday morning was enough to unmount the SD card.

Tonight, the storage menu showed that there wasn’t an SD card mounted. Pressing Mount under the Storage settings didn’t do anything, removing the card and reinserting didn’t do anything. Rebooting the phone numerous times had no effect. Instead of going to the gym (no music, no zombies!), I went to Target to look for an SD card.

I purchased an inexpensive USB microSD card reader and a replacement 32 GB class 10 microSD card (just in case mine was hosed). Luckily my old card was readable by the USB reader. I backed off all of the data and then reinserted the card into the phone and voila! the storage menu mounted the card. The important thing is that I got the my photos and data off of the card.

I’ll return the new card tomorrow since my old card appears to be working fine.

Replaced the Note 2

So, during the day, the phone repeated the same issues I’d had earlier with wifi calling. Even after doing a hard reset, I didn’t get any calls. I tested the wifi calling during work today by attempting to send text messages. None of the text messages went through. I tried calling my desktop phone at different times. I tried calling myself once an hour or more during the day from my work phone and using Skype. I think only one of the calls came through. I could call out on my phone easier than I could receive a call. It was very inconsistent. The phone had to be monitored and reset frequently to keep wifi calling active (with a blue icon).

Tonight after work, I asked several friends to call me to see if their calls would come through. Phone calls from friends on Verizon and AT&T phones went to voicemail without ringing. Calls from my mom on Sprint came through. These calls were placed when I was using the cellular network and not wifi calling. (Other people on Samsung phones have reported similar problems on the T-Mo support forums.)

This was unacceptable. You can’t use a phone that doesn’t function as a phone. So. I reset the phone again so my data was wiped from it and returned the phone to the T-Mobile store.

The guy who helped me was the same guy who had sold me the original model. He’s a geeky sort, very nice, and enthused to find someone else who is excited about technology (and who asks intelligent questions). I told him about the problems I had on the phone and that tech support had already authorized the phone replacement (especially since I am still within the two week buyer’s remorse period where I can return the phone no questions asked). He remembered me as the lady with the blog. I told him I had documented the problems on my Note 2 and would be posting it on my blog here.

He replaced the Note 2 with a new model and replaced the sim card just in case there was a problem with it. He also put in a service check for the towers in my area. He was very nice and said that he would have happily replaced the phone up to a month after I’d purchased it. Great guy.

So. I have a spiffy new phone that seems to be working properly and has been reloaded with the call logs from my old phone. The strange thing is that the call log shows all of the missed calls that went directly to voicemail.

Follow up on Samsung Galaxy Note 2

I went to the T-Mobile store tonight to ask for some any support options on the Note 2. The staff at the story didn’t have a wifi network to use to test the phone, so they let me use the store phone to call T-Mo tech support. When you call tech support for a cell phone, you aren’t supposed to call using the phone you need to troubleshoot. Since I only have my cell phone, using the store’s phone was a convenient option.

First tier tech support didn’t offer much help. Her suggestions of rebooting the phone, turning off and on wifi, and reconnecting to the calling network were things I had already tried. She passed me along to second level support. This T-Mo tech support guy said to try changing the phone’s calling preferences under Advanced in Wifi Calling Settings > Set Connection Preference options to Wifi Only (which disables the cellular calling — and means you have to manually revert back to cellular network when leaving wifi coverage). Otherwise, I could perform a hardware reset on the phone to restore it to factory defaults. Once I did that, I’d need to see if the problems persist.

If the phone keeps misbehaving, then I’ll return it for a new one of the same model on Friday.

Wifi calling issue on Note 2

Searching for articles on problems with using T-Mobile’s wifi calling on the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Note 2 returns multiple results, including an enlightening good discussion on the XDA forum. The phone doesn’t keep a consistent connection to the wifi calling service. I get an ERR Connection Refused, invalid certificate, and other errors. Some times the phone has trouble staying on the wifi network even though the phone is sitting on my desk. This issue started two days ago.

Wifi calling problems come up periodically. There were some days when it never seemed to work properly on my G2 either. I’d get connection errors, invalid certificate errors, and times when the phone just couldn’t seem to connect to the wifi calling services. Rebooting would usually correct those issues. The G2 also suffered from the same wifi signal fluctuation: I could watch the wifi calling ready mode blue icon turn red while the phone sat on my desk.

It’s hard to trouble shoot the problem right now because the wifi network in my building is being revamped. All of the routers are being replaced and the placement density of the routers is being increased. I’ve watched the signal strength rotate in intensity with the Note 2 simply sitting on my desk. I’ve connected to two different networks (one open and one secured) and had the same issue with signal strength fading in and out. The weird thing about this problem is that it’s inconsistent. Sometimes the calling works fine. Other times, I’ve had the phone say “wifi calling ready” and tried sending a text message or calling out using my phone (or calling it) and the calls have not connected. Other times it works immediately. I can’t find any consistent factors between it.

I also tried turning off the wifi signal power saver mode that is activated on the phone by default. I did that last night and watched the phone this morning. The signal strength really got messed up after I did that. I rebooted the phone and it seems to be behaving. Go figure. I don’t understand.

When I read on the T-Mobile support forums about the dropped wifi calls, several posts said that T-Mobile has been aware of the issue on the Galaxy S3 since August and is supposed to be working on a fix (we’ll see if that happens). I should probably see if the Note 2 uses the same chipset for wifi as the S3. That would explain a lot.

T-Mo and AT&T are supposed to be releasing a OTA update for the Note 2 that will enable multitasking and multi-window use on the device “sometime soon”. Verizon has already released the update. Hopefully T-Mo’s update will include a fix for the wifi calling bug.

I have two weeks from the day I purchased the phone to return it if I choose to. This Friday is the last day I can return the Note 2 on the buyer’s remorse program. If the wifi calling issue keeps up, I’ll probably ask for a Note 2 replacement instead of going with a different phone model. The only two phones I could easily type on are the S3 or the Note 2.

New Precious: Samsung Galaxy Note 2

I was bad. Couldn’t resist the precious. Told one of my friends at work about the Note 2. We’ve both been talking about replacing our trusty Android phones. It’s funny how all you have to do is mention quad-core, lots of usable RAM for applications, and 64 GB microSD support, and suddenly someone is keenly interested in the phone. 🙂

We both went to the T-Mobile store after work and are now the happy owners of Samsung Galaxy Note 2s. We sat over dinner and played with our new shinies. Oh my, this phone is spiffy!

No SD cards in Nexus phones to confuse users

The specs for the LG Nexus 4 sound great: quadcore Snapdragon S4 Pro, 2GB internal RAM, lovely screen, Android 4.2. Allegedly different amounts of space will be available: 8 GB, 16 GB, etc.

T-Mobile is offering the phone on their network, so I’m getting notices that I’m eligible for an upgrade… So I checked out the phone specs. Good specs, clean Android 4 OS (no “enhanced UI” slapped on by a manufacturer). Only thing I didn’t like was that the phone doesn’t have an SD card and is currently being offered in 16 GB variety. I have a 32 GB card in my T-Mobile G2 that has only 3 GB free. The G2 has 4 GB of internal storage, of which 1 GB is available for non-OS use. A phone with 16 GB won’t cut it: I want a phone that can store my music and apps.

Google is pushing their cloud storage option, so I’m not really surprised the Nexus devices don’t have an SD card. Google wants to force people into using other options. Of course, that is assuming that people are always in areas where data connectivity is available.

T-Mo News had this article today on why there isn’t an SD card option on any of the Nexus devices. Basically, SD cards confuse users and provide too many options that users shouldn’t have to worry their pretty little heads over.

Pissed. Me. Off. Give me options and let me decide.

Phone wierdness

I have a T-Mobile G2 (HTC Desire Z) for 18 months or so and have been very happy with. It’s my first Android phone (version 2.3.3). My favorite part of the phone is that it has a physical keyboard and comes with (almost) stock Android. No funky manufacturer overlay on it like you have with most HTC, Samsung, or Motorola Android phones.

My keyboard quit working today. I opened the phone to slide out the keyboard and the screen goes black. Change the orientation on the screen with the keyboard open and the screen goes black. I have to close the keyboard and press the power button to (hopefully) get the passcode screen to display. Searching around on T-Mobile support forums revealed several posts from other G2 owners with the same phone issue. Apparently, this keyboard acting up is a hardware issue.

Yay for phone replacement programs! T-Mobile is sending me a new phone. I should have it in a day or so.