Refreshing the Nexus 7

Refreshing the Nexus 7

Google’s Nexus 7 table caused quite a stir when it was released in 2012 with its low price combined with the excellent specifications it offered. It proved very popular and rightly so. Fast forward to 2015 and the Nexus 7 is very much, sadly, showing its age. Google have proved good to their word and have provided Android updates to the Nexus 7 which has provided the latest features of Android to the Nexus 7’s owners but the device just does not have the hardware to run the latest Android versions with the performance owners came to expect. Android 5 upwards runs painfully slow on my device, and each update has done little to remedy this fact. My Nexus 7 had become almost unusable.

There are a few ways to improve the performance including a factory reset, tweaking some performance settings but none of these provided much improvement. The factory reset worked the best but only for a short time and even then it never matched the performance of the original out of the box experience.

Eventually I rooted the device and installed CyanogenMod and have not looked back since. The experience is like the Nexus 7 was originally and the device is now used daily. It is slick and smooth, albeit on an old version of Android. Security updates aside I don’t mind being behind the curve on Android if it means I get a useable tablet. It’s been three months since I moved to CyanogenMod and its been rock solid all that time.

DSC00186_TsStep by step instructions on rooting the device and installing CyanogenMod can be found at the link below on the CyanogenMod wiki. The Nexus 7 2012 version being called ‘Grouper’. Don’t forget to also download Google Apps for Grouper so as to have access to the Google Play App Store to be able to download all your apps (this is covered as an optional step in the last section of the wiki article).
How to Install CyanogenMod on the Google Nexus 7 (Wi-Fi, 2012 version)

I installed the version CyanogenMod 10 (Android 4.3 Jelly Bean) on mine which is not too far from the original Google build. There are many versions of CyanogenMod  for the Nexus 7 linked from the link above including version 11 & version 12. I went with version 10.2.1 on mine, from here. I may experiment with upgrading to CyanogenMod 12 at some point but for now I’m happy. I also repeated the process for my son’s Nexus 7’s and each time the process was simple and effective.

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PIN Protect Those Android Purchases

PIN Protect Those Android Purchases

Kids love playing on tablets and smart phones, and I think the excellent Nexus 7 will be a popular choice for Christmas Stockings this year. Apparently though in-app purchases for children’s mobile games are costing parents around the world nearly $1.5 billion a year, and there are often stories in the press of individual children accidently racking up huge bills for their parents. Regulators around the world are starting to look into this practice Screenshot_2012-11-03-15-47-07but until then lock or disable your phones/tablets ability to make these purchases before handing it to a click happy child.

On android follow these instructions to setup a PIN within the Google Play App and then use that PIN to protect all app purchases (see screenshot on the right).

If you’re an Apple user then since version 4.3 iOS apparently requires the user to enter their iTunes password for in-app purchases by default.

Android Remote Desktop Client

2XClient_LogonI find that I am increasingly relying on the computing power of my Android smartphone (a HTC Desire) and finding novel ways of using it to make my IT life easier. Sometimes I just want to connect to my PC that is in another room, or more often for me it’s my headless Windows Home Server, and so I scouted for a Remote Desktop client that I could run on my phone. The key requirement was for it to use the Windows native Remote Desktop protocol and therefore not require any software to be installed on my PC or Server, which ruled out a lot of the VNC based Apps. Luckily 2x.com have released an excellent FREE App that ticks all the boxes.

2XClient for Android can be found here or on Android Market here. It is dead easy to set up the target machines and there are several display optimisation options. The key thing though is that it’s actually very easy to navigate the target machines desktop via a custom keyboard and a nifty mouse icon that can be dragged around with a left and right mouse button attached (left image below).  In these images I’m logging onto my Windows Home Server (a Windows 2003 based OS) but I also use it with my Windows 7 PC too. One thing to note for Windows 7 though is that I needed to set my Remote Desktop settings (via My Computer > System Properties > Remote Settings)  to “Allow connections from computers running any version of Remote Desktop” as opposed to the default setting of enforcing Network Level Authentication.

 2XClient_Mouse  2XClient_Keyboard  2XClient_StartMenu

It is surprisingly easy to do simple tasks on the target machine, especially after a bit of practice. Here I am using PowerShell and checking my Home Server Console.

2XClient_WHS12XClient_POSH

A very powerful tool to have on your phone and ideal for those quick techy tasks when you can’t be bothered to get off the sofa.