Sunday, 23 December 2012

SopCast fixes Jelly Bean sound issue and adds recording

TV isn't global. If you're traveling abroad and you want to see the game of your favourite team, you can zap through all the channels without luck. If you try to catch a stream from the official supplier, it probably refuses to play in other countries. For example, sells streams for all the dutch football matches, but only in The Netherlands. If you try to watch Ajax play from anywhere else the site will bluntly tell you that its streams are not for sale outside the country.

That's where the Android version of SopCast comes to the rescue. It uses BitTorrent-like technology to send live sports and other video to your phone or tablet. If you're traveling in countries that don't care about your favourite sport SopCast is often the only way to see your team play.

SopCast used to be silent on Jelly Bean, but not anymore. The update to version 0.9.0 fixed the missing sound problem.

The new SopCast can record video too, so you can watch the streamed stuff later. That could be useful when your team is playing a dozen or so time zones away.

If you don't have time to watch the full match, GoalTV by Frezya Mobile plays the highlights.

SopCast (
GoalTV app from Frezya Mobile for your SopCast links and other ways to live games and highlights

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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Tame your apps: AFWall+ speeds up and kills bugs

Tame our apps

You don't want every app on your phone to go online without limits, especially those apps that only go online to download ads or send out your personal data to who-knows-where. That's why having a firewall is a good idea, and AFWall+ is a good choice. You need to root your Android phone or tablet to make it work, though.

Choose your weapon

AFWall+ works on Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, where DroidWall has problems. AFWall+ lets you set separate permissions for WiFi, normal data, and roaming data, which DroidWall and LBE Privacy Guard won't let you do. It can put a "new app installed"  notification in your status bar so you don't forget to set rules for new apps, DroidWall and avast won't remind you. And AFWall+ solves DroidWalls "leaky boots" problem most of the time, although it still leaks a bit if you force a reboot by popping your battery out and back in.


DroidWall successor AFWall+ got a lot faster with the latest update. And you can speed it up even more by switching off the app icons. That used to leave an ugly empty space on the left side of your screen, but now all the checkboxes and icons realign to fit. On my phone only the checkboxes realigned by themselves, the icons on top only moved after I restarted the app.

AFWall+ hasn't been around very long, but there are not many bugs. One bug that plagued my phone was that trying to open the firewall log used to hang the app if the log was empty, but I haven't seen that happening since the update to version 1.1.4.

The "disable 3G rules when connected to USB" option has gone out for repairs. When the bugs are squashed the feature will return.

AFWall+ now displays the app UID next to the app name, just like DroidWall always did. This can be useful if data logging apps only tell you which UID has been going online and you want to stick a name to the number. Most people don't really care about UIDs, so they're switched off by default. If you want to see them you have to switch 'em on in the settings screen.

AFWall+ (Google Play Store)
AFWall+ on xda

other stand-alone firewalls:

Android Firewall by jtschohl

security apps with built-in firewalls:

LBE Privacy Guard

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Friday, 21 December 2012

Android Underground goes twitter

There are many ways to keep up to date with android underground.

You can come to this site once in a while, or you can get updates mailed to your inbox or sent to your RSS feed reader. And you can check the mix of 18 (and counting) Android blogs at, because lots of sites know more than one.

Or you can follow android underground on Twitter. If you hurry you can be the first follower and be the first to get tweets about how to make sure you own your phone instead of the other way 'round.
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Tuesday, 18 December 2012

VoIP app Viber adds smilies and custom ringtones, forgets off switch

Smilies, group chats, and system sounds

Updates for VoIP and chat app Viber are few and far between, but they managed to squeeze one in before this year runs out.

New: smilies. Not a lot of them, but you gotta start somewhere. Viber now has stickers (very big smilies) too. Messaging on Viber may seem irrelevant, because if your gadget runs Viber it can run WhatsApp too and that's the SMS replacement of choice for most of the world. But if WhatsApp stops its ever-extending free trials and really turns into a paid app, competing apps like Viber and imo may take over.

The Viber programmers didn't just add eye candy, they threw in a bit of function too. Viber now does group chats with up to 40 people, so you can do big time group sexting.  And now you can tell Viber to use your Android system sounds instead of its own built-in ringtones.

A few updates ago Viber picked up the annoying habit of opening the "all contacts" tab by default (even with "show all contacts" switched off in the settings), which is useless for most people because most of their contacts are not on Viber. But now Viber opens in the Viber contacts tab again. Unfortunately you still can't block contacts, because Viber thinks you want to talk with anyone who's in your Android phone book. It didn't occur to the Viber team that you may add some people (like your ex or your boss) to your phone book to block their calls and messages. Viber won't let you set individual ringtones for contacts, so you can't ignore contacts by setting a silent ringtone for them.

Speaking of phone functions (the core business of Viber): voicemail for Viber would be a welcome addition. Especially if it comes with an option to send some contacts straight to your voicemailbox.

Viber still won't shut up

There's no easy way to switch Viber off or stop it from autostarting everytime you boot your phone. There's an off switch, but it doesn't work because Viber believes that you want to be available for all calls whenever your phone has a live internet connection. They probably never heard of international data charges. Tip: use AFWall+ or the firewall from avast to keep Viber away from your expensive data roaming connection.

The off switch built into Viber is not really an off switch, because the Cloud to Device Messaging service keeps listening for incoming Viber communications and will launch the app if something comes in. You can prevent Viber autostarts with apps like Gemini App Manager and ROM Toolbox, but that's inconvenient, requires root access, and you need to be a bit tech literate to make it work. Of course you can freeze Viber when you want it to keep quiet, and unfreeze it when you're available again. App Quarantine will do it for free, from the app itself or from a widget.

Why does Viber refuse to add a real off switch? There may be a commercial reason for not including an off switch that works. Viber will add paid services to its free features, and a Viber that doesn't run is a Viber that doesn't make money. But really, Viber, sometimes you need to be incommunicado for Viber calls without killing your internet connection or going into airplane mode. Stop behaving like a bunch of stubborn fools and go add a switch to put control where it needs to be: in the hands of the user.

Finally, Viber needs a public API so it can be part of a multi-network app. Chat and VoIP fragmentation is getting worse, so something needs to be done.


some competing apps:


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Monday, 17 December 2012

Liquid Bear still plays on Android

When killed its radio stations for most of the world, KLastFM and CoboltFM stopped playing.

But that doesn't mean that radio for Android is dead, because alternative player Liquid Bear rocks on.

Liquid Bear uses a trick to bypass all those silly restrictions: it uses your data to make playlists, and then pulls the songs from (the russian answer to Facebook). This means that you need a account and a account, but you can simply make an "empty" account with a fantasy name to tap into its music collection.

That's a clever solution that other apps might use as well. CoboltFM and KLastFM could use the route, or they could play custom radio stations by pulling the songs from Grooveshark. Grooveshark clients like Dood's Music Streamer and TinyShark could integrate in a similar way.

Liquid Bear has three main tabs. The left tab is the current playlist, which is built from whatever you select in the right tab. This tab lets you make radio stations based on tags, artists, your own library or the music libraries of your friends, etc. The central tab shows what's playing now, with album art and playback controls.

Want to see lyrics? You can load 'em from the playback tab (hit the drop-shaped icon) or by long-tapping a song in the playlist.

The playlist is also the place where Liquid Bear shows that it needs some work done. You can't change the order of the songs in the list, the search box shows white text on a light grey background (it may be different on your phone or tablet), deleting songs ahead of the currently playing track pauses playback, and removing songs already played stops the current track and skips to the next. The playback screen shows elapsed time but doesn't show the song duration, even though it could: if you pull the playback slider it shows how much time remains, so Liquid Bear could show that in the empty space next to the forward button.
Edit: an update added remaining time to the playback screen.

But these are minor shortcomings for an app that does what other players can do no more.

Liquid Bear is free, and I couldn't find any ads in it. It's definitely worth a try, so head to the Google Play Store to get a copy.

Liquid Bear

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Sunday, 16 December 2012 won't sing for Android anymore, Grooveshark app Dood's Music Streamer keeps playing (and so does Liquid Bear) is dead

The founders of left the company a long time ago. CBS, the current owners, try to milk the worlds most popular music service to the last penny. As a result, radio streaming is now only available in less than 5% of the countries on the planet. Germans, americans, and british can listen for free on the website, or for money in the desktop client. In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Brazil you can listen with a paid subscription. The rest of the world is not allowed to listen to, not even if you pay.

There were ways around these ridiculous geographic restrictions, but no more. Alternative apps CoboltFM and KLastFM are really dead now., pulled the plug on free streaming for almost everyone, and most of the planet can't stream at all.

Grooveshark rocks on

Are you a refugee looking for alternatives? Then Grooveshark is for you. It's a global jukebox with more music than anyone else, and with the right apps it's available worldwide. For free.

My favourite Grooveshark app is Dood's Music Streamer. You can search music, play it, download it, and it can turn your play queue into custom radio stations. It scrobbles everything you play to too.

Dood's Music Streamer plays custom radio stations based on your play queue. It's not as good as the custom radio stations, because Grooveshark only looks at your current play queue whereas uses your entire scrobble history to build your personal radio station. But with being dead and buried, Grooveshark radio in Dood's Music Streamer is better than nothing.

There are other Android Grooveshark apps, but they don't turn your playlists into radio stations.

Update: Liquid Bear still plays radio on Android.

Dood's Music Streamer
Liquid Bear

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Saturday, 15 December 2012

VideoMix streams movies and tv shows on your Android phone or tablet

December 27 update: Google made VideoMix remove the adult category, because Play Store rules suck and Larry Page is still a virgin. You can get the uncensored movies back by restoring a backup of VideoMix v1.1.1. Tip: use a backup app to switch between v1.1.1 and the latest version.

Movies and tv shows from many places

Movie and tv show streamer Ice Stream is dead. Nobody knows if it will resurrect or if it's gone forever, but the good news is that there's another app to stream or download video to your Android device. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it does the job.

VideoMix starts up with a screen full of links to movies (probably recently added, or most popular, or whatever), but it's easy to tap to the content you want through the icon bar on top of the start screen. If you know what you're looking for, tap the search icon in the top right of the screen. If you want to browse through the many movies and tv shows available, hit the icon left of the search icon to get a list of content divided in tabs for movies and tv shows, and more tabs for things like genres. VideoMix links to a truckload of movies and tv shows, and streams them directly to your favourite Android video player.

Sometimes VideoMix can't find a single file for the video you're looking for, but that doesn't happen very often. It usually finds many sources for every movie or tv show. The free version only lets you stream from one of the links it finds, but that's usually enough to play the file so there's no need to buy the app.

Want to know if there's a new episode for your favourite tv show out there? VideoMix comes with optional notifications to tell you if there's something new for you to watch

Companion apps

MX Player played every VideoMix file I threw at it. VideoMix won't download files to your memory card by itself, but if you want to download videos instead of streaming them you can send them from VideoMix to Advanced Download Manager.

Tip: if you want to have a choice between streaming and downloading, do NOT set a video app as default action when the "complete action using..." screen pops up. If you accidentally set a default action, you can fire up your app manager and clear the settings for VideoMix to get your choices back. VideoMix could make things easier by including the Android share menu. This way you could set a default video player and send links to the download manager anyway. Maybe they'll do it in a future update?

The VideoMix notifications for new episodes require some autostart triggers, which you can kill with apps like Gemini App Manager or ROM Toolbox. If you installed Advanced Download Manager, you may also want to switch its autostart triggers off.

Get it while supplies last

VideoMix is available in the Google Play Store. If it's no longer there, a Google search for "VideoMix apk" will get you a list of many copies of the app, but you never know what additional payload they may carry. So get a copy from the Play Store before Google kicks it out.

Video Mix (Google Play Store)

December 27 update: Google made VideoMix remove the adult category, because Play Store rules suck and Larry Page is still a virgin. You can get the uncensored movies back by restoring a backup of VideoMix v1.1.1. Tip: use a backup app to switch between v1.1.1 and the latest version.

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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Facebook snoops and sucks faster than ever


The number one Facebook complaint in the Google Play Store comments: it's sloooooooow!

But not anymore, because Facebook ditched HTML5 and went native. That's techspeak for: the app is a lot faster now. And it is faster indeed. Since Facebook for Android got rid of HTML5 its speed increased a lot.

Nope, I'm not the first to write about the speed increase. But most sites out there just copy what Facebook said about its update and only write about the speed increase. They ignore what Facebook does to your battery, your data, and your money, probably because they didn't bother to test the app before writing about it.

If you look beyond the Play Store description and Facebooks own press release you'll find that Facebook may have ditched HTML5, but it didn't ditch its bad habits.

Data and battery juice

When you get out of Facebook by hitting the back or home button you'd expect the app to keep quiet, unless you told it to sync by itself.

But Facebook doesn't keep quiet. When you switch all notifications and sync options off, it still goes online behind your back. The damage adds up to megabytes per day, which can be very expensive on international data roaming connections. Worse yet, Facebook won't allow your phone to enter deep sleep, so Facebook sucks your battery dry even when you're not using it.

You don't even have to launch the Facebook app for it, because it has so many autostart triggers that only a very good autostart manager can tame it.

What data goes from your phone to Facebook and back when you're not using Facebook? Your guess is as good as mine, because Facebook won't tell us what's going on in the background.

You could switch off all data roaming on your phone to keep Facebook from making your phone bill explode, but this also keeps apps like WhatsApp (cheap, hardly any data usage) offline. If you want to keep Facebook under control without killing other apps you have to freeze Facebook with apps like Titanium, use a firewall when roaming, silence it with a task killer after use (apps like Facebook are one of the reasons why Android task killers sometimes make sense), or simply get rid of it. If you want to use Facebook without the data-guzzling battery-draining official app you could simply use the mobile website, but then you'll have to scroll past the "go install our mobile app" ad everytime. Friendcaster is a good alternative. The way Friendcaster lets you swipe through its tabs beats what Facebooks own app has to offer.

Facebook (if you have unlimited data and don't care about battery life)

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Monday, 3 December 2012

Bad news: alternative apps CoboltFM and KLastFM are dead

Update 1: CoboltFM and KLastFM are really dead now. changed things for the worse and pulled the plug on free streaming for almost everyone. Believe it or not, most of the planet can't stream anymore even if they pay. refugees can still stream custom radio stations from Grooveshark with Dood's Music Streamer.

Update 2: Liquid Bear still plays radio on Android.

There's a problem with Not with itself, but with the music industry that imposes stupid rules as if the days of sheet music and 78 RPM never ended. is supposed to be a global music community, but if you want to listen to radio stations on your phone or tablet you'll find that is not so global anymore. Not because wants it, but because "recording industry" is an alien word that means greed in english.

A song that plays in Elzas (Germany) won't play 5 miles down the road in Alsace (France). What plays in Seattle doesn't play in Vancouver. It works in San Diego but not in Tijuana.

If you're in Germany, the UK, or the USA, plays on your mobile device. But if detects that your IP address is from one of the other 200 countries on the planet it only plays the sound of silence (and I don't mean that old song that your grandma listened to in Central Park). It won't even play if you have a paid subscription. For most of the planet, listening to on any mobile device is verboten.

The www is meant to be world wide. That's why there are Android apps out there that repair so you can listen on your mobile phone or tablet, no matter where in the world you are.

But then I received this email from

Changes to Radio

Hello, android underground.

We're writing you to let you know that there will soon be a change to radio that may affect you. Our stats show that you've listened to radio through an application that uses our old streaming protocol. On 1 December we will deprecate this old protocol, so in some applications radio will no longer work.

If you would like to continue enjoying Radio, consider upgrading to a new application or using

The Team

Would CoboltFM and KLastFM stop working?

It's the third of December now for half of the planet. In Asia, Australia, Africa, and most of Europe it's already the fourth. Both apps still play radio as if nothing happened. Maybe the old streaming protocol still works, maybe CoboltFM and KLastFM use the new protocol, maybe there's another reason why keeps singing on my Android phone.

Stay tuned.

Update 1: CoboltFM and KLastFM are really dead now. changed things for the worse and pulled the plug on free streaming for almost everyone. Believe it or not, most of the planet can't stream anymore even if they pay. refugees can still stream custom radio stations from Grooveshark with Dood's Music Streamer.

Update 2: Liquid Bear still plays radio on Android.

Play radio with CoboltFM and KLastFM, play Grooveshark with Dood's Music Streamer and TinyShark

Dood's Music Streamer has a Grooveshark radio function which is somewhat like radio
Liquid Bear

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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Addons Detector catches apps that spam your homescreen

As if ad banners, click walls, and notification spam are not enough, some apps fill your homescreen and browser bookmarks with links to their advertisers. And many apps do so without telling you in advance or asking for permission first.

If you install a couple of apps and find a bunch of icons leading to junk, it can be hard to find out which app polluted your homescreen and your bookmarks. Google should require full disclosure of all advertising and tracking in apps before you install them, and kick developers who fail to ask for your permission out of its Google Play Store. Unfortunately Google doesn't seem to care, so we need to find out what's lurking inside our apps by having a look ourselves.

That's why Addons Detector keeps its eyes open. It scans all your apps and tells you which banner farms they sleep with, which stats collectors they send your data to without asking first, and which permissions apps grab even though you don't want to give 'em everything they ask for.

And now Addons Detector tells you which apps are guilty of dumping spam links on your homescreens.

Addons Detector only detects malware, adware, spamware, and other junkware. It doesn't remove it. To get rid of anything you don't want you can either uninstall the offending apps, or tame them with firewalls, ad blockers, and permissions managers.

Addons Detector (Google Play Store)

Fight spam and scary permissions (rooted phone required):

AdAway (blocks ads in apps and websites)
LBE Privacy Guard (lets you control which permissions your apps get)
AFWall+ (firewall)

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Saturday, 1 December 2012

Google Calendar needs tasks and more integration with the rest of Android

You can make Android apps talk with each other through the share menu, but that's not always enough. The calendar app that ships with Android is a prime example of something that needs more integration with the rest of the stock apps.

There are plenty of task managers out there in the Google Play Store to remind you to buy milk and beer, clean the bathroom, buy a bag of weed for your grandma who was young in the sixties, and to finish the paper that you should have published six months ago.

Many of those task apps and to-do services tap into Google Tasks.

Google Tasks gets really intimate with Google Calendar in your web browser, so why do they behave like strangers on Android?

Back when I used an old Nokia with Symbian, the calendar app included tasks, birthdays, and just about everything else to which you could stick a date. Google should have a good look at this old calendar app, and learn from it.

There are more opportunities for integration. My contacts list stores birthdays, weddings, and other anniversaries. So why does the stock calendar app doesn't know anything about the dates stored in my stock contacts app?

Some phones are tightly integrated with Facebook. Wouldn't it be nice if you could import the birthdays of your Facebook contacts into your Google calendar with a single tap on a button? Or does Google deliberately leave this feature out to switch to Google+?

Speaking of Google+, now here's an example of something that should not get mixed in with everything. I don't want to sign up with Google+ just so I can tell you what I think about your app in the Google Play Store.

As with all things Android, integration is good, but it should always be optional and never required.
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