No comments Preamble
We all have this problem: heaps of passwords to remember. Heck, not just passwords, but lots and lots of personal and business data, stuff that is sensitive and could be used for identity theft if an unscrupulous person got hold of it.
There is an alternative. As I discovered recently, password managers have come a long way. Modern ones are not just for passwords, they can store everything. That is, they do not just have the traditional old "login:password" fields. Now, they are completely customisable, allowing you to add many types of fields, including, login, password, URL, email, phone number, pin, notes.
Furthermore, in phones, they integrate with the system and link automatically with the email client, phone dialer, sms messenger, etc.
So, we can "put all our eggs in one basket", have a single encrypted file with our entire identity in it, and one master password.
Typically, this file is saved online, using a Cloud service such as Dropbox or Google Drive, so you can access it from multiple phones and computers.
This is exciting, but isn't it also a bit scary? That master password has to be uncrackable. Unlike other passwords -- if you try to login to PayPal for example, you can only try so many times -- so it seems reasonable that a less-than-uncrackable password will suffice.
Then your uncrackable master password has to be something that you can remember. Actually, these are two opposing goals. Anyway, you can devise a reasonably uncrackable password of 8 or 9 characters, that you can train yourself to remember.
So, I read lots of reviews of the main password managers for Android in the marketplace. I settled on SafeInCloud, purchased for AU$6.49 from here:
A nice overview is to be found at the developer's website:
Actual usage is extremely easy, in fact a pleasure. It is a very good idea to spend some time thinking about what "templates" and "tags" you want.
For example, I created a "Contact" template, and assigned it a default "People" tag. This means that SafeInCloud has also become my people database, and a very nice job it does of that -- I tested the phone-number and email fields, they work great -- clicking a phone-number field brings up the Android dialer, with option to phone or sms. A URL can launch the internal browser.
I am saving to Google Drive, though it can also save locally -- so you can back it up to an SD card if you wish.
Regarding online logins, there are security issues with using the clipboard, as discussed here:
SafeInCloud gets around this by using a builtin browser. I tested this, it works fine.
There is auto-fill for Android Chrome, but only for Lollipop. I have KitKat. I presume that Lollipop has a more secure way of performing auto-fill.
Absolutely love it, however, I decided to stop using it, for now anyway. There is something that to me seems to be the achille's heel of SafeInCloud, and that is entry of the master password.
For security reasons, the program will time-out, or after having lost focus, and need the master password to be re-entered. So, I found myself typing in this master password many times ...which got me thinking, and worrying.
Malware can sniff the keyboard. Can you guarantee that you don't have such a sniffing malware in your phone or PC? This problem is discussed here:
SafeInCloud uses the Android keyboard, and this is what I identified as the achille's heel. I contacted the developer and asked if there is any plan to implement a "virtual keyboard" -- the developer Andrey promptly replied, yes, but he cannot say when.
There are some other password managers that do have a virtual keyboard, such as DataVault, Steganos, LastPass, KeePass2Android and Password Safe.
Oh, I should add that SafeInCloud supports the fingerprint scanner in Android and iPhones. If the developer can expand that to some of the other Android phones now emerging with fingerprint scanners, that will be great.
However, a master password is still required, and it is saved in the phone. So, the master password will still need to be entered once, via a keyboard. Then there is the security issue of it being stored, encrypted, in the phone.
The master password
I played around, trying to find that elusive master password, both uncrackable and rememberable. One problem is that different password checkers give different results.
Here is some discussion on password strength:
And here is the author's "zxcvbn" online checker:
-- this is the estimator that SafeInCloud uses.
I came up with a 9-character password that the zxcvbn checker reported will take centuries to crack. However, another checker reported it as weak. Hmmm. My password has a slightly repetitive pattern, non-phonetic, non-English, but I reckon that a cracker algorithm could hunt for such patterns, so I doubt the accuracy of the zxcvbn checker.
No comments Photo Studio Pro
I recently installed Photo Studio Pro. As I am writing reviews, I am purchasing the paid versions of apps, to unlock their full potential. There is also a Photo Studio free version. I paid AU$5.09 from the Google Play Store:
I bought it after reading lots of reviews, however, what I found is that it is somewhat lacking in "core functionality". That is, it is less of a paint editor, more of a photo editor.
I like to do low-level stuff, like convert between RGB and indexed colours, and posterizing to reduce the number of colours (and hence file size).
To my surprise, it doesn't even offer posterizing. Heaps of special effects, that might be interesting for those who want to post-process photos in a manner that I consider "superficial".
I am sure it is a great app for many people. But, I am still searching...
OfficeSuite 8 Pro
I came across what looks like an excellent paint/photo editor, named PhotoSuite 4, by MobiSystems. Then I noticed that they also offer an office suite, OfficeSuite 8. The docs on the free version state that if you purchase the pro version, you also get PhotoSuite. Quoting:
ALSO AVAILABLE AS PART OF OFFICESUITE PREMIUM:
• Security features - work with password protected files
• Convert PDF to Word, Excel, or ePub
• Track changes with multiple author support
• QuickPDF Scanner - easily scan documents and images with your camera
• PhotoSuite Professional - MobiSystems' powerful photo editing app
• QuickWrite predictive keyboard - quicken your typing based on usage patterns
• Microsoft Compatibility Font Pack - view documents the way they're meant to be seen with officially licensed office fonts
• Spell check - make sure your important documents are error free.
Well, there is no "premium" for sale, only "pro", so I bought that, for AU$12.56. Immediately after installing, it popped up a window saying that the Microsoft Compatibility Font Pack should be installed to get proper compatibility with Microsoft Office, so I went along with that, costing me an extra AU$12.58.
You can guess what is coming next -- PhotoSuite is not included. So, I bought it, despite beginning to think these people are rip-off artists. It cost AU$6.40:
So misleading, downright sneaky I reckon.
Regarding OfficeSuite Pro, I experimented with editing a .docx file. Yeah, it works, however the UI is the typical clumsy thing I have come to expect with most Android apps.
There are some things that make it just plain frustrating to use, such as the lack of precise control over zoom factor -- you have to fiddle about with finger-pinching to try and get it right.
There is not HTML WYSIWYG, which rules it out for me. Yes, you can open a HTML file, but it just opens as a text file.
Softmaker Textmaker HD does support HTML WYSIWYG. Also, the UI is nowhere near the usability of Softmaker Office (and Textmaker) HD.
PhotoSuite 4 Pro
This app is quite good. Apart from the feeling that I wanted to stay away from MobiSystems, I found myself liking PhotoSuite 4 Pro.
Ah, it has "posterize", and it works very well. I cropped an image, posterized it, and was able to select percentage of colour reduction, I chose 50%, and saved it. That's nice, it actually has "Save as..." -- an obvious thing that apps should have, sadly lacking in so many Android apps.
Anyone know of another Android paint editor that does posterize? I have not yet found one that will convert RGB to indexed colours (which is another technique for reducing file size).
1 Comment Puppy Forum member 'don570' posted about Andromium OS:
Link to here:
Andromium OS website:
I watched one of the videos. The developer mentioned that Chromecast can be used, however is laggy (I can confirm that!). He has posted this overview of MHL:
Also this blog about Chromecast:
My Mlais M52 has OTG but does not support MHL. This means that I am definitely on the lookout for a phone that does, and thanks to the above blog post, which clarifies the capabilities of the different MHL standards, I want MHL version 3.0.
So where does this leave Ubuntu Touch OS? Interesting question. Canonical has been reinventing the wheel for the last couple of years, whereas Andromium OS seems to be leveraging on what already exists. Furthermore, Andromium OS is already available, from the Google Play Store.
I will be testing it on my phone of course. Will report back!
2Comments The agenda of the "traveling light" category of my blog is to explore means of reducing the volume and weight while traveling. The type of traveling I engage in includes backpacking in the wilderness, to international jet travel.
Regarding the latter, I travel with a carry-on bag only. On previous occasions I have also carried a laptop, however my objective is to totally remove the need for a laptop, replaced with a smartphone only.
Is it feasible to do all of one's computing on only a smartphone? I need to do a lot of keyboard input, plus a bit of graphics, so the input devices do need to be practical/productive/usable, and the screen size/layout needs to be usable.
The short answer to this question is "yes!".
I have been putting together a smartphone "travel kit", consisting of all the bits and pieces that I will need to take. For sometime I was searching for the "ideal" Bluetooth mouse, and found it recently, reported here:
The Logitech T630 mouse continues to be a very pleasant experience to use. I never have any problem with pairing dropping out. If the phone goes to sleep, it is only necessary to move the mouse and the phone wakes up and the pointer appears on-screen. If I power-off the mouse, the phone recognises that and enables the internal keyboard, then power-on the mouse and the phone recognises and brings back the mouse-pointer and disables the internal keyboard.
HB-2000 Bluetooth keyboard
The next item I definitely need is a keyboard. I need to do a lot of typing while traveling, and on-screen typing is too painful. The keyboard has to be small and light, and have a USB-rechargeable battery, designed for Android, and have a micro-USB socket (not a mini-USB socket designed for Apple phones).
There are suitable, but expensive, keyboards from Logitech and Microsoft, however, I discovered one that ticks all the boxes and is very cheap, only about AU$24, or US$18, the HB-2000:
No problem pairing with my phone, and it is a delight to use. The keys have a very pleasant click-action. Yes, the keyboard is small, however I quickly adjusted to it -- it probably helps that I don't have large chunky hands.
I tested what happens if I leave it alone for awhile. The phone goes to sleep, and pressing a key does not awaken it. However, jiggling the mouse does awaken the phone, and restored the current app. The keyboard itself sleeps after 25 minutes inactivity, however a single key-press wakes it up after 3 seconds.
The complete kit
So, what does the complete laptop-replacement look like? Here it is:
The holder for the phone I bought from here:
...notice the knobs on the front stick up a bit too high. It is plastic, and I might cut it down a bit. Or, checkout some other foldable holders.
Using the kit
I have Softmaker Textmaker HD installed on this phone. It is only a 5.5 inch screen, and the Softmaker Office HD suite is intended for tablets, however, with the mouse I find the 5.5 inch screen very usable. This is a snapshot of Textmaker HD on my phone:
There is one absolutely marvelous thing that I like about using Textmaker HD with mouse, and that is support for mouse-over highlighting. This is something that we have taken for granted for decades on the desktop, but is lacking with the touch interfaces.
Moving the mouse pointer over any clickable field/button/area/link and it prelights. The Office HD suite supports prelighting, unfortunately, most other Android apps don't -- they do work with the mouse, but have no support for anything mouse-like such as mouse-over. On the desktop of course we also have tooltips that can popup on mouse-over, which the Office HD suite does not support, probably no Android app does.
I can type away, and be just about as productive as when I am using my laptop. Obviously though, a 5.5 inch screen is a tiny thing to have to squint at. It does work, Textmaker HD does a good job of adjusting its UI to the available space, however I reckon a slightly bigger phone would tweak the trade offs to be just right for me.
My Mlais M52, used in these snapshots, I purchased a month or so ago, see here:
The 5.5 inch screen is 720p. I also own a 7 inch OrientPhone, however, I have found it to be impractical to carry in a pocket. Even a waist belt pouch is impractical.
So, I have narrowed it down: I think that the "ideal" phone has a 1080p screen about 6 to 6.3 inches, with narrow bezels, and hopefully not more than about 180 grams. Of course, I also want dual-sim and SD card slot.
If I am staying somewhere with a TV, I can use its screen. This can be done two ways, either with a Chromecast or an MHL adaptor. I reported on Chromecast here:
I would prefer to use MHL I think, which is just a simple adaptor that plugs into the micro-USB socket on the phone, and allows simultaneous charging of the phone. It also requires a HDMI cable. Not too much extra stuff to carry. Note, my M52 does not support MHL, which is another reason to consider upgrading sometime.
I have traveled to India many times, and intend to go back there soon. I stay in very cheap accommodation, and I always worried when I went out and left my laptop behind in the room. No more. In future, I will take the phone with me, in an inside pocket. Keyboard and mouse are items that can be sacrificed, easily replaceable.
This leads me onto another topic, how to carry the phone, passport and other documents securely on your person at all times, never leaving them behind. I have designed, and made, a special vest to be worn inside a shirt, however this is a topic for a later report!
Regarding a slightly bigger phone, yes, that is on the agenda. There are some cheap phones that come close to the required specs, however, I am hoping that later in 2015 there will be one that really "hits the mark" for me, particularly regarding weight.
I might as well ramble on a bit more... in my dotage (I'm 65), my computing needs have become simpler ...just some writing, a bit of graphics... to the point where I am even thinking that this phone travel kit could become my only computer system, even when sitting at home at my desk. Probably with MHL and small TV/monitor.
If you have any thoughts about the potential of this computing travel kit, note that user-comments are turned off for this blog, due to security problems, however, you can send me feedback via the "Contact Me" link at top of the page, and I will consider posting it as a comment here.
3Comments TouchDraw for Android is a vector drawing app. I purchased version 1.10.11, it cost me $10.99 from the Google Play Store. This is a mini-review, after just a few days usage.
This snapshot is on a tablet screen:
Using it for the first time, I chose to create a new drawing, but when I saved, there was no option to give it a name, nor where to save it. It just got saved as "Untitled Drawing.t2d" in a default location, /storage/sdcard0/Android/data/com.elevenworks.touchdraw/files/Documents/.
I found that the file can be renamed afterward, but could not see anywhere to move it into a folder. It seems that I have to create the folder first, then choose to create a new drawing ...ah, this works, but still gets saved as "Untitled Drawing" and have to rename it afterward.
...another ah, I found that I can create a folder, then drag the file into it.
Still seems a bit awkward. OK, I get the beforehand folder creation, but would like to be able to name the file up-front.
In Android Setup, I have "Default Write Disk" set as the "SD card", that is, sdcard1, my plugged-in 64GB card. Note, Root Explorer reports my SD-card as "sdcard1" and the internal phone memory as "sdcard0".
Despite this, TouchDraw has defaulted to saving in the internal memory, and that can't be changed. That's a negative.
When I want to open a drawing, it is good to see that TouchDraw recognizes the existence of Root Explorer, and offers that to find the drawing to open.
However, there is still the problem of being unable to save to my SD card in the first place. I think it would have been best if TouchDraw had recognised the Setup option to set default write disk, but at least the Preferences in TouchDraw should have an option to move and/or set the default save path.
I do understand the problems with saving to SD card with KitKat, though in my case it is rooted so no problem. But even when not rooted, KitKat does allow saving to the SD card in prescribed folders, and Lollipop eases that situation further.
TouchDraw works with my Logitech T630 mouse. very nice, but there are things that I would like to do with the mouse, that I can't.
The Preferences has the option of "Pen mode", which looks great if you have a Samsung Note with S-pen. But, a mouse is not recognised. it would be nice if there could be a "Mouse mode", maybe to work like Pen mode, and recognise some more mouse functions, such as up-down and left-right scrolling, middle-button-click.
The proposed Mouse mode could also have the option of locking out most finger operations, just like Pen mode. Though, as with Pen mode, finger pinching has to be retained.
That's another thing, I would prefer zoom factor to be in the menu, as well as having finger pinch. When using a mouse, it is nice if everything can be done by the mouse.
The documentation states that TouchDraw is able to open and save to SVG format.
Having said that, I run into problems immediately. I just want to export the file as SVG, however, it seems I can't -- I can only "share" it as SVG (to gmail, etc). Or I can "Save to Gallery", but only as PNG or JPEG.
Huh, why can't I export to SVG locally? Or for that matter, export any format wherever I want locally? Exporting PNG and JPEG to the Gallery only is extremely restrictive.
I solved the problem of not being able to export to the SD card, by installing Send to SD card, as reported in a comment posted here:
This is a generic solution. Any app that can share a file can use this to save it to the SD card.
Good, now back onto SVG specifically. In TouchDraw, I created a very simple drawing, just one rectangle, filled with red. I exported it to the SD card, and checked it, looked at the text in the file, yep OK, that's definitely an SVG file. Then, in Root Explorer, I clicked on the SVG file, expecting it to open in TouchDraw.
Well, TouchDraw attempted to, but gave an error:
Import Drawing Error
You did not pick a file type that TouchDraw knows how to import.
Huh? TouchDraw is supposed to be able to import SVG!!!
On a Linux system I use InkscapeLite to do simple things, such as create a composition of one or more imported bitmap images, with overlays such as text, and exporting the result as a bitmap file.
This sort of thing I can do with ease in TouchDraw.
So yeah, it has what I want, and basically, I am pleased with it. However, as pointed out in this mini-review, I have identified room for improvement.
Mouse support (lack thereof), and extreme inflexibility of local saving, are two of them -- I have read user feedback, and it is good to read that the developer is responsive to user reports -- so I will submit my suggestions!
I do though, find myself wishing that Softmaker had developed a drawing module for their Office HD suite! -- that is a beautiful user interface, proof that a traditional UI works exceptionally well in a phone/tablet with S-pen or mouse.
For example, Textmaker has the traditional "File" menu, with "New...", "Open...", "Close", "Save", "Save as...", "Save all", "Properties...", "File manager...", "Send...", "Print...", "Export...", etc, so logical, simple, and all choices provided for maximum productivity.
Itemising some of my wish-list for the developer:
1. Respect the Android Settings > Storage > DEFAULT WRITE DISK > SD card. Or, at least have the option to change saving to the SD card in Preferences.
2. Recognise first-time save and offer to enter a filename.
3. Add "Mouse mode" in Preferences.
4. Fix importing SVG.
This is the Google Play Store:
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