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A cumulative review of useful apps and settings for Android Oreo and Pie

Some sections below may be specific to two phone systems, the Samsung TouchWiz version of Android, on a Note 9 SM-N960U1, and SlimKat on a Note 4

Related Article: 2020: Mobile Computing

Android Oreo/Pie Setup

Android Apps

Call Blocking

T-Mobile Scam Block
Disable T-Mobile Voice Messages
Android Do Not Disturb
Full Voice Mailbox

Overview of the ideal setup:
Incoming call → T-Mobile hangs up on those that match their scam list → Those not on my contact list go to voicemail → Voice greeting says to send me a text message since there is no ability to leave a voicemail.

The whopping majority of my spam calls come through my cell phone number, rather than my google voice number. A long time ago, I think I enabled a setting in Google to filter out spam calls? Anyway, they seem to do a pretty good job.

In Android you can reject all calls not in your contact list:
Settings → Notifications → Do Not Disturb
Make sure all notifications are set to hidden, and everything not call related is on the exceptions list.

The Do Not Disturb way of doing things is a PITA because you have to whitelist notifications for EVERYTHING. This means going into settings for each app and selecting “Ignore Do not disturb”.

If you can find an app that simply blocks all calls from numbers not in your contact list, that would be so much better, and you can avoid the Do Not Disturb feature of Android.

Now the situation is that you end up with a bunch of robocall voice messages.

Log into → profile → blocking. There is an option for Scam Block! I found on the same page, that the Scam ID option was already enabled. My phone has been displaying this, so I already know that it works fairly well. There were other blocking options there as well.

Since I'm going to be using a Google Voice number as my primary number, I decided to disable the ability to leave voice messages on the T-Mobile number. For that I had to call T-Mobile, a few times, until I got transferred to a tech department who knew what they are doing. Now if a spam call gets through T-Mobile filtering, they won't be able to leave a message.

Not my ideal, where callers listen to a custom greeting, saying: “Voicemail is disabled, please send a text message instead”. Instead, the phone rings and rings practically forever. I didn't have luck asking for voicemail without the ability to leave a message.

Calling others, I've been told their mailbox was full, which if left intentionally full would work to the desired effect. Something to look into…

Another rather lame option to consider, is built into the Samsung dialer, but it only works for calls originating from “unknown” number, which for Samsung means calls without a number in the caller ID:
samsung dialer → settings → block numbers → block unknown callers
Remember samsung dialer must be the default calling app.

Web Browsers

Firefox (Fennec)
Kiwi Browser (original location now at web archive)
Samsung Internet
Puffin Browser

You need multiple browsers because if a website doesn't work on one, you can try the other. This is true even if you are using Chrome. One reason for this is that mobile versions of websites are lame.

Chrome is great because it syncs across devices, and everything gets stored on Google with the rest of your stuff. Integrated services can provide better tools, are easier to manage, and more convenient to access. There are privacy implications, but I'm willing to compromise to some extent.

I love using Pale Moon browser so much on my laptop that I have yet to give in to the Google realm. Pale Moon is not available on Android, which is why I have tried to replicate some of the integration I want by other means (described in sections below).

There is yet another reason I don't want to use Chrome on Android. It's the same reason I stopped using Phoenix Mail Roundabout and started using Thunderbird. Lack of extensions. Given the biggest extension ecosystem is for the desktop version of Chrome, I looked for mobile browsers based on chromium that support extensions. Surprisingly, one of them was Samsung Internet, at least when it comes to ad blocking extensions. I also really dig the dark mode on Samsung Internet.


I found Kiwi Browser, which supports extensions, and have been using it as my default Android browser. I currently have the following extensions installed:
uBlock Origin
I Don't Care About Cookies
Clickable Links
Note Anywhere
Save as MHT
Zoom for Chrome (site by site text size)
Bypass Paywalls
History by Date

Tampermonkey is running:
Straight Google, though it only works upon asking for the desktop version of google results.
Remove google “people also search for”
Remove facebook sponsored posts
Facebook social friend tracker
Resize youtube windows

Kiwi supported playing Youtube in the background, like many other major browsers, but it was temporarily banned from the play store for having this feature. I reactivated background play with this extension. Update: A workaround is no longer needed, with Kiwi supporting background YouTube.


Another alternative web browser I use, because it makes some sites display and function correctly on a phone, is Puffin browser. The Puffin server processes a website and delivers it in a phone-friendly way. Sites that are CPU intensive are more manageable. Also for sites that use flash (flash isn't available on phones, when I checked years ago). You are also more likely to get the desktop version of a website with Puffin. I loathe mobile versions of websites, and Puffin is great at convincing a site that I am a desktop, when the site refuses to honor the request for the desktop version.


Other browsers that support extensions include Yandex browser and Firefox. However, Yandex has a somewhat scary privacy policy. Firefox is slow on Android compared to Chromium based browsers. A new version called Fenix is coming out to deal with the slowness. Difference between Fenix and Fennec.

Ice Raven, based on Firefox, I think supports extension out of the box like Kiwi.


Updates 202201:

  • “If using Firefox for Android Nightly you are able to install any extension listed on (AMO) in Nightly. This override was created for extension developers and advanced users who are interested in testing for compatibility, so it’s not easily accessible.” source
  • On regular Firefox (not nightly), you can also create a collection of addons to install by using a secret method.

Update 202401:

I'm running an old version of Kiwi based on Chromium 112 because version 116 doesn't display desktop versions of websites. I'm sure Google had something to do with it.

Content Blocker

uBlock Origin

For blocking advertising, malware, and some other optional features available via filterlists (see page about uBlock Origin). Adaway and Blokada work system-wide rather than just for the web browser. Everyone on Reddit and XDA seem to prefer Adaway if they are rooted. That's what I've been using on SlimKat. Since I don't have root access on the Snapdragon Note 9, I started using Blokada. It uses a local VPN instead of the hosts file. There is some consensus that the local VPN method consumes more resources than the hosts file, and that seems true to me, but I wonder how big of a difference it is.

I tried for SABS and then Adhell, but Samsung stopped providing the developer license to make these work. I arrived at the scene just a week after Samsung closed the door on getting free developer license keys.

Update 2021-11: Since I was getting YouTube ads using only Blokada, I also started using uBlock Origin with Kiwi browser. Have had good results with both. uBlock Origin has more resources for blocking ads because it has access to the web browser's engine, while Blokada can only use a hosts file (ip address blocking).

Download Manager

Download Navi

I can't get Kiwi to ask me where to download, but I can set an external download manager. So I found a free and open source option without ads.



VirusTotal is an online service.

Need to install an app that's from a dubious source? Upload the apk to VirusTotal, and they'll check the file against practically every antivirus software in existence.

How to tell if it's a false-positive on VirusTotal? I used to get false positives for harmless key generators and software patchers. The antivirus made them sound scary when they were harmless, because pirated software is a threat to corporate reputation and profits.

Titanium Backup

Titanium Backup (needs root)

Useful because you need backups of previous versions of apps. Sometime after updating, you find you don't like the newer version of an app. With Titanium Backup you can revert to a previous version. Also, apps disappear from the Google Play Store, so it's good to have a backup for migrating to another device.

Titanium Backup can also disable apps so that there is no sign of them existing in your phone user interface. The files are there, but Android doesn't know. So of course, they don't run in the background. Disabled apps can be easily enabled again, without going through the more lengthy process of having to set them up (installation, introduction screens, account login, settings, etc).

Android Oreo has an infrastructure to keep apps from running in the background, as a part of battery conservation. However, it's not the same as Titanium's disabling. For example, in trying to determine if features you are encountering are part of an app, or if they are part of Oreo. Also, I can't keep certain apps from running, like Samsung Bixby. I don't think I'll ever like that Samsung doesn't let me control all of my device. Because Titanium Backup needs root, I can't use it on my Note 9.

App Cloner

App Cloner

When you need to run two or more copies of the same app. Like different identities of WhatsApp, Facebook, etc. Or maybe the latest Kiwi browser version 116 has terrible web page formatting compared to 112 (maybe because there is a need to mess up mobile to sell more laptops, or maybe 116 is for the latest android and doesn't work well with android pie).


Nova Launcher
Slim Launcher

I was using Slim Launcher on SlimKat. On the new phone, I tried out Samsung Experience Home (TouchWiz). I like Slim Launcher's simplicity best, but now like the ability to use folders in the apps drawer. Folders in TouchWiz pop up to full screen, which makes for lengthy finger travel. Slim Launcher uses a mini-folder that pops up right under your finger, but these are not available in the apps drawer.

I tried Nova Launcher, and it had the best of both Slim Launcher and TouchWiz, except that it has mad complicated settings. I ended choosing Nova Launcher. Slim Launcher still makes sense, if I didn't have so many Samsung apps I'm not using (that I can't uninstall). To keep them from hogging up space in the apps drawer, I throw all Samsung apps into their own folder. The same for the Google apps. I've also taken to putting apps that I have placed on the home screen, into their own folder in the apps drawer (the folder is conveniently named “Placed”). That way, the only apps directly viewable in the apps drawer are 1) not available in the home screen, 2) not a samsung app 3) not a google app.

In looking for a link to provide for Slim Launcher, I found version 1.2. I have been using version 1.0. Maybe they added the folders-in-the-app-drawer feature?

Blue Light Filter

Android Settings

Good for keeping with your Circadian Rhythm. I use Twilight on SlimKat, but the functionality has been added to Android, so I'm using that on Oreo.

Notification Customization

Light Flow
Android Settings → Accessibility → Advanced → Notification Reminders

Often I get a message or phone call, and I don't hear it. Or I have a calendar reminder, and I don't hear it. I needed repeating notifications, that would sound or vibrate until I acknowledged them. I use an app called Light Flow. It can set custom repeating vibrate, sound, and light notifications for anything I've thrown at it, including messaging, email, calendar, or other phone events. Light flow is complicated to use because of how much you can customize the notifications.

An easier way is to use Android accessibility settings. It's organized into accessibility portion of settings because obviously if you don't hear the first notification you must have a hearing impairment.

Clipboard History and Actions

Clipboard Actions
Native Clipboard

Often I'll clip several parts of a document, and then paste them later without having to go back and forth between apps. I recently found “Clipboard Actions”, an app that combines a clipboard manager with actions. Actions can be call, translate, map, speak, share, search, or QR code. For example, it's helpful when I write in Spanish and can't remember a word, to write the English word, then highlight it and use Clipboard Actions to translate it to Spanish.

On SlimKat, I've been using Native Clipboard. Double tap in any field brings up the clipboard history panel over the keyboard, which you can dismiss when you're done.

Smart Silent

Smart Silent

When I put my phone on vibrate or silent mode, it asks me for how long I want it to stay that way. As an option, if someone calls, they get a message saying my phone is silent, and that they can override silent mode by sending the sms “urgent”.

Play Store Alternatives

Aptoide Lite
Aurora Droid, Aurora Store

F-Droid was forked from Aptoide:

F-Droid is a reputable provider for open source software. However, I only end up using Aptoide. The main thing I like about Aptoide, is the ability to download older versions of apps. On Google Play, you only get the latest version, or, the app you want has been taken down for whatever reason. Aptoide doesn't ban apps. Aptoide has a “lite” version of their app with less features and smaller size. Apps with a green checkmark are safe, while others come from unofficial libraries.

Reddit discussion on different app stores:


NOAA Weather
Hyperlocal Weather

I love the chart based weather from the unofficial NOAA weather app. I plot temperature, probability of precipitation, wind speed, cloud amount, and humidity. It's not the default setting, to launch into the chart, but you can change that. Then there's a button on the lower right of the screen. Sneaky.

I also use a weather app that focuses on tracking weather in the next one or two hours, and gives a forecast down to each minute. Initially, I used SkyMotion, and was very sad when it was bought out by AccuWeather. AccuWeather adopted the technology and now display the results in their own app, but the Accuweather app is bloated and less visually pleasant than the former SkyMotion. I'm currently trying out Dark Sky.

Update 20200804: Dark Sky was great. It got bought out by Apple, and in the spirit of uncompetitive practice, it is no longer available on Android. Fortunately, AccuWeather has improved. The minutecast is right there when you open the app. No widget for the home screen, but I can live without it.

Update 2021-10: Having moved to a faraway land without a lot of weather stations, minute by minute weather forecast is impossible. However, the technology used by Dark Sky, which can give a decent forecast with limited data, is available in another app called Hyperlocal Weather. At least until 2023, when Apple will deactivate the Dark Sky API.

Update 2023-06: Forecast Advisor tracks data from weather service providers and can inform you which is the most accurate weather API for a location inside USA. Although not all APIs are tracked, including Dark Sky, which has now been integrated into Apple's Weatherkit Data Service. Hyperlocal Weather transitioned from Dark Sky to Weatherkit.

Dark Sky api still exists as the Pirate Weather api and can be used on See who is using pirate weather. Also available for Home Assistant (which is not for joe blow user). There is one mention on reddit that NOAA Weather & Tides by Pandamoni uses the Pirate Weather API.


K-9 Mail

2021: After a few years, Google finally fixed the super small gmail font in an update. To read historical gripe click here

I've only used the gmail app, and recently downloaded the K-9 Mail app. It's hard to accept that it doesn't have conversation view. It sort of does, but your messages aren't included. Only messages that exist in the same folder are included in the thread. I already have given up with Thinderbird's conversation view (desktop software) for the same reason.

In Thunderbird on desktop, I drag and drop messages into folders, keeping my inbox clear of everything but individual emails that still needs further correspondence. In doing the same with K-9, some of the messages in the “conversation view” of K-9 will be missing messages I've sorted. For gmail conversation view, it doesn't matter where the messages are located, they still show up in the conversation. I appreciate the difference between Thunderbird and Android Gmail, and end up using both.

I'm just thankful I never started using Google's alternative product “Inbox by Gmail”. It was just discontinued. Reference: Killed by GoogleGoogle Cemetery.

You don't have to pick only one app. They will all sync adeptly, so you can have the same account on all your email apps, and on a whim, choose whichever you want to read your messages on. Text too small in the gmail app? Open K-9.


DW Contacts
Nextcloud + DAVx⁵ (with Groups as contact field)

I wanted an app that would display contacts by group, rather than one huge list. I can't remember people's names so groups are essential. Google contacts on the web has a grouping feature that is also available on the phone, but the stock apps open up to the huge list. The groups can be accessed, but they are an obscure setting.

Google contacts seems to have insidious system groups like “Friends”, “Family”, “Coworkers”, etc, that cannot be deleted: “…the five contact groups that you can't delete, rename, or change, and the one contact group that drives a lot of office app veterans nuts” 1 The one contact group that drives a lot of office app veterans nuts, is the “My Contacts” group. Google got rid of these system groups on the web side of Google Contacts, but they still seem to exist under the hood, except for “My Contacts”, which is now called, simply, “Contacts”. Fortunately, the “Contacts” group is *not* mixed in with your own groups.

Even if they don't show on the web, I know these system groups continue to exist, because they display in contact apps on Android, against your will. I hope the Android apps update to hide these groups as well.

Any contacts you create are automagically added to the “My Contacts” group. I thought I would use this as a marker for contacts that I had not yet categorized into other groups.

In my past attempts to remove people from the “My Contacts” group, within DW Contacts and another group manager I can't remember, I ended up deleting contacts with no ability for recovery. It is not completely straightforward to me how this happens, since not all contacts I removed from “My Contacts” were deleted. Google contacts was known for having an “unpredictable nature”. On the Samsung and Google apps, removing people from the “My Contacts” group is not possible, probably for good reason.

I found a guy at XDA who was also trying to delete the system groups on his phone, since they no longer exist on the web interface. Tony026 came up with a solution, not to delete the system groups, because that is impossible. Instead to have consistency between system groups on the phone and on the web:

“I found a solution .. on your PC open these groups using the following links
and then you can add a contact there .. When any contact is inserted to one of these groups, the group becomes visible on both android and web.”

Google has now introduced another weird group called “Other Contacts”. “Other Contacts” consists of:

You can keep it from auto-populating by changing that Gmail setting. Not much you can do about what it does with G+ Circles. And make sure all of your contacts have labels. source

To add insult to injury, Google has also added a “Starred in Android” group, which I have not found a way to exterminate.

Years later, in the present, I attempted to reproduce the problem of disappearing contacts (and first made a backup). I added two contacts, then removed them from the group “My Contacts”. One was permanently deleted. Since I can beta test all I want, but can't fix the issue myself, I didn't try to further find out what's going on. Either that, or my pure disgust keeps me from going forward.

In Gingerbread, I used an app called Contacts Groupu. It's still my favorite, in terms of the user interface as it appears in Gingerbread. This app loaded in Kitkat or Oreo, but doesn't scale correctly, crashes often, or loads menus off the screen, so I had to search for something else.

In Kitkat, I've have been using DW Contacts. DW Contacts has an annnoying habit of permanently deleting my contacts, when moving them from one group to another. So I don't use it for that purpose. It also has a bad case of featuritis and settings fragmentation. I keep it because it has a tabbed interface, whereas the others, if you go into a group, you have to go out of the group to see the other groups.

Since I don't always keep up with putting new contacts into groups, I use a simple app called RecentlyAddedContacts, which lists contact in reverse chronological order. The stock Samsung contacts app does this too, sometimes.

There are surprisingly few contact apps that start up by displaying the groups first. In looking for a DW replacement, I found Contact Groups, GroupManager, and Live Groups. My goal is to see if one of these can move contacts in and out of groups without deleting any. Another even more incredibly rare feature, is the ability to move contacts between *accounts*, from one group to another. One such app is called Copy Contacts.

Developers have told me that working with the Android contact database is incredibly difficult. Thanks Google.

Below I compare the group manager apps I found. I decided to keep four on my phone, 2 extra in case of the need for troubleshooting, and in case their developers improve their apps.

copy contacts - keep

1+ simple interface
2- not a group manager
3+ sole purpose in life is to move/copy contacts between accounts

dw contacts - keep

1+ tabbed interface
2+ can move people between groups as a one step process
3- pretends to move people between accounts, but instead it creates a new group by the same name in the current account
4+ can remove the “my contacts” tag from contacts
- teases you by being able to delete the my contacts group, only to have it return on the next sync
- deletes my contacts? maybe moving as a one step process is responsible?
- settings nightmare and bloated (includes unwanted dialer I have to work at to disable). May be good for someone that wants all the added features from the integration of the two? But not for me.

live groups - keep

1+ beautiful interface
2- moving contacts between groups is a multiple step process
3- pretends to add contacts from a different account to a group, but the change is only in the local contacts database: the change doesn't propagate to the web
4+ can remove the “my contacts” tag from contacts
- removing people from a group is somewhat clumsy, as the entire addressbook is loaded in the dialog

contacts groupu - not for oreo

1- interface doesn't scale, everything too big
2+ can move people between groups as a one step process
3- pretends to add contacts from a different account to a group, but the change is only in the local contacts database: the change doesn't propagate to the web
- crashing on kitkat and oreo
- group context menu goes off-screen on oreo

groupmanager - keep

2- moving contacts between groups is a multiple step process
3- can't move people between accounts
4+ can remove the “my contacts” tag from contacts

mad contacts groups - no

2- moving contacts between groups is a multiple step process
3- gives a cryptic warning message about how moving contacts between accounts will not be synced to other devices, and do I want to proceed
4- cannot remove the “my contacts” tag from contact
As a matter of fact, all group organization doesn't propagate to the web: they are only local

contact groups - no

1- ugly
2- moving contacts between groups is a multiple step process
3- can't move people between accounts
- no possibility to hide system groups, yet does not show the system group “my contacts”

gcontact - no

2+ can move people between groups as a one step process
3- pretends to add contacts from a different account to a group, but the change is only in the local contacts database: the change doesn't propagate to the web
- no way to tell which label belongs to which account
- no multi-select
- only move, no copy (can't add a label)
- ordered by first or last name, randomly!

contacts plus - no

2- can't move contacts between groups

going rogue - hell yeah

I already have my own email server, although I can't use it because Google labels anything not from Google as spam. I also have my own password server. So why not have the server manage contacts as well? All this BS with my contacts getting auto-deleted just by trying to move them between Google groups, is more than likely better managed by FOSS sources.

Aha! I'm already using NextCloud, and it has Caldav (calendar) and Carddav (contacts) plugins for this. I am using Google Voice, however, so how is that going to work? … Asterisk, an open source VOIP? NextCloud also has an installable WebRTC app for chat, video and audio conferencing.

I may try rogue contacts in the future. Wait… If I understand correctly, even if I get contact sync going between my own server and phone, I still need one of the above apps to view the contacts. Does NextCloud Carddav have contact groups?

Update 20210124:

A couple of weeks ago, while using Google Contacts sync, contacts were disappearing from my phone, but not my online account, and I posted to Google support here. Then contacts started disappearing outright. I saw Google had the issue of disappearing contacts since 2019 with 1778 upvotes. That was the last straw, I got motivated to go rogue.

After years of suffering through several rounds of contacts disappearing on my phone, I recovered the latest loss from a restore point (thanks Nextcloud → Settings → Backup Contacts), and migrated contacts storage and sync to Nextcloud (installed on shared Hostinger account). What a PITA Google has become. Feels good to be free. Using DW Contacts for everything. Groups works great as a contact field. No longer using Copy Contacts.

Google Voice and Gmail still show all my contacts, even though I deleted all contacts associated with Google account. I made sure to deactivate sync for Google Contacts, including gmail and duo, so Google can't mess things up.

But Google still found a way to mess things up. Even though sync was disabled, Google new that I deleted the Google-version of my contacts on my phone, and therefore deleted the contacts on the web end, such that no contacts appear at aka A$$holes. I posted about the issue at google support forum. No response. Not even some useless comment from the fanboys.

list order malfunctioning: Recently Added Contacts (this old version is free)


Samsung Calendar
Business Calendar v1

The stock calendar on Gingerbread and KitKat left a lot to be desired. I used Jorte for a while, then switched to Business Calendar. I never upgraded to Business Calendar version 2 because it had more features I didn't need. The Samsung Calendar on Oreo works well enough, and is simpler. The only thing I miss from Business Calendar, is the ability to create a new event by copying an existing one. I don't have to retype all the details like time, location, notes, etc. I may go back to Business Calendar.

Update: I went back to Business Calendar. I added calendar events from Facebook to my Google calendar, and for some reason, the stock Oreo Samsung Calendar isn't displaying the correct time for those events. They don't have GMT correction for my time zone, so an event at 5pm shows at 9pm. In Business Calendar, and in the default calendar on my other phone running SlimKat, it works fine. Apparently, this is a Facebook issue that has been around since the beginning of time, unfixed by Facebook, and this one Samsung Calendar didn't get the memo. One clue I got, was the time zone setting in Google Calendar (that I can't change because it is read only).

One thing I wanted, that I could never find, is to attach contacts into a calendar event. Not necessarily to notify them or add the event to their calendar. For me, it just makes sense because you may have their address on hand, or whatever details are in the contact info, and you don't have to enter the details into the calendar entry. DW Contacts has a way to do this, but my brain isn't used to opening the contacts app when I want to create a new calendar event.


Text file stored on NextCloud

Update: My old versions of Gtasks and TeamTasks have quit being functional with Google, in that I cannot sort the list items reliably. Perhaps the latest Gtasks has been adapted to the new Google API. Whatever changes Google made, they probably weren't necessary. In any case, I switched to using a text file that I store on Nextcloud, running on my shared-hosting server. No more worries of tasks being a future addition to Google Cemetery or Killed by Google.

I sync with Google for tasks. I have been using TeamTasks, which can no longer be found on the Play Store, since the time of Gingerbread. I'm amazed Google has allowed something to keep working for so long. After using TeamTasks for a few months, I found that tasks don't work too well for compositions. The tasks app would become sluggish/slow if I had tasks with a large amount of text/paragraphs. So I looked for a Notepad app for that purpose (see the section below).

I also found Gtasks which is very similar. The TeamTasks app was abandoned, but Gtasks continues to exist in the Play Store. I use an older version of Gtasks that doesn't require a subscription for use on multiple devices. I actually use both TeamTasks and Gtasks, since they stay in sync anyway. TeamTasks lets me hide completed tasks, and view them in a separate list. In Gtasks, if I “clear done”, the completed tasks are actually deleted instead of hidden. The one redeeming feature of Gtasks is that it is quicker for accessing the different to do lists, if you have many.

On Windows, you used to be able to have a browser window with your tasks by navigating to However, Google took that away this year. Now you can only access tasks by loading one of two much heavier interfaces: gmail or google calendar.

Quote from PeterC posting on
““Google does not reveal why it is closing down the classic standalone web version of Task[s].”
Was it straightforward and functional? Did it load and respond quickly? Was it well suited to a computer as opposed to a smartphone or tablet? Based on what Google has done with the Web interfaces of its other services, if the the answer to any of those questions is yes, *that’s* why.”

Quote from Google 20190713:
“In order to better protect your data and help reduce the risk of data loss, we are making an important update to our policies governing third-party apps (web, Android, iOS, Chrome, and other apps) accessing your organization’s Gmail data using G Suite APIs and OAuth2. … Why would an app be unverified? Apps may not have completed the verification process for numerous reasons, some of the more common ones being an unsupported Application Type or using data in a way that is incompatible with Limited Use requirements.”

Quote from Google translated into clear English:
“We don't like 3rd party apps competing with us! Those pesky apps!”


Text file stored on NextCloud

Tired of online services fucking me over, I switched to being my own online service.

Gnotes Google killed Gnotes by no longer allowing access to gmail, where Gnotes stored the notes.

I wanted a simple notepad. I'm not keen on multimedia notes like Google Keep or Evernote. I also wanted notes that were backed up online. I don't want my phone as a storage place for anything that isn't backed up online. I could use Dropbox, but that would be overkill for my needs. I found Gnote, made by a developer that has nothing to do with Google. Gnote stores each note you create as an email on Gmail, in its own folder.

Google Photos

It backs up your photos to Google, and serves as a it's own Gallery. I used to use another app in conjunction with Google Photos, until Google Photos stopped sucking and copied it's functionality. Anyway, you can only delete photos that are in your google account using Google Photos. Delete unwanted photos or organize them with any other app, and you still have a mess at Google.

Update 2023: Google auto-archiving undid all my work of organizing photos into folders. They want to railroad me into using their proprietary albums. My thread on XDA developers forum. Still thinking about an alternative to Google photos.

Image Resizer

Send Reduced

“Share” an image from any app to Send Reduced. Send Reduced then shares the reduced image to whatever application you choose. It's like a pipe in Linux. Amaze File Manager adds a “Save As” option to the Android Share mechanism.

File Manager

Root Explorer
Amaze File Manager

Root Explorer lets you edit operating system configuration files, if you have root access. I install Amaze File Manager because of the system integration: such as an option for “Save As” accessed through the Android share mechanism, or the option to use Amaze to for any app's file selection, that is impossible with the default file browser for Android.


Google Maps
Google Maps Go

The newest Google Maps runs slow on my Note 3, so when I don't need one of its features, I prefer to use the old version of Google Maps Classic v6.14.4. Both are installed at the same time, because the “classic” app has been hacked to go by a different name. I also use some hiking / backpacking specific map apps, like Avenza. Glympse for sharing location with others, although I think there may be an option with Google as well. I've used and liked Google's My Maps, but not in a long time.

It's been out for a while, but I just came across Google Maps Go, also by Google. It's made for devices with lower end hardware. Go figure.

One annoyance about Google Maps, is that there are consumer-oriented markers all over the place, as Google is very much a Yelp competitor. I wish the markers were a layer, that I could turn off, but they're not. So they crowd the map. If you have “starred places” you like, they will be harder to find if you are zoomed in far enough to see all the built in Google markers.

Before you only had “starred places”, and finally, finally, Google introduced the feature to make your own place categories with different types of pins. The problem is, that no matter what other pin type you use for the new categories, it makes it that much harder to differentiate your pins from the built in Google markers. So after trying it out a bit, I decided to just keep everything under “starred places”.

In the process, I was trying to figure out how to move pins in “starred places” into another category. There was no easy way to batch move pins into new categories. You have to click on each pin, then click on the star, select a different category, click on the star again, and unselect the “starred places” category, then back out and repeat ad nauseam.

Searching the internet, I found that a very few people, I guess ones like me, were using another app called ScoutLog. With ScoutLog, you can import import the pins you can export from Google bookmarks, and have your own map with your own pins, and a less cluttered Google Maps. Just remember that if you choose to mass delete them from Google Maps, there's no going back. It's a price to pay for using non-FOSS software. In addition, in ScoutLog you can do a lot more with each pin than just mark the location. Unfortunately, the developer of Scoutlog quit because he wasn't getting enough interest (only 1000 or so users). The app is no longer available in the Google Play Store. You can still download it from apk sites on the net, along with the unlock file (which allows you to have more than 15 locations).


Messenger Lite (Facebook)
Google Voice
What's App

Signal encrypts your phone's own text messaging, if the other person is also using signal. When someone you know signs up on signal, you get a notification. It's been fun watching signal get adopted. Signal focuses on encryption, and automatically deleting messages per thread as you or your party sets it to. Other messaging apps use the available internet, but Signal is a text messaging app that uses the ancient-old cellular carrier infrastructure for messages, replacing the built-in app on your phone.

You add all these messaging options as you need them. It's crazy things get this complicated. I install many just trying to figure out what it is about them that makes them stand out. There isn't much really. I have a google voice number, so I installed that and Hangouts. Some people on another continent use What's App, so I use that. Signal is for talking about confidential stuff. Facebook is facebook. Email is email. God, why do people still use fax machines?

Google Voice can make calls as VOIP. However, if you provide Google Voice a regular phone number, it's behavior changes: it receives the call, then immediately rings your mobile and/or landline and when you pick up, it hands off the call.


Office Lens

While you can't get the high resolution of a dedicated scanner, Office Lens is good enough that when your existing scanner breaks down, you won't need to get a new one. Life simplified. This app is by Microsoft!


Google Translate

I love how you can use OCR with Google Translate. If you hold up the camera to a sign, it will translate in real time, where you are looking at an overlay of the translation over the sign. It can also translate speech. Text can be translated, of course. I can hold up the text translation on my phone, where it shows up in full screen large text. Great stuff.

Update 2021: Google Translate is still great but works considerably slower than it used to.

Update 2022: Google fixed the slowness.


Google Earth
Google Lens

These are amazing, but I don't use them. Google Lens I haven't tried out. I don't know the benefit, or what situations it would come in useful.


Networking Tools

Wifi Analyzer
Shortcut to wpa_supplicant.conf (root needed)
Network Connections
Network Discovery
Network Log


Proton VPN

Update 2024:

For Proton VPN, you currently have to downgrade to at least version in order to pick the country the VPN is located in. Newer versions the country is chosen randomly.

One use for a VPN is to make Google voice calls within USA. Another use is to listen to Pandora music.

Normally I have Blokada running as the VPN, but I switch to use a service that requires my IP address within a specific country.

FreeVee worked with Windscribe VPN, but not with Proton VPN. Windscribe offers a free service with a 10GB monthly data cap.

Some services, such as Amazon FreeVee, keep track of IP addresses used by VPN services, such that even a “stealth” VPN connection doesn't work? I managed to install FreeVee via Aptoide, was able to log in, but any movie I play says “Unavailable in your area”. See related discussion on Reddit: Does Stealth Protocol Makes the VPN Unnoticeable?. using Proton VPN shows I'm in NYC, even with the extended test.

Remote Access to Windows or Mac OS


Teamviewer works acceptably on SlimKat, most notably because it identies as a tablet. Teamviewer on Note 9 is harder to use because I have to pretend to use a mouse instead of having direct touch access, and because the host screen resolution is not reduced (laptop is host). A downside is that the laptop has to be on all the time, unless if you get wake-on-lan to work. wake-on-lan historically just works for ethernet, and only if a router is configured for it.

Running Android on Windows or Mac


No need to run an emulator or virtual machine. Just have your phone's CPU running its own OS, running in a window on your PC. It's strange that the industry has invented a whole new category: apps like Join, Pushbullet, Scrcpy, Vysor, Deskdock, AirDroid, etc. The old category of “remote support”, including TeamViewer, LogMeIn, AnyDesk, etc, has been around a lot longer. Is there something I'm missing?

Network Clipboard

Craig's Clipboard Share

TeamViewer can also share the clipboard, share files, etc, but these two apps are small and dedicated. “Criag's Clipboard Share” and “Clipsync” both work between the Windows XP Macbook and the SlimKat Note 3. However, they don't on Oreo Note 9.


Samba Filesharing
Mixplorer (6.58 in attachments of second post)

On Slimkat, I used “Samba Filesharing” by Jimmy C. It functions as a Samba Host, and requires root.

On the Note 9 I have no root, and instead used AndSMB to connect to Windows shared directories. AndSMB functions as a Samba Client.

On the Note 9, AndSMB was no joy trying to connect to Mac OS X High Sierra. “Root Explorer” managed to authenticate but was denied access to browse the file system. The OS X smb implementation probably hasn't improved with newer versions. That's because Apple doesn't want you using anything outside their eco-system. For this reason, Samba publishes a custom configuration to use with smb software.

Instead of implementing a file share on Mac OS X, I found a Samba Host for Android that doesn't require root, named Mixplorer.

File Sync and Backup

See also 2019: File Sync and Backup


I set up NextCloud on my web hosting server, to share a few files between my laptop, my phone, and any other machine I may find myself on. Among the files are my contacts. I no longer sync contacts with Google because they have not been reliable for me, and I don't like the big brother factor.

Hostinger, my web hosting service, offers free subdomains in the form of <your-domain-name> I got a pretty cute domain name to go with access to my NextCloud online files. It's technically not allowed to use shared hosting for file sync / storage, but I sync very few files and I haven't received a complaint.

Google Drive + FolderSync

I use Google Drive because the cost for 200GB has been $3/mth (USD) for me, which is significantly less than other providers offering a consumer focused solution. If I had more time I'd find something else.

Apart from a backup of all my files on my laptop, I'll be using Google Drive to back up the video feed of a cheap $4 security camera from AliExpress. The camera only saves to an Android device, so I'll need to purchase a cheap Android tablet to run the camera app at the residence.

You can't sync any folder using the Google Drive app (at least on Android), so you need a third party app for that. There's an app called Autosync for Google Drive, but the app Foldersync is capable of many more cloud storage providers than Autosync. There's a good tutorial at

Wish List

Per-App Settings

I wish there was an app that controlled the following on a per-app basis, along with quick toggles:

Color - Grayscale
Content Blocking
Device Identification

Color Grayscale (done!)
I love how my phone looks when it's all grayscale. It's classy, and it keeps technology in its place. Seriously, I feel more relaxed when the screen isn't screaming colors. Sometimes I do need the color though. For example, looking at color-coded charts. Unfortunately, the setting to toggle Grayscale is dug deep into the settings menu of Oreo, and there isn't a way I can find to create a shortcut. Android did not have this feature in its KitKat release, and neither does SlimKat. Update: Settings → accessibility → direct access → turn on, and also enable the option color adjustment. Now grayscale is activated by simultaneously pressing the power and volume-up buttons on the phone.

Rotation (done!)
Rotation in Slimkat (haven't tried on the Note 9 Oreo yet), is accomplished by the app “Smart Rotator”. It turns rotation on and off automatically based on the app that's running. In Smart Rotator settings, you choose portrait, landscape, or rotating setting for each app on your phone. There isn't a quick toggle, so if I want to change an app's setting, I have to start the Smart Rotator app. It's ok though, as I would use the toggle option infrequently. On Oreo, there is a quick settings toggle.

SlimKat's built in “Privacy Guard” does the best job of handling per-app permissions. Privacy Guard has an active notification when you are using an app with non-default permissions. Privacy Guard can restrict permissions by default, without Android or the app knowing about the restrictions. Haven't tried to see if I can use it on Oreo, to replace the built-in permissions handler.

Content Blocking (done!)
The one reason I'd like to be able to toggle content blocking, is because sometimes I want to use google shopping. Content blocking doesn't let me go see the products listed in google shopping, because the servers delivering the link to the products are the same as the google advertising servers. Content blocking hasn't affected the functioning of any other site on my phone thus far. On SlimKat, I needed to reboot the phone to disable Adaway content blocking. Since SlimKat is slim, rebooting takes ~20 seconds. Blokada has the toggle I want in the quick settings menu, but supposedly uses more battery than Adaway.

Device Identification
I haven't had an issue using SlimKat on my phone, that only identifies itself as a Linux desktop. If there is an app that has a tablet version, the app store delivers the tablet version to SlimKat. When it comes to apps, I think pretty much all Tablet GUI is better than phone GUI (though in Gingerbread, the apps with phone GUI were much better). When it comes to browsing the web, give me the desktop version of the site, or at least the tablet version. Maybe there could be a situation where I prefer the phone version? If so, a toggle would be nice. Altering the phones declaration of identity requires root. On the Snapdragon version of the Note 9, root is a work in progress.

Sync like Google Chrome

I'm using Pale Moon browser on the desktop. Google can sync all the bookmarks, history, open tabs, autofill, passwords, themes, addons/extensions, and web browser settings. Below, I try to sync a subset of these: passwords, and access to an open tabs list. The laptop-phone integration above helps a bit as well.

It's a lot of work. I can't really recommend what I have here over Chrome. However, since I'm invested, I don't mind to continue the upkeep. If you are ok with Google Chrome, choose it like everyone else. There's certainly a lot of other technology challenges to tackle. If you feel strongly about not contributing to the concentration of power that Google has, then the following may help.

Password Sync

Keepass Tusk
Web Server

Experience has taught me that it's best to be more independent from corporations (and therefore government by inclusion), including the concept of maintaining data portability. More about password management here.

I use my own web hosting server. I run NextCloud on the server in combination with Keepass on Windows, and at the moment, Keepass2Android. Keepass2Android isn't autofilling on my web browser of choice: Kiwi (although it works on the other browsers, using the accessibility plugin). Arnoud42, the developer of Kiwi, stated that he has not added the Google Autofill API support to the browser (which I'm perfectly ok with), so that would explain Keepass2Android's inability to connect with Kiwi.

Lastpass and DashLane work fine on Kiwi (and the rest of the web browsers on Android). They use multiple ways of reaching the apps on the phone, having to do with the settings at the end of this section. Of these two commercial options, Dashlane has a nicer user interface, but costs more.

There is another option I haven't tried yet. Someone that helps with Kiwi development suggested it:
The developer of PFP is the well known for creating Adblock Plus. I don't want to go this route, because there is no working extension for Pale Moon web browser.

I've been trying to get the Keepass Tusk extension to work on Kiwi. Kiwi is my default browser on Android, and has the notable feature of being able to work with Chrome extensions. I'm hoping Keepass Tusk would give native password filling on Kiwi, which is superior to the performance of password apps using Google's Autofill Service API. Kiwi was crashing when Tusk attempts to connect via WebDAV to the server. I got the two working together by pointing Tusk to Nextcloud's local instance of the keepass database on my phone.

However, Tusk is still not able to autofill the fields. Although Tusk does have awareness of the site that I'm on (unlike Keepass2Android). So while I don't have autofill, I can quickly copy-paste the password via Keepass Tusk.

Although I don't use any of these Android settings because I use the Tusk extension, I have here for reference the settings that pertain to Password Managers like LastPass, Dashlane, and Keepass2Android:

Settings → Accessibility → Services → [servicename]
Settings → General Management → Language and Input → Autofill Service → [servicename]
Settings → Apps → | → Special access → Apps that can appear on top → [servicename]
Settings → Biometrics and Security → Other Security Settings → Usage Data Access → [servicename]
Settings → General Management → Language and Input → On-screen keyboard → Manage keyboards → [servicename]

Open Tabs Sync

I used to use Chrome2Phone and Fox2Phone, but that was deprecated by Google. I'm using “Phone to Desktop”, which is a firefox extension that uses a separate google tasks list. I prefer to use the network clipboard when I don't need the link defined as a new task. Also, since I manually start the clipboard services on each machine when I need this, it's easier to use “Phone to Desktop” for a singular use.

Remove Carrier Bloatware

This is especially important for companies like Claro, where you are constantly getting system messages where the mistake of clicking “ok” instead of “cancel” causes you to lose money.

First install ADB on your computer:
In addition to ADB, I needed to install Android File Transfer or Samsung Smart Switch. But instead of either of these, I installed OpenMTP.
Then I was able to run the following commands (thank you StackExchange:

cd desktop
cd platform-tools
./adb shell
pm uninstall -k –user 0
pm uninstall -k –user 0

Related article from XDA-Developers

Disable Auto-Update of Google Play

Custom Recovery, ROM, Root, and Android Settings

This section is under construction. For an overview, refer to 2016 Customizations of Android

Stop some harassing notifications:
settings → notifications → advanced → | → show system apps → software updates darn need root

Change screen dpi in developer options (new feature of Android introduced after KitKat). Root no longer required. Although it keeps changing names. In Oreo/Pie it's called “minimum width”, which I currently like at 720dp.

Identify as Tablet

Identify device to the world as being a tablet: there is no way to edit the file “build.prop” without root. Tablet mode would help render improved, near-desktop versions of websites in all the browsers (the mobile versions are usually impossible). Tablet mode would also help with the TeamViewer app. I believe it would also make Gboard keyboard app display the way I want it to.

Even better would be an app that configures device identification on a per-app basis (much like Smart-Rotator does rotation on a per-app basis).

Custom Recovery and Root

For the Note 9 SM-N960U Snapdragon, the bootloader is locked
Can't flash a custom recovery, can't use SuperSU (no root)
Wait, is it that I can't, or is it that the Knox e-fuse will be tripped?
ADB access to the system folder is not allowed by the bootloader
Therefore, the rest of the steps below are for future reference only.

Search for “samsung usb phone driver xda”: Download both usb drivers and adb interface drivers (will only use the adb interface drivers today)

Download “minimal adb and fastboot” portable version:

Download Odin:

Enable debugging mode:
settings → about phone → software information → tap and keep tapping build number → “developer mode has been enabled”

2. It is essential to install drivers on desktop for SM-N960U1.

3. It is essential to activate USB debugging on SM-N960U1.

4. It is essential to activate OEM Unlock on SM-N960U1.

5. It is the time to install Odin on desktop for SM-N960U1.

6. It is essential to put Samsung Galaxy Note 9 SM-N960U1 into download mode.

7. It is the time to start Odin and attach SM-N960U with desktop.

8. It is essential to click “AP” in Odin and choose CF-Auto-Root (smn960u1) file on desktop.

9. It is essential to choose “F. Reset Time” and “Auto Reboot” options in Odin.

10. It is essential to choose “Start” button to install CF-Auto-Root on Samsung Galaxy Note 9 SM-N960U1.

11. It is the time to wait until your SM-N960U1 restarts.


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information-technology/2019-android-oreo-setup.txt · Last modified: 2024/05/02 02:26 by marcos