Tag Archives: android

KeePassX – secure password storage across devices

Passwords are like backup – of course you know you should do something about it, but usually it takes disaster to actually see some action. The recent OpenSSL / Heartbleed disaster (or to be more specific, the 20 plus “please change your password” emails coming in as a result) was the final push for me to come up with a password management strategy.

For me the solution is KeePassX. KeepassX is available on Windows, Linux and Mac as installer or portable version. For Android, there is a compatible app called KeePassDroid. The (strongly encrypted) password file is synchronized between different devices using Dropbox, so it can be accessed offline if necessary.

For each online account I use a different, random generated 160 Bit password, the password store itself is secured by a similarly strong password created according to the following guidelines:

Password Strength, by XKCD.com

The advantages are obvious, only ONE password to remember, which is not reused anywhere else, so if that old Yahoo account is hacked I don’t have to change a gazillion of other accounts where I used the same password. And through the Android app I have access to my passwords and data  on my phone, no matter where I am, which makes the solution really quite comfortable.

In fact, if I had known before how little effort this is, I would have done it much earlier.


HTC Desire X NON-SENSE Edition

Just a little more than a year old, my HTC Desire X has already been abandoned by HTC as  a “2012 model”, meaning there will be no more updates, and there was never a big choice in custom ROMs for the phone. So what to do to get a little fresh air into that stuffy Sense environment ?

The most ugly part of the sense UI, the lock screen, is most difficult to replace, at least if you’re using a WIFI certificate with forced authentication. This combination doesn’t go well with any of the free lockers, so € 2,25 fee for Widget Locker are a good investment, even if you don’t want widgets on your lock screen.

The other important component is the launcher. There are many good light weight launchers, but most of them don’t support customizing individual icons, which is a no go with Sense, because apps like Phone or Camera are not changed by the icon theme. Nova Launcher has the most options while at the same time retaining a good performance, but unfortunately it drains the battery or my phone. Holo Launcher HD is a good alternative, offering almost as many customizing settings while being much more economical on resources.

And Holo launcher works great with the Holo Icon Theme, a huge collection of simple, colorful Android 4.3/4.4 – style icons. The wallpaper on the screenshot is part of a Kitkat Theme, or you can just download wallpapers from the internet and add them through the gallery app. The Wetter.com (4×1) clock / weather widget completes my new phone UI, that doesn’t look like HTC Sense at all.

These are just examples of course, the choice of wallpapers, themes and widgets is virtually unlimited. With a little time and maybe some Euros for apps you can refresh any Android phone, even without software updates or custom ROMs.

Chrome / Firefox Benchmarks on Android, Linux and Windows

Now that I’m finally able to run Chrome and Firefox on my Android phone, it’s time for another round in the cross platform browser test – will Android make a difference in the eternal battle of the browsers ? To find out, I ran a couple of benchmarks on all 3 platforms.

Hardware Setup

I ran my tests, quite naturally, on the hardware that is available to me – for Android I’m using my new HTC Desire X Smartphone, for Linux, it’s my trusty Asus 1215N Netbook running 64Bit Mint 13 XFCE, and the Windows checks are done on my work PC, a 2012 IBM ThinkCentre (Intel i5, 8GB RAM) running 64 Bit Windows 7. Due to the very different hardware capabilities this comparison offers no insight about Windows vs. Linux performance, this has been examined in detail by Tom’s Hardware Guide.

Benchmarks Setup

My focus was, as always, on benchmarks that picture REAL usage scenarios, so I picked Peacekeeper,  BrowserMark and Robohornet Pro over Sunspider and V8.

Special emphasis was put on Flash, to track down performance issues I experienced on the Linux Netbook using Firefox, so I included Flash Benchmark 08 and the Flash (and HTML5) tests from Guimark2.


You can find the detailed results here, but to sum it up, Chrome won all benchmarks, except Microsoft’s Robohornet Pro. When doing real work the difference is not as big as the  almost 80% difference in Peacekeeper suggests, but still notable, at least on the netbook. You can ease the pain a bit by using Fasterfox but Chrome always feels more snappy.

The real dealbreaker for Firefox is Flash performance on Linux, NPAPI Flash 11.2 on my netbook is 10% to 400% slower than Chrome’s PPAPI Flash 11.5, which means fluent HD video replay is only possible in Chrome. I tried all known tweaks (including FlashAid with “Override GPU Validation” and turn off hardware rendering) but wasn’t able to get better results out of Flash 11.2, neither with Firefox nor any other browser (including Chromium and Opera).

HTML 5 performance is better in Chrome, too, even though the difference is not as drastic as for Flash.


Feature- wise both, Chrome and Firefox are viable alternatives for the desktop (see my comparison from September) and on Android there are very few differences, either. So which browser do you pick, the faster one, of course, which is Google Chrome.

It remains to be seen if Mozilla can achieve a turnaround in 2013 with interesting new projects like PDFjs, Firefox OS or Shumway, or if their steady decline in user numbers and importance will go on.

HTC Desire X

After two (more or less) happy years with the HTC Wildfire, I was reminded by frequent “internal memory” warnings and an increasingly sluggish performance that it might be time for an update …

In my restricted budget, the Desire X (€270.- German Amazon price) seems like a bargain with Android 4, 480×800 4″ display, dual core 1GHz CPU, fast 5MP camera and 4GB of internal memory. Unlike HTC’s ONE high end phones, you can change the battery, use a regular SIM card and extend the internal memory with an SDHC card (up to 32GB). Most important, with a form factor of ~12 x 6 x 1 cm the Desire X easily fits in a pants pocket.

HTC Desire X (from 3dnews.ru)

So how does the new phone work ? In a word, great.

At 480×800 ebook reading and web browsing start to make sense (ever tried to read an ebook at 200×320 pixels ?), and I finally can use the standard keyboard (the one with one button for each key) instead of a 90s style “phone” emulation. HTC Sense allows you to define a secondary input language, so I can type German and English without even switching.

With the ARM V7 Dual Core processor I can finally use Firefox or Google Chrome and play songs form my Napster account in the car without delay, just about everything feels lightening- fast in comparison. Flash is also running quite well (though not in Chrome) and even gaming should be an option now, although I didn’t try much in that regard, yet.

From the internal memory the phone shows 1.11GB “internal memory” and 1.09 GB “phone memory” available for applications and data. While this is more than enough for apps and games, you’ll definitely want an SD card for music or movies (I’m reusing the 8GB card from the Wildfire for now).

Battery life is average, with my normal usage (some messaging and occasional reading) the Desire X holds out 2-3 days, more heavy “vacation” usage (browsing, GPS, frequent camera usage) will bring you down to a day but that’s also true for more expensive handsets like the Galaxy S3 or even the Iphone 5.

The 5MP camera is really fast and takes much better pictures than the Wildfire, especially in poor lighting (still a little grainy, but at least you can see something now). Video quality is OK, and the 800×480 video resolution is sufficient for my needs, although you need a really calm hand if you want to record something not for your eyes only …

Unlike vanilla Android 4, the HTC version still lets you move apps to the SD card, a function that makes a lot of sense indeed (pun intended). Other than that, HTC ads a new camera app with some interesting effects and a lot of gadgets like their own keyboard, task manager and of course the typical HTC world clock widget – for details about HTC Sense in Android 4 read this review.

So if you’ve been looking for a mid range Android phone, give the Desire X a chance … it doesn’t really excel at anything, but has no real weaknesses either, which is more than can be said of most other smartphones in that price range.

The Napster Android Disaster

You can imagine my enthusiasm as a long time Napster subscriber, when I learned that the Napster Android App is finally available here, under the rock (i.e. Germany) with offline and all … of course I immediately downloaded the app and … entered a world of pain …

The first disappointment was that even though I’m a flatrate subscriber I was only allowed to listen to 30 sec extracts of my song collection even when streaming, which I would have expected to be working without additional charge. But I was interested in offline anyway to finally be able to listen to my napster stuff in the car (3G coverage just isn’t sufficient to ensure constant streaming while driving), so I happily agreed to upgrade my account to “flatrate + mobile”.

Unfortunately the assumption, that “upgrade successful” meant that NOW I could finally start to listen to Napster music on my phone was a bit naive. I restarted the app, rebooted my phone, waited a couple of days, restarted again, all to no avail. After a couple of more days support was able to upgrade me “instantly” (2 more days) instead of the initially projected July 11 (!!), kindly reminding me that after the upgrade I would not be able to download tracks on the PC client anymore (which I never did anyway, but WTF ?!??).

So since yesterday night I’m the first active Napster Android customer in Germany (probably, considering the quality of the upgrade process), and still complaining 😛

On paper the service looks really good: You can stream music on 3G or Wifi or you can explicitly save tracks, playlists or albums. By default, the app even caches the next 10 and up to 100 last tracks automatically. On top you get all the useful recommendations and radios and playlist you know from the web interface. Sounds to good to be true ? Right !!

I’m not complaining about the UI buttons weirdly overlapping on my (pretty low- res) HTC Wildfire, or about the sluggish downloads (2 mins for 1 track on the same wifi connection that lets me download a whole album in the same time using the Windows client), no, not even at the 5-10 secs delay until a track starts playing (probably running a bug bunch of DRM checks).

No, I could live with all that – but is it really asking too much from a music player app to play several songs in a row ?!??

Because, here’s the little catch, unfortunately the Napster app can’t do that. If running in the background it crashes completely after 1 or 2 songs, and even when running in the foreground it more often than not hangs between tracks until you turn the display back on, so that I have to use Screen On (to keep the display on while running Napster, with a devastating effect on battery life) to be able to use it at ALL.

For € 12.95 per month (roughly twice the $9.99 Napster charges in the US) this “service” is nothing but a bad joke. Unfortunately none of the (supposedly) better services like Rhapsody or Spotify are available in my country, but if there ever is an Alternative I’ll boot them on the very day. Until then I guess it’s some more rounds of email ping pong with support for me – hope springs eternal ...

Update: After reassurance from Bettina from Napster support, that the app DOES play several tracks in a row on her own HTC, I started experimenting, and am now (after resetting my phone to Factory defaults) able to listen to my music without keeping the display on. YAY !! Still leaving the original text in place, for your reading pleasure 😉

Update 2: Of course the next track issue came up again (the very next day) but this time it was sufficient to “delete application data” (settings / applications) and remove the napster folder from the SD. Not sure about the reason, but it might be related to deleting incompletely downloaded albums and later downloading them again (although the issue affected other albums, too)