Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Time for a New Galaxy?

Phones become obsolete when apps will no longer install on them.

A few years back, I broke down and bought some used Galaxy S4's and joined the mindless heard of smart-phone gazers.   Since we travel a lot, it is essential to stay in touch and keep track of banking balances (on a daily basis, thank you!).   The S4's worked well, and could act as a "WiFi hotspot" so no more dicking around with crappy WiFi services at campgrounds.

Funny thing, I know people who pay twice as much money as I do - per month - so they can have the latest "iPhone" and have no data service.  They are constantly using WiFi and trying to find a WiFi cafe or asking people "what's the password on your router?"   I try to explain to them that for $50 a month or less you can get unlimited data from AT&T GoPhone and they respond, "But do I get a free iPhone with that?"

Oh, well.   Still believing in the dream of free ponies!

Anyway, since we did that, we even dropped our landline router (UVERSE) and stream video through the phone.  Most "televisions" today have WiFi capability, so just set the phone as a hotspot and you can stream Netflix or YouTube or whatever.  If your television isn't Internet-ready, it isn't hard to connect it to an old laptop via VGA or HDMI (or with an adapter) and use that to stream video.  Oh, brave new world.  We've been doing this for years now, and now it seems to be the new norm.   How much longer will cable hold out?  Stay tuned, if you'll pardon the pun.

I had to get rid of the Galaxy 4's when some pretty major apps (such as Bank of America) refused to update, with the message that "this app is not compatible with your device".  The phones still work, and indeed, I still have them (they are worth nothing, today) but they are outmoded as they don't have certain features that some newer apps require.  So we bought used Galaxy S7's on eBay for $149 apiece, a few years back. 

I was concerned the same was happening to the Galaxy S7's - so far one app has refused to update due to "compatibility" issues.  Then the camera stopped working on mine, with various messages about "server error" and "the camera has stopped".   I tried some of the easy fixes - clearing the cache and whatnot, which worked for a while, but eventually the camera just went dead, which is kind of crappy as you can't deposit a check or take a photo without it.

I found a site online "the droid guy" which had some good suggestions.  I rebooted the phone in safe mode and erased the cache partition and then rebooted.  My camera is back - for now.  It is kind of interesting - sort of like "safe mode" in Windows or the good old days of DOS when you knew the status of every bit (and not just every byte) on your hard drive or better yet, floppy.  Format C: /s

Yet, the writing is on the wall for the Galaxy S7, I think.  You can survive in this online world with hardware that is a generation or two removed, but once they are three or four generations ahead of you, well, they aren't writing software to be backward-compatible with your old junk.  It seems that these phones last about three years before they are obsolete.  I suppose if I spend $1000 on a brand-new model, it might last longer, but then again, that's $900 more than I want to spend.  And given how easy it is to break, drop, lose, or let fall into the toilet, it makes more sense to spend less than to pay top dollar and insure your phone.   It is like cars - once you drop the collision and comp, the cost of ownership drops - by a lot.

Phones become obsolete long before they "wear out".   On the other hand, PC's seem to last forever these days.  I am still typing away on a decade-old Toshiba Satellite.  That's about all it is good for - running basic websites and as a glorified typewriter.   Painfully slow, but it works and refuses to die.  It won't edit video, and I lost my only copy of beloved Windows Moviemaker during a hard drive upgrade (duh!) and is no longer available.    Some day, I will have to move on from Windows 7, Word 2000 and Quickbooks 2002.  Yes, I am using software that is twenty years old!   Smart phones may still be evolving, but laptops have pretty much plateaued.

Funny thing that - the new "Chromebooks" (which I experimented with years ago, when they were little more than toys) seem to be the next big thing and should be making Microsoft nervous.  Since everything is on the "cloud" there is no need to "own" software anymore or maintain a creaky hard drive.   And since these "Chromebooks" run Android, they pretty much are just glorified cell phones.  I think perhaps that when the time comes, I will leave the Microsoft ecosystem for good, rather than try to upgrade to Windows 10.  Plus the Chromebooks are so much cheaper.

I mean, already, I am typing on a Google Site (Blogger) which is storing and editing my blog "in the cloud".   It is a rare day anymore that I load Word to edit or create a document.  But then again, I'm retired and glad off it.

Speaking of retirement, the cloud and whatnot, I ran into a fellow who was retired but was "called back" to work at a computer company when someone opened the wrong e-mail.  They run a cloud storage company and apparently the entire place was encrypted and is being held for ransom.  Each "client" of theirs has a choice - try to reconstruct their data (which is why my friend was called back to work) or pay $10,000 or so to the "kidnappers" in Bitcoin (no good ever came of Bitcoin and its only real use is in illegal transactions).   Many chose to pay as it was cheaper than trying to rebuild their databases.

It was interesting to me, though, that even the "cloud" or perhaps especially the cloud could be corrupted this way.  Apparently one of their clients opened the offending e-mail which somehow jumped to the cloud servers and even the backup servers and then encrypted everything, including other client's data and even the backup data.  Was a festering fuckup!

And it is spreading.  Our own island authority went through this recently, when an employee opened the wrong e-mail attachment ("what's an .exe file, anyway?") and it encrypted the entire network.  The system is back up and running and no word whether they paid the "ransom" or not.   Like any good kidnapper (or drive-by attorney), they asked for less money than the cost of rebuilding the database, so it made it easier to pay the ransom than to fight.

And from the kidnapper's point of view, it cost them nothing to send out the mass e-mail to millions of people, and even a few thousand dollars is found money (and a small fortune in many parts of the world).   What was scary to me was that even backing things up in "the cloud" isn't a safe haven from such problems.  I still have a couple of terabyte portable drives I back things up on (which are quickly becoming full, what with pictures, music, books, and videos) and I keep them in a desk drawer between backups.   Hopefully they can't be encrypted or held hostage.  But then again, none of the data I have is really important, anymore.  Sure, photos and other "mementos" are nice to have.  As you get older, though, you realize they crowd your life out, and after seeing more than one oldster's house cleaned out, with "precious memories" tossed in the dumpster, you realize that stuff is just going to be junk after you die - even if you have kids to leave it behind to.

Anyway, enough being maudlin.  Here is the solution the folks at the droid guy came up with.  It seems to work.... for now.

Q: “Shortly after my phone updated, there was an error message that popped up. ‘Warning: Camera failed,’ it said. I understand it’s a camera problem but what I don’t understand is why it occurred only after I updated my phone? Does it mean that it’s damaged or something? Is it only a problem with the camera or the entire phone? Do I have to buy a new phone because of this?

A: There are actually two possibilities here; either it’s a minor firmware issue or a serious hardware problem that may have been triggered by the update. Rule out the first possibility by wiping the cache partition since it occurred after a firmware update:

  1. Turn off your Samsung Galaxy S7.
  2. Press and then hold the Home and Volume UP keys, then press and hold the Power key.
  3. When the Samsung Galaxy S7 shows on the screen, release the Power key but continue holding the Home and Volume Up keys.
  4. When the Android logo shows, you may release both keys and leave the phone be for about 30 to 60 seconds.
  5. Using the Volume Down key, navigate through the options and highlight ‘wipe cache partition.’
  6. Once highlighted, you may press the Power key to select it.
  7. Now highlight the option ‘Yes’ using the Volume Down key and press the Power button to select it.
  8. Wait until your phone is finished doing the Master Reset. Once completed, highlight ‘Reboot system now’ and press the Power key.
  9. The phone will now reboot longer than usual.