What’s the best crypto-wallet for daily use?

Cryptocurrency is different than fiat money, as you probably already know.  But those differences make a HUGE impact on how you choose which wallet software to use.  And it’s all about control… YOUR control over your own money.

Let’s begin…

Rather than telling you which wallet apps are best, I’m going to lay out the features you need to look for in wallets, and the ones you need to DEMAND.  In other words, in the “demand” features, you should remove any wallet from consideration that does NOT have the complete “demand” list.  Other features, that may help, but are not deal breakers will be listed as “nice to haves”.  One of the reasons I’m not listing any wallets is because that would make this article dated eventually.  What I’m presenting here should be relevant for decades to come.

DEMAND

  1. Open Source:  If the software wallet you’re considering is NOT open source, then ditch it immediately!  Why?  Because open source wallets have no secrets.  Their entire source code is freely available for anyone to inspect, to guarantee there are no malicious intentions hidden behind the scenes.  Closed source wallets are a black box and you’re throwing out any chance of verification of honesty and relying SOLELY on the word of the wallet creator.  The whole point of cryptocurrency technology is that you DO NOT TRUST ANYONE ELSE WITH YOUR MONEY!  And that INCLUDES programmers… ESPECIALLY programmers!  And I say that AS A PROGRAMMER, MYSELF!
    1. Addendum:  Just because a wallet CLAIMS to be “open source”, doesn’t mean it IS.  For example, I could publish a closed source wallet and just CLAIM it’s “open source” and people would just believe it and download and use it, while I never publish the source code.  So, if some app CLAIMS it’s open source, DON’T BELIEVE THEM… EVER!  You go and FIND the source code (usually on https://gitlab.com or https://github.com) and verify the source code exists.  A reputable wallet author will also provide you a link to the source along with the binary to download.
    2. In addition to FINDING the source code, make sure you download the app FROM the source code repository’s binaries, NOT from an app store or anywhere else!
    3. If you’re a programmer, just download the source and compile it yourself and use THAT!  If you’re NOT a programmer, do #1.2 above.
  2. Must be an app that runs on your own hardware.  In other words, if it’s a website, then you’ve just completely obliterated the ENTIRE PURPOSE of cryptocurrency.  A website “wallet” is NOT a wallet.  It’s a BANK!  THEY are a centralized authority holding YOUR money.  By definition, if YOU are not in control of it, then it isn’t YOUR money, it’s THEIRS.  They ALLOW you to access it, until they DON’T!  Stay away from online wallets, with the brief exception of online exchanges where you EXCHANGE your cryptocurrency for fiat money or vice/versa.  But as SOON as you acquire crypto from an online exchange, you MOVE IT IMMEDIATELY into your OWN wallet!
    1. This means that you must DOWNLOAD an app (desktop or mobile).  And I recommend staying away from browser plugin wallets.  Browsers are just not a safe enough environment.
  3. Your keys or seed phrases are not transmitted over the internet FOR ANY REASON!  Your keys ARE your money!  Whomever holds they keys, holds and OWNS the money.  This is the very core and soul of cryptocurrency.  It’s its reason for being.  NO ONE other than YOU should EVER know your seed phrase or passwords… EVER!!!

NICE TO HAVES

  1. Easy to use user interface.  A lot of people mistakenly think this is a “demand” feature, but you’re better off with a klunky UI that puts you in control of your crypto rather than a sleek and polished wallet that doesn’t meet all the “demand” features.
  2. light vs full node.  What does this mean?  The most secure wallet will be one that’s ALSO a full node on the network for that cryptocurrency.  But to do that, it would need to download the ENTIRE blockchain for that cryptocurrency.  For a popular cryptocurrency, like #BitCoin, that would mean HUNDREDS OF GIGABYTES of data (eventually TERABYTES!) and hours or days of downloading, plus consuming all that space on your hard drive, forever.  It would also mean that your PC would be an actor in the BitCoin network, processing transactions.  That’s actually a GOOD thing for the network, but NOT a good thing for your local resources.  If all you’re looking for is a wallet, a full node is beyond overkill.  It’s like running a whole grocery store just because you need a refrigerator for your Milk.  I’m not discouraging you to NOT be a node.  By all means, PLEASE DO run a full node.  It helps the whole crypto community.  But, it’s not necessary for YOU if all you want is a wallet.  A “light” wallet is JUST a wallet, not a full node.  As such, light wallets are the only kinds of wallets that are available on mobile.  A full node requires a desktop PC, plugged into the electrical outlet.

Other Considerations

There’s another kind of wallet that I’m on the fence for at the moment, because it violates demand #1:  It’s NOT open source.  However, it has some other interesting security features.

The Samsung cryptocurrency wallet

I know I said I’m not going to recommend any specific wallet, and I maintain that.  I AM, however, going to TALK ABOUT one:  The Samsung cryptocurrency wallet meets all the other demand features, but it IS NOT OPEN SOURCE!  However, it has an important security feature no other software based wallets have.  That is, modern Samsung phones and tablets have a hardware based key store.  This is a special, isolated chip that can store encrypted versions of your cryptocurrency keys.  This hardware IS robust and is an important, core feature of the Samsung Knox (now known as “Samsung Secure Folder”) isolated security environment.  It’s the only mobile environment approved by the US Department of Defense for its employees.  Take that however you like.

What is Samsung Knox (or “Secure Folder”)?  You know how you enter a PIN or a password, or a pattern, or a fingerprint, or a face image to unlock your phone?  Well, on Samsung phones, you have all that, PLUS another, completely isolated, secure environment INSIDE of that.  It’s like a smartphone within a smartphone.  Once you set up “secure folder”, you get a SECOND smartphone environment, with another home screen and another set of apps.  Apps installed inside this secure area are NOT accessible to apps outside of it.  I personally install all my financial apps inside of this area.  My games and less sensitive apps and data are stored in the regular phone area.

Side note:  Whether you use the Samsung crypto wallet or not, you SHOULD install the mobile wallet you DO use inside the Samsung Secure Folder area on your phone (if you’re using a Samsung device).

The Samsung Cryptocurrency wallet is a software mobile wallet, and just like all other mobile wallets, it encrypts your seed phrase to your cryptocurrency with your password.  But the difference is that it stores that in the isolated, secure chip.  THAT makes it immensely more secure.  HOWEVER, the app is NOT open source!  Hence my hesitation of recommending this app.  We have no way to know what’s REALLY going on inside the Samsung wallet, because it’s closed source.

My Compromise:

So, here’s my recommendation:  If you DO use the Samsung wallet, never have more in it than you’d ever put in your real, physical wallet.  In other words, in the days when you’d have a wallet in your pocket with cash in it (you remember that right?  That green paper that you’d trade for stuff?), you’d rarely carry more than about $100, because that’s all you’d need for 1 day and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you lost it or if it were stolen.

I recommend the same practice with the Samsung crypto wallet.  Only store about $100(USD) worth of crypto in your Samsung wallet.  If you run across a local place that accepts crypto, you can spend it, but if there’s ever any kind of a breach with Samsung’s OS and/or software, you’re not going to lose too much.

And I’ll give the same $100 limit advice for ALL OTHER mobile wallets too!  Store the remainder of your fortunes in multiple hardware wallets or multiple desktop wallets.

Conclusion

Cryptocurrency was created for the purpose of YOU being in control.  Therefore, it’s pointless to store your cryptocurrency in a place that you DO NOT control.  As always, don’t put all your eggs or cryptos in one basket.  Don’t put your life savings into your mobile wallet.

Addendum

Speaking of not putting all your eggs in one basket:  As you start accumulating more and more wealth in cryptocurrency, either by continuous investing or by the value of it rising, it’s smart to create more digital wallets and spreading your crypto among them.  Don’t store all your passwords and seed phrases in the same place.  Following these practices, if any of your wallets are ever compromised by your own failures to protect them, you won’t lose ALL of your assets.

In the comments below, tell us what wallets YOU use… THAT FIT THE DEMANDS listed here?  Please keep the conversation limited to those that fit the minimal demand list.

Cryptotab browser is a total SCAM!

What IS CryptoTab Browser?

It’s a custom and closed source web browser that has a built in BitCoin miner.  That means it’ll run high intensity calculations on your CPU, burning electricity with the intent of creating new BitCoin.  By closed source, that means they’re not open source.  They do NOT make their source code available for inspection.

What it CLAIMS

It claims to make you money by mining BitCoin on your computer while you browse.  But this is misleading.

What it ACTUALLY does

In reality, when you create your account, likely from having clicked someone’s referral link, you’re software is now a slave to the person who owns the referral link.  While your computer burns through electricity that YOU are paying for, it’s giving a large portion of the tiny amount of BitCoin that your computer generates to the other person, not producing any profit for you at all.  Even if you got to keep all of the BitCoin that you mined, you’d STILL be losing way more money than you make.

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be profitable mining BitCoin on a PC or a mobile device

A very, very long time ago, the complexity of BitCoin became too powerful for PCs to mine it and be profitable.  For years, the only way to make a profit mining BitCoin is to buy specialized hardware that can’t do anything other than mine BitCoin.  Those hardware devices cast at least $1,300 (USD) on the low end, run very loudly and hot.  And you’ll have to run one for about 6 months before you generate enough BitCoin to break even on the cost of the hardware.  There is NO PATH to mining profitably on a PC (unless you get your electricity for free!)

If you mine on ANYTHING else, you’re GOING TO LOSE MONEY! Why? Because the amount of electricity you burn will cost you MORE than ANY infinitesimal amount of bitcoin you mine. Even if your electricity were free, the amount you can mine on a PC is virtually nothing. It also slows down your PC for everything else.

But wait! There’s MORE!  To make matters even WORSE, when you start mining with this browser, you don’t even get to keep all of the minimal amount of coin you mine. Even if you did, you’d already be at a loss, but it’s worse. Whoever’s link you clicked on to get the browser gets a portion of YOUR earnings! Earnings that are ALREADY in LOSS territory.

A Classic Ponzi Scheme

The ONLY way to “make money” with this is NOT by mining BitCoin, but by having LOTS of people sign up through your referral link.  THEY LOSE money by mining and lose even MORE by giving you the minuscule BitCoin THEY mine.

Stay away from CryptoTab Browser.

Samsung Blockchain Keystore “Couldn’t install app”

If you’re getting the “Couldn’t install app” error when trying to install the Samsung Blockchain Keystore app in your device’s Secure Folder, then read on.  Skip the background if you’re familiar with it and go straight to the Solution section.

Background

In mid-2019, Samsung came out with the Samsung Galaxy S10 phone.  At the same time, they introduced their first cryptocurrency wallet, the “Samsung Blockchain Wallet”.  At first, it only supported Ethereum.  But as of late 2019, it supports a few more cryptocurrencies, most notably, it now supports the most important one, Bitcoin!

But, to use the wallet app, it requires another app; the “Samsung Blockchain Keystore”.  I’m not sure why they separated that out into two apps, but my semi-educated guess is that you can create your keys and manage them in one app and use them in other apps, not JUST the wallet app.

Now, as anyone with any knowledge of cryptocurrencies knows, you have to be EXTRA careful with your keys for cryptocurrency.  YOU are 100% in control of your cryptocurrency.  If you’re careless, and it gets stolen, you have NO RECOURSE!  Unlike a traditional bank with FDIC insurance of up to $100,000 protection per account, there’s NOTHING for cryptocurrency.  That’s not a bug, that’s a feature!  With freedom, comes responsibility.  But that’s a speech for another day.  The point is, that if you’re going to do this on mobile, you want it to be a secure as possible, and on a Samsung phone, that means putting it in the ultra secure section called “Secure Folder”.  Now, let’s get back to the “Couldn’t install app” error.

Solution

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no solution at the time of this writing (2020-01-04).  I spent an hour on chat support with Samsung, who then sent me to a phone tech support that’s a specialist on the Secure folder.  Both the chat tech and the Secure Folder tech were unaware of the problem and both confirmed that it is, indeed, a problem that they’re going to have to fix.

Here are the problems you’ll experience:

  1. When trying to install the Samsung Blockchain Keystore into the Samsung Secure Folder:
    1. It will not find it in the installed apps from the apps installed outside of the Secure Folder.
    2. It will not find it in the Play Store (to their surprise, it’s not in the Play Store at all.  You can search for it with a desktop browser.  It’s just not there).
    3. It WILL not find it in the Samsung Galaxy Store… at least, not directly.  First, you have to search for the Samsung Blockchain Wallet app, select it, scroll down for similar apps, and you’ll find the Samsung Blockchain Keystore down there.  Try to install it, and you’ll get the error:
    4. Installing the KeyStore app OUTSIDE of Secure Folder will NOT make it available to the wallet app INSIDE the secure folder.
    5. Even when installed outside of secure folder, it does not show up in the app drawer.  You cannot add its icon to the home screen.
    6. The ONLY way to launch it is to find it in the Galaxy Store and tap the “Open” button there.

So, the conclusion is that it’s not possible to use the Samsung Wallet app in the Secure Folder area.  And if you can’t use it in there, it’s not worth using.  You NEED the extra protection of the Secure Folder for your cryptocurrency.  DO NOT ATTEMPT TO USE IT OUTSIDE OF SECURE FOLDER!!!

Speaking of Decentralized Monetization,

If you like my work, you can contribute directly to me with the following cryptocurrencies (but, apparently, not with the Samsung Blockchain Wallet app in Secure Folder yet!)

BitCoin:

bc1qx6egntacpaqzvy95n90hgsu9ch68zx8wl0ydqg
bc1qx6egntacpaqzvy95n90hgsu9ch68zx8wl0ydqg

LiteCoin:

LXgiodbvY5jJCxc6o2hmkRF131npBUqq1r
LXgiodbvY5jJCxc6o2hmkRF131npBUqq1r

Encrypting the Non-Encrypted Cloud Drive Services

EncryptedCloudDrive

In this article in my series of “Encrypt All The Things!”, I’ll show how to fully encrypt your files on popular cloud drive services that do not support zero knowledge encryption.  Such services that do NOT support zero knowledge encryption are:

  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • DropBox
  • Box.Net
  • Amazon Cloud Drive

That is obviously not a comprehensive list.  Some that DO support zero knowledge encryption:

  • Mega
  • Spider Oak

That is also not a comprehensive list.  The problem with Mega is that it’s closed source, so you can’t confirm that everything’s on the up and up.  In fact, Kim Dot Com, the creator of Mega, was/is wanted by the United States government for hosting pirated material.  That’s why he created Mega, so he’d have zero ability to decrypt the data, which was a great big middle finger to the U.S. government.  He’s since left the company and now claims it can’t be trusted, but we don’t know if that’s just sour grapes from him, or if there’s a legitimate reason for him to say that.  At any rate, it’s closed source, so there’s no way to confirm.

Spider Oak is also closed source AND it costs money.  It’s not a free service.

But, there are plenty of free cloud drive services (listed above at the top of this article), but none of them support zero knowledge encryption.  But, there’s now a fairly easy way to encrypt those.

Download and install the free, open source software called Cryptomator.  You can get it here:

https://cryptomator.org/

As of this writing, they only have a Linux, Windows, and Mac version, but they are actively working on Android and iOS versions.

How it works

Once you install CryptoMator on your PC, you configure it to access each of your cloud drive services.  At the time of this writing, Cryptomator supports 4 of the popular cloud drive services.

  • Google Drive
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • DropBox
  • (I can’t find information on the 4th one)

But, it should work with any cloud drive as long as you have a synced folder on your PC to that cloud drive service.  It doesn’t have to directly support your cloud drive service AS LONG AS your cloud drive software provides a local sync folder that other apps on your PC can access.

Below, I give general instructions.  The exact steps are clearly outlined in the CryptoMator documentation.  This will give you the basic idea of what you’re trying to accomplish…

Once installed, you add a “vault” to Cryptomator, create a password, and point CryptoMator to your local sync folder.  It will then create a virtual drive (using an unused drive letter) and store some encrypted files in your local sync folder.

Now, with your new drive letter, just put any files you want encrypted into there and NOT directly in your local sync folder.  If you put anything directly in your local sync folder IT WILL NOT BE ENCRYPTED!!!!  If you put files in your virtual drive that CrytpMator created for you and gave it a drive they, those files will appear as unencrypted to you as long as you have the “vault” unlocked with CryptoMator.  The actual encrypted bytes of the files are stored in the local sync folder associated with your cloud drive service.  If you open the sync folder, you’ll see meaningless file names and meaningless folder names with encrypted files in them.  That’s the encrypted data.  To have an unencrypted window into that encrypted data, simply open the new drive letter that CryptoMator created for you when you unlocked the vault with your password.

Since the encrypted bits are stored in your sync folder, they get synchronized with your cloud server and it’s those encrypted bits that are stored on the cloud drive servers.

Once you get that working, it’s a good idea to drag and drop all your previously existing NON ENCRYPTED files and folders from your local sync folder into your vault virtual drive.  Once you’ve confirmed they’re in the vault, BACK UP YOUR FILES, then you can safely delete them from your sync folder, which will delete the unencrypted files from your remote cloud drive, leaving only the encrypted bits.  Cryptomator will automatically encrypt them and store the encrypted bits back into your local sync folder, which your cloud drive software will then upload to your cloud drive service.

Caveats

  • Errors with large folders: I have about 64GB in my Microsoft One Drive.  When I tried moving my camera roll folder into my Cryptomator virtual drive associated with OneDrive, it kept failing.  I presume it wasn’t designed for folders with that many files or that many bytes.  After many days of effort, I finally did get it working.  I do not know if it was a OneDrive problem or a Cryptomator problem.  I had no issues encrypting my Google Drive nor my DropBox, but neither of them had as much data.
  • No Mobile (yet): Right now, there’s no mobile access to your encrypted data.  They’re actively working on both Android and iOS apps, so that may change by the time you see this.
  • No browser access: Since the web interfaces of these cloud services simply show you the files as they are on their services, after you encrypt your files and folders, when viewing them with a web browser on those services, you’ll only see the encrypted data.  This makes sense because the cloud drive services are unaware of the encryption switch-aroo you’ve done.  Don’t expect this to change.
  • Your Key: With zero knowledge encryption, you keep your key locally, but Cryptomator stores your key ON your remote cloud drive.  Don’t fret too much though.  It’s encrypted with your password that you made when you created your vault.  Technically, your password is your key.  In my judgment, it’s fairly safe.  Though, I wouldn’t be storing my archives of my classified State Department e-mail on any of these public cloud drives, even with Cryptomator. Winking smile
  • Meta data: The contents of your files are encrypted as well as the file and folder names, but the timestamps are NOT encrypted and neither are the number of files, the number of folders, nor the sizes of the files.  The timestamps are left as is in order for your cloud drive software (OneDrive, Google Drive, DropBox, etc…) to know when things have changed so it can sync properly.  The file sizes are a result of how many bytes you’re encrypting.  The number of encrypted files will be roughly equal to the number of files as they were before they were encrypted (but the contents will be fully encrypted).  This too is a side effect of how the syncing works.
  • Mobile still unencrypted: You should probably turn off or uninstall the cloud drive software on your mobile devices because you won’t be able to see anything but encrypted data.  Also, any files you have locally on your mobile device that you have set to sync will be uploaded UNENCRYPTED.  Then you’ll have a mix of both encrypted and unencrypted files on your cloud drive.  Remember, CryptoMator is actively working on Android and iOS apps.  When they’re available, you can install those and follow Cryptomator’s recommendations on what to do with your cloud drive provider software.

Use this information about the caveats

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Mobile: Encrypting All Internet Traffic

This is one of many articles in a series I’m writing to cover end-to-end encryption for everything…

Encrypt All The Things! [A Guide]

you do in your digital life.  I’ll cover encrypting specific types of …internet traffic (like E-Mail, Web sites, etc…) in other articles.

For a primer on encryption, please read my article “Understanding Encryption”…

Understanding Encryption

…as it teaches VERY IMPORTANT concepts that you need to know before moving forward here.

This works for rooted AND unrooted phones.

Big Disclaimer

Before going any further, let’s make one thing perfectly clear on THIS particular encryption.  This does NOT make all your internet traffic encrypted from your phone all the way to the final destination!

So… What does it do then?

This will encrypt your connection from your phone through and past your ISP.  It protects you from your ISP and anyone snooping on  your local end of the network.  This is great for when you need to use public wifi.  Scammers running a free wifi node will NOT be able to see your data NOR will they know where on the internet you’re going.

So… What does it NOT do?

Excellent question!  Let’s say you’re browsing a website that’s NOT encrypted (like this page you’re on right now)… Under normal circumstances, anyone snooping your network traffic ANYWHERE on the internet… from your local connection all the way to the connection on my end at my website, can see:

  • Your IP address.
  • The URL you’re wanting to visit.
  • Anything you type on my search page.
  • The contents of the pages my website sends back to you.
  • In short, everything is visible and in the clear.

Using the techniques in this article, you’ll be on an encrypted connection from your phone, through and past your ISP to some random computer on the TOR network, to a couple MORE computers on the TOR network, till your connection finally exits the TOR network and gets back on the regular internet, possibly in another country.  From THERE, your connection from THAT computer to my website is entirely unencrypted.

So… Why use TOR then?

To hide your network activity from your ISP, your cell phone provider network, your employer’s wifi, your local government(s) (including the NSA and GCHQ (the British NSA)), and anyone else snooping on the network near your end of the connection.  It will also hide your IP address from the websites you’re visiting.  You can make yourself appear to be in just about any country you choose.

Will this guarantee no one can see what I’m doing online?

LOL!  You’re cute when you’re innocent.  Of course not.  NOTHING is 100% safe on the internet, but it’s pretty darn strong protection and causes even the NSA headaches.  Someone with lots of resources would have to be specifically targeting you and it would be very difficult for them, even then.  You’re reasonably safe even against the NSA, but not totally.

What does it encrypt?

Note that this is a method to obfuscate ALL your internet traffic from your Android device, not just web browsing, but everything, including traffic to and from the Google Play Store, Google searches, game communication.  Again, it will NOT encrypt an unencypted connection.  It will encrypt all steps of the connection up to the exit node (see “How does it work?” below).

How does it work?

There are thousands of computers all around the world volunteering to be part of the TOR (The Onion Router) network.  When you connect to the TOR network, you’re randomly choosing an entry node computer somewhere in the world.  That computer then forwards your traffic to another, randomly chosen computer somewhere else in the world, which then forwards you to yet another computer on TOR somewhere else in the world, which then forwards you to a randomly selected TOR “exit node” computer… a computer on TOR whose purpose is to act as a fake YOU to the sites you visit.  It’s THAT computer’s IP address that your sites will see.

All traffic between you and all the TOR computers that your traffic passes through is encrypted.  The TOR computers do not know of your entire connection path through all the TOR computers you’re connecting through.  ONLY your own device knows that.  This is to prevent malicious adversaries from trying to reverse trace where you are.

Doesn’t this slow my connection down?

You betcha!  Yes.  Yes it does.  You do NOT want to do this for a first person shooter game.  YOU WILL LOSE!

Step by step instructions (FINALLY!)

If you’re device is NOT rooted, you’re going to change your Proxy address to “localhost” and your port to 8118 after you download and install Orbot. Below the installation steps are steps on doing that below:

  1. Download the app “Orbot” from the Google Play store.Screenshot_20160404-165041
  2. Optionally, you may want to ALSO install “Orfox”, a browser made to work on the TOR network.  It’s a modified version of the FireFox browser.  It works in tandem with Orbot.  But any browser will work.
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165051
  3. Launch the Orbot app.
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165126
  4. Long press on the screen to start Orbot.
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165118
  5. If you want to appear to be from a specific country, tap the drop down control in the bottom right of the screen and choose your desired country.
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165145
  6. If your device is rooted, skip the following steps about configuring your wifi connection and go directly to step #11.
  7. If your device is NOT rooted, it requires a little more work.  Steps 7-9 will need to be completed every time you connect to TOR.  Go to Settings->Wifi and long press on your wifi connection that you’re connected to and select “Manage network settings”.Screenshot_20160404-165310 BLURRED
  8. Now check the box “Show advanced options”
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165317 BLURRED
  9. Change your Proxy to “Manual”.
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165332 BLURRED
  10. Change your Proxy Host Name to localhost and your Proxy port to 8118 and tap “SAVE”.
    1. Screenshot_20160404-165404 BLURRED
  11. If everything worked (and it doesn’t always), you should have a secure connection on the TOR network now.  Open OrBot and click the “Browser” button on the lower left.Screenshot_20160404-165118
  12. If you have OrFox installed, it should open OrFox and load a page that tests.  It will tell you if you’re on a safe Tor connection.  If you don’t have OrFox installed, it’ll launch your default browser and do the same thing.  Here are 2 screenshots, one of OrFox and one of Chrome:

Screenshot_20160404-165205Screenshot_20160404-165422

If it didn’t work, you’ll see a page like this:

Screenshot_20160404-165246 BLURRED

If you see the “sorry” page, launch Orbot, then open its menu and choose “Exit”, then go to step #3 and try again.  There’s no guarantee that this will work all the time.  Some days it works.  Some days it doesn’t.

image

How to end TOR and go back to NORMAL networking

  1. Open the Orbot app, long press, and Orbot will end the TOR connection.  The onion icon will become gray.
  2. Open the menu in the Orbot app and choose “Exit”.
  3. Fix your wifi proxy back… Settings->Wifi.
  4. Long press your wifi network and choose “Manage network settings.
  5. Click the check box “Show advanced options”.
  6. Change “Proxy” back to “None”.
  7. Tap save.

You should now have a normal network connection again.  As a last resort, simply reboot your device if networking fails to restore to normal.

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Hangouts: “photo sharing is not available because of your administrator settings”

If you get the error “photo sharing is not available because of your administrator settings” in Google Hangouts (iPhone, Android, or any other platform) when you’re trying to send a picture (either by taking a photo within hangouts or just selecting an existing picture on your device), here’s what’s up with that and how to fix it…

Why you’re getting this:

You’re probably using an e-mail address that’s NOT @gmail.com.  You’re using Google custom domains (or whoever assigned you your account is using it) or Google domains for business or education.  Your account does NOT have “Google Photos” enabled.

Samsung Galaxy Phones on Amazon.com
Samsung Galaxy Phones on Amazon.com

How to fix it:

If you’re NOT the administrator for the domain, then contact your domain administrator (the person that set up your account) and have them follow the following instructions:

If you ARE an administrator…

  1. Log into your domain control panel and click on “User”.image
  2. Click on the appropriate user account.
  3. Click on “Google Apps enabled”image
  4. Scroll down to “Show more” and click it.
  5. Then click “Additional Google services enabled”
  6. Scroll down and click on “Google Photos”.  It’s probably “off”.  Turn it on.
  7. image

Now the user should immediately be able to send images from within hangouts.

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Slow Motion Galaxy S7 Video Tests

I bought a Samsung Galaxy S7 on March 11, 2016 (well, actually TWO of them) and have been testing the features.  Now, this slow motion video is not a new feature.  In fact, I’ve had it on my prior phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4 for almost 3 years, but I’ve had Cyanogenmod installed on it for the the last 2 and a half years, so I’ve been missing this feature.

Details of Slo-Mo

The Galaxy S line of phones since the S4 have had a camera feature where the camera can record video at 240 fps (frames per second) at 1280×720 resolution.

Enough already, let’s see some slo-mo video!

Fine!  Here you go!  This first one is a water bottle connected to a SodaStream, being carbonated.

Next is video of spraying water on the headlight of my car.   I have this uploaded to YouTube, but because of the extreme detail of the thousands of water droplets, YouTube’s video compression really destroys it, so I’m providing it as a downloadable MP4 file instead (46MB).

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If you want to see the butchered YouTube version, here it is:

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Reasons To Root Your Android Device

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I frequently see posts where people are asking for the benefits of rooting an Android phone or tablet.  So, instead of rethinking and rewriting the list every time, I’m just going to link them to this pre-existing list.

The List

    1. Get rid of bloatware.
    2. Increase security & privacy.
    3. Integrate Google Voice into the OS (depends on which firmware “ROM” you get).
    4. XPosed with tons of modules for enhanced capabilities.
    5. FolderMount to move ANY app to SD (better than app2SD)… ALWAYS works!
    6. Become a wifi hotspot without paying your carrier DOUBLE for the same internet.
    7. Share internet via cable without paying your carrier DOUBLE for the same internet.
    8. Granular (per permission, per app) security for all apps.
    9. Increased storage space due to removed bloatware.
    10. Backing up all apps.
    11. Keeping multiple versions of backed up apps (Titanium Backup) so you can roll back to an older version when an update totally hoses needed functionality or adds in app advertisements.
    12. Block phone calls and texts from specific numbers (at the OS level).
    13. NANDROID backups (entire, bit-for-bit copy of your entire setup).

All the items above, explained

    1. Get rid of bloatware.
      1. Bloatware is software pre-installed by the manufacturer and carrier that you are not allowed to uninstall.  It’s usually crap that you’ll never use and uses up your valuable storage space that you could be using for your own stuff.
    2. Increase security & privacy.
      1. Contrary to popular opinion, rooting your phone does not automatically reduce your security.  In fact, you can add powerful security control that you will never have with an unrooted deviced.
    3. Integrate Google Voice into the OS (depends on which firmware “ROM” you get).
      1. I don’t keep up with every feature of every alternative firmware (also, mistakenly called “ROMs”), but I do know that Cyanogenmod has Google Voice support integrated into the OS (they call it “Voice+”).  If you have an expensive texting plan, you can cancel it and use your free Google Voice # for texting.  The unrooted downside is you can only use Google Hangouts or the old Google Voice app to send or receive texts.  If you want to use another texting app, like Chomp, Textra, or any of the others, you’re S.O.L.  But with Cyanogenmod, you can connect Voice+ (a feature in the OS settings) to your Google Voice account and suddenly all texting apps can send and receive texts with Google Voice.
    4. XPosed with tons of modules for enhanced capabilities.
      1. XPosed is an app for rooted Android devices and it has many “modules” that you can download for great features like giving you the ability to disable any permission you want from any app.  So if a game wants your contacts, you can block it.  That’s just one of hundreds of things you can do with XPosed.
    5. FolderMount to move ANY app to SD (better than app2SD)… ALWAYS works!
      1. FolderMount is not a feature, a concept, or an OS Setting.  It’s simply an app available in the PlayStore that let’s you move an apps program folder and/or data folder to your larger SD storage (internal or external) and it tricks the app into thinking it’s still in the original location, so the app continues to work.  All other apps that move apps to SD cards fail with some apps because they don’t trick the apps into thinking they’re still in their original location.
      2. Moving your apps to SD frees up your internal storage for more apps so you don’t have to pick and choose which apps to uninstall when you want to install a new one because you’re just out of space.
    6. Become a wifi hotspot without paying your carrier DOUBLE for the same internet.
      1. Many phones have this feature disabled by the carriers because they don’t want you having this ability.  Other carriers provide their own version of this on your phone, but when you use it, it notifies the carrier that you’re doing it and the carrier charges you extra money.  It’s really none of their damned business.  You’re already paying for the internet access and the bandwidth.  With a rooted phone, you can turn your phone into a wifi hotspot and it won’t freaking send a pointless message back to the carrier to say, HEY!  This user is using what he’s already paid for!  Let’s double-charge him!
    7. Share internet via cable without paying your carrier DOUBLE for the same internet.
      1. Similar to making your phone a wifi hotspot, you can plug a cable between your phone and a laptop or PC and let it connect to the internet through your phone.
    8. Granular (per permission, per app) security for all apps.
      1. Every app you install has a FIXED set of permissions.  When you install the app, you’re presented with the list.  You can either accept ALL those permission or NONE of them (by not installing the app).  With a rooted phone, you can install an app, then go and turn OFF individual permissions you don’t want the app to have.  (This increases your security and privacy by light years!)
    9. Increased storage space due to removed bloatware.
      1. This one is self-explanatory.
    10. Backing up all apps.
      1. You can back up your installed apps and their data, then restore them later.  This is ridiculously useful.
    11. Keeping multiple versions of backed up apps.
      1. (Titanium Backup) so you can roll back to an older version when an update totally hoses needed functionality or adds in app advertisements.  So, so, so, sooooooooo useful!
    12. Block phone calls and texts from specific numbers (at the OS level).
      1. Got one too many calls from “Rachel, from ‘Card Services’?”  Add the incoming phone number to your block list.  This is NOT an app.  It’s a feature of the OS (depending on whether you install a firmware that has it).  The phone never rings or wakes up… it’s just totally blocked and ignored.
    13. NANDROID backups (entire, bit-for-bit copy of your entire setup).
      1. You can make an exact copy of your phone, as-is.  Then restore it later, EXACTLY is it is at the moment you make your backup.  This is good for many things, including making a backup before you start experimenting with changes.  Screw it up?  Just restore from your backup.

Can you think of any other benefits of rooting your Android device?  Share them with us in the comments below.

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Encrypt All The Things! [A Guide]

So, Microsoft Windows 10 sends your private data to Microsoft (E-Mail and private files in private folders (read the EULA if you don’t believe me), your employer is snooping on your web traffic at work, local hackers are packet sniffing your web traffic at the coffee shop, your neighbors are hacking your home wi-fi, cloud providers have access to your files, thiefs have access to everything on your laptop or phone when you lose them in public, and don’t even get me started on the NSA and all the things THEY have access to (hint:  It’s everything, including your phone calls), not to mention your ISPs and rogue, tin-pot tyrannical dictatorship governments around the world.

You want your data to stay out of their hands and eyes?  Then you’d better put on your foil hat, pull up a chair, and pay attention to this how-to on encrypting all your data and all your communications (including phone calls!) and some best practices thrown in for good measure.

From a high level, here are the things we’ll be encrypting.  I’ll break them up into separate articles, because it would be quite a lot to take in all at once.  I’ll be writing these articles over the next couple of weeks, so check back here to see this topic list change from black text to hot links to the published articles.

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Extending Xamarin Forms

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This is Keith’s second part to his earlier session on Introduction to XAML Forms.

Below are my in-session notes:

  • JetBrains dotPeek is a Windows app to help with XAML.  Extremely valuable according to Keith.
  • Demo was in Xamarin Studio (on Mac).  A little more stable than Visual Studio 2015 right now.
  • When starting new project, you have check boxes for target platforms (iOS & Android).
  • UITests projected created for you, by default.
  • Be sure to get latest packages because they’re updated frequently.
  • Creating a new XAML form creates a XAML file and a C# code behind file.
  • Inside XAML <ContentPage>, type in your new controls.
  • He created an Audio Recorder class to record some audio.
  • He’ll be targeting iPhone for this demo.
  • Data binding with BindableProperty type:
    • public static BindableProperty fileNMeProperty = BindableProperty.Create(“FileName”, typeof(string));
    • public string FileName{ get{ return (string)this.GetValue(FileNameProperty);} set{this.SetValue(FileNameProperty, value);}
  • MessagingCenter class lets you communicate between the layers (I presume he means between the code behind layer and the XAML layer).
  • C# code that’s native to the target platform is auto-generated (I think).
  • He built and deployed his demo to his iPhone and recorded his voice.  We didn’t hear the playback, but he swears it played back.  Don’t worry, we trust you Keith. 🙂
  • He created a “renderer” for a platform specific feature (>> on list items on iOS).  It will not fail on other platforms, it just won’t show it.