Sunday, 14 August 2016

Cheap or free roaming? Use AfWall+ together with Roaming Control

A major shortcoming of android is that you need to root your phone or tablet to use a firewall. Once rooted, there are a few firewalls to choose from, but one is way better than the rest: AfWall+ by ukpriya.

It keeps apps off WiFi, mobile data, your LAN, or all of them. Better yet, you can allow apps to go online in your own country, but block 'em when you're in a place where international data roaming costs a fortune.

If your SIM card is from an EU operator, however, european data roaming is not that expensive anymore. If all goes as planned, data roaming charges will be a thing of the past in Europe next year. Yep, the European Union has a billion flaws, but sometimes those money-guzzlers in Brussels manage to do something useful. Of course it helps when a european law cuts down the eurocrat's own phone bills...

With intra-EU data roaming charges knocked down and about to die, the data roaming black- and whitelists of AfWall+ are a bit too blunt. Hopefully a future update will add an EU exclusion option to the roaming rules. Until then, you can roll your own exclusion list with Xposed module Roaming Control.

Even if the general android network settings say that roaming is not allowed, Roaming Control lets your android roam on selected networks and in countries. It also makes AfWall+ think you're not roaming, tricking it into using the same firewall rules as back home.

So if you're roaming all over the EU and associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway for now), combine AfWall+ and Roaming Control to allow your phone to roam where it's cheap or free without manually switching AfWall+ profiles.

AFWall+ (Google Play Store)
AfWall+ on F-Droid (The F-Droid version is sometimes a bit old)
AFWall+ on xda

Roaming Control in the Xposed repository
Roaming Control on xda

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Thursday, 28 July 2016

Nokia Here Maps renamed Here WeGo: car builders teach it to ride a bike, sort of

History lesson: this blog exists because way back when Symbian was still alive the only official way to update Nokia Maps was with the oversized, Windows-only piece of crapware called Nokia Map Loader. So I made a list of links to download map updates directly on your phone without using a PC or Nokia's horrible map update app. Despite Nokia's attempts to get my site offline, it's still alive and kicking. That site grew into Symbian Underground, then Android Underground, and who knows what's gonna be next. CyanogenOS Underground?

Lots of things changed since then. Nokia sold Here Maps - the old Nokia Maps, then Ovi Maps - to a bunch of car manufacturers. Its latest name is Here WeGo, and something else changed besides the name. Here Maps only knew about cars and public transport, but Here WeGo finally figured out how to ride a bike. That was about time; Google Maps added bike lanes ages ago.

Here WeGo shares a bad habit with Google Maps. More often than not, both apps route you around parks rather than through them, even if the park is big and full of bike lanes. On the bright side, Here WeGo's offline capabilities beat Google Maps, so it is the better choice if you cycle in distant countries with data roaming charges that would require a second mortgage on your house.

Unlike Google Maps, Here WeGo only shows routes, not bike lanes. There's no indication whatsoever of which streets are bike friendly or not, and it happily suggests that you take your bike and your life to speeding car-infested throughfares where cycling is another word for suicide.

So yes, Here WeGo can ride a bike, but its current cycling skills resemble those of the average tourist kicking a McBike rental through downtown Amsterdam after extensive sampling of the Dutch herbs and spices. Lets hope the car companies that own Here WeGo are willing to invest a bit more in navigation for Android users that pedal around on two wheels.

Here WeGo in Google Play
Google Maps in Google Play

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