Friday, June 21, 2013

Joining the 21st century (part 2 setup)

One of my favorite things about the Nexus 4 is that it's a largely blank canvas, the latest Android OS without modifications from the vendor. Also nice is that Nexus phones tend to get OS updates earlier than many other devices.  Currently, my phone is running Android 4.2.2 Jellybean but 4.3 was spotted at the recent Google I/O show and I expect it to be available soon.

One of my first tasks was to secure my phone.  I don't really care about people making phone calls (more on that later) but I don't want them to have access to my email, various accounts, or data.  I added a PIN to the unlock screen (don't forget to do this!) and added my personal certificates for easy access to secure sites. Digital certificates identify your device for a variety of purposes and I need them to access my work VPN as well as for simple authentication to various secure web applications/pages.

Android supports X.509 certificates saved in PKCS#12 key store files with a .p12 or .pfx extension. If your key store has some other extension, you must change it to .p12 or .pfx or you won’t be able to install it. When you install a certificate from a PKCS#12 key store, Android also installs any accompanying private key or certificate authority certificates. The whole process was way easier then I expected but the process varies from device to device so I won't attempt to document a step by step procedure. Every procedure I found on the web were all slightly different than what I needed for my phone but my overall experience seemed simpler and very logical. Nice job Google.

All of the basic email and contacts setup was merely letting the phone import my data from my Google account. I loaded a few miscellaneous applications and tried a game or two, but mainly I decided to live with the phone to figure out what I needed.

It didn't take long for me to notice that the PIN on the lockscreen followed by selecting the phone app made placing a call a headache. To solve this,  download the Simple Dialer Widget from the Google Play Store (it's free) and then drop the widget onto one of the home screen panels. What you get is a fully functional dialer (keypad, call log, and contact list) that you drag in from the side panel. Bypassing the lock screen presents some security concerns but it seemed a risk worth taking.

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

So as I write this, I'm very happy with my "little" Nexus 4. I'm currently exploring Google Music and various bluetooth configurations in my car and intend to continue to mold this device to meet my needs.  Life in the 21st century really does have some advantages!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Joining the 21st century (part 1 hardware)

I am now the proud owner of a white Nexus 4 cell phone.  Yes, I broke down and joined the 21st century and the ranks of the mindless always connected collective. With corporations embracing mobile apps and the cloud, I found I finally needed a smartphone. While I love to play with gadgets, let's just say I'm thrifty when it comes to my own "toys".  I also tend to avoid long-term commitments like cell phone contracts. So this is tool for work and efficiency, not a toy.  Rationalization complete! Now I can play without guilt. ;-)

First order of business was protecting my investment. Google provided a free white bumper which I used for a couple days but it didn't provide much protection. What I finally settled on was the Poetic Leather Wallet Case. Ignore the "wallet" features and this is a great case.  Good protection but without adding much bulk.

My main worry was whether I could use the Nexus 4 wireless charger.  Out of the case, the charger holds the phone firmly.  In the case, the Nexus 4 is only weakly held in place by the magnets but thankfully it does hold and chargers the phone. Wireless charging is a nice feature I could easily live without but face it, it's cool. The charger holds the phone at a useable angle and time will tell how will it works as a base for say an alarm clock, music controller, etc.