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Android Encryption GUI Handhelds Operating Systems Privacy

Amazon Backpedals On Encryption, But Fire "Still Sucks" 66

Just a day after it made headlines for announcing that it would remove encryption from its line of FireOS devices, reports Ars Technica, the company has reverted the change, and says that encryption will again be a user-selectable option, with an update to come sometime this Spring. Judging from comments here on Slashdot, that ought to please a lot of people. However, encryption isn't the Fire's only problem; Ricki Jennings at ComputerWorld has collected some of the user reaction to the change, and says that anemic hardware means that even with this small course correction, the Fire tablets themselves "still suck." I'm not so sure; I bought one of the low-end Fire tablets and returned it, disappointed not in the hardware (seemed not bad at all for $50, with a decent screen, snappy video, and sound that was better than reviews had led me to expect) but rather by the intentional limitations of the OS itself.
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Amazon Backpedals On Encryption, But Fire "Still Sucks"

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The part of this that's truly sad is that even with encryption disabled, FireOS was still better than Firefox OS.

  • Review notes (Score:5, Informative)

    by um... Lucas ( 13147 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @09:29AM (#51647919) Homepage Journal

    I bought a Fire on the first day of release as well, and set very low expectations for it based on how much I was paying. Ultimately, all I ever use it for is to watch movies I've downloaded on flights. It's Browser performance (just performing DNS lookups as far as I can tell from the UI, forget about getting pages to render) is anemic at best. I haven't even bother installing any applications that I could use to create or add data to it (like a text editor, dropbox, or even a non-throwaway email address), but I'm sure some people do that.

    Oh on the plus side, it plays Minecraft like a champ, so it's useful for quieting the house.

    Just amused that it can render rudimentary 3-D graphics, play full screen, full motion video, but I can't even use it to visit Slashdot...

    • Re: Review notes (Score:5, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Sunday March 06, 2016 @09:45AM (#51647957) Homepage Journal

      I wish the bootloader weren't locked but they don't prevent you from sideloading Play Store. I got one for $40 for my daughter to take on an international trip to use as a Hangouts device and I was totally satisfied with the value and got a second one for my own use.

      I think the "with special offers" idea is fantastic - I would have bought twice if they hadn't sold out (a whole Eneloop setup for $14?). By keeping them as restricted Android devices, they're keeping lots of potential shoppers away from Special Offers. I guess they've done the math on this and it says they make more from their app store than they lose from less Amazon shopping, but the $20 price difference indicates they are losing real profit for notional profit.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I picked my fire up for £30 an amazons black friday sale (its starting to become a thing in the UK). The other day they emailed me to say they were recalling the charger as they were unsafe, and offered me £12 credit to buy my own. I've never used their charger, so for £18, I think this is the best value tablet I have ever bought. Sure it suck, but a no-name knockoff for that price would be aweful!

      • Re: Review notes (Score:5, Informative)

        by Bartles ( 1198017 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @10:52AM (#51648119)

        The bootloader is locked but you can still install cyanogen mod and have a decent fully functional tablet for 50 bucks. Go look at the XDA forums.

      • yeah I got one for $30 during the black friday sale - and I find it useful - sideloaded play store so I could get some non amazon only apps - mostly use it as a comic book reader , totally satisfied with it for that alone
    • Re:Review notes (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Gojira Shipi-Taro ( 465802 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @09:52AM (#51647975) Homepage

      That's entirely the shitty Silk browser at work there. Sideloading google services and Chrome improves that experience quite a bit. I suspect it's all the telemetry that Amazon loads.

      • Thanks. Just dusted it off and plugged it in to get a charge, will try getting Chrome or access the Play store to see other options...

    • Just amused that it can render rudimentary 3-D graphics, play full screen, full motion video, but I can't even use it to visit Slashdot...

      Amazon must have fixed that, because I just responded to a /. post using my new (5th Generation) Fire, and it worked fine.

      • You got the little $50/$35 fire to? I'm sure I've missed the latest updates, haven't touched the thing in a month and a half or more, maybe i'll see if something new came down the pike to make it a usable web browser...

        • As a matter of fact, they did come up with a fix to it's web browsing. It's called "ANY other mobile browser than Silk."
    • okay for $39, find anything remotely close to this device. What I'd like to know is if I can program for it and use it's usb to control my arduino.

      • Well, about 3 months back, I found a general-purpose 7" Android tablet for $39. It's not exactly Retina-level graphics resolution and the viewing angle is below average (some consider this a plus, though). But it's a perky little thing and yes, I believe it supports USB on-the-go, so I suppose you could use it is usb to control your arduino (sic).

    • On mine the browser is much faster than firefox on a brand new window's 10 laptop with 16 gig of ram.


      • perhaps I'm just spoiled using Safari on iOS on my mobile devices, and alternating between Safari, Chrome and Firefox on my MBPro... But seriously, slashdot was one of the first sites i tried to open on it, and it probably took a minute or two to load the page.

    • by Threni ( 635302 )

      I paid £35 for it, and I removed the OS in favour of Cyanogenmod. I use it like I'd use a phone or a small tablet, and it works. Email, some games, guitar tuner/metronome, surfing, facebook messenger. Basically everything I'd put on my phone of main tablet if I didn't mind install all sorts of crap and caning the battery. It's also great for PDFs/comics/graphic novels; I have a kindle for reason serious stuff but PDF support is poor on it, as is zooming in and out. It's great on the Fire; n

  • by Robotech_Master ( 14247 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @09:56AM (#51647991) Homepage Journal

    It's actually very simple [] to get Google Services, including the Play Store, on the Fire. You don't even have to root it—just enable developer mode, activate USB debugging, install some drivers on your PC, and sideload a software package. Then, boom: you've got the Play Store and nearly every app I've tried works just fine. (Oddly enough, Google Inbox is one that doesn't.) As a side effect, it also disables Special Offers for free.

    I gather you can go further with further hacking, outright replacing Fire OS with CyanogenMod or whatever, but I've never felt the need to. I have other pure Android devices, and this Fire the way it is is good enough.

    • Can't you just install ES File Explorer from their store and use that to sideload stuff? That's what I did with the Fire TV Stick, which saved me from having to park myself next to the TV with a netbook for two minutes. #1WP

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I did everything one could to unlimit it -- got it working as one would want. And found it just wouldn't chromecast. It turned out to be a known problem.

      There are other cheap tablets out there. They work better as a simple Android device.

    • by dk20 ( 914954 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @11:57AM (#51648329)

      There is basically a "one click" way to do this.. just takes a bit of time.

      Once i did it to my own FIRE i then installed another launcher.. basically giving me an ASUS tab (using the asus launcher) for $30 thanks to black friday.
      ASUS doesnt have anything that can come close to that price level.

      I found moving to CyanogenMod left the device unstable and atually went back to FireOS and the playstore work-around.

      • $30?!

        When did it ever get down to that price? I saw $39 and $35, but never $30.

        • by dk20 ( 914954 )

          Sorry, you may be right about $35, obviously it was a few months ago.. regardless once i applied some "updates" it became much more useful.

  • by iampiti ( 1059688 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @10:13AM (#51648019)
    In an era in which computers, of all kinds including smartphones and tables, are powerful enough to do most things one could ever imagine, it's irritating that manufacturers impose artificial software limitations.
    Those include: Being unable to install software from outside of an official app store (iOS and Windows Phone), being unable to uninstall certain bundled programs (You can't uninstall certain Google apps even from unlocked Android phones), being unable to install apps on SD cards (Android), etc... All of them can be summed up as not allowing the user to be root on their own device.
    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @11:49AM (#51648295)

      Do you really think Amazon would be selling the hardware that cheap if it weren't locked down? They sell a $200+ tablet for $50 because they expect you to buy more than $150+ of Amazon stuff on it. That wouldn't work very well if they just let you buy from whoever on it.

      • Mine is rooted. I buy Amazon books on it and ... nothing else.

      • Yes, I understand that. I'm aware Amazon hardware is "sponsored", and that's fine by me as long as you're aware about what your buying, but I was speaking about the state of mobile OSes in general. I should've made it clear. My post was in fact semi offtopic
  • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @10:33AM (#51648069) Homepage Journal

    ...the Fire tablets really are intended as media/game consumption devices, even more so than, say, the iPad. Requiring they have an encrypted file system is only one short of wanting that for your Smart TV or MP3 player.

    I don't doubt, because this is Slashdot, that a few people use them - with a stock ROM installed - for checking their email, but that's not really their purpose and Amazon doesn't go out of their way to encourage that kind of use, unlike Google Android where you pretty much set up Google's groupware suite as part of the setting it up process, and unlike phones where you have all of the above plus the mandatory text messaging.

  • Easy to push google stuff on to, easy to root. Cheap. Quad processor. Faster browsing than windows. Long battery life.

    Programs like keyboards can get you to the hidden OS pages for installing keyboards.

  • My question is will they attempt to do something mind-bendingly stupid like enabling a secret master key or key escrow when they re-enable encryption on the device. You know, just so they can cooperate with the FBI and show how they're better than Apple.

  • Seriously, for a little bit of money you get a decent throwaway tablet. If you lose an 800 dollar iPad you'll cry. If you lose this you'll go, "meh!"

  • So the hardware and the O/S is a little limiting? Fine. It isn't the type of device you need.

    On the other hand, all of the ridiculous levels of settings and personalizations and all that on a 5.1.1 or 6.0 Android box is too much for my parents to want to argue with.

    There's something to be said for "works well enough". As developers we should not forget that, lest a simpler product line come along and put your complex fully-featured super-product out to dry, no matter what features the new upstart is missing.

    I'm not saying Amazon's Fire will do that to Android, as the tablet market right now is still pretty large and has room for all (and of course, Fire could easily re-enable Android features they've suppressed at a moment's notice should the demand truly be there). But it is something to consider that not all products are the right fit for all audiences.

    I have a Fire that I use for reading at night (Feedly, Pocket, and Facebook - all the links i've saved throughout the day - and kindle books if i'm still awake after all that). It works perfect for that purpose (I also use it as test platform for my apps since i'm targeting that easier-to-use market).

    But I take a Samsung Tab 4 with me during the day, because that's the better one for when I want interactive stuff or games or things that require Google Play Services and all that.

    Right tool for the right job and the right audience.

    (That said, FireOS 5 did have a few really annoying bugs I've had to work around, but nevermind... :) )

  • Curiosity got the better of me. At least I think it was HD. This was also some time ago, not sure what iteration it was. Conceptually the interface had a few elements going for it, but as others have commented, it was the overall limited and limiting implementation of the Android OS that was the killer. I never understood the lack of apps in the Amazon App Store. I can see excluding embarrassments like intense 3d games, but the hardware was otherwise quite capable. I was able to side load and run absolutely
  • I bought one to watch movies and tv series in the gym and to buy Aliexpress and Amazon stuff on the road when I'm bored.

    For 50$ I don't care if I lose or forget it.

  • by iamacat ( 583406 ) on Sunday March 06, 2016 @02:13PM (#51648855)

    If you already have a Fire tablet, try an alternative ROM before returning/selling. As long as you are able to root the device, you can install safestrap, a ROM like cyanogenmod and Google apps. At this point, you have a fully functional device with a choice of launchers and app stores.

    If you are thinking of this route, don't connect to WiFi during device setup. This way, you don't update bootloader and OS from potentially rootable versions and have most options for the device going forward.

    Of course there is a wide choice of inexpensive Android tablets when shopping for a new device and rooting is hit or miss. But if you already have one in your hands, it's worth a shot.

  • I got my Fire tablet for $35 in the Black Friday weekend sale. I certainly get enough use out of it to justify the price. I regularly read Kindle books on it, view web sites and YouTube videos, and occasionally stream a movie or TV show. Streaming from Amazon Video, Netflix, and Google (see next paragraph) all work perfectly.

    I sideloaded the Google Play store and services, and use Chrome as my browser rather than Silk. People who have commented on a poor experience with web browsing may be dealing with inad

  • I bought this during the Black Friday sales.
    My use case for this is to run SkySafari Pro 4, with the SkyFi box, to control my Celestron AVX telescope mount with a 6" reflector, and my SCB-4000 lowlight video camera for doing video-assisted astronomy.
    It does this most admirably, and works very well when out at the scope, and it makes it easy to go chasing magnitude 15 galaxies from my backyard. Locate object in the app's database, center on screen, and tell the scope to slew from the screen. Then, I can s
  • My biggest issue with all Amazon Android devices is the fact that they run branded, trimmed down and crippled versions of Android. I would never buy an Amazon tablet of any kind. I'll stick to tablets running true Android with all features present and available. You don't need an Amazon Kindle or Fire to do the same things you would do with those devices on real tablets. They have free apps for that stuff, ya know and you're not blocked from Google Play on real Android devices like you are on Amazon devices

The less time planning, the more time programming.