OCR using Smart Select on the Galaxy Note 4

In my last blog post I had to copy some text from some old photocopies I made years ago. Not wanting to retype the whole thing I wanted to use Optical Character Recognition (OCR). This is 2015, do we really have to copy by typing?

Google Drive is capable of doing this, but did not work for me. So I finally tried to do this with my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Here is how:

  1. Take out the pen and you’ll get the circular menu for some pen features.
  2. Ignore that menu for now
  3. Take a picture of the page using the camera
  4. Open that picture
  5. Bring the pen tip close to the picture and double click the pen’s button
  6. You get that circular pen menu again from step 1 above
  7. Now pick Smart Select option
  8. Draw a rectangle on the text you want from the photo
  9. When you finish the rectangle, the image is captured, and half second later that image will get a “T” in top right corner.
  10. Click that “T” text icon.
  11. Now the text will be presented and a share symbol.
  12. Click the share symbol and pick someplace to send the text

Sounds like a lot of steps, but once done its pretty effortless.

I used Google Keep to share the captured text. That way I could open Keep on my desktop using Chrome Browser and access the text snippets I captured on the phone. Pretty awesome!

November 23, 2015: There is a report that the OCR portion of Smart Select related to photos is gone from Note 5. See http://forums.androidcentral.com/samsung-galaxy-note-5/571790-smart-select-has-been-downgraded-3.html

Cracked screen, can't access data

Just came to my attention that cell phone data can be inaccessible if you can’t unlock the phone via the screen. Scenario, you have thousands of pictures and stuff on your phone. You drop your phone, screen is broken fully (not just the glass), and now you can’t unlock the phone to access your data.

You would think that just connecting a USB cable would be enough. Well, how secure is that? You may be able to get at some storage, like an added micro card, but not phone storage. You still have to unlock the phone. You did copy your data to the microcard or put it on some cloud service?

Here is the bad news if you didn’t back up your data, your in trouble. If you did not prepare your phone for remote control, your in trouble. If you have to search the web to find a solution to this problem, your in trouble. If your want to pay to replace the display, your in trouble.


  1. Your phone should have a drop proof case. Yeah, your phone won’t look so thin, hip, and expensive.
  2. Backup your junk to multiple places. Everyone is giving away cloud storage so they have access to your data.
  3. Use the microcard storage. Can’t add storage to your phone, what lame phone is that?

None. Well, that are easy to use, are secure, and are foolproof. I just went to a service page that was totally inadequate and didn’t even present the latest OS process of their own phone. A lot of apps claim to help with remote access, but you have to first install them, and they have to be running, hogging memory and bandwidth. Plus, do you trust these apps?

What should be the solution?
This should be fixed by the system creators and vendors. This is not rocket science, when you connect a USB cable a phone should use that system, if capable, as a remote display. I’m sure this is doable or even a standard by now. It will be just as secure as the phone is, you’ll still have to unlock the phone using a pin or gesture.

This is available by WI-FI using server apps running on the phone itself. However, afaik, you have to be able to enable them via the phone itself. Also, is not as good as a USB, which is more secure. A remote control app is a prime attack vector.

Some links

Bloatware should be outlawed

Since smartphones need to run as efficiently as possible in a small memory space, the issue of Bloatware has become more important. Is anyone doing anything about it?

What is Bloatware
The term Bloatware is used in many ways. As used here it refers to the inclusion of software into a device (smartphone, pad, PC, Smart TV, …) that the user did not request, cannot be used without extra fees or privacy compromises, cannot be removed, and that use up storage and/or processing resources. Not sure, but this may be primarily an American consumer issue. The EU may have more laws regarding this.

Why Bloatware
Lets give the manufactures and sellers some slack and say that they have perfectly good reasons for the use of Bloatware. There must be some remuneration involved, and this ultimately brings down the final price the user pays. There are also various non-directly financial reasons, like Zawinski’s law of software envelopment. Thus, we have systems with eye-tracking that can’t see, gesture recognition that ignores, and bells and whistles that only hum.

Issues with Bloatware

  1. They take up space. One article says up to 45% on some devices
  2. Sometimes cannot be removed or disabled
  3. May be trialware
  4. Could be compromised since will not be updated by user
  5. May be secretly active
  6. May be sending usage and other information
  7. Can pull in unwanted supporting libraries or programs
  8. A source of advertising
  9. Are just fronts for paid services, sometimes with free trial periods
  10. Unused and unwanted
  11. Make it harder to easily update non-bloatware

Adware and Snoopware
This situation is even worse than it appears. Two other issues are making things even worse: Adware and Snoopware. Adware is also running amok in the industry. Everything and anything is a vector for targeted ads and upselling. This adware also takes up bandwidth and processing resources. The other, Snoopware, is the bandwidth being used to invade privacy and security. This is being done by the large social media and search giants but also by the small players. Snoopware is also used by the law enforcement agencies and is also a bandwidth and processing drain.

Thus, Bloatware, Adware, Snoopware, are reducing the frictionless use of what we are paying for.

Apple and Bloatware
Not being a fan boy, I’m not up on the Apple side of the house. Since Apple products are in a sense a ‘walled garden’, one could say they are the bloat. The premium pricing is payment for not getting other people’s bloat. Just joking here. 🙂

Removing Bloatware?
If you search, you’ll find many sites giving info on how to remove this software. Unfortunately, these approaches are not very practical. Only a small subset of users would wipe a PC or install a custom ROM in their smartphone by Rooting to get rid of junk. In fact, I’m sure many consumers don’t really have a concept of Bloatware. Regarding rooting a phone, see The Pros and Cons of Rooting Your Phone.

What could be done
It will take more than one thing to reduce bloatware. Some steps may be:

  • Make this a more visible issue
  • Start a petition to make Bloatware illegal
  • Disclosure: System vendors must supply a truth in packaging document listing the Bloatware. They don’t have to use the term “Bloatware”, just list which software or devices are ‘extras’ supplied by 3rd parties and are not required to use the system. And, what are the true costs of using these extras. This info is needed so concerned consumers can make a better buying decision. Of course, will do nothing; who reads the EULA? Its up to the news and web space to bring these comparisons to view.
  • The configuration screen for applications and settings must state which are critical to the device operation. Since many apps and features are locked, who knows?
  • A default opt-out of the use of any Bloatware must be in effect. This is critical if said software will eventually require a fee for its use. Navigation and communication apps are a prime example. Some applications have a default setting to also install virus and spyware detectors. These should be defaulted to opt-out.
  • Models of the system must be made available that have no extras installed.
  • Must provide ability to not only disable but also remove any Bloatware. The consumer can decide if they are willing to pay the different prices.
  • Congressional bills (or whatever in your country) to put some rational guidelines on this. (yes, rational and politics are contradictory).
  • Boycott devices that contain Bloatware
  • Create a non-carrier carrier
  • Bypass commercial carriers using a dynamically allocated peer mesh network

March 4, 2014: The new Samsung Galaxy S5 is will come stuffed with premium apps and subscriptions worth over $500. But, you read further and find that all these have limited subscriptions. For instance, the Wall Street Journal is only six months, the LinkedIn Premium account is only three months, etc. Hence, bloatware. Can any of it be removed if unwanted?

Further reading

Android recovery mode on Galaxy Note I717

With so many Android devices out there, some people get wrong info on how to get into Recovery Mode. On the original Samsung Galaxy Note supplied by carrier AT&T in the USA the process is:

  1. Power off the device
  2. Hold in three buttons:
    • Up Volume switch
    • Down Volume switch
    • Power button
  3. Wait for Android logo to appear
  4. Let go of buttons

Now why would someone want to go into recovery mode? Repairs, troubleshooting, or install of new OS. I will eventually want to install a custom non-bloatware ROM in my device. So much stuff I don’t even use.

Works on
Samsung Galaxy Note SGH-I717
Android 4.1.2

Some links

Will first generation Samsung Galaxy Note get Android 4.4 KitKat?

Consensus from scanning news and web search is: NO!

Latest news: According to this article, Samsung has officially said that 1 GB RAM is not enough to run the Android KitKat version. The article further theorizes: “we will point out that KitKat runs fine with that amount of memory only on stock Android, which does not have any of the added features or bloat that Samsung (and other non-Nexus phones come with.)”. Ah, bloatware.

What if could have meant
If it does though, this coming Android version, KitKat, is good news. KitKat is supposed to bring some welcome capabilities for older devices. There is already something from Cyanomod, “Note 4.4 Rom review of CyanogenMod 11.0“.

The Aging original Samsung Galaxy Note is a very good high tech device. This thing has enough compute power that could have guided businesses, spacecraft, and whole cities in the past. There is no reason why it can’t be upgraded to be useful for another few years.

Would it really have made a difference?
Will Android 4.4 really allow Samsung to improve performance, as reported here, Android 4.4 KitKat Top 5 Optimisation for Samsung Galaxy S4, S3, Note 3, Note 2 and other Galaxy Devices? Or will that performance, if any, will be gobbled up by the Bloatware already installed?

Jelly Bean upgrade mess
However the recent upgrade of the original Note device to Jelly Bean has apparently had many negative results. “AT&T Galaxy Note Jelly Bean Problems Continue: Lag & Battery Life.” It made the Galaxy Note unusable! Since this is an official upgrade I’m surprised there isn’t a class action lawsuit or some negative press about it.

According to “Samsung Galaxy Note First Gen Won’t Have Android 4.2, 4.3; Android 4.4 Will Grant New Life Cycle“, KitKat will support older devices that have hardware or memory issues. A list of devices is given here, “Android 4.4 KitKat OS: 13 Samsung Galaxy Phones, Tablets Getting New and Fresh Life Cycle“. Another article confirms that Galaxy Note 1 will not get the update.

Android 5?
Is Android 4.4 just 5.0 re-branded, or another release added to the pipeline? Whatever happened to the concept of the using “Google Play Services” to update the OS, as mentioned in “Balky carriers and slow OEMs step aside: Google is defragging Android“?


Galaxy Note is slow with Jelly Bean?

Finally got Android 4.1.2 on the AT&T SGH-i717 phablet, the original Note. Looks great, the graphics are better, sound is clearer, many nice things. But …

One thing that seems slower is switching from app to app. It could be my configuration, number of apps, and so forth. Still looking into it.

Interesting how the ram load increases on this phone after a restart: an initial 450MB climbs to 527MB/743MB. Then when you click ‘clear memory’ you see ’18 applications closed’. Now there is 352MB/743MB.

May 5, 2013: I got some speed up by clearing each app’s cache. Some app’s Cache button are not enabled.
May 26, 2013: Continued topic: Speeding up Galaxy Note

Is a factory reset really needed?
How safe is that? Sure you can save your settings in Kies, but we all know about backup software, getting things back is not guaranteed. “Full Backup of non-rooted devices” has some an interesting information.

In the PC world there is a saying “Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away”. Is the same true in the mobile world? ARM gives, vendors take it away? So much cruft pre-installed, sneakily added, hard to disable or remove, hidden, and so forth. Also, the social frenzy. Must everything be connected. I tried a simple app once, very simple, it wanted to connect to my social network, promptly canceled and deleted. Then there is the location aware “helpers”, really advertising revenue streams and consumerization culture enforcers. No wonder they are talking about octo-cores!


Your device's current firmware version is not supported via Kies

Getting this error message when I connect my Samsung Note I717 to Kies on Windows 7 PC. This is with an unrooted phone. Was last updated to Android 4.0.4, but I don’t recall if it was by OTA or Kies.

No real good information on web about this. Just that Kies needs to get updated by Samsung to support the new firmware. Or that it is just a bad error message and really just means you have the latest version of the software on your cell phone.
[May 3, 2013: Apparently, it is the latter in this case. I was able to upgrade to Jelly Bean.]

Looks like Samsung and AT&T are not cooperating too well when it comes to the original Galaxy Note.

Why it matters?
This is how some updates for the phone are distributed, such as the new Jelly Bean update.

May 15, 2013: Just did another update via Kies. Looks like just a firmware tweak.


Model SGH-I717
Android 4.1.2
baseband I717UCMB3
Kernel Version
se.infra@SEP-95 #1
SMP PREEMPT Sat Apr 6 07:12:29 KST 2013
Build JZ054K.i717UCMB3

PC: Windows 7 64bit Professional

Patience: Low


play music app won't show sd card

On Samsung Galaxy 2, mp3 files stored on the SD card are not being recognized by Google Play Music app. Solution.

I tried some ideas found on Android forums, even uninstalling and reinstalling the app. Nothing worked.

BTW, There is some weird caching that is not shown in the system. Anyway, this is what I did:

  1. I copied everything on the sd card to a a folder on a Kies Air attached PC.
  2. Deleted the files from the sd card.
  3. Powered down the phone.
  4. Turned it back on.
  5. Ran the Play Music app.
  6. It said there is no music on device.
  7. Copied all the music from the folder on the PC (from step 1).
  8. Powered down and back up.
  9. Ran the app again.
  10. Says it is scanning for media.
  11. Finds it.
  12. Give the phone back to it’s owner. Yuck.

All the steps are probably not necessary, but this worked for me.

March 2, 2013: It started happening again. Maybe its time to update to Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich version.