Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Android Marshmallow update available for Samsung Galaxy S6

Finally, after months of waiting, Samsung has released the Android Marshmallow update onto their soon to be ex-flagship phone Galaxy S6 - four months after Android 6.0 was released on the Nexus series.

The update, which is rolling out at snail's pace and on the whim of carriers who rather you buy a new phone than update your current phone, is currently available on only a handful of Galaxy S6 variants. Namely, it is only available for the G920F global variant running in certain regions.

Fed up with waiting for Samsung to update my variant, I downloaded the bloatware-free French firmware (via XDA), and applied the update using Odin 3.10.7 for Windows. The process was simple enough, though it does expose a huge flaw with Android and Samsung's terrible update policy (like why do we need to wait months for firmware updates for certain variants to arrive or be forced to flash our firmware manually).

Here's a very quick guide (insert disclaimer claiming no responsibilities for any screw ups that may or many not happen) on how to successfully flash your Samsung phone with the latest firmware without tripping Knox:
  • Turn off your device
  • Press and hold down the Volume Down and Home button, and then press the Power button until you see a disclaimer, then release all buttons
  • Press the Volume Up button to engage the 'Download mode'
  • Connect your device to your computer
  • Open Odin
  • On Odin, check AP, and select the .tar firmware file you've downloaded and extracted
  • Wait for Odin to verify
  • Then press Start
  • Go and make a pot of tea
  • Depending on how many apps you have installed, your phone would have booted into a fresh new firmware
  • Alternatively, do a factory wipe for a fresh install
In any case, the update brought a fresh breath of new life to my Galaxy S6 (in a much positive way than the disastrous Lollipop update did to my old Nexus 5), and also updated my phone's security update to February (from October).

It is still early days, but the phone just feel faster (probably placebo but a nice feeling regardless) despite not doing a factory wipe and the ability toggle app permissions is a huge welcome. But best of all is the support for manual control of the camera's shutter speed and RAW output. The S6's camera is pretty decent - perhaps one of the best on a smartphone - so the ability to gain more control over the control element is massive.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Four days in Budapest

Continuing with our recent January travels (I promise this will be the last travel-logs for a month or so), we recently spent four nights in Budapest. We flew Ryanair again via London Stansted Airport.

We stayed at the City Ring Hotel, short walk from Budapest-Nyugati Railway Terminal and the Hungarian Parliament building. The hotel itself was fairly comfortable and based on what we paid for, I can't find any fault with it. There's free (but flaky) WiFi connection accessible from our room and a mini-fridge in the room. There is however no kettle (we brought our own kettle), something which we have learned never to expect in most European hotels.
Fisherman's Bastion
As there aren't any direct railway service from the airport to the city centre, we took the frequent 200E bus from outside the airport terminal to the closest metro station (Kőbánya-Kispest) before taking the M3 line into the city. It was rather straightforward if a little tiring process (the bus isn't one designed to take multiple luggage). Taxi rides to the city would cost about 23 Euros, which is rather pricey.