Account Free Android Tablet.

Minimal Google/Ads without Rooting.

By James Toebes http://james.toebesacademy.com



Privicy issues have been in the news a bit lately. I began thinking about the amount of free services I use, the accounts I had set up and the tracking info left behind. I looked at my phone and tablet then realized how much I am being watched. No, I don't think Google, Yahoo, Amazon, Facebook or many of the advertizers are evil. They are providing me with free/reduced cost services. As they readily admit, it is so they can use my information to provide marketing information to me.

My daughter got a new tablet for Christmas so she let me have her old one as a spare. Its an HKC Android 4.0 tablet (P771A) with Google play access and apps. I wondered if I could configure it Account Free with minimal to no tracking. I wanted a solution that provided.

  1. Email

  2. Contacts - Server synced

  3. Calendar - Server synced

  4. File/Folder Synced with Server (similar to Dropbox)

  5. New pictures automatically uploaded to a server I controlled.

  6. Applications installed without an account on the device.

  7. Local apps/data. It's WiFi and WiFi is not everywhere..

  8. Maps - OFFLINE. See Previous :)

  9. Remote Device access (AirDroid)

  10. No other device required for config (Other than server for data storage)

  11. Miminimize data transfer to servers.

  12. Preferred Open Source

  13. Secure communications with client/server.

  14. NO ROOTING - Minimal skills to install/configure.



I am already running my own server (http://owncloud.org) offering what I need server side. I set it up to be accesible from the internet with DynDNS (http://dyn.com). For this document i'll reference the owncloud instance on it as https://homeserver.dyn.com/owncloud It was a bit of configuration that I may detail in another document. My ownCloud instance is using a class 1 certificate issued by StartSSL (http://startssl.org). This is a free certificate. While the tablet (and most androids) recoginized the StartCOM authority that issues it, it needs the Intermediate Server certificate to browse to the site without error.

I have web hosting from Bluehost (http://BlueHost.com). That would allow me to handle the email side of things. My Gmail and Yahoo accounts forward to my personal email.

The question was can I make the client config easy enough for a non-technical person to follow. I would be interested to hear your results in trying this.

While this is not truely a Tracking free device, it is reasonably so. By greatly reducing the network dependancy, it has helped battery life. This tablet that could not go 4 hours before dying seems to last 6+ hours.



Here is what I did:

Wipe the tablet clean. Start Fresh.

NOTE: THIS WIPES ALL DATA, PICTURES, VIDEOS, APPLICATIONS AND OTHER INFORMATION. DO NOT DO THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE BACKUPS OF INFO!

Setup without an account.

When your device resets, it should be running the new device wizard. Complete the wizard SKIPPING any steps that request an account. I.e. Google.... These steps are device specific. I'll list my steps, yours will likely be different.

Cleanup preinstalled Apps

You can't delete most of the preinstalled apps. But you can disable many. Let's disable as many as possible. If you end up disabling something you need, you can use the same process to enable it.

These were the ones on my tablet that I could disable. All others I left alone.

AccuWeather

Chrome

Currents

Drive

Earth

Face Unlock

Facebook - Use the Web interface, it doesn't run in the background....

Finance

Gmail.

Google Account Manager

Google Bookmarks Sync

Google Contacts Sync

Google Korean keyboard

Google Pinyin

Google Play Books

Google Play Magazines

Google Play Movies

Google Play Music

Google Play Store

Google Search

Google Text-to-Speech Engine

Google Voice

Google+

Maps

Pandora

Skype

Street View

Talk

Translate

Twitter

YouTube

Install Certificates for your OwnCloud server.

Download the certificates required for your server.

Using the browser on the tablet, navigate to http://www.startssl.com/certs/

click sub.class1.server.ca.crt to download.

To installing certificate, encryption must be enabled on the device.

Settings => Security => Screen Lock

Choose PIN or Password. Others will not work. I use PIN.

Enter a PIN

Confirm the PIN.

Click Install from SD Card.

It should find the certificate you just downloaded. Click OK to install

Restart the tablet.

Press and hold power button till Power Off Prompt

Click OK

Once Powered off. Press power button again till it starts booting.

You will need to use your PIN to unlock the tablet after boot.

NOTE: One of my test devices warned me about someone being able to snoop on my device after installing the certificate. This is due to the certificate being allowed to identify servers for SSL connections.

Confirm Certificate is working.

Launch Browser

Navigate to your Owncloud server. i.e. https://homeserver.dyn.com/owncloud

You should not get a certificate error.

If you do, check your Certificate/Server provider for steps to resolve.

Install F-Droid

An Open Source Application 'Store' with a management tool.

Since Apps will be installed from something other than Google play, we must allow this. This puts requirements on the user to understand when they install apps.

Install apps from F-Droid.

Click What's New will provide a popup list of categories. Clicking the Search icon at the top will allow you to type in something to search for.

NOTE: After installing, you want to launch F-Droid regularly. Autoupdates can be configured, but that drains power. I launch it weekly to check for updates and see what is new.

Here are some of the ones I installed. * are used later in the process


Barcode Scanner - Needed by GCStar


Cool Reader - EBook reader

*

DAVdroid - Sync Contacts and Calendar

*

Firefox - I like a browser that respects me :)


GCstar scanner - for GCstar


GCstar viewer - Saw this while building these instrctions. will try for DVD collection.


Mileage - Gas Milage app. I have been using a paid app from Play. Will give this a try.


OpenSudoku - Numbers.....


Open Manager - claims app backup. worth investigating...

*

OsmAnd~ - Offline Navigation Sans Google...

*

ownCloud - For accessing files on server. Also autouploading pics.


Puzzles - Got to have some fun :)


Quill - Note taking app.


VC ConnectBot - Connects to my server when I need



Configure DAVdroid - Contacts and Calendar Syncing

Configure OsmAnd~ - Maps

Configure ownCloud - Server File Access and Photo Upload.

Server:

https://homeserver.dyn.com/owncloud

User:

{Your ownCloud user}

Password:

{Your ownCloud password}

Install/Configure Airdroid.

These steps are not necessary, but test access.

Almost broke a requirement :)

FolderSync - File Syncing utility (Similar to Dropbox)

This one cause me some heartache. I love this tool, but the developer only has it in app stores that require accounts. Found many other options, but none that do scheduled syncing. I use this to pull my podcast set off of my owncloud server. My podcast solution is neat and crossplatform, but warrents a set of instructions on it's own. I emailed the developer looking for a direct download link, but no response so far. After several days of scouring for an alternative, I took the cheap way out, don't shoot me. I downloaded the APK of the lite version. It will suit the requirements. I purchased the full version that I use on my primary tablet. I do not condone trying to steal or hack. Nothing presented in this is illegal or unethical that I am aware of.

Setup Server Account

Name

Homeserver

Protocol

HTTPS

Server

homeserver.dyn.com

Start folder

/owncloud/remote.php/webdav/

User

{Your ownCloud user}

Password

{Your ownCloud password}

Setup Folder Replication – I am setting up my Podcasts.

Name

Podcasts

Account

Homeserver

Remote Folder

Tap, navigate to Podcasts, Click 'Select Folder' at top

Local Folder

Tap, Click Create folder, enter podcasts. Click Folder, Click 'Select Folder' at top.

Sync Type

Two-Way

Check

Use Scheduled Sync.

Sync Interval

Every Two Hours (or whatever you feel like :)

Uncheck

Sync hidden files

Check

Sync Deletions (I delete when done listening)

Other settings

as you like....

VLC. - Now that I have podcast, I need to listen to them :)



Change default search engine.

I use one that protects my privacy. Read about it on their site.



Office Suite

What Tablet will be complete without it. A FULL suite including docs and spreadsheets.

Email.

I'm wimping out on this one :). I have worked with a slew of email clients on Android. Each one was different. Your mail host should provide configuration information. Some features to consider when configuring email.

Whew. That was long....

You now have a functioning device. Once configured,

To show this is not completly fanciful, This document was created in OwnCloud 6 from a browser. Synced via ownClound and edited with AndrOpen Office on the just configured tablet. Then automatically synced to my Desktop for final editing in LibreOffice. The results were output to a file that was uploaded to my hosted server.