Today I finally got disgusted with the bloated ads on many websites I visit with my Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. There are two main ways to block ads – using a proxy, or using a hosts file. A proxy listens on a port on the local machine and mediates requests and answers to and from a web browser to the destination website. In the process, it filters out known ad servers based on wildcard/pattern matching in the names or on blacklists. The problem with a Galaxy Tab is that none of the web browsers even have a way to configure them to use a proxy server, so this method is out.
The other method to block ads, a bit more primitive perhaps but effective nonetheless, is to basically put entries for sites that are known to serve ads into the machine’s “hosts” file which allows all requests to specific addresses to be rerouted. The hosts file maps hostnames to web addresses. So when a website tries to load ads from e.g. annoyingadserver.com which is now entered in the hosts file and remapped to nowhere, the ads never appear. This works because by default the hosts file on the local system takes precedence over DNS address resolution. (On Linux systems the order of precedence can actually be set in a file /etc/nsswitch.conf)
However altering the hosts file requires superuser permissions on the Galaxy Tab. This means the device must be rooted. So here we go:
How to Root a Verizon Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
I researched this and there is a lot of complex information about how to root a Galaxy Tab, but the solution I found was in fact extremely easy and consisted of just a couple steps.
1) Hopefully you’ve already installed the Samsung Kies app which allows you to connect your Galaxy Tab to your computer and transfer files to it. If not, do so (and be sure you get the latest version which as of this writing is ver.184.108.40.20695_121_6).
2) Download Samsung_Galaxy_Tab_10.1_root (2).zip and copy it to your Galaxy Tab. It is easiest if you copy it to the uppermost-level directory (which is referred to as /sdcard). This file is a tiny little update that basically installs the superuser app on your Galaxy Tab. It does not do anything radical to the system like flashing it or updating the OS.
3) Power down the Galaxy Tab by pressing and holding the power button and selecting the power off option. Then power it on. When the white “Samsung Galaxy Tab” text appears press and hold the power button and the volume up button simultaneously.
4) Two icons will appear on the screen. Highlight the one with the box and the little green android character by pressing the volume up button, then press the volume down button to select this option.
5) Now press the volume down button to highlight the option “apply update from /sdcard”. Press the power button to select.
6) You will now be shown the files in your /sdcard directory. You can highlight the Samsung_Galaxy_Tab_10.1_root (2).zip that you copied over before by pressing either of the volume buttons to scroll, then press the power button to select it. The actual process of applying the update will be very fast and the Galaxy Tab will reboot.
7) You will now find a new app called “Superuser” in the app list. Your Galaxy Tab has been rooted.
8) I also installed the patch TF101-Netflix_patch1.zip to allow Netflix to run on the Galaxy Tab. The process for installing it is identical to that for the root patch above (steps 2-6). Once this is complete you can go the the Market and just install Netflix and it will work.
I would like to reiterate that all this complex stuff I’ve seen on the Internet about rooting a Galaxy Tab 10.1 is not necessary at all, only the simple steps above. My Galaxy Tab was already running Android version 3.1 when I got it so perhaps that is partly why it was so easy?
My next endeavor will be to see if its possible to actually enable phone calls with the Galaxy Tab. It seems utterly silly to me that it does not. The device in fact gets assigned an actual phone number from Verizon when you get it, but this apparently is only for data purposes. Another related endeavor will be to try to get SMS to work.
Some other cool things: I got an inexpensive car vent mount off eBay which works great. You will also want to pick up a car charger adapter. One extremely cool use of the Galaxy Tab is as a GPS navigation in the car. The app that does this is the “Places” app. One cool feature is that you can touch the microphone icon and then just speak a destination. It seems to get it right with amazing accuracy. Today I also discovered that you can set Places to a given city by first saying the city name and selecting it, then afterwards you can go to locations within the city just by saying coordinates like “fourth and market”.
The language input definitely needs to go further with the Galaxy Tab 10.1 however. It should be possible to do a lot more in terms of interacting with it by using voice.
Another real annoyance is weak support for international fonts. I’m reading a Buddhist text right now and unfortunately many of the characters which have diacritical marks do not render. There are online forums filled with users trying to get fonts like Devangari, Tamil, Myanmar, Arabic or others to work on the thing. In the age of Unicode fonts there’s really no excuse for this to occur. Come on Android, get it together!
Oh yeah – after the rooting process above, how did I actually block ads? By going to the Market and just installing “AdFree Android”. Really, I didn’t want to have to do this but I pay a premium price for my bandwidth and I’m tired of having to concede precious screenspace to stupid ad bloat which always seems to popup first even if the rest of my page takes forever to load.
Beyond this, there is a deep philosophical argument as to why one should root one’s Galaxy Tab: this is a device which a person purchases and therefore owns. They therefore should have a right to full access to it. Now if the manufacturer has enabled/disabled some feature, and the end user then bypasses this and causes disruption/damage to the system, it does seem fair that the manufacturer not be liable for said damage. However it seems completely illegal that the manufacturer would void their liability merely for accessing the system.
In other words, I don’t see how rooting a Galaxy Tab could itself ever reasonably be considered a valid ground for voiding the warranty. Such a warranty would, in my opinion, be illegal. However, if a person were to root a Galaxy Tab and try modding their system which resulted in damage, then yes I believe that the manufacturer should not be liable for such damage.
This may seem like an esoteric point, but I believe it is an important one in the age of technology to fully understand.
Of course the counter argument would be that even the process of rooting the tablet, even if it consists of copying only one small file to the system, is considered a form of damaging/tampering with the functionality of the system. But the basis behind such “functionality” is to provide a device which has the owner locked-out and forces them to e.g. endure ads on their device. So the question comes down to to what extent manufactures will try to force upon their customers ads or other undesirable content.
Unfortunately we do not have true competition. We have what are similar to monopolies by a small handful of very major media and device companies, so they could easily restrict their content in draconian ways and force it to work on only a small number of sanctioned devices. They could lock out competing devices which gave users the choice to customize their device and hence customize the content they pay for. This is what the real war is about.
This is why I believe we must fight for true Internet/content freedom (neutrality is only part of it). Even the telephone network should be open access to all conforming equipment which wants to utilize/access it (we have paid for the phone networks with our money). And we must fight for device freedom (openess) and also software freedom and open standards. This is one major reason why I think the modern Internet business culture is profoundly misguided. It is a major departure from the original vision of the Internet when private companies attempt to control and monopolize technological niches for profit rather than develop the best technology possible using open standards.
Internet entrepreneurs who cash in on this greed only betray freedom.
On or around 11 January 2011 Verizon pushed an update to the Galaxy Tab. If you select to download the update and go to Settings -> About Device -> System updates you will see the following:
Android System Update
Downloading – 351.0 MB
This Software Update for your Galaxy Tab 10.1 by Samsung includes new widgets, features, enhancements and more. Please remove any shortcut or widget link from any home screen prior to updating your device. You will be unable to use your device for the duration of the install, which is expected to take 6 to 7 minutes, but could take longer. For more information, please visit http://www.verizonwirelss.com/galaxytab10.1support.
After this update installs Superuser will stop working and it will be necessary to repeat steps 2 – 6 above.
Major credit goes to user bmyton on xda-developers.com forum thread “Verizon 4g LTE Tab – Netflix Working“. This article basically reiterates his information. I am creating this page to help disseminate this info and hopefully make more happy Galaxy Tab users.
Future Android Updates
If you are unhappy that Samsung is indeterminate about wanting to keep its Galaxy Tab line updated with the latest Android updates, let them know.