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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Removing factory screen protector on Sony Z Ultra?

Chances are, if you have taken the time to read this article, its because you own a Z Ultra and are considering removing the terrible pre-installed screen guard. Or perhaps you are already trying to get it off and need assistance. Either way, I've decided to share my experience removing this nightmare in the hopes that it makes your life easier.

For starters, I must admit that the procedure I decided upon is based on my own ideas in conjunction with suggestions from Ultra owners on XDA. So thanks to the XDA community for all they contribute!

"But wait, I saw the videos on YouTube. They all look so easy. Why do I need this tutorial?" I thought the same thing. Until I tried to do it like I saw. It yielded awful cracking sounds, shards of what appeared to be shattered glass, and only tiny pieces coming off at a time. I feared I had just ruined a 650 dollar phone. I was thinking to myself that none of the videos actually show an Ultra, just other Xperias. Maybe the Ultra's protector is not to be removable?

It is... Not easily. Turns out that the Ultra, specifically, has its protector glued on. With some heavy duty stuff, too. This I found from XDA. 15 pages of people struggling to scrape off the mess. Most of the users confirmed that scraping away at the screen for hours and hours finally got the screen bare. One suggested heat. A few suggested using chemicals. I weighed all of the options. The majority used a blade and scraped away at the screen, noting that no harm was done to the underlying glass. Seemed logical, but I wouldn't scratch a knife over 6.4" of screen repeatedly just because it can take it...
I considered the heat option. But logic told me that the amount of heat required to soften the adhesive could be potentially damaging to the internal components of the phone.
That left chemicals. Acetone, to be specific. I no longer work in the printing industry, so getting some high grade acetone was out of the question. So I settled for my wife's "Swan" brand nail polish remover. (The main ingredient is acetone, which was good enough for me...) Seemed like the most logical solution, given that liquid intrusion is not much of a worry on these phones.

Okay, so here we go...
You will need the following tools to remove the film:
-Exacto knife (the standard triangle shaped blade works good...)
-Nail polish remover
-a couple of Q-tips
-A cotton rag
-Rubber gloves if you're a chemophobe (is that a word?)
-patience (don't try without plenty of this!)

A note about using the nail polish remover: there's a "sweet spot" when it comes to how it works. Go too fast, the glue is too hard and brittle. Go too slow, the glue re-solidifies and the acetone evaporates. With a little trial and error, you'll find the right timing...

So for starters, turn off your phone. Now, using a q-tip, put a decent sized drop of acetone in the corner of the screen. Use the point of the exacto knife and slide it under the protector. Take your time. It may not come up on the first try, or even the fifth. Eventually, the glue will soften and the corner will peel up. Re-apply the nail polish remover as needed to keep it from drying back up. Once you (finally) get the corner started, things will get a little easier.
Got the corner up? Good. Now, depending on the knife you're using, there's two ways to continue. The knife I used was all metal and had a screw-tight holder for the blade. I was able to dip the knife into the bottle of acetone and enough liquid was retained in the blade holder to let it drip down and keep the knife wet as I worked. If this doesn't work for you, use a q-tip to add acetone to the area you're working on. Either way, use the knife to slide along the junction of attached film and removed film. Keep this junction moistened, and stay aware of that moment when the glue is at its liquefied state. Gently pulling on the film as you work helps, but too much pulling and the film snaps. Don't worry if it does, it will just take a little longer. I was able to work the blade into the film about 1/8" at a time. When enough film is removed and you can get a good grip, you almost don't need the blade at all. Keeping the junction moistened and slight pulling force slowly peels the film away, but I recommend continuing with the blade only because you'll get overconfident and tear the film. Then you'll be right back to starting with the blade again and have nothing to grab on to until you get going again. (Patience!)
As you proceed, you'll start to notice that the exposed glass underneath is pretty ugly looking. Weird lines where you slid the knife, ridges and valleys, maybe even chunks of hard glue that look like shattered glass. Do your best to ignore all of that. You'll start getting worried and I promise there's no reason to worry. Just keep going, the end result is worth it.
Still with me? Okay. As you continue, you'll be a pro at removing the film as soon as you're almost done (at which point you'll never need to be a pro again unless you own two Ultras...) And once the film is off, guess what? You're only half way done!
Now the task of removing the half-gallon of glue that's still on the glass. Here's where the cotton rag comes in. I should mention microfiber cloths will not work here. As a matter of fact, bigger fibers are better, such as a bath towel or something. It should also be large enough that you can use different areas of the cloth as you proceed, because the cloth will gunk up with adhesive quickly.
Soak an area of the cloth in acetone and start wiping. I used a top-down motion (not back and forth) and the glue started rolling off in little sticky balls. Keep going, using a clean area of cloth as needed (the more often the better). You will eventually get down to bare glass. I found that if I kept wiping downward on the same 2 inches at the top of the phone until bare glass was exposed, the rest was easier to work off...
Starting to look good? The phone, when "all" of the glue is removed, will still feel tacky and have a matte haze to it. You may even still have artifacts of the lines made from where the blade slid under the film. You can continue with the acetone and cloth, I chose to switch to microfiber and screen spray. It allowed me to get most of the screen crystal clear and see what areas needed extra attention. Some spots around the corners and edges and a few dots in the center still had a bit of glue. Here I decided to use the knife. I figured this: if all of these other people scraped the knife across the whole screen and it survived, a couple scrapes couldn't be bad. Take the knife and with light pressure, scrape back and forth over the glue until the spot is gone.
Now a couple of polishing sessions later, success! Bask in the beauty that is a bare slab of glass. Also worth mentioning, the Sony logo at the top of the phone will be gone, as it is a part of the film.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helped you out!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The things I like (and hate) about Windows...

Ah, the good ol' days...
I've been using Windows since... Well, since I stopped using DOS. With the exception of using Apples and Macintoshes at school and at the Boys & Girls Club as a kid, Windows is pretty much all I've known. I've spent countless hours learning all of the tricks and shortcuts to making Windows what I wanted or needed it to do. I bought 3.11. I bought NT. I bought 2000. I bought XP (over and over). I bought 7. And I bought an upgrade to 7. The money I've spent...
Then there's the software, too. I mostly used freeware and shareware back in the day, but as time went on, there became a more defined line between free and paid programs as far as quality was concerned. I bought home inventory software, Windows customization software, and a suite of Audio/Video editing software. These purchases were all made in the last couple of years. I was beginning to notice a trend, and it was that my computer was becoming a shop-vac and it's hose was heading for my wallet. Something was going to happen- I was either going to put a stop to the trend or I'd end up getting so immersed in the ecosystem that my dependence on it would force more spending.
Cash Magnet?...
Then came the straw that broke the horse's back. It was the "You'd better not still be using XP or else it is going to set your house on fire" doomsday messages about Zero-day vulnerabilities. I had a netbook running XP that I was using for filesharing and a few other network tasks, and I had to start considering an operating system replacement for it? The thing only cost $200! Putting Windows 7 on it would have been the least expensive option, but it would have been a solid $75+ to make it happen. I wasn't having it. Time to consider something new...
I had tried Linux back in the 90's, and I could never really grasp it or appreciate the return on the time invested on making it function. It had left a pretty sour taste in my mouth, and kept me from following developments over the years in the world of the Penguin. But the Windows world was calling for my cash, so I decided to give Linux another try. I downloaded Ubuntu and installed it on the $200 Atom-powered netbook, fully expecting it to render it a brick with a command prompt.
But it didn't! It booted up, video worked, audio worked, webcam worked, internet worked... It all just worked! I had put a replacement operating system on the computer, and I hadn't spent a dime... Not only was I impressed, I was hooked!
I decided to install Ubuntu on my main PC that was currently running Windows 7 Ultimate. I set it up for dual-boot, so I could take some time to decide if I could say goodbye to Windows 7 as easily as I did to Windows XP. Each time I started up the PC, I'd do the things I always do, and see how many times I'd say to myself "if I were running Windows right now this would be easier/better.." The times were less frequent than I expected.
So, why do I like Windows? I guess there's two reasons. First, I've spent quite a bit of time setting things up just how I like them. And things run pretty smoothly. I don't get BSOD's or random reboots. For the most part, it just works. Secondly, there's compatibility. If there's a software title I want to try, there's a pretty safe assumption that it has a Windows version.
My new friend (not a couch bum...)
Okay, so why do I hate Windows then? One reason is actually the very same reason I like it. Windows has become such an operating system powerhouse that most software publishers won't take the time to make a version for a "lesser" OS. (Understandably so... It's all about the money) So, damn you MS! Damn you for making Windows so popular that I'm forced to use you in order to edit videos, because AVS doesn't make a Linux version...
There's all of these little threads hanging on to my Windows life that I'm trying to snip off. I've become immersed in the Google/Linux environment and realized that there's a whole other world out there that operates completely independent from the clutches of the Bill Gates Empire. I just wish that it wasn't so hard to say goodbye. It's like letting go of a lifelong friend because he decided to be a drug addict and now he just crashes on your couch and constantly begs for cash. That's exactly what it feels like...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

No longer a need for removable media?

MicroSD Cards
There was a time where my "Geekiness" was measured
by the quantity of floppy disks I had. I can remember going
to computer shows, and 50% of the floor was people selling
floppies. Floppies, floppies, floppies. In order to have all of
the coolest games, all of the most secret programs that none
of your friends had heard of, you had to be the one with the
biggest pile of 1.44MB disks.
Time went on, floppies fizzled away. At one point, I decided
to copy the last 10 or so floppies to a CD-ROM disc and toss
the floppeis. Then, the CD-ROMs started to pile up. That actually
didn't last long. Burning CDs was too time consuming. I became less patient waiting for a burn than I used to be waiting for the message "INSERT DISK 3 OF 10"...
Eventually, I purchased an external USB hard drive. What little information I had on CD that wasn't available for download I copied over to the drive. The CD-ROMs were put away in a box, and were never seen again (With the exception of that one time I had to dig out the Windows XP recovery disk...) As of this year, I have about 10 Terabytes of hard drive space.
Also, there was my portable devices. Organizers, MiniDisc player, Ipaq, and quite a few smartphones. With each one, there was a media type to collect. My life wasn't complete without at least 32GB of MicroSD plugged into my phone.

Compact Discs
So, perhaps you've noticed all of this is in past-tense. What is the current state of what appears to be an unhealthy obsession with data hoarding?
To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what is more the driving factor. It could just be that I have decided to "grow up", to be a little more minimalistic, and reduce the amount of "stuff" I'm surrounded with. Or, perhaps I have embraced the "cloud" for all it has to offer. My PC hardly ever spins a drive other than the boot drive. My Nexus has no SD slot. My music and movies don't skip when someone stomps on the floor. Google Drive, Keep, Play Music, and Photos are now my go-to services for what I previously would have relied on a spinning platter for. Whatever the reason, I've come to the conclusion that I no longer have a need for removable media of any type.
What are your thoughts on removable media? Is it still needed? On the PC? For music/movies? On phones? And, if it is not needed any more, why? Is it because of the alternatives, or is it more of a lifestyle change?....