Getting access to another country’s Google Play Store content

In the past, with a rooted Android phone, you could easily switch the Play Store country with the MarketAccess app. The app “simulates” another SIM card for the Play Store app, which used to make its decision on which country’s choice of content you should see based on the (now simulated) SIM card’s origin.

At some point this stopped working, and yesterday I found out that Google Play Store now gives you the Play Store experience of the country that your phone’s current public IP address indicates. Oh no! This is a really dumb decision if you ask me – because now if you travel to a country where no paid apps are available (e.g. China), you won’t see updates for all your paid apps. And of course you can’t buy any new paid apps while you are in that other country.

So now you need access to a VPN or similar technology in your home country, to get the Google Play Store you’re used to. The precise steps are as follows:

  • Connect to your VPN
  • Go to Settings / Application manager and tap the Google Play Store item in the list
  • Tap the “Force stop” button and then the “Clear cache” button
  • Open the Play Store app – now you should see a license agreement question (it comes up every time you switch countries), and after acknowledging it, you should see the content of the country your VPN endpoint is located in

Afterwards you can actually disconnect from the VPN, and Google Play will keep working with the VPN’s country content. But after some time (or a phone reboot, maybe), it will check the IP address again, and present you the content of the country you’re actually in.

Changing my e-mail habits: Hello formatting! Good bye signatures.

With the new year and all, I decided to change the way I use e-mail:

Important change number one: Formatting
As of today I decided that I don’t hate HTML in mails anymore – and that I’ll even send HTML mails myself if the mail can benefit from formatting. It’s 2013, and HTML rendering is about as commonplace as gravity – with the thing called the Web and all. And let’s face it – being able to create proper bullet lists, having universally working proper line wrapping*, and being able to have links where they belong is something that makes communicating by mail just a little bit easier. I’ll make an exception for some mailing lists though, for the sake of harmony – since I know those people hate HTML mail, just as I used to 😉

*) I recently saw a plain-text e-mail sent by me (with Thunderbird) on a friend’s Android phone, opened in the GMail app: the line breaks were all over the place. What a disgusting mess!

Important change number two: PGP signing
I am no longer signing my mails with PGP/GnuPG from now on, and I removed my signature containing my PGP key ID and fingerprint (0x86E346D4, 7745 E1BE FA8B FBAD 76AB 2BFC C981 E686 86E3 46D4), and a link to my key. I can count the times when somebody sent me an encrypted and/or signed e-mail on the fingers of one hand (excluding one regular contact). The whole encryption and signing thing just hasn’t picked up as I had wished / expected, when I started signing (and encouraging people to do the same) back in 2005. I will of course keep GnuPG around, and be able to verify signed mails and decrypt encoded mails, and I welcome encrypted e-mails just as I always did – I just don’t want to have the geeky stuff at the bottom of every e-mail anymore, for only a handful of people to care. Those who really want to write me an encrypted e-mail can find my key on the key servers.

Let me buy you an awesome book in exchange for your FOSS contributions

I have recently started reading books (on my smartphone) during my regular long public transit commute, since reading news for hours every day kept me well-informed but somehow drove me nuts.

The sci-fi novel I just finished reading is called Rapture of the Nerds by Cory Doctorow and Charles Stross. It is such an awesome read that I just have to share it – both to support the authors financially, and to spread the joy I experienced to people I care about. So I thought about whom I could share this book with. But in the “real world” most people I know are not geeky enough or could language-wise not keep up, to fully appreciate that book.
Then it occurred to me: why not combine my passion for FOSS with my love for that book and the desire to support the authors – and that this blog might just have the right audience.

So here it is: I will sponsor this book (as dead-tree version or as DRM-free digital version of any kind that’s available for purchase) for the first three contributors to any popular FOSS project. Just submit a comment or send an e-mail telling me what project(s) you are or have been contributing to, and then we can figure out how I can get your edition of choice of Rapture of the Nerds to you.

Update (2012-12-28): Slight rewording, republished.