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Archive for April, 2010

Here are some of the Frequently Asked Questions and their answers about my Android App SMS Backup & Restore.

Q 1: What does this app do?
Q 2: Does it backup MMS (Picture/Music/Video) Messages?
Q 3: Where is the backup stored?
Q 4: What type of file is created for the backup?
Q 5: Can it make backups automatically (scheduled backups)?
Q 6: How do I access the backup files?
Q 7: I cannot understand the data in the backup file, how do I see it an easy to understand format?
Q 8: Can I use this App to transfer messages from my old phone? If so, How?
Q 9: I am getting an error like “No write access to file:/sdcard/smsbackuprestore/(nameoffile).xml” during backup. Whats going on?
Q 10: I tried the Restore but only got some of my messages back, Why?
Q 11: Why is the Scheduled Backup not making any backups for me?
Q 12: This App has deleted all my messages!!! ?
Q 13: Why does it need so many permissions?
Q 14: What is that number is the date field in the backup file?
Q 15: I am getting an error when trying to Backup or Restore, how to get it working?
Q 16: Why is the app starting when I restart/reboot the phone? I can see it in the Task Manager app.
Q 17: Where can I get an Ad Free version of SMS Backup & Restore?
Q 18: I restored my SMS Messages and now they appear in the wrong order in Handcent SMS and some of my existing messages are duplicated. Why?
Q 19: I have inserted my SD Card from an older phone to a phone and the app cannot find the backup files on the SD Card. How to restore my messages?
Q 20: What is “Archive Mode” and how does it work? Can it miss messages from being backed up?
Q21: I have a Motorola phone and when I perform a Restore, the messages have incorrect time on them or they are not in the correct order. How do I fix it?
Q22: What kind of information is collected/stored/sent to servers by this app?
Q23: I just restored a few thousand text messages and now every time I open the Messaging app it freezes and nothing appears. What do I do now?
Q24: I’ve forgotten the Password I set for the app. How do I get back into the app?
Q25: I need to Factory Reset my phone, how do I make sure that I can get my messages back to the phone?
Q26: A Factory Reset was performed on my phone. Now that I try to restore messages the app cannot find the backup file?

 

Q 1: What does this app do?
A: Primarily, it backs up SMS Messages on an Android phone so that they can be restored later. It can also restore messages which have been backed up earlier. Optionally, it can also delete all the messages on the phone.

Q 2: Does it backup MMS (Picture/Music/Video) Messages?
A: Currently it does not backup MMS Messages.

Q 3: Where is the backup stored?
A: By default, the backup is stored in the SMSBackupRestore folder of first/default SD Card of the phone (/sdcard/SMSBackupRestore). There is an option in the preferences to change this folder.

These days a lot of newer phones come with inbuilt storage card and they may or may not have an SD Card slot. The main issue that the app has with these type of phones is that the phone reports the internal storage card as the default storage card. The Android SDK does not have a mechanism to detect the presence and availability of an external SD Card in such cases and the backup gets created on the internal instead of the external storage card. If you have a phone which has internal/inbuilt storage in addition to an SD Card then please make sure that the backup is actually created on the external SD Card before attempting a Factory Reset or replacing your phone. The easiest way probably is to connect your phone to a computer and check if the backup folder is indeed on the correct place. If the backup is not on the correct location then you can change the app’s backup folder from the Preferences screen.

Another option to make sure that you always have a copy of the backup is to make the app email you a copy of the backup every time a backup is performed. This can be done by installing the Add-on from the Android Market / Google Play Store.

Q 4: What type of file is created for the backup?
A: The backup is stored in XML format so that it can be easily read and modified, as well as making it easy to convert to and from other phone formats.

Q 5: Can it make backups automatically (scheduled backups) ?
A: Yes, it has an option to enable Scheduled Backups which makes it automatically backup the SMS Messages at specified intervals.

Q 6: How do I access the backup files?
A: To access the backup files on the phone itself, you need a file manager app like ASTRO File Manager or ES File Explorer. To access the files on a computer, you can either Email them using the “Send File” menu option or by mounting the SD Card to a computer and then browsing to the SMSBackupRestore folder.

Q 7: I cannot understand the data in the backup file, how do I see it an easy to understand format?
A: Check “How to view or edit SMS and Call Logs backup file on a computer” and “Extract conversation with a contact from the backup file“. You can also use the View Messages feature of the app to see the messages in the backup files.

Q 8: Can I use this App to transfer messages from my old phone? If so, How?
A: Yes. The backup format is a simple XML format and is independent of the Android version on the phone, so it can be easily used to transfer messages from one Android phone to another. It has been tested with Android version 1.5 thru 4.2.1+.

There are multiple ways to transfer from one phone/device to another:

Google Drive:

  1. Make sure SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) is installed on both the phones/devices.
  2. Make sure Google Drive app is installed on both the  phones/devices.
  3. On the old phone, in SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro), create a new Backup.
  4. Open the Menu and select “Share”
  5. Select Google Drive in the list of apps presented.
  6. Google Drive will then upload the files to Google’s servers.
  7. On the new phone, open the Google Drive app.
  8. In the list of files, tap on the backup file created earlier
  9. Select SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) in the list of apps presented.
  10. Select “Restore” when prompted.

Dropbox:

  1. Make sure SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) is installed on both the phones/devices.
  2. Make sure Dropbox app is installed on both the phones/devices.
  3. On the old phone, in SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro), create a new Backup.
  4. Open the Menu and select “Share”
  5. Select Dropbox in the list of apps presented.
  6. Dropbox will then upload the files to their servers.
  7. On the new phone, open the Dropbox app.
  8. In the list of files, tap on the backup file created earlier
  9. Select SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) in the list of apps presented.
  10. Select “Restore” when prompted.

Gmail:

  1. Make sure SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) is installed on both the phones/devices.
  2. Make sure Gmail app is configured on both the  phones/devices.
  3. On the old phone, in SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro), create a new Backup.
  4. Open the Menu and select “Share”
  5. Select Gmail in the list of apps presented.
  6. In the Gmail compose screen, enter the email address that is configured on the new phone (or your own email address if both phones use the same Gmail account).
  7. Gmail will then upload the files to their servers.
  8. On the new phone, open the Gmail app.
  9. Open the email that was sent earlier.
  10. Tap on the attachment with the backup file.
  11. Select SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) in the list of apps presented.
  12. Select “Restore” when prompted.

SD Card:

  1. Make sure SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) is installed on both the phones/devices.
  2. On the old phone, in SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro), create a new Backup.
  3. Remove the SD Card from the old Phone.
  4. Insert the SD Card into the new Phone.
  5. Open the SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro) on the new Phone.
  6. Tap Restore.

These days a lot of newer phones come with inbuilt storage card and may or may not have an SD Card slot. The main issue that the app has with these type of phones is that the phone reports the internal storage card as the default storage card and the backup gets created on that instead of the external storage card. When moving to a newer phone this becomes a bit of a problem since the old phone may not have created the backup on the removable Storage Card or the new phone may not look on that card when trying to restore. In such cases make sure the backup is created on the external storage card by opening the app Preferences and then selecting “Backup Folder”. On that screen, select “External Storage” and then create a new backup.

Computer:

Following are the steps I suggest to make sure the backup can be transferred and restored on to a new phone if the straight forward way doesn’t work:

  1. On the old Phone, Create a new Backup and name it something like “my backup.xml”. Name the file so that it is easily to find later.
  2. Connect the old Phone to a computer and in the drive of the Phone search for the backup file by name.
  3. Once you’ve found the file, copy it to another folder on the computer.
  4. On the new Phone, Create a new backup and name it something like “my new backup.xml”. Name the file so that it is easily to find later. This will also make sure that the required backup folder gets created.
  5. Connect the new Phone to a computer and then search for the backup file by name.
  6. Once you have found the folder containing the backup file, copy the file from the folder created in Step 3 into this folder.
  7. Disconnect the new Phone from the computer.
  8. Start the app again and Restore. It should find the backup file from the old phone.

It can also be used to transfer messages from Nokia, Windows Mobile and Sony Ericsson phones. Check out the following links for more information:

 

Q 9: I am getting an error like “No write access to file:/sdcard/smsbackuprestore/(nameoffile).xml” during backup. Whats going on?
A: The app is not able to create the backup file for some reason. Make sure the sdcard is available to the phone when doing the backup (not mounted on a computer, for example). If you still get the error then there might be some problem with the sdcard itself or it may be full.

Q 10: I tried the Restore but only got some of my messages back, Why?
A: There are a few things which can cause this:

  • Some of the messages were MMS and they did not get backed up and hence cannot be restored with this app.
  • The Restore process did not finish completely and hence not all the messages were restored. Try the Restore again and see if you get more messages this time. When the Restore completes, it shows the number of messages it restored.
  • Newer versions of Android have a setting for specifying how many messages they will store (defaults to 200) per conversation and any message older than that gets deleted automatically. If you have lots of messages then make sure the setting is either disabled or has a higher number set.
  • Not all the messages were backed up. You can open the contents of the backup file and see if it has all the messages in it. Check “How to view or edit SMS and Call Logs backup file on a computer“.

Q 11: Why is the Scheduled Backup not making any backups for me?
A: When the Scheduled Backups are enabled, the app displays a notification after each backup with the information about how many messages were backed up etc. If you are not getting this notification then the scheduled backups are not working. Here are some of the things that can cause this:

  • Since v3.1, this app can be installed on the SD Card on phones which support this (FroYo 2.2 onwards). One of the problems with this is that if the app is installed on the SD Card, then it is not able to start the scheduler when the phone reboots. So, if you use the Scheduled Backups then make sure the app is not installed on the SD Card.
  • Whenever an app is updated, Android removes all its scheduled events and the schedules can only be set again by the app when its opened. So every time you update the app, make sure you open it at least once after the update other wise the schedules wont get enabled.
  • Some other”Task Manager” or “Task Killer” app is killing this app thus making the backup impossible. This is especially a problem if the other app is set to “Auto Cancel” or “Auto Kill” every hour or so. If this is the case make sure “SMS Backup & Restore” is excluded from the apps which are auto killed.

Q 12: This App has deleted all my messages!!! ?
A: Although the app has an option to delete all the messages on the phone, the only time it does that is when someone presses that button and then confirms the warning that it will delete the messages. If you have not done that then the deletion of messages is not because of this app. Also, it is a known problem with some Android phones.

Q 13: Why does it need so many permissions?
A: Here’s the list of permissions needed and some explanation:

  • Storage – modify/delete SD card contents (android.permission.WRITE_EXTERNAL_STORAGE): To create the xml file on the SD card.
  • Your messages – edit SMS or MMS, read SMS or MMS (android.permission.READ_SMS, android.permission.WRITE_SMS): Needed to read SMS during backups and write them during restore.
  • Your personal information – read contact data (android.permission.READ_CONTACTS): For exporting the contact names in the backup as well as for displaying the contact names when viewing messages.
  • Network communication – full Internet access (android.permission.INTERNET): For displaying Ads.
  • System tools – prevent phone from sleeping (android.permission.WAKE_LOCK): To prevent the phone from going to sleep/suspended state while a backup or restore operation is in progress.
  • Hardware controls – control vibrator (android.permission.VIBRATE): To vibrate the phone when the backup or restore operation is completed.

Q 14: What is that number is the date field in the backup file?
A: The date is backed up in the same format as its stored on the phone. Its the Java date representation (including millisecond) of the time when the message was sent/received in UTC. Check out www.epochconverter.com for information on how to do the conversion from other languages to Java.
Please note that the site does not include milliseconds in the date it generates when converting human readable date to java/epoch date. To add milliseconds just add 000 at the end of the number generated by the site.

Q 15: I am getting an error when trying to Backup or Restore, how to get it working?
A: Have a look at the Error Reporting instructions.

Q 16: Why is the app starting when I restart/reboot the phone? I can see it in the Task Manager app.
A: The app has the option to automatically create backups on a schedule. For it to be able to create the schedule, it needs to check and apply the settings every time the phone restarts. This is the way Android works and this app is not going to slow your phone down by constantly running in the background.

Q 17: Where can I get an Ad Free version of SMS Backup & Restore?
A: Since v3.7 there is now a paid Ad Free version of the app available in the Android Market.

Q 18: I restored my SMS Messages and now they appear in the wrong order in Handcent SMS and some of my existing messages are duplicated. Why?
A: Handcent appears to display messages in the order they are added instead of the date of the message so if you restore messages after you’ve got existing messages in Handcent, they may appear in the wrong order. Although SMS Backup & Restore gives you the option to check for duplicates during restore, sometimes it may not work properly or Handcent may misunderstand the update of an existing message as a new message and hence display a duplicate. The only work around I know of this problem is to create a new backup and then delete all the messages from Handcent as well as using SMS Backup & Restore’s delete feature. A restore after this should result in the correct ordering of messages as well as clearing up of duplicates.

Q 19: I have inserted my SD Card from an older phone to a phone and the app cannot find the backup files on the SD Card. How to restore my messages?
A: More and more phones now come with inbuilt storage in them. In such phones the internal storage appears as the SD Card to the app and when it looks for the backup files it is not able to find the backup files on the external SD Card.

To be able to restore on such a phone, there are two ways:

  1. Copy the SMSBackupRestore folder to the internal storage and then restore from there
    • Create a new backup on the new phone, this will make sure that the required folder is created. You can name the file so that its easily identifiable later.
    • Connect the phone to the computer and mount the storage so that its accessible on the computer.
    • Locate the SMSBackupRestore folder on the phone’s storage and copy the old backup file to that folder.
    • Unmount the storage from the computer.
    • Perform the Restore and select the file copied in the earlier step.
  2. Change the Backup folder in the app to point to the external storage card.
    • v5.90 onwards, the app has built-in options to browse and select external storage cards. Open the Preferences screen on SMS Backup & Restore (or Pro)  (Menu -> Preference)
    • Click on the “Backup Folder” preference.
    • The app will list the storage cards that it has detected on the phone.
    • Select the “External Storage”, if its listed. The path in the text box will change to the detected storage card path.
    • Tap the “Browse…” button.
    • Locate the existing SMSBackupRestore folder on the SD Card. For example:
      • Samsung Vibrant/Galaxy S phones: “/sdcard/sd/SMSBackupRestore/”
      • Samsung Galaxy S II phones: “/sdcard/external_sd/SMSBackupRestore/”
      • Some other phones (Motorola Droid/X/3/Bionic): “/sdcard-ext/SMSBackupRestore/”
    • Select the folder.
    • Close the preferences.
    • Perform the Restore.

If your phone is not listed here and you have figured out the correct path then please let me know so that I can update this list here.

Q 20: What is “Archive Mode” and how does it work? Can it miss messages from being backed up?
A: “Archive Mode” is this app’s way of incrementally adding new messages to an existing backup file and can be enabled from the preferences. This is how it works:

  • Whenever it successfully backs up one or more messages it stores the latest message’s Numeric ID and TimeStamp to be used later.
  • When its run the next time it only requests for messages which have a larger ID OR a later TimeStamp than the stored values.
  • If it finds any messages which satisfy the above criteria, it starts copying the existing backup file’s records into a new temporary file (displays “Processing existing backup file…” in the progress dialog).
  • Once its copied all the contents of the existing backup it then adds the new records to this new file.
  • If backup verification is not disabled, it then verifies this new file to make sure that the backup file is readable.
  • Renames the existing (older) backup file to another temporary name.
  • Renames the newly created backup file to the name specified in the “Archive Filename” preference.
  • Deletes the older backup file.

While this mode will work fine in most of the cases, there are some cases in which it may not work properly. Consider these conditions:

  • Android reassigns the Numeric ID if the message with the largest ID is deleted and a new message is received after that.
  • A message is received with an older TimeStamp than the TimeStamp stored by the app.

Since the app uses both these things to check for new messages, it will work fine if only one of these conditions are true. However, if for some reason both these conditions are true (You delete the latest message and then get a new message with an older timestamp, for example) then the app will not be able to figure out if there is a new message that it should backup.

At this stage I think that it is very rare for this to happen to most people but it is a possible cause for messages missed from being backed up. If you delete messages often and do not care about those deleted messages to be in the backup or are missing messages when using the “Archive Mode” then I’d suggest that you not use it. You can use the normal backup and if you use the Scheduled Backups then it can (optionally) automatically delete older backup files so you don’t end up with lots of backup files with very similar content in them.

Q21: I have a Motorola phone and when I perform a Restore, the messages have incorrect time on them or they are not in the correct order. How do I fix it?
A: There are 2 variants of this problem:

  1. All the restored messages get the time of restore. These phones basically do not accept the time stamp supplied when restoring, they store the supplied time stamp internally but use the time of restore to display to the user. This problem was fixed in v4.4 of the app. If you are having this problem then please make sure you are running the latest version of the app then delete your messages and restore again. If you still have the problem then please let me know.
  2. The sent messages get the correct time but the received messages are out by a few hours. This also results in the messages getting grouped incorrectly in conversations, with a lot of sent messages appearing together and then a lot of received ones appearing later. This problem is caused by the phone either not storing the correct timezone information or by adjusting the timezone when displaying to the user. The app has an option to adjust the timezone in the time stamps when viewing or restoring messages. Open the preferences screen and then check the appropriate boxes under the “Adjust Time Zone” section. You’ll need to delete your existing messages from the phone and perform a Restore again.
    I am not 100% sure about the cause of this problem. Please contact me if you are having this problem and want to help me track this problem. Sometimes this problem can also happen if you have some app like “SMS Time Fix” which adjusts the time stamp on messages after they arrive. If you have any app like that then please disable it to confirm its not happening because of this.

Q22: What kind of information is collected/stored/sent to servers by this app?
A: The app does not collect any information about the user or the phone and does not send it to the developers. The internet permissions are used for displaying Ads, using Mobclix. The Mobclix platform has some analytics built into it and sends some information back to their server. Their privacy statement can be found here.
If you are still concerned about any information sent by the app, you can buy the SMS Backup & Restore Pro from the Android Market. It has all the same functionality as the Free version but does not show any Ads and hence does not need internet permissions.

Q23: I just restored a few thousand text messages and now every time I open the Messaging app it freezes and nothing appears. What do I do now?
A: There is a default setting in the Messaging app that deletes older messages from conversations which have more than 200 messages. When 1000s of messages are restored, this setting can cause a lot of problems since it keeps trying to delete messages when you try to open the conversation. If you are restoring lots of messages, then disable this setting by opening the Preferences of the Messaging app.

Some phones can take a lot of time to index and process newly created messages, especially if there are thousands of them. If you get a blank screen or if the phone asks you to “Force Close” or “Wait” just press “Wait” and leave the Messaging app running for a while. Eventually it’ll finish processing and start working normally.

Q24: I’ve forgotten the Password I set for the app. How do I get back into the app?
A: There is currently no way to recover the password. If you have forgotten the password, the easiest way is to uninstall and re-install the app. This will not remove your backups so do not worry about them. You’ll need to set up the app preferences again.

Q25: I need to Factory Reset my phone, how do I make sure that I can get my messages back to the phone?
A: Depending on the make/model of the phone, a factory reset can delete everything on the phone’s memory and storage area, including SD Cards. To make sure that you don’t loose the messages on the phone make sure:

Before Factory Reset:

  • Open the Preferences screen of the app and select “Backup Folder”
    • Make sure its set to use the “External Storage Card” (if available on the phone)
  • Create a new backup
  • Make sure that a copy of the backup is stored out side the phone by
    • Emailing the backup to yourself (using the Email feature on the main screen of the app)
    • Dropbox by using the Add-On app.
    • Manually copy the backup file to a computer.

After Factory Reset:

  • Install the app again
  • Press the Restore button
  • If the app cannot find the backup file:
    • copy/download the backup file created before the reset back to the phone
    • Change the Backup Folder setting to the folder in which the backup file exists.
    • Restore

Q26: A Factory Reset was performed on my phone. Now that I try to restore messages the app cannot find the backup file?
A: Depending on the make/model of the phone, a factory reset can delete everything on the phone’s memory and storage area, including SD Cards. In cases like these the backup file may actually be deleted from the phone and hence the app is not able to find it. Before attempting a factory reset, always make sure that a copy of the backup is stored outside the phone.
If the app cannot find the backup files then you can probably try searching for them by connecting your phone to a computer and then search for *.xml files on the storage card of the phone.

 

 

Google has recently updated its Maps App for Android to 4.1.1. Normally the update process in the market is straight forward, but some times it can get tricky, specially if you are using a custom ROM as most of the ROMs come with the Maps App pre-installed and that can make it difficult to update them.

When trying to update to the new version, if your Android phone crashes or restarts then you need to uninstall the previous version of the App first and then install the new version. To uninstall the previous version, run this command from the computer:

adb uninstall com.google.android.apps.maps

After this install the new version from the Android Market.