A Defensive Computing Checklist
by Michael Horowitz
AMAZON FIRE TABLETS
These observations are from using a new Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (11th generation) in July 2022. It was running FireOS 184.108.40.206. In my opinion, if you can afford to pay more for a tablet running real Android, that would be the better approach.
- Even a model without ads, has ads. It just depends on how you define the word "ad". While there are none on the lock screen, across the top of the home screen is a never ending list of suggested stuff to buy and apps to install. As far as I can tell, this can not be disabled. In this screen shot, the Discover section are the ads.
- You can not install a normal web browser, you are limited to the Amazon Silk browser which does not support extensions.
- The selection of apps in the Amazon app store is very limited. Many available apps are old. For example, the app for NPR news is from 2014.
- When a free app is installed, Amazon emails you a receipt for zero dollars paid.
- Settings -> Security and Privacy. Adjust settings in Advertising ID and Location-Based Services. Turn off "Collect App Usage Data" and "Device Usage Data"
- I have not used the testing tablet for very long, but updates to both apps and the operating system seem to be very non-intrusive from the end user perspective.
- SOFTWARE UPGRADE
FireOS is very limiting, compared to Android, but it is possible to install the Play Store to provide access to most (not all) Android apps. There are two ways to install the Google Play Store and other Google services. The free Fire Toolbox utility requires a Windows PC. Or, you can download four Android apps and install them on the Fire tablet.
- The Fire Toolbox is a free Windows utility. Install it first, then turn on some obscure options on the Fire Tablet, then connect the tablet to the Windows PC with a USB cable, and run
the Fire Toolbox software. It offers multiple tools for customizing the Fire tablet. When you are done, I suggest un-installing the Toolbox software. But, on Fire OS version 8, installed on devices released in 2022, Fire Toolbox can not install the Play Store. Instead, it can install the Aurora Store. In turn, this means that you can not install Gmail, Chrome, and YouTube.
- How to install Google Play on 12th-gen Amazon Fire tablets by Brad Linder (December 26, 2022). The instructions here also work for 2022 models running Fire OS 8 (the Fire 7 and Fire HD 8).
- Fire Toolbox v30 brings new features for hacking Amazon Fire tablets (including Fire OS 8 models) by Brad Linder for Liliputing (November 22, 2022)
- Hack your Amazon Fire tablet with Fire Toolbox (Install Google Play, remove Amazon apps, and more)
by Brad Linder for Liliputing. First written December 2020. Last updated November 26, 2022.
- How to install Google Play on Amazon Fire tablets by Brad Linder. Last updated March 2022
- Fire Toolbox Version 30.0
- It is recommended, by the developers of Fire Toolbox, that when ordering the tablet, it is best to uncheck the "Link device to your Amazon account to simplify setup" box
- This article is about a different approach, one that does not use the Fire Toolbox: How to Install the Google Play Store on an Amazon Fire Tablet by
Joe Fedewa and Chris Hoffman of HowToGeek. The article is about downloading the Google Play Store app and its dependencies from a trusted website like APKMirror.com and installing them manually.
That said, there are multiple approaches in this article which was last updated November 16, 2022. The article only applies to Fire tablets from 2014 and later. The Nov 2022 update is a different solution that installs the Play Store on the Fire 7 2022 (12th Gen) tablet with Fire OS 220.127.116.11.
- Although based on Android, FireOS has no system wide encrypted DNS setting. So, this is not an option for ad or tracker blocking.
- You can not specify DNS servers for a Wi-Fi network (SSID), it will only use the DNS servers provided by the router. However, it always adds to this, the main Google DNS server (18.104.22.168). No doubt, Amazon does this to avoid tech support calls, they never want a DNS request to fail.
- The Silk web browser has an option for Secure DNS (Settings -> Privacy and security -> Use secure DNS) which includes a custom setting. I was able to use the Custom setting with NextDNS. In my testing, Silk used NextDNS for DNS even when the system was connected to a VPN. With NextDNS active, I tested three apps. Two of them did not use NextDNS, one of them did.
- FYI: January 2023: I wanted to use a Fire tablet as a sort of billboard. That is, I wanted it to display the weather all the time. The problem was that after a few minutes the tablet would go to sleep. In Settings there is no option to disable sleep. Then, I found this article which details the secret handshake. How to keep your Amazon Fire device from going to sleep (last updated Jan 26, 2023). In brief: Settings -> Device Options -> tap the serial number 7 times (to enable Developer Options) -> Developer Options -> set the Stay Awake toggle to ON.
- FYI: To see the version of FireOS that is currently running: Settings -> Device Options -> System Updates
- FYI: The ProtonVPN app is very different on a Fire tablet compared to the software on all other supported systems.
- FYI: Zoom is not supported on Fire tablets. From Zoom system requirements
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