Why Do Most Android Apps Have Intrusive Data Access Requirements?

It has been just around a month since I bought an HTC Legend as my first Android phone and I must say that I was pretty satisfied with it. Though a few days ago, it went into occasional lags and often,  there was a freeze times of around two seconds in bringing up the menu. I had installed so many apps (63 of them) that I preferred doing a factory reset over a app quality check.

After that was done and when I started installing back apps, I was taken aback by how much of data demands Android apps have. Being a newbie, I did not give much notice to this fact earlier. What was even more surprising,was that these apps were available for download right from the Market!

Let us take a small example. I search the Android market for an app on “Guitar Chords” and this is a list I come up with.


Now, we can see the app named g-tar [free guitar, hooray]. This is a guitar chord app and it requires access to my phone calls to read the phone state. I probed further into what kind of an access that was? As a result,  I saw that it just makes sure I am not on a call when it plays a tune.


Not much to worry about. Is it? My point here is that the behavior of these apps can put our personal data at risk. The open nature of the Android Market can be abused to turn Android Phones into remotely controlled bots.

Here is a quick check list to keep us safe from such situations.

  • Check for comments on the app before installing it. If comments say something is wrong with the app, something definitely is. Also, if the first few comments are all positive, look up more comments to double check. Try and identify good commentators.
  • Check the system requirements and usage guide. How well the usage guide is written goes a long way into telling how responsible the developer is for his creation.
  • Check if the name of that app turns up on “Best Android App” and “Top Android App” lists. If yes, skip the next few steps and use it. If not, do not panic. Go through the next steps.
  • Check for any known issues in the description. Check for conflicts with the system or with other apps. (This can be another annoyance.)
  • Check the data access it requires. It there is anything out of the way, use your Google Fu to do a background check.

That is the best we can do to keep our Android phones clean until Google comes up with some method of keeping the Android market clean.

Why Was SHOUTCast Radio Removed From the Latest VLC 1.1.0 Release?

VLC 1.1.0 is here with a host of functionalities and feature improvements. It boasts a 40% increase in HD video playback performance and an added support for playing the latest VP8 encoded WebM video format. You can read  this post to know more about the new features in VLC 1.1.0.

Features apart, you will also find something missing in the latest release. One feature which has been pulled back from the latest VLC release is support for the SHOUTCast Radio service. The service is explained as,

SHOUTcast Radio is a web site which provides a directory of radio stations available on the Internet. It provides categorizations of such stations, so it is easier to find one that matches your interest. According to user’s feedback, the integration of such directory inside VLC is one of the best features of the software.

So what happened to the best feature that it is no more there? Apparently, the AOL Corporation is not too happy about the availability of SHOUTCast Radio on VLC and wants it removed.

AOL repeatedly demanded VLC developers of removal of the SHOUTCast Radio or changing the licensing of VLC to a form not compatible with free software. This license forced VLC to bundle the SHOUTCast Radio toolbar along with its installation package. This toolbar is marked as an adware and the VLC developers obviously did not agree.

Taken aback by this change, the developers are urging people to talk to AOL and undo this change. Till that time, they are providing “icecast directory” as an Open Source alternative to SHOUTCast.


How to Hide Porn in Linux? This is Hilarious and Ingenious at the Same Time.

A large part of this world believes that the Internet has been successful because of the availability of free porn. Though, it is one thing to have porn on your computer and another thing to hide it like a pro.


The folks at Reddit continue to amaze me. This thread at Reddit tells us how to hide porn effectively using Linux. I will quote the exact talk excerpt for you to have a good ROFL moment.

<Pryoidain> What are you trying to hide?
<asaph> Nothing that needs encryption, I just want it to be tricky to find.
<Pryoidain> got a separate /tmp partion?
<asaph> of course.
<Pryoidain> unmount it then copy shit to /tmp. It will actually copy it to the /tmp directory on the ROOT filesystem. then when you remount /tmp, the directory becomes a pointer, pointing to the real one, but without removing any of your files in the physical directory on the root system.
<Pryoidain> No one will ever find them unless /tmp fails to mount, or they’re looking for it. even if they’re looking for it, they’ll see them in /tmp and assume their garbage, that is if you name them right.
<asaph> …that’s fucking genius.
<Pryoidain> I know, I’ve been hiding my porn under the /boot directory for about 3 years now.

The talk goes on to explain how effective the method is in hiding stuff you want to remain unseen. Now, that is what I call geekiness and it is the best abuse of the Linux file system. Worried about the files appearing on search? Well, another solution talks of doing a chmod 700 on the directory. See the thread here.

So, what is your preferred method of hiding porn? Believe me; I do not want to know.

The Next Stop In Processing War: Chip Core Count

Chip manufacturers are never short of innovation. After all, that is what keeps them in business. Intel is planning on its next beast of a chip, the Westmere EX  featuring 10 cores while AMD plans to release the Bullldozer in reply featuring 16 cores per chip.

This has started a new battle between Intel and AMD. Earlier, it was about the total Gigahertz though now, it is about the number of cores. Both times though, AMD beats Intel. AMD processors are extremely flexible and Intel survives only because of its superior business model.

A new development that has been seen in this field is that the chip manufacturers are starting to take servers seriously and most of these high end releases are for servers. These new chips will be used to serve demands in cloud computing, high-performance computing and  parallel  processing.

Another chip manufacturer and startup Tilera, takes matters further by having a chip that can be extended to 64 cores and with further development, it is expected to serve 100 cores next year. SM10000 from Seamicro on the other hand takes matters further by allowing mobile support and allowing up to 512 cores.

This begins a new era of war between the numbers of cores and soon, the processing power will be sent to oblivion.


New Features That Rock in iOS 4

iOS 4 has been released officially and is available for download. You can content yourself with a few screenshots if you are not one of the lucky iPhone users. iOS 4 has brought the power of multi-tasking to iPhone, the very features that made Android better than iOS. However, this feature needs a supported app and you can read more on iOS 4 multitasking here.


Here is a quick look at the new features offered by iOS 4.

The iOS 4 has the much advertised and talked about feature, multitasking. This puts the iOS at par with Android and also affects its battery life. However, battery is one thing people are least worried about. The feeling being able to Tweet, reply to Facebook comments and watch videos, all at the same time is too great.

Moving on, the next feature that has arrived with the iOS 4 is camera zoom. The latest iOS 4 features a camera zoom of up to 5X, eliminating the need for a paid app to do this very basic task.

Bluetooth Keyboard Tethering allows you to type in chat and any text area right from your PC or MAC keyboard. This comes in handy when your phone is connected to a computer.

The HD video recording on the iPhone 4 will get more powerful with a Video Autofocus feature. The feature will be seen on all devices though, not just the iPhone 4.

The iOS 4 supports Multiple Exchange Accounts allowing support for Exchange 2010 as well. This also allows syncing of notes.

This is a small list of what appears at this page.

With this release, Android has something big to compete against. This war will prove beneficial for users of both these current mobile OS giants.

About.com Partners With Google Speed Project

About.com has recently partnered with the Google speed project and their combined effort is already showing  an improvement of 19% in page-load time over their 700+ websites. This, along with a minor increase in CPC has brought a desirable change and improved their network of websites.

About.com is an online neighborhood of hundreds of helpful experts, eager to share their wealth of knowledge with visitors.  Every month, over 60 million people* visit us for help with everything from health care and parenting issues to advice on travel, cooking, technology, hobbies and more.

The goals About.com had for this project were listed as,

Our collaboration with Google’s ‘Make the Web Faster‘ team this spring has focused on the following projects:

  • Combining multiple CSS and JavaScript files to reduce external page calls.
  • Serving static content from a domain without cookies.
  • Leveraging browser and server-side caching wherever possible.
  • Compressing image file sizes on output, and serving .png wherever possible.
  • Asking rich media vendors and the Internet ad industry at large to take performance considerations into account when building and serving rich media ads. Any improvements made will ultimately benefit the advertiser, the server, the publisher and the user.

This is seen as an improvement as more popular websites like these should improve on their pages and optimize them for peak performance. About.com has set a good example for other contemporaries.


SystemRescueCD Releases Version 1.5.6 With a new GParted

SystemRescueCD, as the name suggests, is an excellent system rescue utility. It is actually a Linux LiveCD based on Gentoo and has most of the utilities used to recover data from a crashed hard disk or partition.

SystemRescueCD is to data recovery what BackTrack is to hacking. It gives us an array of in built tools for partition recovery as well as backup. It supports the Ext2, Ext3 and Ext4, ReiserFS, VFAT,  XFS, JFS, NTFS and Btrfs file systems. I have used SystemRescueCD occasionally to take image backups of my partition.

The latest version of SystemRescueCD features the 2.6.34 release of the Linux kernel and has the latest version of the Gnome Partition Editor (GParted), version 0.6.0. This new GParted allows support for partitions with sector size greater than 512 bytes. An improved Ethernet driver has also been included for a better network support. This change log will tell us more about the new features of this version.

Follow this link to download SystemRescueCD, version 1.5.6. The Live CD is licensed under GPLv2 and is an essential system recovery software.


Reddit Comes to Rescue in Car Theft Case

The Internet is a wonderful place as it has something for everyone out there. We have seen Internet help people in their real lives as well. We have seen Facebook unite parents with lost kids, Twitter updates put as evidence in court cases but this case I found is the best so far.


A Reddit user,  maltokyo has lost is car and is harnessing the uber geek mind of Reddit to get it back. All he has in hand is a series of surveillance videos of the person entering the parking area in his own car and then taking driving away with our victim’s car. Maltokyo here wants the folks at Reddit to zoom in on the video, enhance it the Jack Bauer style and get him a match for the number plate on the car.

He has taken this amount of pain after he was sent away by the police for lack of evidence. This data, if collected successfully will be his evidence in the case. The incident has already made him sort of a local hero and has featured in the local newspaper.

The guys at Reddit are trying all sorts of filters on the videos and have narrowed down the search to a few number plates in a mere one days. You can follow the investigation at this thread.

Transmission 2.0 Released with Improved Features

Transmission is the most popular and a widely used bit-torrent platform available for the Linux platform. Transmission has touched a new milestone with the release of version 2.0.

Transmission was born nearly five years ago and many people would look down upon it because it could reach only version 2.0 in these five years. We must remember here that, this is a community driven project and is not able to release regular updates and push fast releases. Though, it has already gained millions of users and has a strong user’s base by now.

Transmission  reveled  in its light user interface though, in the wake of recent demand for a feature rich interface, it is walking the footsteps of other torrent clients. It being the only torrent client available by default on many Linux distributions, this new Transmission will be loved by people.

Charles Kerr, the developer of Transmission talked to Torrent Freak on Transmission 2.0 saying,

We’ve profiled the code for CPU bottlenecks and removed them. Startup, peer management, blocklists, and verifying local data are all faster. Transmission 2.0 is also smarter about detecting and handling network lag.

Given the success Transmission enjoys on Linux and Mac, it is also aiming for the Windows platform. Though, there is a serious lack of developers to work on this field and an even tougher competition for Transmission to stand a chance.


It is Confirmed. Google Street View Cars Captured User Emails and Passwords

The French National Commission on Computing and Liberty (CNIL) has finally confirmed that data captured by Google Street View cars had usernames and passwords. This puts Google at a high level of scrutiny and Google has been criticized widely for this.

Google, which started to collect data to improve its location service also collected private user data and tried to cover it up by making up stuff like “it was collecting only fragments of data” and other tech jargon to confuse people. Though, we know the better of these claims.

This investigation has laid the foundation for many further investigations to be carried out in Spain and Germany. Germany in particularly, has not been very friendly to Google and Google should gear up for some serious allegations.

Google has a database from thirty such countries and most countries, when came to know of this, asked Google to delete the data. Some others though, wanted Google to keep the data and investigate into it.

Google should be extra careful from now on. No wonder it has made life easier for all, though, this has also earned it scrutinizers who are much more interested in what goes on behind the scene.