Jan 032012

Happy New Year to all my beloved readers. May all your resolutions be rationally thought-out, and not something absurd like “post to blog every day”. Don’t know what I was thinking with that one.

When Apple introduced the iPhone 4S with the Siri personal assistant, you could almost hear the photocopiers warming up in Redmond and Mountain View. After all, when your business models are based on cloning someone else’s superior offering, a feature like Siri was never going to go uncloned. While we wait for Android’s official duplication (despite Andy Rubin’s insistance that Siri was “no big deal” when it was released), Android’s developer community of copyright and trademark destroyers ecosystem will have to step up in the meantime. Because the Android Market is moderated with the efficacy of an inner-city public school restroom, suckers who actually bought into this “Siri on Android” bong water were sure to be treated to something that may have looked a lot like Apple’s interface, but sure as hell didn’t do as much. Here’s the most egregious copy, Speerit, from a Korean developer courtesy of 9to5Mac:

Note the liberal use of the Siri icon complete with text bubbles. The other current entrant, the understated “Siri for Android”, rips off a whole bunch of iconography, complete with ads because we are talking about Android here:

Is it really that surprising that the earliest knock-offs of Apple’s Siri IP would come from the country Samsung calls home? I submit that it is not.

Dec 132011

People are still surprised when I bring up Google’s business model. They find it hard to believe that the harvesting of their every personal detail nets them billions of dollars from advertisers every quarter. The best part is the realization. It makes me a hit at all the cocktail parties.

Courtesy of The Verge, the latest free-as-in-you-don’t-know-it’s-not offering from Mountain View – Google Wallet – has been shown by researchers at ViaForensics to be capable of giving up an awful lot of data about you – unencrypted – such as the amount of your transactions, your credit card balance and your credit limit. The firm claims these details are not intended to be given up, but it’s tough to tell with Google products. Says the firm: “Many people would not find it acceptable if people knew their credit card balance or limits”. Fascinating. Google claims – correctly – that this exploit only applies to rooted phones, which kind of ducks the fact that any stolen phone can be easily rooted. I also personally find it amusing that Google’s gaping security hole is exposed once users invoke the most common solution for all the ills inflicted on users by carrier-installed defilements like Carrier IQ: rooting your phone. Way to stick it to the man!

If you want to see the difference between a headline-dominating $200 billion company and just another scummy market research firm represented with 2 letters, It’s the word between “acceptable” and “people” in the ViaForensics quote.

Dec 022011

Hot off the heels of the news that carriers can use Android to shake you down for every keystroke you type on your Android device, a new carrier-provided exploit has been discovered by security researchers from North Carolina State University. According to the IT blog nakedsecurity, eight shartphones from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and Google are implicated. So unlike the squawk I’ve been reading about Google’s phones being free of Carrier IQ (which I have yet to see a confirmation of), this exploit does not discriminate.

To restate my stance on all of these debacles: Google does not give a shit about the user experience of their phones beyond the services that make them money. If they did, they’d be hard-asses about how carriers and manufacturers were allowed to mutilate it. “Free and open” is a horseshit smokescreen that will allow Google the psychological distance to wash their hands of what other parties do to Android time and again.

Nov 302011

One of TMA’s favorite slagging themes is all about Google’s general dismissal of your demands for privacy. Their stance is summarized neatly in the episode of “Shit My Schmidt Says” where the lead character is interviewed by CNBC on the issue of user privacy: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” This flippant statement about one of the things that most Americans value as citizens above all else underscores Google’s attitude on the issue. If you want to use a knock-off shartphone OS, you’re not entitled to anything being kept from others. In addition to a justification for ripping off Oracle, that’s what “open” means to Google. It feigns a position on the philosophical high ground, boasting unfettered access without responsibility for anyone who wants to abuse that access.

Think this is hyperbole? Take a trip over to Trevor Eckhart’s blog and watch the video about the information gathered by a program called Carrier IQ, which is carrier-installed and appears on all Android (with the possible exception of the Galaxy Nexus), Nokia and Blackberry shartphones. The video below shows the data taken from a stock, factory-restored HTC Evo 4G. It’s 17 minutes long, and I generally “TL/DR” every YouTube video before the 2:00 mark, but this shit is staggering.

Let me address a couple of points I’ve seen vomited onto the comment sections of other blogs discussing this issue. First, it doesn’t matter where this compiled information is sent. The fact that it exists at all is reprehensible. Second, the evil carriers using a 3rd party to scrape this information aren’t the only ones who share the blame. Every party in the chain has responsibility – including Google, Nokia and RIM. I don’t give a shit if your OS is “open” or not: you’re allowing a party to your product to surreptitiously collect data with no option for them not to do it unless you’re some kind of hyper-nerd. I guarantee you less than .001% of those 200 million activation number that Andy Rubin beats himself off to have either the knowledge required to root their devices or the inclination to endure the hassle.

Want a device that’s free of malware? That doesn’t allow carriers to install crapware and shit like Carrier IQ? Want to use a device from a company that accepts the responsibility you place on it to defend your personal information from the assholes who think they’re owed it?

And for God’s sake, write a letter to your congressman or senator. Every time I read something like this, I think of Stuart Smalley’s marble-mouthed back-and-forth with one of Google’s shysters at the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee meeting.

Your democratic right to elect your representation. Enjoy.

Whenever there is a means to do so, there will always be people looking to take advantage of the loopholes provided by others to exploit you without your knowledge. Elect people that understand that – preferably ones that have some functional literacy about technology issues.

Nov 282011

One of Google Android’s most well thought-out differentiators between its mobile OS and Apple’s is the fact that anyone can submit an app to their Market. Total freedom. No “walled garden” impinging on your enjoyment of the Android app ecosystem with iOS’s pesky “screening” or “approval process”.

Calling peoples’ attention to how truly shitastic Android’s hodgepodge of an ecosystem is feels like a part-time job, but the hilarity never wants to stop rearing its head. Take the discovery (by someone other than Google, natch) that some enterprising developers are trying to use a variation of Angry Birds’ Rovio company name to cash in on people not knowing the difference. Google’s been notified, so this should all be resolved…whenever – well, except for the suckers valued Android customers who already bought the apps in question. My favorite part of the TechCrunch article is where they caution people to be “extra careful” and read through “reviews, descriptions and check out the developers’ site before just hitting install” for their apps.

My advice for those considering the merits of a buy-one, get-one on the most recent Android expectoration is much more succinct: just buy a fucking iPhone.

Oct 192011

I’ll open with something you may not have known: Android has an interface designer. His name is Matias Duarte. Not only does he exist, he thinks a lot of the work he’s done on Android’s 4.0 iteration, Ice Cream Sandwich. So much so that he used some of his words in an interview with This is My Next/The Verge to take a couple of shots at elements of Apple’s UI design. From electronista:

Right now if you look at all of these applications that are designed in this real-objecty, faux wood paneling, faux brushed metal, faux jelly button kind of thing,” Duarte said. “If you step back and you really look at them, they look kind of juvenile. They’re not photorealistic, they’re illustrations. If you look back at the web, people did the same thing. All these cartoony things hanging off a page. If you tried that today, people would be laughing, unless you were doing it in a kitsch, poking-fun-at-yourself, retro art way.”

You mean like this?

I can’t say I’m sold on iOS’s Find My Friends “ride ’em cowboy” theme, but for Duarte to call out Apple’s UI against Android’s bacon strip of a mobile OS shows just how far Mountain View is from the grown-up’s table.  As the Android team has shown us time and again, class isn’t their strong suit.

Sep 282011

I remember reading that Microsoft made more money from licensing agreements related to Android than it did from its own Windows Phone 7. Now another shrimp is grilling on the barbie. Samsung, the largest maker of Android phones, is now the 7th manufacturer to agree to some sort of license deal with Microsoft, leaving soon-to-be-acquired Motorola as the only major player still in Redmond’s sights. As FOSS Patent’s Florian Mueller points out, this makes it pretty clear that Samsung doesn’t have faith that Googlerola is the answer to its prayers, while also making the likelihood of Google having to ante up to Microsoft for its blushing bride a certainty.

I guess “Google’s deep commitment to defending Android, its partners, and the ecosystem” doesn’t reflect Samsung’s deep commitment to sit around and wait for it to happen.

Jun 212011

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this that the market share bottlerocket jammed up Android’s ass would cool down once Apple made its iPhone 4 available on Verizon’s network, despite the fact that a new Android phone is released every other day. It may have taken a bit longer than I predicted, but Android’s growth has finally capped: it recorded its first market share fall-off this past quarter. The iPhone was up 12 and a half percentage points while sad sacks Nokia, BlackBerry and Windows Mobile OS’s continued to hemorrhage share.

People will no doubt be jumping on the “fluke” bandwagon, stating that iPhone 4 could never sustain this kind of growth. The fact that a year-old smartphone is handing Android its ass alone is worth a chuckle. Even if there is the customary fall-off in adopters prior to the release of the iPhone 5 does happen, Google may want to take a look at the slope of the BlackBerry downswing to get a sense of what iPhone 5 + iOS 5 + both major carriers is going to do to its share.

I’m sure it was nice while it lasted.

Jun 172011

I just made up a maxim about online security firms. How do you know a computer security expert that is offering advice is pimping his own products? His lips are moving. While the majority of PC security alarmists are correct that people need to lock up the silverware when they announce the latest catastrophic Windows or Flash vulnerability, they’ve been a little more “cry” than “wolf” when it comes to pronouncements about the insecurity of Apple’s platforms. Case in point: Kaspersky’s CTO Nikolay Grebennikov, who thinks Apple needs to open up iOS to allow the “security pros” to handle locking down threats that are coming any day now.

“The Android platform, which is growing its market share, is much more open than the Apple iOS and it’s easier to create new applications for Android, including security software”. Ah yes. The beauty of “open”. Want to know why security software is required for Android? It’s a platform that allows average users to approve an app’s access to processes on their shartphone about which they don’t have a clue. It’s a platform that doesn’t vet apps submitted to its market, allows apps downloaded from shadow markets to be sideloaded onto its devices, and relies on the hobbyist community to report malware to Google for apps in their own Market. But please, Nikolay, continue…

“Apple is the only protector of its iPhone and iPad users but they don’t know the real situation with threats. It’s not possible to create the products they create, and be a world leader in security too; that expertise is elsewhere.” That’s why Apple has an actual approval process to get an app in their App Store, doesn’t allow apps to be sideloaded onto their devices and sandboxes its apps’ access to system resources. You say “closed”; I say “secure”.

I know it sucks to be relegated to the business equivalent of fogging up the glass of the App Store from the outside, licking your chops at the billions in potential revenue you’re missing out on because iOS doesn’t need your voodoo. But if you check down a couple of doors and go to the Android storefront, you’ll find they’ve had 3 instances of malware in their Market in the last month alone. I’m sure you two have plenty to talk about.

Jun 152011

Google tracks wireless devices using MACs, and this information is freely available on the Internet. Shocking. The best part, from cnet News:

“Google did not respond to a series of questions posed last week, including what measures it takes to filter out mobile devices and laptops from its database, what privacy policy governs this data collection, and whether law enforcement or civil litigants submitted requests for records from its database. The company also declined to specify how someone can remove their device’s MAC address from the database, and a question asking that in a support forum last September was never answered.”

If you don’t want Google – or anyone else – to know the location of where you’re doing something unsavory, perhaps you shouldn’t be doing it.

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