whitenoise

technology notes… mobile and embedded.

Google + the good things

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Though I got an invite very early, I do not use this service a lot . Facebook is still the most popular way I stay in touch with most of my friends. However, over the past few weeks my attraction towards Google + is on the rise. Here are some good things I found here .I hope the Facebook team brings this soon to their platform.

Like 1: There is no limit to the post size in Google+ ., one can edit the posts later on .
The posts have a permanent link that could be shared with others.
Result : Unlike Facebook wall posts which are nuggets of creative wits, this one is more thoughtful and for discussing serious stuff.  The posts and the comments resemble the GUI of stack overflow and stack exchange.

Like2 : Google’s policy of using ‘real names’ for your profiles.
Now there are views for and against this including some elaborate explanations by + Robert Scoble and  + Andy Carvin (See here https://plus.google.com/111091089527727420853/posts/Fddn6rV8mBX  )
Result : One thing about real names is that it makes it more personal and you get a feel of seeing a real discussion between people. It also encourages one to be careful about what he posts and his comments .

Like 3: Circles !
The most talked about difference is also one of things I found quite useful. Circles are easy to create and well integrated with all your privacy settings .
Result: Everyone knows the benefit of using circles as a way to limit data sharing. But it is also useful to streamline information related to your interests.  I have a photography circle to follow updates from some interesting photographers, then a ‘media circle’ with some of the streams of popular journalists etc.

Like 4: Good privacy and control over content
There is a way to control what is seen on your profile page . Some things like locking posts from sharing, blocking unwanted comments give you good control on what you post and how it is used.

That’s it for now .

Lets save the Unlike parts for a later post .For now hope this would get some of my friends interested with Google +.I am still a newbie in the Google+ world. Would share more info as I use this more often.

Update: Here is one more article on similar lines. I am not patronizing Google+ .But I find it pretty interesting at least for now .

Written by sujai

August 31, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Mobile fast-food ..thoughts on the new mobile phone making.

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I got chance to attend a recent gathering of several OEMs shipping phones to India.
The Qualcomm Partner Summit  is an annual event by home_09Qualcomm India. Apart from the marketing buzz, it also showcases the wares from many OEMs who plan to launch mobile devices in India and a good indication of what is in store for the next year in the mobile phone landscape.

A clear phenomenon you could see is arrival of several Chinese OEMs and ODMs in that market. Their growth has been phenomenal in past few years and they are already making good inroads into the market share of market leader Nokia . Until 2010 the small time OEMs were only  competing at the feature phone space but with Android the dynamics are going to change dramatically.

Chinese OEMs Indian Distributors: The Chinese OEMs do not have a brand presence in India .Their main customers  are ‘Distributors’ .Companies that make bulk orders of these devices and sell with their own brand name.

Unlike the OEMs ,the distributors do not involve in engineering or the manufacturing , they just give the requirements and book orders and there are mobile phone shops in China that can churn out models based on your need much like ordering breakfast at a Subway joint.

Some of the prominent distributors in India are Micromax and Lawa .And this list is growing rapidly.

Welcome Android : The high end(Tier1) OEMs like Nokia and Samsung still had an edge on the software that had been tested for good  usability, and had passed several rounds of QA.
There was lot of investment on  the Software platforms that was keeping  away the small time OEMs entering the premium segment like the smartphone.

With the advent of Android this is all set to change. Google’s Android platform comes for free and OEMs could churn out  a decent smart phone will all of ‘Android goodies’.  This was pretty evident in the summit I had attended.

HTCDesire_Lookalike There was  HTC-Desire  and few feet away there is an  exact replica by another less known  OEM.  Needless to say each OEM had their own version of an iPhone clone and an iPad clone.

So with Android , the Tier2 OEMs are not just going to be in Feature phones, they are going to come into smart phones  and even some iPad clones. Although there hasn’t been initial success with the integration , they have managed to bring down the Android smart phone price drastically in India.

It may be difficult for the Tier1 OEMs in the long run. For now they are able to maintain a lead by keeping their premium segment intact and also with some exclusive partnership deals with Google and Microsoft.

Written by sujai

May 9, 2011 at 8:34 am

On apps and security .

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While the appstore phenomena has brought is a lot of cool utilities to your smart phone, there are side effects too. Last week saw one of the most dramatic demonstration of what many have been fearing for sometime now. Malware on Smartphone!

And with some intelligent social engineering tricks, it could invade the ecosystem in the matter of days .

evil_android_thumb Several android web pages reported of a very powerful malware that got into the Android market place. Here is how the app installs the malware.

The malware publisher (goes by name Myournet) takes some of the  popular android games and then injects root exploits into the application package and republishes the apps back. All these are variants of the original popular apps, but but they are available FREE. Within days several users download the app and install it. A detailed report is here.

How it works: The malware actually installs a rootkit and ‘steals’ all personal information on your device and sends to a remote location. Besides the malware always opens up a backdoor with your device allowing more worms/malicious code to be run.  This blog post by a mobile security firm has the gory details.

Some points to note:
* The malware’s existence was not known by Google until someone posted about it in public domain .
* While Google was (somewhat) swift to respond , the damage was done. Private data from many phones have been sent to a nefarious user. Would have been very good if the app didn’t enter the ecosystem in the first place.
* Community to the rescue : Google responded by nuking the app with its kill switch. But then the first fixes came from members of XDA.

We can be happy that though the Android market is ‘open’ Google has put in some features in platform to recover back .

How about genuine apps ? Malware isn’t the only security threats to private data. The  Freedom to tinker website had a  blog post recently on the information shared by some of the popular Smartphone apps. The author had used sniffing tools like wire shark to sniff his Android phone.

F5T0XHAF04FMXU0.MEDIUM copy[19]The Android face book app sends stuff out in the open so anyone could read your posts..  It is also possible to make bogus posts, the author says. Some things to be careful of.

Wired’s ‘open’ edition: I’ll close this blog with a note about a recent Wired magazine issue that sums it up all.Some of the wired magazine  subscribers got a ‘very personal’ edition of their copy.   It had lot of information that Wired had gleaned about the subscriber!! The editors used online browsing history, electoral records and ‘social networks’. The magazine just shows how much information we expose unknowingly.

When they do this exercise the next time, they will have yet another ‘gold mine’ of private information -your ‘smart’ phone!

[Image credit : Mobilecrunch , Prohack]

Written by sujai

March 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Innovative iPhone (and Android) apps: –2011 edition

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    Of all my blog posts, my brief review on  iPhone and Android apps have been the most popular. So here is a 2011 edition covering some of the newer ones!

When the iPhone was  launched ,the ‘proximity sensor’ and the ‘accelerometer’ were the hot things and most apps were using these sensors. Fast forward to 2011 and the new theme is AR and NFC. Of this NFC apps are really hot and may well be the next disruption after AR.

 

AR.Pursuit:  First demoed at the CES 2010, the AR drone was drawing lot of interest event at the recent  CES 2011. Parrots’ quadricopter supports an inbuilt wifi system and video  streaming.

 logo_arpursuit The AR.Pursuit integrates all these into a nice iPhone app to give you a very impressive game. The demo video says it all.

 

SkyGaze : While AR.Pursuit is mainly recreational here is another AR app that I think would be appreciated by all amateur sky gazers. Using Sky Gaze is very simple.

sceen_shotJust point your  iPhone to the sky and the app shows you exactly what you are looking at . Full marks for this very simple utility app that serves a great need for anyone interested in sky gazing.

 

Venmo:  After looking at some recreational apps, here are some apps that may one day become big utility apps of your mobile. Venmo is a service that links your phone to a credit card and make or receive payments . Predictably its still not for huge transactions and there is also a trust factor ..so its only between ‘friends’ .

  The Venmo service/app, solves a very subtle problem of keeping balances between friends. Imagine you had dinner with your friends and you had to split the bill among them. Venmo allows you to charge your friends the split amount either online or via a text message.

 

Starbucks Card mobile:  Launched as a pilot program sometime back the card mobile app is a imageshit and now it is available throughout the United states. The payment is not via WiFi or Bluetooth (considering security)  but a unique ‘bar code’ that is scanned by the system.

side note: The barcode is unique but you could take a snap and reuse it as explained here .

 

 nfc_logo NFC apps are yet to catch-up .Actually we are all waiting for the iPhone5 to go big time with NFC payments. Google’s Android 2.3 (GingerBread) already supports NFC. Some of the rumored apps for the iPhone5 are very interesting .

Taglet is one of the first NFC apps available for Android. The use case is similar to exchanging phone information over BT but may be much more easier and could be able to read any kind of information.

 

To me the NFC technology also seems a security threat.  The protocol by itself doesn’t ensure secure communication and its possible  to have passive NFC listeners eavesdropping your data once it enters the field of communication.

So that’s my little list of cool iPhone and Android apps. The Angry Birds is not part of this review.Don’t get angry for that !

Update: 

Google Translate – This list missed a very innovative app. Google Translate app for Android has been  has been around for  quite sometime . And lot of enhancements have been made to it recently. But the latest (experimental) Conversation mode is something from the sci-fi era.

It brings to reality the Universal translator  of sci-fi movies. You could speak in your native language,the phone translates and plays back in another language. Real time speech to speech that is.

Pretty cool technology and would really come handy if you are a tourist and want to
buy something from a dealer who does not know English. Here is a nice demo of this feature by Eric Schmidt.

Written by sujai

February 14, 2011 at 8:59 am

Movies 2011: True Grit

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True Grit by the Coen brothers is what movie critics would call a Western movie.

True_Grit_Poster I didn’t know  such a genre existed until I read about this movie. If I think of it, perhaps the closest match of a ‘western movie’ that I have seen would be  There will be blood.

The story begins with Mattie’s father getting murdered and the killer escaping from the scene. What follows is an adventurous journey by Mattie to find the killer and punish him with the highest punishment of that time. In spite of many hurdles the girl just sticks to her goal .  Her true grit along and help from some very courageous but great hearted men help her achieve the goal.

The story  may sound bland but the screenplay and the dialogue along with  fine performances by the lead actors make for a nice watch. Jeff Bridges role as ‘Rooster Cogburn’ ,the one eyed US marshal is a strong contender for the Oscars this year. Many have predicted him to win it too.BTW, Jeff Bridges won the Oscar last year for his role in Crazy Heart .

The script of the movie is (predictably) western .So it may sound pretty fast if you are not used to it .

Most important observation : this is a very different kind of movie  compared to other movies by the directors movies (think of NCOM ) . Its perhaps their only movie to get a PG13 from MPAA !
IMO worth a one time watch .And definitely recommended if want to see some good screenplay .

Written by sujai

February 6, 2011 at 2:53 pm

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Tech this week : 28 – Jan.

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RealNetworks is back :   Ever wondered what happened to Realnetworks  after we all  streamed content via Youtube?  Well, Realplayer and the .rmv format may not be in vogue but the company is still alive. At CES 2011, real networks previewed Unifi .

unifi1   Unifi is a cloud service much like Dropbox .More specifically, it is aimed at unifying all your digital content across multiple devices and multiple apps(e.g..face book pictures)  at a single place.

  Unifi looks a very  promising utility. Think of accessing that very old picture of your  friend right when you meet him after several years right when you wanted it. The service won the CNET best of CES in the Software category.

Breakthrough  patent: Last week I also read about a patent by a MA based company for a
‘proprietary organism’ . Joule Unlimited claims to have developed a ‘library of proprietary Helioculture_image - courtesy wikipedia organisms’ that could directly convert to CO2 to  liquid hydrocarbons and ethanol .So that is real crude out of CO2 much  like photosynthesis.

The company has also made some very lofty claims and it has to be seen how much this becomes true. If true this would be potentially game changing with no need to drill for crude.

Let me end this post with a news item from India.

BiharSeal Bihar goes ‘Android’ savvy:   After so many years of backwardness, Bihar seems to be under  good hands .Nitish Kumar swept the Bihar elections last year  routing all the traditional parties in that state . I recently read of  Bihar’s Road Construction Department (RCD) using smart phones to track  urban development in the Naxal hit parts of the state.

  The RCD engineers would use the phone to take pictures of construction site . Photos taken using the ‘android’ phones would verify that the pictures were actually from that place .The supervisors could also track the whereabouts of their employees ,thanks to the GPS feature on Android. 

  Why Android phones and not any other phone OS ? The authorities say that ‘Unlike other OSs  Android comes will most of the ‘Google features’ prepackaged and the RCD would
use these features very easily.   It could come very handy for a government that built close to 23,000 km of new roads just in the past 5 years!

Written by sujai

January 28, 2011 at 11:03 pm

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Tech this week:14-Jan

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So 2011 has begun  ..and one of the thought I had was to resuscitate my ‘Tech updates’ thread that had become very infrequent.

January 2011 began with CES 2011, arguably the biggest tech event in the planet.  I don’t know how many of the ‘announcements’ will eventually be successful…but this post is about some of the eye catchers from the event .

Tablets everywhere : Yeah tablets are everywhere this CES and the hype is  so much that is Android-Honeycombovershadows everything else.  The biggest announcement of course is the Honeycomb from Google and Motorola Xoom device.

The Xoom device is powered by NVIDIA Tegra 2 a Dual core ARM Cortex-A9  chip with some impressive Graphics horsepower. Some of the applications like the new Google maps seem good. But we got to wait and see if this can match iPad.

Moto Atrix – Best from the show? : Apart from the XOOM , MOTO’s Atrix is making rounds as the ‘most powerful smartphone in the planet’. Its again Tegra –2 with both running at 1GHz  and a 1G RAM!

Especially the dock feature is a cool idea. It is a demonstration of what some would call  as ‘modular computing ‘. Have a look.There was a similar concept sometime back as well…but in that case the laptop was not having some processing and not truly a dumb extension as with the Atrix. So the technology behind Webtop is intriguing. Some say its another VM that the native android on the Atrix phone starts and hosts its apps .

Google search – some updates: I felt the change for sometime now.. and after reading this google-knolpost, I know its not just me but many others complaining that relevancy of Google search is getting down. One could argue on this that its not Google’s problem ,but the overwhelming spam content that is causing the issues,  but didn’t we all set Google as our home page thinking it should just give me the best results no matter what?

Written by sujai

January 14, 2011 at 10:17 pm

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