Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Suddenly I’m Less Worried

About my next Android phone: Google Buys Motorola Mobility (for $12.5B).

This deal is very good for me, as a consumer of high-end smart phones, for several reasons: one reason is the more obvious patent issue: the Google smart phone OS has come under fire from competitors (mostly Apple) in a host of patent lawsuits, though none of them actually targeted Google itself: the main advantage of Android is its availability to any small manufacturer – which enabled the amazingly rich ecosystem that is the Android world, but its also its main disadvantage as competitors can target “small fish” for their patent extortion, companies that are too small to afford a real legal battle. Google wasn’t in a good position to help defend their OEMs or developers, and I believe this is what they were trying to do with their Nortel patents bids, that didn’t come through – but they had an ace in their sleeve: even as the Nortel business was going on, Google was probably already deep in negotiation with Motorola Mobility that hold a portfolio of around 18,000 patents and patent applications – compared with Nortel’s paltry 6,000 patents. With this arsenal, and once the deal comes through1, expect Google to come out swinging.

But as I mentioned – this is only part of why I’m happy about this deal. The second, and likely more important reason as I will be looking for a new phone at about early 2012, is that I think Motorola Mobility is one of the best makers of Android running hardware – if not the best. They definitely have the market in keyboard slider phones, which is the kind I’m using. The problem is, I’m a power user – I like to use the latests and best software available and the whole point of having a small computer (read: user programmable device) in your pocket – is the ability to install and upgrade whenever something new comes out (about every couple of months). And this is where Motorola devices fail me: Motorola like to keep a lock down on any user modifications to the phone’s operating system and their devices are notoriously hard to mod – installing a new firmware on a Motorola phone is a dangerous game of “will it brick?”.

Motorola has come out with promises of freeing up the phone “bootloader” (the part of the phone’s firmware that makes sure you don’t install “unauthorized” software) but so far we haven’t see any results. I have hope that under the new ownership, Motorola Mobility developers will find it easier to keep to this promise and allow us power users to buy hardware on which we can run whatever Android-based operating system we want.

  1. supposedly by early 2012 – these things take time []

Mandatory Access Control And Malware

After listening to the virtus/malware discussion on LUG Radio’s new (but apparently one-off) show (check it out at lugradio.org, these guys are hilarious), got me thinking about how much Linux users are exposed to malware.

Lets forget, for the sake of the discussion, the technical attacks1 as these are relatively easy to handle and Linux operating systems are already pretty well protected against such. The main vector of attack for malware these days is Social Engineering anyway – this is how Mac OS-X users get attacked by malware: you browse a web site, and an image that looks like a a blinking dialog box notifies you that your computer has been infected by a virus and prompts you to download this “fix”.

Most of us, technically inclined users, sneer at this type of “threat”, but most people aren’t technically inclined and there are enough people out there that will be fooled by this practice time and time again. Click the image and a binary gets downloaded to your computer and if it is in the correct format it will get executed.

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  1. Such as buffer overflows and such []

Same old Microsoft, at Nortel’s patent sale dispute

As reported on Reuters and Techcrunch, Microsoft is claiming that the sale of bankrupt Nortel’s 6,000 patents to Google (or any other successful bidder) is unfair under the current sale terms that allow the buyer to not carry current licenses to the patents.

Microsoft is understandably concerned, as they currently hold a “perpetual, royalty-free” license to all patents (which means that if the buyer doesn’t get to re-license with existing license holders, then they won’t get any more money from Microsoft on these patents), but what I’m ranting about is not their legitimate concern, but their attempt to color this as “unfair” – quips Techcrunch:

Microsoft says that’s unfair. And while they don’t specifically mention Google, it seems pretty clear who they’re thinking about when they write that a termination of existing licensing agreements “would result in considerable disruption in the development and enhancement of various existing technologies and give the prospective purchaser an unfair competitive advantage”.

This may be unfair, but Microsoft has done this exact same thing in the past, including the very near past where immediately after buying Skype, and just a few days after Microsoft promised that Skype will continue to be offered on non-Microsoft platforms, the “Skype for Asterisk” product was terminated disallowing Digium to sell any more Skype integration module for their successful (and open source) VoIP solution1.

Obviously this is a move perpetrated to allow Microsoft’s competing VoIP product (Lync) an unfair competitive advantage by offering features that Digium can no longer offer – not because of technical issues but because Microsoft will not allow it.

Taking that into account, Microsoft claiming the sale of this patents to Google is unfair is just the pot calling the  kettle black.

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  1. I know that technically they did not stop supporting the module – just not allowing any new sales, but they also put a deadline to stop supporting the Skype-Asterisk integration module: it will not work past July 2013. Cutting this any sooner would have netted Microsoft/Skype a serious law suite so obviously they did the worst they could get away with []

Just jumping on the 6692d179032205 bandwagon

As Intel confirmed, the HDCP master key has been leaked (using PasteBin of all things1 ), and have been reproduced2 around the web in blogs and forum posts.

One, more industrious, individual went a step further and reproduced the HDCP master key as a Python program to generate sink and source keys according to the leaked instructions – which is reproduced here fully for the purpose of mirroring (no copyright notice was added so I don’t know who to thank for this). More musings about the meaning and purpose of all this – after the break:

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  1. Where it quickly went out of control, people don’t seem to understand the concept of  “mirror” or “offsite backup” 😉  []
  2. 1890 sources, total for today and not including this one []

Easiest Android Rooting In 3 Simple Steps

One of the neatest features of carrying a small Linux computer in your pocket, is that you have a machine to hack everywhere you go 😉

After getting a terminal application installed, you find that most stuff that you want to do require “root access” on your android phone – it appears that on Android they don’t really use “user permissions” but instead each app is its own user id with its own set of permissions (an ingenious way to handle different permissions per application).

To do most interesting things you need to make sure you can get root access. As a normal phone user you aren’t expected to need this so this feature is disabled on phones and to enable access to the root account you need to crack the phone’s security model. (more…)

I Hate Pod Catchers

[Updated: 29/7/2011]

One of the reasons to get a new mobile internet device, is to get a better pod catcher to use in order to feed my podcast listening habit :-). Its not that Escarpod for Symbian was bad – it was a very good application and any new podcatcher I’ll get will be measured against it – but my P1i was kind of dying and regardless all new development in Escarpod was happening in the S60 version and not for UIQ that the P1i was running.

Once I had an android device, the next order of business was to find the best podcatcher (for me). I’ve downloaded and tried all the podcatchers I could get my hand on, so here’s the summary of my trials and tribulations. If I missed any podcatcher that you know of (and want me to compare against those listed below), then drop me a note about it.

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Got me a new gadget

For all of you who are not up to date on my latest news, I’ve got a new phone last week – a Motorola Milestone running Android 2.1 (I expected more Moto* application with the Motorola brand, but I only got a Media Dock home app and a driving home app – not even the “Motonav” navigation software, not that I mind – I use Waze).

Its a pretty cool device and (to my surprise) it allowed me to abandon all the other phones I was carrying with me, pretty much with in a couple of days (I expected it will take me at least a week to transfer all the things I was doing with mobile connected devices to a new device). So now – probably to the surprise of many of my friends – I carry just one phone instead of 3.

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Did you hear that the iPhone 4 was released?

It includes some breakthrough technologies such as “Video Conferencing”, so say Wired in their feature post Apple Unveils High-Resolution, Videoconferencing [sic] iPhone 4.

It again boggles the mind, how Apple takes on a well known feature of existing products, tacks a bastardized version of it on a new revision of their product, and everyone hails at how innovative they are…

Here’s the Wired quote:

iPhone 4 includes a front-facing camera and support for videoconferencing with other iPhone 4 users, via a feature called FaceTime.

Here’s what I can do today with my 3 years old Ericsson P1i, my Nokia E-whatever or my fiance’s $20 Nokia (as well as about half of Nokia phones released in the last 8 years or so), and many other phones from other manufacturers:

  • Above mentioned phones include a front-facing camera and support video conferencing with any other phone that supports standard 3G video calls, on any 3G network.

Also, apple announced their own video conferencing protocol (the so called “FaceTime”), as discussed in ReadWriteWeb:

That’s what Apple aims to do with the introduction of FaceTime. The awkwardly named protocol could be implemented by all major handset manufacturers so that consumers could perform video calls as easily as we perform voice calls today.

There is only one problem with that statement: there is already a standard protocol for video calls – as mandated by the cellular industry’s leading standard body, 3GPP: the 3G-324M protocol, was developed jointly with ITU (the telecom industry governing body for standardization) and is implemented in virtually all video call capable cellular telecom devices.

Now here’s a video:
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Supports Windows Linux

Those funny Chinese are at it again: An acquaintance got a new netbook device from a brandless Chinese manufacturer (the brand label on the device is “Excel”, which is anyone’s guess what its supposed to represent) and the device comes with a bright sticker on the base, in front of the keyboard, with the list of features this devices offers: CPU, memory and support for operating systems:

Yes, this device runs better with all kinds of logo MS-Windows operating systems: you can choose either XP, 7 or Linux 😉

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