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Posts Tagged Samsung

Why Carrier IQ is doomed

“Carrier IQ: How the Widespread Rootkit Can Track Everything on Your Phone, and How to Remove It” — That was the title of one of LifeHacker’s posts this Wednesday, which is just one of countless articles on the now-controversial carrier metric-gathering tool Carrier IQ that some are calling “rootkit” and “spyware.”

” … a hidden application on some mobile phones that had the ability to log anything and everything on your device—from location to web searches to the content of your text messages. The program is called Carrier IQ, and … it actually comes preinstalled by the manufacturer of your phone.” — LifeHacker.

Developer Trevor Eckhart posted his YouTube video detailing the proported workings of the Android software, which demonstrates Carrier IQ monitoring keypresses, SMS messages, and browsing, even when the phone is not connected to a carrier network, and transmitting this data to Carrier IQ’s servers. Supposedly this data is then aggregated and then transmitted to the carriers for network and user-experience improvements. Though it’s not necessarily what it is doing, it’s about what it’s capable of doing. Read Eckhart’s detailed article here for his detailed breakdown the capabilities of Carrier IQ.

So I’ll say it once more — Carrier IQ is doomed — at least in its present incarnation. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.

LifeHacker, HowToGeek, TechCrunch, BBC News, and others have all run articles on Carrier IQ, typically with one main focus: Detecting it and allowing the user to remove or disable it.The U.S. Senate has started asking questions, and it’s fairly certain that there will be lawsuits. After all, it’s not what you’re doing, it’s what you’re capable of doing:

“Senator Al Franken … has asked Carrier IQ to clarify exactly what its software can do. Franken specifically wants to know what data is recorded on devices with Carrier IQ, what data is sent, if it’s sent to Carrier IQ or carriers themselves, how long it’s stored once received, and how it’s protected once stored.” — The Verge.

If you want Eckhart’s app for checking/removing it on Android, you can get it here. Non-root users, or those having trouble with the above tool, can get a tool that detects but cannot remove Carrier IQ here.

What will be the end result?

If the lawsuits have their way, Carrier IQ is likely to have it’s functionality reduced at the very least, as well as a full disclosure to its presence. It could also mean a visible option to disable it — and that’s if handset manufacturers and carriers continue to use it. At the very most, it will be a huge, drawn-out ordeal, which is very likely. Update: The lawsuits are already underway:

“Carrier IQ, the new poster child for (alleged) smartphone privacy violations, has been hit with two class-action lawsuits from users worried about how the company’s software tracks their smartphone activity.” — ArsTechnica.

If the tech blogs are of any influence (and they are), people will start removing Carrier IQ from their handsets, or switching away from Android to handsets that don’t have Carrier IQ on them. Apple has already stated they are planning to drop Carrier IQ completely in future versions of iOS. RIM has stated that they never had Carrier IQ on BlackBerry handsets to begin with. Microsoft states Windows 7 phones don’t even support Carrier IQ.

Phones aren’t the only devices Carrier IQ may be installed on. Users have started asking questions about tablet devices such as the Nook as well, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 can be rooted to check for the presence of it.

Highly motivated consumers may even choose to switch away from AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile, who use Carrier IQ, to Verizon, who states they do not.

You can bet that, over time, the pressure from customers and negative press towards Carrier IQ will cause the carriers to reconsider the value of it, especially since they might be the ones paying for it in the first place. If you want one last laugh, be sure to read John Gruber’s “translation” of the Carrier IQ press release from November 16th.

Have any thoughts of your own to share regarding Carrier IQ, or would like to share what devices you have or have not found it on? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Thank you!

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I put down my Android and picked up an iPhone… here’s what I noticed

I’ve been getting more than a few expressions of “You? Got an iPhone?” from friends and family lately, after they see my iPhone 4S. While I’ve been known not to be the biggest fan of Apple up until now, I’m starting to realize why the device has gotten to be so popular — it’s an easy-to-use, reliable device that doesn’t frustrate.

Although learning a new smartphone OS hasn’t been terribly difficult, here’s some of the major points between the two that I’ve found myself having to adjust to.

The Home Screen

The home screen on an Android phone is more-or-less a “blank slate”, waiting for you to fill it to your liking with widgets and shortcuts, to make it just the way you want it. If you want to access all your installed apps you open what’s typically referred to as the “app drawer.”

On an iPhone, that “app drawer” is your home screen. No widgets here, though apps do have what’s called “badges” that can show an indicator on the icon if the app has something that wants your attention, such as a number of missed calls over the phone icon, unread texts over the messages icon, and so on.

Removable Storage

Android-based phones feature a microSD card slot for removable storage. It’s an optional — but highly recommended — additional storage space that you can use for media, and on some versions of Android, even apps. You can upgrade this by simply popping out the card, copying the contents to a new, presumably larger card, and putting that card in your phone.

On an iPhone on the other hand, what you buy is what you get — buy a 16GB iPhone, get a gross total of 16GB. Likewise for the other sizes, such as 32GB.

However, there’s some distinct differences:

Android phones by default have their apps installed on the phone’s lower-capacity internal memory. Since the internal memory is smaller than the microSD card, (Sprint’s Epic 4G for example, only has 1GB internal memory), you are sharply limited for the space your apps have to share with everything else. Starting with Android version 2.2 (Froyo) and up you had the ability to move apps to the SD card. This frees up internal memory. However, its up to the app developer to support this feature, and if they did, most apps still required that you move it yourself from within the phone’s settings. Remember those widgets? Don’t plan on them working if you move your app to the SD card.

iPhones on the other hand have a single unified storage area for everything. Assuming you get a 16GB iPhone, that storage space is used for everything — there’s no need to move anything. Apps, media, and the OS all share a single storage space. You might say “this is less overall than an Android phone”, and you would be right. But — you aren’t going to have to try to balance what apps are stored on SD card versus the phone’s internal memory.

When you plug your Android-based smartphone into your computer’s USB port, you’ll likely get a message asking if you want to charge-only, or mount as removable storage. If you select to mount as removable storage you have full access to the SD card in the phone. This is handy if you want to use your phone’s memory card as a makeshift USB flash drive. However, once you mount it to the PC, you don’t have access to it from the phone. Apps that are installed on the SD card cannot be run, and you won’t have access to any media on the card until you unmount it from the PC.

Media

Installing media on an Android phone isn’t difficult. Simply mount the phone to your PC as USB storage (or insert the microSD card into your computer), and copy music, pictures, or anything else you like to it. When you unmount (or insert the card back into the phone) the media scanner will automatically detect your media and propagate the media libraries. But — it’s up to you to get your own music.

With an iPhone and a Windows or Mac computer running iTunes you simply connect your phone to your PC, select what media — such as music, movies, or other — you want to sync, and iTunes adds it to your device. You can purchase your music through iTunes as well. However, you have to use iTunes. Don’t expect your iPhone and Linux-based PC to get along very well.

Backup and Restore

With an iPhone, completely backing up your device is as quick and easy as plugging it into iTunes and right-clicking on it and choosing “Backup.” iTunes takes care of it, and makes restoring it just as painless.

With an stock Android, you don’t have any options to make a “full” backup. You can sync your contacts, calendar, etc to your Google (or other) account, and there they will sit in case you need them. In case of a serious issue, you can boot your phone to recovery mode and wipe it from there, restoring it to stock configuration, after which, prepare to spend some time reinstalling and reconfiguring your apps and account. Rooted users have a few additional options, such as ClockworkMod’s Nandroid backup and restore, and the third party app Titanium Backup.

There’s a lot more differences between the two that I didn’t cover above. But I will say this: When people ask me why I got an iPhone, my typical response is something along the lines of “it’s easy to use without having to think about.” I really enjoy my iPhone, and I don’t think I’ll be picking up an Android phone again anytime soon.

What about you, reader? What are you experiences with Android and iPhones? Do you have anything to share or compare that I didn’t cover in the above? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Curious Samsung smartphone micro-USB charger issue

In the past I had a Samsung Moment that had an infuriating issue with charging — after a while, it would get very picky about which chargers it wanted to accept. The phone would either charge or not, or intermittently cut out from the charger.

I replaced the phone at least once that I can recall and had the issue start up about a month after getting the new phone. Frustrated, I replaced it with a Blackberry.

Now I have a Samsung Epic 4G and without a second thought I plugged it in to my USB cable and charged it right after I got it.

When I went to plug it in to the charger on my nightstand, it wouldn’t charge. I put a 120v-to-USB adapter on the USB cable and charged it like that for the time. I blamed it on chargers not outputting enough voltage, and told myself I’d look into it another day.

Today I finally got around to testing it with various chargers, and the results were interesting:

  • NONE of my Samsung-branded wall chargers worked.
  • My Samsung-branded USB cable didn’t work.
  • My Blackberry-branded USB cable worked.
  • A Belkin-branded USB cable worked.

Interesting, no? I took a closer look at the male micro-USB connectors.

Click for larger image with mark-up

The photo above — being the best I could do with my camera — shows the Samsung-branded cable on top and the Blackberry-branded cable on the bottom. Notice (if you’re able) that the Samsung-branded cable is shorter — about 0.5mm shorter, actually. The Samsung cable is about 5.5mm and the Blackberry (and the Belkin) is about 6mm.

My opinion is that the female micro-USB on the phone, when new and snug, accepts the 5.5mm plug. As the receptacle starts to wear, the shielding and insulation shift ever-so-slightly and the 5.5mm plug no longer fits correctly. The phone charges fine with a 6mm plug. I’ve heard from plenty of people with Samsung devices that have charger issues that the phone gets “picky” about which chargers it accepts. I suspect this is the reason.

What happens over time with a 6mm plug? Well, since I’m coming back to update this post I’ll tell you that with the 6mm microUSB the port eventually failed (again?). I took the phone to Sprint and they said the port failed and agreed to replace the phone. And now… the 5.5mm Samsung plugs are snug and the 6mm generics almost seem too tight. Is it that the 6mm plugs lead to premature failure of the port? I honestly don’t know… but — Samsung devices seem to be the only devices with this issue that I’m aware of.

If you have anything to share about the above, please feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you!

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Must-have Android apps?

I initially had my list of must-have Android apps posted in my review of my Samsung Moment, but I thought they deserved a mention apart from my awful experience with that phone.

I’ve recently updated this list to reflect my current list of must-have Android apps, rather than the old list. Quite a few of my recommendations have changed. These are recommendations for Froyo and newer. So here they are, in no particular order, and now with Market links. Note that some of these application descriptions have been taken directly from Market where I feel the author has explained it better than I could. If you have an iPhone, feel free to check out my list of must-have iPhone apps as well.

aCar
An all-in-one application to track and manage your car: maintenance, fill-ups, fuel mileage, expenses, business trips and more.

Advanced Task Killer (ATK)
Simple, easy-to-use task killer that supports automatically killing tasks as well as force-closing unwanted system tasks.

Astro File Manager
In my opinion the best free file manager / file explorer program available for Android. Easy manage files on your device and SD card. Easy to use, free, and powerful.

Autokiller Memory Optimizer
An outstanding and powerful automatic task killer with manual-kill features and additional tuning for rooted phones. Does have some advanced tuning features, so novice users may want to consider ATK above instead.

Barcode Scanner
A fun little app for using the camera to extract human-readable info from 1D and 2D barcodes. Supports many different barcode formats and recognizes codes quickly.

Barcode2file
The natural compliment to Barcode Scanner. Save your scans in a text file or send them via email with a simple touch. Supports batch scanning as well.

Battery Indicator
A free, simple, no-nonsense application to display your remaining battery as a percentage in your notification area.

Battery Widget
This widget displays the battery charge level as a percent on the home screen and offers one-touch access to the Wifi, GPS, and Bluetooth power toggles

Data Counter Widget
A must-have for those who are on data-limited plans. This widget displays your cell and wifi data usage for the month (or another configurable period of time) as a home screen widget.

Dolphin Browser HD
Puts the stock browser to shame. Easy full-screen browsing with swipe access to plugins and gesture  support for quick access to your favorite websites. Supports a variety of plugins as well.

Eternal Legacy HD
If you’re a fan of the turn-based fantasy RPG’s (think Final Fantasy) you will LOVE Eternal Legacy HD. This one is NOT available on Market, but is available from Gameloft.  Check the link for actual phone compatibility.

Evernote
This is one of those apps that once you have it you’re not sure ow you got along without it. Evernote is an easy-to-use, free app that helps you remember everything across all of the devices you use. Stay organized, save your ideas and improve productivity. Evernote lets you take notes, capture photos, create to-do lists, record voice reminders–and makes these notes completely searchable, whether you are at home, at work, or on the go. Since Evernote’s notes are synced to all of your devices via the cloud, you don’t have to worry about losing them.

FBI Child ID
While the Android app is still in development as of  the date of this update, FBI Child ID is a must-have for anyone with a child that they are responsible for. You can store photos, identifying information, and have the comfort of having it with you whenever you have your phone. With the ability to send it to authorities with a few taps, FBI Child ID can save valuable time in the event of a lost or missing child. See the FBI’s official Child ID page for more information.

Facebook
What can I say? Facebook app. Much better with recent improvements.

Hackers Keyboard
I don’t like Swype — It lacks some of the extended characters that I use and I’m a tap-typer rather than a swipe-typer. When I do inadvertently swipe my finger across the keyboard it tends to mangle whatever I was trying to type. For me, Hackers Keyboard is better — and free!

JuiceDefender – Battery Saver
A freemium, easy-to-use application to monitor and extend the life of your phone or tablet. Features widgets that give you one-touch access to status and features.

JuicePlotter
Great app to show historical data about battery life and usage, as well as a widget to show time-to-charge and time-remaining on your battery life. Very useful, and gets more accurate over time.

LastPass
A great password manager. LastPass web site. With fast and easy access to your LastPass password vault, the LastPass mobile app is a must-have. (Note: Requires a LastPass premium subscription – $12/year)

Lookout Mobile Security
Contains an anti-virus element, phone location, and backup/restore services. Excellent service for free, and a quite reasonable paid subscription service.

Meebo IM
A multi-protocol instant messenger for Android. Supports AIM, Facebook, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo messenger protocols.

Parcels
Track FedEx, UPS, USPS, DHL and more right from your handheld. Also allows you to scan barcodes before shipping to be informed on their progress to the recipient.

PayPal
Handy for sending money via PayPal while on the go.

Spare Parts Plus
This is a handy utility for editing some hidden functions of your phone or tablet device. Settings should be changed carefully. The most useful reason for this app is enabling/disabling compatibility mode.

Twitter
It’s Twitter. Do I need to say any more?

Waze
Waze uses your devices GPS to not only provide turn-by-turn navigation, but also provides crowd-sourced traffic data to other Waze users  about traffic, delays, police presence, accidents, and other road incidents. Waze allows you to report a road incident with just a few taps on the screen, and Waze works well in both portrait and landscape orientation. (Thanks Jeff T. for the recommendation!)

WeatherBug Elite
Shows up-to-date weather information, forecast, radar (supports multi-touch), and more, with configurable widgets and “follow me” support. WeatherBug Elite is nice, but they do have the free WeatherBug app available too.

WordPress
A real must-have for anyone with a WordPress.com or self-hosted WordPress blog.

Z-DeviceTest
Handy app for testing various functions and sensors on your phone.

If you’ve read this far, you might also be interested in a list of apps specifically for rooted phones, yes? Well, here they are:

AdAway
Open-source ad blocker for rooted phones.

AdFree Android
Another ad blocker for root phones. For more information and to give feedback, visit the XDA Forums.

Chainfire3D
An intermediary OpenGL graphics driver which may increase video performance on some devices. Requires: Root, 1ghz+ device, Android 2.1+. See the XDA thread for more information and a list of compatible devices.

Samba Filesharing
A Samba server for your Android phone. Allows you to access your Android phone’s SD card over your network.

Titanium Backup
EXTREMELY powerful tool. Backup ALL apps, Market links, remove bloatware & MORE! Backs up your apps to your SD card and can restore them with their data even after a hard reset, factory reset, or even a new ROM install. It’s fantastic!

Have an Android app you just can’t live without? Please let me know in the comments below!

Last update: December 7th, 2011

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Erratic cursor movement on the Samsung Moment

I’ve had my Samsung Moment a while now and one of the things I noticed was that in intense sunlight, the cursor would begin moving erratically out of control. Only in the most intense sunlight, and only under the right angle and conditions, but it would happen suddenly and because the cursor would continue to scroll in one direction keyboard input became effectively useless.

Since the Moment only has 1 input device that is affected by light intensity (the optical trackpad) I knew it would be a fairly simple fix. I confirmed my suspicion by placing my finger over the trackpad another time when the cursor was going bonkers, and it stopped immediately. I figured the intense light must be “blinding” the sensor and causing it to report movement against the minor changes in light intensity.

I figured returning the unit would be pointless since (1) I knew it would be difficult (if not impossible) to replicate it in a lab, and (2) I didn’t know if the next unit would have the same issue. So I set out a way to “fix” it.

Knowing that the optical trackpad was responsible for the erratic pointer movement, and that I didn’t use it enough to miss it, I set on finding a way to disable it. My first thought was to disassemble the phone and unplug the cable, but the fact that was a lot of work on my relatively new device, and that it might be part of the LCD assembly discouraged me from going that route.

My ultimate solution was simple enough: To cover the trackpad with a sticker and use an x-acto knife to cut it down to just the size of the trackpad.

My finished work:

If you’re going to try this yourself, my advice would be to reduce the sticker over several passes. Go around the “lines” in the case itself first to get the sticker small enough to only slightly larger than the trackpad. Then carefully go along the inner edge of the trackpad itself. Use a gentle hand and don’t be afraid to start over.The last thing you want to do is gouge your device.

The end result is no more “blinding” of the sensor by the sunlight. My cursor is “sane” again and I can still “click” the trackpad. No more scrolling though, but that’s an acceptable trade-off.

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Geocaching with the Samsung Moment

I was out geocaching yesterday with Adam, and we were using my Samsung Moment with the Geocaching app to do our seeking. Out of the three caches that we attempted, the only one we came up with the find for, was because some fellow geocachers made the find before us. We were probably 25 feet away.

I was noticing that I was having trouble getting anything better than a 98ft accuracy on the device’s GPS. So I decided to do some testing today. I used the GPS status app and put the phone in the window. I had 11 satellites lock very quickly, and noticed that I still couldn’t get anything better than a 98 foot accuracy.

That’s very disappointing, as most respectable GPS units (hand-held and vehicle) can get down to 10 meter (30 feet) accuracy without a problem, and higher-accuracy WAAS-enabled GPS units (most hand-held, some vehicle) can get much better than that — down to 1 meter (3 feet) in best cases.

Yes, it’s disappointing. I was hoping for at least 10 meter accuracy from the Moment’s GPS receiver as it’s an actual GPS chip and not carrier-based aGPS. However, this may mean I’ll have to use my eyes and brain a little more than my GPS. Either that, or save up for something a little nicer, like a Garmin eTrex Vista HCx.

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Meet the Samsung Moment

I finally got my Samsung Moment from Sprint, and all I can say is… wow!

Loaded with Android 2.1 (Eclair), the Moment is a great phone.

The roughly 3.25″ 320×480 capacitive touchscreen AMOLED display shows bright, crisp, clear colors (even against sunlight glare), and responds well to finger touches without requiring pressure. Notable is the fact that it does not respond to object touch, only finger touch. Directly below the screen are three touch keys: Home , Menu, and Back. Holding the home key brings up the task list. Below that, hardware Send and End keys, and an optical trackpad complete the front keys. The optical trackpad is a wonderful asset, especially when browing the web; small elements (such as links) are sometimes hard to touch accurately, and being able to select them by scrolling and clicking the trackpad is great.

Around the sides, hardware volume up and down keys, two-position camera button, and a voice command button give quick access at a touch, and rubber-plugged USB (charging) and 3.5mm headphone jack add ruggedness to the ports. The two-position camera key allows the user to have the camera focus with a half-press, and take the picture with the full press.

The 3.2MP auto-focus camera with flash is great for taking both casual and macro pictures. The auto-focus feature is also great for use with apps such as Barcode Scanner, Parcels, Google Shopping, and more.

I found the slide-out full QWERTY keyboard to be essential, as I don’t favor on-screen keyboards (though it’s there if you prefer). The only thing I’m still getting used to is the particular layout. Though, each manufacturer has their own quirks when it comes to QWERTY layouts, it’s not an unbearable layout. In fact, I’m getting used to it already.

So now on to the apps. I thought fitting to put together a list of some of the apps that I feel are must-haves, at least for me, in no particular order. You can read about them on my list of must-have Android apps.

Now, the one really bad thing I found about this phone is the ubiquitously-mentioned poor battery life. In it’s stock configuration, the 1440mah battery will barely last the day, even on the fullest charge. I haven’t been able to find an Extended Life battery for this phone on the web yet, so I had to do some troubleshooting to find ways to extend the battery life. The results? The default radio settings have Wifi, GPS, and “background data” all turned on, and the phone never takes a break. Head to Settings > Wireless and Network Settings and tick off Wifi, and Bluetooth when you don’t need them. Under Settings > Location and Security Settings you’ll find Use GPS satellites which can be ticked off when not needed. Going to Settings > Account and Sync Settings you’ll find Background Data which will also save you data and battery life. Of course, you can always add the Power Control widget to your home screen to have these controls available to you at a single touch. I’ve also heard of some running the battery down to about 5% then plugging the phone in and letting the battery charge completely to supposedly “recalibrate” the phone’s battery meter. I’m experimenting and if I find anything significant, I’ll post it.

Use the Samsung Moment and have a tip to share? Any advice for extending the battery life on this phone? Please leave a comment below.

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Fix for choppy, stuttering, skipping, popping sounds and video with TS-L462C CD ROM burner

This post (April 4th, 2010) in the Dell Community Forums pins it down to a bad firmware.

I’ve had the above problem for several months and the only way it seemed to go away was to disable the cd player. Finally, I think I figured out what was wrong–I had flashed the burner with the latest firmware-ver 07-and I had nothing but stuttering since-I tried all the other recs-reinstall IDE controllers, make sure things are DMA, renistall sound drivers etc, even completely overhauling the OS but no go. So for those in same boat, here’s a definite way I fixed it:

either:
1. keep a cd in the drive at all times or

2. upgrade the firmware w/ samsung (which is the maker of the burner) firmware:
dl this: http://www.samsungodd.com/eng/Information/Application/Application.asp (which is the firmware upgrade app)

then this firmware (it’s in Korean, just choose the TG00): http://www.samsungodd.com/kor/firmware/fwdownload/

then run the app w/ -nocheck option to disable the “not compatible” message and flash away.

When you’re done, you should have full functioning cd rom/burner w/o the stuttering/choppiness. If you crossflash, you’ll prolly invalidate your cdrom warrenty, but dell 07 firmware breaks your system anyways, so pick your poison…

You can download the firmware from Samsung ODD directly.

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