29 October, 2013

First a Javascript reference to an Android 4.4 countdown, and now a CSS reference...

Snooping a little bit further through the android.com/kitkat source code, I found even more data in reference to the countdown that could be coming to the site. This, of course, being a CSS reference:

Now, of course, there's still no date as to when that countdown may be shown off, but...

This is exactly what the text of the Android 4.4 countdown will be styled like.

Now, to be clear, we should see an announcement any hour now... but there's something very interesting about the countdown reference in the code: it's a class, not an ID, that the code is referring to. It's likely, then, that there's probably going to be more than one hidden element with that name. The question, then, is when will it actually appear? Only time will tell...

19 October, 2013

Android isn't the only OS with notification adware...

It scared me for a minute when there was press going around regarding Android apps sending push notifications which double as ads. Of course, Google happens to have updated the Play Store terms to combat this issue... and indeed, it actually is working. Then again, Android isn't the only OS with the problem:

That's right. This was taken on an iPhone 4S running iOS 7 here, and as you can see, there are horrible reviews of an app describing similar issues. Ads that double as notifications, ringing the phone's bell. Only this time, they're visible not only in the notification center but also (!) on the lock screen, such that merely unlocking the device is the same as clicking on an ad.

I'm sorry, but this is extremely bad app development practice. One reason why users submit so many one-star reviews to some developers is because of nasty tactics like this that essentially force the user to want to click on ads. It's basically adware as an app, and it makes users feel completely intruded upon.

Now, sure, there's the moneymaking argument. Uh, that's what in-app purchases and non-intrusive ad banners within the app itself are for. Alerts? Yeah, I've seen alert ads too, and we all know how intrusive they also can be. Well, at least alert ads also only open while the app is open. Not so for push ads, which makes them purely a greedy, controlling, abusive means to stifle users and have that reputation backfire.

12 October, 2013

Android 4.4: The War on Fragmentation Continues

UPDATE: Android Police also revealed some data about the Dialer, Camera, and Gallery apps that show the same package ID pattern, indicating that they could also be migrated over to the Play Store as well, further nullifying the efforts of carriers and OEMs to block Android updates. Original post (and link to Android Police article in question) below.

Remember when Google's Play Services were launched? Anything with Android 2.2 and up, thanks to Play Services, can now enjoy functionality that in previous cases required new versions of Android to use. Well, some Android 4.4 leaks that we've noticed seem to hint at Google taking it's Play Services to a new level: right down to the home screen.

What do I mean? Well, we've seen that Google happens to have a new launcher coming out on Android 4.4 (codenamed "KitKat" as part of a co-branding with Nestle) that happens to have a completely different naming scheme than any launcher in the past. "com.android.launcher" and "com.android.launcher2" were of course strictly internal package IDs, with "system/app/Launcher.apk" and "system/app/Launcher2.apk" as their paths, right?

Well, there's no com.android.Launcher3 anywhere to be found. Instead, we see a file path of "/system/app/GoogleHome.apk" (reminds me of BlurHome.apk (!) on my old Flipside), a package ID of "com.google.android.gel," and a user-readable name of "Google Experience". Well, let's see what kind of Java package hierarchy many, if not most, of Google's Play Store apps have in them, shall we?

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.googlequicksearchbox (Google Search)

Given Google's claim of "making an awesome Android experience available to everyone" in Android 4.4's promo page, it only seems natural, then, that what Google may be throwing at carriers and manufacturers is the unthinkable: the official home screen, of stock Android 4.4, being tied to Google Play Services and slapped right onto the Google Play Store. This, of course, would basically render any attempt to block Android updates on old devices practically useless, since people could get the KitKat home screen in all it's glory on a Froyo system and have the functionality of the very Android versions that carriers and manufacturers are trying to prevent without even having to update their devices in the first place.

To me, this seems like a good move by Google, showing carriers and manufacturers who's boss...

10 October, 2013

Privacy vs. Functionality: The battle continues

Targeted ads. Location tracking. History logging. What do people think of when they hear these terms? Typically, it's not a pleasant response, is it? People see this kind of functionality as a means for corporations to spy on them and send their personal data to the government. Yet it's this kind of lack of privacy that actually makes features like Google Now and iOS 7's parallax effect, in all their glory, even possible. Say what?

Yes, that's correct. One thing we all need to realize is that by collecting data, software can do things that it would normally take physical hardware to do. Location data makes Google Now's travel time alerts and public transit cards possible. Search history makes Google Now's personalized sports data and frequent location searches also possible. Even more alarming, accelerometer, gyroscope, and front camera (!) data are what make iOS 7's parallax effect possible. Targeted ads, of course, are no different.

Imagine you are, say, on a Chromebook. In Chrome OS's seamlessly secure ecosystem, you are just peacefully browsing the Web, checking Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., when all of a sudden, you get a nagging pop-up window, telling you to install Windows. Or IE, in all it's ugliness. And every time you try to close it out, you end up getting repeatedly nagged, by Microsoft, by Apple, by Nokia, and by every possible software vendor other than the one(s) you actually want to see ads from. What you have just imagined is a world without targeted ads.

So think about what privacy means. Unfortunately, there's a trade-off here, because functionality and privacy inversely go hand-in-hand, and unless users want to get nagged by irrelevant ads and have stifling user experiences on their devices, they will have to give up some, but not all, of their private lives.

01 October, 2013

Thought World War III was bad? How does a Civil War II sound?!

I don't know if anyone else realized this, but right now, it's actually been 150 years and 3 months since the American Civil War's turning point. Stuff like 9/11 and the resulting retaliatory wars have started occurring since then, and, well, we're just getting started.

The Democrats are quickly becoming Marxists, and the Republicans are quickly becoming kleptocrats. Back in the 1960's, the United States and Soviet Union feared that a possible nuclear World War III could take place. Well how does a Civil War II sound? There's already Cold War-like tensions leading up to one, and it can cause absolute terror if we don't act fast.

Well, I may be exaggerating slightly, but if history alone has anything to tell us about this increasing polarization among the political parties of this nation, it's that there was similar polarization back in the 1860's, right when Lincoln became President and our nation entered a brutal and bloody civil war that would last for years. We all know how that turned out.

One reason why I voted for Gary Johnson instead of Obama or Romney in the 2012 election is because of just that: unlike Obama, being an ultra-liberal sexual sin-promoter, and Romney, being an ultra-conservative financial sin-promoter, Johnson actually did have bits of both. That, of course, would actually have made Johnson a good leader for taking this nation into the 21st century and freeing it from the grip of the bipartisan extremism that's pulling this nation apart.

But alas, Obama ended up re-elected, and in January of this year, predominantly conservative states threatened to do the unthinkable: secede once again. Say what? I knew this was coming. I knew the minute I logged into Google+ and spotted that "#Secession" hashtag in the trending box that what this nation was about to turn itself into was indeed happening. Then again, Obama responded with an executive order banning any state having seceded from having state status for all eternity, which of course calmed them down quite a bit. But it wasn't over yet.

The debate still continues. The Tea Party and the billionaire wealth-addicts that make it up are adding to the polarized influence of the Republicans, while groups like the CPUSA (!), organized labor, and abortion/LGBT rights activists are adding to the polarized influence of the Democrats, all resulting in tension that could lead to chaos if it snaps. It all of course had yet another crippling outcome.

Today, October 1, 2013, the government has undergone a mass furlough for the first time since 1995-96 in an attempt to make a point about budget, with agencies like the national park service, NASA, and others just as vital to our culture and society being completely shut down to protest a clear result of this increasing partisan extremism in our society: the inability to agree on a budget plan.

Well, this is it, my friends. If we don't act fast, this cold civil war could quickly turn hot. That's why there needs to definitely be some sort of evangelistic in-between party that spreads love instead of hate. If we don't act fast, instead of being in a future with silicon or graphene powering everything we own, we'd be in one where lead and gunpowder are packed into all our vehicles and bullets would be flying at us from all directions while we try to accomplish simple mundane tasks.