You thought Stagefright was just taking a bow? Surprise! It's an encore.

Subject: General Tech | October 1, 2015 - 12:44 PM |
Tagged: stagefright, security, Android

Assuming you have a carrier with a sense of responsibility and a reasonably modern phone the chances are you are patched against the original Stagefright vulnerability.  This is not the case for the recently reported vulnerabilities dubbed Stagefright 2.0.  If you open a specially and nefariously modified MP3 or MP4 file in Stagefright on Android 5.0+ it has been confirmed that those files can trigger remote code execution via libstagefright.  If you are on an older model then the vulnerability lies in libutils and can be used for the same purpose, gaining access to the data stored on your device.  From the security company reports that The Register has linked, it sounds like we can expect many repeat performances as the Stagefright library was poorly written and contains many mistakes; worse is the fact that it is not sandboxed in any way and has significantly higher access than an application for playing media files should ever have.


"Joshua Drake from the security outfit Zimperium zLabs introduced us to StageFright earlier this summer, and he is now back with a similar warning and a brace of problems, according to a post on the Kaspersky Threatpost news site."

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Source: The Register

Android to iPhone Day 3: Widgets and Live Photos

Subject: Editorial, Mobile | September 28, 2015 - 09:57 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:


Day 1

Opening and setting up a new iPhone is still an impressive experience. The unboxing process makes it feel like you are taking part in the reveal of product worth its cost and the accessories included are organized and presented well. Having never used an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus beyond the cursory “let me hold that”, it was immediately obvious to me that the iPhone build quality exceeded any of the recent Android-based smartphones I have used; including the new OnePlus 2, LG G4 and Droid Turbo. The rounded edges sparked some debate in terms of aesthetics but it definitely makes the phone FEEL slimmer than other smartphone options. The buttons were firm and responsive though I think there is more noise in the click of the home button than I expected.

The setup process for the phone was pretty painless but Ken, our production editor who has been an iPhone user every generation, did comment that the number of steps you have to go through to get to a working phone have increased quite a bit. Setup Siri, setup Touch ID, setup Wi-Fi, have you heard about iCloud? The list goes on. I did attempt to use the “Move to iOS” application from the Android Play Store on my Droid Turbo but I was never able to get it to work – the devices kept complaining about a disconnection of some sort in its peer-to-peer network and after about 8 tries, I gave up. I’m hoping to try it again with the incoming iPhone 6 Plus next week to see if it was a temporary issue.


After getting to the iPhone 6s home screen I spent the better part of the next hour doing something that I do every time I get a new phone: installing apps. The process is painful – go to the App Store, search for the program, download it, open it, login (and try to remember login information), repeat. With the Android Play Store I do appreciate the ability to “push” application downloads to a phone from the desktop website, making it much faster to search and acquire all the software you need. Apple would definitely benefit from some version of this that doesn’t require installing iTunes.

I am a LastPass user and one of the first changes I had to get used to was the change in how that software works on Android and iOS. With my Droid Turbo I was able to give LastPass access to system levels lower than you can with iOS and when using a third-party app like Twitter, LastPass can insert itself into the process and automatically input the username and/or password for the website or service. With the iPhone you don’t have that ability and there was a lot of password copying and pasting to get everything setup. This is an area where the openness of the Android platform can benefit users.

That being said, the benefits of Touch ID from Apple were immediately apparent.  After going through the setup process using my fingerprint in place of my 15+ digit Apple ID password is a huge benefit and time saver.  Every time I download a new app from the App Store and simply place my thumb on the home button, I grin; knowing this is how it should be for all passwords, everywhere. I was even able to setup my primary LastPass password to utilize Touch ID, removing one of the biggest annoyances of using the password keeping software on Android. Logging into the phone with your finger or thumb print rather than a pattern or PIN is great too. And though I know new phones like the OnePlus 2 uses a fingerprint reader for this purpose, the implementation just isn’t as smooth.

My final step before leaving the office and heading for home was to download my favorite podcasts and get that setup on the phone for the drive. Rather than use the Apple Podcasts app it was recommended that I try out Overcast, which has been solid so far. I setup the Giant Bombcast, My Brother, My Brother and I and a couple of others, let them download on Wi-Fi and set out for home. Pairing the iPhone 6s with my Chevy Volt was as easy as any other phone but I did notice that Bluetooth-based information being passed to the entertainment system (icons, current time stamps, etc.) was more accurate with the iPhone 6s than my Droid Turbo (starting times and time remaining worked when they previously did not). That could be a result of the podcast application itself (I used doubleTwist on Android).

Day 2

On Saturday, with a bit more free time to setup the phone and get applications installed that I had previously forgotten, I did start to miss a couple of Android features. First, the lack of widgets on the iPhone home screens means the mass of icons on the iPhone 6s is much less useful than the customized screens I had on my Droid Turbo. With my Droid I had a page dedicated to social media widgets I could scroll through without opening up any specific applications. Another page included my current to-do list from Google Keep and my most current 15 items from Google Calendar, all at a glance.


I know that the top drag down menu on iOS with the Today and Notifications tabs is supposed to offer some of that functionality but the apps like Google Keep and Twitter don’t take advantage of it. And though cliché at this point, why in the hell doesn’t the Apple Weather application icon show the current temperature and weather status yet??

The second item I miss is the dedicated “back” button that Android devices have on them that are universal across the entire system. Always knowing that you can move to the previous screen or move from the current app to the home screen or other program that was just recently switched over is a great safety net that is missing in iOS. With only a single “always there” button on the phone, some software has the back button functionality on the top left hand corner and others have it in the form of an X or Close button somewhere else. I found myself constantly looking around each new app on the iPhone 6s to find out how to return to a previous screen and sometimes would hit the home button out of habit, which obviously isn’t going to have the intended function. Swiping from the left of the screen to the middle works with some applications, but not all.

Also, though my Droid Turbo phone was about the same size as the iPhone 6s, the size of the screen makes it hard to reach the top of the screen when only using one hand. With the Android back button along the bottom of the phone that meant it was always within reach. Those iOS apps that put the return functionality in the top left of the screen make it much more difficult to do, often risking dropping the phone by repositioning it in your hand. And double tapping (not clicking) the home button and THEN reaching for the back button on any particular app just seems to take too long.

On Saturday I went camping with my family at an early Halloween event that we have annually. This made for a great chance to test out the iPhone 6s camera, and without a doubt, it was the best phone camera I have used. The images were clear, the shutter speed was fast, and the ability to take high frame rate video or 4K video is a nice touch. I think that enough people have shown the advantages of the iPhone camera systems over almost anything else on the smartphone market and as a user of seemingly slow and laggard Android-based phone cameras, the move to the iPhone 6s is a noticeable change. As a parent of a 3 month old baby girl, these photos are becoming ever more important to me.


The new Live Photos feature, where essentially a few frames before and a few frames after the picture you actually took are captured (with audio included), is pretty much a gimmick but the effect is definitely eye-catching. When flipping through the camera roll you actually see a little bit of movement (someone’s face for example) which caused me to raise an eyebrow at first. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure what use they will have off of the phone itself – will I be able to “play” these types of photos on my PC? Will I be able to share them to other phone users that don’t have the iPhone 6s?

Day 3

Most of Sunday was spent watching football and using the iPhone 6s to monitor fantasy football and to watch football through our Wi-Fi network when I needed to leave the room for laundry. The phone was able to keep up, as you would expect, with these mostly lightweight tasks without issue. Switching between applications was quick and responsive, and despite the disadvantage that the iPhone 6s has over many Android flagship phones in terms of system memory, I never felt like the system was penalized for it.

Browsing the web through either Safari or Google Chrome did demonstrate a standard complaint about iOS – reloading of webpages when coming back into the browser application even if you didn’t navigate away from the page. With Android you are able to load up a webpage and then just…leave it there, for reference later. With the iPhone 6s, even with the added memory this model ships with, it will reload a page after some amount of time away from the browser app as the operating system decided it needed to utilize that memory for another purpose.


I haven’t had a battery life crisis with the iPhone yet, but I am worried about the lack of Quick Charging or Turbo Charging support on the iPhone 6s. This was a feature I definitely fell in love with on the Droid Turbo, especially when travelling for work or going on extended outings without access to power. I’ll have to monitor how this issue does or does not pop its head up.

Speaking of power and battery life – so far I have been impressed with how the iPhone 6s has performed. As I write this editorial up at 9:30pm on Sunday night, the battery level sits at 22%. Considering I have been using the phone for frequent speed tests (6 of them today) and just general purpose performance and usability testing, I consider this a good result. I only took one 5 minute phone call but texting and picture taking was plentiful. Again, this is another area where this long-term test is going to tell the real story, but for my first impressions the thinness of the iPhone 6s hasn’t created an instant penalty for battery life.


The journey is still beginning – tomorrow is my first full work day with the iPhone 6s and I have the final installment of my summer evening golf league. Will the iPhone 6s act as my golf GPS like my Droid Turbo did? Will it make it through the full day without having to resort to car charging or using an external battery? What other features and capabilities will I love or hate in this transition? More soon!

Android to iPhone Day 0: What to Expect

Subject: Mobile | September 24, 2015 - 10:17 PM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:

The last time I used an Apple phone as my primary device was with the release of the iPhone 3G. It remained by my side for a full year when it was replaced by the…Palm Pre in mid-2009. Yes, I loved that Pre, but let’s not depress anyone here today. After my time with the Palm device I moved over to the world of Android with the HTC Evo 4G in early 2010. The move wasn’t easy at the time – Android was messy, frequently unstable and the app ecosystem was still getting started.

But I stuck with the Google platform, diving headfirst into a world of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Photos, etc. I moved through countless Android phones in my never ending quest to find better hardware and, maybe more importantly, better software. I had the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5 – I had phones from Samsung, LG and Motorola. Even oddball companies like OnePlus found their way into my pocket, so to speak. Most recently the everyday device has been the Motorola Droid Turbo, purchased due to its faster processor and extended battery life.

In the past year or so PC Perspective has put emphasis on the mobile market in terms of phones and tablet reviews. You can find reviews of the ASUS Zenfone 2, Motorola Moto E, and Galaxy Note 4 on, in addition to numerous articles that look at the SoC architectures from Qualcomm, ARM, Intel and others. And for every phone review you actually saw, there are 1-2 other phones that are purchased or sampled, used for context and internal testing.

But despite the fact that Ken, Allyn and others on the PC Perspective staff have and use Apple products, I personally had spent no time with any iPhone since the release of the iPhone 3G. With Apple by far the most dominant player in the mobile space, this is just dumb on my part. How can I pretend to offer informed opinions on the selection of smartphones to our readers and viewers without even giving the annually updated Apple iPhone a chance?


To fix this, I ordered myself an iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

Rather than just get the phone in, run some benchmarks, take some sample photos and write a typical review of the new iPhone 6s, I thought it might be interesting to our readers to take them along on a journey. Starting tomorrow when the iPhone 6s arrives I will be swap out my Verizon SIM card and commit to using it as my only mobile phone for the next 30 days. I think it’s only fair, considering the drastic ecosystem differences between Android and iOS, to engulf myself in the iPhone platform completely rather than simply keep it with me as a secondary device. (That’s something I typically do with Android review units.)


My new smartphone. I'm not sure I'm ready.

As an Android user for many years, I am familiar with many of the stereotypes associated with the iPhone and its users: closed platform, overpriced hardware, complications with access to data and photos, etc. But is it really that bad? Too many of my friends and family use iPhones for me to believe it’s THAT bad. So I’m going to find out.

I'm honestly nervous about a handful of things already:

  1. How much am I going to miss having Quick Charge capability?
  2. How many Lightning cables am I going to have to buy to replace the locations I have micro USB cables at?
  3. How can I easily access the full resolution photos I take on the phone?
  4. Am I REALLY going to have to use iTunes again?
  5. Will I be able to recreate the workflow I am used to on Android? Apps like Gmail, Calendar, Keep and doubleTwist are essential!
  6. Will this new "Move to iOS" applications on the Play Store actually work?

I plan to write frequent entries to this series, offering up my thoughts on the performance, application ecosystem, camera, battery life, gaming capability, accessory market and more. You'll see some posts that simply discuss my experiences that day and others that show performance data or battery metrics. What is it like to suddenly decide to “change sides” at this point in the Android / iOS war? 

Let’s find out.

Rumor: Google To Host Press Briefing on September 29th

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 22, 2015 - 08:37 PM |
Tagged: Nexus, google, Android

Well, the event is apparently official. It's the contents that are rumored...

It's been a little while since Google announced new Android phones, almost a year in fact. Two phones have been rumored this year, which are allegedly named the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. I am not sure how much of the leaks are pure speculation, versus grounded in actual fact, so I will leave it as an exercise to you to read a couple of links that summarize them. A grain of salt will be necessary of course. It's not that we are afraid to look at rumors, as we do so frequently, but I'd rather not play arbitrator this time. I don't think that I can research this topic enough to arrive at a sufficient level of confidence at the moment.


What I can say is that Google will host an event on September 29th, 2015, to announce whatever they have. The invitations have gone out to sites like CNet and it will present devices that use Android 6.0 M, which Google announced stands for “Marshmallow” last August. An updated Chromecast is also expected to be launched at the same event.

Source: CNet

PINs and Patterns are preferable after this Android 5 issue

Subject: General Tech | September 16, 2015 - 12:49 PM |
Tagged: hack, smartphone, Android, security

You can see in the video that The Register linked to that this particular vulnerability is neither quick nor elegant but it is most certainly effective.  By entering an extremely long string of digits into the password field, accomplished with multiple copies and pastes, while the camera app is active you can cause the lock screen application to crash on all but the newest version of Android 5.  Unfortunately the effect of that crash is to drop you onto the phones home screen, thus allowing complete access to the phone.  If you are running a version of Android 5 you should consider switching to a PIN or pattern unlock, at least for the time being.


"If you've got an Android 5 smartphone with anything but the very latest version of Lollipop on it, it's best to use a PIN or pattern to secure your lock-screen – because there's a trivial bypass for its password protection."

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Source: The Register

Stop your Android from dreaming of electric sheep

Subject: General Tech | September 14, 2015 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: smartphones, Android

In the model used by Purdue University they found that 45.9% of your battery's charge is drained by apps which access resources while your screen is turned off and that 28.9% of that is because of bad programming in apps which refuse to let the CPU go back to sleep.  Being able to prevent the launch of the apps, or to ensure that they do properly release resources when finished could therefore extend your battery life.  They have modified Android framework to do so in this proof of concept available at GitHub, it is not an app yet so you will need to be familiar with the Android OS to test it out now.  Check out the their paper at The Register, modify your phone or simply wait for the app to be released.


"Too many Android apps are battery hogs when the screen is off, so researchers at Purdue University have released to a tool to shut them up."

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Source: The Register

Bad Google! That is not how you patch

Subject: General Tech | August 14, 2015 - 12:56 PM |
Tagged: google, stagefright, Android, security

So it would seem that the patch which Google rolled out and carriers have been pushing OTA is not going to be the last that we hear of Stagefright as the patch is not all that effective.  Stagefright is a vulnerability present on all 950 million devices running Android 2.2 to 5.1 and allows certain MMS to be able to execute code on your mobile device.  The recently released patch does not completely ameliorate this vulnerability, an MMS can still cause the library to crash, most likely just preventing you from using the application but possibly allowing other attacks to occur. 

Also of note is the monthly Android patches that Google is providing to various phone manufacturers who are supposed to be pushing them out.  As many Android users will have noticed, up to and including the staff at The Register, you may not have seen the flawed patch yet, let alone the update for the patch.


"Google's security update to fix the Stagefright vulnerability in millions of Android smartphones is buggy – and a new patch is needed.

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Source: The Register

Cortana for Android Invite-Only Beta Launches

Subject: Mobile | July 19, 2015 - 06:43 PM |
Tagged: Android, microsoft, windows, windows 10, cortana

When it graduated from high school, Microsoft was voted “least likely to have an open relationship with itself”. Well who's laughing now, member of the Yearbook Committee? You thought you were so clever, sitting in the back of the late bus for students in extra-curricular activities, giggling as you doodled in your Five Star binder. Even though they always hogged the Windows seat, maybe they would have opened it up for a little fresh air in the Summer time had you taken the time to ask.


Image Credit: Ars Technica

While Cortana is first and foremost a Windows 10 feature, it will appear on iOS and Android as well. Peter Bright of Ars Technica got in on the pre-release, invite-only beta and walked through the features. He notes that, while many have complained about crashes, his experienced wasn't marred with stability issues. On the other hand, because Cortana is not as deeply integrated into the operating system, despite the laundry list of permissions it requests, he expects that most users looking for a digital assistant will look to Google Now on their Android devices, even if they use Cortana on Windows 10.


Image Credit: Ars Technica

There really wasn't a whole lot of note in the article though, at least in my opinion. There are a few interesting screenshots, but it basically looks like someone grafted the Cortana fly-out menu from Windows 10 onto a fullscreen mobile device. Even though I already saw the similarities in the Windows 10 Technical Previews, it is funny to see it so explicit.

No release date has been set for Cortana on Android or iOS.

Source: Ars Technica

Rumor: 2015 Moto G to Feature Snapdragon 410 with LTE

Subject: Mobile | June 22, 2015 - 11:43 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 410, smartphone, rumor, Moto G, LTE, lollipop, Android

9to5google is reporting specs of the upcoming Moto G refresh, and it looks like the phone will carry over the internals of the current Moto E with a Snapdragon 410 SoC, and add an improved 13MP camera.


The current Moto G has been a favorite for many as a low-cost unlocked option (and one that runs mostly stock Android), and the adoption of the faster SoC with integrated (Cat 4) LTE baseband is a necessary move to update a device that in its current iteration is limited to 3G data speeds. It is interesting that the SoC would only match that of the $149 2015 Moto E (reviewed here), but it makes sense from a financial standpoint if the rumored Moto G is to be sold at or below its current $179 price point.

There is certainly stiff competition in the midrange smartphone market, bolstered considerably by the recently released ASUS Zenfone 2 (reviewed here as well) which starts at $199 unlocked; and with devices like the new Zenfone offering full 1080p screens the rumored choice of the Moto G’s existing 5-inch 720p screen returning in 2015 might be another indication that this new phone will feature a very aggressive price.


The alleged 2015 Moto G photo (image credit: 9to5google)

The phone is also rumored to ship with Android 5.1.1, which would carry on the recent tradition of Motorola phones running the latest versions of Android. All of this is unconfirmed information based on leaks or course, but regardless of its final form more options are always welcome in the $200-and-under unlocked phone space - and this year is shaping up to be a good one for consumers.

Source: 9to5google

Juicy Friday rumour; a mysterious Blackberry device running Android?

Subject: General Tech | June 12, 2015 - 12:39 PM |
Tagged: Android, blackberry, google, rumour

Could this Reuters' story that Slashdot linked to possibly be correct?  A phone with a physical keyboard using Blackberry hardware with an Android OS?  The fact that you have been able to set up the Google Play store on BB10 devices for a while now is well known and lends credence to the rumour but it would represent a huge change for the long suffering smartphone company.  Blackberry opened up BBM to all phones, which did not generate much interest and the company has also announced that it will make some of its proprietary security feature available to iOS, Android and Windows phones which makes their devices a little less unique.  A slider style phone with a keyboard that is natively Android is interesting but just how likely is this to restore Blackberry as a player in this highly competitive market?


"BlackBerry is considering equipping an upcoming smartphone with Google Inc.'s Android software for the first time, an acknowledgement that its revamped line of devices has failed to win mass appeal, according to four sources familiar with the matter."

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Source: Slashdot