Category Archives: Mobile Internet

Facebook App Privacy Concerns Are Bullshit

There seems to be a lot of kerfuffle and whatnot about the privacy concerns of the Facebook Messenger App on Android phones going on at the moment. Mainly it seems to be fuelled by this piece of shitehawk “journalism” by the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-fiorella/the-insidiousness-of-face_b_4365645.html

Please bear in mind that The Huffington Post is owned by AOL, who have a long-standing mardy about Facebook.

So, what are the concerns? Well allegedly Facebook can spy on you constantly, use your phone to send text messages and make calls, yada yada yada be evil. Here is a screencap of the entire list (from that site – taken 13/01/2015)

hufpoand

Notice how it is in text format, and not a screencap. Now, there is a screencap of the current permissions (actually its two screencaps stitched together…

full perm list

Should you be scared that it can access your microphone and camera?

Firstly, due to the way Android handles permissions, you have to allow access to things all the time for an App to work. iOS does it differently, only requesting access as and when it is needed.  So on an Android device you have to agree in advance to let it use your camera, but on an iPhone you can opt to use the App but not let it access the camera. I know which model is better, but I am never, ever, EVER going to make any public statement that I agree with anything that Apple have done. Blame Bono for that.

Secondly, do you really know what all those permissions mean? No? Well I’m going to tell you. With pictures. Try not to fall asleep at the back!

Starting at the top…

huff1

  • “directly call phone numbers” – well you know that bit in the App where you can telephone people? Have a guess why it needs to do this.
  • “read phone status and identity” – well the two come bundled together. It has to know about your phone and whether ot not you are on a call or not just so that it doesn’t fire up and bombard you with voice calls from Dickhead Dave while you are trying to order a pizza.

huff2

I’ll lump all the above into one. The app (yeah bollocks to capitalisation now) allows you to send and revieve SMS/MMS messages. So it needs to be allowed to do just that.

huff3

You know how you want to do that chatty with live video and sound? Just try to work out why the app needs to use your camera and microphone.

huff4

Just like Facebook posts, messages say where you are. If you don’t like it, turn Locations off in your device settings.

huff5

You want to contact people don’t you? No? Oh just delete the app, get rid of Facebook entirely, and go and live in a cave. You could always use Google+.

Hang on, why does it read the call log? Maybe, just maybe, its so that when you start a new conversation it will prioritise those contact’s names in the list as you ham-fistly bash at the screen with your knuckle trying to spell N I C K.

huff6Really, have a guess on this one. Did you go with “so it knows who I am”? Yes? Well you’re not having a prize.

huff7

Want to save that pic of a dog in Darth Vader costume that Alan The Muppet just sent you? Well you’ll need this.

The same goes for if you want to send your home-made pornographic version of “The Wrong Trousers” to someone.

huff8

Do you want to connect Facebook to your Twitter, Instagram, Swarm, etc accounts?

huff9Right… so here we go…

  • “change network connectivity” – this basically allows the app to determine if you actually have a valid connection or not. Its a badly worded phrase in the Android permissions list really. Panic Not.
  • “download files without notifications” – Do you really want to have to agree to see every picture that you are sent?
  • “full network access” – It is a communications app. It will need it.
  • “receive data from internet” – How do you think message are received.
  • “view network connections/ view Wi-Fi connections” – bundled in with the above “change network connectivity”

huff10

Can we guess this one?

huff11

This is just so that Chatheads can piss you off by floating on your screen in the most inconvenient place possible.

huff12

  • “control vibration” – buzz your phone if it is on silent
  • “prevent tablet from sleeping” – keep the screen turned on if the app is active
  • “change your audio settings” – actually is should be called “check your audio settings”. It is used to determine whether your device buzzes or bings.

huff13

Well it does need to know if the contacts list is synced and up to date or not.

huff14

“install shortcuts” allows the app to put those really annoying “Chatheads” on your home screen,

and finally…

“send sticky broadcast” – this is where it all gets a bit complicated.

A “sticky broadcast” is a parcel of information concerning your identity, location. recent activity, blood pressure, IQ, heart rate, and whether or not you smell of almonds. It is broadcast to the CIA, MI5, Mossad, WASP, Interpol and the ISPF.

Or, it could just be a method of inter-process communtication.

So thats that. Nothing sinster going on at all. Whats more sinister is that Google track your every move and action, that you’ve agreed to this, and furthermore seem quite happy about it.

 

Samsung Galaxy Europa

I recently bought a Samsung Galaxy Europa from 3, to replace my old Sony Ericsson W595 which had become increasingly unreliable following a freak rollercoaster accident back in September.

The Europa, AKA the GT-I 5500 is an alleged smartphone, running Android 2.2. It cost me 50 quid, plus 15 quid pre-loaded on a SIM card. Not too bad, unless you want to keep your old number, in which case you end up with a spare SIM with 15 quid on it, which expires within one month.

One of the reasons, besides the obvious need of a phone replacement, that I bought the thing was my desire to replace my current “smartphone” combination of an old 3rd generation iPod and MiFi dongle thing. Carrying the pair of them around was a pain, considering the battery life of each, so I was looking for something about the same size that wouldn’t entail a pocket full of cables and mains adapters.

europa-ipod

As you can see, the Europa is smaller than the iPod, with a considerably smaller screen, so consequently the on-screen keyboard is far too small and fiddly for a normal sized human to use, let alone a giant ham-fisted oaf like me.

The Europa has a 2 mega-pixel camera, which is crap. Any more information about it would be superfluous.

The processor is woefully underpowered, and apps keep crashing. A particular problem is the WiFi system failing to work and the settings page just reporting “Error!”. Useful.

If by some arcane magic the Wifi system does work and the Europa is used as a mobile hotspot, the data rate is deplorable.

Note that I was is Stafford at the time, which is considerably more than 50 miles from Morecambe. Hence I could not see the Chinese Synchonized Swimming Team practicing.

Also, using the phone as a hotspot causes you to fall foul of Three’s piss-awful censorship. Most URL shorteners seem to be blocked.

So it looks like I’ll be keeping the MiFi for a while yet. And, considering how ropey the phone is, (despite my hatred of Apple) the iPod too.

Return of the Ubisurfer

ubirev2-1

Back in January I bought a Datawind Ubisurfer, a small netbook running Linux. You can read my first impressions of it here.

It wasn’t too bad for the price, and I used it a lot at work and whenever I was stuck on a train.

Back in May, I attempted to upgrade the software on it and it went all wrong. The internal GPRS modem refused to be recognised, the MP3 player packed it, and it stopped recognising USB memory sticks.

After a few email exchanges and a bit of confusion (two tech support people with the same name!), I finally got around to sending it back to them at the end of July.

It’s back, and this time it’s WinCE!

Firstly, some hardware specs (again):

  • Display: 7 inch TFT – Wide screen display, 800 x 480 pixels (WVGA)
  • Memory: 128MB Ram; 1GB Flash
  • Networking: Embedded Cellular Modem,Wireless LAN WiFi IEEE 802.11 b/g, 10BaseT Ethernet Interface
  • Control: Touch Mouse Pad – Dual Button, Standard 80 Key Keyboard
  • Battery & Power: Lithium Polymer (Approximate Working Time: 3 hours), or External DC Adapter
  • Size/Weight: 222 x 165 x 29.5 m, 700 grams
  • Ports: Push-Push SD card socket, USB Port, Earphone & Ethernet jacks.

As for software, the thing is now running Windows Embedded CE 6.0 Core, which means that it goes from Off to Usable in about 7 seconds.

Softmaker Office 2008 comes pre-installed, which includes the usual suspects of a spreadsheet, wordprocessor, presentation maker and Outlook-a-like mail client.

Browsing is done with either the UbiSurfer browser, which works through the embedded cellular modem, and a somewhat restricted version of Internet Explorer 6.

ubirev2-2.

The UbiSurfer browser uses a proprietory protocol to have your pages rendered on one of Datawind’s servers and then sent ina compressed form to your machine. While this was painfully bad on the Linux version, it actuall seems to work fairly well this time. Once you’ve got the think connected, which takes about 30 seconds, and loaded the home page (above), it is reasonable speedy for a cell-phone connection. While taking longer than the 7 seconds quoted in the bumph, mine loads the BBC News page in a about 10 seconds. Sometimes it can be annoying and take a while to tab between fields, but generally it works.

Using a WiFi connection and Internet Explorer gives you pretty much what you expect, but ActiveX and Flash cause problems, making Facebook and Google Mail annoying. And it constantly asks if you really want to visit pages with outdated certificates. Pretty much par for the course with IE6.

With WiFi you can apparently also use the Chat program which I really can’t be bothered to test, and a YouTube viewer which I haven’t managed to get working yet.

There’s also a PDF viewer, general media player and ebook reader on there. They work fairly well, but the PDF reader is very slow.

Games wise you get Allure Xonix, one of those draw boxes and capture an area while avoiding bouncy things games, Tile Fall, one of those click on blocks to destroy them in the right order games, and Paint, one of those not real a game but lumped in with them games. A better menu title might have been Entertainment, but probably not.

Finally, there is a thing called Terminal, which seems to be neither use nor ornament. It seems to be written to access the on-board modem, but doesn’t seem to work. Neither does it support Telnet, which is a bit of a pain in the arse.

All in all, and it pains me to say this, the Windows CE version is miles better that the older Linux version. It’s actually usable for a start. Apart from the lack of a telnet client, obviously.

UPDATE:

The telnet problem is now solved, by installing PocketPuTTY.

Download “PocketPuTTY 2007-02-28 dev build for PPC2002 (release)” from the PocketPuTTY Downloads page, and copy the putty.exe file from the archive to your device. Either dump it on the desktop or put it somewhere else and create a shortcut to it.

Huawei E5830 Mifi Device

Another month brings another Gadget purchase. This time its the Huawei E5830 Mifi thingummy, a combined 3g mobile broadband modem and portable wifi hotspot. Once again it is on the 3 network.

mifisizeThe reasons for buy it are twofold. Firstly the internal GPRS modem in my Ubisurfer has gone down, rendering it useless without another means of connectivity (at least until Datawind’s tech support sort me out a replacement or fix); and secondly, my trust Huawei E220 USB broadband modem is being pressed into service as a permanet net connection for my Linux box running a game server (until Virgin can final get around to installing proper broadband for me).

That’s enough of me justifying the purchase, let’s have a look at the thing.

mifiOoh, shiny. So, pop in the sim card and battery, plug it in to the charger and wait for twelve hours. Thumb the power button for two seconds and on come the five lights.

Ah, you’re thinking, there are four lights! Well, the fifth light (in the middle, not shown) only comes on when you first power up the device or if you feel an irresistable pull to a a foreign land (roaming).

If you’re really insteresting in what the four status lights mean, I’m sure you can find out elsewhere.

Thumb the wifi button for two seconds, then the Saturn button (only my name for it, as it has a little picture of a ringed planet on it) for two seconds and if all is well you’ll be able to connect to the internet through the thing.

Assuming all it well, that is. Sometimes it isn’t. Even though i’m a bit of a 3 fanboy (nine phones and two modems over the years), I still have issues with them. Firstly 3 is a crap name for a company, Whampoa would have sounded cooler; and secondly the coverage where I currently live is ropey at times.

3gcoverageThe darker shade represents indoor/outdoor coverage, whilst the lighter shade shows outdoor coverage only. The pointer shows where I live. Not shown is a 3g modem gaffa taped to my window in order to get a good signal.

Besides the device itself, the box contains a short USB lead and a charger. The charger is, obviously, for charging the thing, and the USB cable is for three things.

  1. using it as a storage device if a microSD card (not supplied) is inserted into it
  2. using it as a USB modem
  3. using the configuration program.

The configuation program (which installs straight from the device itself – nice) allows you to do all the usual wifi router based things: DHCP config, port forwarding, changing the SSID to something rude, changing the password to something you’ll actually remember.

Connecting to the thing is easy with any most wifi devices. So far I’ve managed to get two laptops (WinXP and Linux), the Ubisurfer and a borrowed iPod Touch running concurrently. I know the iPhone works ok (slightly faster that the phone’s built in 3g modem), and I’m sure the iPad will work. (Does anyone want to lend me one to test?)

Sadly, I could not get a laptop running Hexxeh’s Flow build of Chromium OS. But I put this down to Flow failing to recognised the Dell’s WiFi hardware.

Its a great little device. Go and buy one now. £49 from Three on their PAYG plan.

So, all that remains for me to do now are the customary speed test, using www.speedtest.net, as ever.

Firstly using the old E220 USB Modem:

E220 USB Results

And now using the E5830 Mifi:

E3850 Mifi Results

I clearly have a winner here, but your mileage may vary.

Finally, here are the frankly deplorable results taken recently from my sister’s Orange Home Broadband link recently:

Orange are shite

Datawind UbiSurfer first impressions

I’m trying to get to grips with my impulse purchase of the week. For reasons best left unexplored I’ve parted with about 120 quid for a Datawind UbiSurfer from Maplin. Its a ex-display model, hence the slight price reduction over the RRP of £149.99.

DSC00027

So, what is the UbiSurfer? In short, its a cheap netbook running an implementation of Linux. Oh, with a years free internet access thrown in.

More about that later, but first the specs:

  • 7 inch 800×400 TFT screen
  • 128MB RAM, 1GB Solid State disk
  • Full QWERTY keyboard and Touchpad mouse
  • Push-Push SD card socket and 2 USB ports (the box says 3, but I have 2 and a connector I’ve never seen before)
  • Measures 222x165x29.5mm, weighs 700g
  • Battery life provides 4 hours active use and 4 hours

Note the lack of a spec concerning the processor. Apparently it is some form of ARM 500Mhz job.

DSC00028

Applications wise you get the usual word processing and spreadsheet offerings, and a collections of email clients, PDF readers and the like, all GPLed programs.

For web browsing you have Mozilla IceWeasel (Firefox), which only works when connected via a Wifi hotspot, and the UbiSurfer browser itself.
And now we get to the main (only) reason that I bought this thing: free internet access. Included in the price of the device is 30 hours access per month (for a year) to Vodaphone’s GPRS network, via an onboard modem. As we all know, GPRS isn’t exactly lightening fast, but Datawind claim that any web page can be loaded in 7 seconds.

This is supposed to be achieved by Datawind pre-rendering the web pages on their servers (in Canada) and sending them on in a compressed form to the UbiSurfer browser, which then decodes and displays them.
Ok, that sounds fine in theory, but in practice its not so good.
Datawind’s own site (www.datawind.com) takes about fifteen seconds to load, and more complex site such a Google Mail can take up to a minute to fully render.
This pre-rendering process also throws up problems when entering data onto a web page. Tabbing between fields can take up to ten seconds.
Obviously these problems don’t occur when using IceWeasel and connecting via a Wifi hotspot.

DSC00026

But, oddly, my biggest complaint about the UbiSurfer browser is about the hideous splash screen which also comes up when you disconnect, thus preventing you from viewing pages offline. Here it is in all its glory.

splashJust look at the smug pissweasel. Those grass stains are going to raise questions in the office after lunch. Luckily you can overwrite the this image with something less irritating.

I shall continue to persevere with this thing, in the hope that I can find a use for it.

3 Mobile Huawei E220 USB Modem

In the past I bought a ‘phone that did proper internet access. I even reviewed it here and here!

Well, now I’ve gone and bought a 3 Mobile Internet dongle thing. Specifically, the Huawei E220.

3modem

So, what do you get for your 50 quid?

Apart from the device itself, the DVD style box contains a SIM card, a manual that I didn’t bother even opening, two USB cables and some padding that I didn’t bother to eat.

No installation CD? Nope. The clever little chappy installs all it needs from an built in memory stick type thingummy which Business pretend to be a CDROM. Take a not, USB device makers: This is the way forward.

One of the USB cables is a standard 6 inch one, which works ok but means that the modem is hanging about where I usually have my mouse (never having got used to the crappy touchpads that most laptops have). The other is a much longer affair with two Type A connectors at one end, just in case your computer can’t push enough power out from one socket. This is fairly useless to me, as the added cable length means the device needs the two plugs to be connected, and the two USB sockets on cheap mlb jerseys my Dell are on opposite sides of the case. It works great if I have my “media slice” connected, as that gives me 2 extra USB sockets cheap mlb jerseys on the back, but it also triples the weight of the machine, so I usually leave it to gather dust.

I’m using the long cable to connect to my telephone instead.

What you Rentabilidad, probably can’t tell from the photo, is that the sim card holder is held in place with sellotape. It won’t fall out during normal Spider use, but did pop out a few times while in my bag. Hence the classic British engineering fix.

So, how fast is it?

Firstly, here is what I got through my phone on a good day:


And here is what the new dongle gives me:

A bit faster, as you can see. I managed to get up to about 2900kbps by standing outside the house and getting a clear line of sight to the nearest transmitter, which is about 300 yards away.

With this “proper” internet modem connected, rather than the mobile phone, Three aren’t restricting what I can access. So now I can waste my time on b3ta, and won’t get an electronic telling off if I accidentally try and watch some young flibbertigibbet shaking her udders on YouTube.

So what does it cost to run?

Well, you have 3/Skype a choice: £10 for 1gb, £15 for 3gb or £25 for 7gb.

A nice range of prices for you there. Being a bit skint, I opted to only spash out a tenner, and my 1gb lasted a week.

Luckily, you can stick on as many addons as you have the money for, and don’t need to wait until with end of the cheap mlb jerseys month. Next time, however, I will be later getting the £25 top up (assuming that I get hold of some money).

I’m quite happy with it, currently. When I get the chance, I’m going to have a wander in to the countryside, and see how well the modem (and indeed the AMOI phone) function when quite far from a transmitter.

Amoi Skypephone – 4 months later

Last November, I bought a 3 Skypephone, AKA an AMOI WP-S1, AKA an AMOI 8512. My original review of it is here.

skype3phone
After five months of continuous Drive use, I’ve decided to take another look at the phone.

And it is in remarkably good shape, despite being dropped, splashed, almosted drowned, and generally abused. The magnet holding the battery cover in place hasn’t fallen off yet, which is unexpected. Some of the rubberised coating has become a bit worn, but thats not really a big issue.
Remarkably, neither the screen nor camera lens have suffered any damage at all. The buttons all still work, and the USB port has failed to go all loose and wonky.
Physically, it seems about as indestructable as my old Motorola V600 (but I haven’t thrown it at a wall yet – most likely due to not having anything to do with O2 these days).

Skype:

Well, yes. I’ve used it twice, and that was just to see if it worked. I only know one avid Skyper (who will admit to it, anyway), and I never bought it for the Skype functionality anyway. It works.

MSN:

It works now, after 3 finally got around to supporting it properly, but the app is a pain to use on the handset.

PC Connectivity:

To start with, the software seemed overly complicated and tedious. Why, I thought, couldn’t I just plug it in and use it like a USB memory stick? Well. After I found the MicroSD card taped inside the packaging (just as I was about to chuck all the needless cardboard into the recycling bin) and installed it, thats exactly how it wholesale NFL jerseys works. It’s just a pity that it won’t work that way with the internal memory.

MoDem:

This is the best thing about the phone. True, the connection speed is only 115.2kpbs 180kbps download / 43kbps upload at the moment, but wholesale nba jerseys that is double what I was getting through the internal modem on the laptop on a normal dial-up connection. Sadly, the modem now refuses to work when the AMOI’s drivers are installed, but that is hardly a big loss as it was just causing me to run up big phone bills at work.

Pretty much Tinnitus? everything i’ve tried is working over this connection, with the exception of the YouTube multi-uploader. I haven’t tried World of Warcraft yet, because I’d like to retain some of what little of a life I have left.
The connection speed may sound low, but its enough to watch videos without them stopping all the time.
3 do wholesale nfl jerseys have annoying policy concerning what they term as “adult” sites, though. You can’t access them. No chance. This is annoying as i used to use b3ta a lot, but now I can’t (apart from one day last month when their policy got relaxed – or got broken, more likely – for about 6 hours). Also, quite a few of my friends’ sites have been tagged as “adult”, as they are a sweary bunch of troublemakers.
All this talk of data transfer brings me on to probably the most important thing about a mobile phone…

Running costs:

Calls to normal numbers cost 12p per minute, with texts at 12p each. You can buy add-on bundles to make these cheaper, which I only tend to do for texts, as I try to not to ring many people (apart from taxis, pizza delivery places and pubs).
Data is charged at a quid per megabyte, which sounds expensive because it is. However, the internet add-on bundles can save you loads of money and cost 50p for a day, S?zleri £2.50 a week, or £5 a month.
I’m still not sure what the “fair use” data limits are for the weekly and monthly blocks, but daily seems to be about 100mb. Which isn’t bad.
I tend to Amoi stick on a load of daily blocks in one go, as its easy to exceed 100mb in a day (if, for example, you decide to watch all the Happy Tree Friends episodes whilst drunk), and you can move into the next day’s block without having to wait until midnight.
All in all, it cost me about £20 every three weeks.

So whats wrong with it?

The camera doesn’t have a light or a flash. <sarcasm>Oh shame</sarcasm>.
The microSD card was cunningly hidden in the depths of the packaging and nearly got binned. And doesn’t come with an adapter.
I can’t get the modem to work with the built-in bluetooth on my laptop, yet it works with an external dongle. Not really an issue, as anyone likely to want to connect a laptop to their phone will probably have a USB cable on them.
And thats it.

Verdict?

It is still a brilliant and cheap little phone, and works almost perfectly. I’d like to see a new version that does full mobile broadband without me having to carry an additional dongle, and maybe a future one will. I’ll upgrade to that when it comes out, but for now I can handle the slower speed. You should buy one now.
Oh, you want a rating? Right. Which 80s popsters had a song wholesale MLB jerseys called “System Addict”?
Thats right. Five Star.

Amoi WP-S1 3/Skype Phone

This week I got a bit drunk and bought a new phone, a 3 Skype phone. In reality, its an Amoi (no wok included) WP-S1, and this is what it looks like…

skype3phone
Snazzy, eh?

For £49 its not really a bad bit of kit. True, it is on the 3 network, but after being frigged about by O2 and Virgin over the last two weeks I’ll try any alternative.

So, what does it do?

Well. It does all your normal phone crap, plus it allegedly automatically uses Skype when you want it to. I say allegedly as I ‘cant even get mine to log in using my Skype details. And 3’s usually unhelpful customer support have no idea what to do.(But at least they can’t beat the O2 monkey who asked me, twenty minutes into our conversation about why my GPRS had been cancelled, if I owned a mobile phone. No, Sherlock, I can process GSM signals in my head.)

Anyway, thats not important. What can it do?

For me the big win is that you can use it as a modem and get ‘net access. True, its only about 116Kbps, but that better than I was getting from O2. The downside to this is that the software supplied completely screws up all your existing modem drivers. Not a big loss for most people, but bloody annoying nonetheless.

Sadly the internet service is somewhat restricted. Mail and Web services seem okay (with exceptions), but thats it. FTP is blocked, as are MSN Messenger (probably a good thing) and no gaming stuff will work.

For some reason, POP access to my gmail account won’t work, but I can still access the gmail website. Odd.

Access to sites like B3ta are blocked, but thats probably a good thing for me.

A big problem is Facebook. I was never a big fan of it (see elsewhere) until I got the phone. Now I’m on it all the time, mainly because you can access straight from the phone. This is my biggest U-turn since I suddenly decided that VW campers were indeed a bit cool.

The FTP thing is annoying, as I have to update these pages via FTP. I means that I have to go to the pub and use the WIFI machine. Like I needed an excuse.

So… ultimate verdict, is it any good?

Yup. Best phone i’ve had in ages.

Update: Yay! FTP / IM / Flickr uploader…. it all works now!