So I had no topic for a post today, but someone emailed me yesterday asking me about an app that popped up over on Lifehacker yesterday and I looked into it and found it very much wanting. To that end I'm going to cover something similar for those who are security conscious and apprehensive about permissions requested by apps they install from the Play Store or elsewhere.
In this day and age, it goes without saying that security is or at very well should be a concern for most people. Leaks seemingly happen every week and hackers and poor security lead to even more semi-regularly. Things have gotten to a point where I'm more interested in the leaks that go unreported then the ones that are made known. Those are the ones that should potentially frighten all of us.
To that end, numerous developers have stepped up in an attempt to keep apps and their respective developers in check when it comes to either letting you know what exactly they're asking for or flat out feeding them false information when they ask for things they shouldn't necessarily be asking for.
Some of that might be flying over some of your heads right now. So let me put things a bit simpler.
Have you ever looked at the permissions requested by a given app when you install it? Some of you surely must have. Some ask for nothing, some ask for a few things and then there are some apps that are asking for things they shouldn't be or that have no seemingly useful purpose being asked for given the app you're installing.
Now, you have two options usually when this happens. You can install the app or you don't install it. That's it. Very limited choices.
Luckily there are additional ones nowadays, you can feed the apps that ask for more than they should bullshit or essentially zeroed out information.
And here is where the post takes off.
More often than not, to do something like that requires an app that needs root. If you aren't rooted then the better apps out there for your security, privacy and protection are off limits to you. I'm sorry, but that's just the way it is.
Luckily, this weekend we had Geohot come through big time for most people and release towelroot, an apk that takes advantage of a vulernability in the Linux kernel and basically does some fancy stuff that isn't worth really going into cause the majority of you don't care or know about that stuff. It'd be like explaining root and how to achieve it to my mom or lady friend. An exercise in futility that they'd follow up with, "So I can tether for free now?" Face meet desk.
Suffice it to say, towelroot basically does the hard work for you when it comes to rooting your device, provided you don't own an HTC or Motorola device. Or better said, as long as you don't own certain HTC or Motorola devices then this apk can root your phone. That's not up for debate, it can achieve root on the majority of devices out there.
Once you've got root though some of you might be wondering, "What next?" Well, that's when things get really interesting. There's so much you can potentially do that I'm almost scared to even try listing all of it, cause I know I'm going to miss a ton of things. Some of you reading this might be familiar with rooting your devices already, so feel free to chime in and share some of the things you can do once you've got root. I know I'm going to miss some of the obvious stuff, so don't hate on me for that. You know as well as I do that there's just too much to cover and some things so obvious and commonplace for those of us who root regularly that we don't even think of it as anything special. We think of it as "Okay, I'm rooted now time to do this which isn't a big deal to me anymore and then this and then that."
So you're rooted and I'm discussing security and privacy, pretty much only one place to go from there.
XPrivacy! What does XPrivacy do and how does it work? I'd much rather let the developer handle this one.
"XPrivacy can prevent applications from leaking privacy sensitive data by restricting the categories of data an application can access. XPrivacy feeds applications fake data or no data at all. It can restrict several data categories, such as contacts or location. For example, if you restrict an application's access to contacts, that application will receive an empty contacts list. Similarly, restricting an application's access to your location will send a fake location to that application.
XPrivacy doesn't revoke or block permissions from an application, so most applications will continue to work as before and won't force close (crash)."
In a nutshell, it lets you install the apps you want without having to worry about what permissions they're asking for. If you don't like what they're asking for you let XPrivacy do the work for you and feed them bullshit, like that the app gets nothing of substance and you can go on your way happily using the app you want or need to use. Win/win for everyone. The only catch being you need root to use XPrivacy.
Is this an app everyone should be using? I want to say yes. Is this an app everyone can use? I want to say no. There's a learning curve and even I've had issues with apps not working because I wasn't paying attention and accidentally checked or unchecked the wrong box in the app. It is however very easy to fix things when you screw them up and I highly recommend that anyone with privacy concerns give some serious thought to rooting their phones just to have this app installed and in use.
If you really want to get into the app's description (XPrivacy's that is) and learn more about it and what it can do and how it can do it, I highly suggest you visit the app's Github page and get to reading.
It's worth the trouble of setting up and using. And now pics!
I said I had a few treats for you all and I meant it.
Up first, Google IO! For those of you who aren't as die hard tech geeks as some of us, this is a big event hosted by Google every year and basically touches on what is going on in the world of Google, Android and so on and what's coming.
Of likely significant note at this year's IO is going to be a focus on UI design and bringing in the various platforms under one seemingly similar design. Along with wearables via Google Glass and Android Wear (smart watches).
To that end there are a few I want to share with some of you, you know who you are. Did you guys hear that the main Android Wear event is going to be taking place in Chicago? Where in Chicago exactly? Four floors below the main offices for the headquarters of Motorola. Now, I don't want to speculate too much or get anyone's hopes up or anything like that... but HOLY SCHNIKEYS! Moto 360, guys and gals! Please! Just show me the watch! You can have the rights to my firstborn right now! Just show me the watch!
Ahem. Sorry about that. [regains composure] So like I was saying, Android Wear is going to be a big thing this year and we're already seeing hints that Google plans to sell these devices directly to consumers themselves.
So look forward to checking out that event, I can't remember which one it is right now though. I took some screenshots of the IO app itself and hopefully I caught it in one of the related ones I did spot. If I remember to update the post whenever I do remember which specific event it was then I'll do that.
Beyond that, how many people here are using Google Play Music All Access? [raises hand] Anyone? Anyone? Well, I do. I usually have it open in it's own tab at work and open on my phone and sent to my Chromecast at home. I need noise, just like I need input!
That said, I used to use an extension in Chrome back when All Access was first released (at last year's IO no less and which I signed up for the moment that they said "it's live" during the keynote). Sadly, that extension got rather shady real fast and was asking for more permissions than such an extension should have. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Wasn't I just talking about that? Anyway, there was a post on Lifehacker yesterday for an extension that basically picks popular music and plays it for you.
In the comments of said post someone mentioned an extension by LH's very own Adam Pash that works with Google Play Music, this extension here. I've installed it and been playing with it so far and it does the job. So feel free to check it out if you'd like it. I'll mess with it some more and potentially report back on it, but when it comes to tunes at work it's pretty much "set and forget" for me. I throw on my headphones, hit play and tune out the world.
I'm attaching a screenshot of it running in Chrome on my work desktop so you all can see what you're getting with the extension.
And that's all I got for you all today. Questions, comments, general hate and snarky remarks for things I overlooked share them below.
But that last one, seriously people? Not aiming that at the regular readers of this, but at the ones that popped up with my Moto G LTE Review. Sheesh. I try and inform people and keep things as approachable and understandable as can be, just like these weekly posts, with the aim being for even my mom to understand things and I get snark in them for overlooking things that the average person would be unaware of? If you have to go to a forum and find a manual that had to be uploaded and shared by a Motorola employee to know that the microSD card slot equipped latest offerings from Motorola can use a 64 GB microSD card, provided it's formatted properly and in the right format no less, then sorry but no. I'm not going to put that in my post. The average person isn't going to know that and will instead go with what is "officially supported by Motorola" and clearly advertised on their website and on the boxes of their devices. Save your snark. If you don't like what I write or how I write it start your own website or put up your own posts and do a better job. But this be the internet, right? You all won't do that, you'll just make snide comments. /end partial rant