I had a post I worked on at the end of last week which was pretty important that I appear to have accidentally deleted. That or it was Kinja’d cause I swear I saved it to drafts and yet it’s not there. [shrugs] “Such is life,” to quote the late Ned Kelly. (Have I mentioned I love quotes? If not, consider yourselves put on notice. I do!)
Anyone, onward and upward as I’m fond of saying.
Samsung phones are not more hackable than others all of a sudden
This was originally what the post I somehow lost was about. The long and short of it is a lot of clickbait took place last week in regards to Samsung devices. A lot of it made it sound like hackers were about to throw parties cause they were about to have a field day with your phones, that isn’t the case.
A ridiculous amount would have to go right for “we’re all gonna die!” to happen. A ridiculous amount. From Droid Life on the matter:
So the security vulnerability goes something like this. Your Samsung phone goes through a language update for its stock keyboard (which again, is powered by Swiftkey). During this process, a sneaky little hacker looks over your shoulder, notices that you are dumb enough to attach yourself to an insecure (or “rogue”) WiFi network that he/she likely setup to do hacker things on, and then starts doing hacker things that involve “modifying upstream traffic” while you update to gain access to your phone. Assuming all of those steps align and are timed precisely as you update, this hacker could then access your GPS, camera, or microphone, install malicious apps, eavesdrop on calls, and attempt to access your pictures and text messages.
Not to downplay the security bug, but man, that sounds like a lot of sh*t aligning at once (a perfect storm of sorts) in order for someone to hack your phone. Still, it’s an issue.
So who is at fault and is anyone going fix this crap? Probably everyone, and yes.
Samsung was apparently notified of the issue months and months and months ago byNowSecure, the group who identified the vulnerability, and claims to have sent patches to carrier partners. Of course, carriers are slow at rolling out updates or Samsung is lying through their teeth, so phones as recently as last week were tested and exploited. That’s not good. We can only assume that updates are coming. They should be coming. Please, Samsung, just come out and say that they are coming.
What does Swiftkey have to do with this? Not much, actually.
Swiftkey, in a statement posted this morning, says that Samsung is really at fault here for the way they have implemented Swiftkey’s keyboard technology in their phones. Still, they are working with Samsung to fix this issue, assuming Samsung hasn’t already fixed it. As for the consumer apps from Swiftkey, you have nothing to worry about. This issue has nothing do with the Swiftkey keyboard apps on Google Play or the App Store – it’s a Samsung keyboard thing.
First off, people not familiar with Swiftkey are reporting all over the place that the “Swift keyboard” on Samsung phones is vulnerable. Just know that these fools meanSwiftkey, except that we just told you Swiftkey isn’t the problem, it’s how Samsung integrated their tech into their stock Samsung keyboard.
Second, there is an issue here, but it would be insanely difficult for your phone to get hacked. Carriers supposedly have a fix, though, so we can only assume they will now push this bad boy through faster now that it has made headlines for two days.
Finally, until you get a security patch (which we will do our best to post about as it rolls out), stay off of insecure, “rogue” hacker-friendly public WiFi hotspots and networks. Seriously, why would you want to hop on one of those anyway? And if you do, don’t update the language pack on your Samsung phone.
Samsung eventually released a full blog post on the matter, with the really important part being as follows.
This vulnerability, as noted by the researchers, requires a very specific set of conditions for a hacker to be able to exploit a device this way. This includes the user and the hacker physically being on the same unprotected network while downloading a language update. Also, on a KNOX-protected device there are additional capabilities in place such as real-time kernel protection to prevent a malicious attack from being effective.
So the likelihood of making a successful attack, exploiting this vulnerability is low. There have been no reported customer cases of Galaxy devices being compromised through these keyboard updates.* But as the reports indicate, the risk does exist and Samsung will roll out a security policy update in the coming days.
In addition to the security policy update, we will continue to work with related parties such as SwiftKey to address potential risks going forward.
I wrote a little bit more on the issue originally, but that’s the gist of it: You’re safe. Just keep your stuff up to date.
If any of you are really concerned then the easiest thing to do is root your phone (if you really want to do that just let me know and we can discuss how to do that and enough of you have asked me for help in that regard to know I’ll do right by you and your device or devices) and remove the keyboard that SwiftKey created specially for Samsung and which is part of the OS itself.
Google Play Music now offers a free (ad-supported) version of Play Music Radio (U.S. only at present)
One of Google’s best acquisitions was of Songza, which I vaguely remember writing about ages ago back whenever it happened. That acquisition brought something (eventually) to Google Play Music that was sorely needed. Human curated stations. If you want to see what I mean see some quick screenshots I took below.
I fucking love “99 Luftballoons”! I learned the lyrics to the German lyrics version ages ago in high school and can still remember them in full, although I’m sure my TexMex accent and mispronunciation would make Frank wince.
So that’s just a quick few screenshots so you get a rough idea of what you’re getting free. Honestly, it’s pretty good. If you compare things from before the Songza acquisition to after it’s a world of difference, it’s gotten much better.
Naturally there’s a few catches with this. It’s U.S. only at present, with no word given as to whether it’ll expand to other territories or when if it even does. It’s also limiting you to six skips per hour (par for the course with this kind of ad-supported/free service). You also can’t choose specific albums or songs, but that should be a given with the whole “radio” aspect of it. (You can’t do that on the radio why would you expect to do that with ROI. You Silicon Valley fans know what “ROI” means. Those of you who don’t watch the show, it’s the brilliant idea that gave Hanneman his entry into the three comma club, “radio on the internet”!)
Oh snap! “The Impression That I Get” just came on! This is one of my happy songs! [proceeds to dance at desk while singing quietly and off key and hoping he doesn’t get busted doing either by anyone in the office]
Anyway, if you’re okay with all those catches and want to get in on this then you can do so via the following link. The feature/service is officially live online, a rollout to the actual Play Music app for phones and tablets will arrive later this week.
Don’t forget you can also upload 50,000 songs to Google Play Music for availability online and offline. (You don’t have to pay for that!) Of course shelling out $9.99 a month is well worth it, I’ve been using Google Play Music since it was an invite only beta and All Access since they announced it (and promptly had it go live) at IO last year (or was it the year before?) and I’ve been a fan of both since Day 1 of their respective lives.
OMG! Achy Breaky Heart is on this playlist too! The only song I can dance too! (That’s a lie, I still remember how to do The Macarena. The shame...) The one horror from elementary school and P.E. time that has stuck with me for the rest of my life, the ol’ two-step dance. [leans forward, leans back, leans forward again, leans back again, does foot shuffle, hand clap, spin and proceeds to two step his way into a wall]
But yeah, that’s the gist of the new service. It’s definitely well worth checking out. I’ve seen more people switch away from Pandora and Spotify for Google Music than I’ve seen leave it for whatever reason. Plus if you shell out that previously mentioned $9.99 a month then you also get access to YouTube Music Key, which lets you watch videos without ads and listen offline (you can download videos and whatnot to your phone). Oh and you also get the ability to listen with the screen off, which is all kinds of sweet!
UPDATE! The update is rolling out now for phones/tablets. If you don’t want to wait then grab the apk from here.
Screenshot from my phone, per what I saw after updating the app. Screenshots for new users can be seen below.
Those are screenshots new users will see, but wait there’s more. Oh my goodness is there more, the horror that’s coming... I can’t... handle... it. [strangles self with headphones]
Those screenshots remind me of a story my mom told me from when she got her wisdom teeth removed years ago (which I need to do, my third one is coming out, that’s three that are out because I had the fourth removed when it first came out). So her and my uncle are coming back across the bridge dealing with traffic going from Mexico into the U.S. and there’s this little boy walking out into traffic and causing cars to stop so other drivers who gave him a quarter can cut in. Basically, he’s earning money by letting assholes cut. My uncle sees him and in typical hilarious fashion yells, “I will give you $5 not to let that fucker cut in!” And my mom proceeded to burst into laughter and then wince in pain cause she had two removed that day. I look at those screenshots and think, “I’d pay more than I do now to not see them.”
OnePlus has announced the OnePlus One (Part Deux!)
I am joking about the name, but it’s the second generation OnePlus One and honestly I will do my best to avoid writing about it until it’s released but we know one thing right off the bat. It’ll be sporting the (face melting and forcibly throttled by software to prevent overheating) Snapdragon 810. (At this point why anyone would even consider using that chip is beyond me.)
Let’s hope OnePlus is much smarter this time around in regards to selling the device. Their invite system kept the phone out of the hands of quite a few people that wanted it (and some of the gimmicks to earn an invite were pretty bad, especially the one that was full on sexist as hell).
Purportedly they’re gonna to announce one new thing about the phone a week, which at least one (Canadian) site has said is stupid and as such they won’t publish squat about the new phone until it’s all revealed in full. A move I agree with. That makes me Canadian, right? Agreeing with a Canadian? Or do I have to apologize randomly and for no reason for something that I haven’t even done first? That’s an automatic in I’ve been told, at least that’s what reddit says.
Two Motorola deals taking place currently on Groupon
A (1st Gen.) Moto E bundle is currently going for $94.99 (regular retail price is roughly $335).Using coupon code GOODS5 gets you an additional $5 off (lowering the price to $89.99).
What you get is the Moto E (1st Gen.) which has 4 GB of built in storage (and is expandable via a microSD card slot), a SOL portable Bluetooth speaker, a car charger, and Tracgone SIM card (with 1200 minutes of airtime).
Honestly that’s not a bad deal. The Moto E alone is going for about $90 as is at the moment, so you basically pay for that and get everything else for free.
There’s also a deal going on for the Motorola Turbo Charger allowing you to get a new one for $14.99 or a refurbished one for $9.99, keeping in mind a new one through our retail channels goes for $35.
In root and bootloader unlock related news...
Up first, because it’s relevant to my interest(!), is that root has been achieved on the Verizon Moto G (XT1028), which is the prepaid version I’d posted about a short time back.
Yep, folks, that is legit. Root has been achieved on 4.4.4 for the device. This is good news for those who bought the device and want to remove Verizon’s ridiculous bloatware from the phone.
Meanwhile, as of last week the ASUS ZenFone 2 has had its bootloader unlocked, provided you are rooted and on the latest firmware. Additional information can be found here.
That’s really great news for the device overall, it means custom ROMs are much more likely to happen.
On a related note, Android Police has released their review titled “ASUS ZenFone 2: A Good Inexpensive Phone That Would Be Much Better With Stock Android”.
I highly recommend you read it if you’re in the market for a new phone on the cheap, the 2 GB RAM and 16 GB internal storage (expandable via microSD card) version of the device retails for $199.
I’ll give you the Conclusion of the review though verbatim.
The ZenFone 2 may well be the first Intel smartphone actually worthy of your attention, especially if you’re the tinkering type. With a de-bloated software experience, I have to think this phone will only get better.
Yes, the camera is mediocre. Yes, the battery life can be subpar. And yes, there are some slightly worrying stability issues (though since the last OTA I’m doing alright), but for $199? Holy smokes, this is a deal. At $299? I probably wouldn’t bother. The extra and faster storage is nice, and so is the bonus RAM, but the faster processor is generally not too noticeable and you’re still living with all the weaknesses of the cheaper version of the device while simultaneously paying more for the privilege. That really doesn’t make much sense, if you ask me.
The $199 ZenFone 2, though, may be the smartphone deal of the year. It’s incredibly powerful and well-equipped for the price point, and I’m honestly not even sure how ASUS is making money on them. The phone so outpaces its rivals on general specifications and display quality that it can’t not be a deal. Gaming performance in particular seems to be a big advantage over Qualcomm’s mid-tier chipsets.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the ZenFone 2, even if it did occasionally frustrate me. I hope ASUS keeps at it, because I really think they’ve shown here that they have the capability and component-side know-how to produce an inexpensive but powerful smartphone. The software is definitely a bit rough around the edges (though I’ve seen worse), but at least that’s something that can be fixed. As such, the ZenFone 2 is absolutely a worthwhile consideration at the lower price tier. In fact, as far asbrand-new phones are concerned here in America, it’s probably the most powerful phone you can buy for less than $200.
And just because I want to show off/remind you all about what you can really do with Android, here’s my homescreen at the moment.
I’ve been catching up on the Spidey comics I’ve missed over the past few years lately and in the process Silk has become my favorite Marvel Universe female character. I think she’s freaking awesome! (And Sam, if you see this, you suck! Spider-Man and Silk are badass!)
As for my setup, I use Nova Launcher just because of all it can do. I scored Nova Launcher Prime ages ago when it was on sale for $0.25 and it gets major use mostly because of gestures. My frequently used apps (Gallery, Google Wallet, Weather Timeline, sync for reddit pro, Google Play Books) are all accessible via gestures there on the homescreen, so I rarely have to dive into my app drawer to use them.
I’m not big on clutter and as such I prefer being able to toggle the dock and navbar as needed with a simple one finger swipe up (to toggle the dock) or swipe down (to toggle the navbar) gesture anywhere on the screen.
The same applies to widgets, I like being able to see the week’s weather forecast and quickly fire up whatever podcast I was last listening to but I also didn’t want widgets being in the way of the wallpaper. So I used Popup Widget 2 to have them available on the screen without taking up much space and being mostly hidden from view. Most people have no clue they’re there til I touch either of the two dots near the top to make them visible.
There’s two dots near the sides on the bottom, they respectively launch Google Play Music and the Play Store. I just edited the icons using Nova and made it so they fit in better with what little else is visible on the screen.
You can see the usual homescreen suspects at the bottom there and for those I used the Lines - Minimalist Icon Pack, primarily so they’d be visible but not overly so and thus the focus could still be my wallpaper featuring Silk which I think looks really slick.
As for my app drawer, which isn’t visible, I like uniformity and I use Horizon Icon Pack by Iconic Apps to keep it looking nice and mostly the same. Sadly the icon pack is no longer available via the Play Store and you can read up on why via Iconic Apps Google+ page, the post is pinned so it should be the first one you see. On a related note, I just spoke with the developer and he’s currently in the process of setting up a new store site away from Google. So I believe he’s going to just distribute the apk files himself directly via his own website. (If you’ve bought any icon packs by Iconic Apps then click that link, he’s provided a ton of information for how to get apk files from him if you’ve already paid for them. As well as how to get all his work if you want it and aren’t a current customer.) EDIT/UPDATE. I’m actually speaking with the developer right now and likely will throughout the remainder of the day and as I learn more from him I’ll update this section of the post accordingly. (Or separate it and make it it’s own thing as part of this post.)
Beyond that, not much else to mention. Feel free to criticize or ask additional questions about my setup and hope you all like it. A lot of the ideas for the setup came from /r/androidthemes. Mostly looking at other setups and taking note of things I liked and apps used and whatnot and then combining things as they best met my needs and aesthetic preferences for my homescreen.
That seems to be all for now
I know these are meant to go up on Wednesdays, or that’s what I’d prefer, but if news comes out that I feel can’t wait then I’ll post them when I can.
Friendly notices though get posted on their own. Those will always be for incredibly breaking news (like the LastPass hack) that absolutely can’t wait or deals that are good for a few hours or a day or so only.
And in case I haven’t mentioned it before you all can always reach me via Hangouts if you have my email address (or know someone who has it, I give such people permission to give it out) or via Twitter (@bangishotyou). Any questions, issues you’re having, or advice or recommendations you’d like/need just let me know and I’ll do my best to sort you out.