Entries Tagged as 'Cellular'

Android Market Comments Need Moderation

Android Market
Image via Wikipedia

Google needs to step up to the plate when it comes to moderating Android Market comments.  Overall, the ratings system is pretty typical.  If you like a product, you rate it high, if you dislike you rate it low.  There’s some trolls when it comes to ratings, but it’s actually not all that bad for the most part.  The good stuff still tends to float to the top.

But lately, there’s been a rash of really annoying 5-star comments that I mark as spam all the time and keep seeing everywhere.   Subscription services are going around and posting comments everywhere and basically saying how it’s this website has all of the apps for a monthly subscription and it’s cheaper, and all that.  Extremely annoying when you’re trying to read about whether or not an app works or not and what problems they might encounter.

Think of the commenting system as a user review board.   I mean, overall, the goal is to be like Amazon’s product reviews where people tend to use these days as a secondary source of “real people-real reviews” type of place outside of reading Consumer Reports.   Since Android Market doesn’t have a Consumer Reports, you’ll just have to settle for trial and error, and user reviews.  Unfortunately, on a mobile interface, spam type comments not only take up space, but it throws the review off.   Especially these types of subscription services.

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Blasting Zone FUD

I have to say that there’s some things that seem entirely like FUD because people watch too many movies. So there’s this sign that I saw while I was driving home and the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed.

Most people wouldn’t think twice about reading this sign and would just do as it said. But, think about it. Most of your 2-way radios are on the family band. This means that it’s a public channel. These channels are for use of all sorts of things (thus the word public). Private radio bands require licensing and is on a different spectrum. But regardless, you would imagine that anyone setting a wireless detonator on a public band is absolutely bonkers. I mean, there are signals at all times on those bands so that wouldn’t make any sense.

And the entire cell phone thing is silly too since the signal is on two levels. One is from the base station, and one is from your mobile. If you turn off your phone, that doesn’t mean the base station quits trying to provide coverage. So, if a cell phone signal would set off blasting, then wouldn’t you have to shield it from all cell phone signals? Including the base station? So if you use wireless detonators, you call the wireless companies to turn off their towers? What about emergency band vehicles? No more 911 calls?

Without more solid evidence that there is any reason to turn off a two-way radio or cell phone, this becomes very much like a movie based FUD action. Lovely.

Tips and Tricks: Hard Reset of your Motorola Droid

Unfortunately, this is something that sometimes needs to be done with a phone. Fortunately, outside of your applications, contact information can be synced from your Google account and such, so restoration isn’t as terrible as you may think.

For me, it was the official Twitter application that hosed my phone up. When you have a lot of contacts, my suggestion is that you do not sync your Twitter contact information. Since it doesn’t ask where to store the information, it stores it directly on the phone memory which will fill up and basically leave you with an always syncing phone.

To hard rest your Motorola Droid:

  1. Turn the Droid off.
  2. Open the keyboard.
  3. Hold the X key and hit the power button. Keep holding the X button down until a yellow triangle appears on the screen.
  4. Press the camera and volume up buttons at the same time to get to the menu.
  5. Use the directional pad to the right of the keyboard to select the Format option.

Once you format the phone, it’ll basically set it up like it was at the store. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the entire process of letting the system know what your ESN is and what not, since that should already be in the system. The rest is just setting the phone back up to however you had it before.

Tips and Tricks: Booting Your Droid to Safe Mode

First off, I hope that you never have to read this, since if you are, that means that something crazy has happened to your Droid and I feel for you already.

Sometimes, there are applications out there that don’t have checks and balances that really should be done when looking at the Droid. Fortunately, there is a way to boot the device into safe mode:

  1. Turn off phone.
  2. Open the keyboard.
  3. Hold down the Menu and hit the power button. Continue to hold the menu button until splash screen.

If you do these steps, you should see it boot with “Safe Mode” in the lower left hand corner. Good luck!

Thoughts on Skype Mobile for Android

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

This is funny as hell. I mean seriously. Does this guy even understand how power works? Less trips to the charger? WOW. Okay… a little lesson on how telecom radios work folks. It’s a really easy concept actually. A base station is usually located somewhere between one to two miles away. Ideally. Sometimes farther, sometimes closer. But the amount of power it takes to generate a signal that far is a lot more power on the forward channel than any WiFi signal. Ever.

So buying into the whole … Verizon is the best 3G network so we’re making use of their network thing is total marketing mumbo jumbo. I would know, considering I’ve worked on the infrastructure. What’s funny is that someone at Verizon made this call on banning WiFi which I have no clue about because from a telecom business perspective it makes absolutely no sense. Probably a sales guy that didn’t do his bean counting correctly.

So if you have a Verizon smart phone, you have to pay for a line and a data package. You don’t have a choice in this matter. And more than likely you use it for way more things than Skype. Believe me, the last thing I consider use for my data package for is voip. So why would you ban voip? Because some brilliant guy somewhere thought that it would decrease sales in lines, without actually thinking through who actually uses Android phones.

Here’s food for thought. The point of Skype is voip, but RF spectrum is actually expensive to run. Why not allow people to do their voip on WiFi but still pay for their data packages? You’re basically allowing more spectrum available for both actual data and voice use (depending on how the channels are configured). It’s the most optimal use of your current network from a business perspective and network perspective. Again, something else I’d know since I spent over ten years optimizing network traffic and analyzing KPIs.

It seems that Skype couldn’t break their full client in to Verizon and they didn’t know the telecom lingo to actually sell it. What’s amusing is that it makes them look bad in throwing the Skype Lite out since it really doesn’t help with those of us that run SkypeIn numbers or allow us to conduct business the way Google Voice does. Oh right, Verizon isn’t afraid of Google Voice which makes connections over the voice lines? That’s more traffic taken up for no reason when it doesn’t have to be routed as such.

All in all, both of Skype and Verizon Wireless need to revisit how their technologies work and why one thing is superseded by another when they’re two different things. I get the whole Verizon wants to make money and are afraid that they would lose subs. But come on… are you serious? Releasing a product that half par is worse than not releasing one at all. It just makes both ends look terrible from a public relations perspective and becomes a marketing nightmare. In the end, you’d spend more money trying to fight the non-existent problem instead of just letting the thing through.

Right now? I can say that as a telecom veteran, I have to say that this application might as well have been left in beta. In fact, the beta was better since it didn’t disable the wifi. That’s a little sad. There’s nothing great about the final Android version and continues to win subpar remarks because of bad decision made on both ends.

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CauseWorld Helps Nonprofits Through Social Networking

Ran across a nice little mobile app called CauseWorld. Very cool, since the idea is that large corporations have to donate money towards causes help with philanthropic needs (and write it off on their corporate taxes) and this allows people to shift the money towards causes that they believe in.

It’s somewhat like Foursquare, which is why it’s fun since you basically have to go into stores along the way whenever you have your phone with you, and check in at the store. You only get 10 karma per store, and one check-in per day per store. The beauty of it is that for every 10 karma you collect, you can basically use that to donate towards certain types of good things in the world. Perhaps it’s providing books for learning, or clean water, or even planting a tree, but you get to decide where your karma goes.

Best of all? It costs nothing. Basically just a little fun while you’re out. And it helps allocate the corporate funds towards something you care about. It’s almost like you getting to say what you want to say as a shareholder of a company. And we all know that unless you’re a large stakes player in the stock, most shareholders don’t get to do anything with their little piece of the pie.

In my opinion, this has probably been one of the more fascinating apps that I’ve been able to get a hold of on my Droid. It comes on both Android and iPhone and I’m sure more mobile apps to come. Hopefully there will be a lot more badges, charities, and corporate sponsors in the future since this is just one of those experiments that allow everyone to help change the world a little bit at a time.

Tips and Tricks: Fixing Your Bank of America SafePass

If you do a lot of online banking and you happen to use Bank of America, you probably have SafePass activated.

Unfortunately for you, there isn’t a very published method on how to fix your SafePass and gain entry back into your online banking if you have recently switched cellular carriers but have kept the same number. If you’ve changed numbers completely, you’ll have to call customer service to deactivate your old number and sign up your new one. But with an existing number that has been ported from another carrier? Seems like you’re up a creek since the SafePass won’t send to the phone.

What you do is, you take the mobile, and text to: 73981. In the body of the text, just text “help” without the quotes and hit send.

Then you wait about 24 hours because their systems don’t update but once a day I suppose. In any case, if you come back and try your SafePass again, it seems to actually work. Now, there apparently has been this issue on and off with iPhones and the like, but with my Droid, that seemed to do the trick in changing out the carriers.

Let Me in Your iPhone

The GSM logo is used to identify compatible ha...
Image via Wikipedia

If you didn’t know already, the encryption for GSM’s antiquated algorithm has been cracked. All 64-bits of it. And guess what…. apparently most carriers haven’t upgraded to the 128-bit algorithm because… well, I’m not exactly sure. I suppose security by obscurity is probably the key reasoning behind this, but A5/1 which has been around since 1988 was replaced by the GSM Association in 2007 with A5/3 but most carriers haven’t bothered to upgrade.

It’s not anything spectacular since the 64bit keys were cracked through brute force, and with the computing power these days along with parallel computing, you can pretty much crack the smaller length algorithms through brute force easily. And this doesn’t allow you to listen in on the calls just yet, it just opens the doors to any of the communication that runs on those bands if the carriers haven’t changed the codes on you not to mention the legality of breaking those codes outside of academic research.

There are a couple ways around this problem. One is to upgrade to a larger key such as 128 bit (which is pretty standard considering many banks run SSL certs on 128 bit encryptions). Not the super-safe, but it does create a lot more combinations to guess through brute force. The other way is through the methodology similar to RADIUS with WPA for Wifi. Wifi keys are easily broken, but if you have a service that continuously rotates those keys and makes it a dynamic password, then any hacker is left with a time limit to break in. From a security standpoint, this becomes a more daunting task.

And as far as iPhones are concerned… oh… if you own one and didn’t know already…(as do most of the world’s mobile devices), they run on GSM carriers. But then again, so will Google’s Nexus One.

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Wazing My Way Around

If you have a smartphone, I urge you to check out Waze.

The Android client is a bit new and they’re still working on it, but this is one thing that can totally get you to learn the area you live. Or at least drive it. Waze is basically a social geolocation game where you collect points on the streets you drive, and help map the environment by “road munching” new roads. Basically, you think of it as a real-life Pac Man meets Wikipedia mapping. The more users there are, the better it is and what’s interesting is that you can report hazards, speed traps, police, and all sorts of other things.

While based on the economy, I’m not inclined to drive all over jeebus to road munch, but I have to admit that there are a lot of people that are out there that are doing it.

What’s even more interesting is that you can see the business model and where this could really be fruitful. Garmin or Tomtom anyone? This not only makes cartography a lot easier as far as mistakes go, but it also allows you to not have to wait for a company to come out with the next version of whatever software to actually get the right road name (nudge at Garmin for spelling Raleigh – “Raliegh” on the I-40 Eastbound). It’s like Wikipedia but for maps and the more people that use it, the more fun it is.

Not having touched the iPhone app, I’m curious as far as if it’s better and more user friendly than the one for Android. Overall, the map editor on the web, and Android clients are a little clunky, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily. It’s the thought process behind this that counts. And if Waze just happens to give out free things for random driving events like their Christmas event? Then you can entirely count on a lot more users playing this game. I mean, everyone loves free stuff.

Oh. And it does integrate with Foursquare, so you can check-in at your local coffee shop easily from the app itself without having to exit. Or Tweet your location, or what not. Facebook anyone? There’s just so much that can be done with this, that I’m excited just thinking about it. Now if only they could make the client a little less laggy…

Couple Days with the Droid

OREM, UT -  NOVEMBER 5: A manager holds an App...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I have to say that with my first couple days with the Droid, I’ve noticed some things that no one else has really bothered to mention. First, if anyone think that this is a contender for the iPhone, I would say that Apple really has some competition. This is definitely the first phone that I’ve touched that overall has a better feel and the apps actually are close enough to really give Jobs some heartburn.

Likes
Very smooth. If you have it linked to your wifi at home, when the signal disappears, it actually switches off to 3G immediately. No fuss, no muss. The interface moves very well. It does lag sometimes if you don’t have the right apps to shut down the apps that you quit from (why you can’t quit from an app is another annoyance that Google has to fix).

I love the notifications. I mean, that’s one thing that iPhone doesn’t do well, and notifications here are out of the way and are there when you want to look at them.

Maps integration and voice dial? Awesome. The entire Car Mobile feature is sweet and I think Garmin itself might have a contender on its hands. I’ll have to test it out more to find out.

The multimedia station sync is great. Immediately, my phone also became my alarm clock. Will have to note to self not to chuck alarm clock across the room…. not that I do that anyways, but still.

Vibrate function is super powerful. Now this might be somewhat annoying and I sorta wish people would make it so that you could control the level of vibrate sometimes, but a powerful vibrate always helps when you’re in a loud place and your phone goes off. There’s nothing more annoying than waiting for a call and missing it because you didn’t feel the vibrate feature. Entirely useless then, isn’t it?

OpenGL support. Android is basically a flavor of linux (don’t believe me? kernel is 2.6.9….), so we shouldn’t be surprised here but that makes 3D gaming and animation completely possible and with the smaller resolutions, you can guarantee some interesting gaming coming your way.

I’m not fond of keyboards, but the hardware keyboard is actually a nice one and compared to my Nokia n810 Wimax, it feels pretty good. The on-screen one could use a little work when it’s trying to detect what you’re trying to type so it corrects it after learning what letters you hit off in portrait mode.

Android Market is awesome. It might be a little more simple compared to the iTunes store, but when people complain about how there’s just not enough apps? From one geek to another, I’m going to say that there’s plenty out there. Plenty. Sometimes I wish open source apps were this easy to find.

Forget the in-the-box browser. Get Dolphin. Know how iPhone users are all talking about how they can zoom and such? Dolphin can do that. Now if only Google put it in all of their apps like Google Maps and such.

Dislikes
I don’t like the fact that BT headsets don’t have voice dialing. This is a problem of Google’s Android OS, and not the phone itself. Very annoying considering it’s a phone built by Motorola, and every past Motorola phone actually had BT voice dialing. This should have been brought up during testing by product development on Motorola’s side since it’s a feature they’ve had since… well, forever.

Don’t like the fact that you can’t quit from an app. Some apps might need to be persistent but out of the box, there are many that don’t have to run in the background. Very annoying out of the box. Fortunately, I went and grabbed Task Manager, and life is good again.

I also don’t like the fact that you can’t group contacts together from different sources. While an auto-merge might be a little crazy, the fact that you can sync your Facebook contact information with your Google accounts means that you’ll get a lot of duplication. Merging the two in a pseudo-group format would make life a lot easier and provide profile shots for those that you didn’t have profile pictures. Personally, I think the Android is missing out here but then again, somehow I doubt the iPhone can do it too (can anyone tell me one way or another? ).

Camera auto-focus. What? Seriously, the time it takes to auto-focus for certain apps, I’d rather do a manual focus feature. Oh wait, you can’t. But seriously now, this sounds like a fix that can be done via firmware.

In portrait mode, the on-screen keyboard is pretty blech. If you have big hands, it’s hard to type with it on there. Fortunately for landscape mode, eh?

Synopsis
It’s really a blanket bomb of my thoughts, but I really don’t see any reasoning why you can’t send text messages and surf and such while on a call like the iPhone commercial. Having worked in the telecommunications industry for over a decade on the infrastructure side, there’s not really any reason that it couldn’t happen unless the phone itself occupies resources that otherwise can’t be used for a call when on data, or vice versa. Of course, if people wanted to do it, it could still be done by using the same techniques as PTT on CDMA. Think about it.

I still haven’t seen any driving or flying games that require the accelerometer for turning that I’ve seen on the iPhone. But based on the sensitivity of Google Sky, I would say that the Droid can totally pick up the same type of gaming.

Battery life seems a bit lacking, but nothing out of the ordinary with a smartphone. Most of your battery goes to the radio and the LCD in a smartphone anyways. Some power-save features might be nice.

If you get down to the Verizon over AT&T for service? I’d agree completely on voice and data. There’s just no question when you compare the two networks. Part of the reason why I haven’t bothered with an iPhone.

With Google’s coffers, I think the Droid and Android phones in general have a really good shot at taking on the number one smartphone maker. There are a few things that I would start pushing and remind Google that when you’re gunning for the number one spot in mobile devices, your product can’t be in beta. Some of the dislikes that I mentioned above are staples of the mobile industry and need to be patched for all current and future phones. If you just let it be, people won’t want to use your product. Just as RF is finicky, domestic mobile users are finicky. And you just can’t rely on that type of situation when so many vendors are looking to your OS to end the slaughtering.

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