Tag Archives: smartphones

Science gets sexy

The invention of the Internet changed intimate relationships forever. Long-distance relationships suddenly became a lot more feasible, especially after the creation of video-chat programs like Skype. Kids started stirring up trouble by emailing nude and semi-nude pictures. But the one thing the World Wide Web has not been able to challenge is the old-fashioned joy of tactile sensation – until now. Continue reading Science gets sexy

Apple censors Drones+ app

Anyone can create an app these days,  so it’s usually not surprising when an app is rejected. Sometimes the idea has already been implemented in an existing app, or the app isn’t considered particularly useful. One can’t help but wonder if there’s a bit more going on with Apple’s decision to reject Drones+, an app created by Josh Begley. Continue reading Apple censors Drones+ app

Street Bump fixes potholes one bump at a time

There are a number of apps out there for the civic-minded that allow users to inform their local government about potholes. One such app is called SeeClickFix; this app allows users to snap a shot of potholes on the road and send pictures to their local government in the hopes that they will do something about the hole. Continue reading Street Bump fixes potholes one bump at a time

Your phone is secretly watching you

It’s called Carrier IQ and it’s a piece of secret software that has been installed on millions of phones. This software logs everything users do, from where they go online to what their texts say.

While this tool may seem like some plot to control and monitor the lives of millions of phone users, it’s not. According to the carriers, this program plays an important diagnostics role; it helps carriers to diagnose and troubleshoot their networks.

This app stayed under the radar for quite some time. It hit the spotlight recently as security concerns began to surface over the capabilities of the software.

Image by John Rumburg.

These concerns only managed to gain steam as Android developer, Trevor Eckhart, posted an analysis of the software’s data logs. Eckhart followed up these data log analyses with a 17 minute YouTube video demonstrating how the software tracked his every move and keystroke. As users discovered just how far the software pried into their private lives, an outcry spread across the Internet.

AT&T and Sprint both acknowledged they use Carrier IQ. T-Mobile has yet to comment on whether they do, but has been confirmed to use it by third party sources. Verizon is the only major carrier that said that they do not use Carrier IQ or any software like it on their phones. While Verizon said they do not use anything like Carrier IQ, their competitors say that it is not possible to maintain modern networks without using a similar program as a diagnostic tool.

Apple has informed CNN that some of their mobile devices do have Carrier IQ on board, but the latest version of iOS doesn’t support the software. Apple also states that in a forthcoming update, all iPads and iPhones will no longer have Carrier IQ.

The company that makes Carrier IQ has issued a statement in its defense. According to the statement, the software does not transmit or store any of the information. According to the company, the purpose of the software is to examine broad trends so that companies can better understand how users make use of their device and any possible bugs in the system.

While appearing nefarious in nature, Carrier IQ is mostly harmless. The program does lead to some serious security concerns. While it doesn’t transmit the vast majority of the data it collects, the program does store it for a limited amount of time on the device. If someone discovered a way to access that data, it could lead to millions of people’s privacy being violated with nothing more than a simple hack allowing access to all the personal data anyone could want.

“Siri,” a rival appears

“Siri” is the witty, smart-mouthed voice controlled personal assistant that came with the iPhone 4S. The program has wowed users from the start. “Siri’s” popularity led to an outcry on the Android Market as Android OS users wanted their own version of “Siri”. A few days later the free app “Iris” was born.

Photo from Creative Commons.

“Iris” is “Siri” spelled backwards and its developers at Dextra did it intentionally. It took the developers at Dextra eight hours to create the Android version of “Siri.” According to their blog post on the process, it became more a competition between developers at the company after Narayan Babu laid the ground work creating a search engine that, when asked a question, could pull up an answer from the Internet.

It’s no surprise Dextra was able to piece together an Android OS version of “Siri.” The company has been working on machine learning as well as the other programming wizardry, which makes “Siri” and “Iris” what they are for over a year. The company is planning to release an app known as “Friday” later this year.

Photo from Creative Commons.

“Friday” uses many of the same principles that go behind “Siri.” The app is planned to record your daily events creating a journal of sorts. “Friday” would listen in on phone calls, check statuses, where users have been and look at their calendar. The app then when asked what users have done that day will be able to dictate back to you what important information it had gathered in the day and keep it recorded as a list of events, allowing users to check back at a later date.

“Friday” is why this Indian company so easily and readily produced “Iris.” Initially, “Iris” received great reviews, but as more users pick up the app it’s taxing the system, and bugs are beginning to show up. According to some users, the app is now slower after the latest update than it had originally been. Search results come back with not only witty responses like with “Siri” have been programmed into “Iris,” but strange and often incorrect results.

While “Iris” is the only Android version of “Siri” out there, its unlikely that it will be the last. “Iris” is also sure to face a legal battle over its name. While a witty stab at “Siri,” it is unlikely Apple will pass up the chance to sue the company. It will be interesting to see how “Iris” develops for its users in the coming months. If the app can survive the few initial bugs, it may become something more than a gimmicky rival to “Siri.”