Grooveshark is Dead but there are plenty of other choices

tumblr_njb2bj8A0o1sp8304o1_1280Yes, it was kinda sad to hear that Grooveshark is dead. It shuttered its doors after admitting that it lacked the rights to stream music without a license from owners. As we mourn the passing, there is plenty of others jumping into the music streaming business. The reason why Grooveshark failed was that it thought it could emulate VK.com in terms of creating and sharing music when they didn’t have the license to do so from the copyright owners. Hey, there are plenty of choices for unpaid music so it really depends on your bandwidth. To list them all would be suicide, so here are some alternatives which have free access. Bandcamp bandcamp_logo4 Created to promote indie talents, this is a great app to discover up and coming artist. It might not have Taylor Swift or Kathy Perry but you still have music which you can listen for free. Some of the stuff is rather good while others, well, it can wake the dead. Music Messenger music-messenger-01Available for both iOS and Android, this app has been credited as the SnapChat for Music Lovers. You can send music and listen to them for free. You have the Billboard top 100 songs so if you want to indulge, there is always a way to make a playlist. Music Messenger gets around the music licensing restrictions by sending you YouTube versions of the song, so a small window opens up while you play the song along with the video. All popular artist are supported and I must remind you that this app is a bandwidth hog since it downloads YouTube videos. Deezer DeezerRP_WP8_PhoneFront_EN The streaming sphere is the last bastion for free music…well sort of. We know that some of the more popular apps have music channels with a curated playlist and Deezer is no different. Yes, Deezer is a paid app but there are freebies inside the mobile app if you just want to listen to a curated playlist. So if you don’t want to pay for the service, you just have to endure their regular adverts that appear in a chosen playlist. Still it’s very radio friendly so the songs curated have appeal. Jango T2CRrdn38OemfMd5TZWwjI21oPms5epKfjenrK6jvZ4gCFw7YeipKbMwo5XbK7HhWA=w300Not the best looking or the most popular, Jango is a free music streaming radio station which you can connect with using an app or a web browser. You follow the artist of your choice and a dedicated playlist will be created just for you. The selections include top artist like Taylor Swift, Lorde and The Killers so if you’re not looking to build your own playlist but select those already curated, then Jango is the way to go. Guvera Music guvera2_1For US$5 bucks a month, you could subscribe to a music service like Guvera but hey, you don’t have to if you don’t mind listening to adverts within the playlist. The only penalty for not subscribing is that you can’t skip songs within a curated playlist. Guvera has partnered with Lenovo worldwide so if you buy a Lenovo device, it comes preinstalled. Guvera gives you decent playlisted songs and is driven by genre. You like pop? Then just follow the pop playlist. You can find several recommended playlist and none of them suits you, then you are out of luck. Pros and Cons of Mobile Music Streaming tumblr_ngn8sh3JjG1sp8304o1_500There are heaps of choices when it comes to apps but all of them have built in restrictions if you don’t want to ante up to a paid subscription. Then you have the data bandwidth problem if you keep streaming songs, you will exhaust that data limit.

Gnarbox hopes to change the way you edit Video on Mobile

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Say goodbye to your laptop or notebook computer as the mobile device takes over to edit and share your videos. Gnarbox just got funded on Kickstarter and it’s a worthy gadget to have if you shoot bus loads of video and can’t edit it on the fly. One of the problems with video editing is that you need a device or gadget that will make the workflow workable. For this, people often download their raw video and edit them on a computer. The mobile device? Well, it’s less than desirable with a less than competent video processor found on an iPhone.

Juggling loads of clips with a limited amount of RAM is one of the biggest flaws for any mobile device and the iPhone is no exception.

So here comes Gnarbox, a set top video editing device which takes all the heavy lifting in stride.

What you have here is a durable and robust video editing tool in the form of a self contained video editing box. It is rugged, water proof and will take a fall better than your Macbook.

Pair with an app using WIFI, you are then able to view, edit, and later share your clips while away from the computer all with the use of just your mobile device. The controls on the app turns your mobile into a dumb terminal while all the editing and processing functions sit on the Gnarbox independently.

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To use, you can download your video captured on any camera device, like a DSLR or GoPro into the Gnarbox. What happens next is truly a technological marvel.

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The mobile device becomes just an app that connects to the Gnarbox and it take care of the editing and processing without having to strain your mobile device.

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The Gnarbox can connect to multiple devices and once done, you can export those clips you edited to social media or the cloud.

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Gnarbox will retail at US$250 a pop when released and is a good way to dump that notebook as part of your travel baggage. The only caveat is that the Gnarbox app may not have the same editing functions or experience as say, Final Cut Pro, since it is after all optimized for mobile use.

For that, you have no choice but to turn to a full notebook for a complete editing experience. However for social media vloggers, the Gnarbox is a god send.

Android Remix Mini PC can be yours for 50 bucks!

2d5d9c82e8e54453e35f2b654fef65dd_originalI have always loved the Mac Mini and though it has crossed my mind to buy that as a companion device to a HDTV, I never got round to it because it was expensive.

Having a connected device like the Mac Mini made sense, especially in the days when it came with a built in DVD player. These days, the new models are without that feature and thus less appealing.

Having a TV that is connected to the HDTV is probably the best option to save money on buying a separate computer if all you ever needed was to browse the Internet, send email and maybe some SOHO office apps. Chrome OS was suppose to be like that but over the years, I had my doubts over its ability to do the chores I want it to as any Android device would be able to surpass it.

Today, we hear that the Remix Mini PC has got funded on Kickstarter. So what’s this about?

How the Remix Mini is going to save you Money

First, there are two models, the first comes with a 1GB Ram while the other 2GB Ram. They have named it the 1G and 2G respectively and yes, it runs a custom hacked version of Android Lolipop called Remix OS.

The unit comes with built in WIFI, 2 USB ports, HDMI port and even a stereo jack for sound and music output. The extra Ethernet port lets you connect directly to the DSL router or modem without having to rely on WIFI. The included microSD slot helps you decide on how much additional storage to add to keep your stuff like movies or music which can be played back on TV. What’s more the Remix Mini PC supports 4K UHD, meaning you get the latest codec to process high quality movies. The only downside is that your media, or rather a UHD movie would take up to 16GB of storage if you ever decide to keep a copy on the SD storage.

Now playback for UHD is strictly BluRay player standards these days so if you ever had a 4K TV, you would have to pair that with a BluRay player. The Remix Mini will save you money on this if you happen to play UHD movies (illegally obtained or otherwise). UHD media unfortunately is not widespread as yet.

showbox-app-download-for-android-install-show-box-apk-on-androidThere are other exceptions. Hulu Plus via the Hola VPN will playback your subscriptions and yes, the movies uploaded onto VK.com will also playback via the app. For illegal APKs like Showbox, you can have that installed on the Remix without any problems. You can also stream movies to the Remix via Popcorn Time if you so wished.

spotify-android_660Music streaming, from Spotify to Deezer is also available for the price of a subscription and if I were you. Endless possibilities if you have an app on hand that can also be your local radio station or for that matter, any radio station in the world. Entertainment possibilities is a reality through your HDTV.

SOHO Workstation

Google Docs, Keep, Drive and even photo editing tools from Flickr can be accessed through your keyboard and mouse once you have the Remix Mini.

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Charts, graphics and everything else you wasted money on with a PC and accompanying software can be yours for free if you are online all the time. No need to ante up on Windows 10 either if you don’t want to spend the money. The idea of a home workstation, is a reality without the overhead cost as cloud computing will do all the heavy lifting without you having to fork out money on software purchases. I use to remember that every piece of software you wanted had to be purchased just 10 years ago. Now, I will sign up with Google to get these same functions on a computer all for free.

Remix is not for Heavy Lifting

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This is a problem which people tend to do themselves in when wanting a small PC footprint. It’s not for heavy workloads like vector graphic design, 3D modeling, music creation with Midi instruments and heavy duty video editing. Android apps which you can download from the Playstore has limited capabilities and can’t be compared to the PC/Mac versions that do way more.

You have to think of a Remix Mini PC as a computer from 10 years ago. Multitasking is possible and with limited RAM, there isn’t a lot you can do. It’s like buying a ticket to a cheap buffet, you won’t be getting a gourmet treat with it.

For me, I think the Remix Mini is an excellent tool for students and kids. For others, who are just in the market for more entertainment, the Remix won’t disappoint.

So remember that a 50 buck (for the 2G) computer has its limitations and if you are fine with that, it makes sense to order one.

Terminator Voice packs are Free on Waze App for Android and iOS.

landscape-1428935780-terminator-genisys-arnold-smile Google owned Waze is probably one of those navigation apps that people often try to avoid using since it is an online app without offline access. But Waze begs to differ by having Arnie as a voice talent in the backseat guiding you in Waze. That’s right folks the Guvanator is back and he’s got a load for you.

To have him on Waze, all you have to do is download and run Waze, go to Settings>Sounds > hit the ‘ English US or UK’ and you’d be taken to a selection of voices you can download. Within the list you will find Terminator Genisys and that’s what you want.

This movie tie in is one of a kind as Arnie narrates his way to your destination and even says “Hasta la vista, Baby” once you arrive at your intended destination.

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During the movie debut, Terminator logos will be popping up in your Waze map to indicate cinemas and multiplexes, though I am not sure if that would include cinemas ‘not showing’ the movie when it launches.

This latest installment of the Terminator franchise will only make its debut in the US in July while the rest of the world will catch it before then.

The iPhone 6 is far from perfect, is this the cure?

61b5eaddeadfb43a6e92ba5fb000345d_originalThe iPhone 6+ has poor battery life because Jony Ive thinks it should have a smaller battery to save on weight. Personally, I think he fibbed. A larger battery would have cost more and eat into Apple profits.

This is probably why these folks from China are thinking of improving it with an Evol iPhone 6+ camera case that does so much more. The pitch on Kickstarter sounds great. The concept explains it all.

  • Extended battery built as a Modular Add on
  • Extra SIM card access as a Modular Add on
  • Second camera for 3D Photo imaging as a Modular Add on
  • MagSafe Power recharging dock
  • External Storage of up to 64GB more with Modular Add on

80465084c8e2b0e530ab635b969b3c80_originalThese modular add ons can only be used on their Evol concept iPhone 6+ casing. Ok, they have the add on lenses but I never thought much about the external lenses since you can already get them from a host of other vendors.

The iPhone 6 is not supported, only the + model because it needs the extra real estate to mount this modular add ons.

What these folks are offering a consumer centric needs and not Apple needs. Remember the Apple Pay *BS about helping you pay more securely? Apple just wants to get into the banking business of managing your money that’s all.

Everything that Apple is introducing onto iOS only makes business sense and do not cater to consumer requirements for a more personal device as opposed to just another smartphone. Because that’s what the iPhone has devolved into, just another Smartphone.

Why did iOS 9 look so much like Android Lollipop? Didn’t they think they had a chance by doing better than that? Apparently not. Apple is so far behind in this. Remember the Xiaomi model of business, the older the technology, the bigger the hardware margins over time to create  the device. Why is storage still so expensive on the iPhone? Why do you keep having apps that crash because of RAM availability even though they say it won’t happen? Nah, it cost too much to add that and Apple wants to milk more money from users with older tech.

Evol is probably jumping far ahead by offering a whole themepark of add ons which I think are great, but to Apple, that’s like stealing their business.

18623a33ed8441e527539e9023d4c251_originalTo be fair, Evol should be given a chance. Even four out of six features that make it to the Evol casing would make it infinitely more usable, and extending the product life of the iPhone 6+. Oh wait, Apple wants you to upgrade every year to a new device. Will this fly?

LG Pocket Printer Review: A cheaper Alternative to Instax Mini?

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I rarely print my photos these days as everything is shared digitally but there will come a time when having a printed pictures will matter. So what’s the option if you are on the road traveling? Should you go to one of those print kiosk found in shopping malls or carry a portable printer?

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Canon makes a slew of portable printers capable of 4R or postcard size prints. But these are still pretty expensive and bulky to carry around. Your best bet if you want to go fully digital is the LG Zink inspired pocket printer….or if you want to go analogue, the Fujifilm SP-1.

Price wise, there is some difference. The SP-1 retails for US$145 while the LG PD239 goes for a little less at US$120. The real difference is in the cost of operation, with the Fuji instax mini film costing US$83 for a 100 sheets while the LG Pocket Printer’s Zink paper weighing in at US$57 for 120 sheets.

in terms of paper size both are just a tad smaller than the average business card aspect ratio, the Fuji Instax mini is larger but the printed area is really much smaller thanks largely to the format’s border. So with the LG, you not only get a larger printed area but a full bleed right to the edge as well.

Needless to say the winner is clearly the LG Zink formatted print.

Quality of Print

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Here is the trick. For some reason, the LG printer has a tendency to print images which are about one EV lower in brightness than what you see on your digital device. To get a brighter picture, you need to print the photo with a adjusted setting via the iOS or Android app. This is not a huge problem but it pays to know as every print wasted is going to cost you.

16444173791_df90ea1273_bThe LG Pocket Printer is a pretty simple in design and operation. There are no confusing buttons to play with as everything is Bluetooth enabled. If you have an NFC enabled device, it will work too.

The operation from editing to firmware updates are carried out via the mobile app.

Real World Appeal

This is where I have problems with the print size. It’s really doesn’t quite justify the appeal even if your photos look great. The business card sized print is probably a good way to share a business contact or print out pictures for your scrap book. Beyond that, I can really find a good enough reason to buy or use one.

16419934556_6611b3754f_bI think Zink has done a pretty good job with the printer and the quality of the print. The colors, clarity and sharpness is good for any physical sharing of photos but the practicality of the whole exercise remains to be seen.

You could of course create lots of small prints for decorative use on any wall or door. And if you want something better than that, I can’t think of anything.

The LG Pocket Printer has its own battery good enough for about an hour of use and you can charge it via any microUSB cable with a battery pack.

If you travel far, it is probably a good way to share your photos with the people around you who are not on the Internet or have no access to such technologies. To me, this doesn’t happen often enough to warrant having one.

Zink has partnered with the likes of Polaroid to come out with Android related camera+printer but the same problem will arise when you start using it. Because of its relatively small size, images of wide open vistas, architecture or anything taken with a wide angle view cannot be appreciated. The print size works best with subjects either close up of at medium distance. So if you do have an immediate use for such small prints, it makes good sense to get one but for everyone else, it will sit on the corner table gathering dust until someone digs it up again.

To Print or not to Print?

Nice to have but I can’t think of a reason to carry one with me all the time. How you wish to use this is really up to you. The personal printer with a format this small is ideal for scrapbook making. No problem with you sticking the print outs onto your Moleskine pads with double sided tape.

Beyond this, you could give away those prints to strangers who do selfies with you.

In the digital age, printing something just doesn’t make much sense. You can send a virtual postcard instead of snail mailing them like in the past and post your images to Facebook for sharing with the people in your network.

The quality of the Zink print is pretty good, but I have no idea if they would last a life time as the colors could fade. Only time will tell if this is going to be worth your investment.

Google Photos to offer infinite storage for your photos and video

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That’s right. Flickr is so screwed when Google announced that the new feature coming to Google Photos is going to give you an unlimited back up of all your photos. Even Star Trek fans got stumped with their ‘space; the final frontier’ motto on this one and for good reason.

For years, Facebook detractors have been saying that Google+ was doomed to die. They weren’t very far off from this but somehow this has changed as the shake up at G+ gave life to a digital corpse. The old hats running G+ were fucking idiots. They didn’t have a plan or strategy to out run the cross hairs of Facebook.

True. G+ is not FB and FB isn’t G+.

Technically speaking, both use the same model to make money off you. By getting you to use their service, you become a candidate for targeted advertising.

Google Photos came automatically installed on your Android device with G+ app. This was inherently stupid of course but Google Photos had some nice functionality to it. The auto back up feature and auto-awesome gif images were nice additional features but come on, G+ like FB app were storage hogs on both iOS and Android devices. Picture wise, Google had to outgun the old FB and this they have done in style.

Facebook and G+ apps are big on storage. Don’t believe me, go do the maths on your storage requirement an you’ll notice that they are not only fat and bloated but offer little else in return for your digital needs. Google’s new Photos app is only moveable to internal storage of your Android device so that precious RAM can be saved for G+.

Facebook does none of these and even scales down your high resolution images so they never get stored in their original form.

Google Photos and DNG File Format

While iOS is still stuck in the stone age of JPG, Google has advanced its computational photography capabilities to include DNG files on its future camera app. Google is thinking in the line that if a picture can be processed better, then it can be a better picture for anything from Bokeh to Photo Spheres. Google Drive already supports TIFF files, a fact not known to many. When uploading your DNG files from your web browser, you can choose where it goes….to the infinite cloud space or the limited one as in Google Drive.

slide8b_framedSaving pictures in DNG is going to take a lot of space. Ask any Trekkie and they will tell you what all this amounts to. When Google said that it would give you photo back up….infinitely….you can technically put your Android device to upload all those pictures you have taken in the day through WIFI to Google cloud storage. You can also access Google Photos on the web.

And when you wake up from your deep slumber in the morning, those photos on your Android device and be erased as a copy already exist in the cloud.

Google’s cloud is impressive to say the least and is far cheaper than the image cloud service provided by Apple. Thankfully, you still have Google Photos for iOS so Apple users aren’t at a loss.

Google Stories

This is another advantage which few talk about. Google Stories is a scrap booking feature for you to create a flipbook slideshow of your images right within the Google Photos app. And that’s not all, like Flickr, your chosen photos can also be shared with a long list of other social networks.

Photos-Share-v4Google Photos is a new app for Android and you can download it here.

How to use Live Streaming Apps on Mobile

screen322x572The future will be live before your eyes, that’s the buzzword pundits are saying these days. But what’s your options for mobile?

For most of us, going live on mobile streaming is the ultimate dream of any narcissistic fundamentalist who wants to go beyond the cam whoring and selfie pictures. The great secret is that it can even make you money going live.

There are platforms like Twitch that pays users to stream their live game play of popular games.

So what are your options if you don’t play e-games?

USTREAM

One of the household names in Live Streaming was created for mass market broadcasting. The free streaming is ad supported and as a free user, you also have a limited number of hours/bandwidth for broadcasting. To get on the unlimited broadcasting rights without adverts, you need to sign up for the pro package which isn’t cheap. It cost between US$99 to US$2500 a month!

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Mobile users pay from 3.99 a month for streaming, which includes both live or recorded broadcast.

Users can get to watch a wide variety of streams, most of which are either puppy cams or bird cams which at best, are cures for insomnia. The nicer deeds are the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s broadcast, where you can watch live swimming Blue Fin Tuna to whet your appetite. Beyond that, people broadcast everything from their gameplay to their front lawn for you to observe how grass grows. Not terribly exciting but some will find this amusing enough to sit for hours to watch this.

Broadcasting isn’t just limited to mobile for this platform. Ustream also works on desktop PCs. To interact with your followers, you can view the chat screen but seriously, that’s not always the best option if all you are looking at are puppies.

YouNOW

A big live streaming site for the younger generation that’s hugely popular in Europe and state side. Most of them appearing here are teens who stream from their notebook PCs but for those who have built a loyal following, mobile streaming is the way to go.

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There are no ads, no sign up fees, nada. It’s free to stream and you only have to worry about exhausting your mobile bandwidth while at it. YouNow makes money through fans, who buy virtual goods to tip their idols. You buy virtual gold bars and give them away and out of that, streamers get a cut on the money you spent.

What makes YouNow different is that every one you follow can be viewed in a archived format. That means if you can’t spend the time to watch them live from wherever you are, you can of course watch the recorded episode. The only difference is that you can’t partake in the bantering that happens live.

Some of those who have made money from YouNow includes an arab bloke that goes by the name of Mr.Cashier. He works in a convenience store in NY and streams video from his smartphone. He now earns more money from streaming on YouNow than his day job at the store!

YouNow also have a team of moderators who prowl the live feeds for anything offensive. So there is no porn stars wannabes or for that matter, extreme elements allowed. You get banned and that’s the end of that.

The ranking of famous broadcasters is done live, through the use of hashtags. If you are a guy or gal, you can see your live ranking climb to number one. To interact with your live followers, you have a chat screen where you can type in your questions while the answer live online. There is of course a 10 to 15 second delay depending on how busy that particular broadcaster is. Sometimes there could be as much as 300 people shooting questions at a time.

So far, they don’t have bird cam or puppy cams. Which is a nice departure from Ustream.

Meerkat

The love child of Twitter which was later abandoned for the sake of adopting Periscope has had tongues wagging all over the Valley. Meerkat was a garage style start up and has many loyal broadcasters…many whom are Meerkat moderators. This means they have the power to weed trolls out who basically are there to throw morally defunct questions at broadcasters.

Engagement is through a chat window but there is a caveat. Whatever you type on chat appears on your Twitter account feed. So for people who follow you, they get to know who you are talking to as well. Currently out on iOS for Android, Meerkat for iOS has both Twitter and Facebook login support. Of late, Twitter has been actively cutting Meerkat access and support, so unless Facebook picks it up. It might just fall apart.

katdibcxe1rx8pqkxgo9Meerkat is not for those who want to make money from Live Streaming, again, the model of business is very similar to that of Twitter. Fans get to follow their broadcasting idols. You get more famous, hopefully to the status of a celebrity. Many of the broadcasters are schooled on how to stream and even handle difficult moments when a troll pops up. For this, Meerkat has got a dedicated team of broadcasters even though the topics often are not all that engaging.

Users who want to broadcast live will find it hard to get eyeballs because of Meerkat’s rather poor discovery tool. Scheduling is relatively easy but not everyone who wishes to stream will be featured. There is no recorded broadcast to watch if you miss it live but there is a third party service which records up to one hour of live broadcast for you to watch later.

Periscope

Currently available on both Android & iOS, this streaming service is exclusive to Twitter. Followers will get to watch saved streams if they are not around to catch them live and every schedule or live broadcast is featured in the mobile app.

1-4YJGSEXeDu8w6mUzj-AaGwOne of the advantages of this service is that you can stream in landscape format so followers get to see more. Like Meerkat, all your comments in the chat column is Twittered.

News broadcasters seem to favor this streaming app over Meerkat. So far, many of the live streams shown are nothing short of extraordinary. You can catch the morning news as it happens and watch live testing of racing cars at the test tracks to the U2 Live concert through the eyes of the audience. Meerkat just doesn’t have the content to compete with this sort of broadcasting.

Broadcasters on Periscope are more global, as you have both middle eastern and European broadcasters. What’s more, you often get far more eyeballs on Periscope than on Meerkat.

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The End must Justify the Means

All mobile streaming apps take a heavy toll on your mobile bandwidth.  So your intended goal of using a particular app must suit the target audience. So far, the only one that you can make money from is YouNow. Cost you next to nothing to sign up but you bear the cost of streaming live. Building an audience is hard work so nothing comes without effort.

Audience wise, live streaming doesn’t quite have the sort of eyeballs to justify a daily broadcast routine. Those on Periscope and Meerkat get between 50 to 350 live followers at any one time. The only time it made a difference was during the Mayweather and Pacman Vegas fight where pay-per-view TV was streamed live by users and even then, you get only 8,000 people watching along with you. YouNow easily attracts over 100 viewers while both Periscope and Meerkat struggle to match those numbers.

Streaming live to your friends is probably the next big thing and this could happen with Facebook since socially, that would be the meeting point. However not everyone will have the time to devote to your live broadcast and for that, you just gotta to do the maths to find out if the end justifies the means.

Hugo Barra Debunks Microsoft Partnership with Xiaomi

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In a G+ post, Hugo Barra has come up to clear the air regarding Xiaomi’s apparent defection to Microsoft Mobile that has been aired all over the Internet.

In a strongly worded post, Hugo had this to say.

– This is an experimental program led by Microsoft, working directly with the Mi fan community in China.

– Microsoft is working on a build of Windows 10 specifically for Mi 4 devices. This Windows 10 build will not be running on top of Android nor be available as a dual-boot option. A small number of Mi 4 power users from the Xiaomi Forum in China who choose to take part in this experimental program will have to manually re-flash their Mi 4 devices with this Windows 10 ROM, in the same way they would re-flash other Android ROMs.

– At Xiaomi, we are very supportive of users trying new things and we encourage them to do so all the time! That’s why all of our devices ship with unlocked bootloader, for example. That’s also why Xiaomi welcomes Microsoft team members to interact directly with members of the Xiaomi Forum in China. More details will be announced by Microsoft in the coming months. This program will only be available in China.

This shows that Xiaomi has no official relationship with Microsoft as portrayed by the Tech Press and isn’t planning on releasing any Xioami phones running Microsoft for the global market. As is, Microsoft has teamed up with the Chinese user group to test their Windows Mobile 10 on Mi phones. It’s not going global even if it can run Windows Mobile as there are patent issues that has to be resolved in specific countries.

Xiaomi has introduced its brand into the US and has not officially open a channel to sell their smartphones because of patent issues. In India, Xiaomi is faced a nasty lawsuit from Ericsson AB. So far it has not encountered similar problems during its release in Singapore and Malaysia but it remains to be seen if Xiaomi has the clout to withstand challenges from the likes of Apple, Google or Microsoft should it ever attempt to go global.

Xiaomi phones can run stock android from Google should it be released in the global market. However it still has to pay a minor licensing fee should it adopt Google services and apps running within its Mi launcher. Xiaomi runs a forked version of Android as Google’s services do not work in China. This forked Android operation system however does not include the patent protection it needs to sell hardware outside of the Chinese market.

– Xiaomi continues to fully embrace the Android ecosystem through our MIUI software platform and we’re moving ahead full steam building many exciting new Android-based features and services.

Bluebox Finds Malware on Xiaomi Mi 4 (China Version)

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Before we jump the gun, let’s be clear on one thing. Bluebox runs a security check mobile app for Android that measures the security level of your phone. It can be downloaded here.

What the folks at Bluebox found was that their test device was, let’s say obtained, from third party sellers which may have compromised. They ran the security check app and found loads of malware.

The Xiaomi Mi4 phone itself was a Chinese version, this means it’s not the international version sold in Singapore, India or Malaysia that is at fault.

What they found on the phone is scary. The third party Chinese retailers have been busy installing stuff into the phone without you knowing about it.

One particularly nefarious app was Yt Service. Yt Service embeds an adware service called DarthPusher that delivers ads to the device among other things[2]. This was an interesting find because, though the app was named Yt Service, the developer package was named com.google.hfapservice (note this app is NOT from Google). Yt Service is highly suspicious because it disguised its package to look as if it came from Google; something an Android user would expect to find on their device. In other words, it tricks users into believing it’s a “safe” app vetted by Google.

Other risky apps of note included PhoneGuardService (com.egame.tonyCore.feicheng) classified as a Trojan, AppStats classified (org.zxl.appstats) as riskware and SMSreg classified as malware[3]

So how do you know if your device is safe? You can take the Bluebox challenge and find out yourself. All you need is to download the free software from Bluebox on the Google Playstore

BlueBox Android App

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What this app does is explain some of problems found on your OS. Most of these are not fixable on your own and require updates on the OS. For example the “Settings PendingIntent” vulnerability and ‘GraphicsBuffer Overflow’ are system based. You can’t change them on your own.

Apps with System Level Privilege

Another problem here is Bluebox will flag your device if  you have too many System Level Privilege mobile apps installed. This is something out of your control as the apps are on Google Playstore with these requirements. Developers will make use of these APIs in order to create a functioning app and in the process, needs to read your phone state. This makes it difficult for people to approve or deny the system privileges as should you deny them, the app won’t install.

What you can do is write to the developer to ask them for clarification on why they would require these privileges in the first place before installing. If they ignore you, you can flag them up as suspicious.

Beyond this, there is nothing much you can do. Even by having security software installed, you can only detect suspicious apps during installation and avoid them. Security problems inherent in KitKat can only be solved when the system is updated. In the past, at least for my Samsung device, security updates have been rolled out to address some of the problems but Android security problems are much deeper and can only be rectified by Google themselves.