Category Archives: Smart Phones

Chinese app publisher limits children’s use of games at night via facial recognition

Bad feeling about this – we seem to be gradually adopting all of these methods in the West, over time.

Tencent, the world’s largest Chinese video game publisher, has taken an extreme step to comply with its nation’s rules about limiting minors’ access to video games. As of this week, the publisher has added a facial recognition system, dubbed “Midnight Patrol,” to over 60 of its China-specific smartphone games, and it will disable gameplay in popular titles like Honor of Kings if users either decline the facial check or fail it.

In all affected games, once a gameplay session during the nation’s official gaming curfew hours (10 pm to 8 am) exceeds an unspecified amount of time, the game in question will be interrupted by a prompt to scan the player’s face.

Source: Dozens of Chinese phone games now require facial scans to play at night | Ars Technica

Facebook says most app usage on iOS and Android is of pre-installed apps

The majority of apps used by iPhone and Android users are made by Apple and Google, according to a study commissioned by Facebook that was shared with The Verge.

Source: Apple Calls Facebook-Commissioned Study on Preinstalled App Usage ‘Seriously Flawed’ – MacRumors

Apple disagrees, of course.

Back in 2012, when I did my thesis on software issues related to Android power management, I remember that a relatively small number of apps do indeed account for most of the usage time.

The typical user may have many dozens of apps installed on their phone but they use only a handful, most of the time.

On my own phone, Android says there are 150 installed apps, many of which are part of Android and come pre-installed. On a daily basis, I probably use 3 to 5 of those apps. Many I keep because … someday I’ll use them again. For example, Delta and Alaska Airlines apps are on my phone even though I have not flown in 18 months. Some, like a lightning detector and a weather radar app I use only during bad weather – which means they go unused most of the time.

OnePlus phones throttle app performance

To reduce battery power demand, OnePlus phones are, without user permission, prohibiting hundreds of apps from running on the faster CPU cores.

The result is that many apps run up to 75% slower than expected.

But everyone—OnePlus included—seems to agree that OnePlus is taking control of app performance out of the hands of users and deciding what is and isn’t allowed to run at maximum speed on the user’s device.

Source: OnePlus admits to throttling 300 popular apps with recent update | Ars Technica

As noted, OnePlus effectively lowered performance of their phones via software updates AFTER the initial releases gave them good performance reviews.

Longer battery life is made possible by just a few functions:

Batteries with higher capacity

Reducing power of the device

Power can be reduced by disabling unneeded hardware, and reducing the speed of the CPU, when possible. Multi-core phones today also include both fast and slower cores – by moving apps, where possible, to a slower core, more power intensive cores can be throttled or powered off.

One of my patents is in the power management area (involving app level network protocols to reduce power demand). My thesis for my Master’s in software engineering is about the impacts of software algorithm design decisions on power management. The traditional view is the fastest algorithm uses the least amount of power – but that turns out not to be true. Ultimately, some algorithm choices use hardware features that increase power demand – and a seemingly less efficient algorithm can be more effective at reducing power without significantly impacting performance.

Because apps are compiled into byte codes, which in turn may be converted through Just-In-Time compilation into machine instructions – and there are different implementations of byte code interpreters and JIT – there may be variation across devices. Thus, there is no obvious way to predict how one algorithm may perform across different devices, which complicates the selection of algorithms from a power perspective. About all you can do is to measure actual power consumption on a device while the test app is running to determine real world power demand and effects of design choices.

Google Android feature will support Covid-19 vaccination records

But U.S. residents might not have a way to prove their vaccination status as most states and the Federal government have no authentication systems in place. This may make international travel difficult for American residents.

The U.S. is behind other markets in making digital versions of vaccination cards possible. Today, the EU’s COVID certificate, which shows an individual’s vaccination status, test results or recovery status from COVID-19, went live. The certificate (EUDCC) will be recognized by all EU members and will aid with cross-border travel. Israel released a vaccine passport earlier this year that allows vaccinated people to show their “green pass” at places that require vaccinations. Japan aims to have vaccination passports ready by the end of July for international travel.

In the U.S., only a few states have active vaccine certification apps. Many others have either outright banned vaccine passports — which has become a politically loaded term — or are considering doing so.

Given this context, Google’s digital vaccination card is just that — a digital copy of a paper card. It’s not tied to any other government initiatives nor is it a “vaccine passport.”

Source: Google update will allow digital COVID-19 vaccination cards and test results to be stored on Android devices | TechCrunch

More details on Google’s forced install of Covid-tracking app on phones in Massachusetts

Massachusetts launched a COVID tracking app, and uh, it was automatically installed?!

Source: Even creepier COVID tracking: Google silently pushed app to users’ phones | Ars Technica

Not only was it automatically installed, it does not appear with in the apps listed on your device. You can only see it if you go to the Google Play store, look up the app, and it shows as already installed on your device. You cannot uninstall the tracking app.

Update – yeah, it was stupid, creepy and tone deaf:

Elsewhere in the United States, uptake levels of contact-tracing apps have been “incredibly low,” said Sarah Kreps, director of the Cornell Tech Policy Lab, which studies the politics of emerging technologies. She called the launch of MassNotify at this stage in the pandemic “somewhat baffling.”

“It seems to show a lack of understanding about public behavior with respect to these apps, which is that people are more likely to use them if they think that this pandemic is still going on,” Kreps said.
Continue reading More details on Google’s forced install of Covid-tracking app on phones in Massachusetts

Google accused of forcing installation of Covid-19 tracking apps

Google is force-installing a Massachusetts COVID-19 tracking app on residents’ Android devices without an easy way to uninstall it.

For the past few days, users have reported that Google silently installed the Massachusetts ‘MassNotify’ app on their devices without the ability to open it or find it in the Google Play Store.

Source: Google force installs Massachusetts MassNotify Android COVID app

Privacy: Why you should stop using Google Chrome browser

I use Firefox (mostly) or Brave. I use Google Chrome only to check GMail (no longer my primary email) occasionally to avoid logging in to Google services while online with the other browsers. I have done everything I can to minimize use of Google services.

As well as collecting your data, Chrome also gives Google a huge amount of control over how the web works

Source: It’s time to ditch Chrome | WIRED UK

Every time Google was caught making a privacy mistake, their errors were on the side of scooping up way too much. Google’s street view cars, driving all roads in the world, were scooping up all Wi-Fi traffic including unencrypted transmissions. When caught, Google said it was due to a software error. Which is unbelievable as it meant they were collecting terabytes of excess data and pretended no one had noticed this.

Google, contrary to their original stated purposes, is evil.

Public health confirms field is based on belief systems

Who needs data when you’ve got beliefs?

Though they don’t have hard numbers because of security safeguards, they believe plenty of lives have been saved.

Source: Wash. state’s COVID contact tracing app ‘WA Notify’ showing its worth | KATU

There is still no evidence that phone-based Bluetooth tracking has accomplished much. But there is a belief in some quarters; while others have said the tech found little that would not have been caught with other methods.

The end of smart phone based contact tracing apps

As explained in detail several times last year, smart phone-based, Bluetooth-based contact tracing apps were never likely to be useful.

Effectively with this announcement today, Oregon has abandoned it’s smart phone contact tracing apps, joining half the US states that chose to not pursue these apps.

Oregon pausing exposure notification app

This week, OHA decided to pause the ongoing planning of the Exposure Notification (EN) application project rollout for Oregon to focus on vaccinations and other priority efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past six months, OHA has benefited from discussions with local public health departments and other partners, which highlighted the benefits and costs of any early notification app, including the intensive efforts state and local health officials would need to undertake to promote the app and address likely gaps in its adoption across Oregon’s diverse communities, as well as the added contact tracing demands full adoption would place on county public health staff.

OHA appreciates the feedback agency staff heard from our partners working in local communities. State health officials reached the decision after consultation with Gov. Kate Brown’s office.

OHA Public Health Director Rachael Banks said: “Approximately two dozen states have chosen not to deploy smartphone-based apps at this time and instead to rely on other tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. Oregon is focused on building trust with people in communities across the state to get all Oregonians vaccinated and sustain the other COVID-19 prevention practices, such as wearing a mask, staying physically distant and limiting the size and frequency of indoor social get-togethers. These strategies have prevented more than 4,000 COVID-19 deaths in our state. We’ll continue to prioritize these approaches because they remain our best bet to end the pandemic.”

Source: Oregon reports 33 more COVID-19 related deaths, 544 new cases – KTVZ