Category Archives: Software/Tech

Remember that shortage of software developers?

Low-code platforms allow ordinary people to develop extraordinary apps that solve everyday business problems.

Source: The untapped potential of citizen developers

This has been underway for quite some time as tools have become simpler to use, and the necessity of efficient algorithm designs became less as hardware became much faster. Pretty soon, lots of apps can be created using simpler tools, opening app creation to a larger audience of non-specialists.

All of a sudden, we may not need all those “boot camp” web site developers.

Australia’s smart phone contact tracing app found 17 potential “cases”

The Australian government says its COVIDSafe app identified 2,827 potential close contacts from 37,668 encounters in NSW and Victoria. Only 17 cases in NSW were identified separately to manual contact tracing efforts, however.

Source: COVIDSafe uploaded 1.65m ‘handshakes’ and was only used by NSW and Victoria | ZDNet

I have been pointing out for 15 months that the technology for smart phone contact tracing is inadequate and prone to significant errors, with a high false positive rate, and missing many actual contacts. Ultimately, the teach has found very few unique cases – but it has managed to shut down whole industries in the UK after flagging 600,000 people in one week, and forced a fully vaccinated Prime Minister who also had natural acquired immunity since he had the disease – in to a 10 day quarantine.

Strava fitness tracking app grew during pandemic

Strava, a fitness tracking app created by two former Harvard University rowers, has more than 86 million users and saw massive growth amid the pandemic as more people have started to work out at home.

Source: In Peloton competition with gyms, fitness app Strava can win

I used it for a bit but for me, I did not have much use for tracking my own fitness activities. But it did work well.

(A extended family member has worked for Strava for several years.)

Hmmmm: “Apple removes Fakespot from App Store after Amazon complains”

Like all social media with user generated content, Amazon’s reviews have tons of fake reviews:

Apple has removed Fakespot, a well-known app for detecting fake product reviews, from its App Store after Amazon complained the app provided misleading information and potential security risks.

Source: Apple removes Fakespot from App Store after Amazon complains

Fakespot and ReviewMeta help identify the degree of fakeness and misinformation in their reviews.

Apparently the FakeSpot app, however, basically superimposes itself over the Amazon web pages to insert app review information. Users make purchases via the FakeSpot app interface which passes the information through to the Amazon API. While Amazon says they dispute the “fake reviews” analysis, the grounds for their requesting the app be removed appears to be the potential for information security problems with an app acting as an interface to the Amazon services.

Windows 365 – cloud-based

Perhaps for those with genuine high speed, affordable network connections Windows 365-cloud-based computing has value.

For those lacking such connections, this may not add value.

I am not yet seeing significant value for myself.

The advantages to this approach include lower maintenance costs, higher resistance to cyberattacks and malware, faster provisioning, less downtime for PC failures, easier patching, less disruptive, updates and far easier shifts to and from work-from-home. Also, you should be better able to share content collaboratively because you can build that sharing more aggressively into apps.

Among the disadvantages: additional costs (yet to be determined), more dependency on the network, higher latency (whichc ould adversely impact some types of work), and more aggravation due to the use of dual-factor authentication. (The latter will be critical to securing Windows 365.)

Source: Windows 365: The version of Windows that will change the PC world | Computerworld

Rather than buying a PC and some software, you’ll be expected to buy some hardware and then pay a monthly subscription fee forever.

If you stop paying the monthly fee, do you lose access to your data?

Tech company non-compete mandates targeted by Biden admin

Source: “Bad mergers” and noncompete clauses targeted in Biden executive order | Ars Technica

One company I worked for handed me their non-compete agreement. It said if I ever left the company, I agreed not to work in any tech company for a year.

I said I could not sign that as I had family to feed.

Oh, he said, here’s a different agreement – and pulled a different from out from the files. This one was limited to the specific tech of projects I worked on. Heh.

Since this was a huge company that did tech in many fields, the first policy would have effectively meant I could not work anywhere.

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.