Friday, 24 June 2011

Jbak TaskMan for Android needs lots of work

Jbak TaskMan is an excellent task manager and quick launcher for Symbian, and there's an Android version too.

The good news: the Android version of Jbak TaskMan is updated.

The bad news: the Android version is not ready for use yet.

Keep it offline

The trouble with Jbak TaskMan for Android starts right when you install it. It asks for a truckload of permissions: just about every permission that endangers privacy and security is in there, including keylogger functionality. This may be a side effect of Jbaks ability to take over your home button or bypass the slider lock screen because Android tends to stack innocent and dangerous permissions together, but combined with full internet access there's too much potential for bad stuff. Jbak doesn't explain why it wants full internet access, and the app runs fine without it. My advice: keep Jbak offline with DroidWall or LBE Privacy Guard. You should do this for any app that works fine offline but asks for internet access anyway.

Jbak autostarts when you install it, and downloads a lot data before you get a chance to block it. Really, what did Jbak upload and download in those 56 kB that my traffic stats reported before I even launched the app?

Once you've banned Jbak from going online it's time to dig into the app and its settings.

What's inside?

When you launch Jbak it fires up the same split screen as in Symbian: one half of your screen displays your running tasks, the other half is empty and waiting for you to fill it with quick launch shortcuts. The two parts are separated by four buttons: one to toggle between running apps and all installed apps, another with RAM and battery info that launches Androids hidden info menu called "testing" (the same app that fires up when you dial *#*#4636#*#*), a button that shows the free storage space on your internal memory and SD card (which launches the settings app), and a switch to selects idly running apps so you can kill 'em all at once. Unfortunately the buttons have black text on a dark grey background, so have fun trying to read them.

Tell Jbak who's the boss

Time to hit the settings screen and tame the app.

You can run Jbak TaskMan as a background service, make it take over your home button, and turn it into your default desktop. The default desktop option means that your launcher requires an extra click to get into.

This is followed by some settings to change the program interface. You can set actions for tapping, double tapping, and long-tapping your home key (because not everybody want Jbak to launch by a single tap on the home button), but this simply fires up JBaks version of the app drawer. This means that there's no way to launch Androids own recent tasks screen while JBak is in charge. Well, there is a way to get the default long-press action back, but enabling this setting will turn your home key into a task switcher when you single tap it.

The list of settings ends with an option to disable the unlock slider. However, since Froyo this also kills your security lock (PIN, pattern, password) without warning, leaving your phone wide open to anyone who picks it up. You'll need to enter the Android settings to put your security lock back. This will also put the annoying slider screen back, because for some reason you can't have one without the other unless you downgrade to Eclair.

While you're digging in the Androids settings to repair your security lock, also check the double tap behaviour of your home button, because Jbak tends to reset it to default, which is the "voice commands" option. You may need to restore your custom double tap action.

The verdict

Jbak TaskMan for Android has potential, but in its present state it's still a buggy beta test version.

Jbak TaskMan (Android Market)

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