Monday, 24 February 2014

CyanogenMod for Nokia?

Finally! Nokia has seen the light and made some Android phones!

They're low-end models, they're made to look like Windows Phones, and they have a watered-down version of Android with a Nokia app store that's as empty as the Windows Phone software shop, but it's a start. Because they have all the Android drivers built in, it shouldn't be too hard to make custom ROMs with the full Google Play Store and all its apps and Google syncing options.

Back when Nokia wouldn't even look at Android there was a CyanogenMod port for the Nokia N9, but that phone got abandoned real quick. But the new Nokia Android phones should have a longer lifespan, and maybe Nokia will add a few better-specced Androids later on?

Nokia hardware with the flexibility of Android... sounds like a promising alternative for when your Samsung needs replacement.

Update: Done! Nokia X rooted and filled with Google apps.
Google apps on Nokia X at xda

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Thursday, 20 February 2014

Facebook buys WhatsApp: good news for Telegram

Facebook wants your phone number

Facebook often asks you to give them your phone number so they can spam you send you your password in case you forget. If you're like me, you keep your phone number away from Facebook. You don't put it in your Facebook profile, and you make sure that the Facebook app on your phone (whether it's the official app or an alternative client) can't read your number. That's what apps like Xprivacy and LBE are for.

But now Facebook bought WhatsApp for almost 20 billion dollars. And that money has to come back somehow. How? Not by piling up the few cents that a small fraction of WhatsApp users pay for the app. Facebook got rich by selling you, and it doesn't look like they're gonna change their business model anytime soon.

So why did Facebook spend all those bucks? They went shopping because WhatsApp has to do for Facebook what Facebook Messenger failed to do. For example, Facebook is losing the young at a slow but growing rate (do teens want to be on the same social network as their grandmother?). By buying WhatsApp Facebook reeled all those kids back in. And there's more: Facebook just bought the phone numbers of every WhatsApp user. WhatsApp may stay free of ads, but that doesn't mean your WhatsApp data won't be used to target Facebook ads. Can Mark Zuckerberg resist the temptation to milk your WhatsApp chats to feed his Facebook ads? Sounds scary, no?

Which is good news for alternative chat clients. Viber could grow faster, Skype might make a comeback. But for now the most obvious candidate to profit from WhatsApp's sellout is Telegram. They've already seen their signups skyrocket since the news of Facebook buying WhatsApp got all over the web. They may be small now, but that's how Facebook and WhatsApp started just a couple of years ago.

Telegram is what WhatsApp should have been

Telegram looks like a carbon copy of WhatsApp. Same tab layout, same smilies, same functions, same look and feel. But Telegram is not exactly like WhatsApp.

For starters, Telegram lets you sync your chats across devices. And they don't all have to be phones. Tablets and PCs can send telegrams too.

Of course your Telegram chats are encrypted. In the standard setup they're encrypted between you and Telegram's servers, but you can activate a full end-to-end encryption mode called "Secret Chats" which makes your chats so secret that not even Telegram can read them. You can make your Secret Chats self-destruct after reading, but I guess it won't be long before someone will make a Telegram version of Keepchat, the Xposed module that lets you keep Snapchats.

According to Telegram's Play Store description:

"Unlike WhatsApp, Telegram is cloud-based and heavily encrypted. As a result, you can access your messages from several devices (including desktops!) and share an unlimited number of photos, videos and documents (doc, zip, mp3, etc). Thanks to our multi-data center infrastructure and encryption, Telegram is also faster and way more secure. On top of that, Telegram is free and will stay free — no ads, no subscription fees, forever."

No ads, no subscription fees? Then what keeps Telegraph alive? Philantropy.

"Pavel Durov, who shares our vision, supplied Telegram with a generous donation through his Digital Fortress fund, so we have quite enough money for the time being. If Telegram runs out, we'll invite our users to donate or add non-essential paid options."

Sounds good, right? And there's more good stuff:

"Telegram is open, anyone can check our source code, protocol and API, see how everything works and make an informed decision."

The API part sounds especially appealing, because it allows developers to add Telegram to multi-network chat apps and help us get rid of the chat and VoIP fragmentation that gets worse with every new proprietory communication app that hits the app stores.

Spread the word

Telegram has one problem. A big problem. Your friends are not on Telegram. Of course, that problem can be fixed. By you.

Telegram lets you invite your friends to join the network. And for all the fans of irony out there: Telegram allows you to invite your friends to ditch WhatsApp and Facebook Chat through WhatsApp and Facebook Chat. Yep, that Android share menu is a great thing!

Telegram (Google Play Store)
Telegram website

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Monday, 10 February 2014

Yet another free year (yay!): did anyone ever pay for WhatsApp?


WhatsApp is a great service. OK, it doesn't have an off switch, but anyone with a rooted phone can fix that. That's a small price to pay, considering that WhatsApp can do a lot more than SMS and MMS.

How small of a price to pay? It's supposed to be a little under a euro per year. For me it's a lot under a euro per year. In fact, I never paid for WhatsApp, and it seems that they don't even want my money.

What's that?


I've been using WhatsApp for years. And all those years there were rumors floating all over the world wild web claiming that some day I'd have to throw WhatsApp a few coins to keep apping.

And then WhatsApp extended my free trial. And again and again and again. To date they never ever asked me to pay. Just now I received a notification that I have another free year. My free trial got extended to 14 March 2015.


There are a few methods to hack your way into using WhatsApp for free. You can delete your WhatsApp account, then set it up again after (re)downloading the app with a new Play Store Gmail address, then restore your old WhatsApp messages from a backup. This way WhatsApp thinks you're a new user with a recycled phone number. Popping your SIM card into an old Symbian phone (and then putting it back into your Android) is another way to extend your free trial.

But what's the point of tricking WhatsApp if it sends you a message every year telling you that they don't want your money? I don't know anyone who ever had to pay for WhatsApp. It seems that everybody gets their trial extended year after year. A quick Google search digs up lots of people who keep getting their trial renewed for free. Some get a renewal 'till next year, some until 2022, some for life. People who really had to pay are few and far between.


Why do so many people get their free WhatsApp trial extended over and over again? Is it because there are so many free alternatives (Viber, BBM, Hangouts, Skype, ChatOn, etc.) that making people pay for a chat client is no longer a viable business model? WhatsApp has the "System (installed apps)" Android permission, so if WhatsApp sees you have a few competing chat apps installed it may decide that making you pay will just encourage you to use competing apps instead. Or maybe I just got another free year because I popped my SIM card into a shiny new phone with a shiny new Google account a few months ago? My phone number didn't change, though.

That makes me wonder how WhatsApp is ever going to make money. After all, they promised they would never ever pollute their app with ads. Will they finally start charging when they run out of money, or will they break their promise and add ads anyway, like so many other online services did despite their promises?


Did anyone out there ever pay for WhatsApp because their free years didn't get extended anymore? Did anyone switch to the competition when their trial really ran out? Leave a comment below to let us know if your free trial got extended again or not.


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Sunday, 9 February 2014

Carrier IQ has to die: tell your Android phone and tablet manufacturers that you don't want their spyware

Remember the Carrier IQ scandal? Quick memory refresher: Carrier IQ is a rootkit (something really bad, worse than a virus) that spies on you, and sends lots of stuff to the computers at Carrier IQ HQ that you'd rather keep for yourself. Your location, the websites you visit, who you call and text, that sort of stuff. It infects many Android phones, and was found on iPhones too.

Carrier IQ forwards your private data to phone manufacturers and carriers without asking you first, and without letting you opt out.

For example, Carrier IQ can tell your carrier which websites you surf to, even if you use WiFi to avoid your carriers data network.

When Carrier IQ was caught with their pants down they denied everything, fired legal threats at the man who exposed their crimes (Trevor Eckhart, the Ed Snowden of Android), and only backed down when they found the whole world against them.

But Carrier IQ didn't die. It still pollutes our gadgets, even if you buy an unbranded phone or tablet to avoid the bloatware slapped on by your carrier.

When I went into the shortcut menu of my Samsung Galaxy S4 mini I found the entries highlighted in the screenshot above. Four pointers to Carrier IQ junk, and no way to remove them because they are integrated into essential system processes in the same way the AIDS virus puts its genes into your DNA.

Most apps meant to detect Carrier IQ were unable to find the infection, but after testing a few apps from the Play Store I hit Disable Carrier IQ Mod by Pavel Valenta. This app found Carrier IQ, but was unable to do anything about it. Of course I could get rid of it by switching to a custom ROM like CyanogenMod, but to date the custom ROMs for my phone have too many bugs to dump the stock ROM.

Maybe Carrier IQ on my Samsung is dormant, waiting for a trigger. Maybe it is sending all sorts of stuff home to its makers. Either way, I don't want any junk from Carrier IQ on my phone, so I'll keep looking for a way to get rid of it. Meanwhile, I told Samsung that if they won't let me remove Carrier IQ from my Android my next phone will not be a Samsung. If all of you speak out they might get the message. Samsung is not the only one who puts the Carrier IQ spyware on its gadgets, so if you find Carrier IQ on your non-Samsung Android or other device, tell its manufacturer that they'll lose a customer if they don't clean up their act.

CIQ discussion on xda (warning: full of geekspeak and raw code)
The Rootkit Of All Evil: CIQ (xda on CIQ in non-geekspeak)
Carrier IQ on Samsung Galaxy S4 mini (xda thread)
Disable Carrier IQ Mod by Pavel Valenta (detected Carrier IQ on my phone, but couldn't do anything against it)\

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