Three new malware strains infect 20,000 Android apps, impossible to wipe

AppleInsider reported on three new malware strains infecting 20,000 apps, impossible to wipe, only affect Android.

“For individuals, getting infected with Shedun, Shuanet and ShiftyBug might mean a trip to the store to buy a new phone. Because these pieces of adware root the device and install themselves as system applications, they become nearly impossible to remove, usually forcing victims to replace their device in order to regain normalcy,” noted researcher Michael Bentley.

[…]

The contaminated apps Lookout found were harvested from Google Play, infected with a payload and then republished on third party app sites enabled by Google’s open app model allowing Android users to find and download apps from multiple stores.

Apple has repeatedly maintained that Android’s permissive software installation “features” were a security risk, but Android’s architects, partners and enthusiast users denied this while portraying Apple’s App Store model—providing a single, vetted source for iOS apps—as being an unnecessarily restrictive “Walled Garden.”

It is quite serious when the infection survives even a factory data wipe.

Facebook is going to start giving video makers a cut

Wired reported on Facebook giving video makers a cut.

While Facebook’s video numbers continue to grow, some critics, such as well-known YouTube creator Hank Green, have questioned Facebook’s standard for counting video views (a view is any video seen for 3 seconds or more). YouTube, for its part, counts a “view” as someone watching a video for 30 seconds or more.

Another big issue is how some Facebook pages are stealing videos and using them to gain a following and to get view counts, often without crediting the creator and disfiguring the videos with text slapped over them. Will Facebook be more active in taking down such videos to protect creators?

The background data and battery usage of Facebook’s iOS app

Federico Viticci wrote about the background data and battery usage of Facebook’s iOS app.

Every time I take a look at a friend’s iPhone, Facebook is the app with the highest amount of battery usage in the background – even with Background App Refresh turned off. This has been going on for years, and instead of fixing the issue, it does seem like Facebook is always coming up with new ways to circumvent user control and consume more energy.

The fact that a company the size of Facebook can’t optimize energy consumption of their iOS app is simply ridiculous. If they can but don’t want to (because of processes they want to run in the background, constant notifications, etc.) – well, that’s even worse.

My solution has been the same for the past couple of years: never install the Facebook app, and always access Facebook from Safari.

I uninstalled Facebook almost more than a year ago and have noticed improvement in the battery life. Whenever friends or relatives complain about battery life, Facebook always tops the battery usage list. I surf Facebook in Safari and it is more than enough.

I use the Facebook Messenger app more than the actual Facebook app so there’s no need for the app, which is a big source of distraction on top of being a battery sink.

Fixing Evernote

Bradley Chambers wrote about fixing Evernote.

For a service I pay for, Evernote had become quite annoying. Instead of making its core features even better, it adding features like Work Chat, and became seriously annoying with notifications about explaining new features….over and over again. I do not want another chat client. I do not care about Evernote for Teams. I simply want Evernote to work how I have always used it. Over the past 3 years, the application seems to get in my way more than it helps me. A perfect example is that on iOS, the reminders section is easier to get to than the search bar.

This resonates with me. I used OneNote heavily to sort out my ideas, research materials and writings. It had many shortcomings and I searched intensively for a replacement but never found one until Evernote was launched. I imported my OneNote library into Evernote and loved working with it so much that I subscribed for a Premium account.

The service has been stagnant for a while, and as Chambers pointed out, the app has been bogged down by unnecessary features. Why build a chat client? Hook Evernote to Slack and it would help immensely. It might even bring in new users.

Plain Text Option
This would allow people to easily get their text in and out of Evernote. Exporting notes out of Evernote also generates a .html document. They’d be better off to export files as a .docx than .html.

One of my main complaints about Evernote is the lack of plain text support. Evernote text is stored in some form of proprietary syntax based off xhtml. You can copy and paste rich text, but your mileage may vary depending on the input or output sources.

This is why I prefer to work with plain text. Rather than risk having my formatting mangled by the various ways different apps style rich text format, I type in Markdown. This ensures that my final output would always be the consistent.

Evernote doesn’t even have to explicitly support Markdown. It just needs to allow us to save notes in plain text and Markdown users can work with our preferred Markdown converter to get our desired output.

This is where Apple’s Notes app comes in. The latest update with iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan has made the app a big contender as a replacement for Evernote, in my personal workflow at least. I tested iCloud sync across iOS and Mac. It is basically watching yourself type on the one device and watch the text appear on the next. Of course, you need a stable internet connection for that to happen. But I suspect you don’t need a fast connection, especially if you’re working with only text.

The initial impressions of the new Notes app have been positive and I’m optimistic that it will eventually become my primary, or even sole, note-taking app.

Evernote open sources its localisation tool

Interesting. I’m also still keeping an eye on the recent hurdles that Evernote is facing.

We at Evernote are fans of Open Source, and use a good deal of Open Source products and libraries. Now it’s time to give back to the community. During the last half year we’ve been busy preparing our localization system, writing documentation, cleaning up code. And today we’re proud to release it publicly as an open-source product! It’s called Serge, an acronym standing for ‘String Extraction and Resource Generation Engine’.

_via [Evernote Tech Blog The Care and Feeding of Elephants](https://blog.evernote.com/tech/2015/10/15/our-continuous-localization-system-serge-is-now-open-source/)_

Thoughts on Evernote’s recent troubles

That resulted in inferior products with lots of bugs, drawing bad reviews and heavy criticism from its users. PenUltimate, a handwriting app Evernote acquired in 2012, received a lot of complaints when it rolled out an updated version for the first time in 2014, causing the company to issue an apology and another update within a week.

Skitch, an app that lets you add captions or markups to photos, has a three-star rating (out of five) on the Apple App Store, while Work Chat, the new messaging feature it released last year, is seeing a lot of negative feedback on its own forum.

Evernote Food, a standalone app that lets users share recipes and food photos, entirely shut down last month, as did other experimental products like Evernote Hello and Peek.

via Evernote is in deep trouble – Business Insider

I’ve used and loved Evernote for a long time. However over the past year, I’ve been making many attempts to migrate away from it. It’s not exactly one specific reason/issue that is causing me to move away, but many little quirks that give you the feeling of death by a thousand cuts. Sadly they’ve also killed Evernote Food which I quite liked, but that’s understandable, as it always felt like some kind of a side project.

Nowadays I seldom use Skitch or Penultimate, as they now feel clunky and troublesome. It’s not entirely Evernote’s fault, as there are other factors that count against it, such as the current version of OS X offering pretty good annotation fools, and a solid Notes app. However, Evernote’s feature set is still powerful enough that they should be able to get through this tough period.

If anything, I feel Evernote should get back to sorting out some core issues, such as:

  • Sync speed
  • Sync conflict handling
  • Stability of offline notes
  • Ease of use

I’ve since tweaked my workflow to use these apps (Evernote is still a part of it):

  • Simplenote: Still my current favourite quick note-taking app due to lightning fast sync, plain-text only notes, and support OS X, iOS, and web.
  • OneNote: For offline notes. Evernote’s offline notes feature is still horrible, and what makes it worse is that it’s a paid service. I’ve had too many instances where I needed an offline file while traveling and couldn’t get to it.
  • Evernote: Functioning more like an “archive of everything else” which I search slowly (because it really is very slow and clunky) for random bits of information.
  • Apple’s Notes: The latest update of Notes with iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan offers support for images and PDF, which I’m currently testing as a replacement for OneNote as my travel notebook. Useful information such as scans of my passport, boarding passes, etc, can be stored in here now. So far so good. If it works out, I’ll be switching from OneNote to this. It also supports multiple levels of sub-folders, which is really useful to me.

I’m still a paying Evernote customer, but unless they get these core issues fixed, I probably won’t renew my subscription and will revert to the free tier.

Samsung decides not to patch kernel vulnerabilities in non-Lollipop S4 devices

Softpedia reported on Samsung not patching kernel vulnerabilities in non-Lollipop S4 phones.

According to Jonathan Salwan, one of QuarksLAB’s junior security researchers, Samsung took 3 months to acknowledge the bugs (November 2014), and only responded to QuarksLAB’s emails after the company went public with their research on September 21, 2015.

“They just acknowledged the issues, then went silent until this blog post popped,” said Mr. Salwan. “Samsung just confirmed to us that the JB and KK families will not be patched and that the vulnerabilities are only patched on the LL family.”

Because security is a priority.

Samsung accused of programming TVs to cheat energy efficiency ratings

Boing Boing reported on Samsung being accused of programming TVs to cheat energy efficiency ratings.

Samsung admits that its TVs radically changed their power-consumption during testing, but say that the low-power mode was inadvertently triggered by the tests, and was meant to be an automatic power-saving feature.

If it’s a power saving feature, why is it only activated during tests and not in real-world usage?

Google’s Nexus phones are just ads

The Verge reported on Google’s Nexus phones being just ads.

It almost seems innocuous, except that it’s not. There isn’t a single Android device manufacturer that is happy with the Nexus program, and I’ve spoken with them all. Those who build Nexuses for Google often do so reluctantly — with the possible exception of Huawei this year, whose US reputation stands to improve dramatically from the halo effect of being associated with Google by manufacturing the Nexus 6P. Still, neither Huawei nor LG, maker of the Nexus 5X, expects to make much direct profit from these new phones: they are priced aggressively and distributed narrowly, so there’ll be little (if any) profit per device and few devices sold overall. Like Google, all a Nexus manufacturer can hope to gain is the benefit of indirect marketing and a better reputation among Android diehards.

[…]

In previous years, I’d have said the Nexus devices were necessary, vital even, in steering Android in a better direction and fighting the fragmentation of ugly, dysfunctional, and inchoate manufacturer software slapped on top. In 2015, however, Android phone makers have grown more conscientious and restrained. Their software and industrial design are more elegant than ever, and their pricing is as aggressive as it can be.

There is no Android villain left for the Nexus crusader to slay. The premium Nexus 6P and the value-for-money Nexus 5X are just diving into a crowded field without any mission for improving it — in fact, they’re going to make everyone worse off by hastening the price erosion that is the bane of every Android device manufacturer’s existence. This situation might look just dandy for us, the consumers, today, but I don’t think we’ll be happy if it leads to the extinction of companies like HTC or the exit from smartphone making by the likes of Sony.

The Android ecosystem still needs Google to take the lead. The race to the bottom is borne from the way the ecosystem works and Google not making Nexus devices will not stop the dwindling profits for Android devices.

Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet

Quartz reported on millions of Facebook users having no idea they’re using the internet.

This is more than a matter of semantics. The expectations and behaviors of the next billion people to come online will have profound effects on how the internet evolves. If the majority of the world’s online population spends time on Facebook, then policymakers, businesses, startups, developers, nonprofits, publishers, and anyone else interested in communicating with them will also, if they are to be effective, go to Facebook. That means they, too, must then play by the rules of one company. And that has implications for us all.

This is a very interesting trend, and a reminder that everyone’s introduction and experiences with smartphones and the internet differ a lot.