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Original author: 
Cesar Torres


Tumblr Creative Director Peter Vidani

Cesar Torres

New York City noise blares right outside Tumblr’s office in the Flat Iron District in Manhattan. Once inside, the headquarters hum with a quiet intensity. I am surrounded by four dogs that employees have brought to the workspace today. Apparently, there are even more dogs lurking somewhere behind the perpendicular rows of desks. What makes the whole thing even spookier is that these dogs don’t bark or growl. It’s like someone’s told them that there are developers and designers at work, and somehow they’ve taken the cue.

I’m here to see Tumblr’s Creative Director Peter Vidani who is going to pull the curtain back on the design process and user experience at Tumblr. And when I say design process, I don’t just mean color schemes or typefaces. I am here to see the process of interaction design: how the team at Tumblr comes up with ideas for the user interface on its website and its mobile apps. I want to find out how those ideas are shaped into a final product by their engineering team.

Back in May, Yahoo announced it was acquiring Tumblr for $1.1 billion. Yahoo indicated that Tumblr would continue to operate independently, though we will probably see a lot of content crossover between the millions of blog posts hosted by Tumblr and Yahoo’s search engine technology. It’s a little known fact that Yahoo has provided some useful tools for UX professionals and developers over the years through their Design Pattern Library, which shares some of Yahoo’s most successful and time-tested UI touches and interactions with Web developers. It’s probably too early to tell if Tumblr’s UI elements will filter back into these libraries. In the meantime, I talked to Vidani about how Tumblr UI features come to life.

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Original author: 
Florence Ion


What if you could privately use an application and manage its permissions to keep ill-intending apps from accessing your data? That’s exactly what Steve Kondik at CyanogenMod—the aftermarket, community-based firmware for Android devices—hopes to bring to the operating system. It’s called Incognito Mode, and it’s designed to help keep your personal data under control.

Kondik, a lead developer with the CyanogenMod team, published a post on his Google Plus profile last week about Incognito Mode. He offered more details on the feature:

I've added a per-application flag which is exposed via a simple API. This flag can be used by content providers to decide if they should return a full or limited dataset. In the implementation I'm working on, I am using the flag to provide these privacy features in the base system:

  • Return empty lists for contacts, calendar, browser history, and messages.
  • GPS will appear to always be disabled to the running application.
  • When an app is running incognito, a quick panel item is displayed in order to turn it off easily.
  • No fine-grained permissions controls as you saw in CM7. It's a single option available under application details.

The API provides a simple isIncognito() call which will tell you if incognito is enabled for the process (or the calling process). Third party applications can honor the feature using this API, or they can choose to display pictures of cats instead of running normally.

Every time you install a new application on Android, the operating system asks you to review the permissions the app requests before it can install. This approach to user data is certainly precarious because users can't deny individual permissions to pick and choose what an application has access to, even if they still want to use that app. Incognito Mode could potentially fix this conundrum, enabling users to restrict their data to certain applications.

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Original author: 
Ina Fried

Although Google is offering a limited set of developer tools for Glass — and more are on the way — the company doesn’t want to stop hackers from tinkering even further.

google_glass_penguin

Indeed, during a developer conference session on Thursday, Google showed a variety of ways to gain deeper access to Glass. Some, such as running basic Android apps and even connecting a Bluetooth keyboard, can be done.

Google showed other hacks, such as running a version of Ubuntu Linux. Those actions, though, require deeper “root” access to the device. Google showed how developers can get such access, but cautions that doing so voids the warranty and could be irreversible.

That said, Google plans to make its factory image available so in most cases rooted Glass devices should be able to be returned to their original settings.

The session ended with a video showing a pair of the pricey specs being blended to a powdery mess, to heartfelt groans from the packed audience, many of whom forked over $1,500 to be among the first to buy the developer edition of Glass.

Showing a different level of interest in Glass, several members of Congress sent a letter to Google CEO Larry Page on Thursday asking questions about privacy issues raised by the high-tech specs.

Update: At a follow-up Fireside Chat session with developers, Google reiterated that a software development kit for Glass is coming, but Google’s Charles Mendis said not to expect it soon.

Isabelle Olsson, the lead designer for Glass, showed off one of the bulky early prototype designs for Glass as well as a current prototype that combines Glass with prescription glasses.

Prescription Google Glass prototype

Prescription Google Glass prototype

Olsson, who quips that she has been working on Glass since it was a phone attached to a scuba mask, said that the development of Glass was “so ambitious and very messy.”

Getting the device light enough has been a key, Olsson said.

“If it is not light you are not going to want to wear it for more than 10 minutes,” Olsson said. “We care about every gram.”

Asked what kind of apps the Glass team would like to see, Olsson said she wanted a karaoke app, while Mendis said he would like to see some fitness apps.

Google Glass product director Steve Lee said Glass is designed around brief glances or “micro-interactions,” rather than watching a movie or reading an entire book.

“That would be painful,” Lee said. “We don’t want to create zombies staring into the screen for long periods of time.

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Original author: 
Casey Johnston


Pichai seems open to Android meaning lots of different things to lots of people and companies.

It Came from China

An interview with Sundar Pichai over at Wired has settled some questions about suspected Google plans, rivalries, and alliances. Pichai was recently announced as Andy Rubin’s replacement as head of Android, and he expressed cool confidence ahead of Google I/O about the company’s relationships with both Facebook and Samsung. He even felt good about the future of the spotty Android OS update situation.

Tensions between Google and Samsung, the overwhelmingly dominant Android handset manufacturer, are reportedly rising. But Pichai expressed nothing but goodwill toward the company. “We work with them on pretty much almost all our important products,” Pichai said while brandishing his own Samsung Galaxy S 4. “Samsung plays a critical role in helping Android be successful.”

Pichai noted in particular the need for companies that make “innovation in displays [and] in batteries” a priority. His attitude toward Motorola, which Google bought almost two years ago, was more nonchalant: “For the purposes of the Android ecosystem, Motorola is [just another] partner.”

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Original author: 
Jon Brodkin

About six weeks ago, users of Facebook's Android application noticed that they were being asked to install a new version—without going to the Google Play app store.

Android is far more permissive than iOS regarding the installation of third-party applications, even allowing installation from third-party sources if the user explicitly allows it. However, it's unusual for applications delivered through the official Google store to receive updates outside of the store's updating mechanism.

Google has now changed the Google Play store polices in an apparent attempt to avoid Facebook-like end runs around store-delivered updates. Under the "Dangerous Products" section of the Google Play developer policies, Google now states that "[a]n app downloaded from Google Play may not modify, replace or update its own APK binary code using any method other than Google Play's update mechanism." A Droid-Life article says the language update occurred Thursday. APK (standing for application package file) is the file format used to install applications on Android.

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Original author: 
Soulskill

Trailrunner7 writes "Android attacks have become all the rage in the last year or two, and targeted attacks against political activists in Tibet, Iran and other countries have been bubbling up to the surface more and more often. Now, those two trends have converged with the discovery of a targeted attack campaign that's going after Tibetan and Uyghur activists with a spear-phishing message containing a malicious APK file. Researchers say the attack appears to be coming from Chinese sources. The new campaign began a few days ago when unknown attackers were able to compromise the email account of a well-known Tibetan activist. The attackers then used that account to begin sending a series of spear-phishing messages to other activists in the victim's contact list. One of the messages referred to a human rights conference in Geneva in March, using the recipients' legitimate interest in the conference as bait to get them to open the attachment. The malicious attachment in the emails is named 'WUC's Conference.apk.'"

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Samsung has built itself a Android dynasty with its Galaxy phones.

Casey Johnston

Over the last three years, Samsung has risen to become the unequivocal success story for the Android platform. Not only is it the only profitable manufacturer, but it has also spent the last couple of years striking more and more fear into the heart of its mobile arch nemesis, Apple.

As its competitors sprayed Android handsets over the retail scene like buckshot with micro-variations and diverse UI skins, Samsung quickly focused and put most of its effort into creating and promoting a flagship line of handsets. The company set aside support for increasingly niche features like hardware keyboards or confusing, subtle model tweaks in favor of focusing on one quality handset.

Now, the Samsung Galaxy line is unquestionably the most successful one in the history of Android. The most recent version, the Galaxy S III, even briefly displaced the iPhone as the top-selling smartphone for the third quarter of 2012, according to one source. Even Google is reportedly afraid of how successful Samsung has become with its mobile business.

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Nerval's Lobster writes "At a SXSW panel titled, 'Android's Principles for Designing the Future,' Helena Roeber (who headed up Android's UX research from 2007 through 2012) and Rachel Garb (who leads interaction design for Android apps at Google) discussed the complex philosophy behind Android's design. Roeber went back to the very beginning, recounting Google's Android Baseline Study, in which the team made in-home visits to study how people use technology. 'We saw the profound effect that technological design has on people's lives,' she said. 'Technology had become so pervasive that people had started to schedule and enforce deliberate offline moments to spend time with their family and friends.' From that study, the team learned that users were often overwhelmed by their options and 'limitless flexibility,' leading them to consider how to design a mobile operating system that wouldn't beat those users over the head (at least in the proverbial sense) on a minute-by-minute basis. Instead, they focused on an interface capable of serving features to users only when needed. That meant creating an interface that only interrupts users when needed; that does the 'heavy lifting' of the user's tasks and scheduling; that emphasizes 'real objects' over buttons and menus; and that offers lots of chances for customization. All those elements— and many more — eventually ended up in Android's trio of design principles: 'Enchant Me, Simplify My Life, and Make Me Amazing.'"

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This is alarming, if true: according to a group of German security researchers at the University of Erlangen, if you put a locked, encrypted Android phone in the freezer for an hour and then quickly reboot it and plug it into a laptop, the memory will retain enough charge to stay decrypted, and can boot up into a custom OS that can recover the keys and boot the phone up with all the files available in the clear. The attack is called FROST: "Forensic Recovery Of Scrambled Telephones," and it requires a phone with an unlocked bootloader to work.

At the end of 2011, Google released version 4.0 of its Android operating system for smartphones. For the first time, Android smartphone owners were supplied with a disk encryption feature that transparently scrambles user partitions, thus protecting sensitive user information against targeted attacks that bypass screen locks. On the downside, scrambled telephones are a a nightmare for IT forensics and law enforcement, because once the power of a scrambled device is cut any chance other than bruteforce is lost to recover data.

We present FROST, a tool set that supports the forensic recovery of scrambled telephones. To this end we perform cold boot attacks against Android smartphones and retrieve disk encryption keys from RAM. We show that cold boot attacks against Android phones are generally possible for the first time, and we perform our attacks practically against Galaxy Nexus devices from Samsung. To break disk encryption, the bootloader must be unlocked before the attack because scrambled user partitions are wiped during unlocking. However, we show that cold boot attacks are more generic and allow to retrieve sensitive information, such as contact lists, visited web sites, and photos, directly from RAM, even though the bootloader is locked.


FROST: Forensic Recovery Of Scrambled Telephones

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At last year's RSA security conference, we ran into the Pwnie Plug. The company has just come out with a new take on the same basic idea of pen-testing devices based on commodity hardware. Reader puddingebola writes with an excerpt from Wired: "The folks at security tools company Pwnie Express have built a tablet that can bash the heck out of corporate networks. Called the Pwn Pad, it's a full-fledged hacking toolkit built atop Google's Android operating system. Some important hacking tools have already been ported to Android, but Pwnie Express says that they've added some new ones. Most importantly, this is the first time that they've been able to get popular wireless hacking tools like Aircrack-ng and Kismet to work on an Android device." Pwnie Express will be back at RSA and so will Slashdot, so there's a good chance we'll get a close-up look at the new device, which runs about $800.

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