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Secret Back Doors in Android

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I am everything but a Google basher and I spent a lot of my life descending deep into research of Google foes, Google smear campaigns, lawsuits by proxy, and antitrust actions by proxy. I also advocate Android, but in recent years I have been increasingly concerned about the direction it is taking. I wish to share my latest concern. It relates to what the media characterises as "anti-theft" but is actually a facility to kill phones in a protest or convert them into hostile listening devices. Technology impacts human rights and those who control technology can be tempted to control humans.

Google habitually updates my tablet. It is a Nexus 7 tablet which Google invites itself to update remotely (shame on me for not installing Replicant, but this device does not support it yet). It is not a 3G tablet and it does not have two operation systems (unlike mobile phones) or even a carrier tracking its location all the time. It's a purely Android device with no network tying. It is network-agnostic. I only bought it because in order to replace my PDA (for over a decade) I wanted a device that is not a tracking device. Phones were out of the question.

Networks don't track the tablet. Google, however, is always out there, fully able to identify the connected user (latched onto a Gmail address because of Play), modifying the software without even the user's consent (the user is sometimes prompted to boot, without being able to opt out of the core update itself).

The update in itself is not a problem. What's problematic is its effect.

Following the latest Google update (which I was given no option to reject) I noticed that Google had added a remote kill switch as an opition. It was enabed by default. "Allow remote lock and erase" is what Google calls it and it is essentially working like a back door. Google and its partners in government are gaining a lot of power not over a smartphone but over a tablet.

The significance of this is that not only phones should be assumed to be remotely accessible for modification, including for example additional back doors. What's more, some devices that were sold without this functionality silently have it added. According to the corporate press, the FBI remotely turns Android devices into listening devices and it is getting simpler to see how.

NSA and PRISM destroy our computing. We definitely need to demand Free software, but we should go further by asking for audits, rejecting user-hostile 'features' like DRM, 'secure' boot, and kill switches. I gradually lose any remaining trust that I had in Google and even Free software such as Android.

Manchester and Computing

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Manchester's role in the history of computing is not widely recognised. I spent several years working in Manchester Computing and I studied where the first programmable computer was built (by Kilburn, whom the building was later named after). One of my colleagues at Manchester Computing (MCC) was the person who was first to build and distribute a GNU/Linux distribution (combining both GNU and Linux) and yesterday I met and spoke to one of the earlier PC distributors from across the road (supplier for Manchester Computing). Right here at the centre of Manchester a lot of the early milestones of computing took place (Turing also), but Manchester became better known for the splitting of atoms, the football teams, famous bands like Oasis, and the industrial revolution. A few days ago Rianne and I visited the local museum which demonstrates the industrial revolution (photo above from this album); what we really need here, however, are more museums documenting Manchester's role in modern computing. This city deserves more credit.

Nokia

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It is now the talk of the town. Nokia will be making their own smartphone based on Android. It seems like they no longer want to be in the shadow, under Windows Phone. I would like to think this might be the comeback of Nokia phones after a decade or so. I liked Nokia as a gadget way before this so-called "smart phones" trend started. I remember when SMS became the most convenient tool for communication, like a telegraph type. Nokia phones were once a gadgets giant; only then, when Microsoft bought Nokia, the once cellphone giant was kept and never to be found. I mean, not literally, but I can hardly see Nokia out in the Market along with those cellphone giants like Mac/iOS , Blueberry and Samsung. Nokia's merging into Microsoft has never been good; their tandem strategy never created any new innovation that makes them different from the other competitors. In fact, there were no success stories for Nokia when it was based on Windows Phone.

I expect Nokia to have lots to offer in the next expo. Improvements in software using Android OS, distinct design in hardware which can compete in comparables among the others. The price might be a little less than the existing smartphones to attract potential costumers. Lastly, I wish Nokia well for bravely taking such a huge change. In this road it has many challenges, but it's worth taking.

My Valentine

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Rianne Schestowitz

Yesterday was a rainy day. Our plans to go dining and bowling were more or less ruined by that. Manchester has had stormy weather as of late and there is not much one can do to avoid it.

Almost every couple went out to celebrate valentines. In my case, as I am working regular hours at day (and sometimes at night), I don't have much time for planning or thinking of ways to celebrate valentines day.

My dear husband, who had a day off yesterday (after he had worked at night), surprised me in many ways. He prepared a bubble bath for me with glasses of wine and candles lit. Pizza was inside the oven and table setting was quite ready, with many special beverages to mark the special day.

Everything was organised and prepared by him. While we were having our dinner we watched Tom and Jerry (a favourite from my childhood) and we were both enjoying it. Later he wanted to prepare the new mattress he bought to make sure we would have a good night's sleep.

Our own way of celebrating valentines -- so simple but passionately expressed with pure love and tenderness.

Justice

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Justice

I was born in a quiet and beautiful town in the Far East together with my cousins. As far as I can remember, we enjoyed watching the sunrise and sunset, bathing and fishing in the river along with other children. My childhood years bring back good memories: Playing hide and seek, flying kites, throwing yo-yo, jumping on Chinese garter and so much more. Life was full of fun and so simple back then. There were times I ate meals in our neighbours' house, treated like family. Sometimes we exchanged food. This you will never experience in an highly urbanised city, as there is nothing like this in the Western world. It's a small town where you almost know every other person. Everybody is like your family. That is how I remember the place that I left 24 years ago. This year my husband and I were planning to visit my beloved town. But I have second thoughts. It's a bit scary to visit a place where people are killing other people like animals.

Windows 8.1 "The Worst Ever"

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I've taught High School Computer Science for 25 years--Computer Programming, Web Page Design, Word Processing, Database Processing, and Spreadsheet processing. I have Linux on all my home computers with a dual boot into MS Windows 7 on my main computer. I don't use Windows 7 very often--but, I can find my way around in Windows 7. Since I have no experience with Win 8, I've thought all the recent hoopla about Microsoft's Windows 8 and 8.1 was just inexperienced grousing.

Why is Security not Turned on by Default?

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This isn't a Windows thing, Linux as well should be more secure than the assumption that the OS with elevated privileges is secure enough, there is so much more Desktop Linux could be doing to make the users experience more secure.

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Sometimes the Tech pres just gets it wrong..

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While I know this is a Linux site, i feel that Windows RT is getting the same bad rap Linux gets from the Tech press in many areas. A lack of true understanding of just what they are dealing with or just a huge need to present some form of being part of the crowd. I'm not sure just what it is however it needs to change. It's the same thing that happens when some people review Ubuntu PHone for example and claim it's not a viable platform.. and it annoys me..

Why Everything you've read in the tech press about Windows RT is WRONG!!

Head to head the best of class, the Lumia 920 and the Nexus 4

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With the tenuous link of Linux/android I take a look at just how googles flagship device stands up against the top WP8 phone

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Why is PRISM so shocking? Everyone is reading our data

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With prism being the story of the week, I'm just asking a simple question

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More in Tux Machines

New GNU/Linux Releases: TheSSS, Arkas OS, Black Lab, and Parrot

  • The Smallest Server Suite Gets Special Edition with PHP 7.0.15, Apache 2.4.25
    4MLinux developer Zbigniew Konojacki informs Softpedia about the availability of a special edition of the TheSSS (The Smallest Server Suite) Live Linux operating system. Carrying the same version number as the original TheSSS release, namely 21.0, and dubbed TheSSS7, the new flavor ships with more recent PHP packages from the 7.0.x series. Specifically, TheSSS7 includes PHP 7.0.15, while TheSSS comes with PHP 5.6.30.
  • Descent OS Is Dead, Arkas OS Takes Its Place and It's Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
    Some of you out there might remember the Descent OS distro created by Brian Manderville and based on the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system, and today we have some bad news for them as the development is now officially closed. Descent OS first appeared in February 2012 as a lightweight Ubuntu derivative built around the GNOME 2 desktop environment. Back then, it was known as Descent|OS, and was quite actively developed with new features and components borrowed from the latest Ubuntu releases.
  • Black Lab Linux 8.1 Out Now with LibreOffice 5.3, It's Based on Ubuntu 16.04 LTS
    Softpedia was informed today by the Black Lab Software project about the general availability of the first point release to the Black Lab Linux 8.0 operating system series. Serving as a base release to the company's enterprise offerings and equipped with all the long-term supported Linux 4.4 kernel from the Ubuntu 16.04 LTS (Xenial Xerus) operating system, Black Lab Linux 8.1 comes with up-to-date components and the latest security patches ported from Ubuntu's repositories as of February 15, 2017. "Today we are pleased to announce the release of Black Lab Linux 8.1. Our first incremental release to the 8.0 series. In this release we have brought all security updates up to Feb 15, 2017, as well as application updates," said Roberto J. Dohnert, CEO of Black Lab Software.
  • Parrot 3.5 – Call For Betatesters
    We did our best to prepare these preview images including all the updates and the new features introduced since the last release, but now we need your help to understand how to make it even better, and of course we need your help to understand if there is something that doesn’t work as expected or something that absolutely needs to be included in the final release.

Linux and Graphics

  • Linux Kernel 4.10 Now Available for Linux Lite Users, Here's How to Install It
    Minutes after the release of Linux kernel 4.10 last evening, Jerry Bezencon from the Linux Lite project announced that users of the Ubuntu-based distribution can now install it on their machines. Linux 4.10 is now the most advanced kernel branch for all Linux-based operating systems, and brings many exciting new features like virtual GPU support, better writeback management, eBPF hooks for cgroups, as well as Intel Cache Allocation Technology support for the L2/L3 caches of Intel processors.
  • Wacom's Intuos Pro To Be Supported By The Linux 4.11 Kernel
    Jiri Kosina submitted the HID updates today for the Linux 4.11 kernel cycle.
  • Mesa 13.0.5 Released for Linux Gamers with over 70 Improvements, Bug Fixes
    We reported the other day that Mesa 13.0.5 3D Graphics Library will be released this week, and it looks like Collabora's Emil Velikov announced it earlier this morning for all Linux gamers. Mesa 13.0.5 is a maintenance update to the Mesa 13.0 stable series of the open source graphics stack used by default in numerous, if not all GNU/Linux distributions, providing gamers with powerful drivers for their AMD Radeon, Nvidia, and Intel GPUs. It comes approximately three weeks after the Mesa 13.0.4 update.
  • mesa 13.0.5

Interview: Thomas Weissel Installing Plasma in Austrian Schools

With Plasma 5 having reached maturity for widespread use we are starting to see rollouts of it in large environments. Dot News interviewed the admin behind one such rollout in Austrian schools. Read more

today's leftovers

  • Top Lightweight Linux Distributions To Try In 2017
    Today I am going to discuss the top lightweight Linux distros you can try this year on your computer. Although you got yourself a prettyLinuxle linux already but there is always something new to try in Linux. Remember I recommend to try this distros in virtualbox firstly or with the live boot before messing with your system. All distro that I will mention here will be new and somewhat differ from regular distros.
  • [ANNOUNCE] linux-4.10-ck1 / MuQSS CPU scheduler 0.152
  • MSAA Compression Support For Intel's ANV Vulkan Driver
    Intel developer Jason Ekstrand posted a patch over the weekend for enabling MSAA compression support within the ANV Vulkan driver.
  • Highlights of YaST development sprint 31
    As we announced in the previous report, our 31th Scrum sprint was slightly shorter than the usual ones. But you would never say so looking to this blog post. We have a lot of things to talk you about!
  • Comparing Mobile Subscriber Data Across Different Sources - How accurate is the TomiAhonen Almanac every year?
    You’ll see that last spring I felt the world had 7.6 Billion total mobile subscriptions when machine-to-machine (M2M) connections are included. I felt the world had 7.2 Billion total subscriptions when excluding M2M and just counting those in use by humans. And the most relevant number (bottom line) is the ‘unique’ mobile users, which I felt was an even 5.0 Billion humans in 2015. The chart also has the total handsets-in-use statistic which I felt was 5.6 Billion at the end of 2015. Note that I was literally the first person to report on the distinction of the unique user count vs total subscriptions and I have been urging, nearly begging for the big industry giants to also measure that number. They are slowly joining in that count. Similarly to M2M, we also are now starting to see others report M2M counts. I have yet to see a major mobile statistical provider give a global count of devices in use. That will hopefully come also, soon. But lets examine these three numbers that we now do have other sources, a year later, to see did I know what I was doing.