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Android

Submission + - Android's Alarming Worldwide 2012 3Q Numbers (gartner.com) 2

eldavojohn writes: Gartner's released a report on Worldwide numbers of 2012 3Q phone sales and the staggering results posted from Android have caused people like IW's Eric Zeman to call for sanity. Keep in mind these are worldwide numbers which might be less surprising when you realize that the biggest growth market of them all is China who is more than 90% Android. It's time to face the facts and realize that Android now owns 73% of the worldwide smartphone market. While developers bicker over which platform is best for development and earnings, the people of the world may be making the choice based on just how inexpensive an Android smartphone can be. This same time last year, Gartner reported Android at 52.5% of market share and it now sits at 72.4% market share with over 122 million units sold worldwide. Only Q4 reports will tell if Android's momentum will finally begin to slow to save some chance of competition in the smartphone ecosystem or if the Quickening will be complete.
Google

Submission + - Oracle to Pay Google $1 Million for Lawyer Fees in Failed Patent Case (arstechnica.com)

eldavojohn writes: You may recall the news that Google would not be paying Oracle for Oracle's intellectual property claims against the search giant. Instead, Google requested $4.03 million for lawyer fees in the case. The judge denied some $2.9 million of those fees and instead settled on $1.13 million as an appropriate number for legal costs. Although this is relative peanuts to the two giants, Groklaw breaks the ruling down into more minute detail for anyone curious on what risks and repercussions are involved with patent trolling.
Google

Submission + - Jury Rules Google Violated Java Copyright, Google Moves for Mistrial (arstechnica.com) 1

eldavojohn writes: Details are thin but the long covered Oracle Vs Google trial has at least partially been decided in favor of Oracle against Google violating copyrights in Android when when it used Java APIs to design the system. Google moved for a mistrial after hearing the incomplete decision. The patent infringement accusations have yet to be ruled upon.
Advertising

Submission + - Google Announces Algorithmic Crackdown on Webspam (blogspot.ca)

eldavojohn writes: You've most likely seen search results returned that are just a garbage full of keywords via Google's bread-and-butter "Panda" search algorithm. Some might be a little more innocuous — working unrelated anchored links into their text just to bump up their pagerank — while others are more bitcoin weightloss rapidshare ledet cloud zimmerman. Well, Google claims they've taken care of this in their latest update and they're trying to coin these practices “black hat webspam” which they attempt to define in case you run a site implementing a search engine optimization (SEO) scheme. Ars notes that some of the sites adversely affected in these nine or so changes that have been rolled out since February were actually innocent. In these next few days, will Google's tweak actually weed out the webspam or will it hurt a few innocent sites as the black hats adjust their methods and game it another way? On with the cat and mouse game!
Businesses

Submission + - Florian Mueller Outs Himself as Oracle Employee (groklaw.net)

eldavojohn writes: So you're commenting on your highly visible blog about patent case after patent case that deal with corporations battling over open source stuff, what does it matter if you're taking money from one and not the other? If you don't see any ethical problems with that, you might be Florian Mueller. Groklaw's PJ (who has been suspicious of Florian's ties to other giants like Microsoft for quite sometime) has noticed that Florian Mueller has decided to go full disclosure and admit that all his commentary on the Oracle v Google case might be tainted by his employment by Oracle. It seems he's got a bunch of consulting money coming his way from Oracle but I'm sure that won't undermine any of his assessments like Android licenses violate the GPL or that Oracle will win $6 billion from Google and Google was "at risk" of not settling despite the outcome that the charges later dropped to a small fraction of the $6 billion. Like so many other times, PJ's hunch was right.
Books

Submission + - Google Unifies Media, Apps Into Google Play (blogspot.com)

eldavojohn writes: Google has just announced Google Play to merge their existing solutions for music, movies, books and apps in the new cloud based storage system promising that you will never have to worry about losing or moving them across devices ever again. You'll be able to store 20,000 songs for free. The region breakdown is: 'In the U.S., music, movies, books and Android apps are available in Google Play. In Canada and the U.K., we’ll offer movies, books and Android apps; in Australia, books and apps; and in Japan, movies and apps. Everywhere else, Google Play will be the new home for Android apps.'
Advertising

Submission + - Microsoft's Anti-Google Propaganda Campaign (youtube.com) 1

eldavojohn writes: As the presidential race heats up, the smear ads on TV are also increasing. But Microsoft isn't going to site idly by and let the politicians engage in all that song and dance — and Microsoft really does employ both song and dance. Their Youtube channel appears to be slowly transforming from trade show videos and launches into a marketing attack or propaganda campaign that only targets Google (both videos I've watched seemed to have nothing positive about Microsoft in them). Under a month ago, they launched a spoof called GMail man, a creepy guy that flips through all your GMail and serves up super personal ads that are wrong (although they never say if Hotmail engages in targeted marketing). And a few days ago Googlighting shows up to spread fear and uncertainty about Google Docs. Most amusing to this viewer was that I found no such trace of 'Googlighting' on Bing's video service.
Android

Submission + - Google Starts Scanning Android Apps (blogspot.com)

eldavojohn writes: A recent blog post has Android developers talking about Google finally scanning third party applications for malware. Oddly enough, Google claims this service (codenamed 'Bouncer') has been active for some time: 'The service has been looking for malicious apps in Market for a while now, and between the first and second halves of 2011, we saw a 40% decrease in the number of potentially-malicious downloads from Android Market. This drop occurred at the same time that companies who market and sell anti-malware and security software have been reporting that malicious applications are on the rise.' So it appears that they allow the software to be sold even before it is scanned and it also appears that no one has been bitten by a false positive from this software. Apparently Bouncer is not as oppressive as Apple's solution although given recent news its effectiveness must be questioned. Have any readers had their apps flagged or pulled by Bouncer?
Android

Submission + - Google Announces One Pass Payment System (blogspot.com)

eldavojohn writes: Riding the tail of Apple's 30% announcement, Google's Eric Schmidt has announced One Pass, a new method for users to pay for content. The BBC is reporting that Google is taking a 10% cut. One Pass will work on Google sites and on phones and tablets as the announcement notes: 'Readers who purchase from a One Pass publisher can access their content on tablets, smartphones and websites using a single sign-on with an email and password. Importantly, the service helps publishers authenticate existing subscribers so that readers don't have to re-subscribe in order to access their content on new devices.' This is to be handled through Google Checkout.
Android

Submission + - Google to Merge Honeycomb and Gingerbread (pcpro.co.uk)

eldavojohn writes: In Barcelona, Google's Eric Schmidt has been revealing future plans for Google saying that the next release will merge smartphone and tablet versions of it's mobile operating system Android. Aside from bragging about Android's growth, Schmidt tiptoed around a question of Google acquiring Twitter instead offering the very nebulous statement that Youtube doubled its revenues last year.
Google

Submission + - Microsoft Vehemently Denies Google's "Bing Sting" (bing.com)

eldavojohn writes: In a blog post titled "Setting the Record Straight," Microsoft's senior vice president of online services Yusuf Mehdi addressed Google's "Bing Sting" operation saying, "We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop. We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting." Mehdi went on to claim that Google engaged in "click fraud" in order to rig up their alleged "experiment." Mehdi added, "That's right, the same type of attack employed by spammers on the web to trick consumers and produce bogus search results. What does all this cloak and dagger click fraud prove? Nothing anyone in the industry doesn't already know." The struggle for Bing to usurp Google as number one in search continues.
Censorship

Submission + - Google Releases Software to Iran (google.com)

eldavojohn writes: After working closely with US officials following the lifting of export restrictions, Google has announced that their Google Earth, Picasa and Chrome are now available for download in Iran. US sanctions once prevented this but now Google has created versions of its popular software that block all Iranian government IP addresses from utilizing them — thus satisfying the new restrictions.
Google

Submission + - MS Asks Google to Delay Fuzzer Tool (computerworld.com)

eldavojohn writes: Polish Google security white hat Michal Zalewski has announced concerns that one of a hundred vulnerabilities his fuzzer tool found in IE is well known to third party hackers in China. His simple explanation provides an interesting counter argument to Microsoft's usual request that security problems not be released until they can slowly investigate them. From the article, 'Microsoft asked Zalewski to delay cross_fuzz's release, but he declined, in part because of his fear the IE vulnerability was already being explored by Chinese hackers, but also because the company's security experts had not responded to information he provided.' You can read about and download cross_fuzz for your own use.
Books

Submission + - "Hello, Android" Third Edition Book Review

eldavojohn writes: The third edition of Hello, Android brings the book up to date on Android versions from 1.5 to 2.2 (FroYo). The book is predominantly tied to the Eclipse editing environment with several pages devoted to screen shots of the IDE. As the title suggests, this book aims to give the user the equivalent of a "Hello, world!" application in Android and succeeds in doing that but doesn't take the reader much further. From creating a sudoku application with increasing support to dabbling in OpenGL ES, the book's prime audience are people who know a little Java (with no aversion to Eclipse) and XML but absolutely no Android. You can find the source for all the examples.

The first aspect of this book that jumps out at me is that it assumes the user is using Eclipse — even late in the book like on page 231, an entire page is a screenshot of the project creation wizard in Eclipse. While this might be helpful for initiates to Eclipse, it seemed like a bit of overkill at times when actions in Ecipse are revisited throughout the brief book. For example that same screenshot with different options checked can be found engulfing page 10. "If you don't want to use Eclipse (there's one in every crowd)" says the author on page 4 before referring the reader to Android's command line reference. It gets to the point that when Burnette is going to sign his app at the end, he uses an Eclipse wizard.

The second aspect of this book that jumped out at me is that Android apps are written by extending Java classes and utilizing a very verbose XML. So between the overridden class methods and the layout meta data in the XML, there is a lot of code consuming vertical space in the book. Ellipses are provided to avoid redundancy in some instances but in others it seems there is no avoiding the space consumption. A strength of the book is that, when possible, it shows how to do something simple in both XML and Java and gives reasoning for picking a certain way the rest of the book.

The chapters are laid out with brief introductions and "Fast-Forwards" at the end of each chapter that try to push the user past this Hello, Android introduction to complex concepts. The book is well divided with part one (chapters 1 and 2) providing instructions for setting up your emulator and the basics of Android like a state transition diagram showing how all Android applications transition through Java methods in a life cycle. Part two (chapters 3 through 6) builds the sudoku application with increasing support. Part three (chapters 7 through 10) focus on more complex aspects of Android like device sensors, SQLite and OpenGL. The fourth and final section delves into the future of multi-touch on Android, writing for all resolutions and devices as well as publishing to the Android Market. Throughout the book the author takes care to to mention when you will need to put in a permissions requirement in the manifest file when utilizing something on the device.

In creating the sudoku application, Burnette does a good job at introducing the reader to some basic concepts like procedural designing versus declarative designing and Dips versus Sps. The author introduces the automatically managed R.java file and the first extension of android.app.Activity with a good explanation of how we're going to add menus from XML strings. This chapter nicely sets up the sudoku game to have an opening screen, a settings menu, a theme and exiting the game. It is lengthy but introduces the reader to click listeners as well as explicit information about how to debug. Android 2.2 adds a cute debug level of Log.wtf() which stands for "What a Terrible Failure."

Following that chapter, the author delves into some basic two dimensional graphical capabilities involving extending View in order to manipulate the canvas object inside onDraw. The chapter sums up drawables and gives a short example of text in a circle before returning to the graphics in our sudoku application. Burnette shows explicitly how to draw the game board and give it a nice embossed effect, how to add and center numbers in each of their cells, how to override key events to bring up an input screen with only valid numbers and how to continuously update the game screen. The chapter even goes as far as showing you how to shade the squares in order to give hints to the user. One thing I did not care for in this chapter (and something that persists through the rest of the book) is that the author has no qualms with calling a method in code (like calculateUsedTiles on page 68) and not defining what it does or how it works until the end of the chapter twenty pages later. Given that its signature is descriptive and it's not key to understanding Android, it's probably the best way to teach but left me doing a lot of page flipping since I like understanding apps from the bottom up. Something else to note about this chapter is that the author mentions on page 70 that he experienced "many false starts" of trying different approaches like multiple ImageView classes in XML before finding the fastest and easiest way of having only one view. There's just a couple paragraphs on this in a side box but I really wish the author had expanded on this as it sounds like a vital part of the learning Android process.

What good is a phone app without some sound? Chapter five covers Android's MediaPlayer which Burnette calls "a fickle beast" although it improves with each release of Android. The chapter also touches on playing video in Android which takes just a few lines of code. The author helps the reader by continually explaining what happens in Android when the device is rotated (in these examples the video restarts since the app is recreated). He explains how to avoid this several different ways. He also discusses why using a background service for music isn't a great idea if you intend the music to end when your program ends. By the end of the chapter, you've got some music for your sudoku app.

The next chapter very briefly covers local data storage. This is not the SQLite chapter but rather the PreferenceActivity API as well as the instance state stored via the Bundle in Android's application stack. The author doesn't spend a lot of time on these and wraps the chapter up with a brief description of accessing the internal file system as well as an external SD card.

The seventh chapter covers the need for a browser capability inside your Android application. At first I thought this would be very rarely used (you've already got a web browser) but the author points out that when you need some ability past basic text views, you might opt instead to provide that file through a lean web browser in Android as opposed to a basic test viewer. The author argues this isn't as crazy as it seems because you don't want to waste your time enhancing a text view with more and more functionality when the web browser can do that already. So you get a wrapper around WebKit that allows you to add another view to your application resulting in a browser. Should this connect to the internet, the author explains how to ask for permission to do so and how to access those pages inside your application. The next part of the chapter is probably going to put a lot of security minded folks on edge and the author makes sure to explain very carefully that allowing JavaScript to call Java can be dangerous. So internal to the WebView class, the author demonstrates JavaScript in the web browser invoking your method in Android (and vice versa). Finally the chapter covers the intricacies of interfacing with web services. What the author did really well in this section was discuss his methods of how he came about adding millisecond delays to accommodate the user. The other great thing that makes this chapter so lengthy is that the author introduces threads both through ExecutorService and Handler.

Chapter eight covers GPS and other sensors your device might have that are supported through the latest Android API. The author takes care to understand how you need to setup your emulator if you are testing this on your computer and discusses listening for updates from sensors as well as interpreting that data. Unsurprisingly, the Android API has a MapActivity class to extend for applications that wish to impose data onto a map. I feel the author could have spent more time on the more novel sensor types that are becoming prevalent in cell phones but the GPS and maps might be adequate for an introductory book.

The ninth chapter is an introduction to SQLite in Android. Android supports other data storage solutions like db4o but the author sticks to SQLite and covers all SQL relational database aspects up to a simple cursor. It's done very well and anyone with a little knowledge of SQL should be able to create, modify and update tables inside Android applications with this chapter. A very interesting thing about this chapter is that it covers how to implement inter-process communication by way of a content provider. Android utilizes URIs that programmers can define to provide a framework for storage. The book is mediocre at describing both SQLite and ContentProviders in this chapter although I felt like the ContentProvider has enough material to deserve its own chapter — even in an introductory book. I personally feel it would be interesting to consider a chapter devoted to defining a content provider with reuse by a community intended. We get an EVENTS and EVENTS_ID example but I feel this falls short of the real beauty of ContentProviders.

The next chapter is a venture into three dimensional graphics in OpenGL ES (embedded systems). Twenty pages isn't a lot of space to work with when you're discussing OpenGL but this is a good basic introduction that leaves the reader with the means to do very basic OpenGL. The chapter starts off with some good fundamentals but also carefully explains that your devices might not have 3D hardware. The API is still there but the lag might be intolerable. The author thanks John Carmack for "single-handedly" saving us from Direct3D and starts off on the very verbose code of OpenGL. In it, there are great explanations on some basic options like ambient, diffuse and specular lighting as well as discussions of fixed versus floating point. Several pages later we have a transparent rotating cube with an Android image for a surface.

Chapter eleven is devoted to the buggiest part of Android: multi-touch. A side note titled "Warning: Multi-bugs Ahead" warns the reader about how problematic the following code is going to be and how it might perform differently on different quality of hardware. As Burnette builds out the image viewing application it's a lot of similar code to view an image with the new stuff revolving around debugging logs to give the reader key insight into how the author's phone interpreted his multi-touch interactions. Dragging and pinching are covered to zoom and move the image in the viewer and seems simple enough with the exception of bugs.

Twelve will show you how to build widgets and implement live wallpapers. To a lot of developers this chapter might be a turn off but to a lot of people looking to make money with Android, this seemed like the fastest route. The example just displays a semi-transparent "Hello World!" string but it is then demonstrated how an overriding the update allows you to put date or whatever else you might need to display. The live wallpaper seemed to me like the perfect way to drain the battery on a phone. Although more complicated than the widget, the chapter covers extending the Engine class to provide a drawing engine that will redraw the background — even with our OpenGL code from a previous chapter that the author then implements. The author really goes the distance on the live wallpaper, even explaining how to extend the surface of your wallpaper so that when you transition to another part of your space it slides the rotating cube. For better or for worse, you too can have a continuous rendering of OpenGL code for your home screen!

Chapter thirteen addresses the "fragmentation" issue that so many people have been criticizing Android for. It discusses declaring and demanding an API version as well as building different emulators out on your computer in order to run your application (although earlier in the book, the author heavily criticized the emulator as being terribly slow compared to the real hardware and I experienced the same thing with my Motorolla DROID). The author does a great job of discussing the unfortunately lengthy and complicated process of preparing your software for all hardware. From subclassing to reflection to delegation/factory, he analyzes each one and explains the strengths and weaknesses. If you're having problems with your application across hardware, this chapter is a great starting point. In the next piece of this chapter, the author calls out the Android API on a bug in the ImageView class that prevents the setImageMatrix from working in some cases (this is from 1.5 and has since been fixed). For those of you who are seriously dependent on Android, the author describes in detail his five steps in discovering and addressing this bug with the final step being a peak at the commit comments to the source tree. It's good to see an author doing legwork like this and telling the story but it's also a little unnerving to see the bug. Nevertheless, I applaud the author on this frank discussion. The final parts of this chapter are spent addressing screen size (an increasing issue with tablets) and installation by way of the SD card (something that can be auto or preferred).

The final chapter addresses publishing to the Android market and provides some actually really good insight into how one should approach this and how to interact with your user community. I'd like to note a couple things that the author lists as lessons learned. The first I found interesting was "you can make a paid app free, but you can't make a free app paid." What that means is if you publish something as free and then you update the app to move a piece of what was one free functionality to requiring payment, the backlash might destroy your app's user base. The other thing is something I flat out don't agree with: "If possible, I suggest you perform frequent updates, every two weeks or so." He claims it makes users happy and gives them a feeling of support as well as bumping it up to the top of the recently updated apps in the Market. I personally find it annoying and if I have an app that I use infrequently that frequently requests updates, I uninstall it. Case in point for me is TuneWiki Social Media Player. It seemed every other week that app was requiring an update and since I used it seldom, it was promptly uninstalled. I don't know if I'm alone in this sentiment but I found this chapter to be very insightful with the exception to that suggestion.

The appendices of this book were actually fairly interesting. I didn't know what the subset of the current Android app was for the Java Standard Edition 5.0 library. You can find a list of packages that will be unavailable to you like much of javax. The author also gives great pointers like try to avoid the expensive reflection no matter how elegant it might be for you.

This book is well written with only a few minor editing mistakes. It has a lot of illustrations which are often Eclipse screen shots. While some aspects of this book might alienate a few users, it is a great learning tool for its intended audience. I found it to be "okay" for my needs but perhaps was geared a bit more towards a more novice programmer.

You can find Hello, Android at O'Reilly or Amazon.com.

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