visual-studio-2

Microsoft’s Visual Studio Emulator for Android was launched only last November. It was the tech company’s attempt at getting developers working on Android apps from their own platform, but it proved to be less successful than expected. The service was great, with fast performance and unique features, but it required downloading Visual Studio just for the emulator to work.

Developers wanted to continue using other developer tools for building applications, yet were compelled by the idea of using what Microsoft calls the “best emulator on the planet”. The Redmond giant has good news for Android developers around the world, as the Visual Studio Emulator for Android can now be downloaded as a standalone app, allowing you to use it with either Android Studio or Eclipse with ADT.

Here’s the way it works. The emulator will connect via ADB (Android Debug Bridge). The system would then recognize the emulator as a USB-connected device. You do have to dig around some settings before Visual Emulator for Android can work with either of these developer programs, but the steps are simple. Microsoft has posted instructions in their blog post, so refer to it for all the details.

Interested? Why don’t you give it a try? You can go ahead and download it straight from the Visual Studio official page. It’s free, so there is really nothing to lose here. And now that it doesn’t carry a burdensome load, you may want to start making your apps with it.

visual-studio-1

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oneplus 2 launch aa (34 of 93)

The recent launch of the OnePlus 2 gave us plenty to be excited about, but some of you where still a bit upset about some missing features. Namely, NFC, which has become standard in current high-end devices. This technology promises simplified transactions, transfers and other types of contact-less communications. The dismissal of said component caused much commotion among tech enthusiasts… but is it really something you will miss?

While it may seem rare to see a 2015 flagship smartphone missing NFC, statistics prove growth will be slow, with only about 64% of  phones shipped in 2018 expected to tout the chip. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be a huge deal yet, which takes us to the couple reasons why OnePlus would decide to get rid of it. First, remember the company is trying to reduce manufacturing prices, effectively transferring the savings to you – the customer. This may also be why they opted for a 1080p display. Secondly, because no one is using it (and this OnePlus mentioned, themselves)!

nfc-shipments-2018

Part of this is because the industry is really holding this technology back. It was believed Apple would proliferate NFC payments with Apple Pay, and though there has been great improvements, we are not quite at an advanced NFC state yet. Unlike some Asian countries like China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan, where NFC is a fundamental part of their payment systems, the West is really falling behind.

My experience with NFC

I must say I am part of the statistics that deem NFC more of a gimmick than an actual feature. I have done my fair share of NFC payments, but only once or twice a month (just to be cool when the cashier is cute, really). In addition, I have about 10 programmed NFC tags all over my house… which I haven’t used in about two years. I don’t even have the necessary apps installed anymore! To me, NFC was a fleeting novelty I found no true convenience with.

google-wallet

For example, it takes about the same amount of time to pull out my phone instead of a wallet. Tags are convenient if you use them right, but it takes time to set up everything. And why do that now, when there are other methods for automating your devices and tasks? Plus, most times I was just toggling WiFi and Bluetooth on/off, which now takes a second to do.

The lack of NFC is no deal-breaker to me, but that is only because of the sub-par support. I would like to see truly adopting this technology and taking it to the next level. Only when you see NFC payments in buses, trains, all stores, etc., will this venture really take off.

Is NFC a deal-breaker to you?

Now, let’s get back to the real question. How important is the addition of NFC to you? Do you actually depend on it? Also, would you be willing to adopt new practices in order to live with the OnePlus 2? Answer the poll below and hit the comments to let us know your thoughts in more detail!

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Security concept

Bugs may be endless, but that doesn’t mean they are harmful… at least not all them are. Lead engineer Adrian Ludwig made sure to touch on this subject after the whole ‘Stagefright’ exploit was discovered by the media. This vulnerability is said to leave about 95% of Android users exposed to hackers, who could gain access of your handset by simply sending you an MMS message with a malicious file.

As expected, this was a major cause of distress for the industry and all Android users, but Ludwig took it to Google+ to tell us we shouldn’t worry too much, as they are working on this issue and not all bugs are like this one.  In fact, it’s amazingly rare to find similar exploits, as Google takes several precautionary measures to make sure your device is protected. Let’s go through some of the most important ones.

computer-hacker

ASLR – Address Space Layout Randomization

ASLR is a security technique that shuffles code location, making it harder for hackers to predict it. The system hides memory addresses and these values then have to be guessed.

“For the layperson — ASLR makes writing an exploit like trying to get across a foreign city without access to Google Maps, any previous knowledge of the city, any knowledge of local landmarks, or even the local language.  Depending on what city you are in and where you’re trying to go, it might be possible but it’s certainly much more difficult” -Adrian Ludwig, Android security lead engineer

non-PIE linker support removal

ASLR and PIE (position-independent executables) work together, allowing for memory location-based protection. Since Android 5.0, non-PIE content is no longer supported. This makes it harder for any attacker to make its way through the code and find what he needs in order to build an exploit.

The White Hat Hacker Bundle

NX – No eXecute

Google introduced NX with Android 2.3. Essentially, this is a technology used in CPUs, which seclude memory areas and limit the way code is executed. In Android, it mostly protects the stack and heap.

Fortify Source

Fortify Source is a security method that allows the system to recognize when too many bytes are being copied from a source to its destination. Hackers are known to copy more bytes than usual when they want to overflow a buffer. If such an event were to occur, the system can stop the process. In Android, all code is compiled with these protections.

hackers-hacking-hacks

RELRO – Read-Only-Relocations

Read-Only-Relocations protect internal data sections from being overwritten, in case of a bss or data overflow. It gains control over software execution flows, making attackers harmless in many ways.

And more!

Google has been working hard to keep Android secure. Even if some vulnerabilities come up here and there, Google is confident most people will be fine. More issues start arising when you unlock certain root capabilities and manage to get attacked, but not as many people ever tinker with their smartphones in that way.

Those who want to learn more about security enhancements in Android can always go ahead and take a look at Google’s official security page.

android-malware

But are you really safe?

We would be lying if we told you there isn’t some risk of being hacked, despite all these security measures. The truth is, Android is the most popular mobile OS in the world. When an operating system becomes so popular, hackers start working, and we aren’t seeing an exception here.

According to Eset, Android Malware increased by 63% in 2013, compared to 2012. So did the malware families for Android. The numbers are more modest when we compare 2014 to 2013, but a 25% increase in infections (according to Alcatel-Lucent) is still a significant rise.

malware-evolution-eset

This is why we urge you to be smart with your devices. Try not to have MMS auto-download activated, don’t install apps from unreliable sources and make sure not to dig into weird websites. Meanwhile, Google does continue to try and improve security matters by asking for help from the developer community, which has always been the foundation of this glorious operating system.

Android Security Rewards – help Google find exploits and earn good cash

In an effort to discover possible exploits, Google is willing to offer a monetary reward to those of you who discover a vulnerability. The cash amount will depend on the severity of the hack, but Ludwig does state the Search Giant will pay up to $30,000 to anyone who provides a working remote exploit against the Nexus 6 or Nexus 9.

Adrian Ludwig goes on to mention there have been no attempt to claim the Android Security Rewards, which is a bit reassuring for users. It might also be a challenge to our beloved developers. If you are up for the challenge, just visit the Android Security Rewards page and learn all about the program.

nexus 6 first impressions (13 of 21)

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Samsung Galaxy Folder

Samsung first unveiled the Galaxy Folder clamshell smartphone back in 2013, which aimed to give users all of the benefits of an Android-powered device with the nostalgic feeling of a flip phone. Now that it’s been awhile since we’ve seen the first iteration of this device, the South Korea-based company has decided to launch an updated model for its home region.

The new Galaxy Folder offers up a 3.8-inch touchscreen display, 8GB of on-board storage, microSD expansion up to 128GB, LTE connectivity, an 8MP rear-facing camera and a 2MP front-facing camera. It also packs an 1800mAh removable battery.

Samsung Galaxy Folder

This new flip phone will be available in South Korea beginning next month in both Black and White color options for around $250. While this isn’t being marketed as a South Korea-exclusive device, we’re not sure if we’ll ever see it become available outside of the country.

This news comes just one day after LG released its Android Lollipop-powered Gentle flip phone in Korea. This device comes with slightly lower end specifications, but also offers a more affordable price point.

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In today’s era where we are dominated by rectangular touchscreen phones, LG has decided to launch a flip-phone, called the LG Gentle. It runs on Android 5.1 Lollipop, and has a physical T9 keypad. Read more…

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The latest addition to Microsoft’s mobile software line-up is called ‘Arrow Launcher’, an app launcher for Android that includes an expandable dock, and notes and reminders on your homescreen. Read more…

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Today’s the day! Windows 10 is now available in 190 countries as a free upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1 owners. Replacing an OS is no one’s idea of fun, but we’re actually looking forward to this one. First off, we’ll be leaving behind the most hated ver…

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Online banking is usually an exercise in remembering complicated pin numbers or passwords — but what if there was an easier way? In the Netherlands, there is: banking customers who use the ING Netherlands app can now long into their bank account, ch…

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What do you do with old gadgets that you no longer use? Give them away to relatives, or throw them in the bin? Argos is the latest UK company to jump into the trade-in business, offering cash for your unwanted phones and tablets. Plenty of smartphone trade-in companies operate on the web, such as Envirofone and Mazuma Mobile, but few have a high street presence like Argos. The company hopes that customers will prefer the convenience of walking into a store, getting a quote and then immediately receiving a gift card that can be used to buy something new. As the Guardian reports, Argos wants to expand the scheme to include cameras, laptops and other electrical devices in the future. Just like Game and CeX, however, its success will inevitably hinge on the prices being offered to consumers. If Argos is too stingy, the convenience will be irrelevant — people will simply hold onto their devices or offload them through other avenues such as eBay.

Filed under: ,

Source: The Guardian

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android auto review aa (14 of 16)

Android Auto is useful and fun, but no one can deny it has much maturing to do (we figured out as much during our Hyundai Sonata review). It’s not exactly a complete replacement for vehicle infotainment and security systems currently available in the market, but Google does seem to have some pretty big plans for Android Auto to grow into.

The guys at Ars Technica took it upon themselves to do more than a consumer-based review. They flipped the developer switch on and decided to delve deeper into the operating system. Buried inside thousands of lines of code and legal information, they found some evidence of what could be future projects for the driving-optimized platform.

Disclaimer: Even though all this data and information comes straight from Google’s Android Auto system, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will all be hitting the market. This is still unannounced content, so treat it as such. Regardless, it seems unlikely that some people at Google worked hard to build each of these elements into the operating system just to see them die later. 

android auto first look (17 of 18)

With that out of the way, let’s touch upon these new discoveries.

Vehicle diagnostics

Most users will find the “Car” screen is pretty basic. All you get is a button to exit Android Auto, but Google may have bigger plans for this page. Turning on developer mode will result in the appearance of four new options: “Vehicle Check”, “Service History”, “Roadside Assistance” and “More Car Apps”.

Clone-Stamp

These are all pretty self-explanatory. “Vehicle Check” will allow you to see your car’s current status. It’s in charge of checking for tire pressure, oil status, windshield fluid and more. On the other hand, “Service History” will keep a record on your vehicle’s maintenance track record. Lastly, “Roadside Assistance” helps get you out of unpleasant situations by aiding you when you face major issues.

In addition to adding these sections, Google made sure to create non-functional mock-ups of the interfaces within these apps. They are simply images, but it took someone’s work and time, meaning this is likely more than just something on the back burner.

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Hidden sensors

After digging in deeper, it was discovered that many of the sensors listed within the Android Auto code are not in use, and could suggest some very interesting features to come.

Let’s take a look at the list:

Compass
Car Speed
GPS
Night Data
Accelerometer
Gyroscope
RPM Data
Odometer
Environment Data

  • Pressure
  • Temperature

Fuel Level

  • In Distance
  • In Percentile
  • Low Warning

HVAC Data

  • Current Temperature
  • Target Temperature

Gear Data

  • Park
  • Neutral
  • Reverse
  • Drive
  • Gears “First” through “Tenth”

Driving Status

  • Fully Restricted
  • Limit Message
  • No Keyboard
  • No Video
  • No Voice input
  • Unrestricted

These are all sensors and situations the operating system is keeping tags on, or “listening to”. Things like the fuel level, odometer, RPM and gear data have no reason to be there… at least so far. Reading the temperature could help automate the AC, for example.

There’s also some wording in the legal writing that states the system will know if there is a passenger in the vehicle, effectively making it possible to unlock some features that would otherwise be locked while driving (for safety reasons).

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Conclusion

All this information, put together, gives us hope that Android Auto will become more than just a glorified GPS and media system. The UI is great, voice actions are unbelievable and it’s a breeze to use. We just need some polishing, and making the system more thorough like these hidden gems suggest would be the perfect start.

What do you guys think of these new hidden features and characteristics? Are there any other creative uses you could find for them? Let us know in the comments below!

2016 Honda Accord with Android Auto™

2016 Honda Accord with Android Auto™

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