iPhone handcuffs

apple-live-2Apple has launched a new model in their iPhone line called iPhone 5S on 20th of September 2013. The newly implemented functions of 5S are:

  • Touch ID, a fingerprint recognition system built directly into the home button which can be used to unlock the phone and authenticate App Store and iTunes Store purchases, and an updated camera with a larger aperture and a dual-LED flash optimized for different color temperatures. It also introduced the 64-bit A7 processor (which Apple claimed was the first 64-bit processor to be used on a smartphone), accompanied by the M7 “motion co-processor”, a dedicated processor for processing motion data from its accelerometer and gyroscopes without requiring the attention of the main processor.

Now think twice before buying this product.

Previous models of iPhones already introduced a non-removable battery. A simple understanding of electronics will reveal you that a mobile phone software controls the phone hardware, and while iOS mobile operating system is a proprietary one, none of the users really knows how it operates. For example, you can power off your phone in the software, but you cannot remove the battery, so in theory it would mean that the phone is still under power and allows “someone” to trigger remote surveillance. Now look at the new “handcuffs” implemented with 5S. While it might sound convenient not having to type in the PIN code each time you use your phone, it can also have negative consequences. Imagine you have your iPhone 5S or whatever similar “Touch ID” device in your pocket and it has your Apple account and fingerprint lock, so obviously the hash of your fingerprint is stored. Then you play with the iPad Air in the store and it sends you a notification in your pocket giving you an offer to get 10% off if you buy an USB charger with it. And don’t forget the integrated GPS system that allows remote tracking.

So what can you do to avoid this type of tracking methods is to simply avoid using these type of devices. Or at least avoid using a smartphone that has all possible add-ons and use a “plain” mobile phone instead that can only be used for making and receiving calls. If you cannot avoid the need for a smartphone, you can use Replicant which is a fully free Android distribution and runs on several smartphone and tablet devices. You can read more about the iBad and anti-DRM campaign on Defective by Design website . Please also consider making a monetary donation to support freedom to the Replicant campaign or the Free Software Foundation.



Replicant funding opened doors for further development

replicant_smallReplicant funding organised by the Free Software Foundation was a great success ! People donated over  20,000 USD over the past two months. The project didn’t expect that much money and it will greatly cover their needs, which include buying new devices and cover travel-related expenses, allowing developers to attend events such as FOSDEM. On a sad note, they are more and more looking for new developers to get involved in the project: both GNUtoo and PaulK are very busy and cannot contribute to the project as much as they’d like to, so things will keep moving a bit slowly, compared to what it used to be. There is also a new set of images ready, with additional support for 10 devices. Camera support was added to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and other smaller improvements were made as well. All the guides were rewritten to be device-specific and include clear and step-by-step instructions, which should make it easier for everyone to install Replicant on their device. Moreover, the newly-launched forums and their mailing list make it possible to get help from the community, about the installation or anything else you want to talk about ! Congratulations !

Fairphone operating system

437810165_640While looking forward about obtaining one out of 25000 ethicaly made Fairphones through pre-order, which are announced for December, Fairphone has recently announced their own custom made Operating System, which will be based on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS. It will be designed by Kwamecorp. The main benefits of the new interface are:

  • Edge Swipe: quick use of your chosen favorite apps
  • Last Used & Most Used: learning from you to easily categorize the apps you use the most
  • Battery Usage Background: an optional layer on top of the wallpaper, which corresponds background color with battery usage status
  • Peace of Mind: a conceptual tool that allows you to designate a certain amount of time to be disconnected from the digital world

Kwame explained their approach as taking the stock Android, expanding on its awesomeness, while also taking a new perspective: in an environment with constant notification systems, Kwamecorp is developing something that can balance the need to be connected with a more calming user experience.

Fairphone – the new alternative

fairphone-540x304 Fairphone is an alternative campaign to create a mobile phone with a fair share of payments to everyone involved in the project. It begins with the lowest process, with mineral digging workers in People’s republic of Congo and Zambia, where Fairphone will pay them 6 usd/day, which is more than 3 times the amount that other companies pay them. The minerals that are digged from mines are used in creating phone batteries. The tree of fair share then expands to all companies involved, each of them contributing some part of electronics to build up a complete mobile phone. Phone will use the Android 4.2 operating system and comes with the following specifications:

  • Chipset – MTK6589 (quad core) 1.2 Ghz
  • System memory – 16GB + 1GB (RAM)
  • Primary camera – 8 MPx, Secondary camera 1.3 MPx
  • Dual SIM card slots
  • GPS, WI-Fi, FM, G-sensor, Gyroscope, Flash light
  • Screen size 4.3″, 126 x 63.5 x 10 mm, 170 gramms

The pre-order price for this phone is 325 EUR and it’s only available inside European Union.

Free as in Freedom

I have noticed that my blog doesn’t contain any detailed description about my view on Free Software, so for those people who come to my blog, and think it’s just another thing that computer oriented people like to use, I would like to explain my vision about that in a few words. Beside the philosophical issue about Free Software being one of the greatest revolutionary ideas in the computer industry, there is a detailed description available on Free Software Foundation website which will tell you why Free Software is good for your freedom. For example, have you ever thought about some modern electronic devices which are available today on the market, what they are capable of ? Let’s take a look at mobile phones. They are small, fit into every pocket, we always carry them around and they can be used for various things. They work as a photo camera, have an integrated GPS system and you can communicate with them. In order to operate successfully they usually require some kind of proprietary (non-free) software. For example, one of those devices is an Iphone. Do you really think that you can control your Iphone or can the Iphone be used as a surveillance tool in order to control you on demand ? First of all, you don’t know how the software on the phone works, because it’s proprietary, so only designers at Apple know what has been integrated into that code, the code is not revealed to the public. It is not such a problem to turn your device into a remote spying machine if someone needs that, all the tools and software are already there to make it work. For the demonstration there is a “Where am I ?” applet on the right side of my blog, which reveals my current location captured from the mobile phone and which gets updated when I move around. Here is the screenshot of the tracking log that was recorded by the phone company, when I was walking around. It managed to record GPS coordinates, even when my phone was in my jacket’s pocket. Even that in theory it has the integrated software button to shut down the tracking mode, can you really trust that function, and how can you be sure that the data isn’t being transmitted anymore through it and being recorded on phone company’s servers ? Secondly most of the hardware and software today on personal computers and tablets is proprietary. Microsoft, Apple, even instances of GNU/Linux distributions include proprietary code. There isn’t a single notebook on the market which would use exclusively Free hardware. Computers which have proprietary hardware and software on them could be used for remote surveillance, the same way as your Iphone can be. Whoever has access to that, could view and download your data from the device without you realising it at all. Can you imagine the world where people would have access to Free technology designs, which would use exclusively Free software, where different people could always look at it’s source code and fix any “evil” code in them ? That is why you should strive and use and support ONLY the Free Software distributions and campaigns for your software freedom from organisations like the Free Software Foundation. Or at least for ethical reasons you should support/donate to these campaigns, for your and everyone else’s freedom. I recommend reading a great book “Free as in Freedom” about Richard M. Stallman and his crusade for Software Freedom. Personally I would also like to add that it was a great honour for me that I had the chance to speak a few words with him last year when he had a lecture in Ljubljana.

QR Code

A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The “QR” is derived from “Quick Response”, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed. It is being used all over Japan and can include the following information: URL, Phone, Text, SMS. It is also being used for downloading Android applications, you just scan the code on the monitor or paper and it stores the information into your mobile phone, launching browser which brings you to desired webpage. Here on display is the QR code with my contact details.

T-2 mobile plan

This will be interested for Slovenian readers. Recently I switched the mobile plan from Mobitel to T-2. T-2 has an UMTS data coverage in major Slovenian cities for only 10 EUR/month. They provide unmetered data plan through their nodes. When being out of reach their voice signal is being transmitted through Mobitel. They also have cheaper peering for establishing calls to Si.mobil and Tuš mobile, than Mobitel.