Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 4

Moving onto the security related aspects of iOS vs Android, well, at least at this point of time, the winner is iOS.

The Android platform has an un-regulated “AppStore” and multiple variations of the same. Some Android devices are custom built for specific markets and purposes and have their own custom stores as well. This flexibility and multiple “AppStores” come at a price. The price being security and integrity of the device.

Android devices have already witnessed a huge amount of malware and trojans and this would continue to ail the platform as it stands currently. These devices also follow the legacy of USB mass storage device interfaces. What this means is that anyone can plug in an Android device to a system (PC or Mac) and the entire storage content would be visible to them. This could include sensitive data which would be compromised with almost no effort.¬†While a lot of people prefer this legacy storage mode compared to the iOS way, it does have it’s drawbacks.

On the iOS platform, Apple has made provisions to transfer data using iTunes into specific application folders that support this interface. The other approach of transferring data to an iOS device is over a WiFi network using a web browser, ftp, webdav etc. No application has access to data other than it’s own.

Another flexibility that the Android platform offers is the ability to install “unsigned” applications. This means that you can manually install third party applications with complete dis-regard to security and integrity of the device and the application. Although, this flexibility is welcome, it does have it’s price. By default, most Android devices do not have this option enabled. You have to specifically enable it from “settings”.

The last security related feature on iOS has no equivalent on the Android platform. iOS offers iCloud based features for locating your iDevice using a free application from Apple called “Find your Phone”. Not only does this free application and service allow you to locate your iDevice, it also allows you send messages to the device. It also allows you to wipe out all data from the device if ever needed.

Although, this was a killer feature and we did see quite a few examples of people finding their lost iPhones and the like, this is no longer quite the killer feature it was. The day Apple came up with their own maps, this killer feature was effectively killed since the Apple maps still do not map anything worth talking about. So, although an almost non-issue because of the current Apple maps, since this was a real killer feature, it deserves mention as part of security.

In the next part, we will look at applications for iOS and Android that come from Apple and Google. While Apple has no apps on Android, Google does have some common applications for both the platforms. Google also acquired some iOS based application companies to strengthen it’s own app offerings.

Apple iOS vs Google Android…do you really know the difference? Part 1

Having used the iPhone since the first one and then a couple of Android based handsets, it is time to share my findings and views so far. I will break this up into some parts instead of making one long article. This, the starting one, outlines the basics of both the mobile OSes and the major differences in usage and configurations. The following ones would outline the basic usage and how to get the best out of each.

Both the mobile OSes have *nix roots. Apple iOS is based on it’s OS and Google’s Android is based on Linux. While Apple made iOS ground up for the first iPhone, Google created Android as a competitor to iOS. Microsoft’s Windows and Blackberry are nowhere in this picture being completely ancient systems by comparison and therefore will not be discussed in these articles.

The basic difference in the approach or Apple and Google is the major difference to begin with. While Apple designed and created a mobile OS, Google simply hacked around Linux to create what would seem to be a mobile OS. While the first release of iOS and the iPhone ran only on 128 MB of RAM, the requirements for Android were far larger to begin with.

Android is more like Windows or DOS that runs on a variety of devices whereas iOS runs only on Apple iDevices. Although Windows and DOS had the same UI/UX across the hardware they ran on, Android, has customisations from every vendors which differs even across the same vendor’s models of handsets.

In short, what this means is that if you ever used one Apple device, you were sure the other would work exactly the same way or very similar. In case of Android based devices, even devices from the same vendor could well behave very differently and you would have to get used to the different UI every time.

Since all these devices come under the category of “smart” phones or tablets, the better devices are expensive. One of the basic things to consider when purchasing expensive devices is updates. While Apple’s iOS had had free updates for at least 3 generations of the devices so far, Android updates are vendor dependent and therefore, in general, have no guaranteed updates for any purpose.

The above outlines the reason for Android based devices concentrating their advertising on hardware specifications when comparing with the iPhone. Android, like the recently announced Ubuntu mobile OS is a Linux hack and needs a far better hardware configuration for a reasonable user experience. Neither of these were created or designed for a mobile device, they are just hacks, with “features” tacked on!

Although it is not quite the time to comment on the Ubuntu side, some of the Android OS variations are almost un-usable compared to iOS. Having said this, it is also a fact that most people with an iDevice are clueless of the actual usage and power that iOS can provide over any other device OS today. The majority that I have come across, there seems to be no difference excepting the UI/UX. This is quite in-correct and is the basis for these series of posts. The intent being to differentiate and provide a basic, working knowledge of the device OSes.

Both the OSes have their own pros and cons. While the Apple iOS is severely restricted by what Apple thinks that users should and should not have, Google’s Android has no such artificial and stupid limitations. While Apple artificially limits functionality on older devices in current iOS releases, Android does no such thing! Of course, to be fair, there is also the fact that Android based devices might never have any updates.

The following posts will start outlining the basic usage and differences between iOS and Android.

No comments on Windows 8?

For those who know me and are wondering why I have no comments on Windows 8 so far, well, here are my views.

As far as I am concerned, Windows 8 is a far worse example of a desktop OS than Vista was. Putting a table/phone/device UI design on a desktop in a hurry was probably one of the worst ideas for any company.

Personally, I would not touch or pay for the desktop edition of any variation of Windows 8 nor would I recommend the same to anyone. I have tried the previews and the evals, but, I’ll wait till it is usable.

Regarding the Windows 8 devices, it’s just too early to actually spend money on. I did try a few phones, seemed to be like the old not-so-smart phones, and has some way to go.

Anyway, I do not have a PC anymore, of any kind, after almost 25 years. All my current hardware is Apple and I am not too unhappy about it since there is nothing better currently. I hope Microsoft and/or Google wake up sometime so we have at least equivalent or better options. Who knows, maybe Ubuntu will win out…

Apple kills all location based apps! Crashes Mail to boot!

Although it has been a while, still, it had to be said as there seems to be no hint that Apple would ever fix this issue.

Ever since the fiasco of the Apple Maps (??) release with iOS 6, Apple effectively killed all location based apps including it’s own Find My Friends and Find My Phone. The very purpose of having location based apps was killed since maps did not exist anymore. It was only Apple’s idea of what maps should be…a clean design with nothing on it!

No longer can you locate anything (excepting for places where Apple actually got some maps) or anyone at anyplace anymore. Even in places where there was no navigation, one still had a very good idea of the location and places as long as Google maps was the default on iOS. Now, there is nothing!

Yes, there was the obvious effort to create a good demonstration on the iOS 6 release, but, a demo it was, and a demo it remains. Now, with the other mobile platforms like Android and Windows maturing to some extent, Apple had better watch out!

As a side effect, the so called “Apple Maps” also bring an Apple Mail client crasher to the latest OS X. Just share a location (if you can find something) and send it via email. Try a preview (press the space bar on the attachment) or opening the .loc.vcf location attachment in Apple Mail on OS X….CRASH!

In the overall mobile context, it would be worth pointing out that the Google speech recognition is far superior to Siri. Also, the Google services are not limited and work far better globally than Apple’s limited Siri.

After all this Apple started releasing hardware variations of the iOS devices with the same dated UI and no maps (also called Apple Maps) and therefore no usable location based services. One really has to wonder as to the direction Apple is headed in…

Viber crashing on the iPhone 4/4S?

Ever since I updated to iOS 6, I had been having issues with Viber crashing out within a span of 20 seconds with no help from my side. I just had to run Viber and leave it. Sure enough, it would crash within 20 seconds. I could dial and talk to anyone on Viber, but, it would still crash out in the same time frame.

After trying all the usual stuff like re-installing and even re-flashing the iPhone, the problem persisted. Initially, I just installed a couple of similar alternate applications and some of them exhibited a similar behaviour as Viber did. They would either freeze or crash out.

Since applications are sandboxed, it was obvious it had to be something related to iOS that Viber and these apps had in common. Further analysis on these lines revealed the issue and also a bug in the OS X address book app.

I had TrueCaller installed with the option of adding the spam numbers to my address book. That way, I could see a spam call/message and ignore it. I also put a “silent” ringtone on the TrueCaller spam numbers so it would not create a disturbance.

It seems that iOS 6 handles the huge contact list of the TrueCaller numbers differently from 5.x where I never had this issue. The “Protected by TrueCaller” contact had hundreds of numbers (possibly thousands) and all the apps that were looking at the address book had issues there. So, the obvious solution was to delete the contact and resolve the issue.

Not quite as simple as that. On the iPhone, you could potentially scroll forever to get the the delete contact option. So, I simply ran the address book on my Mac and typed “Tru” in the search to get to the TrueCaller contact and delete it. Not to be. The address book on Mountain Lion froze every time I entered a search matching the “Protected by TrueCaller” contact. Okay, so, I tried scrolling to the contact and same issue. The moment the address book get to that contact, it just freezes!

Ultimately, I logged into my iCloud account on the web and managed to delete the contact. Interestingly, although the contacts were synced and removed from my iPad and iPhone 4, my own iPhone 4S would just not remove the contact. I tried deletion from one of the contact managers I have installed on my iPhone 4S and it failed. I then installed a couple of other contact managers and seems their asking for permission to access the address book fixed the deletion.

Finally, I had to dispense with the TrueCaller contact and I have Viber and all other similar apps functional again. In case anyone has similar issues, try to check your contacts for a large number of numbers/email IDs etc. That could be the problem when using iOS 6 and ML.

iMac – Check your HDD health if you have partitions!

Seems that Apple is yet to get partitioning and formatting right. One would think this used to be a DOS/Windows issue over a decade ago. Well, think again!

I partitioned and formatted my iMac HDD when Mountain Lion was released. I always like to do a clean install to make sure that there is nothing un-expected which can happen on occasion on a restore from a backup.

Everything worked fine and nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary for a while. By this time, I had filled up about 80% on the second partition with backups and downloads. Then, one day, I ran the latest update of Onyx, as I always do on any update of this wonderful free app, and to my surprise, it failed on the disk check.

The error was un-recoverable and the stock Disk Utility also had the same issue. Going through some forums, it seemed that quite a few people had encountered similar issues with no real solution listed.

I tried to re-boot the iMac in recovery mode to see if the disk could be repaired from there. Instead of booting into the recovery, as it used to, the iMac went to the internet to download something. For a moment I thought the HDD was gone as it failed to boot into the recovery. About 10 minutes later, it did go into the recovery mode and I was able to run the Disk Utility from there.

Finally, some hope…the Disk Utility corrected the partitioning issue with a message that suggested that the partition/data sizing was not done corrected and it had to resize the partition to fix the problem. So much for a tested release of an OS. I am just happy the issue was fixed and I did not have to go through a complete re-install which I had done with the Mountain Lion release.

WiFi not connecting automatically on Mac OS X

Well, I managed to brick my old Netgear and installed a new router and configured it with the same name. To my surprise, my iMac and MacBooks refused to connect to the new router over WiFi automatically like they used to.

I tried the usual stuff like resetting the PRAM and the SMC to no avail. Finally, I removed the WiFi network name from the know networks and re-added it. That worked!

Getting IPA details in scripts

I read someplace on the net that one could use “defaults” to read the fields in an IPA file, a simpler method is to simply use plutil. Assuming that the iTunesMetadata.plist is already extracted from the IPA file, the following examples will get the fields from the plist.

a=`plutil -p iTunesMetadata.plist | grep -i appleId | cut -d "\"" -f4`
b=`plutil -p iTunesMetadata.plist | grep -i genre | cut -d "\"" -f4`
c=`plutil -p iTunesMetadata.plist | grep -i itemName | cut -d "\"" -f4 | tr -d ';*\".$' | tr ':' '-' | tr '/' '&'`
d=`plutil -p iTunesMetadata.plist | grep -i bundleShortVersionString | cut -d "\"" -f4`

Some of the common characters appearing the itemName have been “fixed” in this example. Unlike the “defaults” to read the plist, “plutil” keeps the proper encoding, besides being easier to parse and deal with.

Mountain Lion Preview Printing BUG

Actually, this bug has persisted since Snow Leo. It seems that you can actually never print at actual size, i.e., 100%.

The only work-around is to set 100 in scale after all settings and then press Enter. Clicking Print or moving out of the scale field resets the value. This bug has survived an amazing 3 releases of the OS and all related updates thus far.

After searching around on the net and checking out various options, the one that actually works is changing the defaults in a terminal as follows:

defaults write com.apple.Preview PVImagePrintingScaleMode 0
defaults write com.apple.Preview PVImagePrintingAutoRotate 0

Ideally, you would set both these defaults to ensure “normal” behaviour.