Thursday, 11 October 2012

App Review: ThisLife

App Review: ThisLife

ThisLife conjures a simplistic, yet majestic, way to browse, organize and share photo collections of any magnitude whatsoever. The app allows pictures to be imported from other services that include Facebook, Instagram, Flick and Twitter among others. Plus of course the app allows the user to upload the pictures from their computer or other devices as well.

Once the pictures are uploaded in the photo library, they can be organized into a ‘Story’ or even several stories if you want to. The ‘Story’ is the most fascinating part of the app. It could be anything between something and general – like the pictures of your child growing up – to something specific – like a birthday party or a weekend away from home. As expected the stories can be shared with other users – your friends, family, cousins, colleagues, etc – who can also participate in it by adding their own pictures, which are known as ‘Moments’ in ThisLife’s lingua franca. They can also participate via liking pictures or commenting on them.

The free starter plan of ThisLife allows the user to upload up to a thousand pictures or upload a video of up to sixty minutes (or one hour). These numbers can be up-graded to 20,000 photos or 10 hours of recorded video footage for $7.99/month, or with the Family Plan the number can be augmented to 20,000 pictures or 25 hours of video footage for $14.99/month.

There are further, less costly ways of storing pictures online as well, but the price that is being paid over here results in a user interface that is significantly superior. What else is being offeres is a feature range that runs the wide gamut from face recognition to advanced tagging, which one can’t get through straight services for online storage.

It is expected that soon the site should offer publishing tools, which should make the creation of photo books considerably easy, among other products.
This app summons the exact experience for the Apple devices – the iPhone and iPad – according to our iPhone spy, while our Android spy has confirmed that a version for Android devices would be launched pretty soon as well. The apps have a two pronged benefit as compared to the website. First up there is the touch interface that makes photo browsing prodigiously more intimate and the user can navigate through the service levels; like for instance if they were to simply use pinches and taps they would be doing exactly that. Secondly the pictures taken from iPhone or iPad can be directly uploaded to ThisLife, courtesy of the app.
The free services of ThisLife are a lot more than just worth a shot. Once you have put some pictures in it, it would be impossible for you to not want to upgrade it. Once you’ve joined the party the apps would be an important part of your service. ThisLife can add a lot of pictures into your life, and join them together to form a memorable story that you’d want to share with everyone you can.

RIM’s Lifeline

It is becoming increasingly obvious that RIM is putting all its hopes of a sensational comeback on BlackBerry 10. The new BlackBerry operating system does seem like proving itself to be up to the challenge, if its initial look is anything to go by. The first thing that has brought BB10 into the limelight is its interface, which is set to completely revamp multitasking. The BlackBerry Hub, sort of like the nerve center of the new OS, is another landmark feature, which blends in nicely with BlackBerry Flow and Active Frames to give the user an all-round package. However, the thing that RIM must keep in mind while competing with Android and iOS is the number of apps – over 600,000 – that the big two have on offer. The current BlackBerry devices do not offer anything along similar lines or numbers and RIM needs to focus on filling this void if it needs to return to the spotlight of the smart phone market.

Apple latest mapping app touted by the company as the “most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever” didn’t exactly turn out to be that I’m afraid, forcing Apple’s CEO Tim Cook to not only apologize, but also go as far as recommending the mapping apps of rivals to iPhone users. While any quasi howler that Apple conjures generates multiple times as many hoopla as that of any of its rivals, and there is no doubt that if Steve Jobs were alive Tim Cook would have been fired, the app isn’t exactly an unmitigated disaster. I’ve used Apple’s Maps app and everything works rather fine, especially the turn by turn directions. But yes it was a bit of a joke to launch it without public transit, a logical design and with incomplete data of location. The app is not the best in the world, but it’s far from being the worst as well. But the thing with Apple is, Steve Jobs raised the bar to such towering heights that his followers were always going to have a tough time satisfying the oh-so-demanding Apple aficionados.

Google’s Low-Blow
 Who would’ve thought that a big name like Google would have to resort to low blows for survival? But that is precisely what has happened. Google has been taking down a lot of affiliate websites which were in direct competition with Adwords – Google’s advertising system – only to set up its own affiliate network for advertising purposes. While Google’s wild beasts Panda and Penguin have been on a hunt to track down and shut down sites that use the affiliate technique to increase their search engine ratings, Google’s skewed rulebook continues to label its own affiliate sites as legal and authentic. It is becoming increasingly clear, and is equally sorry to note, that Google taking down the affiliate sites was owing to the search engine giant’s insecurity and its fear of simmering competition after the sites that were taken down showed unprecedented profits.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Patent Wars: Guess Who’s joining the Party

Make room Samsung and Apple, HTC and Nokia have decided to join the patent war bandwagon. This time around it’s Nokia that’s trying to hold HTC by its ears for creating a phone that looks like a close relative of their Lumia 920. This is problematic since the phone hasn’t even hit the market yet, it can’t have other phones that look exactly the same walking around the market. HTC’s new phone wouldn’t have been such a problem, except that it runs on the Windows 8 platform, as does the Lumia 920 – what consumers see basically is a yellow phone on the outside, and the same interface on the inside.

That’s not to say that both the phones are the same, obviously the HTC phone can’t match the supposed prowess of the camera that’s the Lumia 920 comes embellished with – the trouble is that some consumers follow the “if it walks like a duck and talk like a duck…” philosophy while shopping for phones, which was the main reason that patent wards sprung up to begin. The sad part is that this would be the first Windows 8 Phone from the HTC franchise, leaving some wondering why they couldn’t come up with something a little more innovative in terms of its design. Not only that, the phone has nothing of the HTC taste that users are used to. HTC, like any other manufacturer, has its own design philosophy and the new Windows 8 Phone is nothing but the oddball out in the crowd.

The current situation is made worse by the fact that Nokia is actually supporting certain apps on the Windows 8 platform i.e. maps and the Nokia Drive – making the identity crisis between the two phones all the more messed up. Could consumers actually get confused between two phones? Do people really buy a phone without doing proper research? I mean I personally go through painstaking details of the phone that I’m putting my money into so the idea that I’ll buy an HTC instead of Lumia 920 by mistake seems ludicrous… but evidently both Apple and now Nokia think it’s a big enough deal.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Are You Easy to Spy On?

As a security analyst a lot of my work has revolved around finding the perfect tools and gadgets that people use  to an eye on someone or something that they have a vested interest in. There are no two ways about it, if you’ve got a smart phone and a computer system (be it a desktop or a laptop) you can both spy on people, and be spied on. We continuously place ourselves  on an invisible grid leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs for a multitude of people who might want to track us, hack us and steal our data. The answer to whether your easy to spy on is quite simple to answer. Take your cell phone for instance. What are you putting on it? Your apps are important, oh so very important – it takes one malicious app to infiltrate your data and potentially steal all the data that other apps are collecting. Are you thorough in your research before you actually download an app? Do you double check the permissions that you’re handing over once you’re decided on the app that you want in your phone? Just the apps in your phone can cause chaos which you haven’t even dreamed of, and that’s something you voluntarily partake in. Coincidently, you don’t need a hacker to make your life miserable. You could simply leave your phone lying around unprotected and a slew of people which includes your own close friends, parents, significant others and even your employers could place a stealth app into your device. If you don’t have a proper security protocol in place for your phone you’re pretty much making sure that you’re going to get yourself spied on.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

What Good is the Do-Not-Track Button?

Essentially there already exist measures within your popular browsers that can help you surf the internet free of cookie hassle (by cookie hassle I mean the stuff that helps websites track your online presence and movement). So why is this button gaining so much traction? Some people have gone as far as to say that the button is just an idiots way out of getting tracked. Tracking for Dummies, if it were ever written would probably have a chapter on this button. But there’s a catch – the button isn’t the ultimate solution to the tracking problem. In fact a site that wants to track you will do it anyway regardless of how icky  you feel about it. Cookies can be used to trace out even the tiniest details about the things you like – see that Victoria’s Secret advert following you around? Guess how it knows you like lingerie…. Yup, your cookies are doing all the kissing and telling for you. At the end of the day all this hoopla about how the button is going to be a revolution seems like a big joke. The button can only forward a request for the user to not be tracked, this is no way implies that the website is going to turn around and say “Yes, sir!” and back off. It just means that a formal request was sent forward, that’s it. So what should one really do to stay safe online? Opt for encryption and encrypted sessions on the internet. Don’t save your data in your WebPages i.e. get rid of auto fills and other such conveniences that save you a few seconds online and potentially help unwanted people access your data, and in general just be smart about your online presence.