Posts Tagged ‘software’

After having read today about the many advantages of using an Android phone rather than the iPhone (and yes, there are many arguments for the opposite case 😉 ), the Lifehacker post below could make a switch decision easier.

It may sound too good to be true, but it’s actually easy to sync an Android phone with your Mac just as seamlessly as an iPhone could. Even better, the majority of syncing is done in the background for you, constantly, through Google.

The key to headache-free syncing between Mac and Android is to use Google’s cloud services as middle-men between the two. Your phone’s already designed around using Google for its mail, contact and calendar data, so we’re just going to show you how to sync those down to your Mac, which takes little to no effort. Once you’ve got it all set up, the only reason you’ll ever have for plugging your Android phone into your Mac will be to sync music (and if you really want to, you can sync that over Wi-Fi too).

Setting up Gmail in Mail

If you don’t use an email app on your Mac, but instead just use a browser to access a Gmail account, then you don’t need to worry about Mail at all. If you do use the app, you’ll be happy to know that syncing it with a Gmail account is so simple that it’s almost automated.

Simply open Mail’s preferences, click on Accounts in the top bar, then click the “+” symbol at the bottom-left of the window. After that, it’s as simple as entering your name, email address and login information. Mail automatically knows what settings to choose for Gmail.

Syncing Your Contacts with Mac’s Address Book

Open the Address Book, then open its preferences and click on Accounts in the top bar of the window. You should see an account called “On My Mac Local”, which should already be selected. To the right of that is a check-box labelled “Synchronize with Google”. Just check the box!

Afterwards, you should see a small sync icon in your Mac’s menu bar. Normally, that sync indicator would be used by MobileMe, but it’ll also work for other accounts. If you click on it, a menu will appear and you’ll have the option to “sync now”. Click that, and Address Book will begin to fill up with entries from your Google Contacts within a few seconds. Simple as that, your contacts are synced.

Syncing Your Calendars with iCal

In iCal, open preferences, then click on Accounts in the top bar. Click the “+” symbol at the bottom-left of the window. Leave Account Type set to “Automatic”, then enter your Gmail login information. After you click Create, iCal will sync your Google Calendar automatically. If you use reminders or alerts of any sort in Google Calendar, you’ll also want to click the Advanced tab in iCal’s preferences, and check the box marked “Turn off all alarms”. Otherwise, you’ll be receiving double reminders.

Syncing Your Music with DoubleTwist

If you’ve got a Google Music or Amazon Cloud Drive account, you can already upload your iTunes library and stream the music to your phone. Since not too many people use those services yet, and since they’re a different type of syncing than what we’re after today, we’ll use previously mentioned DoubleTwist.

DoubleTwist is called “iTunes for Android” for a reason. Not only does it look like a miniature iTunes, but it performs most of the same functions, only for your Android phone instead of an iPhone. With DoubleTwist, you can sync music to and from your phone, whether it’s song by song or a whole playlist. It’s fast, simple and free (which we like).

There’s also a DoubleTwist music player app available for Android, but it’s not required to play anything that you sync using the desktop app.

The DoubleTwist desktop app for Mac doesn’t only handle music, you can sync photos and videos just as easily with the built-in media browser.

If you really want to one-up your friends with iPhones, you can buy the DoubleTwist AirSync app to perform all your syncing over Wi-Fi. It costs $4.62, but it’s pretty fancy-pants to be able to sync without a cable. Note that it’ll definitely be slower, though, and is probably a bigger drain on your battery.=

Sync Your Photos with Picasa Web Albums

Last but definitely not least are your photos. We’re going to use Picasa Web Albums, since it syncs beautifully with Android. Many Android phones should be able to sync with Picasa out of the box. Just double check that all your Google services are set to sync by checking in your phone’s settings under Accounts & Sync, and tapping on your Google account.

You don’t need every Google service on the list to sync if you’re not planning on using them. Google Books, for example, may be listed. If you don’t plan on using it, just leave it unchecked. It won’t affect anything when syncing with your Mac.

Unfortunately, this is only really available to users with phones running stock Android. Users in HTC Sense or other manufacturer UIs might notice that there is no Picasa entry in Accounts & Settings, but there will likely be a Flickr entry. In this case, you have two options: you can download the stock version of the Gallery app and install it on your phone, which will let you sync Picasa, or you can sync with Flickr, which is also iPhoto-friendly. Note that if you want to install the original Gallery app, you’ll need an account at XDA and you’ll need to check the “Unknown Sources” box in Settings > Applications on your phone.

On the Mac side, you can either use Google’s Picasa desktop software to sync Picasa albums, or you can use the iPhoto to Picasa uploader. This iPhoto plug-in which will let you upload and manage Picasa albums by choosing File, then Export. If you’ve chosen to sync with Flickr, you can just hit the Flickr button in the bottom right hand corner of iPhoto’s window to send any album to your Flickr account — it’s already built-in.

Apple has actually made it very easy to sync your data with Google, so the setup should take you very little time, and by the end, you’ll have all your favourite Mac apps syncing data right to your phone. From here on out, your mail, address book, calendars and music libraries should look the same on both devices, without you having to lift a finger. Got your own tricks for keeping your Mac and Android phone in sync? Let us know in the comments.

 

New in Gmail’s Labs section is a feature that’s a saving grace for anybody waiting out a big attachment or slow server. Once activated, “Background Send” lets you move on to reading and managing other messages, while Gmail continues sending your messages behind the scenes.

Head to the Labs tab in Settings, then search out “Background send.” Enable that feature, and now your messages are sent using a different process, so you can start writing another message, or read through the rest of your inbox. If a message ultimately fails to send, Gmail will ping you at the top of your window to try it again now, or try it a bit later. It’s a must-have Labs feature for anyone who needs reliable access to Gmail.

Gmail does note at the Labs switch that you need to stay logged into Gmail while your messages are sending in the background—likely not an issue in most cases, but worth keeping in mind.

New in Labs: Background Send [Official Gmail Blog]

Nice post from UNEASYsilence on how to find out who is tracking you when you visit a website and how you can elminate the tracker.

Ghostery is your window into the invisible web – tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons that are included on web pages in order to get an idea of your online behavior. Ghostery tracks the trackers and gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity.

Available as extensions for Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari, Ghostery also lets you block the trackers it finds, and view the source of suspect scripts. Running it is quite an eye-opener, to say the least.

Really cool to see what websites are really running on your computer!

Web browsing on an iPhone and probably any other smartphone is a pain with having to zoom, scale and not being able to fit web pages designed for desktops. Cyberspace changes all of that by using Instapaper’s engine – built into the browser – to reformat any page for easy, clutter-free mobile reading. This is how the developer describes Cyberspace’s features:

  • Cyberspace works great with links-packed sites/articles (e.g. Wikis, social news sites, Tumblr dashboard, top-1000-something blog posts, etc). There’s no need to get out of your current context to check out a random link – just queue it to visit after you finish your current article.
  • Use Cyberspace to visit your favourite sites – the browser gives you access to both Local bookmarks and Online bookmarks for example saved on Delicious (I hope the developer will add Diigo at some stage).
  • You can key in the DuckBar anything – be it a web address or any search terms. Cyberspace’s so-called DuckBar not only provides Google Suggestions but also is a gateway to more than one hundred search engines and tons of other goodies. For example: prefix your terms with an exclamation mark (!) to use site-specific search. The DuckDuckGo-backed DuckBar supports more than 600 sites (try !google, !bing, !hackernews, !reddit, !tumblr).
  • You can change between different keyboard types at any time using the Switch keyboard button. Tap-and-hold any links or images to access the contextual menu. You can open it right away, copy it to clipboard, add it to the Reading
    Queue or send it to either Instapaper or Read It Later. Apart from the usual Cut/Copy/Paste command, Cyberspace will also equip you with the ability to search for selected text or add that search to the queue.
  • Cyberspace makes it easier to read things. For one, ad blocking is enabled by default. You also got the Readability bookmarklet at your finger tip – removing clutter around what you’re reading, stitching articles spanning several pages and focusing on the actual content of the web page are no-brainer. Last, Cyberspace features a Text mode powered by Instapaper Mobilizer. Pro tip: Turn it on when you go to Wikis.
  • Cyberspace helps you quickly share content on Instapaper, Read It Later, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Delicious, Pinboard and Google Reader. And it helps you automatically determines how it should share your content: as a link, an image, a quote, or a full length blog post.
  • If you have Pastebot and OmniFocus installed, you can also send content there for storage and turning into todo item.
  • Cyberspace features a scratchpad right within the app. You can use it to quickly jot down ideas and store random information you found on the web for your own purpose.
  • Links from other apps can be opened in Cyberspace by simply being copied to the clipboard. Upon launching, Cyberspace will offer you to either open them or queue them for later reading.
  • You can use your favorite TextExpander snippets in Cyberspace.
  • You can launch Cyberspace from another web browser by prefixing any link with the letter ‘c’.
  • None of your data is tied into Cyberspace — both your Reading queue and local bookmarks can be exported whenever you want

That’s it. Happy browsing!

Ending the futile war on drugs

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Sydney Morning Herald

December 27, 2010

Prohibition has failed and we must redirect our efforts to the harm caused by drugs, and to reducing consumption.

The war on drugs is a lost war, and 2011 is the time to move away from a punitive approach in order to pursue a new set of policies based on public health, human rights, and commonsense. These were the core findings of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy that I convened, together with former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Cesar Gaviria of Colombia.

We became involved with this issue for a compelling reason: the violence and corruption associated with drug trafficking represents a major threat to democracy in our region. This sense of urgency led us to evaluate current policies and look for viable alternatives. The evidence is overwhelming. The prohibitionist approach, based on repression of production and criminalisation of consumption, has clearly failed.

After 30 years of massive effort, all prohibition has achieved is to shift areas of cultivation and drug cartels from one country to another (the so-called balloon effect). Latin America remains the world’s largest exporter of cocaine and marijuana. Thousands of young people continue to lose their lives in gang wars. Drug lords rule by fear over entire communities.

We ended our report with a call for a paradigm shift. The illicit drug trade will continue as long as there is demand for drugs. Instead of sticking to failed policies that do not reduce the profitability of the drug trade – and thus its power – we must redirect our efforts to the harm caused by drugs to people and societies, and to reducing consumption.

Some kind of drug consumption has existed throughout history in the most diverse cultures. Today, drug use occurs throughout society. All kinds of people use drugs for all kinds of reasons: to relieve pain or experience pleasure, to escape reality or enhance their perception of it.

But the approach recommended in the commission’s statement does not imply complacency. Drugs are harmful to health. They undermine users’ decision-making capacity. Needle-sharing spreads HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Addiction can lead to financial ruin and domestic abuse, especially of children.

Cutting consumption as much as possible must, therefore, be the main goal. But this requires treating drug users not as criminals to be incarcerated, but as patients to be cared for. Several countries are pursuing policies that emphasise prevention and treatment rather than repression – and refocusing their repressive measures on fighting the real enemy: organised crime.

The crack in the global consensus around the prohibitionist approach is widening. A growing number of countries in Europe and Latin America are moving away from a purely repressive model.

Portugal and Switzerland are compelling examples of the positive impact of policies centred on prevention, treatment, and harm reduction. Both countries have decriminalised drug possession for personal use. Instead of leading to an explosion of drug consumption, as many feared, the number of people seeking treatment increased and overall drug use fell.

When the policy approach shifts from criminal repression to public health, drug users are more open to seeking treatment. Decriminalisation of consumption also reduces dealers’ power to influence and control consumers’ behaviour.

In our report, we recommend evaluating from a public-health standpoint – and on the basis of the most advanced medical science – the merits of decriminalising possession of cannabis for personal use.

Marijuana is by far the most widely used drug. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the harm it causes is at worst similar to the harm caused by alcohol or tobacco. Moreover, most of the damage associated with marijuana use – from the indiscriminate incarceration of consumers to the violence and corruption associated with the drug trade – is the result of current prohibitionist policies.

Decriminalisation of cannabis would thus be an important step forward in approaching drug use as a health problem and not as a matter for the criminal justice system.

To be credible and effective, decriminalisation must be combined with robust prevention campaigns. The steep and sustained drop in tobacco consumption in recent decades shows that public information and prevention campaigns can work when based on messages that are consistent with the experience of those whom they target. Tobacco was deglamorised, taxed, and regulated; it has not been banned.

No country has devised a comprehensive solution to the drug problem. But a solution need not require a stark choice between prohibition and legalisation. The worst prohibition is the prohibition to think. Now, at last, the taboo that prevented debate has been broken. Alternative approaches are being tested and must be carefully reviewed.

At the end of the day, the capacity of people to evaluate risks and make informed choices will be as important to regulating the use of drugs as more humane and efficient laws and policies. Yes, drugs erode people’s freedom. But it is time to recognise that repressive policies towards drug users, rooted as they are in prejudice, fear, and ideology, may be no less a threat to liberty.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a former president of Brazil (1995-2002), is co-chairman of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, and convener of the Global Commission on Drug Policy. Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.

Marketers are tracking smartphone users through “apps” – games and other software on their phones. Some apps collect information including location, unique serial-number-like identifiers for the phone, and personal details such as age and sex. Apps routinely send the information to marketing companies that use it to compile dossiers on phone users. As part of the “What They Know” investigative series into data privacy, the Journal analyzed the data collected and shared by 101 popular apps on iPhone and Android phones (including the Journal’s own iPhone app).

To look at the issue in more detail, in particular use the interactive database that shows the behavior of these apps and describes what each of them told users about the information it gathered, go to the Wall Street Journal Blog.

This morning I reposted a Download Blog intro to Opera Unite; here now is an attempted summary of an article by Betanews on possible security issues arising from using Unite as your browser based web server.

opera-unite-screen

The main question is whether the Unite APIs expose users file systems. Opera’s security documentation indicates that no Unite user can access another user’s file system directly because each user acting as a server creates a virtual image of his/her file system on Opera’s proxy servers, generating so-called mount points to which other users are given access.

Right now Unite capable apps work as widgets; question: can they expose these mount points. A widget’s config.xml file includes a reference to the File I/O API and that reference contains a parameter pointing by default to a designated shared folder. This folder could be be a safe one if designated by the widget and the widget itself being safe. But even then, according to the Opera documentation the parameter includes shortcuts leading directly to system folders in Windows, Mac, and Linux (e.g. My Documents in Windows) – how safe is that?

Exposing system files via the mount point is one thing – another is access rights. According to the Opera documentation, the end user’s level of access to the virtual file system is determined by the corresponding level of access in the Unite server’s physical file system, and the job of securing them is left to the developer. The documentation says:

WARNING: Once mounted, the mount point will be read-write unless the underlying file system defines it to be read-only,” the documentation reads. “Be careful to protect your data by controlling how data gets written to them. You should supply some sort of authentication of users who access these directories and be careful to not leave code open to exploitation.

So, it sounds like the developer has to offer the user clear access rights options and the user has to be aware of them, understand their importance and then make use of them accordingly. Whether all developers will be that conscientious or benevolent is doubtful.

Next question is: can the config.xml file be altered by third parties? The answer according to Opera is no: “The config.xml … is hidden away from the Unite protocol and other Web protocols that the browser responds to. It cannot be altered by any unsolicited requests.”

But: can a widget be designed to deliver malicious payloads or otherwise wreck havoc on a user’s file system? Again Opera plays down this security risk by saying that it will ‘pre-screen’ all developer widgets and certify the developer’s claims. This of course would only be the case for widgets downloaded from their http://unite.opera.com repository. But we know from Mozilla how many extensions are being downloaded directly from developers’ sites. Will Opera allow the same for Unite widgets? Can it actually prevent this from happening? And if clients use non-approved widgets, how will Opera servers distinguish between them and the accredited ones? And what about developers running their own malicious widgets from their sites – how can Opera’s servers detect them?

Opera says that the communication between the widget and its servers is not based on SSL but its own protocol. “The authentication between the Opera Unite client and the Opera proxy happens via http://auth.opera.com which is our secure authentication server. This is the same server that is used to authenticate all our services, like Opera Link.” Link is currently being used to synchronise data like bookmarks and other browser data between desktops and mobile platforms, and it is the communication between these platforms that is encrypted; what is not though is the access to the system. What risk will that pose?

Many of the comments to the Betanews post show that that current beta users of Unite seem to have little concern about these and other security issues. That in itself could already be a problem, making the whole system vulnerable. But I guess as Unite grows out of beta, hopefully security fears will be laid to rest. In the meantime I certainly will wait with using Unite.