March 28, 2014 By: Jimmy McGee
Android 4.4.2 KitKat for the AT&T Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is rolling out! That and much more news is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is the announcement of Sony has made some Open Source archives available for the Sony Xperia Z2 and Z2 tablet and how Chainfire rooted the Samsung Galaxy S 5 ahead of it’s release! That’s not all that’s covered in today’s video!
Jordan talks about the other videos released this week on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer TK released an Xposed Tuesday video for Gesture Control. He then showed you how to root the Samsung Galaxy Gear. Finally, he gave us an Android App Review of Shareboard. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
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March 15, 2014 By: Conan Troutman
The ability to launch one application from within another is certainly not a new feature. It is, however, incredibly useful and something so matter of fact that many of us probably rarely acknowledge it. While this might be a very useful feature, it isn’t exactly perfect and still has a little room for improvement. You may have previously noticed that after launching one application from within another, it more often than not doesn’t appear independently in the task manager, which obviously makes multitasking a little more awkward than it needs to be.
ActivityForceNewTask is an Xposed module from XDA Forum Moderator GermainZ that does exactly as the name suggests and forces activities launched within applications to create a new task, allowing for much easier switching between the two. Obviously, this has the potential to cause issues with certain applications. However, reports of breakage so far are minimal. Should you encounter any unwanted results from using this module, there are both whitelist and blacklist options available to set exactly which apps this will affect.
As mentioned, this is an Xposed Module so you will need the Xposed Framework to get started. It is also completely free and open source, which is nice. You can find more info and the download link in the original thread.
March 13, 2014 By: Will Verduzco
You may recall that about five months ago, we touched upon a study demonstrating how OEM modifications are the primary cause for most “Android” security issues. Unfortunately, we offer yet another example of OEM-caused security issues—but this time, it’s not because of an OEM skin or bloatware. Rather, this is a potential vulnerability at a far deeper level: proprietary modem software.
The OEM in question is none other than Samsung, the Android ecosystem’s largest and most successful device manufacturer, and the backdoor itself comes as proprietary radio software. This software is responsible for communicating with the modem hardware, and is capable of implementing RFS commands. These RFS commands are then able to perform I/O operations on the device’s storage.
No big deal, right? I’ll just load CyanogenMod and be done with it. Wrong.
Since the cause is a proprietary radio software, changing to an aftermarket ROM will not solve anything, so long as the ROM uses Samsung’s proprietary blobs. In fact, the Replicant team used Galaxy Note II and Galaxy S III devices running CM10.1 to demonstrate how this was ROM-agnostic.
Currently the list of known affected devices includes the Galaxy S, Galaxy S II, Galaxy Note, Galaxy Tab 2, Galaxy S III, and Galaxy Note II, but it’s highly likely that many other Samsung devices are vulnerable. Furthermore, this also seems to affect the Samsung-built Google Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus, as this is a back door at the radio software level, rather than as a part of an OEM skin. Whatsmore, on certain devices, this incriminated process runs as root.
While it is entirely possible that there is a legitimate reason for this backdoor, it’s hard to envision a scenario where one would be necessary. As such, it would be great to hear Samsung’s official statement on the matter. Until then, perhaps it would be a good idea to look into fully open source projects like Replicant, or at the very least, building an aftermarket kernel capable of blocking (and logging) RFS command requests.
You can learn more by heading over to the source link below.
February 4, 2014 By: egzthunder1
Many of you may recall that back in June of 2012, we talked about how NVIDIA was given a rather direct message courtesy of none other than Dr. Linus Torvalds himself. Basically, the article written by XDA Recognized Developer AdamOutler went on about the closed nature of both NVIDIA and Qualcomm as chipset manufacturers, and how it was shameful and really inexplicable how two companies with such closed minded ideals could possibly be the paramount chipset providers for a large number of Android device manufacturers. Adam went on to wrap up the article with a brief (but very powerful) video on what the father of the Linux kernel thought about their lack of support for the open source world. Needless to say, shocked and appalled NVIDIA released a statement not long after in an attempt to address some of the finer points of the rather graphical complaint. Without going into the nitty gritty of the response itself, Adam basically dismantled their apology/explanation piece by piece. Their words, not being backed up by their actions, meant little to nothing.
Fast forward a year-and-a-half later, and we see something coming out of the left field: a completely unexpected move by NVIDIA, which left a whole lot of people trying to think back to what Dr. Torvalds said in the past. In a nutshell, you may recall that earlier this year, NVIDIA announced at CES the arrival of a “192-core” processor, the Tegra K1. This monster of a computerized brain was believed to be, much like its predecessors, as closed source as feasibly possible. So, while it was exciting to see such next generation hardware on the verge of hitting the market, it was a mixed bag of emotions as no one could predict what kind of tricks the chip maker had under its sleeves to keep those pesky devs away from their trade secrets. Well, as per a post made by Alexandre Courbot, the Japanese division of NVIDIA was making progress in helping the Nouveau project come afloat. For the unaware, the Nouveau project is essentially a group trying to create open source code to work with NVIDIA graphics hardware, which is the ultimate roadblock for most open source operating systems utilizing the Linux kernel (Android, Linux distros for PC, etc).
It seems that NVIDIA finally saw the benefit of contributing to the Open Source community, as they decided to share some of their work with the rest of the world by beginning testing and coding open source drivers for the K1 chipset. The work is indeed endorsed by NVIDIA, so rest assured that it is not a leak to be taken down or redacted. As stated, it is in very early stages of development and very few tests have been run. These will then expand into user space testing—if successful, of course. The road is a lengthy one, but certainly not impossible. And now that Nvidia is helping out, it is a far more tangible reality. The post was very well received by entire Open Source community—so much so, that even Linus himself gave NVIDIA yet another piece of his mind, but this time using a different finger. As the saying goes, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs, and Linus’s original message seems to have broken just enough eggs for this wonderful, currently being cooked, omelette to finally happen.
Who knows? Maybe one day in the not-so-distant future, when the manufacturers remove their heads out of their posteriors and realize that without open source they would not exist today, they will start sharing what they know so that they can do what they once (likely) embarked out to do when their companies opened doors for the first time: Make the world a better place through education and sharing of knowledge through technology and innovation.
You can find more information in the original Google Plus post by Dr. Linus Torvalds.
[Thanks to OEM Relations Manager jerdog for the tip!]
We’d like to think that temperature control is the least of our problems when it comes to our smartphones and tablets. It’s a factor that the majority, if not all, of the large manufacturers refuse to acknowledge—instead preferring to tout form, power, and performance. So when we do CPU-intensive activities, such as playing games, or when the weather’s hotter than usual on a particular day, we don’t expect our devices to usually heat up to such a degree.
To manage such problems, Sony has Thermanager, a ‘thermal management solution’ for Xperia devices with binaries that were previously released through their Developer’s Portal. An issue with this was developers weren’t given the flexibility and freedom to customize, improve, or analyze the behavior of the thermal management. This then hindered possible fixes and solutions to thermal-related problems, which were not properly addressed otherwise.
Sony decided to address this issue by releasing the source code of Thermanager to the general public. Made available through their Github, this source release is yet another step that Sony has taken inline with their developer-friendly reputation. So if you’re a developer looking to build on the existing thermal solutions, be sure to check their information post.
September 25, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
XDA:DevCon 2013 is over. Without the great support from our sponsors, the event would not have been nearly as interesting or informative. One sponsor that really stepped up was Sony. Not only did they attend and bring their latest goods for ogling and testing, but they also brought three interesting presentations of our enjoyment.
Their first presentation Karl-Johan Dahlstrom (head of Developer Relations at Sony Mobile) gave was titled “How Sony Supports and Works With Independent Developers.” Part of Karl-Johan’s job is bridging internal software development with external developers, innovation, and knowledge sharing. Above all, he is responsible for fostering co-innovation through tech and developer mindshare. In his presentation, he talks about and gives examples of how independent developers and Sony can, and have, collaborate through different opportunities and open initiatives. Finally, he talks about the initiatives and activities we do to support independent developers and opportunities ahead.
In their second presentation Sony brought Alin Jerpelea. He and other developers started “Free Xperia Project” trying to offer software alternatives, like CyanogenMod, for Sony devices. In his presentation “Android on Legacy Devices – Use It or Lose It,” he talks about how Android support on legacy devices is demanded by a lot of people because manufacturers rarely release Android updates. Developers and members at XDA work hard to support devices on new Android versions. Alin ponders how much should we push those devices. Is it enough to have the latest Android version booted, or do we want more? Alin and the audience talk about whether or not working to get new Android versions on old devices is worth the time. Check out the video to see what they have to say.
Finally, Sony provided one more presentation. Sony Developer Pal Szasz created the CHKBUGREPORT tool for internal needs, and then open sourced the tool for everyone’s enjoyment. In his presentation “CHKBUGREPORT: Open Source Bug Reporting Tool,” Pal talks about how the tool allows you to get good information out of bug reports. Android is the world’s most popular mobile OS, and developers need a good way to deal with bug reports. To see if this former Sony internal tool is right for you, check out this video.
Again, we want to thank Sony for attended and providing us with three excellent presentations. If you want to see more presentations or get a copy of the presentation slides, visit the XDA:DevCon Presentations page.
September 23, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
An Android 4.3 dump for the T-Mobile Moto X was leaked and is now flashable. That and much more news is covered by Jordan, as he reviews all the important stories from this week. Included in this week’s news is an article about an open source active display implementation being released and the open source Focal Camera app being made available in standalone form.
Jordan talks about the other videos released this weekend on XDA Developer TV. XDA Developer TV Producer Jayce released a video talking about the current state of open source, as well as a developer’s flow and happiness. Pull up a chair and check out this video.
September 21, 2013 By: Jimmy McGee
Open source has been around for a while, perhaps longer than some of those of you reading this have been alive. This doesn’t mean that open source is stagnant. Open source is constantly evolving and changing, and that’s what makes it great. In fact, open source is growing into places outside of software.
In today’s video, XDA Developer TV Producer Jayce talks about the current state of open source. He talks about what Google and EDX are doing for “Moocs,” and he explains what that is. He talks about open hardware and the maker movement that is taking the world by storm. Check out this video to learn more.
August 10, 2013 By: Samantha
Greg Sony”. It’s a rather affectionate title that Sony’s been given for the past few months, particularly for their leading track record in GPL compliance as displayed on multiple occasions. So to make sure that they’re continuing their fairly extraordinary performance, they’ve just released the open source files for the recently announced Xperia Z Ultra and M.
Much in the spirit shown by Sony back with the Xperia Z, the company’s gone ahead to make sure developers can play with the workings behind both the yet-to-be-released Xperia M and the just released Xperia Z Ultra. It’s been iterated before, and it has to be done again, but nothing but commendation can be given to Sony Mobile for this.
The Xperia Z Ultra is Sony’s answer to the very successful Note series from Samsung, boasting a 6.4-inch display at 1080p resolution. Keeping it going is the 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a 3000 mAh battery. With a thickness, or thinness rather, of 6.5mm, it retains the attractive OmniBalance design we’ve seen featured in the 2013 Xperia family. This is also true for the Xperia M, a mid range device with quite a modest spec sheet. Yet despite its 1GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and 1GB of RAM, it definitely still has enough horsepower to go about the uses of the average user.
So if you’re thinking of thinking about getting either of these devices, or curious about their “behind the scenes,” you can find the files for the Xperia Z Ultra and the Xperia M at their respective posts on Sony Developer’s Open Source Downloads site here and here.
August 7, 2013 By: Will Verduzco
Now that’s a doozy, isn’t it? Before proceeding, let’s take a moment for that to better sink in. In addition to support from the AOSP, one of the hallmarks of the Nexus program has traditionally been the availability of factory restore images. This is more than a simple convenience for Nexus device owners. Rather, it allows for users to safely and reliably restore their devices to their factory state.
As a result of the availability of factory restore images, Nexus device owners always had a safety net available for when (not “if” here at XDA) they decide to leave the confines of stock software and venture into the realm of aftermarket development. And the loading of unsupported firmware was always a relatively supported task, as evidenced by the availability of the simple command fastboot oem unlock.
There have been minor inconveniences along the way, however, as exemplified by the Nexus One and Nexus 4 factory images. Ultimately, these issues were all resolved in some way or another. For the Nexus One, HTC was able to release factory images. And for the Nexus 4, Google released the images after some time had passed. However one thing links these devices, along with the new Nexus 7 (2013): Qualcomm.
As a quick refresher, the Nexus One used the original Snapdragon system-on-a-chip with a single core Scorpion CPU mated to an Adreno 200 GPU. The Nexus 4 uses the Snapdragon S4 Pro, which features four Krait CPUs and an Adreno 320 GPU. Finally, the Nexus 7 uses a potentially lower-binned Snapdragon 600, which has been relabeled as an S4 Pro. And coincidentally, all of these devices have faced significant setbacks in their factory image availability.
Well, I see that people have figured out why I’m quitting AOSP.
There’s no point being the maintainer of an Operating System that can’t boot to the home screen on its flagship device for lack of GPU support, especially when I’m getting the blame for something that I don’t have authority to fix myself and that I had anticipated and escalated more than 6 months ahead.
While this was the most clearly the issue has thus far been stated, his followers knew something was amiss ever since JBQ tweeted on the matter back on July 30th:
That feeling when lawyers sabotage the launch you spent 6 months working on? I haz it. Sad sad sad sad sad sad.
The bottom line of the factory image drama is simple: We currently have no officially supported way to factory restore our Nexus devices. We don’t know if this will be solved by Google and Qualcomm like it was for the Nexus 4, or if this will remain a longer-standing issue requiring the intervention of an OEM partner, as was the case with the Nexus One. And finally, this forced the man ultimately in charge of the technical side of the Android Open Source Project to resign.
Luckily, there are options available for users looking to restore their factory firmware, thanks to XDA Senior Member ATGAdmin who released a factory restore package for users in need. In fact, a certain editor-in-chief of a certain mobile development forum’s news site already had to make use of such accommodations after some late-night flashing without adequate precautions left him with an unusable slab. However, these images are unsupported, and it would ultimately be better if they were to come from Google themselves.
Because of this issue, and past issues like it, the future direction of the Android Open Source Project is unfortunately all too nebulous. It’s times like these that we’re grateful that other open source options are beginning to emerge.
[Via Android Police]
August 3, 2013 By: Conan Troutman
Android is already open source though, right? Well technically yes, but also no. While it’s possible to compile AOSP from the readily available source code and get it running on a wide array of devices with relative ease, getting complete functionality is often impossible without some amount of proprietary, device, or OEM specific code. This is not to mention that many of the applications that make the core of the Android experience are closed source. While this may not pose a huge problem to the average user and can be worked around with a little time and effort, it’s simply not good enough for the folks over at the FSF. Thus, they have decided to set about creating a truly open sourced Android experience.
The project, named Replicant, is hoping to provide a distribution of Android that is free from both proprietary code within the OS itself and core applications. This, however, requires devices and devices cost. With support for ten devices currently achieved, including numerous Galaxy devices and the Nexus S, it’s fair to say that a lot of work has already gone into this project and it’s definitely something that appeals to many people. The project is pretty aptly summed up by one of its own developers, Paul Kocialkowski;
“For a long time, it wasn’t possible to operate a mobile phone using free software, even though that is one of the areas of computing where the most important issues are at stake. Replicant is a free Android derivative, while other Android versions usually require nonfree components to actually run on phones. We expect that having our project supported by the Free Software Foundation’s fundraising program will greatly help the project, particularly by enabling us to build support for more phones.”
Being able to offer a donation is far from the only way to help the project along. Any developers who might be interested in this can join the project’s IRC channel if they wish to contribute to discussions. And the average user with a compatible device can simply install Replicant and submit bug reports. Head on over to the FSF site for more information on Replicant and how you can help out.
July 29, 2013 By: TheRomMistress
Coinciding with the release of Android 4.3 and and an updated stock camera, stage one of the CyanogenMod team’s top secret “Project Nemesis” was finally unveiled on July 26. According to the development group’s weekly wrap-up on www.cyanogenmod.org, the goal of this project is to bring users the best custom operating experience possible. As such, Focal, a feature-packed camera application, was announced as the first component geared towards reaching that goal. CyanogenMod developer Guillaume Lesniak (XDA Recognized Developer XpLoDWilD) posted details about the new camera on Google +, explaining almost a dozen new and improved features that were integrated into the Open Source app.
Included in the announcement was a video showing Focal in action. It’s no doubt that you have all heard the expression, “being in the right place at the right time.” CyanogenMod has expanded on that by claiming Focal will provide you with “the right pixel, look, path, spark, and feeling at the right time.” There are two key components at work within the UI that help backup that claim: a side bar and personable widgets within the sidebar. With a simple swipe, widgets can be reordered and hidden depending on your preference. When the screen is rotated, all widgets and the sidebar stay in place to avoid cluttered distractions while trying to take a picture. “It just feels natural,” said Lesniak. Doubling tapping on the viewfinder will turn it into a Quick Capture mode that allows you to take pics no matter where you tap on the screen. By use of a “rule of thirds” grid that helps frame your shots, you can achieve a more professional looking photo with Focal.
Those who have a tendency to take “selfies” will love the timer and burst mode features, which are sorely lacking in the stock camera. Not only does the timer allow you to set up a delay after pressing the shutter button, but it also has a built-in voice trigger that snaps your mug as soon as you say, “cheese,” “cid,” or “whiskey.” The burst mode takes a series of shots in increments of 5, 10, 15, or more without the need to press the shutter button multiple times.
Light metering is a major component to getting the proper exposure of your subject. With the addition of a meter ring alongside the standard focus ring, your subjects will be less likely to turn out too bright or too dark. Depending on your device, different metering modes are available including frame average, spot metering, and weighted point.
A swipe-enabled review drawer has been implemented for quick reference to your recent photos. Wherever you are in the app, swiping down in portrait mode of left in landscape will allow for easy access to your pics. When shooting in burst mode, a mini review drawer is available in real time. You can also take a picture while the drawer is open and it will slowly fade out of view. Like stock, swiping gestures also allow you to instantly delete unwanted photos; and tapping on a photo will automatically open it up in gallery.
The ability to take video snapshots while recording is now available to all devices by simply double-tapping the screen or pressing the volume up key. By using the volume down key or tapping the screen, Focal also allows you to refocus your video. Different effects can be added/changed while shooting by keeping the corresponding widget open while recording.
Google’s new “auto-awesome” feature has been extended to Focal by adding an automatic picture enhancement system. Within five seconds of taking a picture, Focal will automatically enhance all new pictures you take. Panorama mode has also been enhanced so your pictures come out better than ever! Rather than the previous 160 degree panoramic, the new app allows you up to 360 degrees of landscape.
The CM team has also created a better software HDR algorithm that according to Lesniak, first matches the shots before blending them together and then applies them as a real tone-mapping. “It takes a little bit more time to process than our previous implementation, so you might not want to use it on all your pictures, but it’s definitely worth it on your special occasions,” he said.
One of the great new features added to the Android 4.2 stock camera was Photo Sphere. Unfortunately, not every device is compatible with it, and those who really wanted to use it had to exchange all CM enhancements in order to use it. With Focal, a similar feature called PicSphere has been introduced. PicSphere is an opensource replacement for Google’s PhotoSphere, and allows for complete 360 degree panoramas.
While Focal is not available quite yet, the team promises to publish the source along with its official repositories as soon as the last few bugs are worked out. Once the source has been released, you can expect to find it in subsequent CM nightlies. The source code is split into two different repositities: android_packages_apps_Focal and android_external_Focal. As an open source app written under version two of the General Public Licence, the android community is being strongly encourage to contribute to the success of Focal by adding new widgets and settings. Lesniak said that this is to “achieve the final goal of the app” which is to “have a complete camera software, opensource, that is both powerful and compatible with every device.”
As this is only the first phase of the Nemesis project, Steve Kondik said in a Google + post that there will be much more to follow. “My goal for CM has always been to break open these mostly proprietary mobile devices so we can turn them into the product we really want…What’s most important to me is that anyone can get the code, hack on it and change whatever you want, build it, and flash it to your device.” he said. “Nemesis is our plan to improve the user experience in the right places. The new camera app, Focal, is just the start. Without giving too much away, invoking teaser videos, or giving ETAs, I can confidently say that awesome things are going to keep coming.”
There’s no denying that privacy is a huge concern for a large number of mobile users across all operating systems. Short of smashing your wireless router and trading down to a 3310 that’s kept in a lead-lined box until you need to make a call, it can be incredibly difficult to keep track of where, when, and to whom your personal information is divulged.
Android applications require various permissions, which you are no doubt familiar with by now. Most require these for valid reasons. Some, however, may take advantage of a particular permission and use it to do something you might not be aware of or have expected. Apart from installing only applications that you absolutely need and trust, the best way to try and eliminate the possibility of permissions being abused is to use something like OpenPDroid to adjust these permissions on a per-app basis. The only downside to such a modification is that it can be difficult to put in place for the average user. XDA Senior Member M66B has taken a step towards making permissions management a whole lot easier with a little help from the Xposed Framework.
XPrivacy is an Xposed module that allows the user to view all the currently installed applications on their device and then adjust the individual permissions that app is able to use. Instead of simply preventing the application from collecting the data it is looking for, which can lead to force closes, XPrivacy will provide false data such as an empty contact list or spoofed location. A full list of the possible restrictions and any other information you could possibly want is available from M66B’s Github. The module is also open source, which is nice.
If privacy is a concern for you, take a look at the original thread for more information.