Opting out of Smartphone Spyware

A while ago, I was extolling the virtues of my Android smartphone. I have to say, I am still pleased with the unit, having a mini-computer/camera/phone/calculator etc is handy. It makes life easy to find a needed part on Mouser.com, order it and get it the next day.  I can snap a picture of something and send to somebody in less than a minute.  When trouble shooting a transmitter, sending a picture to the factory rep cuts down on the back and forth and brings the effort directly to the point.

I have also blogged about my mediocre Pandora experience.  Now, it seems there is another reason to be weary of the mighty Pandora machine.

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about what these companies are doing with your data.

Both the Android and iPhone versions of Pandora, a popular music app, sent age, gender, location and phone identifiers to various ad networks.

Read the whole thing, it is enlightening.

Is my Smartphone spying on me?  Apparently so.  Frankly, I’ve had enough of this.  There is nothing compelling or even terribly unique about Pandora.  I’ve found the Pandora listening experience to be adequate, but certainly not worth all the hoopla it gets.  Being constantly bombarded by advertisers selling all sorts of garbage is becoming annoying.  I’ve gone through and deleted all apps that access personal data of any kind, including Pandora.   There are a few which are hard rooted in the phone such as Skype mobile and Facebook which can’t be deleted.  Skype mobile can’t even be deactivated, as soon as the program is ended, it restarts on it’s own.

So, is Skype mobile recording everything I do and sending to some black hole somewhere?  I don’t know.  If it is,  it is likely boring somebody half to death as most of my life is pretty mundane.

Update: I rooted my phone, which was far easier than I thought it would be, and deleted all the programs I didn’t like.

TuneIn Radio

I posted previously about how to listen to radio station streams on an Android phone. In the time between then and now, somebody has come up with a much better way to do it.  TuneIn Radio is both a website for streaming and a mobile application for Android and iPhone users alike.

I have found that every local radio station that has a web stream is listed.  The major overseas broadcasters like the BBC, CBC, Radio Netherlands, and so on as well as all of the non-government US owned shortwave stations are listed.  As their website states:

With over 30,000 FM and AM radio stations from across the globe, TuneIn Radio makes radio local, no matter how far from home you might be.

Far easier than what I posted before. Further, this is exactly the type of service that terrestrial broadcasters needed the most; a concise consolidated listing broken down by genre and locality, to compete with Pandora, Slacker, Last.fm,  et. al.

In order to download TuneIn Radio, point your mobile web browser to http://tunein.com and it will automatically direct you to the proper download source.  Or one could search through the Apple store or Android Market to find the app.

Top ten free Android apps that every broadcast engineer needs

I have been using my Android phone for about 7 months now.  During that period of time, I have found many useful applications and some not so useful ones.  This is a great time saver for technical people.  This list is by no means complete, I did not include any manufacturing or supplier applications like Digikey.  These are tools for the most part.  They are the applications that I have found that have made my life easier.  I focused on the free applications rather than endorse any paid applications.

This is a list of apps that I found most useful for radio engineering:

  1. VNC Android. Great remote computer control application that will work with almost any version of VNC server.   For logging into servers and workstations to fix things remotely, great time/sleep/gas saver.
  2. ElectroDroid. App has many electrical engineering calculators; Reactance, voltage divider, resistor ratio, resistor series-parallel, capacitor charge, ohm’s law, resistor of LED, LM317, voltage drop, and battery life.  Also includes resistor color codes, SMD resistor color codes, inductor color codes, various pin outs, wire ampacity tables.
  3. Metrics Converter.  A general units converter for metric to standard measurements.
  4. WiFi Analyzer.  Cool application that has a WiFi spectrum analyzer, shows all WiFi channels, signal strengths and router name.  Can show an * for open networks.
  5. Kreac Calculator. A full featured scentific calculator, includes all trig functions, roots, pi, log, e, ln, 1/x, etc.  Very handy for some quick figuring on the fly.
  6. RecForge audio recorder.  Can record .wav, .mp3 or .ogg in 8,11,22 or 44 KHz mono or stereo.  The audio can be stored in different folders and emailed.  Great for quick recordings that can be emailed back to the news room or studio.  Sound quality is as good as the microphone on the device.  My HTC mic sounds pretty good.
  7. Google maps.  Great for finding things, satellite views, etc. Use Itouchmap via web browser to find coordinates of a location by taping a map.
  8. Flashlight.  Self explanatory, three levels, good for emergency use, but I’d not use it regularly as a work light, it runs the battery down too quickly.
  9. Audalyzer.  Small audio analyzer that works pretty well.  If something more is needed, professional versions are available for around $5.00.
  10. Radar now.  Uses GPS location to generate moving weather radar picture.  This has come in handy when doing tower work during thunderstorm season.  Good for pulling tower crews or reassuring tower crews as needed.

Those are the free apps, there are many, many more available from the app store.  As far as iPhone apps go, I just don’t know because I have never owned one.