A secure alternative to flashlight apps

A month or two ago I read an eye opening presentation called Shining  the  Light  on  Flashlight  and  the  Security  of  Thousands  of  Mobile  Apps. It’s worth a quick read, especially pages 42 onwards, where the risks of flashlight apps are unveiled. Although the presentation focuses on security risks among the most popular Android and iOS apps, I noticed that pretty much all of the Windows Phone flashlight apps have similarly questionable requirements.

Why does a flashlight need to know where I am? Or have access to my files? Or send a raft of data all over the place? Needless to say, I got rid of my flashlight app.

Fast forward a week or two, and I needed a flashlight (or a torch, as we say in the UK). I decided to use my screen, which was pretty week, and then it occurred to me that I could enable the flash on my camera while in video mode, which does precisely what a flashlight app would do, without the app. It’s not many more “clicks” than launching and enabling an app (especially if I use the hardware key for the camera), and achieves the same result. I don’t know how well this work on other platforms, but I’m struggling to see why it wouldn’t. Hope this helps someone.

No Lossless Audio With Zune

UPDATE 9 May 2012: This article has been out there for nearly 18 months but I’ve only just got a comment today that’s invalidated it. In short, everything here is accurate until you get to the point when you synchronise to your Windows Phone with Zune. At that point, Zune will transcode Lossless WMA files to MP3, even if the conversion settings are set to, “Only convert media files that aren’t supported by the device”. As described here, my device does support these files! Evidently, as James Shiers points out, the problem is not device support, but that the Zune software doesn’t support Lossless WMA (no citation unfortunately). What makes this even more confusing is that the quality settings are greyed out until you select the other option, so there’s no indication that this might be happening. In fact, the only real clue you have in the Zune client is that the file size will be smaller than the original.

All of this is a bit embarrassing since it proves I couldn’t tell the difference from 320 kbps mp3, which was the whole point of the effort to begin with, but there you go… :/I’ll leave the post in place,  in case the transcoding process is useful to anyone, and in case a new means of syncing supports these files in future.

Original post
When I’m not wearing my SharePoint hat, I try to find the time to make electronic music. Over the last few years I’ve invested a great deal of time and effort moving from a PC-based Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) to an entirely outboard setup, with a large mixing console and various synths, drum machines, sequencers, samplers and dynamics processors. All of this suits me greatly, as it means I’m doing one less thing in front of the computer screen.

Continue reading “No Lossless Audio With Zune”

How Azure improved Groove -> Microsoft Sync Framework

This Microsoft case study reveals how Microsoft’s SharePoint WorkSpace revamps Groove for 2010 using the Microsoft Sync Framework, an Azure technology that can also be used for systems integration – not just off-line synchronisation. This should yield a more reliable synchronisation experience, improve scalability and customisation. It’s worth a quick read. Oh, and did you know SharePoint WorkSpace is also a part of Office 2010 Mobile?

Smart phone/MID evaluation notes

I spent a ludicrous amount of time this Spring trying to find either the perfect MID (Mobile Internet Device) or smart phone. I’m posting my (admittedly quite rough) research/evaluation notes here, as some of this may be valuable to others, even if the technical information is not as current as it could be.

In brief, I was looking for the power and display of a MID in the size of a phone – which doesn’t exist yet. I also wanted a single device for mobile internet access, phone and mp3 player. Camera was less important. Continue reading “Smart phone/MID evaluation notes”