Facebook to Disable Messaging in its Main Android App

Yep, you read that correctly. Facebook are about to disable messaging within it’s main Android app… within days! So how the hell do we keep messaging then? Well, you’re going to need to install a completely separate app for that. Rejoice! NOT!

That’s right, Facebook have decided in all their wisdom that it would be better to have two completely separate apps to do the job that one would be more then capable of doing, if Facebook actually had competent developers working for them. But they don’t. The main Android app is a testament to just how completely shitful their developers really are. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more poorly developed app in all my Android years.

This change isn’t new though. It’s been coming for quite some time but until now there has been no definitive time frame as to when it would happen. A statement from Facebook confirms it’s just days away.

In the next few days, we’re continuing to notify more people that if they want to send and receive Facebook messages, they’ll need to download the Messenger app. As we’ve said, our goal is to focus development efforts on making Messenger the best mobile messaging experience possible and avoid the confusion of having separate Facebook mobile messaging experiences. Messenger is used by more than 200 million people every month, and we’ll keep working to make it an even more engaging way to connect with people.

Where do I personally stand on this move? Now that I’m being forced into it, the Facebook app will be coming off my phone completely. I’ll use the mobile browser version from now on. I don’t need yet another memory hogging, battery draining, privacy exploiting, data harvesting, piece of shit app on my phone – or any device I own for that matter.

Facebook could have made the main Android app better then anything else available today. They’ve had ample opportunity to excel in this space but time and time again they continue to fail. If only they went 100% native, returned Most Recent as the default news feed sorting, removed all the bloat (including all the unnecessary permissions used for data harvesting), and put a little more work into fine tuning the apps efficiency and overall UI, they could have made it something really special.

If you want to read my thoughts on the privacy issues, you can check out this article I wrote. You might be surprised to learn just how much data Facebook is taking (stealing) from you and you don’t even know it’s happening.

[MUSIC] OneRepublic – If I Lose Myself

I stared up at the sun
Thought of all of the people and places
And things I’ve loved

I stared up just to see
that all the faces
you were the one next to me

You can feel the light start to tremble
Washing what you know out to sea
You can see your life out the window, tonight…

If I lose myself tonight
It’ll be by your side
I lose myself tonight…
Woah, woah , woah

If I lose myself tonight
It’ll be you and I…
Lose myself tonight

I woke up with the sun
Thought of all the people, places and things I’ve loved
I woke up just to see
With all the faces
you were the one next to me

You can feel the light start to tremble
Washing what you know out to sea
You can see your life out the window, tonight…

If I lose myself tonight
It’ll be by your side
I lose myself tonight…
Woah, woah, woah

If I lose myself tonight
It’ll be you and I…
Lose myself tonight
Whooooooo…Whooo ,Awhooo

Take us down and we keep trying
40 000 feet keep flying…
Take us down and we keep trying
40 000 feet keep flying…

Take us down and we keep trying
40 000 feet keep flying…
Take us down and we keep trying
40 000 feet keep flying…

Lose myself
If I lose myself tonight..
Whoooooooooo
whoooooo,whooooooo

[MUSIC] Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong

Stand up for oneself and choose your own path.

Am I wrong for thinking out the box from where I stay?
Am I wrong for saying that I’ll choose another way?
I ain’t trying to do what everybody else doing
Just cause everybody doing what they all do
If one thing I know, I’ll fall but I’ll grow
I’m walking down this road of mine, this road that I call home

So am I wrong for thinking that we could be something for real?
Now am I wrong for trying to reach the things that I can’t see?
But that’s just how I feel, that’s just how I feel
That’s just how I feel trying to reach the things that I can’t see

Am I tripping for having ambition?
My prediction; I’mma be on the top of the world
Hope you, hope you don’t look back, always do what you decide
Don’t let them control your life, that’s just how I feel
Fight for yours and don’t let go, don’t let them compare you, no
Don’t worry, you’re not alone, that’s just how we feel

So am I wrong for thinking that we could be something for real?
Now am I wrong for trying to reach the things that I can’t see?
But that’s just how I feel, that’s just how I feel
That’s just how I feel trying to reach the things that I can’t see

If you tell me I’m wrong, wrong
I don’t wanna be right, right
If you tell me I’m wrong, wrong
I don’t wanna be right

So am I wrong for thinking that we could be something for real?
Now am I wrong for trying to reach the things that I can’t see?
But that’s just how I feel, that’s just how I feel
That’s just how I feel trying to reach the things that I can’t see

So am I wrong for thinking that we could be something for real?
Now am I wrong for trying to reach the things that I can’t see?
But that’s just how I feel, that’s just how I feel
That’s just how I feel trying to reach the things that I can’t see

[TRAVEL] Holiday to the US & Canada (PART 1)

There were plans since last year (2013) to visit the US later on this year/early next year (2014/2015) with my partner at the time – spending a few weeks around the LA and Vegas area. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, all of that recently got dumped – including myself!

Although I would love to make this trip with someone I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to wait for that said person to come along. On that note, after much thought, I’ve decided to do this trip on my own if need be but with a few slight changes to the original plan. Instead of going for 3~ weeks, I will be going for 4-5 weeks. At this stage I may be making the initial flight with some other people who are also wanting to visit Vegas.

After Vegas, I will continue my journey down to Miami, Florida. I’m hoping to travel the entire distance of the Florida Keys while in the area.

From Miami, New York here we come! After spending a bit of time in New York, I will try and work my way down south a little towards Philadelphia and with any luck, Washington.

Where ever I end up, from there I will be flying across to Vancouver, Canada, for the final week or two. I’d love to make it to both Montreal and Vancouver but time and especially money may be a road block here. If I can’t do both, Vancouver is where you’ll find me.

Once I’m over in the US, I will be ‘winging’ it for the most part. As above, I obviously know the general areas I want to visit but apart from that, there are no real plans at this stage. I don’t want to plan out every day and be stuck to some schedule. So long as I make the flight to the US and the one coming back to Australia, what happens in between will be a little bit of a mystery.

A lot of people have told me to stay in hostels as they are a great way to meet new people – not to mention they are damn cheap. I will need to do a little bit of research as to what hostels are available in the areas I’m visiting though. That said, as much as they might be cheap, I’ve heard some fairly horrible things about them as well so I will need to choose carefully.

At this stage I’m looking at heading over there some time in April/May next year (2015). Over the next month or two I will start researching flights and get those lock in ASAP – at least those to and from the US anyway. Flights within the US and Canada are domestic it would seem so hopefully I can book them once I’m over there, which will give me a little more flexibility to move around when and where I want.

All of this is just the initial planning stage. Nothing has been booked or confirmed just yet.

More to come as things progress.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

[ANDROID APP] Nine – Exchange ActiveSync Email Client

Nine LogoI love quality apps. I spend a great deal of time trolling through app after app until I find something that meets my requirements (high standards?). In some cases I’ve waited weeks, even months before settling on a specific app. Nine, an Exchange ActiveSync email client, is one of those apps I’ve been waiting to come along for quite some time.

For anyone who has used the stock Android email client, you will know that it leaves a lot to be desired. Sure, it received a nice little facelift when Android 4.4 KitKat was released, but that was nothing great. Apart from the UI refresh, it is still very average.

Thankfully, the developers of Nine have done a brilliant job of producing a top quality Exchange ActiveSync email client for Android. From the moment I discovered this app and seen the screenshots, I was amazed. I installed it straight away and fell in love with it just as quickly.

nine-inbox nine-folder-view Nine Auto Replies

At first glance it looks similar to the stock Android client which is certainly not a bad thing as anyone wanting to make the switch from stock to Nine should find it very easy. It looks extremely ‘fresh’ though. The UI is very vivid and bright. The menus, settings, and navigating your way around the app is all very easy and fluid.

The setup process is much cleaner and easier to follow as well when compared to stock. It just seems to flow a lot better.

A couple of nice little features include the ability to set a PIN lock on the app, set the device security model to either ‘device level’ or ‘application level’, as well as send email in HTML. When creating or replying to an email, you can even change the basic formatting of your text such as bold, italic and underline.

nine-pinlock nine-pinlock-options nine-security-model

The app is free to download and install but comes with a 2 week trial. To continue using the app beyond the 2 week trial you will need to pay up. Currently, it’s half price at $10~ – normally $20~. In the majority of cases I wouldn’t pay this much for an app, and this is certainly one of the most expensive apps I’ve purchased to date. That being said, I think it is worth every cent.

Nine is only relatively new to the market (beta released in January 2014) but even so, I can’t praise the app or the development team enough. I’ve sent several emails to them and they have been very prompt in replying.

If the roadmap posted on the Nine website is anything to go by, it looks like we are in for some great features in the near future – some of those include conversation views, notes and even tasks. I for one am hanging out for these additions – especially notes.

nine-support-services

This is without a doubt the best Exchange email client there is to date – I’m yet to come across anything that really compares – especially when it comes to the overall design and performance. It’s amazing to see how quickly features and fixes are being push out as well. In the 6~ weeks I’ve been using the app, there have been at least 1 update a week with new features, bug fixes and general improvements.

If you have been looking for an alternative Exchange ActiveSync email client, I highly recommend you try out Nine. Being that it is only half price at the moment, it might be the perfect time to make the switch.

If you want to learn more about Nine, hit up the Nine website – screenshots, update history, roadmap, and more are all available.

[ANDROID APP] Google URL Shortener

googleurlshortener_logoEvery so often you come across an app that does virtually everything ‘right’.

The UI is clean, easy to use, and adheres to Android design guidelines. Optimized for 7 and 10 inch tablets. The information displayed within is well laid out, easy to read and follow. The app itself is overall very fluid and fast. It’s the kind of app which sets the benchmark for all others.

Today, that app happens to be Google URL Shortener by Thomas Devaux. Google URL Shortener plugs into Google’s own goo.gl URL shortening service.

googleurlshortener_001

Features include:

  • Shorten URLs and share them quickly
  • Access your history – always synced with http://goo.gl
  • Get colourful analytic reports of any short URL, not just yours
  • Clean card UI with thumbnails, maps and charts
  • Shorten links through “share” in any app
  • Star your favourite short URLs
  • Rich notifications
  • Access your data offline

Thomas has done an exceptional job of delivering a brilliant Android app. The average 4.8 star rating on Google Play speaks for itself. One of the most amazing things about the app is that it’s completely free. For an app of this high standard, generally you would expect to see a price tag attached. Whether there are plans to release a ‘Pro’ version in the future is unknown.

googleurlshortener_002   googleurlshortener_003

If you use Google’s URL shortening service (https://goo.gl), you will defintely want to check out this app.

Pay Attention to the Bigger Things in Life

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One day in summer a professor stood before his science class with a few items on the table. He picked up a large jar and filled it to the brim with golf balls. He then asked his students to raise their hands if they thought the jar was full. A sea of hands instantly shot up – the students unanimously agreed the jar had to be full.

The professor then proceeded to grab a box of pebbles and he poured them into the jar. He picked up the jar, shook it around, and put it back on the table. The pebbles shuffled into the areas between the golf balls. He then asked the room full of students to raise their hands again if they thought the jar was full. The same sea of hands rose up.

Next, the professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. As expected, the sand filled up all the empty spaces between the pebbles. He asked once more if they thought the jar was full. The students again raised their hands.

The professor then magically made two beers appear from under the table and he poured the contents of each beer into the jar. This filled the spaces between the grains of sand. The room filled with laughter.

‘Now,’ muttered the professor ‘You need to understand that this jar is a representation of your life. The golf balls are the big, important things such as: your family, friends, children, health, and passions – and if you ever lost everything and only had these big things remaining, your life would be rich and full. The pebbles represent other important things like your job, house and your car. The sand is essentially everything else. It represents the small things.

The professor continues: ‘If you choose to pour sand into the jar first,’ he asserts, ‘there won’t be any room left for the pebbles or the golf balls. Life is the same.

If you choose spend all your time and energy on small things you won’t have room for the bigger things that hold much more importance to you.

What is the moral of the story according to the professor? Make sure to pay attention to the golf balls – the things that are absolutely critical to your happiness.

Spend time with your family. Spend time with your parents. Your children. Take time to see your grandparents. Make an occasional visit to aunts and uncles. Take out your spouse on a dinner date. Play golf with your favourite buddies. There will always be time to do chores, clean, and take out the trash.

Focus first on the golf balls – these are the the things that matter most. Ruthlessly set your priorities – write them down in a file if you must. Remember, the rest is just a bunch of sand.

The professor saw a hand shoot up. He pointed to the student, and she then asked what the beer represented. The professor looked at her, grinned, and said, ‘Thanks for asking.’ The beer is here to show that you that no matter how full you think your life is, there’s always room to have a couple of beers with a friend”.

Google Makes it Harder to Access AppOps

When Google released Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) there was a fantastic and vital feature that came with it. One that wasn’t visible on the surface but for those in the know – the tech savvy and developers among us, it was relatively simple to get to.

This fantastic feature is known as App Ops.

App Ops gave you the ability to very easily disable permissions that certain apps may have been requesting and/or using. For example, if you didn’t want the Facebook app to be accessing your location, you could simply turn off the location permission for the Facebook app.

facebook-perms-002 facebook-perms-001

As shown in the images above, I wasn’t too happy that Facebook required all those permissions so I decided to turn them off. Now obviously the app does require certain permissions in order to function correctly so you need to be weary of what it is you are actually turning off and what effects it may have on the app itself by doing so. In this instance, even with all these permissions turned off, the app still functions correctly.

Now, there are two reasons why I used the Facebook app as an example. One was to show you just how simple App Ops is to use – as you can see it’s just an On or Off switch. Number two, and probably the most important reason was to highlight just how vital this feature is.

As you can see, even with all those permissions disabled, the Facebook app still functions perfectly fine. So why does the Facebook app actually require all those permissions if the app isn’t actually using them for something user facing – something we can actually see or makes the user experience better?

My guess – data harvesting. I think Facebook are simply grabbing as much data as they possible can and they are doing it without you even knowing it. That right there is why App Ops is so vital. This is exactly why it should be made easily accessible to everyone. It gives you a clear insight as to what each application requires permissions to, when it was last accessed, and the ability to disable it.

It gives control back to the user.

Google’s reply to App Ops removal is below:

That UI is (and it should be quite clear) not an end-user UI. It was there for development purposes. It wasn’t intended to be available. The architecture is used for a growing number of things, but it is not intended to be exposed as a big low-level UI of a big bunch of undifferentiated knobs you can twiddle. For example, it is used now for the per-app notification control, for keeping track of when location was accessed in the new location UI, for some aspects of the new current SMS app control, etc.

Source: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+DannyHolyoake/posts/FkfBxA5i3iG

If we were never meant to see it, why the hell was it left in there to begin with? It’s a pretty big freakin’ mistake to make to be quite honest and I certainly am not the only one somewhat frustrated and annoyed at the decision to remove a perfectly working, highly functional, vital, and very useful feature.

Personally, I think Google may have had every intention of making it available to users at some point but perhaps some app developers, especially the big names such as Facebook who make big money from collecting your data, gave Google a little bit of flack about it.

App developers add all these unnecessary permissions for data harvesting and who knows what else; Google finally gives us a way to easily block those permissions, and now developers are crying foul.

This is just a theory of course but I think it’s a lot more feasible then Google removing it because it was never meant to be using facing in the first place. I highly doubt that to be honest.

It is becoming more and more common that applications and games are demanding more permissions than required do their job. For example, a Flash Light app that requires access to your location. I can not think of one reasonable explanation as to why a Flash Light app would require such a permission, but there are plenty out there that do.

Don’t get me wrong, the majority of app developers produce terrific applications and games that only request permissions necessary to deliver the best user experience. A lot of developers even state quite clearly why their app is requesting such permissions.

Unfortunately, there are a small group of developers who simply can’t be trusted – Facebook being a major one that more people should be weary of. My example above is a clearly shows why.

If Google was afraid that App Ops would break some apps and cause them to function incorrectly, they could have at least buried it deep in the Developer Options or even just kept it hidden like it was, requiring a separate application to access to it – or a custom ROM for that matter.

Those people smart enough to access the Developer Options should be smart enough to realise that by fiddling with such things may cause instability – and that goes for a lot of things in the Developer Options. This would give power users the chance to play with such a great feature while Google works on educating the masses on how to use it correctly. There really was no need to remove it or make it any harder to get to.

Hopefully we see the return of App Ops in the near future and more than that, hopefully it’s made easily accessible to anyone and everyone.

Facebook’s Shady Android App Permissions

facebook-warningI’ve been a part of the Facebook Android app beta program since it’s beginning. Anyone using Android is free to join if they so wish, and try some of the new features and enhancements before they get pushed out to the masses.

The beta app was updated yesterday with a couple of permission requests which I found really unnecessary, especially considering Facebook still refuses, to this day, to provide any explanation for the additional permissions which they always seems to be adding more of. Those extra permissions included:

  1. Read Calendar
  2. Modify Calendar
  3. Read SMS/MMS

I think there was one more in there but I can’t remember what it was off the top of my head. In any case, this prompted me to take a deeper look into the Facebook permissions – something I probably should’ve done a long time ago.

What I discovered I wasn’t too impressed about. My location (your location, assuming you’re using the app) is being tracked all the time, even when I’m not using the app. The first thing I do when I install the Facebook app is disable the auto refresh interval, disable photo uploads, and disable Messenger location services.

I’ve always had issues with Facebook when it comes to privacy and this discovery, although it shouldn’t have come as any real surprise based on their dodgy and shady tactics in the past, finally hit home for me.

How do I know this? Well, since Android 4.3, there has been a hidden section within Android commonly known as “App Ops”. It provides an overview of what each application on your phone is requesting permission to and even tells you when the app last requested that permission. You also have the ability to turn off that permission if you feel it is unnecessary.

I’ve never bothered with App Ops previously because it involved installing an additional app from the Play Store to access it. That said, I’ve just flashed a ROM on my Nexus 5 and the developer of the ROM created a quick and easy way to access App Ops straight from the Settings menu.

With the above in mind, I decided to explore what App Ops had to offer. There it was, clear as day, at the very top of the list on the first screen, Facebook had accessed my location 1 minute ago (and read my contacts 13 hours ago). Had I opened the app I could understand the location tracking however, I never touched the app. I’m assuming the contacts were read at some point when I opened the app – but even so, the app didn’t request nor tell me it wanted to read my contacts while the app was open. It appears to just do it whenever it feels like it.

facebook-perms-001 facebook-perms-002

Not impressed with Facebook’s secret monitoring of everything on my phone, App Ops was quickly employed to block future requests to not only my location and read contacts, but a lot of other stuff as you can see.

Does the app still function correctly. Indeed it does – I can even check-in to places. Even after blocking all these permissions the app doesn’t appear to function any differently what so ever. I can still post pictures, send messages to friends, notifications work, I can post pictures, and the list goes on. It makes me wonder exactly why the app requires all these permissions if it doesn’t actually need them to function.

My guess, Facebook are simply data harvesting – which would also explain why they have never posted a single explanation as to why the app requires the permissions. They are grabbing every little bit of information they can from you, and you wouldn’t even know it’s happening if it wasn’t for App Ops or similar applications.

I’ve never been a fan of Facebook and this has just given me a huge reason to watch them like a hawk. Bottom line, they can’t be trusted. I didn’t trust them before finding out this information and certainly do not trust them now.

If you’re running Android 4.3 or later, I’d strongly advise you to go check it out. You can use this app available on the Play Store to access App Ops.

A big thankyou goes out to the developer of Purity ROM for making App Ops so easily accessible. Your ROM, even without App Ops quick access is certainly one of the very best I’ve ever used.