'Coon Cave

A blog about software development, Google Play and Android in general. May contain traces of rambling. Feedback and subscriptions welcome!
Friday, April 3, 2020

Hm, looks like Google is trying to cash in on COVID-19 now. I really can’t think of any use for these mobility reports for disease control. The one for my region (backup), just to pick an example, says that there has been a 72% mobility drop compared to baseline for transit stations. Ok, there are about 493 train stations alone in Hesse, scattered across 21.114,94 kmĀ². So, how exactly is it going to help with COVID-19 planing to know that all of them combined are now seeing 23 less of an unknown number of people in a 24 hour period?

Of course, the raw data could probably be visualized differently, more precisely - e.g. for (paying) business customers.

What Google does here is using COVID-19 as a pretense to justify applying location data for different purposes than it was originally collected for and pitching a highly questionable, shelved product. So, for whom is “mobility trends” actually intended? I’d say banks and venture capitalists. This is pretty much an investors tool, but it also has military applications.

Direct download links for the latest version of the Android platform tools (adb, fastboot, sqlite3):

Thursday, April 2, 2020

PSA for those, thinking that privacy shouldn’t matter all that much during the COVID-19 crisis:

On average, every infected person passes the virus on to 2 to 3 others. For your “victims” that spells 14 days home alone without sex. Plenty of downtime to ponder who’s responsible.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

I keep telling people that infection tracking via smartphone (app) is a crackpot idea. But, hey, as Arthur C. Clarke puts it:

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Computers are magic for most people, miracle cures are in high demand during any crisis and therefore politicians would like to believe nothing better than the “technology will (somehow) save us” mantra. All will be well if only we had an(y kind of an) app!

Well, there’s Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing for example. It builds on an interesting idea: assign a unique number to every smartphone. Let the smartphone constantly broadcast that number to all other devices in the immediate vicinity via Bluetooth. Once a day, every phone then rings up a central server to ask if any of the numbers, it has “seen” in the past 14 days have been reported as “infected”. If so, the user is prompted to get tested and, in case of a positive result, to report his own number. It’s a nice, privacy aware protocol (no data beyond the number is required and you stay anonymous the whole time), but ultimately useless. Why? Simple: We are past the point of no return at which we could have eradicated the virus through strict quarantine. COVID19 is in the general populace, meaning it will spread till we either develop a vaccine or herd immunity. Eventually we will reach a level of endemic infection at which the next next ping will come shortly after any test we do. In other words, the app would be telling the I should act, at all times, as if I had contracted the virus. Coincidentally, that’s exactly the same thing, we are already suppose to do. The only difference being that we don’t have an app to drive us crazy with suspense at the moment.

Of course, PEPP-PT is not entirely pointless. It may not do much in terms of disease control, but at least, this way, politicians will get a relatively harmless Gris-gris that might keep them from buying from highly questionable firms such as Palantir.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Coming to think about it, we now have a shitton of spare time to kill on youtube, we just can’t afford to waste money on frivolous products any more. I really wonder how Corona will affect advertising.

Remarkable! Just went on Play to check how many low lives are trying to cash in on the pandemic by now. Didn’t find any - zero results. Looks like Google simply blocked all searches containing the “corona” keyword. I’m impressed, didn’t see that one coming.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Apropos corona virus: did it ever occur to you how unhygenic smartphones are? Just imagine it ringing right after you leaving a public restroom — doorknob touches hand → hand touches smartphone → smartphone touches cheek. Whatever lived on the doorknob will probably feel right at home in those greasy fingerprints covering the display.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Is it just me or does the corona pandemic feel a bit like a rehearsal for the zombie apocalypse?

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Ha! Fun! When you ask Google Play for anything, you get a binary blob in response which must be parsed, using the protobuf library. There are two version of that library available (v2.x and v3.x) that implement version 2 and 3 of the protocol buffer language respectively. Since the two languages are incompatible with each other, I always assumed that the libraries would be as well, but that’s not the case! Version 3.x of the library is actually backwards compatible and able to properly handle blobs created with v2.x!

Why is this so great? Well, Play is inherently tied to version 2 of the language, but the v2.x library lacks a lot of useful features, such as the ability to export a binary blob to JSON. You can only format a message as plain text which kinda looks like JSON, but won’t be parseable. For small stuff that’s sufficient, but you are completely at a loss when dealing with something bigger, such as search results.

So, here’s the same search result (“test”) in the plain text and in the json format. The later can easily be inspected in existing tools (Firefox for example).

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Never use SVG graphics, containing text objects, on websites. They look fine on your computer, scale great and break horribly if a visitor doesn’t have the right font installed. Stupid Patrick, really stupid!

Solution: always transform object to path.