phone

Led Down the Garden Path [Updated]

by Joey deVilla on February 8, 2012

now sending your address book

Update: Path’s CEO has apologized and promised to delete any collected data. See this entry.

It’s the top story on Techmeme at this moment: the socially-networked “lifestreaming” iPhone app known as Path uploads your entire address book to its servers.

This fact was discovered by Denso developer Arun Thampi when he decided that he’d build a Mac OS X client for Path at his company’s hackathon. To do this, he decided to observe the API calls that Path made to its servers only to discover that the data for his Contacts app – names, email addresses, phone numbers – was getting HTTP POSTed to https://api.path.com/contacts/add. To see the the full story, be sure to read Arun’s blog entry on the matter.

Path CEO Dave Morin sent a reply to Arun, explaining that the data is used only to help users connect to their friends and family and nothing more. He also said that they “proactively rolled out an opt-in for this” on their Android client a few weeks ago and will include the same opt-in feature on the next version of the iOS client. For anyone who has the current version on their iPhone, that feature came a little too late. This is bad, and the fact that Path has recently been working on “proactive” fixes suggests that they know it.

I have Path on my phone because it’s a gorgeous app and a number of my friends and coworkers were on the network and encouraging me to take it for a spin. That means that my contact info resides on Path’s servers. A good chunk of my life is public by my own choice, so I can live with Path having my own address and phone number, but nobody else on my contacts list signed up for that. Furthermore, inclusion in my contacts list doesn’t necessarily imply that they’re someone I want in my social network graph. But Path can’t discern between my friends and family and others like my ex-wife, my local cab company or that client in Australia who just had a couple of questions. You’d think that Path would’ve learned the lessons of “Fuck You Google”, in which a woman wrote about how Gmail overshared her info with her abusive ex-husband.

It’s an even bigger problem in the case of celebrities, who presumably have other celebs’ numbers in their on-phone Rolodexes. Take a look at this tweet from Alyssa Milano:

The response, by the way:

And did it also upload my notes about people? (Yes, I’m one of those people who actually uses the “Notes” field in Contacts. For business contacts, it’s all part of the schmooze; for friends and family, it’s so I remember things like their likes, dislikes, birthdays, anniversaries and other little things.)

In the comments to Arun’s article, iOS developer Matt Gemmell suggests the following to Dave Morin:

Why are you uploading the actual address book data, rather than (say) generating hashes of the user’s email addresses locally, then uploading just those hashes? You’d be able to do friend-finding that way, and similarly if you uploaded hashes of all email addresses in the user’s address book, you’d be able to do your notifications of when a friend joins. At no point would your servers ever need to see the actual email addresses or phone numbers from our contacts.

He also points out that sending the entire Contacts database to their servers may be a violation of the App Store’s terms and conditions. In fact, section 17.1 of that T&C states:

17.1: Apps cannot transmit data about a user without obtaining the user’s prior permission and providing the user with access to information about how and where the data will be used.

Dave Morin’s been firefighting ever since the news about Path got out. He’s stayed on message with the “we’re not trying to be evil here” line, but with the faith in Google’s “Don’t be evil” mantra pretty much gone, it’s not very reassuring. On the bright side, he has made it clear that if you want your address book and even your Path account deleted from their servers, you have but to send an email to service@path.com.

Update (February 8, 2012): Mike Arrington has put online what I’d been thinking (but didn’t think Path would ever do without a lot of pressure): they should simply delete all the address book data they pulled. It would be an excellent goodwill gesture; let’s see if they take up his suggestion.

(Little hint, Dave: if you keep overusing “proactive” and “proactively” the way you have in your responses and tweets, it becomes a filler word, like “um” and “uh”. Especially when such “proactivity” seems limited to stating that you’re not doing anything wrong.)

There’s been some freaking out over Path in the comments for Arun’s blog entry as well as in other venues online, but it’s time to let cooler heads prevail. Let’s see what Path does in the next 48 hours – as Arun himself puts it, “I hope we can keep calm and continue to discuss this sensibly”.

If you’re developing software that makes use of people’s personal info, let this be a lesson!

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Update: Newsy have put together a piece summarizing the tech news’ reaction to the Samsung Galaxy Note ad. It’s at the end of this article – check it out!

i believe in a thing called loveEven if you missed the big game, you can still catch the Superbowl ad for the Samsung Galaxy Note. Directed by Bobby Farrelly (one of the Farrelly Brothers, creators of high-larious films like Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and unfortunately, the upcoming Three Stooges Movie), it’s a continuation of the series of ads that poke fun at Apple fandom. It opens with a scenes from lineups outside Apple stores. The bored Apple fanatics are tethered to their white earbuds and awaiting their next gift from the gods when one of them sees a passer-by with a Samsung Galaxy Note.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa – what is that?” he asks.

“Here,” says the passer-by, walking towards soon-to-be-ex-Apple-worshipper. “It’s the new Samsung Galaxy Note.”

samsung galaxy note

Then comes the kicker: “It’s got a pen?” That’s right: it’s bringing back the stylus, the very thing that iOS devices put out of style.

After that, the Apple fans break free of their self-imposed imprisonment in line – a line that Samsung probably wishes they had – and partying, powered by The Darkness’ hit I Believe in a Thing Called Love – ensues.

It’s a little hard to tell from the ad, but the Galaxy Note is bigger than your standard phone; in fact, it’s bigger than even the biggest of the notoriously oversized Samsung phones. Size-wise, it’s in Newton territory: smaller than a tablet, a tad too big to fit into most pockets. Perhaps they’re also trying to bring cargo pants back:

samsung galaxy note vs iphone 4 size comparisonPhoto from TechInferno.

I’m reminded of this promotional photo, where Sony tried to convince you of how portable their smallest VAIO was:

pocket-vaio

It sits somewhere in the “Zone of Suck” from my 2009 article, Fast Food Apple Pies and Why Netbooks Suck (I’m going to have to revise the graphic to include tablets as well as the Galaxy Note):

As for what it’s like to use the device, consider this review in TechInferno. The reviewer loves the Galaxy Note and says he’s never going back to an iOS device, but he damns it with his faint praise:

  • “Is the Galaxy Note as smooth as an iOS device? Not really, it still has the android signature stuttering when you scroll and the occasional semi-freeze here and there.”
  • “Is the Galaxy Note built as good as the latest iPhone? No, it is not, I think that a fair comparison would be to equal it to the build quality of the 3G/3Gs versions of the iPhone.”
  • Sure you can expect some hiccups here and there, not everything is so custom tailored to the device and to bring it to full functionality you need to invest some effort but in my personal opinion this phone is worth it.”
  • “Who I would NOT recommend this device to:
      • People expect the device to “just work”
      • Women or men with small hands
      • People who like to operate the phone with one hand only.

Samsung-Galaxy-Note3You know what they say about guys with big phones…

  • “Build quality is very good and the device feels solid in the hand although iPhone 4 build feels better.
  • “Out of the box with all options at their defaults the device will eat through the 2500mA/h battery in less than 10 hours of normal usage.”
  • The stylus needs a fair amount of pressure to operate, otherwise it doesn’t work.”
  • I still haven’t found a keyboard that matches the precision of the iPhone, i can’t type as fast but maybe it’s a matter of getting used to it?”
  • “I keep accidentally pushing the Back or the Menu buttons especially in landscape mode when trying to type/interact with the screen – a big design flaw.”
  • “Expect surprised looks from people around when you put it to your ear to talk. It really does look a bit ridiculous, almost like holding an iPad to your ear.

iPhone 4s Samsung Galaxy Note side by side

  • “The text to speech compared to Siri is awful.”
  • Keep in mind that Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Note is around the corner and is expected to fix a lot of issues listed here and introduce lots of neat features.” That, and the Lord Jesus Christ is due back any day now, so look busy!

I think I’ll be sticking with my iPhone 4S and iPad 2 a little while longer, thanks.

Update

Newsy’s got a good piece summarizing the tech press’ and pundits’ reaction to the Galaxy Note ad. Check it out!

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Dear Microsoft: Just Update My Photo and We’ll Be Cool

by Joey deVilla on September 21, 2011

If you were to go to Microsoft Canada’s blog for mobile developers as of this writing, you’d still see my photo in the banner:

canadian mobile developer banner

I really have no complaints about still having my face there, even though my last day at The Empire will be five months ago tomorrow. Being the Windows Phone guy was one of my favourite parts of my stint as a developer evangelist at Microsoft, and it’s always an honour to share a banner with Frederic Harper.

My real complaint is that the picture they’re using is from two years, and more importantly, twenty pounds ago (about the weight of a full-sized accordion).

Hey Microsoft: keep my picture up if you must, but could you at least use a newer, somewhat skinnier one? Perhaps one with me sporting my new, fashionable, I probably-paid-too-much glasses with Philippe Starck frames?

Self-portrait of Joey deVilla, taken in a mirror, showing off his new glasses

(By the bye, that’s my bathroom in the photo. I have a damn fine “re-bachelor” pad.)

If you’d much rather have a photo keeping with the mobile theme, may I suggest this one, where I’m posing with a phone and a wacky phone accessory? The pink says “Metro” – in every sense of the word!

"Moshi Moshi Metro!" Joey deVilla at Cafe Novo, holding Verna Kulish's pink iPhone connected to a pink Moshi Moshi handset.

That’s my friend and fellow ex-Microsoftie Verna Kulish’s Moshi Moshi Retro POP handset, which plugs into just about any smartphone. Feel free to Photoshop out Verna’s iPhone and replace it with an appropriate Windows Phone device – perhaps a Samsung Focus (my Windows Phone) or whatever Nokia’s releasing this fall.

Feel free to use either pic, Microsoft – as long as it’s current and skinnier, we’ll be cool.

This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.

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Two New Books for Windows Phone 7 Developers

by Joey deVilla on November 1, 2010

Free Ebook: Programming Windows Phone 7

Cover of "Programming Windows Phone 7"

Charles Petzold literally wrote the book on Windows development, and he’s now doing it for Windows Phone 7. Programming Windows Phone 7 is published by Microsoft Press and covers Windows Phone 7 development from many angles: building apps with Silverlight, making games with XNA and making your programs even better by accessing online services.

Windows Phone is a lot of ground to cover, so the book is sized to match. Petzold’s been working on it since at least the start of the year and it shows – it’s over 1,000 pages on our favourite mobile operating system! Luckily, this book is free-as-in-beer: that’s right, you can download it in ebook form, along with the sample code, for no money at all. If you’re looking to seriously get into Windows Phone 7 development, you should have this book.

Downloads for Programming Windows Phone 7

XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example

Cover of "XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example"

Survey after survey shows that games are the most popular mobile phone apps, and Windows Phone is really good at games, and not just from the user’s point of view. The XNA framework, available to Windows Phone developers, takes Windows Phone 7 beyond mere informational apps – it’s like having an Xbox in your pocket!

XNA is also more than just about Windows Phone – it’s also for developing games for Windows and the Xbox 360. Better still, it lets you target three platforms – desktop, console and phone – with a single codebase and tweaks specifically for each platform. If you want to write games and reach a wide audience, XNA is your ticket.

Packt Publishing’s XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example is a great way to get started with XNA programming. It walks you through the development of four games, each from a different genre:

  • Flood Control, a timed puzzle game where you have to quickly assemble pipes before time runs out and water flows through them
  • Asteroid Belt Assault, a 2-D shooter that classic 80’s arcade gamers will find familiar
  • Robot Rampage, a tank game featuring multi-axis controls, a scrolling world, particle effects and enemy AI
  • Gemstone Hunter, which takes the Platformer Starter Kit to new levels

I just got the book, and have only done the most cursory of scans, but I’ve already picked up a few ideas for how to implement features in my games. If you’re looking to do game development for Windows Phone and beyond, this is a great starter book!

Get XNA 4.0 Game Development by Example

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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31 Days of Windows Phone 7

by Joey deVilla on October 17, 2010

"31 Days of Windows Phone 7": Windows Phone showing the calendar for the month of October

Keep an eye on Jeff Blankenburg’s blog for the rest of the month! Every day in October, he’s posting an article on Windows Phone 7 development in a series called 31 Days of Windows Phone 7.

As of this writing, he’s posted these articles:

Jeff talked about his “31 Days” series (previous;y, he did a 31 Days of Silverlight series and 28 Days of Did-You-Knows in Technology one as well) on show 5 of Silverlight guru Jesse Liberty’s podcast.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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Got a Windows Phone 7 App? Let Joey Know!

by Joey deVilla on October 12, 2010

contact joey

Are you a Canadian developer working on a Windows Phone 7 app that’s done or nearly done? We want to help you get a head start on everyone else. Contact me – Joey deVilla – by Monday, October 18th (and sooner is better) and let’s see what we can do to make your app one of the first in Windows Phone Marketplace!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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deployment opportunities

You’re building apps for Windows Phone 7. You’ve tested them as much as you can on the emulator. You now need to test them on a real device. We can help!

Getting your hands on a Windows Phone is a very hard thing to do. Even those of us who work inside the company are having trouble getting our hands on them because there just aren’t enough advance devices to go around. We have a small pool of phones and a big number of people who need to test their apps on them, so we’ve had to get creative in order to help people test.

First, there’s Coffee and Code. Coffee and Code has traditionally been an event where we take advantage of our mobile worker status and work out of a café, where we’re easily accessible. Lately, we’ve been using them as a chance for you to drop by, impromptu, take a look at our Windows Phones and even deploy apps to them for some quick testing. These are pretty informal, with no appointment required, and first-come-first-serve.

Then, there are the Deployment Clinics. These are a little more structured – you book an appointment to drop by one of Microsoft Canada’s offices and spend some quality just-you-and-your-app time with a Windows Phone. You have to book time in advance, and you have the phone all to yourself for the appointment.

Take advantage of these opportunities to test your WP7 apps on a real phone!

Here’s the schedule for the upcoming Coffee and Code and Deployment Clinics:

What When Where
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, October 14
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Ottawa
Bridgehead Coffee
109 Bank Street (at Albert)
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, October 14
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Starbucks at King and Yonge
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Friday, October 15 Downtown Toronto
Microsoft office
Ernst & Young Tower,
TD Centre, 12th floor
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, October 21
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Starbucks at King and Yonge
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Monday, October 25 Mississauga
Microsoft Office
1950 Meadowvale Blvd
(Off Mississauga Road, just north of Highway 401)
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Wednesday, October 27 Vancouver
Microsoft Office
1111 W. Georgia, 11th floor
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Friday, October 29
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Timothy’s
255 Front Street West
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, November 4
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Halifax
Location TBD
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, November 11
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Ottawa
Location TBD
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Friday, November 12 Montreal
Microsoft Office
2000 Ave McGill College,
4th floor
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, November 18
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Starbucks at King and Yonge
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Friday, November 19
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Montreal
Microsoft Office
2000 Ave McGill College,
4th floor
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, November 25
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Montreal
Location TBD
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Monday, November 29 Ottawa
Microsoft Office
World Exchange Plaza (100 Queen Street), 5th floor
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Wednesday, December 1 Calgary
Microsoft Office
Atlus Centre (500 – 4th Ave. SW), 19th floor
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, December 2
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Starbucks at King and Yonge
Deployment Clinic
(Book an appointment)
Friday, December 3 Calgary
Microsoft Office
Altius Centre (500 – 4th Ave. SW), 19th floor
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, December 9
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Winnipeg
Location TBD
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, December 9
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Starbucks at King and Yonge
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, December 16
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Calgary
Location TBD
Coffee and Code
(Drop in)
Thursday, December 16
11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Downtown Toronto
Starbucks at King and Yonge

To book an appointment, drop Samantha Wong a line and she’ll set you up.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.

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