News: Samsung Galaxy S5 and S6 – IPsec Service consuming device space

I’m a fairly heavy user of apps on my mobile devices. I periodically review them, but it’s quite rare I discover an app that I can happily uninstall and live without. It’s not uncommon for me to have over a hundred apps installed, only one of which is a game. And I’m sure I’m not alone in this. It tells us, doesn’t it, what an invaluable tool the smart phone has become for life, work and play.

So initially when my phone (a Samsung Galaxy S5) told me I was running out of space, I wasn’t all that surprised. Time to review my app usage. Time to move some apps from device storage to SD. Time to clear out some on-device photos and videos. Which I duly did.

And then a few days later – running out of space again. Curious.

I chased it down to the IPsec service. Each time I freed up a bit more space, according to the app manager, IPsec Service expanded to fill the void. At the time of writing, it’s now consuming a wholly excessive 1.64GB – but as I’ve read around about this problem I see reports from Galaxy S6 users who have lost over 4GB to this service’s insatiable appetite. On a clean install by the way, it’s taking up 388KB.

IPsec service run amok

As best we can tell, it’s due to some kind of memory leak in the IPsec service. This afflicts Android 5.0 – and as luck would have it, a few weeks ago I finally relented and upgraded my S5 to Lollipop. And it will be some time before the fix, in 5.1.1 is rolled out by my carrier – that’s if they ever do get round to it. The S5 is so last year, darling.

So what’s the workaround? Well, I wish I could give you good news. I’ve come up with nothing. This has taken me to the point of saying the heck with the warranty, I’m going to root it and flash a different ROM. What with this and the recent StageFright scare, it almost makes me want to move over to the Dark Side and buy an iPhone. Almost!

If you’ve found a more satisfactory solution, do let us know in the comments. Meanwhile, I’ll be getting to grips with CF-Auto-Root and finally releasing my handset from the whims of manufacturers and carriers. Wish me luck!

News: GD1- The world’s best URL shortener?!

Have you ever needed to write down a web site address, or worse – type it into a text message? And it’s something like Tedious, right? Or have you needed to paste an address into a tweet, but you’ve come up against the maximum character limit? By Robert Couse-Baker
Micro Minibus by Robert Couse-Baker
In the case of Twitter, chances are you’ve used Twitter’s URL shortener of choice, Bitly. In this case, the awful, long URL becomes – 21 characters instead of 60. Quite a trick. So you use the shortened URL for convenience, pass it on via social media or SMS and this is magically transformed into the original URL, upon use.

Recently in my very geeky news feed, I came across Polr, a self-hosted URL shortener. What a wheeze! Grab yourself a suitable domain, and you can poke your tongue out at Twitter, Google and the like, with all their evil data-mining ways.

It was surprisingly easy to get up and running with Polr, in our case using a virtual server hosted with Amazon. We bought a nifty little domain, and off we go! To be honest, the most time-consuming part was tracking down a short domain name – there aren’t many about.

All this is a roundabout way of saying, please feel free to use our brand shiny new URL shortener. Because it’s so young, the URLs generated really are very short. for example is now – just 15 of your precious characters.

Yes, we’ve had to put adverts on it. Server hosting ain’t free. But we won’t charge you for using the service and we have no wicked designs on your data. Promise.

So go to it. Bookmark and enjoy the majesty, the awe of the world’s best* URL shortener. GD1 – it’s a good one.

Happy tweeting/SMSing.


*Well we think it is, anyway.

iPhone 6. The Rumour Mill – Likely Models, Versions and new Features

So we wait with baited breath to see what the next iteration of the Apple iPhone will be. With the competition putting out ‘iPhone killers’ Apple Bitealmost daily and nibbling into Apples market share, it seems time for something dramatic from the innovative tech Company.

Whilst still very much at the rumour mill stage, here is what the available evidence and info is strongly suggesting.

The next version of the iPhone is widely and will almost certainly be called the iPhone 6. It is scheduled for release in September of this year.

If the huge orders Apple has been placing in Japan with Sharp and in South Korea with LG, is anything to go by then the anticipated increase in screen size will become a reality. Initial reports and information leaked from those factories suggests we will be looking at two versions. The current models 4” screen will be scaled up into 2 new versions sporting either a 4.7” or a 5.5” screen. It goes without saying that this will be the high end resolution liquid crystal versions.

We can expect the iPhone 6 to be a far more powerful beast with an uprated processor and according to some sources; a major Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturer has started a production run of these next generation A series ‘Apple A8’ chips. First reports are emerging of a very fast 2.6GHz chip.Apple Chip

As well as the increase in screen size we expect the iPhone 6 to be far thinner than it is now. Here at G&D we have read more than one report suggesting it could be as little as 5.5 mm, which is quite a significant change to the current design.

So what about that screen? It seems Apple may well be moving to an Ultra-Retina display with a pixel density pushing 389ppi. Design features will also include a durable Sapphire screen at long last. All this coupled with the larger screen sizes adds up to a mouth-watering combination that some would say is long overdue.

Other rumoured features that have been floating around cyber space,

Significant improvements to the camera with major changes to the aperture size and possibly moving to as much as an 8-megapixel camera. Some sources are even suggesting Apple has decided at last that the camera is an ever important aspect of a smartphone and Powerful iphone 6 cameramay go all out with a 10 mega-pixel version with an f/1.8 aperture complete with interchangeable lenses.

There is also a lot of hype about Apple going with a bezel-less display or at least playing with the iconic design feature to make it less prominent.

Personally, I’m a little worried that Apple may be finding it necessary to do battle with competitors on screen size. Once a smartphone doesn’t fit into my trouser pocket, it’s no longer a phone in my eyes. However if they can squeeze every available mm of front facing space into being a screen, that would be the way to go!

The Apple App store is also set for some changes and improvements but details are sketchy so far.


News: Motorola announces new smart watch Moto 360 – and it’s a beauty

One of the most interesting areas of development in the consumer technology industry is wearable tech. The segment is in its infancy and no one quite knows whether it will prove to turn out damp squibs or cash cows (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphors). Top manufacturers are jostling for space with arguably premature “me too” gadgets that amount to little more than technology previews. There are even technology expos dedicated to this new sector.

Galaxy Gear - not great
Galaxy Gear – not great
When Samsung brought out its Galaxy Gear, I thought “we might have something here”. But the price was all wrong. I know the company can’t expect to ship many units at this stage in the game, but the opening price of £300 for a bleeding-edge, partially-formed lifestyle accessory kept all but the most dedicated technophiles firmly at bay. The Gear has failed to capture the public’s imagination and I think I know why. Putting aside the unconvincing claims that the Gear “connects seamlessly with your Samsung smartphone to make life easier on the go“, there’s one very big problem with this, and almost all other smart watches: it’s ugly.

Watches long since ceased to be simply pedestrian tools that tell you the time. They are fashion accessories. They express our individuality. Who wants to walk around toting one of these half-baked forearm carbuncles?

So I noted with interest Motorola’s announcement yesterday that the company is getting ready to launch the new round-faced, Android Wear-powered Moto 360.

Motorola D811 - stylish DECT answerphone
Motorola D811 – stylish DECT answerphone
MOTOACTV - ugly duckling
MOTOACTV – ugly duckling
Somewhat like Apple. Motorola has a reputation for adding its own design twist to everyday technology. I have a DECT cordless answering machine from Motorola, chosen largely on the strength of its looks, in a market where most of these devices have very similar capabilities.

Motorola’s previous attempt at a smart watch, the MOTOACTV, is frankly no supermodel. But if the MOTOACTV is the acne-ridden, orthodontic braces-sporting ugly duckling, the Moto 360 is the fully grown, airbrushed to perfection swan.

The Moto 360 in all its glory
The Moto 360 in all its glory

Just look at it. Now we’re onto something. Now we’ve got a watch where I wouldn’t have to spend all day persuading myself it’s pretty. Quite the contrary. I’m not that bowled over by the leather strap version, but in metal bracelet guise, I think we’re looking at a genuine designer item.

Pricing is yet to be announced, and no doubt it will be a long time before it’s stocked in UK stores. But this Geek hazards a guess that it will be worth the wait. Until it’s available, the only smart watch that comes close in terms of style in my humble opinion is the Pebble Steel, which is a little hard to come by, this side of the Atlantic.

News: Porn For all or Save us From the Corruptions of the Net?

I love government do-gooders. Mr Cameron’s latest brain child. Apparently porn on the internet is bad, very bad! So much so that we must make it harder to access. Not prohibit it, just make it difficult to access.

It’s a tricky subject to discuss in general terms. Hypothetically speaking, I wouldn’t want to admit whether or not I might take a cheeky look on occasions and I certainly don’t like to be told what I can and can’t watch. But looking past that and any social and moral issues, what’s going on here? Who is it we are protecting?

If it’s with good intentions the government wants to protect young eyes, then okay, I’m all for that. If parental control at home is not sufficient already to filter out adult content however, I’m not convinced a simple opt-in/opt-out tick box is going to be of any help. We also have the question of the broad description of “adult content” which would normally include gambling and violence. I wonder if all the well-wishing parents who tick what they think is the ‘No Porn’ button realise that they might not be able to stream the latest “18” certificate film, have a flutter on the National or play cards or bingo.3505349701_af34ebecdd_b

I’m struggling to see what’s driving this and, in a world of economic and social turmoil, why this is so high on the agenda. If it is a priority, why this half-hearted, lack-lustre approach? Does this mean Sky’s Babe Station and other similar channels are going to be shut down? Maybe the government doesn’t consider that porn?

There are various definitions for the term porn: ‘Television shows, articles, photographs, etc., thought to create or satisfy an excessive desire for sexual content.’

Well when you put it that way, I guess it does sound like something unhealthy.

It’s at this point I did a complete about-face on this subject. I started writing this firmly believing I didn’t want the nanny state telling me what I could and couldn’t see and then I did a quick, relatively innocent image search on Google for what I thought would be a witty picture for this post. Do you remember Calendar Girls? A light hearted film in which aged WI woman stripped off for a calendar and strategically placed buns to hide their modesty? So I typed in the search terms ‘calendar girl buns covering’.

Now as you’d expect the top searches were broadly what I wanted but as I scrolled down the page, the porn drifted in. I experimented with search terms and do you know what? In this world of ours it seems someone somewhere always twists something innocent to sexualise it, or adds an innocent search term to an adult image.

My children are still young but I mentally wound on a few years and imagined them doing homework in bedrooms and innocently typing in some random search term. I wouldn’t want them exposed to this kind of result, but is this what Mr Cameron has in mind?

It appears to me that this is proposal is a cross between a moral vote winner for the government and a knee jerk reaction to recent events – revelations that have emerged of sexually motivated child killers having previously viewed pornographic material. Don’t even get me started on the alleged correlations between screen violence and real offences. I’ll leave Geek and the Mary Whitehouse brigade 😉 to deal with that one because I do not advocate the level of censorship that she did. I simply don’t believe there is any evidence to back it up.

The depiction of criminal sexual acts, rape or anything involving children etc., that’s just an obvious no-no isn’t it? Why isn’t the focus on forcing ISPs to filter this content out?kids-computer

The big ISPs out there can accomplish what they want. Don’t be fooled by the excuse ‘It’s a huge task’ or ‘it’s impossible to filter out all that content’ They can police what they choose to easily. Why then is this not a law strictly banning the ISPs allowing  ‘criminal’ sexual content in the UK? Instruct the ISPs to enforce it on pain of hefty penalties or even a loss of licence in the UK.

If I cut through the veneer of this subject I see a typical well-meaning, Big Brother approach that’s become so watered down and toothless that it will be useless. If not useless it will target the wrong people and perhaps drive some things that may have been relatively harmless, underground. Once in that shadowy domain, who knows what it will become and what harm it might do.

In the meantime, if you’re a parent of young or teenage children children, I suggest you brush up on your internet security and perhaps look for a product that will allow you to filter content from your ISP. If you rely on your ISP or the government to do this and still want to enjoy ‘all’ aspects of the internet, I think you’re in for a rude awakening.

News: Apple’s App Store, Populated by Zombies??

App Store Game Changer

In the recent times, Apple boss Tim Cook, has lauded the power and effect of the App Store claiming it has ‘fundamentally changed the world‘. 50 billion apps downloaded to date and that’s a statement you would be hard pressed to deny. Clearly the launch of the App Store in 2008 has been a game changer for how technology is produced and delivered.

However 5 years on, is this ‘game changer’ living up to the hype and impressive figures?


I heard this term for the first time today and when I read its definition it made me think about my own experiences with the app store. Zombies are apps which never appear in Apple’s master-list of the most downloaded apps worldwide. Its a bit of a sweeping statement but it’s probably fair to say we are talking about ‘junk apps’. I’m sure I’m not alone in having searched for a clever app that will help me with a specific task and to be lured in by a flashy description and amazing claims. Then in the wrapper of the App store, which gives it credibility, you pay your money and very much take your chance. I mean this app is being sold by Apple through its prestigious, ‘game changing’ technology store, what could possibly go wrong?!

App Store Featured

Well by all accounts out of a total 888856 apps in the Apple database with 579,001 being classified as Zombies, by the analytics firm Adeven, it seems a lot can go wrong. In fact you could say that you have a 65% chance of buying a chocolate fire guard. Okay, I’m a bit disappointed that a prestigious company like Apple would allow a shoddy app to be sold but they would never leave me, their loyal customer, dissatisfied and out of pocket…

App Economy

Have you ever bought one of these lemons, complained and had your money back? Is it even possible to be refunded after buying a bad app? I’ve yet to find anyone that has received a refund. Lots of excuses and slippery shoulders yes, refunds, no! The closest I can find is the recent cases where parents had found themselves facing unexpected bills as a result of in-app purchases by their kids. I’d say that was less a refund and more a payout for fraudulent activity!

If we look a little deeper, Apple take a 30% cut of all sales through its on-line marketplace. That’s a vast revenue stream to start denting with refunds so perhaps they have a vested interest in rogue developers making unfounded claims to secure sales or maybe I’m getting old and cynical?

Poor App

Don’t get me wrong, some developers have delivered the goods. The viral popularity of Rovio’s Angry Birds is a fantastic case in point, not only delivering an addictive app but one capable of moving outside the app store and becoming its own brand. A multi million pound brand spawned of the app store and perhaps representative of a change in the game publishing model. Maybe we now want our games and tech instantly gratifying, cheap and throwaway?

The Future of the App Store

It’s clear to say that the App store is here to stay and has revolutionised the mobile world. The other big boys in the marketplace like Google, Microsoft and Blackberry have followed suit and types of App stores are available across all platforms. Its a big, fast moving beast of a business worth multi-millions. My only concern is who is policing it, and with the money involved, policing it will need.

In this vast and transitional industry of instant gratification and throwaway app purchasing, are we going to miss the truly inspired apps and talented developers? With hundreds of thousands of apps out there, a significant percentage being the proverbial lemon, how are the quality apps going to be noticed? Worse still, if you can’t rely on Apple to vet the apps you have to select from, how can you make an informed purchase?

News: PRISM scandal – tech giants flatly deny allowing NSA direct access to servers

I read this story with interest. So a highly secretive branch of the American government has been snooping on our emails, messages and calls using a sophisticated bit of software and the big tech giants may be complicit?!? Surely that’s not really a surprise to anyone is it?

It seems there are various disapproving camps forming around this.

First: a band of technophobes, incredulous at the thought that a government organisation would be able to spy on them in this way. I mean come on get real. Yes, conspiracy theory nuts have raved on about this for decades. But we the public, know that phone bugging can be done legally under a warrant; why would we think this has any limit?

The second camp is on a corporate witch hunt. How could Google and Microsoft not have known about this? Or worse, how dare they allow the government to put its sticky paws on our private correspondence?

You’ve seen Will Smith on the silver screen battling shadowy branches of American government ably assisted by Gene Hackman, a master of tech surveillance. It transpires that this shadowy branch has gone rogue and is targeting innocent members of the public. Is there anything unbelievable about this? The fact that the technology exists to allow this surveillance or that a government organisation can go rogue? (Or worse, conduct the surveillance without legal approval but with state support.)

It may sound like science fiction but the technology exists. Once that’s accepted I have my own view on its existence and use. A government organisation going rogue? The conspiracy theorists will be screaming at me but it is pretty implausible in this age of information and accountability.

For a start, why think that what you are saying and doing online is so interesting to the NSA? Let’s take that thought a stage further: if you are saying something that interests the NSA, I’d suggest I want you to be secretly monitored by them.

I know this will be at odds with many of you technically savvy people in this brave new I.T. world but I personally feel that I am willing to sacrifice a little bit of privacy for the greater good. I mean how do you think the security services in the UK foil terrorist attacks and keep us safe in our beds? Information and the control of it is the secret war no one likes to tell us about.

But do you know what, when I stand back and look at this again from a more suspicious angle I find myself asking a number of left-field questions that make me doubt the whole story.

If this technology does exist and is being used, why would an organisation like the NSA (arguably the most secure organisation in the world) allow the Guardian to learn of its existence and so make it redundant. I mean, any self-respecting terrorist would read this and not use the internet again, right? Lets remember the information regarding its existence was anonymously leaked and the online message boards are already full of anti-American rhetoric raving about Prism and civil liberties.

Whether the technology exists or not, don’t expect the Googles of this world to admit they let the NSA trawl through their servers. I guess I may be in the minority in not caring if they did. But if they stood up and said, ‘Yeah we share your data with the NSA,’ I think the shareholders would be none too pleased.

We know Google already mines internet usage to target users with appropriate adverts. For example, if I insert an advert from Google’s AdSense below this paragraph you should see adverts popping up relevant to things you searched or shopped for recently. Shame on you if Tracy, a single and very friendly lady is offering to visit!! 😉

This is all feels a bit like PR spin to me. On one hand I think we all know our internet usage is being monitored in some way by someone. I’m ambivalent to that fact. It being drawn to the public’s attention in this way has the smack of an opposition group attempting to stir up ill will against ‘Big Brother’.

On the flip side, come on tech giants, don’t treat us like fools. You obviously mine our data for your own purposes and as it suits you. Its not a huge leap to assume you’d allow selected organisations to do the same for the “greater good”.

So a sensational headline but really, is any of it big news or really that shocking or are we all just kidding ourselves about our personal internet privacy?

(Hint: we’re kidding ourselves. But don’t worry – Geek is here to help improve our online privacy: read on.)

News: Free, unlimited Dropbox alternative: BitTorrent Sync

UPDATE: if the process below seems like a bit too much hassle, we would currently recommend Tresorit. It is similar to DropBox, with the added advantage that your data is encrypted on Tresorit’s servers. In other words, unlike with DropBox, if their servers are compromised, any data recovered would still have to be decrypted before an attacker could access it. They’re so confident no one can get your data that they’ve offered a bounty to anyone who can break into their systems.

BitTorrent SyncUnless you’ve been living in a cave for the last five years, you’ll have heard of cloud sync poster child Dropbox. Dropbox has many flaws, but its great strength is how simple it is to use (my most inept users can manage it).

When you read elsewhere about the weaknesses of Dropbox, privacy seems to be the big one. Your files are stored “in the cloud”. This doesn’t particularly trouble me. Yes, Dropbox has my stuff, but the chances are that Dropbox’s security measures are better than my own. Between my laptop being hacked/stolen and Dropbox being hacked(/stolen?!), my money’s on my laptop. (I use TrueCrypt to encrypt my laptop’s hard drive, as you should by the way, but that’s a different story.) Anyway, any squeamishness we have about cloud storage is likely to die away in the near future, when it’s no longer quite so new and scary.

Of course there are lots of companies on the cloud storage bandwagon, big names and small. There are Google Drive, Microsoft SkyDrive, Cubby (from LogMeIn), Mozy and so on. Typical features include:

  • Mobile apps
  • Entry-level free option
  • File version revision/undelete

This is different. From the company that brings you the controversial peer-to-peer file sharing system and the popular BitTorrent client, µTorrent, comes a new “cloud-less” file sync technology, BitTorrent Sync. The principle of BitTorrent sync is that you use the efficient BitTorrent protocol to distribute your own files privately amongst approved devices.

This year, BT Sync has been in private “alpha” (software in heavy testing, likely to contain bugs, which may be serious). Last week, the public alpha was released. It’s currently available for Windows, Mac and Linux.

The Windows interface is pretty minimal at the moment:

BTSync Windows

The web interface for the Linux version is more polished:

BitTorrent Sync Linux Web Interface

During the private alpha stage, I tried syncing between a Windows 7 laptop and a Linux server. Shortly after this, the server suffered a catastrophic disk failure. Coincidence? Not entirely, I suspect. There may be some low-level disk calls that overtaxed drives that were already heading towards the end of their life. Nevertheless, it’s a reminder: this is alpha (experimental) software; be careful.

BT Sync has quite a few limitations:

  • It’s still in alpha state, which means it is liable to eat your data, your hard drive and your children’s pet rabbit.
  • There are no mobile applications yet.
  • No progress indicators within Windows, just an irritating balloon tip.
  • Since there is no central cloud, the devices must be online simultaneously, to perform sync.
  • For the same reason, you can’t download files via the web.
  • Other than creating a folder specifically for the purpose, there’s no option to “share” a single file.
  • No versioning – no backup or undelete facility outside any provided by your operating system.

Despite all this, there are some pretty compelling reasons for using it:

  • There are absolutely no limits. Unlimited file size, unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, etc. Of course you will still be limited by other factors – the size of your hard drive and the amount of monthly bandwidth you’re allocated by your ISP.
  • Efficiency. This is not the place to discuss BitTorrent generally, but the more people sharing the files, the better. All connected devices, while online, can participate in the synchronisation process.
  • Privacy. No third party holds your data. Central systems facilitate the peer-to-peer connection, but do not take their own copies of files.
  • Security. The data is encrypted before transmission and only accessible using a “shared secret”.

BitTorrent Sync has an ace up its sleeve. It can be installed on several different NAS boxes, from the likes of Synology, QNAP, Iomega, etc. This is where I can see BT Sync excelling. Want an entirely private, shared data store for remote office workers, but don’t want to invest in high-end storage systems? Give them all a NAS box with BT Sync installed. Want to set up off-site backup for your files at home? Enter into a reciprocal arrangement with a friend, using NAS boxes, where you host each other’s backup files. Want to set up a sprawling hydra-like network of anarchic file storage for your clandestine underground organisation? You get the idea…


I shared this write-up with Dummy and he gave me a vacant look. “What is it?” he said. Fair comment; it’s a very clever bit of software. But in a nutshell, it gives you a completely private “Dropbox”. You share your folder with your friends and they all automatically get a copy of everything in that folder. You can configure it so that any changes they make are distributed throughout all copies. You can use it as a “set it and forget it” off-site backup – say with a home PC and a work PC. It’s usefulness is limited only by your imagination.

So, having read all my caveats above, you still want to give this a whirl? Go ahead, don your crash helmet and download the sucker.