Proctele apps in the App Store

Proctele apps in the App Store
Click the picture to see Proctele apps in Apple's App Store

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Skype was listening

I was using Skype on my Windows 10 PC the other day. Early on we talked about what films we might want to see soon and the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie was mentioned. Less than half a minute later an ad came up on the Skype window - an ad for the new Pirates of the Caribbean. I thought it was spooky.

We didn't text each other before or during the Skype session, so there must have been speech recognition involved, unless someone was listening and maybe joking with us. My Skype partner was using an iPad or iPhone and saw no ad. Neither of us had the Skype video enabled.

Reading my Gmail I've seen ads that show up in the mail window, which relate to the contents of the mail. It feels less harmful. The Skype "incident" was new to me. A phone call, albeit on Skype, is more intimate than email and the ad felt consequently more intrusive. I didn't like the experience.

There is but a small step from popping up ads to actual spying. From this I learned that I need to watch my words while Skyping. I'm convinced that this could happen on any service, but Skype is the first service that demonstrated its use to me. Thanks Skype!

Sunday, May 1, 2016

What if your Smartphone is a spy?

The Smartphone and its offspring the Pad are the most popular electronic devices of this century. We all love these devices and there are many proofs of that. Smartphones and their accessories are hot items among traders, like stereos were in the 1970's, like PC's were in the 80's, like cell-phones were in the 90's.

We love these devices; they're always with us, not just in the same room, but usually in our pocket or our hands. Eye-to-screen contact takes place several times an hour, often less during working-hours, but all the more often before or after work or in the week-end. When the Smartphone gets a longer rest it's usually because we're sleeping and the Smartphone is charging. Nice device. 

But what if ... if the camera ... or the microphone isn't really turned off when you expect them to be off? 

What if your trusted Smartphone is transmitting all it sees and hears to some person or organization? It doesn't need constant network access to spy, you know, because it can record to memory and transmit its findings whenever possible. What if it can see and hear even after it's been turned off? You see, a device isn't really off until the power supply i.e. the battery has been disconnected, and that never happens. Even if you take out the main battery, there's always some other battery in action to keep at least the clock running. What if the microphone is always on and recording what it hears?

On the other hand, how interesting are we really as objects of spies? Not really interesting I think, and that hopefully goes for most of us. But then again some people are of considerable interest to a lot of people, and governments are interested in some. Celebrities fall into the first group and political opponents of governments into the second.

Considering the above, I think there may be a market for some kind of shields for privacy. They may come in the form of covers that shield the camera and the microphone. Night-boxes or charging-boxes for night-time privacy, which are sound-insulated and electro-magnetically shielded. Another form of shield would be one that feeds the camera and microphone with fake data.

I think Smartphone users don't have to worry quite yet. Looking further into the future though, I think privacy will become a severe issue that has to be dealt with.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Importance of Smartphone Privacy

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently published a letter to Apple's customers concerning the company's policy on smartphone privacy. You can read it here

The document has no news for me and I'm delighted it's mostly a comment on how Apple's privacy policy is being applied to the investigation of the San Bernardino terrorist attack. The letter says Apple is doing its duty to assist the FBI investigating the case, but also that the FBI will not be provided with a key to unlock all iPhone security. There is no such key in existence and it will not be created. That means Apple WILL NOT build in a back-door to its customer's data on iPhones. Many thanks to Tim Cook for making this clear!

Law enforcement authorities should not burden companies with these requests. It is not without risk. Back-doors can be misused and will be misused. Lots of wide-spread software systems contain back-doors. These are not always created by the owner of the system, but by criminals.

There exist back-door-like features that most users will welcome and the most famous may be the Find my iPhone, which can indeed find a lost iPhone, but can also remotely erase all data from a stolen iPhone, under its owners control. The great thing about that feature is that it will in the end make iPhones less desirable for thieves.

American companies may already be suffering from their government's poking its nose into all kinds of electronic devices and services. People are becoming more aware of the possibilities of surveillance and outright data theft. This opens possibilities to companies in other jurisdictions taking market shares. I'm talking about trust, which I've mentioned earlier on this blog. Once trust is lost, rebuilding it is at best a hard struggle, and I think trust is actually never rebuilt. Governments should not ask of its companies to help it combat terrorists, which they could have avoided by properly screening immigrants. Here's hoping more companies show the stamina Apple has.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Grand Gadgets

I'm a gadget-man and I believe I share that interest with most men. This quality is closely related to a fascination for technology and new concepts. Here's a blog about gadgets.

I'll start with this wooden keyboard:

It's not just wooden, it's a wireless Bluetooth wooden keyboard for $190. You can get it in Maple or Walnut if you prefer. I bet you can get it in a localized language version too.

Then there's this speaker that listens in on the electrical signals going to the speaker in your smartphone. When I first saw it I had to think for a while to figure out how it works. Love that! You don't need any communication technology like BlueTooth in the phone for it to work. Here's a picture of it from Parts Express, and don't miss their Youtube demo (see link reference at the bottom).

Selfie-toaster sounds crazy, as if somebody just joined two random words, but in fact it's a product. You buy a certain toaster and the maker will manufacture a heating insert from an image you upload to them. The image can be a picture of yourself, hence the name selfie-toaster. Fantastic idea and here's what it looks like:


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Listen to the Radio

I'm working away from home in the lovely country of Ireland. What a beautiful country and friendly natives. Ask the Irish directions and they'll happily walk a long distance with you to make sure you find it. Visit Ireland! You won't regret it.

I left my radio home, well I left every apparatus you would normally call a radio back home. What is a radio these days anyway, or perhaps, what is the medium of radio. What is TV? 

Things have changed. Radio and TV used to mean something like entertainment, news, etc brought to you over radio waves. Now R&T comes over Cable or the Internet, if not over both (I mean Internet over Cable). Defining something by the way it is transmitted is not a good idea anymore. Technology turns transmission names into something fickle. R&T might have been called playlists if they were invented recently.

Anyway, I came to think of this again, when I realized I missed my radio. What are my options then? Obviously Internet radio on my iPhone. There's an excellent app called TuneIn Radio. I use it a lot, like when going to sleep I tune into an American country station. My iPhone provides the sleep function through its built-in timer (the one in the Clock app). I could also buy an alarm-clock radio for about 10€ in the supermarket. I could tune into radio on the TV-set and use its timer. Indeed I could buy a simple radio for just 5€, but without timer. I could use my Sony Ericsson phone with built-in radio, if I had brought the custom headphones or the custom speaker, which I didn't.

Not all the solutions are equal in functionality and the programmes available, but they would all suffice.

Finally, make sure you visit Ireland once. Don't forget Blarney and don't forget to kiss the Blarney stone, and don't forget to talk to the Irish. They're nice.

And ... Proctele's app HabitXplore has been updated. I use it every day. Yes I do!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Proctele's Workout App: ExerLog

Proctele's new app costs $0.99 and has no ads. Proctele apps aren't free, but AD-FREE. 
ExerLog is for happy sporty people. Are you one of them? Then read further.

We all know it: these days all you need is your iPhone!
Leave your paper and pen at home: here are your workout sheets, as many as you like.

Here's the icon:

To keep track of your workouts, it's necessary to take notes of what exercises you performed, the repetition count and the weights used. You need a workout sheet.

With this app you create blueprints for workout sheets that you use on your iPhone. When you start working out, you select one of the blueprints. A workout sheet is created on your iPhone, which you use to take notes during the workout.

This app keeps track of your exercises and helps you determine if you're making progress. It does the same as a workout sheet and a bit more, because it's digital. A blueprint/workout-sheet can contain for example:
-your name
-workout duration
-your body weight
-your starting mood
-workout location

and most importantly:
-exercises and the weights and repetitions you use when you perform them.

Here are screen shots from an iPhone6:


Update: Price has been doubled to $1.99, two-thirds the price of a latte.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

3D-touch for iPhone?

Rumour has it that the next iPhone will have pressure-sensitive display. That means an item high up on my wishlist is coming to iPhone. I've blogged about this before.

3D-touch is not new. There are already pressure sensitive displays. One example is the company FlatFrog (, which has displays in sizes 15-110 inch.

All the way from the start, iPhones have had a multi-touch-sensitive display. It was one of the reasons for iPhone's success, because it gave iPhone the famous pinch gesture. I still remember when I tried it out for the first time. At that time the iPhone was not for sale in Europe. A colleague had been to the US and bought an iPhone, and I was allowed to try it out. I was impressed. 

Multi-touch is two-dimensional, 2D, i.e. when the user taps or swipes or pinches, an app receives information about it in terms of x and y, horizontal and vertical coordinates. With pressure sensitivity the app will receive a third parameter, which tells how hard the user pressed. That means we can call it 3D-touch. 

For me the most obvious use of this feature is a scale app for weighing small and light items. But that's not what Apple has in mind. A new touch-type will probably be introduced: the force-touch, i.e. pressing harder. One good use for force-touch is to use it in a similar way the second button of a mouse is used (on Mac's one-button mouse it's done with Ctrl+click), and that is putting up a meny. Force-touch will be used for speeding up the user's interaction by reducing the number of presses he/she must do to accomplish something. Force-touch can also be used to reduce the number of user interface items on the screen, like buttons.

A possible use for 3D-touch is in games. Some games will benefit by testing the user's ability to use the right amount of pressure. The touch keyboard can most certainly be improved by 3D-touch, and thereby putting yet another nail in the coffin of hardware keyboards for mobile phones.