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Archive for May, 2012

7
May

Is Google discriminating against Firefox?

Dean Howell, a self-professed Google fan, thinks so:

I’ve been using Google Chrome for Linux since it was first made available.  I use Gmail, Google Docs (now Drive), Google Plus, Google Adsense, Google Analytics, Google Music, and many more.  I am the original owner of an original CR-48 Chromebook, having received mine way back in Dec. 2010.  I promote Google services at work and have worked hard to point my business’ compass towards their entire suite of offerings.  I use a Samsung Nexus S with an official build of Android 4.04 and I’m only interested in official devices moving forward.

At the same time, I have been gently treading a fine line between complete faith and trust in Google and fear of the Orwellian future they are capable of realizing for us all.

We lost faith and trust in Google years ago. Virtually every move Google has made since has vindicated our decision to Leave Google Behind. Sounds like Dean is starting to catch on.

I never had any errors loading Slashdot or OMG Ubuntu.  Hacker News, Reddit and all the other sites that I frequent all loaded fine, %100 of the time.  Of course Google Plus, Adsense, Analytics and Google Drive all gave me “Connection Reset”.  So today, while running errands, a really nasty notion came to me.  Is Google using user agent strings to create a poor experience in Firefox?

I decided to test this theory.

Dean’s tests confirmed his suspicions: Google’s offerings work just reliably when the browser identifies itself to Google as Chrome or a Chromium-based browser. But errors were commonplace for Dean when his browser identified itself to Google as Firefox.

How typical.

Read Dean’s post for more.

4
May

Google inadvertently distributing malware to its own users through “Google Play” Store

The Monster of Mountain View has been caught with its pants down again:

Google has been caught hosting more than a dozen malicious titles in its official Android app market. Some had been downloaded tens of thousands of times and turn smartphones into zombies that await commands from their attacker overlords, security researchers said.

A stash of 17 malicious apps remained freely available in the Google Play store, according to a blog post published Thursday by researchers from antivirus provider Trend Micro. Six of those titles contained a highly stealthy code dubbed Plankton, which causes Android-based phones to connect to command and control servers and wait for commands. At least 10 Plankton-based apps found last year in the Android market collected users’ browsing history, bookmarks, and device information and sent them to servers under the control of the attackers.

Isn’t one of the major justifications for walled garden-style app stores like “Google Play” to protect users? To prevent people from downloading malicious software? (Yes, that was a rhetorical question).

There’s no question app stores have been successful in allowing companies like Apple and Google to wield a huge degree of control over the user experience on their mobile platforms. But while that control may be good for the corporate bottom line (it keeps people locked in), it’s bad for user freedom, privacy, and security, as this report makes clear.