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Encryptr

Every now and then something comes along where you can see somebody’s put some serious thought in to what they’re designing. The Raspberry Pi is probably the first thing that comes to mind, the Pebble watch is another. Lego is a brilliant example.

With apps, it’s lesser so. Not because people don’t think about what they’re doing, but because there are so many out there that are either sloppy/lazy, through no fault of their own the developers don’t have the experience, or because they’re looking at a means of making money (adverts, data theft etc.). Some apps really do shine through though, Tasker, AutoRemote, Titanium Backup, Spideroak. [See an early list]

Latest to the list must be Encryptr. Like Spideroak, at its core it is built on the ZeroKnowledge principle. This got Spideroak some criticism because with ZeroKnowledge systems, only the end user (that’s you) can read what’s stored. Not GHCQ, not David Bloody Cameron, not the FBI, not even Spideroak themselves. All associated data is encrypted and can only be decrypted with a passcode, password, phrase, or similar.

For a little while now (since Dropbox was hacked for the second time) I’ve been looking for something that uses Spideroak’s approach, end point decryption for keeping passwords secure. After a quick search I decided the best way was to use Spideroak’s Hive. Spideroak has a couple of options, data is stored per machine or shared with all machines signed in to that account. Hive is the latter, so my passwords are securely synced with every machine I choose to sign in with. It meant that if I didn’t have a phone signal I was a bit stuck, but only passwords for internet based systems were being stored. It also meant that I had to be at a PC to create the file but Spideroak are currently looking to implement this as an option in an upcoming release.

Encryptr is the solution to the problem. It doesn’t matter if your phone gets lost, stolen, soaked or damaged because no data is stored on your phone. Every password, PIN, credit card number and note that’s stored is done so securely online. With cross platform availability, the same passwords on your phone can be synced with your Windows or Linux PC or even your Mac. It even offers a secure, randomly generated password for you when you input an entry. Best of all, it’s free. There’s no advertising, no sign up, no personal details required to use it, just a user name and a passphrase/password. That’s it.

As Encryptr’s web site states, there’s a down side. If you forget your username and/or passphrase you’re locked out. No ‘forgot my password’ option as they don’t ask for your email address. Taking this into account, you have to acknowledge the advantages far outweigh any risk of forgetting your username and passphrase.

Encryptr’s developers have obviously thought about what they’re doing. While basic, the app and its ethos have a solid foundation. I’d like to be able to put entries in folders, toggle the courtesy password on/off and select its length and complexity (upper/lower case, numbers, symbols etc) and be able to copy the password in to the clipboard, but these are suggestions for a later version.

Considering the app is only at version 1.1.0, what Encryptr have achieved is impressive.

 

Lifeproof

It surprises me that more phones haven’t been waterproofed. A few years ago, Jason Bradbury featured a Samsung Galaxy S2 being submerged in water without any adverse effects after being coated with a nano-coating by P2i. Nowadays, a few phones will claim to be splashproof, but currently only Sony make fully waterproof phones. Despite the obvious appeal of a naturally submersible phone, I really don’t want a Sony product again.

There have been a few cases on the market to protect your phone. When the Lifeproof case was on special offer, I seized the opportunity. Lifeproof has a great reputation. I’ve seen their products for iPhones in the past but this was not only a Lifeproof case for an Android device, but for the same one I use. At least for now.

When you first pick up the box you immediately feel as though Lifeproof have given thought to their product. The box is tactile, a door on the front opens to let you view the product through the transparency. What impressed me was the magnets (top and bottom) which snap the door shut.

Lifeproof cover and test unitLifeproof internal sealThe rear of the box boasts the case will protect your phone with a rating of IP68. It can be fully submerged up to 6½ feet. Unfortunately, I can’t say I hold much confidence in this claim.

Lifeproof base, showing waterLifeproof include a phone’s “test unit”, a blue plastic mock up matching the dimensions of the phone it’s designed to protect. The manual suggests testing the case using the test unit for 30 minutes, weighted down to fully submerge it in water. I
tested it for 15 minutes using their test unit and found the product leaking water.

Lifeproof base, wet lockThe case was dried off, checked for anything that could be preventing the Lifeproof case from working properly. I could see nothing that would cause the leak.
The second test lasted only 5 minutes. Unfortunately the case was unable to resist the water using the provided test unit.

Another check for any dust, dirt, cracks in the rubber, anything at all proved fruitless. I checked and double
checked the test unit. Even under a jeweller’s magnifying glass nothing showed that could account for the leaks. To say it came as a disappointment was an understatement.

The final test was done under full observation in the hope the source may be found. No such luck. There was no obvious point where air could be seen escaping. After ten minutes it was clear that nothing would give away the weak point. With some surprise I learned the third test was successful.

I’m aware the only consistent factors in these tests have been the same case, the same test unit and the same person. Being truly objective, I cannot rule out me missing something between tests, however small. To the best of my knowledge, in each test nothing had changed. The test unit was settled in place. The case was snapped shut with the same force as before. Even the order of it closing matched the previous tests.

Pros: The Lifeproof case is sturdy. It feels like a quality product. The rubber on its back makes gripping it very easy. Despite only having contact with surfaces with its four rubber feet it doesn’t easily slide (tested at various angles). The speaker and microphone aren’t obstructed due to a waterproof membrane, music can be heard as before and nobody called knew the phone was in a case. Rubber covers over the buttons stand out proud from the base making finding them easy, but prevent the phone activating without your knowledge.

Cons: Some charging cables no longer work due to the smaller aperture at the base (see yellow plug on the case). None of the OTG cable fits. Only a third of the tests with the test unit passed being submerged in water.

Outcome: The Lifeproof case tested with the Samsung I9305 feels like a quality product. Even the box has had serious thought put in to it. The case will block dust, dirt, sand etc. (involuntary test) with ease.  [You’ll understand me not testing the waterproofing with the phone.]  Using the official cables and not cheap ones from eBay, the phone performs exactly as it always has.  Bumps and drops on to hard floor tiles are taken in its stride.

I’d recommend Lifeproof cases to anyone who asks. Cheap cases may save your phone from knocks and drops, but they can’t offer anything like the protection of a Lifeproof case.

Pebble throwing

I won’t go in to the details twice, but I had one requirement in a smartwatch – it had to interact with Tasker.

It turns out that Pebble themselves have decided on our behalf to stop supporting certain apps.  My needs in a smartwatch are few but supporting Tasker is essential and Google apps are next on the list.

Pebble drop Tasker

 

Pebble want to control what information you’re allowed to see on your watch, and they want to control it all through their app.  Had I wanted such strict control I’d have bought an iPhone!  My phone is Android.  Android is open source.  Not restricted.  The app doesn’t even have a tick/untick box, warning “Tasker / Google Now may result in repeated notifications”.

The thing is, Tasker brings functionality to the watch that Pebble themselves haven’t been able to do.  With its plugins and 3rd party apps integrating with Tasker it means you can do so much more than the already comprehensive app is capable of.  As Pebble want to restrict which apps they’ll allow you to use they’re putting nails in their own coffin.  If they’re not careful these sorts of decisions will do to their watch what Blackberry and Nokia did to their phones.

A year ago, Pebble were already facing criticism for blatant favouring of the iPhone over Android.  Even at the bottom of the box showed where Pebble’s alliance lay:

Pebble Box (under) highlighted

Pebble have faced criticism for not using colour screens or implementing touch screen functionality, especially in their Pebble Steel.  By denying access to certain apps and restricting functionality, even their supporters in the Android community will start to jump ship.

What annoys me is that there weren’t any “This app will no longer be supported as of 31/12/14” notifications.  Not even “This app is no longer supported”.  If a company behind smartwatches can’t send a notification to their own product then perhaps they should consider removing the prefix ‘smart’.

However, all may not be lost.  Recently Pebble announced their app can interact with Android Wear.  The Android Wear app doesn’t even need to be connected to the app or signed in to any account.  The only requirement is that it be installed.  Time will no doubt tell whether this restores what Pebble saw fit to block.  With a little good fortune I won’t be Pebble throwing any time soon.

What a difference two days make

Two days can make such a difference.  You can fly abroad, pass your driving test, or simply master that recipe that’s been frustrating you for the last six months.

Having previously been a Virgin customer I’m aware of the speeds available on fiber-optic broadband.  We’ve used it at my soon-to-be in-laws.  The shock of its capability has long since worn off.

Four years ago I moved out of a Virgin area and instantly noticed the difference.  Email seemed to be sent and received by carrier pigeon, photos suddenly seemed as though they needed to be developed and I could get faster internet on my mobile than I could at my door.  The change from Virgin’s 20Mb to Sky’s 0.8Mb was laughable, or it would be had it not been so painful.  The thing is Sky had promised me 3Mb, they just couldn’t deliver.  So five weeks after being connected, I was free.  Even penalty free.  O2 carried the torch, delivering on the promises they’d made.  Sky bought out O2’s home broadband service, and our speeds slowed again.

No more!

Two days ago I did a broadband speed test.  I did another today.  [If you’d like to test your broadband speed, click here]

Sky vs BTIt’s costing £8 per month more but you can see the difference for yourself.  [It’s worth noting that this is the first speed test since the line was connected.  The line has not been calibrated yet so the speed may increase over the next three weeks]

 

2015-02-06 13.25.55aBT did everything without even needing a coffee and a Jammy Dodger.  I received a text from them saying the line was connected [11:42], and another a short while later [12:02] saying the fiber-op was up and running.  What made the whole lot that little bit sweeter was the text I received from Sky [13:03] over an hour after BT’s last text saying they’re sorry to see me go and they’ll write to me with the details of any charges.  They didn’t even bother to proof read it. (don?t)

Good riddance!