News digest №68. Computer magic

How is a programmer like a magician? The scale of the problems that he can deliver to others without any ulterior motive. About malware in Apple AppStore and iOS 9, problems with Google Chrome and Evernote, new Nexus and Cyanogen Mod …

Since ancient times, people have tried to understand how and what works in the world. And if at first almost any phenomenon, from rain and lightning to the changing seasons and migrations of birds, was attributed to the manifestation of the incomprehensible will of the gods, then over time they realized that everything is much more banal and simpler. The universe lives according to its own laws, there is practically no room for chance and miracles in it. If you once figure out what and how it works, then there will be no need for shamans and predictors – the causes and consequences of any event will become completely obvious without them.

Maybe humanity has not yet revealed a thousandth of all the secrets of the Universe, but most of the events taking place around us have long been able to explain. The world has become much simpler, safer, more comfortable … but at the same time more boring. Children can still believe in fairy tales about magic dragons and talking animals, wait for the arrival of Santa Claus or go in search of treasures, dream of getting a magic wand or learn to fly. It is clear to adults that all this is complete nonsense, there is nothing like this under this sky and cannot be.

Nevertheless, dreaming is not forbidden. Writers write books in the fantasy genre, directors make films about vampires and magicians, game developers come up with entire game universes, where hundreds of magical creatures live. There magic allows us to violate the laws of physics we are used to, real miracles happen there, there one single hero can defeat an entire army and change the whole world.

Magic is great, but in any more or less serious work there must be some kind of logic. Even if not quite the same as in our world. Therefore, it is usually accepted that magic also obeys some of its magical laws, they are simply much more complex and diverse than the laws of physics. And they fully admit that people who are far from this subject may well seem a miracle.

Computer magic

All this is very similar to how things are now in the world of software and the world of mobile devices. Here, as in the best traditions of the genre, one 'holy paladin' may well defeat a huge army of hired programmers. Here every day something happens that a person who is far from programming would not call anything other than magic. There is so much unknown and not fully understood that there may well be a place for both unicorns and dark rulers.

What is magic? A way to bypass the laws we are used to, to break the hateful causal relationships, to achieve the same result in a new way. If a person makes fire for a long time and tediously with the help of friction, this is one thing. If he creates a fireball using the power of thought, it is completely different.

We all know that there are a lot of viruses in the world, both for computers and for mobile devices. There is nothing magical or incomprehensible in this, a virus is the same program that, just like any other application, programmers wrote for a long time and tediously. Like any other program, the virus does what it was created for, and the fact that the creators were not too burdened with moral standards is the tenth thing.

Methods of combating malware have long been known, in most cases it is enough to use antivirus and a head on your shoulders. Therefore, the danger of catching a computer virus scares people no more than the possibility of catching a cold or flu.

But sometimes things are different. For example, it suddenly turns out that it is not a specially written malicious spyware that causes the smartphone to restart, but the most common SMS. Or a slightly less common MMS. You don’t need to learn programming for many years, you don’t need to fight over protection bypassing, you don’t need to write complex code all night long. A couple of finger movements – and the enemy phone goes into reboot. Isn't it magic?


The situation with the Google Chrome browser turned out to be even more amusing. As it turned out, you can “defeat” him using the most ordinary link! An attempt to open an address ending with “%% 30% 30 'will close the tab or reload the entire browser – so whoever is lucky. A similar affliction hit Opera and IE, but Firefox is out of the risk zone.

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The funny thing is that you don't even have to follow the link. Sometimes just hovering the mouse over it is enough. Enthusiasts have even come up with special games in which you need to carefully trace the drawing with the cursor, and the slightest mistake leads not only to the end of the game, but to the fall of the tab with the open site. Below is just a harmless screenshot, you can not be afraid of it. The game itself is available via the link, this is solely at your own peril and risk.


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Probably, for programmers, this behavior of the browser looks understandable and logical, but for an ordinary user this is real magic, slightly inferior to targeting damage or telekinesis. And it doesn't even smell like any logic – after all, it's a browser, it's just what you need in order to open sites! Have you ever seen a business that he fell into a stupor at the sight of links?

Interestingly, this 'magic' happens with enviable consistency. For example, not so long ago a similar exploit was found in Skype, which also needed just one single link in a special format to take off.

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About unconventional siege methods

It is impossible to fight against magic by usual means. A castle with a high stone wall, iron gates and a deep moat may well withstand the siege of the target army. But all this will not save from magic – the wizard, spitting on all the known laws of physics, will fly over the wall without any problems, destroy the gate with a fire spell, or turn the entire garrison into chickens. And then he will summon some evil werewolf or vampire, who will infect half of the inhabitants of the castle. Its defenders can shout as much as they want that this is all dishonest, not according to the rules of the siege and is incompatible with the laws of knightly honor. The result will speak for itself.

iOS has a reputation of not only being reliable, but almost perfectly protected system. Most owners of Apple devices are sincerely convinced that there are no viruses for this OS and cannot be. Apple really did more than enough for the security of its OS – tough application restrictions and AppStore moderation have become the very walls and moat of water that can withstand the onslaught of any army.

Apparently, the enemy soldiers got tired of banging their heads against the walls, and they decided to throw themselves on an intelligent magician. Apparently, the Chinese, at least, the Chinese AppStore got the first. The results were not long in coming – dozens of various applications were infected (for example, the game Angry Birds 2), many iOS devices were affected.


This was achieved with the help of a modified application development utility, which many developers unknowingly used. Their applications passed the AppStore filters without any problems, but in fact turned out to be infected. Each such application collected and sent a bunch of information to attackers, from the device UUID to the contents of the clipboard.

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Too smart devices

Magic is not just combat spells and the summoning of otherworldly creatures. It is also a way to find out what, it would seem, is absolutely impossible. For example, it could be mind reading. Or a conversation with animals or even inanimate objects that can tell the magician what was happening around them.

Just imagine how much even the most ordinary wristwatch could tell about its owner! It's scary to think how much they should know about their owner and how much they've seen, because most people take them off only in the shower or before going to bed.

Well, the owners of smart watches and fitness bracelets can be safely congratulated – 'shamans' capable of making such devices talk really exist. And after such a conversation, they will learn a bunch of things about you, up to logins and passwords from your mail and Internet bank or the text of secret correspondence.

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The spell is called 'Motion Leaks' and is currently only available to a few magicians at the University of Illinois. Using the indicators of the accelerometer and gyroscope, it allows you to understand which keys and in what order the owner of the watch pressed. We tried it on a variety of equipment, from Samsung Gear Live and Apple Watch to Fitbit bracelet.

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It may be that this is far from the only surprise that smart watches will present to us in the near future. Indeed, in fact, they can do much more than is commonly thought.

So, enthusiasts who disassembled Huawei Watch found in them some unidentified detail resembling a speaker. At the same time, there is no speaker support in Android Wear at all, devices on this OS cannot play sound themselves, but only transmit via Bluetooth.


Perhaps this speaker will work in one of the next updates? Or maybe it's not a speaker at all, but some kind of special sensor? The company itself only vaguely hints at a certain 'forward looking design', but what exactly this means is a mystery.

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Apple magic postulates

You need to understand that the magician can not always clearly calculate all the consequences of his actions. And magic is not needed everywhere – maybe water can be boiled with the help of the 'wall of fire' magic spell, but it's much easier to use a banal electric kettle. Or even a kettle of water, if the kettle and electricity are very tight.

The trouble is that some magicians are very much in favor of magical progress and are extremely fond of imposing their services on others. Moreover, if you agree to the proposal of such a magician, then you will not have a way back. It is easy to turn a person into a goat, but it is almost impossible to make a person out of a goat.

Any modern person knows that in addition to the magic of fire, air, water and earth, there is also a fifth school of magic – magic Apple. And although the “apple” wizards live exclusively in Cupertino, they use their works all over the world. The inventions of these good wizards are endless. This is a magic frame, and reading the owner's aura on the finger, and a manual spirit named Siri … But they are not going to stop there and continue to improve their magic.

The latest such enhancement is proudly named iOS 9 and is designed to improve the lives of ordinary people around the world. Moreover, they will not need magic skills – the user of devices from the company Apple only needs to say 'yes' once, and their old iOS 8 will immediately turn into a 'nine' by itself.

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But something went wrong with the wizards this time, and not everyone will be happy with such a gift. And if the owners of new products really do not notice any problems, then on older devices iOS 9 will work much slower iOS 8.4.1.

This is not only about virtual 'parrots' but also about things like smartphone download speed, application launch speed, and more.

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Chinese miracle

In general, magic corrupts. In the golden age of magic, you will not surprise anyone with flying carpets and almighty genies. Such things have become commonplace and by themselves do not cause any excitement. Such artifacts are very expensive, and not everyone can afford them. And no matter how many wizards insist that magic is meant to make life easier for the common people, many still prefer to use good old horses and hired workers instead of airplane carpets and genies, or 'dialers' instead of top smartphones.

It is not for nothing that Chinese miracles are becoming more and more popular among the people – especially since one price can go for a miracle, even without taking into account high-quality hardware and a list of interesting functions.

Take, for example, a new smartphone Xiaomi. Its standard version (2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal memory) will cost the buyer 1,299 Chinese Yuan (~ $ 204), and the premium version (3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal memory) will cost the buyer 1,499 Chinese Yuan (~ $ 235).


Both versions are equipped with a six-core processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, a 5-inch Full HD display, two SIM card slots supporting 4G / LTE networks, a 13 MP camera and an infrared port.

Other specifications Xiaomi Mi 4c:

  • Support for communication standards: 4G TDD-LTE / FDD-LTE; 3G WCDMA, TD-SCDMA, CDMA-EVDO; GSM GPRS / EDGE, CDMA 1X
  • Dimensions: 138.1×69.6×7.9 mm
  • Weight: 132g
  • Processor: six-core, with support for 64-bit instructions, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
  • Platform: MIUI 7
  • Display: 5-inch, resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
  • Camera: 13 MP with phase detection autofocus, support Full HD video recording (up to 120 fps)
  • Front camera: 5 MP, support Full HD video recording
  • Memory: 2/3 GB RAM (LPDDR3), 16/32 GB internal (eMMC 5.0)
  • Communications: Wi-Fi 802.11ac (2.4 / 5 GHz), Wi-Fi Display, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth v4.1, IR port (for remote control), GPS / AGPS / GLONASS / BeiDou
  • Battery: 3000 mAh, support for fast charging system (Quick Charge 2.0)
  • Other: accelerometer, gyroscope, electronic compass, proximity and lighting sensors

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For those who find this price too high, there are more affordable options from lesser known Chinese wizards. For example, the cost of a new smartphone from JiaYu will be only $ 30, which is a record.

The smartphone will receive a 4-inch display, 512 MB of RAM and a 2 MP camera.

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While adherents of Chinese magic are trying to surprise the world with a low price, their Korean colleagues have recently been focusing on beautiful design. As strange as it sounds.

For example, such a smartphone was recently presented by the company LG:


The metal body, slightly curved edges of the screen, the original (in the sense that it is not “apple”) design. True, quite average characteristics:

  • Support for communication standards: 4G / LTE 700/850/900/1800/2100/2600 MHz; 3G / WCDMA 850/1900/2100 MHz; GSM GPRS / EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
  • Dimensions: 142 x 71.8 x 7.4mm
  • Weight: 147g
  • Processor: 1.2GHz Quad-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 (MSM8916)
  • Platform: Android Lollipop
  • Display: 5-inch, HD resolution
  • Camera: 13 MP with autofocus
  • Front camera: 8 MP with fixed focus
  • FM radio
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM (LPDDR3), 16 GB internal, slot for microSD memory cards (up to 2 TB)
  • Communications: Wi-Fi 802.11 b / g / n, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth v4.1, NFC, DLNA, USB, GPS
  • Battery: 2050 mAh
  • Cost: KRW 399,300 (~ $ 340)

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But the new Nexus is likely to look simpler. According to the latest leaks, the appearance and characteristics of the smartphone will look like this:

LG _ Nexus_5xAmozon_1

LG _ Nexus_5xAmozon_2


I'm afraid this is exactly the case when magic LG and Google cannot do without. After all, the price of this device is unlikely to be able to compete with the new smartphone Xiaomi.

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The benefits of practical necromancy

Not all magic is focused on objects of the material world. Some wizards believe that the physical shell is the tenth thing, and they study such complex and incomprehensible things to the common person as changing consciousness and transmigration of souls. Or, in modern terms, custom firmware and home-made operating systems.

This school of magic cannot be called widespread, but it has its fans. And they can really do a lot. For example, they will breathe new life into an outdated device without any problems, on which the manufacturer himself has long ago put an end to it. The owners of such smartphones often can only hope for a miracle, and the developers from Cyanogen are quite capable of it.


Recently, the list of models supported by this firmware has been expanded once again. Several smartphones from companies Huawei and Motorola have been added to the already rather large list of devices. A number of smartphones HTC, LG and Xiaomi received the firmware update. A complete list of supported devices can be found on the wiki.

I wonder how popular such magic has to become in order for smartphone makers to try to ban it as malicious necromancy?

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It's a shame that sometimes different types of magic are at odds with each other. Moreover, from our point of view, there is often no logical explanation at all. As a result, magicians have to change a time-tested spell for its dubious counterpart just because it belongs to the 'correct' school of magic. Or, in modern parlance, for political reasons.

The fact that Cyanogen has set itself the goal of getting rid of most of Google's services (this takes 2-3 years) can be treated in different ways. Many believe that this is only a plus – less personal data is 'leaked' to foreign companies, less proprietary software, less dependence on other firms, and so on. I cannot say that I share this point of view, but it has the right to exist.

But lately there is a feeling that getting rid of Google services has become an end in itself, and how and why it all began in Cyanogen they simply do not remember. For example, the company is going to forcibly change Google Now to Cortana. What is the meaning of such a decision, I do not understand. Apparently just to get rid of the 'bad' Google and go to the 'good' Microsoft?

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The fate of the unicorns

In conclusion, a few words about magical creatures. Whether unicorns once existed or not, we will never know for sure. But the fact that they have become extinct by now is an almost indisputable fact.

The other day, I accidentally learned that this word has one more meaning. The word 'unicorn' refers to startups with an estimated market value of more than $ 1 billion. And many of them are also on the verge of extinction. In many ways, they really look like fabulous unicorns – insanely beautiful animals, from which magic blows. But at the same time, they are far from as useful and profitable as the most ordinary horses – you cannot plow a field on them and you cannot load a saddle.

According to Josh Dixon, one example of a tribe of endangered 'unicorns' could be Evernote. Despite its still high popularity, the developers have not been able to come up with a successful monetization system. Most individuals are quite satisfied with its free version, and corporate users do not need it in any form.

In the summer, the company changed its CEO, it was the CEO of Google Glass, Chris O'Neill. Either he will be able to come up with something new, or the service will continue to lose popularity. And along with it – the already not too big profit.


You can find the translation of the article made by the resource at the link below. The conclusion can be made simple – until alchemists have learned how to turn copper into gold, no magic will save you from financial problems. Even unicorns.

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