Shaakunthala's Portal

Anything can go here, in any language... except my native language Sinhala. Be cool... anybody is warmly welcomed! :)

Blogging from Android

This is going to be quite a short blog post. I bought an Android device. Well this is no big thing because it's been almost five years since the first release of Android. But I'm new to it. Still grabbing bits and pieces on how to use it.

I've been using several mobile devices time to time over the past few years. My first phone was a NEC-e1108 which was not good at all. Then used a Sony Ericsson K770i which was really a good phone. That phone made me a photogrpher. In 2011 I got a Nokia 5230 as a gift from a friend. Good thing with it was it had GPS. But when when my needs become more I wanted something that capable of much more things. That's why I bought my Galaxy Note II. Few years back it was the dream of mine to use a Linux capable phone. And now it's here.

As I said I'm still trying to grab bits and pieces on how to use Android. I've been able to experience several cool stuff. I'm writing this post using the S-Pen and using the Google's Blogger app. Handwriting recognition is pretty awesome.

A while ago I managed to setup Tor to work with Google Chrome browser. Most probably within next few months I'm planning to learn Android application development as well. No plans to root the device until The warranty expires, however I would love to hack this device.

And much more to try out such as USB OTG (On The Go). I'm going to try out mounting my one terabyte portable hard disk into the phone. And I hope it's going to open the door for much more cool and interesting stuff. :)

Cheers!
(This is just a blog post I wrote to try out Blogger app on Android)

Viral Apps on Facebook | Would you let them to use you?

Recently I saw some videos spreading on Facebook. 'Spreading', in the sense that people watch and share. What so special with these videos was, their thumbnails had that "Youtube feel", but seemed bit different. Also, most of these had eye-catching titles (in Sinhala), and eye-catching thumbnails (For example, a girl changing her dress... ;-) ).

I actually clicked on one of these to play the video. Then it took me to a Facebook application page where it prompted me to grant permissions to a Facebook app called "Gindara videos". Why would I ever let a Facebook app to access my personal information when I have dozens of better ways to anonymously watch video on the Internet? As a matter of fact, I stopped there. Access denied, Gindara videos go fly a kite, please.

Few days back I saw a girl has shared another video of the same type. She is a fun person I know, but it was bit of odd thing that she would share such a thing publicly. So I left a chat message to her jokingly, "what are these things you post on fb? :P", and she replied, "seriously i didn't know. :'(".

Then I wanted to have a close look at the phenomenon. "Gindara videos" is a malware hosted on a Sri Lankan website called tharunaya.co.uk. This is not the only such malware seen on the Internet. Even years ago, there have been many of this type. But I feel this particular malware remained on Facebook for sometime longer than the previous ones, totally because people's ignorance. Their targeted victims seemed to be Sri Lankans and that may be the reason for such long lasting. If it ever had a 'global presence', not very long time it takes to vanish from Facebook.

Whenever you spot that kind of video or any malicious post on Facebook, take a moment to report them for spam. It's more of a civic duty. After reading the story below this picture, you'll better understand why you should report them.

Just report it for Spam


I did a piece of Holmes stuff and found out that these guys are using tool called "Facebook Viral Videos App With Auto Share" from a vendor called Appstico. As the name says, it's a 'viral' app which can automatically share videos on Facebook. Now, look at my friend's reply above again... she didn't know that she has shared a video on Facebook.

I don't want to promote Appstico's blackmarket stuff here, but just putting a nofollow hyperlink for you to go through it as understand what these guys do with YOUR personal information that YOU allow them to see.
http://appstico.com/facebook-viral-videos-app-with-auto-share/

This is what exactly tharunaya.co.uk/Gindara all about. In short, here's how it works.
  1. There's a bunch of bad guys who want few more visitors coming into their website.
  2. They deploy a virus. A social virus which uses human mind as its career and people's curiosity as the exploit.
  3. Misled people just want to watch something that is rarely or never seen for real. No time to worry about privacy!
  4. The video hyperlink on Facebook actually directs the victim to the bad guys' website.
  5. It doesn't stop there. Without victim's knowledge, it posts a video hyperlink to the victim's Facebook timeline, which can be seen by other people.
  6. They get more traffic, more traffic is more profit, and target accomplished. And the poor victim even doesn't know that someone has used him/her until a friend pokes.
Let's have a look at the 2nd step above. These 'Tharunaya' guys do business and their sole purpose is to increase their business. Who has time to learn how to make a virus from A to Z? So they outsource it to another party. And that another party is Appstico.

(click to enlarge)
Appstico also does is business, and knows that there are many bunches of bad guys who want more business coming in. So Appstico makes a package for everyone, and sell it to the bad guys just for one hundred US dollars. Bad guys just rename it to "Gindara videos" and make use of it. How clever is that?

Would you still let them to use you? Myself, I wouldn't. The more you report these malicious activities for spam, less they get spread. Eventually the viral app will be taken out by Facebook. And as I said above, it's a civic duty to report malicious things, as it helps to keep Facebook clean and safe place for people.

It doen't cost much time - usually lesser than to watch a video :-)


Theoretically this entire blog post is all about a separate area in Internet security called "Social Engineering". To end this blog post, I'll leave that for your further reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_engineering_%28security%29

Thanks for reading!

* If anyone is interested, I have proof of what I speak.

How to Make a HelmetCam Using Your Nokia Smartphone

I have been a silent blogger for more than one year. It's actually one year and one month since I have published my last post on 10 January 2011. Things have changed a lot around me and now I'm not even using the Sony Ericsson phone mentioned in my last post!

Two things happened in the last year... on February I got a new phone as a gift from a friend, and on October I got a bike. That's it! Made in India, and called Hero Honda Hunk. It is said that this bike can topped to 112 km/h. For me that's not enough top speed, but this is one of the most stable bikes made in India. Most others waggle and vibrate, but Hunk is very stable at speed.



Due to the extreme excitement of the bike, I'd just forget to mention the phone! It's a Nokia 5230 and not that handy, but enough for my day-to-day activities. Same as most Nokia cameraphones, this one's camera is also not suitable for professional photography. But, its video recording is pretty good.

I really love to ride this Hunk... (despite of its gay name :-) ) it brings lots of excitement every time when it's over 100. Its stability at higher speeds, and stability when cornering, wheelies, stoppies... everything eventually tempted me to have a video collection of it. This is how I become interested in making a HelmetCam. I don't have much of equipments for this, and I've heard somewhere that a professional HelmetCam kit costs over US $200. So why not use my own cameraphone? Here, I'll explain how to get it prepared with a Symbian (Nokia) phone.

The simple setup is to wear your helmet, and then put the cameraphone in, and fasten it. This setup has a problem. Why? Whenever the touchscreen/ keypad hits your nose or somewhere in your face, there's a probability for video recording to interrupt. Or even it can dial emergency while you are on ride!

This is the time for SymDVR to shine. SymDVR is a very handy app which can turn your cameraphone into a DVR with lots of options. The main reason for using this app is, unlike your phone's in-built video recording application this allows you to lock the screen/ keypad while recording. This is a huge advantage as it also keeps the phone's backlight off while recording.


Other advantages include that it can calculate your riding speed using GPS and include as subtitles, landscape recording while keeping the phone in vertical position, etc.

Go to SymDVR homepage, download and install the app on your Nokia phone. Start the application, choose appropriate settings and start video recording. Once you start recording, you will see a Nokia Menu icon on the screen. Tap on it, and SymDVR will continue to record video, running in the background. Now it can be placed even inside your underwear without interrupting the record. :D

Be sure to have a strap for your phone. You can fasten the helmet's strap across phone's strap to make sure it's safe in case if your phone loosens inside the helmet and falls down on to the road. Other than that, the phone will fall onto the road making you distracted, eventually turning you into dead meat. If you don't have a strap, just go and buy. It won't cost much. This is important to avoid accidental distractions.
Image courtesy: fadbus.com


Now, we need to have is a full face helmet. We are going to need a full face helmet because then only it can be held between your face and the helmet.



If you plan to try this out in Sri Lanka, be sure to choose a helmet with a dark tinted visor. Most of the traffic cops are weird jerks, and if they see the cameraphone inside helmet they will remake the story as you were having a phone call while riding. (They just want you to invite them for a bribe). That's Sri Lankan traffic cops. So beware of them.

Firstly hold your phone vertically, and start recording on SymDVR. Then click on Nokia Menu icon to allow SymDVR to run in background, and lock the screen/ keypad. Even if you hold it vertically, SymDVR will record the video clip in landscape mode without having you to flip the phone, and without affecting the clip size.Then, while wearing the helmet, place the cameraphone in the helmet in the way shown in the photo below. It will fit between your face and the helmet.  Finally, cross the straps as described above.

In this setup, cameraphone fits between my face and helmet.


Make sure that your sight is not disturbed by the position of the camera. Letting it cover one eye and seeing the road by the other is prone for accidents. You need your both eyes to get the correct idea of distance to other vehicles on the road. If you still unsure why, read more about depth perception.

If it doesn't fit into your helmet you will have to find a workaround. A good suggestion that I have seen over the Internet is to use Velcro, but the problem is that you will have glue it onto the phone. :-/

Another suggestion of is to use a phone holder such as Nokia CR-119. You will have to remove the cone shaped part which in normal use attaches to a vehicle windshield. Carefully mount the phone into the holder facing the camera out. This arrangement will take more space inside the helmet, and it will fit better if your head is small. :-)

Make sure that camera is facing directly front. Start your ride, bang all over the city. Forget about the phone and enjoy your ride as much as possible.

A great feature that I really love on SymDVR is that it can measure your speed using GPS. This can be different from the actual speed , plus or minus 2 km/h, but with this feature on you don't have to look at the speedometer to get the speed on video. It also helps a lot to avoid distraction. Speed is recorded in a separate subtitle file (srt), and later you can use a video encoding software to merge it with the video file.

Once you are done, take the phone out, and open up SymDVR. Properly stop recording or otherwise you will end up with a corrupted video file. It will take a moment for the video file to be prepared. Once done, you can connect the phone to PC in Mass Storage Mode, and transfer the video file to your PC. It's in \SymDVR\ directory on your phone's memory card. This is by default hidden if you are using Windows on your PC.

After recording if you want to embed subtitles into the video, I recommend using mencoder. If you just want to trim the video file, you can use ffmpeg to get it done without affecting the video quality.



I have done some helmetcam videos using this setup. And.... here goes my first performing a stoppie somewhere near the end.........


And another I took at Malabe...


Well,... finally that's it! Thanks for reading.
Enjoy!!

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Ambalangoda, Southern Province, Sri Lanka
Shaakunthala works as a Systems Support Engineer at a World's leading IT solutions company. A wannabe hacker, FOSS enthusiast, cat lover and an insane motorcyclist. And he comes from Sri Lanka!! :)

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