So, Is AnTuTu Benchmark Infecting Us With Malware?

AnTuTu Benchmark is the go-to for many who want to test out their phone’s capabilities. As of this posting, it has a 4+ Star Rating, with over 925,000 reviewers on Google Play.

Recently I was in need of a Sprint-compatible phone that would work where my temporary (6-month) office would be. Not wanting to break the bank, I settled on the Essential Phone (pleasantly surprised, for sure).

I decided to load up and run the obligatory AnTuTu Benchmark. Irrelevant to this post, but it scored pretty well.

A couple days later, while browsing through my phone memory using Solid Explorer, I noticed something odd…so odd that it made my heart skip a beat. Keep in mind, I have Solid Explorer set to show hidden files, cause why not? Well, I noticed quite a lot of hidden files with random filenames. My mind immediately went to Malware, as this seemed pretty typical of Malware I’ve fought on Windows machines for decades.

At first I didn’t make the connection….but later that day it dawned on me that it could be AnTuTu since that was the only thing I had installed recently. So I fired up another phone and installed AnTuTu and….Ah-HA! The same sort of files appeared on that device.

So now, intrigued, I started my Google searches for “AnTuTu Malware” and “AnTuTu Hidden Files” but got nothing of any significance in the results.

Best I can tell, if anyone else has noticed this, they aren’t asking about it online anywhere. Keep in mind, the average user probably never installs a Third-Party File Manager; much less has it displaying Hidden Files. The typical user probably would never notice these files.

I’ve reached out to the developer for explanation and will report back. I will say, these files remain in Internal Memory even after clearing data and uninstalling AnTuTu.

See video below for the pudding…proof and all.

Deadpool Facer Watch Face for Android Wear

It’s no secret I’m a huge Deadpool fan. The second movie is probably one of my favorite movies in the past decade.

Anywhooo….

If you have an Android Wear Smartwatch and haven’t heard of Facer, go check it out on the Play Store HERE

Facer provides a really neat web-based tool to build your own watch faces.  It can be found at https://www.facer.io/creator

Well, a few minutes later…..I present my simple, analog, Deadpool-themed watch face!

Get it for yourself here: https://www.facer.io/watchface/Fqy7Df3FED

A Little time with Verizon’s Nexus 6 (aka Xperia Z3v versus Nexus 6)

Yesterday, the communications rep at my place of work advised me she had a few pre-release Verizon Nexus 6 units on hand. You see, for the past 6 years or so, I have been the go-to for putting new Android devices through the paces before opening the floodgates for every Jo and Jane Schmo to request one for themselves. This is, however, the first time I’ve done so with a phone that wasn’t “officially released” yet.

A couple of things I can confirm:

  • The Verizon Nexus 6 has got Android 5.1 Lollipop. 
    • Our rep stated all she did was put in the sim cards and power these on; she did not perform any type of system updates.
  • There is none of the usual Verizon bloatware/crapware pre-installed on this device!
    • No Verizon/VZW Apps
    • No Softcard (which is technically about to be put to pasture anyway)
    • Not even that damned NFL Mobile App!
Spoiler Alert: The above two points, I imagine, are really the only Verizon-specific aspects of this mini-review. The remaining topics will likely be no shocker since the Nexus 6 itself has been around in the wild for quite some time on other carriers.
Battery
Today is the first full day/full charge I have with the Nexus 6. Keep in mind, my current daily driver is a Sony Xperia Z3v (on Verizon). That phone has really impressed me with it’s battery life. So far, the Nexus 6 seems to be about on par with the Xperia. I have moved to using the Nexus 6 exclusively today. I took it off the charger at 8am and it is now 11:44am. With light to moderate usage, the Nexus 6 is currently at 84%. My Xperia that has been sitting idle (except for background data) is currently at 90%, so this looks pretty promising for the Nexus 6 battery life. I fully expect, like my Xperia, for it to have AT LEAST 50% left on the battery when I get home around 6:30 this evening.
Overall Performance
While my Xperia is certainly no slouch, so far this Nexus 6 seems somehow more snappy and responsive. There are occasionally times with my Xperia where it does not seem to perfectly register my touch to the screen. This is definitely not the case for the Nexus 6. So far it has been incredibly responsive/sensitive to my touches. 
The Nexus itself feels snappier, too. Even with my Transitions and Animations scaled down to half-speed on the Xperia, the Nexus still seems more buttery smooth. I attribute this to the fact that is it running the latest and greatest Android 5.1 Lollipop build. Additionally, the lack of Verizon bloatware likely has something to do with the difference in speed between the two devices. The Xperia is currently running Android 4.4.4 KitKat, but is slated for the Lollipop upgrade pretty soon (fingers crossed).

Camera
A few months ago, when I was trying to decide what new phone I wanted from Verizon, I went to the Verizon store and played with all the current-gen (at the time) top-tier phones: the Galaxy S5, the Moto X2, the Droid Turbo, and the Sony Xperia.
Going in, I had already ruled out the LG phones as I’ve never been a fan of theirs (other than the Nexus 5 of course). I was also pretty set against the Galaxy S5, as well, as I had been through several of their models in the past (Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S3, and S4) and I was quite bored with them.
Also, it was a deal-breaker if there was no Wireless Charging. I know the Turbo Charge is the wave of the future, but I’m already heavily invested in the Wireless Charging ecosystem. That means the only real candidates were going to be the Droid Turbo and the Xperia Z3v.
I’m getting to the camera, trust me. All this talk is leading up to it!
You see, when it came down to it, the Camera was the deciding factor. I really liked the size and feel of the Droid Turbo. It was also super powerful (more so than the Xperia). But the camera suffered from a great deal of shutter-lag that I knew I just couldn’t deal with.
The Xperia, on the other hand, has an incredible camera. There is no noticeable shutter lag, the burst mode is INSANELY fast, and in Manual mode, you can take 20MP shots! Plus the hardware shutter button was a very nice touch. In the store I was so impressed that I decided on the larger Xperia over the Droid Turbo.
By now, you all are like, “Who gives a damn about these two phones!? Tell me about the Nexus 6 Camera!” Well, I’m telling you all this because it goes a long way to indicate just how awesome the camera on the Nexus 6 really is.
TLDR: I was blown away but the Xperia’s Camera. The quality was the best I’d seen in a smartphone and the Camera Software was quite robust and full of options. That being said, when I started taking some sample shots with the Xperia pitted against the Nexus 6, the Nexus walked away with it, hands-down. Sure the stock Google Camera is a bit lacking in terms of features, but that’s what the mounds and mounds of third-party camera apps are for. What it really comes down to is quality and performance. In those aspects, the Nexus is far superior. 
Camera Samples:
Yesterday evening, I was in my back yard and decided to take the same shot from each of the phones, once with the Auto settings, and once with Auto-HDR. Below you will see the sample shots along with a blown-up crop to show detail. I repeated the shots again as it got darker and a last time after it got completely dark out (with just my porch lights giving off a subtle glow).
(click to enlarge)

Xperia Z3v around 7pm (Auto Mode)
Nexus 6 around 7pm (Auto Mode)

From the above two samples, you can see that the Xperia tends to favor a slightly more washed out version while the Nexus tends towards the more overly-saturated. To the naked eye, this scene falls somewhere in between the two, but I have to say I much prefer the more rich, saturated image from the Nexus 6 camera. Also, on the cropped portion of the photos, you can see the Nexus images seem to have more clear details, with some of the highlights being more washed out from the Xperia.

Next up are the same shots from each device using the built-in HDR mode….

Xperia Z3v around 7pm (HDR Mode)
Nexus 6 around 7pm (HDR Mode)
With the HDR images above, the Xperia seemed to gain a very slight bit more detail and dynamic range compared to the Auto Mode, but it seems quite negligible. The Nexus, on the other hand, provided very true-to-life contrast and dynamic range (if a bit overly-saturated).

I continued to snap the same scene a couple more times throughout the night. I won’t go into a whole lot of detail, but below you will see the shots from each camera side by side.

Xperia Z3v (HDR)

Nexus 6 (HDR)

Xperia Z3v (Night with Flash)

Nexus 6 (Night with Flash)

From the above set of photos, you can see the Xperia does seem to pull a little more detail out of the darker environment. Looking at the EXIF data, it seems the Xperia tends to go with a slower shutter and lower ISO while the Nexus tends towards a faster shutter with a higher ISO. This leads to a bit more grain in the Nexus photos, but the slower shutter for the Xperia means it is much more susceptible to camera shake in low light conditions. You can even see a bit of ghosting in the Xperia HDR image above caused by the slight change between the HDR exposures.
Conclusion

From my brief time with the phone I can say this is a clear contender for the best phone Verizon has to offer (or WILL have to offer, soon). As you can tell, I’m most impressed with the camera. But I’m also really impressed with the fact that Verizon hasn’t crammed it full of bloatware. Only time will tell what happens between now and when they actually release the Nexus 6, but I’m hopeful they won’t make any changes. The battery life seems on par with my Xperia Z3v which is good since that has had the best battery of any Android phone I’ve owned to date. I will update once I’ve had a few days to really feel out the battery life.
I plan on spending the weekend seeing if Verizon has done anything to make this more difficult to unlock/root, but I’m hoping it will be just as easy as any other Nexus. I will update this post with my findings. 

Replacing the Head Unit in my BMW with a Tablet!

I’ve been toying with this idea for a couple months…I want to do away with the aftermarket head unit in my 3 Series with my Nexus 7 tablet. Well, I finally got around to working on it.

First I had to move the HVAC controls down to the space where the sunglasses/storage compartment was. For that, I ordered this part and it was super simple. Just pull it out of it’s current spot under the radio and snap it into this new piece. The wiring should all reach the new location with no trouble.
http://www.ecstuning.com/Search/51168230902/ES86962/

You’ll also want to order the switch panel cover for the switch spaces. There are varying sizes depending on how many switches you currently have in this space. I only have the DSC button, but I wanted to leave an extra space for future use. So I got the 3-long one:

Next, I had to find a nice, small amp I could tuck in the dash behind the tablet. I went with this Alpine unit thanks to a suggestion from a friend at Best Buy. The nice thing about this amp is that it works two-channel OR 4-channel and has built-in HPF for both options. More on that in a bit.

Next it was all about wiring. I grabbed a standard wiring harness adapter for my car, just like one you would use to install an aftermarket head unit. I set about wiring up the power to the amp as well as the outputs from the amp back into the OEM speaker wiring. I also wired in a cigarette lighter socket to the switched power of the wiring harness. Wiring diagram to follow.
Now it’s all about fit and snug. I pulled out the plastic mounting piece from the dash (4 screws) and started playing around with all the components that needed to go into that space. I ended up trimming some plastic around the front of the mount to allow the tablet a rectangular indention to sit in.  (pay no attention to the pasty white legs. I’m Irish, whaddya want?)
This was all a bit of Trial and error. Make sure to leave some extra room for the microUSB to plug in. i bought a right-angle USB cable to make this a bit easier.
Next I secured the amp to the back area of the mount. This also required trimming some plastic to make room. YMMV. Keep in mind there will be wiring coming out of both ends of the amp.
Then, just connect the two harnesses to the amp (power/outputs and inputs), add a cigarette lighter USB adapter to the socket and tuck all the wires into the empty space in the mount. I used zip ties to secure the wiring a bit and make it easier to work with. I thought I had a pic of this but I guess not. Just imagine a bunch of wires tucked into all the empty space seen in the pic above.
Now to head back out the car and re-attach the mount into the dash. Also go ahead and connect the wiring harness to the OEM one. Connect the microUSB to your tablet. I used a Phono to RCA Y-adapter to connect the headphone jack of the tablet to the RCA inputs on the amp. Again, I used a right-angle cable to make things fit better.

Set your tablet in place to test it out. At this point, when you crank the car, you should get power to the cigarette lighter socket you added which will charge the tablet. The amp should also power on. Go ahead and fire up your favorite music app on the tablet and test the audio.  You can make adjustments to the Front/Rear gain on the amp as necessary (you may want to test/adjust this before putting everything into the dash). Personally, I went with about 50% up front and 100% in the back.
Now the fun part. The ONLY place I could find a Double-Din bezel for this car is from a German website and would be over $100 shipped. I may end up getting it anyway, but before dropping that kind of cash on a tiny piece of plastic, I decided to try to make my own. I already had a single-din bezel from my aftermarket head unit install, so I picked up a second one and went to work:
It’s not the prettiest thing, but it’s still WIP. Eventually this will be covered in bondo, sanded smooth, and painted black. But in the meantime it will do the job of holding the tablet in place. The tablet is basically sandwiched in between the plastic mount in the dash and this piece. Again, you may need to trim some plastic around the inside of this piece to allow space for the tablet if you did not trim a deep enough section into the dash mount.
Once you have it all back together, this is what you have:
Additional Setup:
I use a live wallpaper for the music visualization:
(Music Visualizer App)
For automation, I use Tasker. I have it set up so when charge power is lost (ie. the car is turned off) to kill nearly all apps, turn off BT and Wifi, set the screen brightness to nearly 0, and the screen timeout to 10 seconds. When the car is cranked, charge power is on and it automatically resets to max brightness, always on screen, and resumes the music playback. As you can see, I also made a few custom shortcuts with Tasker to handle play/pause and track skipping as well as volume right from the homescreen.
Time for a beer! (or a few more)

Android App Recommendation: FXGuru

Every once in a while, an app comes along that surprises the hell outta me. FXGuru is one of those apps! It lets you add impressive-quality special effects to your boring home videos. The app is free, and as of now, there are 4 effects that are offered free as well. Other effects can be purchased individually through in-app Play Store links. There is also a “MegaPack” that offers 13 effects for $8.99. For now, I’m having a blast with the freebies, but see the developers Play Store Trailer below for a rundown of some of the other effects.

Thanks to Droid-Life for pointing out this great app!