Beware the vampire app!

This is a heads-up for all smartphone owners out there. A few days ago I read Buggy Apps Killing Your Smartphone Battery. And I can now certify that the problem is real.

I’d been having what looked like serious battery issues on my HTC G2 for about the last 60 days. It was unclear whether the battery had lost its ability to hold a full charge or whether it was somehow draining at an abnormally high rate. But it was pretty bad – forcing me towards getting a new phone before I really wanted to.

Then I read this article. Short version: buggy apps can eat the battery, presumably through failing to terminate or sleep themselves properly when they should. OK, what the heck – I walked though my download list, deleting a bunch of apps I had downloaded and then decided weren’t interesting, but failed to delete.

To my delight, this cleared the problem up immediately. My phone once again readily takes a full charge and can run for a day or more on it. I haven’t been able to pin down which apps were the problem – I deleted about a dozen – but I can say this much: none of them was one I’m actually using. Hacker’s Keyboard is OK, the Angry Birds games and Coloroid and Spider are OK, the Fandango client is OK, Nexus Torch and OpenRecorder are OK, and (despite a hint in the article) none of the preinstalled Android stuff seems to have been implicated in the excess power drain.

So…if you think your battery is going south, don’t panic. Houseclean all those junk apps off your phone and see what happens. It worked for me.

86 thoughts on “Beware the vampire app!

  1. >I’m curious as to what you did remove.

    I wish I could tell you. I wasn’t taking notes.

    Mostly crappy little games.

  2. In ICS Settings->Battery gives some pretty good detail on battery usage by application. You can also drill in an see when the phone was sleeping or awake, on WiFi or the mobile network, etc.. I think at least some of this data was available in Gingerbread but it’s definitely gotten more detailed in ICS.

  3. This is one reason why iOS puts restrictions on apps. Regular people don’t know how to troubleshoot.

  4. >This is one reason why iOS puts restrictions on apps. Regular people don’t know how to troubleshoot.

    OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues. There isn’t any way Apple or anyone else could afford the auditing time to filter apps for quality at this level, and the notion that Apple actually does it is a myth.

  5. IOS lets the user terminate apps without actually deleting them. They don’t get runtime until the user starts them again.

    Does Android have a similar facility, or do all installed Apps get some minimal chance at runtime?

  6. Check out Advanced Task Killer and a couple of other apps that I’ll look up later when I have time. I have several apps that monitor my battery usage, preventing some services from starting, etc. These things add up.

    There was also a known bug in my LG Optimus that caused the battery to drain quickly if you powered it up in non-airplane mode, but it would work normally if you powered up in airplane mode and turned off airplane mode. I fixed this by switching to a custom ROM that doesn’t have the problem.

    It is annoying that Android’s design makes it difficult to use standard system configuration tools to prevent unwanted services from starting up until I actually want to use them. I shouldn’t have to remove apps completely to keep them from running.

    Titanium Backup is also very useful; you can delete apps but keep them backed up, then restore from your phone without going back to the Market when you want them.

  7. Android has a ‘force quit’ capability. You’re warned that some apps don’t take kindly too it.

  8. I ran into this issue when developing for Maemo. When you’re writing code in such tight little environments, it’s like going back to the good ol’ days of caring about every byte and clock cycle ;)

    Anyway, I found that an invaluable app to help observe potential troublemakers was “Conky”

    http://conky.sourceforge.net/

  9. > OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research,
    > iOS apps are prone to the same issues. There isn’t any way Apple or anyone else could afford
    > the auditing time to filter apps for quality at this level, and the notion that Apple actually does it
    > is a myth.

    I don’t think that mentioning how other platforms deal with this problem makes you a fanboy. Nowhere did I say that their approach is better, just that it’s another way of doing things. I didn’t even talk about the review process, I talked about the technical restrictions that are put on the app when it is executing on the device. It’s not bullet proof of course, but depending on what you want to accomplish it may be effective.

  10. Peripherally related to the smartphone conversation:

    As I have been predicting, users are getting fed up with postpaid:

    http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/06/prepaid-mobile-phone-users-in-america-hit-record-high/

    Apple is on top of things:

    http://www.twice.com/article/485985-Analysts_More_Prepaid_iPhone_Deals_To_Come.php

    Apple on prepaid is excellent news. It will legitimize and promote prepaid in a way that no other action by any other corporation could. It will also help to provide transparency in the smartphone marketplace, both between prepaid and contract, and between Apple and Android.

  11. One of the worst battery-usage problems I’ve had, which I’ve had with every Android phone I’ve owned, is that the phone tries way too hard to find reception when there is none to be found. I always need to remember to put my phone in airplane mode any time I’m out in the boonies or inside a Faraday cage, because if I don’t, it’ll drain a full battery in the space of a few hours.

  12. Daniel: If it’s any help, iOS does the same thing. I’d bet a dollar, Terry Pratchett style, that Blackberry and all the minor makers also do. After all, how else can it know that there’s no radio in range, other than maximum-power transmission?

    I don’t think we can blame Android (or any OS) for the users’ general desire to have a cellular link if it’s at all physically possible. After all, the device is a mobile phone at its heart.

  13. @esr

    >OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues.

    The article you linked to explicitly says that the research only covered Android, so I’m not really sure what you’re referring to here.

  14. “One of the worst battery-usage problems I’ve had, which I’ve had with every Android phone I’ve owned, is that the phone tries way too hard to find reception when there is none to be found. I always need to remember to put my phone in airplane mode any time I’m out in the boonies or inside a Faraday cage, because if I don’t, it’ll drain a full battery in the space of a few hours.”

    Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing. If I’m out hiking and using the phone as a GPS+map+camera, I always put it in airplane mode to avoid that huge battery drain.

  15. @Cathy

    >Yes, I’ve noticed the same thing. If I’m out hiking and using the phone as a GPS+map+camera, I always put it in airplane mode to avoid that huge battery drain.

    Airplane mode doesn’t disable GPS?

  16. >OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues.

    “the researchers say that they can do the same for Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows phone operating systems.” – which I read as them having evidence of vampire-app effects on both that would justify a full analysis they haven’t done yet.

  17. “Check out Advanced Task Killer and a couple of other apps that I’ll look up later when I have time. I have several apps that monitor my battery usage, preventing some services from starting, etc.”

    – Advanced Task Killer
    – Juice Defender
    – Juice Plotter

    These 3 have made a difference for me. I don’t routinely use Advanced Task Killer, but it’s useful to have when you’ve been using a resource-hog app and are finished. Yes, the app will respawn the service, but it should be back in a minimal state until you go back to it.

    Now that I know from the linked article that K9Mail is one of the bad guys, I’ll get rid of it. Too bad, as it’s otherwise a nice app.

  18. @esr

    You missed out the part of the quote that says “the study was only on Google’s Android operating system”.

    Having some anecdotal evidence that justifies doing a proper scientific research study is different from actually having *done* that research.

    Your statement that “according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues” is incorrect.

    Now, it might turn out that after having done the research they find that iOS is indeed prone to the same issues. Wouldn’t surprise me.

    But, assuming that we think that doing the science is valuable, we should’t pre-judge the results of a study just because there is some evidence to justify doing it.

  19. @Sigivald: If I’m on a call or trying to make one, then of course I expect the phone to try as hard as possible to get through. But if it’s just idling, then some exponential backoff seems sensible. If I’ve spent the past six hours out of range, then it’s probably not the end of the world if incoming calls continue to go straight to voicemail for the first five minutes following my return to civilization.

  20. @Dan

    >Not bad for the bumbling blonde clot

    Hey! That’s our mayor you’re talking about you know!

    Nice piece though. The problem is *how* Greece leaves the Euro. People keep blithely talking about an ‘exit’ but how can it practically be achieved, when everybody in Greece has all their assets denominated in Euros? They’d need some sort of new currency, which would take months (at least) to implement, and what would it be backed by? The Greek government? Who is going to invest in that? Why would any Greek citizen trade a Euro for a Neo-Drachma?

  21. @Tom:

    > Why would any Greek citizen trade a Euro for a Neo-Drachma?

    Conversion is an interesting problem, but the government is probably a large enough sector of the economy that it could go relatively fast. They just pay the civil servants and retirees in Neo-Drachmas, and only accept Neo-Drachmas for taxes.

    The trick is convincing the rest of the world that the inflation has an endpoint. Greece has already had hyperinflation before, in 1944, and had “new” drachmas instituted twice, with the result that 1 of the 1953 drachmas was worth 50 trillion of the pre-1944 drachmas.

    What will be interesting is how computers and the internet affects inflation. Will the faster flow of information and ability for rapid price changes exacerbate this? Or will it result in reduced information asymmetries and slow inflation? Stay tuned.

  22. @Dan
    Conky was one of the apps I missed when I moved from the N900 to a Galaxy.
    The Android version isn’t nearly as good.

  23. OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues. There isn’t any way Apple or anyone else could afford the auditing time to filter apps for quality at this level, and the notion that Apple actually does it is a myth.

    It’s not an auditing issue. Apple limits what apps can do in the background; when iOS kicks your app into the background you can request time to finish a final task, but you’re going to get suspended eventually except in a limited set of circumstances. I believe the available time is around 10 minutes.

    The exceptions are music-playing apps, location-aware apps, VoIP apps, Newsstand apps (to download new issues), and apps that get updates from external accessories. Most if not all of these are going to be fairly obvious and since they’re using a specific set of APIs, Apple’s able to optimize a bit. I do notice my battery draining faster when I keep a location app running in the background, but nothing like the effect described.

    Lengthy description of all this here.

    In the interests of being crystal clear, this is absolutely a place where you’re making a tradeoff between freedom and user experience. As is usually the case, the “user experience” in question is more of a mass market experience; more sophisticated users don’t have the option of trading the Apple safety net for more choice in background apps. If Eric or anyone else says “Aha, but that tradeoff isn’t worth it!” I will look at them blankly and shrug, since I wasn’t arguing that it was — I’m just providing some education about what’s going on.

  24. Your statement that “according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues” is incorrect.

    The entire quote is :-

    A team of researchers at Purdue University released a study to TechNewsDaily that thoroughly examines what dozens of popular apps are doing on Android phones, and what many of them are doing wrong. (Though the study was only on Google’s Android operating system, the researchers say that they can do the same for Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows phone operating systems.)

    The announcement from the “Purdue Newsroom” says :-

    The Purdue researchers have coined the term “power-encumbered programming” to describe the smartphone energy bugs. Researchers concentrated on the Android smartphone, but the same types of bugs appear to affect other brands, Hu said.

    So mix those two things together and they’re both saying the same thing… The study focused on 187 android apps (probably to minimise variables in the study or alternatively because getting into the innards of android is easier) but the same bugs exist in all Mobile OSes. Certainly the brief scan that Apple does these days (that doesn’t even detect library drift issues) has no value to convince me that Apple is immune. If anything, the lack of a managed environment would suggest that Apple is MORE susceptible not less.

  25. It’s not an auditing issue. Apple limits what apps can do in the background; when iOS kicks your app into the background you can request time to finish a final task, but you’re going to get suspended eventually except in a limited set of circumstances. I believe the available time is around 10 minutes.

    This will help but it won’t save you either.

    What if it’s a foreground program that sometimes needs GPS and sometimes doesn’t?
    What if it’s a foreground program that was using the GPS and then crashes before shutting it down?
    What if it goes background but a bug in the bare metal parts of the App causes the thing that should shut down the GPS to fail?

    I do agree however that auditing isn’t the solution nor is a lack of auditing on Android the problem.

  26. To extend the first case (because on re-read it wasn’t terribly clear)…

    What if it’s a foreground program that sometimes needs GPS and sometimes doesn’t but the thing that triggers the GPS to go to sleep has a bug in it.

  27. I would recommend reading and grokking the Apple documentation on location services. iOS apps don’t have access to the bare metal in the way I think you’re assuming. Again, this is a limitation, not an unmixed blessing.

  28. Replacement batteries can be found on eBay for remarkably low prices. I bought a high-capacity (~3000-something mAh) battery for my G2 for less than $15, shipped from the Far East. Works great. I can easily get three days of real usage out of it before it goes flat. The OE battery would often not last a day.

  29. I guess I made a good choice of phone with respect to battery life. On my Sony Xperia Ray (Android 2.3) with its default ROM, I get 3-4 days of battery life with moderate usage (mainly voice calls and SMS). I always turn off WiFi when not in use, I don’t have a 3G connection and I make calls moderately. Once I even got 5 days of battery out of it. The phone on standby overnight uses very little battery.

    I use very few apps and rarely play games. Of course, my usage is not typical, but still I wonder if this is unique among smartphones.

  30. There isn’t any way Apple or anyone else could afford the auditing time to filter apps for quality at this level, and the notion that Apple actually does it is a myth.

    No. Apple’s multitasking model makes these ‘vampire’ apps much less common. You can only run certain Apple-developed APIs in the background – music, VOIP, GPS, etc. Aside from GPS, these APIs tend to be very battery-friendly. If someone who is a bad programmer (like me) makes games, they just don’t run in the background at all unless they’re explicitly told to, and even then they could only run a very narrow range of processes.

    So technically you *could* run your battery down with a GPS app running in the background, but you would know because the GPS symbol would be in the taskbar the whole time.

    This is one of those tradeoffs that Apple made between having an open platform and good performance. Of course there are good reasons to wish for apps that could run non-apple APIs in the background, but the upshot is that iOS doesn’t suffer from ‘vampire’ apps.

  31. >Eric, why are you not running ICS on your phone?

    Because I’m too cheap to upgrade to a new phone as yet. :-) I’ve been tempted, yes indeed I have, but for my purposes ICS would be a cosmetic improvement rather than a functional one.

  32. More details for those interested:

    There are only 6 background process APIs you can run in iOS
    Background audio
    Voice over IP (only keeps running if a call is in progress)
    GPS
    Push notifications (mostly runs on the server)
    Local notifications (basically just runs a timer, very processor-light)
    Task completion (you can run any task in the background but only for a finite length of time)

    For the last one, your app does get reviewed by Apple if their submission system detects that you used that API, and their guidelines suggest that they only allow apps to run a background task for a long time if it’s a NewsStand magazine app (which can check for available downloads in the background) or an app that needs to keep a connection open to third-party peripherals (like a car kit for a GPS app, for example).

    So it’s not possible to keep a game or a camera app active in the background for more than a few seconds.

  33. nobody said:

    Eric, why are you not running ICS on your phone?

    and esr said:

    Because I’m too cheap to upgrade to a new phone as yet. :-) I’ve been tempted, yes indeed I have, but for my purposes ICS would be a cosmetic improvement rather than a functional one.

    and I say:

    Eric, I’m surprised you haven’t hacked your phone to load an open ROM and upgraded to ICS yourself. Not enough time, or not worth the candle?

  34. >Eric, I’m surprised you haven’t hacked your phone to load an open ROM and upgraded to ICS yourself. Not enough time, or not worth the candle?

    I’ll do that when I either (a) find my old Nexus One, or (b) get another phone. I’m not interested enough to risk bricking the one I rely on day-to-day. Yes, I know the risk is small. Still…

  35. @JonCB

    >So mix those two things together and they’re both saying the same thing… The study focused on 187 android apps (probably to minimise variables in the study or alternatively because getting into the innards of android is easier) but the same bugs exist in all Mobile OSes.

    No. What it says is that their research exclusively covered Android. That means that we are only justified in drawing conclusions about *Android*. They also have some sort of vague, limited anecdotal experience with other platforms. That experience does not constitute scientific research.

    Eric claimed that the research showed that iOS was prone to vampirism. That is factually incorrect, and that is the only claim that I have made.

  36. > Why would any Greek citizen trade a Euro for a Neo-Drachma?

    Because the government insists, and makes the use of Euros for trade illegal. Remember, they did this when it went the other way.

    Patrick Maupin on Monday, June 18 2012 at 10:27 pm said:
    > Conversion is an interesting problem, … They just pay the civil servants and retirees in Neo-Drachmas, and only accept Neo-Drachmas for taxes.

    Yes and this is indeed the backhanded way to reduce the massive debt and contractual obligations that the Greek government has. If you convert your promise of 1000 euros a month to 1000 drachmata a month, then you devalue the drachma you save a whole bunch of wealth, and still techincally live up to your obligations. They are doing it here in the USA. The dollar is probably worth 25% less than it was five years ago, measured by the amount of wealth it buys (compare the exchange rate to a stable currency like the Swiss Franc.) So we have decreased the amount we are paying on all government programs, and to all government employes without actually having much in the way of political consequences. Retirees and medicare doctors just feel poorer, and blame it all on George Bush, or greedy Wall Street bankers or the Arabs.

    But like I have said before, if you look at the changes in M1 (which has been growing like crazy) and M3 which has been *decreasing* you’ve got to see that when they take the noose off the economy and the banks that inflation is going to go insane. You can’t print 2 trillion dollars and not expect to have to pay it back sometime.

    In terms of what is going to happen to Greece — hyper inflation is really caused by arbitrage. Computer systems speed things up so much that arbitrage is very hard to find, especially when they operate in an international financial market where one government can’t put in slowing and blocking tactics. You can shut down the bank in Athens, you can’t shut down the one in New York or Sao Paulo. If your drachma goes from 1 drachma for 1 Euro, to 10 billion drachma to 1 Euro in a single day, then that old government lie won’t cut it. So printing hyper money just won’t work anymore.

    Basically, Greece is doomed to total collapse, and perhaps they can rebuild from there. Who knows what is going to get dragged down with them though. I am in the process of moving. I decided to rent rather than buy for the next year — house prices are going in the tank, and I am going to buy something really nice a year from now.

    To quote a famous pastor — the chickens have come home to roost.

  37. @Jessica Boxer:

    Computer systems speed things up so much that arbitrage is very hard to find

    But we have enough computer systems in the financial markets that the whole thing is a chaotic unstable mess. That’s why we have “circuit breakers” at the main stock exchanges. But currency exchange isn’t all funneled through a single market. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  38. “Airplane mode doesn’t disable GPS?”

    The camera definitely works in airplane mode. I ran a quick test at my desk this morning, and GPS appears to work also. The accuracy is poor, but that’s probably because I’m inside a large office building.

  39. >GPS appears to work also

    That surprises me. On the iPhone, GPS is disabled in airplane mode. I thought the whole idea was to shut off all radio communication.

  40. >I thought the whole idea was to shut off all radio communication.

    Transmission. An active receiver isn’t a problem for the on-board avionics. Thus, WiFi is a no-no but no need to disable the GPS.

  41. @esr

    >An active receiver isn’t a problem for the on-board avionics.

    I don’t think transmission is a problem for on-board avionics either, but I take your point. :)

    I always thought Airplane Mode was more a method of satisfying stewards than of preventing any real harm.

  42. It’s important to understand that, as ESR said, GPS is strictly a receiving system. It shouldn’t be generating any radiation apart from local oscillator leakage (any modern superhet or direct-conversion receiver has at least one local oscillator, and this typically causes no problems or interference).

    Other methods of determing position require a transmitter, and are more tightly regulated. For example, the Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) in an aircraft radio stack, which has been around for 40+ years, operating by transmitting a signal to the VORTAC and timing the reply. It’s similar to a radar signal tripping a transponder.

    http://www.avweb.com/news/avionics/183230-1.html

  43. > Thus, WiFi is a no-no but no need to disable the GPS.

    WiFi is a no-no, unless the airline can charge you $10 for 2 hours of service, then it is OK. But don’t worry, they use a special type of radio wave where they have cut off all the sharp edges and pointy bits, so that it doesn’t hurt anyone…

  44. @hari
    >I guess I made a good choice of phone with respect to battery life. On my Sony Xperia Ray
    >(Android 2.3) with its default ROM, I get 3-4 days of battery life with moderate usage (mainly
    >voice calls and SMS). I always turn off WiFi when not in use, I don’t have a 3G connection and
    >I make calls moderately. Once I even got 5 days of battery out of it. The phone on standby
    >overnight uses very little battery.

    Wow, that’s actually competitive with my early-2000s dumbphone. I might need to get a smartphone now.

  45. @Jessica
    After Greece introduces the drachme, the debts will still be in Euro. And they lack the firepower to enforce it. So they will simply go bankrupt.

    If they stay in the euro, however, their debts will eventually be written off. Just as was done with the first half of their debt.

  46. @Winter

    Or, the Greek people could elect a Government with some balls, have them declare all the debt to be odious, and wipe the slate clean.

  47. One minorly tragic side effect of 9/11 was that it turned Dennis Miller into the Asshole from Denis Leary’s “Asshole Song”.

  48. I liked Dennis Miller’s rant: “Put down the drinks, send the hookers home, and *get to work*.”

    Then Congress did that. They gave us the DMCA, “Targeted Tax Cuts”, Homeland Security, and ObamaCare. I wish they’d go back to screwing around.

  49. Winter on Tuesday, June 19 2012 at 2:50 pm said:
    > After Greece introduces the drachme, the debts will still be in Euro.

    First, my apologies that I got the wrong Greek declension.
    Second, when the Greek government controls the laws that define, for example, pension payments, they can pretty much change it capriciously. This is a government contract remember, you can’t actually rely on them doing what they say, that can change in accordance with political wills, regardless of what the actual contractural nature is.

    For external debtors, they can simply refuse to pay in any currency other than drachme; what they gonna do? Probably send the bond rating in the tank and the interest rating through the ceiling but that is hardly a threat worth worrying about, since it is going to happen either way.

    > And they lack the firepower to enforce it. So they will simply go bankrupt.

    I don’t even know what bankrupt means in terms of a sovereign like Greece. Bankruptcy is a legal process of extinguishing debts, but there is, AFAIK, no such legal process available to Greece.

    > If they stay in the euro, however, their debts will eventually be written off. Just as was done with the first half of their debt.

    That would be fine apart from the fact that they are still borrowing, borrowing, borrowing. Even if they had all their debts written off today, they’d be in the same predicament five years from now.

  50. @Max E
    > Wow, that’s actually competitive with my early-2000s dumbphone. I might need to get a smartphone now.

    I actually did quite a bit of research on battery life before buying a smartphone and I got a phone with a smaller screen that doesn’t take up much battery. I do the following to ensure I get maximum juice out of battery:

    1. Turn off all unnecessary services when idle. I don’t use a “juice defender” kind of app, as I found that it makes no difference in my case.
    2. I keep brightness at minimum until I am outdoors and need to view the screen. I believe screen brightness is the biggest drainer of battery and keeping it at low brightness really preserves battery.
    3. I don’t have a 3G data plan. I have a traditional (and very cheap) 2G connection with Edge network for data which I rarely use. Only at home I browse using high speed WiFi and turn it off if I stop using it.
    4. Reboot the phone every 4 or 5 days (not sure if this helps, really – but it was a “recommended” tip from Sony to reboot every day).

    I haven’t played many games, but I noticed that playing games is a very quick battery drain.

  51. @Jessica
    “Second, when the Greek government controls the laws that define, for example, pension payments, they can pretty much change it capriciously. This is a government contract remember, you can’t actually rely on them doing what they say, that can change in accordance with political wills, regardless of what the actual contractural nature is.”

    What happens to El Salvador or Costa Rica if they tell US banks they will repay all their dollar debts in a devaluated local currency?

    If Greece plays hardball, the result will be capture of all foreign assets and bank accounts. Grounding of airplanes and ships. Confiscation of export payments etc.

    But that is all purely phantasy. What happens if they exit the Euro is that Greece will declare bankruptcy, and will default on all their debts, just like Argentina and Iceland. Then a restructuring will start. For the Greek, the disaster would be complete, they will loose most of what they had. No export nor tourism for years, but also no imports. The Greek were never very competitive, so it is questionable whether they will be able to repeat what Argentina and Iceland did after much hardship.

    What will happen instead is that the Greek finally will have to reduce the level of cronyism and sell off some state-owned companies. Furthermore, the population will have to start paying taxes (the root of the problem). After that, the debts will be “restructured”, ie, mostly written off. Remember that half of the debts were already restructured away.

    Note that Greece is simply a lightening rod. Ireland and Portugal are in equally bad shape, but they keep quiet and work to solve the problems. Spain and Italy are the real dangers, but are kept out of the newspapers.

    Note also that most of the money Greece lend in the last two years was earmarked to repay the loans from North European banks. Our taxes are used to keep our banks alive (Credit Lyonais would fall if Greece defaults). Just like in the USA. Oh, and while Greece keeps up an appearance of repaying on their loans, the default insurance does not kick in. That is why the US is so “interested” in Greece’s welfare.

  52. “OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues. There isn’t any way Apple or anyone else could afford the auditing time to filter apps for quality at this level, and the notion that Apple actually does it is a myth.”

    I don’t have an iOS device, but my understanding of various Apple fanboy claims I have heard is that this is actually prevented at the runtime level (any app not signed by Apple as being one of the app types that they allow to run in the background gets forcibly suspended) by iOS, not as a mere matter of store policy.

  53. P.S. as for ‘“the researchers say that they can do the same for Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows phone operating systems.” – which I read as them having evidence of vampire-app effects on both that would justify a full analysis they haven’t done yet.’ – I suspect any technical means of preventing apps from running in the background doesn’t apply to apps installed via the dev kit (since these will naturally not be signed) rather than the store.

  54. I saw an article– sorry, but I haven’t been able to track it down again– about people being hit with extremely high roaming charges when travelling because (in spite of efforts to keep the cell phone under control), the cell phone updated major programs. The recommendation was to just buy a cheap phone for whatever country you happen to be in. Reasonable?

  55. OK, I was expecting some Apple fanboy to chime in with this. Fail – according to the research, iOS apps are prone to the same issues.

    No. They’re not.

    In order for an iOS app to run in the background, it has to register itself as performing one of a limited set of background functions. Neglectful programmers can write an ill-behaved iOS app that works the CPU too hard when active, but it will not affect the battery life in standby mode or when you switch to another app.

    By contrast, because the Android developers made some dumb-ass, PC desktop OS assumptions, Android apps keep humming in the background until the OOM killer gets around to terminating them. If you have a game that retardedly gobbles up CPU cycles, even when idle, and you go to home screen or put the phone on standby, that game may well be sitting back there chewing up CPU and battery life. Simple programmer neglect can have a much more deleterious effect on battery life.

    Please, please don’t confuse acknowledgement that Apple very carefully considered engineering issues specific to mobile operating systems with fanboy hero worship. It makes you look like a dismissive, stubbornly ignorant boor.

  56. Nancy,

    Android gives you pretty fine-grained control over what apps get automatically updated, and also has a setting for whether you roam or not.

    If a phone is racking up roaming charges from app auto-updates then either the user is negligent or this is a pretty serious UI bug.

  57. “I saw an article– sorry, but I haven’t been able to track it down again– about people being hit with extremely high roaming charges when travelling because (in spite of efforts to keep the cell phone under control), the cell phone updated major programs.”

    I don’t permit my apps or ROM to auto-update, period. Of course, there may be a bug somewhere that bypasses this.

    Still, there’s something wrong when a user who simply hasn’t bothered to understand the update process gets nailed with major roaming charges. The phone OS really ought to ask permission before initating a download larger than some reasonable size.

  58. @Winter
    I think we are largely on the same page as to the final outcome in Greece. Like I say, I don’t really know what “bankruptcy” means for a sovereign, though there might be some sort of provision in international law. My main point is that there is a conflict of interest between being the party responsible for valuing the currency and the party responsible for paying debts in that currency. It is an ugly deception — retired people are much poorer here than they were, and don’t quite understand why because inflation is disguised, and they are given a bunch of hogwash about greedy oil companies and wall street bankers. The real cause of their ennui is greedy politicians.

    Here in the USA gas prices are way higher than they have ever been, but the hidden reality is that a big chunk of that increase is simply that the dollar has devalued something like 25% over the past four years. A less valuable dollar buys less oil and gas.

    Greece is a speck on the international financial market (though your comment on Credit Lyonais is pretty troubling, the fall of that bank could have spectacular consequences in France, which is already on pretty shaky ground), but it is a portend of things to come. And FWIW, Spain and Italy’s troubles are all over our newspapers here.

    The future of the Euro does not look good. And, good riddance to it as far as I’m concerned. After all, all it is is Germany paying off their guilt for Nazi-ism by letting a bunch of parasites climb on its back, along with France’s attempt to remain somehow relevant on the international stage.

    I love the concept of the European free market, but the Euro does the worst thing possible to a currency — detaches responsibility from consequences. That is what is happening to Greece. Their grossly profligate government hasn’t been paying the consequences of their poor choices, rather the consequences have been buried under the heft of Germany. But you can’t hide from your responsibilities forever. Eventually reality burrows its way through your pile of fake paper money to come bite you in the ass.

    Oh, BTW if you want to know my solution to this? Mechanical currency. Expand M1 by exactly 4% ever year spread evenly through the year, and make it the law that that is what happens. No more Fed, no more European central bank, just one, predictable math formula. Then make the crazy rule that you are not allowed to spend more than you take in, and you are not allowed to make future promises that you don’t make financial provisions for now, in an acuarially sound manner.

    All the other functions of the banking world can be privatized quite easily. Deposit insurance, interbank lending, commercial money generation. Transparency, personal consequences, credit agency reporting, and consumer recommendations on banks. That really is all we need. The thing we don’t need is bailing out stupid banks to give them an advantage over smart banks. Let Credit Lyonais fall, and let the jackals pick over its bones to reassign its assets and liabilities in a much more efficient manner, purged by the crucible of reality.

    But of course that is never going to happen.

  59. hari said: 4. Reboot the phone every 4 or 5 days (not sure if this helps, really – but it was a “recommended” tip from Sony to reboot every day).

    Really?

    What in God’s name is wrong with their software that they “recommend” a daily reboot? (Rhetorical question, naturally.)

    I’d be ashamed if I wrote that stack, honestly.

  60. “I don’t even know what bankrupt means in terms of a sovereign like Greece. Bankruptcy is a legal process of extinguishing debts, but there is, AFAIK, no such legal process available to Greece.”

    @Jessica Boxer: You’re a genius….Since Greece is a member of the European Union, then she should have the right to declare bankruptcy within that structure, wipe the slate clean, and start over. The European Parliament needs to pass a bankruptcy law right away….

  61. @Jessica:
    “II don’t really know what “bankruptcy” means for a sovereign…”

    My understanding is that in Europe, there is no equivalent of U.S. bankruptcy a la Chapter 10/11/13, where a negotiated agreement is made under court protection for a (private) debtor to repay some but not all of his debts to his creditors. “Bankrupt” in Europe refers to the equivalent of U.S. “liquidation”, Chapter 7. So for Greece to go “bankrupt” simply means that it defaults on its debts, just as Argentina did a few years past.

    I may be wrong or out of date on the details here. I am neither a lawyer nor a European citizen.

    “My main point is that there is a conflict of interest between being the party responsible for valuing the currency and the party responsible for paying debts in that currency.”

    Which is why I don’t recommend putting a significant fraction of your assets in I-bonds. There’s too much incentive to pretend that inflation is lower than it actually is.

    “I love the concept of the European free market, but the Euro does the worst thing possible to a currency — detaches responsibility from consequences.”

    The only way I can see the Euro working is if the European Parliament actually ran things, and the power of national legislatures was strictly limited in regard to anything economic (tax, spending, etc.) Naah, I can’t see even that working, because it implies similar tax policies and spending policies across very different societies with very different attitudes toward wealth, income, work, and security.

    “You are not allowed to make future promises that you don’t make financial provisions for now, in an actuarially sound manner.”

    But Jessica — “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” applies here. Who can say, “you are not allowed” to a sovereign state? The very definition of sovereignty is that you write your own rules. The most that you can do is what Germany is slowly doing, namely say, “If you don’t want to follow these rules, fine, but then we’re cutting you off from further loans, bailouts, or other support.”

  62. @Cathy:

    Which is why I don’t recommend putting a significant fraction of your assets in I-bonds. There’s too much incentive to pretend that inflation is lower than it actually is.

    Whether or not inflation is correctly calculated by the authorities, I-bonds are a money loser for any taxpayer, and lose more money the higher inflation is.

    For example, assume 100% inflation for 1 year, and a taxpayer who is in the 25% bracket. Ignoring the (nominal) base rate of the bond, a bond purchased for $100 will be worth $200 a year later, but the taxpayer will owe $25. Net result? He has $175, worth the same as $87.50 when he bought the bond. He’s down to 51% of his initial value after just 5 years of this punishing inflation rate.

    But how this performs against other investments remains to be seen. Obviously some will do much worse; presumably some will do much better.

  63. @Cathy
    >Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    Good question. The answer in the United States is a multi branch, multi level, multi party government with each aggressively at each others’ throats. Heck, we even used to have a partisan, hostile press rather than the pathetic lapdogs that are our present day MSM. It is a monolithic party of custodians that are most dangerous. Thus all these calls for bipartisanship, respect for the presidency or court, and the sucking of every responsibility up from the local dog catcher to the purview of the feds are so terrible.

    It doesn’t always work of course, and lately it has been working less. But a successful implementation of what I describe would probably require a constitutional amendment.

    And of course in the context of Europe, all the calls for centralization of everything from sausages to military forces should shine that old Latin saw, neon bright above Brussels.

  64. @Tom:
    “Airplane mode doesn’t disable GPS?”

    Even more interesting is that if you turn on airplane mode AND wireless, your cell transceiver is disabled but your wireless is not. I use this combination frequently (on the ground) to ensure that I am using wireless, not cellular bits against my quota.

  65. “Heck, we even used to have a partisan, hostile press rather than the pathetic lapdogs that are our present day MSM.”

    I don’t think there’s any lack of partisan, hostile press out there today, on both sides of the divide. Forget the MSM and look for alternatives.

    On the other hand, it’s really difficult to find a widely-read media source that has an unabashedly libertarian slant.

  66. @Jessica
    “I love the concept of the European free market, but the Euro does the worst thing possible to a currency — detaches responsibility from consequences. That is what is happening to Greece. ”

    Always remember that the Euro is Deutschmark (DM) 2.0 It is German taxpayers that have to pay for the bail out. And it is German voters that decide what will be done. Simply ignore the opinions everyone else is airing, it is irrelevant.

    After two devastating wars, the Germans finally understood that the road to ruling Europe is simply buying it. Germany would have dominated Europe completely in the 1920′s if they had not started WWI. They would have dominated it in the 1950′s, had they not started WWII. They dominated it in the 1990′s because they finally understood it and did not start a new war.

    The Euro is a German currency, with some shared responsibilities. What went wrong is that German and French banks and industry lend too much money to Greece to make a bundle. That would not have been a problem, where it not that the Irish and Spanish created a huge property bubble at the same time and the USA banking sector imploded from their own gluttony a year earlier.

    @Cathy
    You are right on target.

  67. “After all, all it is is Germany paying off their guilt for Nazi-ism by letting a bunch of parasites climb on its back,” — the way I’d heard it, Germany has made massive export profits from the fact that the Euro is weaker for having those “parasites” in it.

  68. Winter on Thursday, June 21 2012 at 2:53 am said:
    > After two devastating wars, the Germans finally understood that the road to ruling Europe is simply buying it.

    What a fabulously concise summary, though I mist say that I think there is more guilt involved that that. Nonetheless, you should not underestimate Britain in that equation. WWI destroyed the British Empire, and WWII kicked the bleeding corpse into the grave. Without those wars I think things would have gone very differently in Britain, and the two would have competed for European dominance. Most likely, the British Empire would have transformed into a big free trade block, something Germany could never have competed with.

    Nonetheless, it seems that the German persona over time seems to be bifurcated in its character. It is either “99 Luft Ballons” or “Deutschland, Deutschland über alles” and never anything in between. But that is just my observation. Perhaps I am being unfair.

  69. For some reason, GPS location is very battery-expensive when compared to network or WiFi location; at least per the notes to the Tasker automation system and my own experiences; though by far more accurate. I suspect CPU cycles are the root of it. At any rate, disabling GPS unless you need it is a common battery-saving tip.

  70. @Jessica
    My view of the Germans too is that they do everything in excess. But they work hard and are organized.

  71. Not to boast or anything, but I think I’ve hit a record of sorts (for my phone). I’ve currently got about 5 days, 8 hours, 37 mins on my battery on my XPeria Ray with 31% battery left. I’ve had about 25 minutes of voice calls and a little browsing, SMS etc. I have to say that I am not sure why I get so much battery life on occasions and yet on some occasions battery drains inside of 3 days.

    So, yes, I am now sure that it is some runaway app that sometimes causes problems. Also I get the feeling that a weaker network signal means more battery drain.

  72. @hari: Now we’re starting to sound like that Prius website where the owners brag about what great gas mileage they’ve achieved…..

  73. Hehe… not really boasting. I’m surprised I got that much battery life. Still, I have the screenshot for the android battery use screen for sceptics.

  74. Eric – another report from the field -

    After reading Cathy’s response, I loaded Juice Defender on my (Sprint network) Samsung Galaxy S (SPH-D700, running “Gingerbread.FC09″, kernel 2.6.35.7). Prior to this, I couldn’t get more than about 5 or 6 hours of battery life; now, it will run better than 12 hours between charges.

    Juice Defender works by shutting off WiFi and GPS when the screen is blanked, and automagically re-enabling them when you start using your device again. I’m beginning to believe that WeatherBug had been chomping on my mAh’s when I didn’t need it to be updating; now, it needs less than 30 sec. after unblanking the screen to be fully up-to-date.

    Just my $0.02 worth.

  75. >Juice Defender works by shutting off WiFi and GPS when the screen is blanked, and automagically re-enabling them when you start using your device again.

    That’s an extremely good idea. I just installed it here.

  76. I’ve heard of enough problem with juice defender causing weird interactions with other apps that I’m somewhat leery of using it. Plus, since I have tasker already, judicious use of tasker profiles goes a long way. Now if only Google hasn’t disabled the ability to programmatically enable GPS, I could do a lot more with that.

  77. My Nook Color, hacked to run Android, has been so slow that I’ve felt it’s hardly worth the bother to use. As an experiment, I stripped off large numbers of application. Suddenly, the performance is quite snappy.

    IMHO this is a real bug in the Android design. User applications should not consumer resources until the user tells them to run, and it shouldn’t be necessary to complete remove the application to get it to stop running and consuming cycles (and battery, and memory…)

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