Monday, May 30, 2011

‘Bubble Ball’ App Reaches 2M Downloads on iTunes : Game that Beats Angry Birds

Ansca Mobile has announced that 14-year old Robert Nay’s Bubble Ball has displaced Rovio’s popular Angry Birds Seasons as the #1 free title in the iTunes App Store with 2 million downloads, and counting.

Bubble Ball is Robert's first foray into app development, according to Ansca Mobile, the company whose Corona SDK he chose for developing the app.

According to Robert, the built-in physics engine was exactly what he needed to make his app a reality.

Bubble Ball, for those who haven’t yet tried it, is a physics-based puzzle game which has players guiding a ball to a goal.

Various objects are provided for the player to work out a path for the ball so that it reaches its goal.

Some objects can be manipulated more than others, while using gravity to your advantage is obviously the key to beating every level.

BubbleBall has been steadily climbing the charts since it was approved in December, and was named the App of the Week in the Corona SDK app showcase on January 9.

Since then, its popularity has skyrocketed, culminating in its #1 spot on January 13, 2011, Ansca Mobile is proud to confirm.

The Spanish Fork, UT 14-year old reportedly started work on BubbleBall with a competing development framework.

As he progressed, he realized that Corona SDK's was more appropriate for what he needed to create a game characterized by fun and addictive game play, so he went with it instead.

“We wholeheartedly congratulate Robert on his initial success and we are eagerly looking forward to his future creations,” said Ansca Mobile.

“Wait until he gets a little more experience under his belt and really unleashes the power of Corona SDK! Congratulations Robert, well done!” the makers of the SDK concluded.

Robert was also featured on Good Morning America!. See him here.

News Source:  
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Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 16, 2010: Crescent Moon and Planet Venus

Above is an actual view of the moon about 7:00+ P.M May 16, 2010 in Bicol, Pili, Camarines Sur...

Photos courtesy of:
Blesilda Bascara-Livelo (facebook)

About 10 hours Universal Time today. Unfortunately, this is not visible to North American or European observers, but we have not lost out entirely. Tonight, just as it gets dark, look to the western sky and, weather permitting, you should see a beautiful sight — bright Venus with the waxing crescent moon nearby. You should have no trouble finding either object as long as your skies are clear and you are facing west. Venus is a brilliant beacon to the lower right of the moon. Look early, as the two set less than three hours after the sun. By the way, the moon is currently said to be “waxing” in the sense that it is becoming a bit more full each evening.

If you are a regular reader of EarthSky Tonight, you may have noticed over the years that we have reported passages of the crescent moon near Venus several times. In fact, it is not that unusual. The moon passes somewhere near Venus about once a month, although we don’t always mention it simply because the conditions for observing are not always favorable. However, what you have not ever seen is a mention of the quarter moon, or gibbous moon, or full moon passing near Venus. Yet, we sometimes report when these phases of the moon pass near Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. So why is it that only the crescent moon ever passes Venus?

That is because Venus is “inferior.” No, I don’t mean that it is less valuable in any way. Used in this context, “inferior” means “lower than.” Venus is “lower than” the Earth relative to the sun. In other words, Venus is closer to the sun. Because of this, Venus never appears very far away from the sun in Earth’s sky. It oscillates back and forth from one side of the sun to the other, much like a race car moving from the left side to the right side of a circular track as we watch it from the stands. Thus, Venus sometimes appears in the evening twilight, and sometimes in the dawn twilight. The point is that it is never far from the sun. The farthest it can get from the sun (called an “elongation”) is slightly more than 47 degrees. Therefore, when the moon appears to pass Venus, it does so at about the same elongation from the sun. Since 47 and fewer degrees correspond to a crescent phase, only the crescent moon can appear to pass near Venus in the sky. The quarter moon is 90 degrees from the sun, and the full moon is 180 degrees, so you will never see those phases near Venus.

Mercury is an inferior planet as well, but its maximum elongation is only 28 degrees, so only a very thin crescent moon can ever appear near Mercury. On the other hand, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are farther from the sun than Earth, making them “superior.” From time to time, they can appear at any angle from the sun, and the quarter or full moon phases can pass near them (sometimes even occulting them).

Written by Larry Sessions

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Android Phones

Nexus One is here
Posted on: January 5, 2010 / Category: Android News

We knew and expected this day for almost a month now: the Nexus One is finally available. We won't bother you with much details now, which seems to be the fashion amongst tech blogs, that have multiple posts covering the release of the Nexus. Instead we'll point you to the official site where you can see the specks, pictures and even buy the phone if you want:

Xperia X10 VS Motorola DROID
Posted on: December 16, 2009 / Category: Sony Ericsson Android Phones

This is a battle of giants, basically the best two Android phones face eachother (at least until the Nexus One crashes the party). I bet when Xperia X10 will come out it will be hard to chose between it and the Motorola DROID that's why a good comparisson is needed.

HTC Legend
Posted on: December 14, 2009 / Category: HTC Android Phones

It's not hard from the picture above that the Legend is actually the HTC Hero 2. Some big improvements expect the Hero fans, like metalic frame, AMOLED display, optical mouse, LED flash and a 600MHz processor.

Motorola Titanium
Posted on: December 14, 2009 / Category: Motorola Android Phones

Another Motorola Android phone emerges: the Zeppelin we saw in the leaked roadmap a while ago is heading for China Mobile, under the name XT800, at least initially. That's interesting but we are more interested if it comes to US or Worldwide. And it looks it will.

Nexus One Pictures
Posted on: December 14, 2009 / Category: HTC Android Phones

The folks at Engadget managed to get hold of some new, more detailed pictures of the so called "Google Phone" better known as Nexus One. Beside the pictures we have some more informations on the phone.

HTC Nexus One
Posted on: December 13, 2009 / Category: HTC Android Phones

If you followed the Android news lately you might have noticed rumors of an actual Google Phone, developed by HTC for Google, network unlocked, large screen and high specs. The phone was distributed yesterday to Google employees for intensive testing and many shared the news on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Free Anonymous Surfing

Operator is my clear first choice, a portable version of Opera with an included and well integrated Tor engine that uses the free Tor network. OperaTor is small and relatively fast, using just 6Mb of memory for it’s Tor engine, 2Mb for the Polipo caching proxy, 3Mb for the OperaTor loader and 18Mb for Opera. In my experience, OperaTor is by far the fastest browser, even with multiple proxies on the Tor network so that the browsing trail is frequently changing for greater security. Some people don't like the fact that OperaTor is not released with source code available (at least not that we have yet located) which may influence the choice in whether to use it or not. I believe that unless a user is proficient in programming, or at least reading the development language of any particular application, this becomes rather irrelevant, unless some amount of comfort or security might be perceived in knowing that source is available and others might be checking it even if the user of the application can not read it personally. Even closed source projects that become popular generally receive enough user and peer scrutiny that most problems would be quickly exposed.

JonDo anonymous network

JonDo (previously known as JAP) is my second choice and is in some ways a more flexible option, in that it is simply a Java application that performs the role of a local (PC based) proxy server that redirects browser requests via the JonDo (formerly JAP) network. This allows the user to configure their choice of any browser rather than requiring a change to Opera. Unfortunately, being Java based means that the application becomes somewhat bloated, requiring 54Mb of memory just for the Java JonDo application, as well as another few Mb for the JAP engine, and then whatever additional is required for the web browser of choice. JonDo does have quite a nice GUI display which shows the strength of the anonymity based on the number of anonymizing proxy servers, and takes care of managing the random proxy changes for greater anonymity. A commercial service known as JonDonym has been introduced which uses dedicated servers to provide higher speeds, higher levels of availability and more security along with support for chat, ftp and ssh in addition to web browsing. Another offering from the commercial JonDonym group is JonDoFox, a customized version of Firefox with JonDo code embedded along with other anonymizing optimizations. Unfortunately, JonDo not being a network like Tor is prone to some limitations in terms of the numbers of free servers, and some subsequent downtimes may be more likely with the smaller server base.

Vidalia using Tor anonymizing network

Vidalia is my third choice, a close match to JonDo in that it is quite a bit lighter in memory use and generally feels faster, but may not have the same level of anonymizing as JonDo. Vidalia is another integrated package using a combination of Privoxy and a Tor engine to connect to the Tor network, but it offers many new features. As with JonDo, Vidalia behaves as a local proxy for use by any browser, but it also provides configurations allowing it to run either as a simple standalone process or as a Windows service (for security and performance reasons, among others). Vidalia allows the user to participate in the anonymizing process by becoming a Tor Relay to help censored users in a similar way to becoming a BitTorrent relay, and a live realtime facility is available showing a map of the earth with lines representing connections to the Tor server participants. Vidalia uses 24 - 32Mb of memory, with an additional 4Mb used for Privoxy and another 16.5Mb for the Tor engine. One initially confusing aspect of Vidalia is that it provides a configuration access through port 9051, but it is not immediately obvious that Privoxy is listening on port 8118. Browsers using the Vidalia bundle must be configured to use the Privoxy port 8118 as the proxy server, not port 9051. Like JonDo, the Vidalia/Privoxy combination constantly changes proxy servers to mask the trail to provide greater anonymity.

Whatever your preference, both JAP and Tor networks offer a level of secrecy that is better than many commercial systems, though they are not watertight. Expect your surfing to slow down, in some case substantially, because you'll be relayed through a chain of servers, all heavily impacted by BitTorrent users seeking to hide from the RIAA. Note: the latest V5 release of JAP now allows Tor users to use JAP as a software access point to the Tor network.

XeroBank Firefox based browser

The XeroBank Browser (previously known as TorPark) provides a new customized version of the Firefox browser configured to work with the free Tor anonymizing service, or with a subscription service for higher speeds using dedicated servers, and other features. Firefox users may feel more comfortable with XeroBank, as it is based on Firefox, but also need not make any changes at all if they make use of either the JonDo or Vidalia bundles to access the Tor engine other than to set the proxy server, and of course, manual cleanup of the cache, cookies and browsing history after use. XeroBank claims to have many advanced features, but for the average user most of these may not be apparent, unless the subscription service is used. While the XeroBank browser is free to use on the Tor network, the XeroBank web site promotes the use of their subscription-based account. During installation, the XeroBank Browser offers the choice of using either the commercial XeroBank Client or the free Tor service. Caution! Some antivirus scanners report trojan infected code in the XeroBank download. Use to verify all downloads, and use XeroBank and all other applications with caution, but be aware that some of the virus scanners used by may also be overly zealous in their reporting of infections. Some claimed virus or trojan infections in various applications are no more than firewall detection, or software product key reporting capabilities mis-diagnosed by the scanner as a potential threat.

The downside of XeroBank as contrasted with using JonDo or Vidalia, is that you would need to use XeroBank for anonymous browsing and your regular browser for other surfing. Using JonDo or Vidalia, you can use the browser of your choice, and just reconfigure to use the proxy when you want to anonymous surfing. This won't automatically clean out all other personal data (cache, history, cookies etc.) when the application is shut down, which OperaTor and XeroBank do.

For all anonymizing services, check that you are running in anonymous mode by first browsing to one of many servers which reports your IP address, for example and take note of your IP address. Reconfigure your browser to make use of the anonymizing service, and reload / refresh the browser and verify that the reported IP address has changed. Some IP reporting servers will also tell you which country, and even which city you now appear to be connecting from.

Most of the services reviewed are able to run directly from a USB flash drive if the executables are simply copied as is from their installation directories. This works really well, just plug your flash drive into any PC with a USB port, launch both the anonymizing proxy software and a browser, set the browser to redirect via the anonymizer and you will be in business. In the case of both OperaTor and XeroBank, all you need to is launch the browser from your flash drive and you will be ready to start browsing.

XeroBank XBMachine Live CD running under QEMU virtual machineWhile some 'LiveCD' applications such as XeroBank Machine and Incognito Live CD have been created and may provide similar functions, they mostly seem to be currently released in various stages of alpha or beta test versions and have bugs or limitations. For example, the XeroBank Machine provides two options. You can either run the xBMachine.exe from a Windows prompt which starts a QEMU virtual machine and then runs a GenToo Linux kernel, or by booting from a "Live CD". This Live CD boots the same customized GenToo Linux environment from CD without any Windows involvement. In simple terms, both xBMachine options simply provide a different "hardened" OS platform to run the Firefox based XeroBank Browser. Is LiveCD really useful? To some people, yes, not to me. It does mean that like SandBoxie, your guest operating system is protected from malicious web sites via your browsing, and when you stop the QEMU virtual machine or reboot the PC from hard disk rather than CD all traces are removed. I am a Unix / Linux geek so I am totally at home with them, but for the average person, I suspect the LiveCD and QEMU based options will provide a confusing level of complexity that will just interfere with their browsing and desire to be safe. Not much can beat truly safe browsing habits, whatever browser or add-on tools you use. xBMachine is a 380Mb zip file download, which unpacked yields a 391Mb ISO image to create a CD as well as another 10Mb or so of the QEMU environment. The QEMU hosted browser uses 292+Mb of XeroBank XBMachine Live CD running under QEMU virtual machinememory, requires the ISO image present, and took more than 5 minutes to load and be ready for use on a 1.8Ghz dual core Intel PC with 1Gb or memory. It provides a Linux X-Windows GUI with a profile configuration, a network configuration, xBBrowser, e-mail, Pidgin instant messenger, terminal and an option to configure for the paid subscription network. I don't know about you, but I am not willing to wait 5 or more minutes and have close to 300Mb of disk space tied up in a browser that took another minute or two to load, and then in my case never managed to connect out anyway. For those who feel that having source available makes a better product, go ahead and try to download the XeroBank source. All of the links gave me a 7Mb source zip file which was corrupted and would not open. Would this give you "open source available" feelings of security? I don't think so.

I'm a freeware and open source fan, I can read and write programs, but not when the source file is corrupted, and I am not likely to start poring through tens of thousands of lines of code even if I could unpack the source. Even if it does unpack, how do we know that exact source was used to build the tool, and not another set of customized source with a built in Trojan or spyware? The reality is that we really don't know unless we both inspect the source code and then compile it and compare the distributed executable.

One final comment on anonymizing, your browsing activities will never be 100% secure and guaranteed to be anonymous. It will be very difficult for anyone to trace you while browsing through the Tor network, except as reported in the Tor wiki, "when you access pages that use Java, Javascript, Macromedia Flash and Shockwave, QuickTime, RealAudio, ActiveX controls, and VBScript are all known to be able to access local information about your operating system and local network. These technologies will work over proxies and can tunnel the information back to their source."