Saturday, 28 June 2014

Speed cameras & SatNav systems (part two)...

This is a follow-up post to the one below regarding Waze.

OK, as I got no response on the original posting on the forums, I posted a brand new thread in another section of the forums, and this time, got a response within about a day of posting, which was nice :-)

The bad news is that there is no way to suppress the pop-ups.

This leaves a massive problem, as while I like Waze, and find it incredibly useful, I cannot use it during the dark hours, as the pop-ups are a massive distraction - imagine a bright light coming on as you look down a dark lane, in the rain. NOT good, NOT safe, and, in fact, blooody dangerous. Someone at Waze would not appear to have thought this through fully.

The problem of the bright pop-ups in Waze is not that they're bright enough to dazzle - they aren't that bright. No, the problem is a distraction issue. The human eye instinctively moves to view bright light. As a result, your eyes move off the road, and you could miss that car pulling out in front of you, and BANG. T-Bone time. Not good, by any stretch of the imagination. The lack of the facility to stop or suppress those pop-ups is regrettable, to say the least.

So, it's back to using my paid-for application, Sygic. Don't get me wrong: There's absolutely nothing wrong with Sygic, or their business model: They produce a truly excellent SatNav package for Android, but I LIKE the concept of some of the features of Waze, such as the ETA notification, or even the progress tracking, that you can sent to others via text or email as you set out on a journey - it provides real-time reassurance that you're (1) on the way, and (2) of your progress along the route.Those are both very handy features that simply don't appear to exist in other SatNav applications that I have. But, without the ability to suppress the appearance of the pop-up warnings that waze gives, I personally find the application hazardous to safe driving at night, simply because it can distract you from looking at what's on the road to your front, which is potentially disasterous.

So, with regret, I'll not be using Waze at night; likely as not, I may wind up not using it at all, as it's far simpler to regularly use one navigation application on longer drives, especially if ypu're gping to drive past dusk into the dark hours. Which is when I prefer to do my longer distance driving, as there's generally less traffic.

So, if Waze introduces pop-up suppression, then I'll go back to using it at night. But not until then.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Speed cameras & SatNav systems...

In addition to a paid-for SatNav application (Sygic for Android), I also use other SatNav applications on my Android phone, including Google Navigation (part of Google Maps), and Waze. I also use the Pocket GPS World CamerAlert service, which I've found to be a hugely useful package;

Why do I use so many packages? OK, for a start, I don't use all of them at the same time - that'd be a little silly, really; likewise, I don't use them when I'm at work driving a bus - that'd be using my phone in the bus, and that's illegal for a PSV driver. I can, though, use the phone and apps in my car.

The paid-for app, Sygic, works using off-line mapping (the maps are stored on the phone, not downloaded from the internet on demand, so where there is no reliable 3G or 4G service, I can still navigate effectively.

Using Waze (which uses on-line on-demand mapping), I can navigate safely in the knowledge that fellow Waze users will update areas that I travel through, with traffic and hazard warnings. Interestingly it's also rather good at planning routes to my satisfaction as well - sometimes better than Sygic, which is a bit irritating!

The CamerAlert system I have running all the time I'm using SatNav apps; it sits in the background, and warnings me when I'm nearing "safety" cameras, and the database is generally updated on a weekly basis. It's never let me down, which is nice.

I've been using Waze for a month or so now; I've found it to be an incredibly handy free SatNav and social media application, but there is a major issue with it that is really becoming a potential 'dump it' issue: Its handling of Speed Camera alerts.

I've been a subscriber to the PGPSW speed camera service for a number of years (which I find very effective), and I see no point in discontinuing that subscription. I therefore tried to disable the camera alerts in Waze, with no luck what so ever.

The problem is that whether in navigation or merely roaming about, the alerts still keep on coming; at night, it's a HUGE distraction to suddenly have a bright (even using the night-time display) pop-up appear - especially as it consumes a quarter of the available display area (and I use a Samsung Note 3, so you can imagine how big that pop-up is). In the Android application there appears to be no way at all of disabling these warnings; more to the point, if I travel to parts of the EU, I may well be breaking some of the laws over there if I continue to use Waze over there. I can turn off my other camera alert package; I cannot disable the Waze in-app camera warnings.

These countries, at the time I last checked, prohibited point of interest (GPS) based camera warnings: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Ireland, Macedonia, and Switzerland; This means that if I drive in those countries, and use Waze, I may be breaking the laws of those countries, which could land me a hefty fine, possibly the confiscation of the equipment running the application (my phone), or worse. So, that stops me using Waze in those countries, which somewhat defeats the point of installing Waze in the first place.

So, I need to disable both the audio and visual components of the camera alerts within Waze. I've looked at every available setting, and the only one I can find is on the settings - display settings - show on map - speed cameras (on/off).

So, I've posted this problem on the Waze forums, with the following questions:

  • Have I missed a setting, or is there actually no way to prevent this otherwise excellent application from displaying these incredibly annoying and distracting pop-ups?
  • If there is currently no way of preventing such alerts, is a 'switch' planned to be added sooner than later? If so, when?

I'll update this post once I hear one way or the other from the other Waze users on the forum.

UPDATED in next post, 28th June 2014

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Kindle on Android - new permissions? Why? (Updated)

The following is an email that I just sent to Amazon Kindle support. It's self explanatory.

Dear Sir or Madam,
I have been a customer of Amazon for some time; I have also been a Kindle app user on my mobile phone for a while as well.

However, your recent update to the software is putting both of these in jeopardy of losing me as a customer, as they appear to be purely aimed at dredging out data and personal information to which you have no legitimate right.
Therefore, please specify why you need all the following application permissions for me to read e-books that I have paid for?

  • Device & app history - why do you need to know what applications are running on the phone in addition to the Kindle App?
  • Wi-Fi connection information - why do you need to view Wi-Fi connections? The phone can handle those quite effectively already.
  • Device ID & call information - Why do you need to see this personal information that has nothing to do with you? (read phone status and identity)
Thanks you for your time in this matter.

Here's the thing: It's a massive privacy invasion. Why? Because they're trawling for information that they appear not to have any legitimate need to know. The number of anyone you're talking to, for example "read phone status and identity").

They surely don't need to know the details of any wifi network you're on - suppose it belongs to someone else, and you're using it with the owners permission - does Amazon need to know this? Of course not.

Likewise, they don't need to know if you've been playing Angry Birds, or using a satnav, or whatnot.

Frankly, it's a symptom of several app producers over the last couple of years; those that haven't responded have found me no longer using their apps - I delete them. Those that reply, or state why they need addition app permissions on their Android Play pages generally keep my patronage.

The key here is openness. And Amazon have, to date, been remarkably closed about why they want these new permissions.

The only explanation that jumps to mind, is that they want to know everything about you, and as they haven't got a legitimate reason for asking for it, just add new permissions to the app, in the hope that you'll let them see your inside leg measurement without a second to review the new permissions.

I'll keep you updated on this once I receive an answer.


Well, Amazon replied while I was at work, so here's their reply. I've underlined the important bits, and my comments are below it.


We sincerely apologize about, first about these requirements when updating your Kindle app for Android, and second for all the inconvenience this may cause you. I fully understand your displeasure and I hope your satisfaction is our highest concern.

I know that this very disappointing to you but please be assured that we will not store any personal information from you nor get this information by agreeing to these requirements. The Kindle app just need to get access on these (Device and app history, Identity, Photo's/Media/Files, WiFi connection and information and Device ID and Call Information) so it will function well. These are the settings that mostly affect the app and we would like to ensure that the app will work best by requesting access to these.

As we've introduced this update, we are currently working on this Kindle app for easy access and better improvement of functions, thanks for bringing this to our notice. Please be assured that we will keep your account private and we will never get information from your phone----we value privacy highly above all else.

We are grateful to hear about this feedback that would help us improve the Kindle experience. Please be assured that we're continuously working hard to improve the Kindle apps.

Now your feedback about this was forwarded to the Kindle Development Team with the hope that their action on this concern will elicit a change in Kindle app update--I know they'll want to hear about your experience regarding this.

As with all of our products, we continue to make Kindle apps better for customers with regular software updates. As we've introduced a new software update recently, we are currently working on this update for easy access and better improvement of functions, as soon as this feature becomes available on the next software update, we will definitely let you know about this by emailing you or through our website.

Customer feedback like yours helps us in our endeavor to improve the service we provide, and we're glad you took time to write to us.

Thanks again for giving us the opportunity to improve. We look forward to see you again soon.

Please let us know if there is anything further we can do for you in the meanwhile.

Thanks for using Kindle.

Best regards,

OK. So as you can see, the meat of their reply is in the second paragraph, where they undertake not to access or store personal information and/or data.

The interesting upshot of this is that the Android Operating System appears to have some stability issues, if they need permissions like this to make a simple e-book application run with more reliably.

It'll be interesting to see how the yet-to-be-announced successor to Android KitKat fares.

In the mean time, I'm satisfied by both the speed of the Customer Services response, and the content of it, so I'll be updating my copy of the Kindle Android application.

It would have been MUCH better had they said this in the blurb for the app on the Google Play website, and hopefully, they're going about doing this as I write this, but at least the point has been made.