Apps

Dotpict is a fun app to start making pixel art

Or make pixel chicken scratch

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Dotpict is a pixel art painting app by Masaki Mitsuyama that makes the tedious job of working pixel by pixel a little bit easier. The app features a pen tip you can navigate to fill every pixel with your color of choice, an easily accessible and customizable palette below your pixel canvas, and a push button to select the pixel you want to work with.

Here come excuses

I’ve been ill for about two weeks with the flu and I was trying to find some way to feel less like a vegetable in bed having absolutely nothing to contribute. So, I went on Google Play looking for a game or an app to fill the time. I quickly found dotpict on my recommended apps. I installed it and quickly lost interest.


Attempts at pixel drawing

Alright, dotpict looks like a ton of fun and it can be. When I first began, it was daunting. I was decent at doodles and all, but creating pixel drawings was a little, if not significantly, different. It demands a ton of your attention and it doesn’t really help when you have the attention span of a goldfish.

Either way, the other works posted on the app are a mix of silly attempts and gorgeous creations which can tear through you with the reality that you may never be able to make works the likes of these amazing artists. For example, my first work:

My first attempt: not too bad?

As you can see, mistakes were made. I’m not too proud of this piece if I’m being honest. I was a little too ambitious on making pixel characters I grew up playing — to which I’d obviously not done a great job. From this point on, I ignored the app for a couple of days. I couldn’t quite grasp how to create pixel art.

I tried again and managed to draw this!

My second attempt

This was about a week into my flu. I’d gotten absolutely nothing done and I was tantalizingly close to bashing my head to scare the flu off its depressed host. I know, it is quite morbid, but being sick isn’t fun when you have tasks you want and need to get done. I was just at wit’s end and thought I’d give dotpict another try before I gave it a hard pass. To which, I’m happy I did because I did quite alright.

Features that help beginners

The app isn’t quite forgiving when it comes to making it easier for you if you want to design detailed pieces. It does help you with all the items you need to get started though. For starters, if you’re bored and want to fill the time, you can doodle on dotpict. Secondly, the bucket tool is a lifesaver — nobody wants to fill 20 pixels one by one. Thirdly, the palette lets you switch colors easily so you don’t have to have to spend a ton of time working with one color at a time.

From chicken scratch to this! This is my favorite and most tedious work yet: a pixel art of a scene in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

A ton of squinting?

Dotpict is a fun app — if you’re the type to obsess over details. It takes a bit of squinting sometimes when you’re eyeing the tiniest details and can’t seem to see the bigger picture. If that’s not you, it’s the perfect app to challenge you to be patient and precise. It lets you take your time and if you need a break, it autosaves your work so you can come back worry-free. If you want to give dotpict a try, it’s free for both Android and iOS.

SEE ALSO: #ArtistsofSEA: Celebrate the diversity of Southeast Asian art

Apps

Google Maps incognito mode coming soon

It’s in testing phase now

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During Google I/O 2019, the company announced that it is bringing its incognito mode to its Youtube, Google Search and Google Maps apps. Youtube already got its incognito mode, leaving the two without it. However, that would soon change as Google is reportedly the feature on Maps, as spotted by XDA Developer’s Mishaal Rahman.

Incognito mode in Google Maps will be a boon for users who don’t want their location to appear on their timeline. It can also hide searches for places and locations where users can have their “private” time.


Baking it directly into the app is useful. It’s so much easier than having to access it via the Chrome browser’s incognito mode and search for the mobile version of Google Map’s website.

Google putting incognito mode into its native apps is in line with its mission to put more privacy controls in the hands of its users. As more and more tech companies are being scrutinized for supposedly interfering with their users’ private lives, Google’s move is surely a step in the right direction.

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Apps

Google wants to assists users without depending on the Internet

And Google Pay just got more exciting!

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Google is by definition an “internet” company. Every part of its business depends on connectivity, whether its Google Search or AdSense. The company has penetrated every developed market and now intends to grab the untapped markets of India and other Southeast Asian countries.

Google Assistant

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

At its Google for India 2019 event, the company announced the launch of a special helpline that users can call to have their questions answered. We usually use Google Assitant on the go via any Android phone, but it depends on internet connectivity. How do you reach out to a feature-phone user who barely has a 2G connection?


A 24×7 healpline. Teaming up with Vodafone India, users will be able to dial 000-800-9191-000 and they won’t be charged for the call or the service. Early this year, Google also worked with KaiOS to integrate Google Assistant on entry-level 4G phones like the JioPhone.

Google Assistant was launched in India a couple of years back and Hindi is now the second-largest language globally. You can also switch languages by a simple voice command now.

Google Pay

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

Usually, you can use payment solutions like these in the US via NFC. Your cards are saved on the app and a gentle tap to a PoS machine will initiate the transaction. However, in India the app leverages the countries universal UPI protocol to transfer money. Up till now, you had to add your bank account in the app and scan a QR code to send money.

Google has now announced support for NFC cards. This will make the experience much simpler and streamlined. Though your phone needs to have an NFC reader and only HDFC, Axis, Kotak, and Standard Chartered bank are supported for tokenization at the moment.

The company went on to share a few interesting stats about its position in the country. The app handled 918 million transactions a month in the country.

New AI Lab

Courtesy: Bhardwaj

A new artificial intelligence research lab is being set up in Bengaluru to create India-specific products. Google has tied up with state-run BSNL for expanding Wi-Fi hotspots in villages in Gujarat, Bihar, and Maharashtra. They’ve already deployed more than 5,000 WiFi hotspots in partnership with Indian Railways.

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Apps

SIM card vulnerability puts your sensitive information at risk

It’s called the SIMjacker

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SIM cards are very important. However, a new SIM card vulnerability found out by AdaptiveMobile Security might be putting our information at risk. The Simjacker exploit, which was recently found out and still being investigated on, allows malicious hackers to steal sensitive information from your phone through a SIM card.

Mechanism of attack

Infographic explaining the attack using Simjacker vulnerability | Photo by Simjacker.com

How does the Simjacker vulnerability work?


First, a hacker sends a malicious code to your phone through SMS. Then, the malicious code is read directly by your SIM card. The code then causes the [email protected] browser to send sensitive information to an accomplice device through SMS.

According to the report pulished by AdaptiveMobile Security regarding the vulnerability, the [email protected] browser is found on most SIM cards even though its development was abandoned many years ago. [email protected] browser was never updated, so it carries the risk of sending sensitive information to hackers when exploited successfully.

Sensitive information retrieved and transmitted by the [email protected] browser include location and the IMEI of an exploited device. The IMEI is a shorthand for International Mobile Equipment Identity, which is a 15 digit number unique to your smartphone that has some information about your device including its brand and model. As such, hackers can determine your exact location if you have a compromised SIM card, regardless of what device you have.

And the worst part of the attack is that you have no way of knowing that it has already been done since it all happens within the SIM card.

Origin and scope of the attack

The purpose for carrying an attack varies. However, the report traces the origin to an unspecified private company that works with governments to monitor individuals. So, there is a real possibility that it has been used to spy on us. And rightly so, since specific individuals were targeted in a certain country.

The report also warned that over one billion smartphones across all continents could be at risk to the vulnerability — and you could be one of them.

Response to the attack

In response to the discovered vulnerability, industry association SIMalliance has already put up recommendations for network providers to secure their networks. At this point in time, you can’t do anything to secure yourself from the vulnerability, unless you decided to go SIM-free.

But as a general rule of thumb, you shouldn’t just give your smartphone number like a free lunch. It also pays to update your smartphone once in a while, since some updates are designed to secure your phone from these kind of vulnerabilities and attacks.

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