Verizon Accused of Remote Controlling Droid?

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Nov 9, 2009
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Verizon Accused of Remote Controlling Droid: Truth Somewhat Stranger

A rather odd bug in the Droid phone has been mistaken for a secret, silent, over the air invasion by Verizon’s software update police.

When a problem with the Droid’s autofocus mysteriously disappeared overnight, paranoid Droid owners assumed that a secret update had been sent over the air to fix it. This would be rather creepy. It is also wrong. In a comment on an Engadget story about the mystery fix, Android developer Dan Morrill explained what had happened, and the truth is rather stranger than the fiction.

There’s a rounding-error bug in the camera driver’s autofocus routine (which uses a timestamp) that causes autofocus to behave poorly on a 24.5-day cycle. That is, it’ll work for 24.5 days, then have poor performance for 24.5 days, then work again.

The 17th is the start of a new “works correctly” cycle, so the devices will be fine for a while. A permanent fix is in the works.

Not only is the bug itself an odd one, so is the lack of an internet hissy-fit about the imagined reach of Verizon. This is exactly the kind of thing that sends blogs and Twitter into a frothing frenzy, yet the net has remained mostly quiet. As Daring Fireball’s John Gruber points out, imagine if this had been Apple suspected of reaching into the iPhone from afar:

Am I the only one who thinks that if Apple issued an over-the-air iPhone software update — no notice, no confirmation — that it would generate a Category 5 **** storm?

If you want to try this, set your Droid’s clock back a few days and experience the thrill of a non-focussing camera for yourself.

Verizon Accused of Remote Controlling Droid: Truth Somewhat Stranger | Gadget Lab |
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