According to computer scientist John Kubiatowicz, from UC Berkeley. The books you put on your Kindle increase its weight, and not in the sense of gaining you respect among your friends and colleagues for having a scholarly taste in books. No sir, it’s actual weight in the physical world. And it’s not just the Kindle or just e-readers either, it’s every device that you load data on. You see, the downloading of ebooks to your e-reader changes the level of energy stored in the electrons on it. Their physical number stays the sum but, as Albert Einstein so cleverly put it, E=mc2. If those electrons are storing more energy, they gain more mass—ergo, your e-reader becomes heavier! You may have noticed that you have read over 150 words already and have yet to find out how much the weight actually increases by. That is by design. Because the increase in weight is by 10-18 of a gram, or 0.000000000000000001g. Kubiatowicz tells us that it’s called an attogram, but we are pretty sure he just made up that word on the fly (nope, just kidding). So how much is an attogram anyway? You won’t be the least bit surprised to know that it’s such a tiny unit of weight that it is unmeasurable by any scales that currently exist and you can actually affect the weight of your Kindle more just by charging its battery or wiping off its screen. (via A Kindle becomes heavier when you load it up with ebooks. Seriously!)

Mobile App Permissions Are Concerning

I love the freedom and configurability that my Android phone offers me but I’m also very concerned about my privacy.

Recently I’ve been hooked on checking app permissions of popular apps in the Android Market and I’m increasingly concerned about the permissions that app developers are assigning to their mobile applications.  

Tonight I’m checking the permissions behind one of the most popular weather widgets in the Android Market that has been downloaded a couple of million times and can boast of an excellent user rating. From a usability point of view, the widget interface is super-cool with great graphics and is easy to set up.

But it alarms me that this simple weather widget that basically sources weather information from a weather bureau and displays this information via pretty graphics has the following permissions (among others) listed:

Allows an application to read from the system’s various log files. This allows it to discover general information about what you are doing with the device, potentially including personal or private information.

Allows the application to access the phone features of the device. An application with this permission can determine the phone number and serial number of this phone, whether a call is active, the number that call is connected to and the like.

Allows the application to mount and unmount filesystems for removable storage.

Allows an application to change the state of network connectivity.

Allows application to retrieve information about currently and recently running tasks. May allow malicious applications to discover private information about other application.

So is there a faster way of determining which apps pose a risk?

There are free applications in the Android market that you could use to track the permissions of other applications. Applications such as PermissionDog appear robust enough to serve the purpose of monitoring app permissions on your mobile because they err on the side of caution, i.e.; some of Google Inc’s own applications are flagged as being dangerous based on their access rights. See some screenshots below.