WhatsApp now has Video Call !!

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Yes you read the title right or you may have already used it. WhatsApp, the infamous instant messaging app, used by almost everybody, has enabled the Video Call feature for all its users since its latest update this week. The feature was only for its beta users but its now finally here for all of us. I decided to take it for a spin and following is my take on it.

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Phone Tapping and IMSI-Catchers

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Following a Parliamentary Question [1] to the Prime Minister of Mauritius on Tuesday 19 April 2016 by an Opposition member, an widespread interest was created about telephone tapping in the country especially after what the Opposition member described as a van lurking around the house of opposition members in order to listen to conversations. Days later,  a weekly newspaper published a 3-page article [2] on the whole phone tapping in Mauritius and mentioned about an IMSI-Catcher which is basically a device that spoofs your mobile telephony provider’s Base Transceiver Station (In an nutshell, Base that connects your mobile phone to the telephony network) and acts as a middle-man between your device and the providers network thus capturing all of your communications. Out of my usual curiosity, I wanted to know more about it and clarify some doubts I had. I knew about the IMSI-Catcher technique and remembered an article by a hacker by the name of Simone Margaritelli who once assembled a relatively cheap bench rogue-BTS using a Raspberry Pi [3] that, if tweaked, could be used for that same purpose, intercept communications. I contacted him and he very kindly accepted to reply to my questions.

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WhatsApp down 31 Dec 2015 – 1 Jan 2016

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So, we are again at the New Year, and that’s the pain for sysadmins of messaging services or any other telecommunication systems. And that’s because of the servers’ or networks’ saturation due to the huge traffic from their users, trying to send New Year wishes messages to their friends and relatives. Usually such issues happen with mobile phone networks, GSM, 2G, 3G, 4G etc, but for the second consecutive year, the online services too are suffering from those bottle necks. The most complained service this year or last year for some, is WhatsApp. At first, I got messages from friends in Mauritius asking about the issue, but it was working fine for me. Some even thought the service was blocked by the government. Mine was working fine (In Turkey), and posted about the WhatsApp issue on my Facebook page [1], and then noticed that it’s not in Mauritius only. Then, as time went, I started to experience issues here too, and it’s obvious, the New Year is 2 hours before Turkey’s , and it also confirms the fact that the issue was due to high traffic. News websites were also reporting about same [2]. But its good to note that the official Twitter Account @wa_status where WhatsApp post system updates, had no indication at all about that downtime, but their in-app system status page displayed a “server experiencing a problem” message.

To check about the worldwide extent of the problem, I collected testimonials from friends around the world and confirmed once more my hypothesis (Sorry for that term, I had an Stats exam this morning 😛 )

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How to disable Skype Translator

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Skype got a new card in its playing deck since some time. It’s called Skype Translator. It, essentially, translate your conversations into another language to ease interaction. They rolled it out for select pre-registered users using the Windows 8 Operating System (I got the upgrade but did not use Windows 8) and then released it fully to all users since a week or two. Being a nice system, its been laying down silently in the sidebar on my Skype Application. At first, it was only for text conversations and can be turned off. Flicked it on for some tests and flicked it off again. But then it “became alive”! Voice conversations were being “translated” too!! Worse, it was trying to translate conversations from my mother-tongue language, Creole, to English. It turned out to be a mess, a real mess and so annoying popping on during the whole conversation!

Skype attempting to translate vocal Creole conversation to English

Skype attempting to translate vocal Creole conversation to English

And then I took the decision to get my parents to disable it on their side, [I disabled mine some days back]. Then I thought, I must not be the only one to be annoyed by this, as the feature was added during the automatic updates and enabled by default, I decided to write this post to help others who want to disable same too.

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