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Android

Android

A

ndroid is a Linux-based operating system for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, developed by Google in conjunction with the Open Handset Alliance. The first Android-powered smartphones were sold in Q1 2009, and has since grown to become the biggest smartphone operating system.

History

Android, Inc. was founded in Palo Alto, California, United States in October 2003 by Andy Rubin (co-founder of Danger), Rich Miner (co-founder of Wildfire Communications, Inc.), Nick Sears (once VP at T-Mobile), and Chris White (headed design and interface development at WebTV) to develop, in Rubin's words "...smarter mobile devices that are more aware of its owner's location and preferences". Despite the obvious past accomplishments of the founders and early employees, Android Inc. operated secretly, revealing only that it was working on software for mobile phones.

The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is led by Google, and is tasked with the maintenance and development of Android. According to the project "The goal of the Android Open Source Project is to create a successful real-world product that improves the mobile experience for end users." AOSP also maintains the Android Compatibility Program, defining an "Android compatible" device "as one that can run any application written by third-party developers using the Android SDK and NDK", to prevent incompatible Android implementations. The compatibility program is also optional and free of charge, with the Compatibility Test Suite also free and open-source.

Android consists of a kernel based on the Linux kernel 2.6 and Linux Kernel 3.x (Android 4.0 onwards), with middleware, libraries and APIs written in C and application software running on an application framework which includes Java-compatible libraries based on Apache Harmony. Android uses the Dalvik virtual machine with just-in-time compilation to run Dalvik dex-code (Dalvik Executable), which is usually translated from Java bytecode.

Features

Current features and specifications:

The platform is adaptable to larger, VGA, 2D graphics library, 3D graphics library based on OpenGL ES 2.0 specifications, and traditional smartphone layouts.
SQLite, a lightweight relational database, is used for data storage purposes.
Android supports connectivity technologies including GSM/EDGE, IDEN, CDMA, EV-DO, UMTS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, LTE, NFC and WiMAX.
The web browser available in Android is based on the open-source WebKit layout engine, coupled with Chrome's V8 JavaScript engine. The browser scores 100/100 on the Acid3 test on Android 4.0.
Multitasking of applications, with unique handling of memory allocation, is available.

Linux

Android's kernel is based on the Linux kernel and has further architecture changes by Google outside the typical Linux kernel development cycle. Android does not have a native X Window System by default nor does it support the full set of standard GNU libraries, and this makes it difficult to port existing Linux applications or libraries to Android.[38] But the support of simple C and SDL applications is possible by injection of a small java shim and usage of the JNI like e.g. in the Jagged Alliance 2 port for Android.

Certain features that Google contributed back to the Linux kernel, notably a power management feature called wakelocks, were rejected by mainline kernel developers, partly because kernel maintainers felt that Google did not show any intent to maintain their own code. Even though Google announced in April 2010 that they would hire two employees to work with the Linux kernel community, Greg Kroah-Hartman, the current Linux kernel maintainer for the -stable branch, said in December 2010 that he was concerned that Google was no longer trying to get their code changes included in mainstream Linux. Some Google Android developers hinted that "the Android team was getting fed up with the process", because they were a small team and had more urgent work to do on Android.

Linux included the autosleep and wakelocks capablities in the 3.5 kernel, after many previous attempts at merger. The interfaces are the same but the upstream Linux implementation allows for two different suspend modes: to memory (the traditional suspend that android uses), and to disk (hibernate, as it is known on the desktop). In August 2011, Linus Torvalds said that "eventually Android and Linux would come back to a common kernel, but it will probably not be for four to five years".

Applications

Applications are usually developed in the Java language using the Android Software Development Kit, but other development tools are available, including a Native Development Kit for applications or extensions in C or C++, Google App Inventor, a visual environment for novice programmers and various cross platform mobile web applications frameworks.

Applications can be acquired by end-users either through a store such as Google Play or the Amazon Appstore, or by downloading and installing the application's APK file from a third-party site.

Security

Android applications run in a sandbox, an isolated area of the operating system that does not have access to the rest of the system's resources, unless access permissions are granted by the user when the application is installed. Before installing an application, the Play Store displays all required permissions. A game may need to enable vibration, for example, but should not need to read messages or access the phonebook. After reviewing these permissions, the user can decide whether to install the application. The sandboxing and permissions system weakens the impact of vulnerabilities and bugs in applications, but developer confusion and limited documentation has resulted in applications routinely requesting unnecessary permissions, reducing its effectiveness. The complexity of inter-application communication implies Android may have opportunities to run unauthorized code.

Several security firms have released antivirus software for Android devices, in particular, Lookout Mobile Security, AVG Technologies, Avast!, F-Secure, Kaspersky, McAfee and Symantec. This software is ineffective as sandboxing also applies to such applications, limiting their ability to scan the deeper system for threats.