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Verizon Accused of Remotely Controlling Droid

Recently Verizon was accused of remote-controlling Motorola's new Droid smartphone. Evidently, a bug cropped up concerning the built-in camera's auto-focus. However the problem mysteriously resolved itself in thousands of phones, leading many to believe that Verizon snuck in through the back door and secretly corrected the issue.

But apparently that wasn't the case at all. As Wired points out, the root of the problem is much more stranger than Verizon cleaning up its mess behind the scenes. In fact, the overall problem was a definite bug, but on behalf of the Android OS. Android developer Dan Morrill sent in an explanation as to what went afoul, saying that the issue was date-related.

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

He also added that the 17th is the start of a new "works correctly" cycle, allowing the camera to work correctly until the cycle ends. Morrill said that a permanent fix is in the works. The bug itself is quite unusual, however Wired told curious Droid owners to turn the clock back a few days if they want to bathe in the glory of a non-focusing camera.

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  • bdcrlsn
    I'm still wondering why an "auto-focus routine" would have the time in it...
  • ikefu
    They have to fix the auto-focus. The government spies who watch you through your phones camera don't like watching blurry video...

  • michaelzehr
    This sounds almost as good as the old 'phase of the moon bug' in a LISP program at MIT. I doubt if the auto-focus has the time in it, but rather a timestamp prepared to save with the photo overruns a buffer and stomps on something the auto-focus routine needs.

    Note that 24.5 days is very close to 2^^31 milliseconds. Probably a signed/unsigned math bug causing the problem.
    (Could also be an exception trap throwing off RT scheduling of the auto-focus, but that's pure speculation since I don't know much about embedded phone programming.)

  • maestintaolius
    I can't help if its a RNG that uses the timestamp based seed for the autofocus PID loop starting point. Granted, I'm looking at is as a ChemE and not an EE, so it could lots of things. I remember that being an issue years ago on KOTOR I on the original xbox, if your system date was a date was a day that the game actually didn't exist yet (like Jan 1, 1990 or whatever) the loot generator would cause the system to crash when you opened up a box.
  • deadlockedworld
    "more stranger" is not proper English. Perhaps Tom's needs an editor.
  • m3kt3k
    DUUUH I have an DSLR and I make sure I check the time EVERYTIME I use autofocus. If YOUR not then your a ....................

  • anamaniac
    They fixed a problem without telling you, the issue is?
  • godnodog
    Now this is weird, seriously, can any1 please explain why an auto-focus need to be date related? There is no need for a camera to have access to time and date, you may need auto-shoot, but that would only need an clock counter (not sure about how to call it) not a full clock and calendar LOL

    I may be wrong, but this is like if the microphone to work properly the time and date of the phone need to be correct.

    Sorry for my english
  • theuerkorn
    "...the problem is much more stranger than..."

    as strange as the writing?
  • Photo files have a date and time stamp built into the exif file. It also can be used to sync the photo with a gps location based on the time the photo was taken.