Mystery Android app takes down the National Weather Service site

In today's Android roundup: An unknown Android app took down the NWS site yesterday. Plus: Android's march to mobile dominance rolls on, and how can smartphones get better?

There's no doubt about Android's popularity among hundreds of millions of users around the world. But along with that popularity comes some unique issues like the one yesterday when a single Android app apparently took down the National Weather Service site as reported by Mashable.

According to Mashable:

The National Weather Service (NWS) website was severely hobbled after an "abusing Android app" interfered with its national digital forecast system, through which tens of millions get their weather forecasts each day.

On Monday afternoon at 4:11 p.m. ET, the NWS' Telecommunications Gateway posted a status message notifying its forecast offices, which are scattered throughout the country, of the problem (like most NWS messages, this one was delivered in a SCREAMING all-caps font):

TO - ALL CUSTOMERS SUBJECT - POINT FORECAST ISSUES . WE ARE PROVIDING NOTICE TO ALL THAT NIDS HAS IDENTIFIED AN ABUSING ANDROID APP THAT IS IMPACTING FORECAST.WEATHER.GOV. WE HAVE FORCED ALL SITES TO ZONES WHILE WE WORK WITH THE DEVELOPER. AKAMAI IS BEING ENGAGED TO BLOCK THE APPLICATION. WE CONTINUE TO WORK ON THIS ISSUE AND APPRECIATE YOUR PATIENCE AS WE WORK TO RESOLVE THIS ISSUE. . NIDS - KM

More at Mashable
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Image credit: ZeroPaid

I checked the NWS site and Akamai is now filtering the problem traffic. But what strikes me as odd about the whole affair is the lack of such a filter in the first place. Obviously the National Weather Service site is an important source of weather information, so you'd think that they would have anticipated something like this and acted preemptively to prevent it.

Still, it's a testament to the power and popularity of the Android platform for sure. The downside to this story being all over the web is that it might also provide ammunition for bashers to go after Android yet again. No doubt some people will probably use the story as a launching pad for anti-Android rants and that sort of thing.

It's a good lesson for the National Weather Service and other such services. In the future they would do well to improve their infrastructure to stop such a thing from happening again, regardless of the platform that the problem emanates from.

Speaking of Android and weather, the Google News and Weather app has apparently gotten a significant update:

What's New

• Enjoy news.google.com personalization by signing in with your Google account

• Tablet support

• Expand stories for snippets and related articles, including genres E.g. Opinion, In-depth

• Navigate sections via the menu or simple swipes

• Change editions for news in different languages and countries

• Weather and local news for multiple places

• New resizable homescreen widget

More at Google Play

See the reddit thread about the update for reactions from Android users.

Android's march to dominance

PC Magazine thinks that Android's momentum is truly unstoppable at this point.

According to PC Magazine:

Android's relentless march to dominance in the smartphone market and expanding its success in tablets underscores the fact that Android is not only the leader in mobile operating systems measured by units sold, but it is also enabling more and more players to jump into the smartphone and tablet space and undercut Apple and even other Android vendors since the cost of entry of using any Android mobile OS is minimal at best.

More at PC Magazine

I never worry much about Android competing with iOS and vice versa. There seems to be plenty of room in the marketplace for both mobile operating systems. Frankly, I'm very glad users have a choice between the two platforms.

I can think of nothing worse than any one platform completely eliminating all competition. To a certain degree we saw that looked like back in the 90s when Microsoft ruled the desktop with an iron fist, and it wasn't a good situation for users at all.

Competition brings out the best in companies and in their operating systems. So while I'm pleased that Android is doing so incredibly well, I'm also glad that Google has to keep an eye on what Apple is doing and vice versa. In the long run their rivalry serves the interests of Android and iOS users alike.

How can smartphones get any better?

Android Authority has an interesting article, poll and discussion thread about how smartphones can be improved.

According to Android Authority:

But for the most part we are keeping our phones for longer and every upgrade is less of a jump than the last. There’s a shift away from the 20 to 24 month contract cycle and subsidized phones. Some two year-old smartphones can still hold their own. If you buy a flagship smartphone today what’s going to tempt you to upgrade in two years’ time? How can our phones get better?

Battery

Display

Toughness

Longevity

Something else?

More at Android Authority

Battery life certainly stands out for on the list of suggestions in the article. Who wouldn't want a smartphone battery that lasted a month or more? That would be absolutely fantastic! Okay, a month is a bit much to ask for right now but wouldn't it be nice if it lasted for a week or two of heavy use?

I think today's smartphone displays are fine, and toughness really doesn't matter to me as I am not prone to dropping mine or taking it with me to the bottom of the sea or to climb a tall mountain. Longevity also seems very good to me right now, I don't see the need to upgrade more often than every three years or so.

What's your take on all this? Tell me in the comments below.

The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views of ITworld.

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