Are you and your family interested in tracking the progress of Santa Claus as he travels to your home? There are some online Santa Trackers that can help you do that. They have interactive things on the website that provide additional entertainment.
Google Santa Tracker has a countdown that shows exactly how many days, hours, minutes, and seconds until Santa takes off. The website is set up something like an Advent calendar, with one interactive thing unlocked each day between December, 1, 2017 and December 23, 2017. It includes some online art activities, games, videos, and learning activities. The bottom of the website says: “Come back on the 24th and help us track Santa all night!”
If you prefer, there is a Google Santa Tracker app for Android. It appears to include everything that you see on the Google Santa Tracker website.
The Official NORAD Santa Tracker has a countdown at the bottom of the screen that shows the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds until Santa starts traveling. The website has a selection of Christmas songs to listen to.
Click on one of the buildings on the website and it teaches you about NORAD. Another teaches you about Santa, his sleigh, and holiday traditions. There are also a Music Stage building, a theater, and an arcade with Christmas themed media. You can also visit the Gift Shop to purchase Santa and NORAD gear.
It’s that time of year. While thoughts should turn to things we are thankful for, they seem to more often turn towards what we lust for or want for our loved ones. It’s a bit petty, but it has been slowly ingrained in us over the years. Black Friday kicks everything off with near riots as those present fight for what they want – sometimes taking extreme measures.
But what does all of this mean for the retail business? Google took a look at it, mostly, as it could have been guessed, from an adsense perspective. In other words, not just what it means to consumers, but what it means to their bottom line.
The company expects staggering numbers with an 18 percent increase in spending over last year’s $21.6 billion. It then proceeds to lay out a plan for companies to get noticed.
It isn’t something the average consumer sees on a daily basis, but it provides some insight into what is behind the purchases made – the driving force that powers the wallet.
Google is ending its First Click Free policy in favor of a Flexible Sampling model. This could change the amount of news websites that you can read without paying for a subscription to one or more of them.
Part of the point of this new change is to enable news websites to provide small samples of their articles for free so readers can determine if they want to buy a subscription. Google explains:
The ecosystem is sustained via two main sources of revenue: ads and subscriptions, with the latter requiring a delicate balance to be effective in Search. Typically subscription content is hidden behind paywalls, so that users who don’t have a subscription don’t have access. Our evaluations have shown that users who are not familiar with the high quality behind a paywall often turn to other sites offering free content. It is difficult to justify a subscription if one doesn’t already know how valuable the content is, and in fact, our experiments have shown that a portion of users shy away from subscription sites. Therefore, it is essential that sites provide some amount of free sampling of their content so that users can learn how valuable their content is.
The Flexible Sampling model will replace First Click Free. It will allow publishers to determine for themselves how many, if any, free articles they want to provide to potential subscribers. It sounds like Google sees the Flexible Sampling model as a “try before you buy” offer.
Google recommends that publishers start by allowing 10 free clicks per month to Google search users in order to preserve a good user experience for new potential subscribers. In addition, Google recommends publishers provide a lead-in of the first few sentences, or 50 to 100 words, of an article, in truncated content. This is intended give readers a clue about what the article is about – without giving them the full article.
The thing to keep in mind is that Google is not requiring news websites (or publishers) to provide lead-in truncated content or to allow users any free clicks per month. The decision about how much content to offer for free is left to individual publishers.
There’s nothing more confusing than trying to unpack a new(ish?) Google feature about so-called “news feeds,” as over the years Google has provided products with names like: Google News, Google Now, Google Plus, and Google Reader. But this next tweak to Google’s system doesn’t have much (if anything) to do with those services.
The feed, which includes items drawn from your search history and topics you choose to follow, is designed to turn Google’s app into a destination for browsing as well as search. Google is hoping you’ll begin opening its app the way you do Facebook or Twitter, checking it reflexively throughout the day for quick hits of news and information.
This “news feed” concept sounds an awful lot like the experience provided by monolithic social networking site Facebook. And I guess it makes sense for Google to want to try and siphon off some screen time from Facebook’s massive user base. But doesn’t Google already have a social network of its own?
OK, I get it. This new Google feed thing isn’t really a social network itself. It’s just sorta borrowing the news feed concept made famous by Facebook. When this new feature lands in Google’s mobile apps, it’ll take the place of Google Now, which is described as, “The company’s predictive search feature, which displayed personalized weather, traffic, sports scores, and other information.”
I guess this could be a useful new feature from Google, as the company already knows a lot about its users’ browsing histories. But I doubt many people are going to be giving up the Facebook habit for Google’s news feed.
My Pixel C upgraded to Nougat 7.1.2 at the weekend and after the obligatory reboot, I was presented with Google’s best efforts to enforce round icons across their own suite of apps. It’s embarrassingly bad. It’s one thing to create circular icons with roundness in mind, but to make round icons by slapping a white disc into the background is lazy, looks rubbish and is confusing to the user. I know Todd likes to keep GNC G-Rated but this really is a PoS. Here’s a selection of icons from my app drawer, which has a white background.
Look at Google’s icons and the way they’ve shoe-horned triangular icons into their new circular standard by putting them on a white disc. It’s sheer laziness and the design has prioritised circular compliance over aesthetic. The white disk looks indistinct against the white background and simply makes the icons appear small. Inbox and Gmail apps have suffered the same fate as well with tiny envelopes inside white circles. What were the designers thinking? At least they made some effort with Sheets and Slides…
And it’s confusing too. Compare an icon with white disc with the previous look of folders. Both are small icons inside a circle so the new icons look like old folders. On the right is what my folders look like on my phone which runs an older version of Android. Compare the folders with the new icons. Pretty similar and it confused me the first time I saw the new Inbox logo. I thought, “What’s Inbox doing in a folder?” It’s badly thought out and bad for users.
Finally, what is it with this push to round icons over all other considerations? What’s wrong with square icons, round icons, irregular icons? I don’t want my phone or tablet to look like a game of Dots with every icon a neat circle and I sincerely hope that the app developers tell Google where to shove it.
Google announced some changes they are making to Hangouts, Gmail, and Google+. They talked about these upcoming changes at Google Cloud Next.
One of the changes involves fully transitioning Google Talk to Hangouts. Google Talk was launched in 2005 as a simple chat experience between Gmail users. In 2013, Google replaced Google Talk with Hangouts – and continued to give users the option of using Google Talk. (You might recognize Google Talk as “Gchat” – which appears to be an unofficial name.)
Google feels that Hangouts offer advanced improvements over Google Talk (especially after the introduction of Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat). This meant it was now time to say goodbye to Google Talk.
Users within Gmail will get a prompt in the next few weeks inviting them to switch to Hangouts. After June 26, 2017, users will automatically be transitioned to Hangouts. Google suggests that those who really like the way Google Talk looks should use the Dense Roster setting in Hangouts (which Google says provides a similar experience).
Third-party XMPP clients will continue to work with Hangouts for one-on-one chat. However, Google says that XXMP federation with third-party service providers will no longer be supported starting June 26, 2017.
Some people are still using the legacy Google Talk Android app (that was replaced in the Play store in 2013). The legacy app will stop functioning. Google encourages Android users that are affected by this change to install Hangouts now.
Google is retiring the Google+ functionality in Gmail. More specifically, Google is retiring two legacy Google+ features in Gmail: the ability to email Google+ profiles and the use of Google+ Circles. This change is expected to take place “no earlier than April 24, 2017″.
The era of the electronic virtual assistant is upon us. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Google Assistant have become nearly ubiquitous in our everyday lives. It’s reminiscent of scenes from Star Trek, where a character simply barks a command at a computer, and the computer goes to work fulfilling the request.
In a bid to make its productivity software work more like that Star Trek computer, Todoist recently added support for Google Assistant. This will allow users to give voice commands to Todoist thru any Google Home connected device:
Capture tasks the moment they come to you and keep track of everything you need to get done without ever having to open the app (or even reach for your phone).
Here are some of the things you’ll be able to do with Todoist + the Google Assistant on Google Home:
*Add tasks with due dates – ‘Ok Google, tell Todoist to add a task to ‘pick up the kids’ tomorrow at 4pm.’
*Complete tasks – ‘Ok Google, open Todoist and complete my task to ‘pick up the kids’.’
*Have the Google Assistant read you your tasks – ‘Ok Google, ask Todoist, what do I have due today?’
*Check on your next upcoming task – ‘Ok Google, ask Todoist what’s my next task?’
To celebrate its connection with Google Assistant, Todoist is giving away three Google Home devices. Click the link above to learn more about using Google Assistant with Todoist, and to enter the contest.
A quick public service announcement….at the end of November security firm Check Point and Google announced that a variant of Ghost Push malware called Gooligan had infected over million Google accounts, with numbers increasing every day. The malware is present in apps typically downloaded outside of Google Play and infects devices on Android 4 (Jelly Bean and KitKat) and 5 (Lollipop).
If infected, the malware exposes “messages, documents, photos and other sensitive data. This new malware variant roots devices and steals email addresses and authentication tokens stored on the device.” so it’s not very nice.
Fortunately, the team at Check Point have developed a tool which checks if your Google account has been compromised. All you have to do is enter the email address associated with your Android device.
While we are on the subject, if you want to check if your email address has been garnered in any of the recent security breaches, check out haveibeenpwned.com which tells you who’s been sloppy with your details (thanks, Adobe and LinkedIn).
Google has launched a new app called Trusted Contacts. It is designed to help you feel safe and to give your friends and family peace of mind.
Right now, the Trusted Contacts app is only available on the Play Store, and can only be used on Android. If you are an iOS user, you can sign up to be notified when the iOS version of the Trusted Contacts app is available.
Once you install the Trusted Contacts app, you can assign the “trusted” status to your closest friends and family members. You can revoke the “trusted” status whenever you want to.
Your trusted contacts will be able to see your activity status – whether you’ve moved around recently and are online – to quickly know if you’re OK. If you find yourself in a situation where you feel unsafe, you can share your actual location with your trusted contacts. And if your trusted contacts are really worried about you, they can request to see your location.
If all is well, you can chose to deny that request. If you ignore the request, or are unable to respond to it within a reasonable timeframe, your location will automatically be shared with your trusted contacts. Your loved ones can determine the best way to help you out. The Trusted Contacts app can share your location with your trusted contacts even if your phone is offline.
You can use the Trusted Contacts app to have a friend virtually walk you home if you feel unsafe. Share your location with one or more of your trusted contacts. Those loved ones can virtually watch you walk home. After you arrive home safely, you can stop sharing your location.
Venture Beat reports that you need to sign into Trusted Contacts with your Google account credentials and activate your location history. The app will create a map of everywhere you go.
When you look at Google News, you might see articles that are tagged with terms like “Highly cited” or “Trending”, or “Opinion”. Google has now added “Fact check” to that list of tags. Google is doing this “to shine a light on its efforts to divine fact from fiction, wisdom from spin.”
Google points out that “fact checking has come into its own”. It explains a little bit about this new tag.
Today, we’re adding another new tag, “Fact check”, to help readers find fact checking in large news stories. You’ll see the tagged articles in the expanded story box on news.google.com, and in the Google News & Weather iOS and Android apps, starting with the U.S. and the U.K.
Google News has criteria in place that they will use to determine whether an article might contain fact checks. They are using the schema.org ClaimReview markup. Google News will also “look for sites that follow the commonly accepted criteria for fact checks”.
Google Support has more information about what determines whether or not the “Fact check” label will be applied to an article. There are criteria that Google considers to be characteristics of fact-checking sites:
Discrete claims and checks must be easily identified in the body of fact-check articles. Readers should be able to understand what was checked, and what conclusions were reached.
Analysis must be transparent about sources and methods, with citations and references to primary sources.
The organization must be nonpartisan, with transparent funding and affiliations. It should examine a range of claims in its topic area, instead of targeting a single person or entity.
Article titles must indicate that a claim is being reviewed, state the conclusions reached, or simply frame that the article’s contents consist of fact-checking.