Category Archives: google

Have You Been Gooliganed?



Check Point LogoA 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).

Gooligan
Courtesy of Check Point

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’s Trusted Contacts App is for Personal Safety



trusted-contacts-appGoogle 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.


Google Adds a Fact Check Label



google-news-fact-check-labelWhen 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.

Anvato Joins the Google Cloud Platform Team



Anvato joins GoogleAnvato has announced that it is joining the Google Cloud Platform team. Anvato says it will continue to deliver the full range of cutting edge video processing software solutions for pay TV operators, programmers, broadcasters, and live event producers, and will do so on the Google Cloud Platform infrastructure.

Anvato’s Media Content Platform has many large media companies as its customers. Some of those customers include NBCUniversal, Univision, Scripps Networks, Fox Sports, and Media General. Anvato wrote in its blog that they are “thrilled to bring together Anvato with the scale and power of Google Cloud Platform to provide the industry’s best offering for OTT and mobile video.”

The Google Cloud Platform Blog states that: “Anvato provides a software platform that fully automates the encoding, editing, publishing, and secure distribution of video content across multiple platforms.” It also states that Anvato’s Media Content Platform will compliment the Google Cloud Platform teams efforts “to enable scalable media processing and workflows in the cloud”.

Anvato Dynamic Ad Insertion Technology enables its customers to maximize revenue by replacing TV ads with user-targeted dynamic ads on all screens. This monetization system is something the Google Cloud Platform team will likely make use of.


Google Puts One More Nail Into Flash’s Coffin



Chrome logoAdobe Flash may be dying the slowest death of any software platform that’s ever existed. And it’s about to move even closer to its demise, based on a recent announcement from Google. The search engine and internet services giant has announced that it will stop Flash from loading by default for most websites in its popular Google Chrome web browser.

Google won’t be completely removing or blocking Flash in Chrome. The new default state for the browser will keep Flash from automatically running when a website tries to load a Flash-based player. Instead, Chrome will force websites properly configured with HTML5 players to load those players first. Users will be able to configure the browser to use Flash first if they really want to. Some sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitch, and Amazon will still have Flash enabled by default. But that exemption will only last for one year.

The tech community at large has been watching the slow decline of Flash popularity for about a decade now. In its heyday, Flash was used for everything from in-browser video games and online applications to web-based audio and video players. But when Apple launched its first iPhone, the company was adamant that the device would never, ever support Flash natively. This decision may have led to quicker and wider adoption of HTML5, a web standard that made it easier to deliver rich content thru the internet.

Flash is often derided for its many security issues and its need for constant updates. This move by Google will surely put another nail into Flash’s coffin. I doubt anyone will really be disappointed.


Google Proposes a Series of “Professional Women” Emoji



Google LogoGoogle has designed thirteen brand new emoji in order to increase the representation of professional women in emoji. The purpose is to highlight the diversity of women’s careers and to empower young women and girls everywhere.

Google has presented these new emoji to the Unicode Consortium, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to creating standardized emojis and text characters that are used across different platforms (such as Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, IBM and more). One of the people who created the report at Google is Mark Davis who is the President and CoFounder of the Unicode Consortium. It seems that there is a very good chance that Google’s professional women emoji will be accepted.

Google would like to pursue a path to standardize the professional women emoji by EOY ’16. (The male versions of the newly designed professional emoji will appear sometime after that.)

The proposed emoji list of the newly designed professional women emoji include representations of women in the following industries:

Professional Women Emojis 1

Business – Office worker, accountant, banker, manager, financial adviser, tax preparer, clerk

Healthcare – Doctor, physician, MD

Healthcare – Nurses, dentist, anesthesiologist, radiologist

Science – Scientist, chemist, lab technician

Education – graduate

Technology – Software engineer, person coding, working on a laptop

Industry – Factory worker, metallurgical worker, mechanic

Industry – High tech industry worker, assembly line worker

Industry – Mechanic, repair person, plumber, handy person

Professional Women Emoji 2

Farming – Farmer

Food Service – Chef, cook

Education – Teacher, professor

Music – Rocker, rockstar


Griffin BreakSafe Magnetic USB C Power Cable



Griffin LogoMagnetic power couplings are a godsend for the clumsy and accident prone, snapping away under stress and preventing physical damage to cables, connector and laptops. Owners of new USB C devices, such as the latest Apple MacBrook or Google Pixel, have had limited choice up to now but at CES, accessories outfit Griffin announced a new BreakSafe magnetic USB C power cable. Available from April for US$39.99, it’s pricey compared with a standard USB C cable, but think of the magnetic coupling as an investment in protection for your expensive laptop.

Daniel J. Lewis is the host of the award-winning podcast about podcasting, The Audacity to Podcast. Daniel helps others launch and improve their own podcasts for sharing their passions and finding success.

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‘Tis the season — Google launches its annual holiday village



SantaTracker2015_village-on-devices1It’s that time of the year. Eggnog is being served, lights and trees are going up, gifts are being purchased and wrapped, cookies baked and hopefully there is good cheer all around.

This time of year also means certain websites get active. NORAD gets ready to track Santa’s journey and Google is unleashing its Santa’s Village site.

This is more than just tracking St. Nick’s journey around the world on December 24th, there’s the chance to learn about holiday traditions in other countries, there will be a new one to study each day.

The service will even be compatible with Chromecast and Android Wear. In fact, you can even learn to code with games available throughout the month. There’s also information on charitable services so that you can help make the holidays a bit better for someone in need of cheer.

“Now before Santa flies like the dawn of a thistle, pay his village a visit—and help him and his elves get ready for the day Santa hits the clouds”, Google concludes. You can check it out here.


Android 6 Marshmallow – Meh!



Marshmallow LogoGoogle’s new motto might be “Do the Right Thing” but after loading Marshmallow on my Nexus 9 tablet last night I’m wondering if Google did anything at all. With a 700MB download I was expecting something new and fresh from Google but I can’t tell the difference between the previous version Lollipop and Marshmallow.

Both Ice Cream Sandwich (4.0) and Lollipop (5.0) introduced a new look at the same time as the upgrade but with Marshmallow (6.0) the only difference I can see is that the app drawer scrolls vertically instead of paging horizontally. It’s still Material Design and that scrolling comes as part of the launcher, not the OS itself.

Google has improved the volume controls and Google on Tap is interesting but it’s not a killer feature and needs work. Too often it picks up on the wrong thing. I’m sure it’ll get better over time but right now it’s uninspiring.

Overall, Marshmallow is to Lollipop what Jelly Bean and KitKat were to Ice Cream Sandwich. There’s not enough to Marshmallow to justify a full version number upgrade and there would be no beef if Marshmallow was 5.2 rather than 6.0. It’s a fine incremental update though labelling it as 6.0 sets unrealistic expectations as to what it delivers. Meh!

If you’ve got Marshmallow on your Nexus, what do you think?

For reference, here are the Android versions with monikers and year of release. It’s come a long way in five years.
2.2 Froyo (2010)
2.3 Gingerbread (2011)
4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich (2011)
4.1, 4.2 & 4.3 Jelly Bean (2012-2013)
4.4 KitKat (2013)
5.0 & 5.1 Lollipop (2014-2015)
6.0 Marshmallow (2015)


Google, There’s Something Wrong With My Nexus



Google LogoThis morning I discovered Google has changed the way the app drawer works on Nexus devices without any warning. Instead of scrolling horizontally in pages, the drawer now scrolls vertically in a single large page. Yesterday it worked the old way, today it works the new way. Google sneaked this in via the Play Store’s auto-update feature.

Note the scroll bar now on the right rather than the dots at the bottom.

New Google Drawer

Seriously, Google, what were you thinking? This is a key part of the user interface and you just changed it. There’s no “Excuse me, here’s a new feature you might want to try out” or apparently any option to change back. It doesn’t matter if it’s better or not, you should have asked. That’s arrogance Apple would be proud of.

It’s the Google Now launcher that’s changed so let’s check what’s waiting in Google Play on another device. Here’s some Google stuff waiting but it’s not the Now Launcher. Checking anyway… nope, no mention of the change there.

Screenshot_2015-09-26-11-39-59  Screenshot_2015-09-26-11-40-30

Google, if you want people to have auto-update turned on in the Play Store, you have to be trusted not to do something stupid and push an unwanted update that materially impacts on the way they use the device.

If anyone wants a new launcher, check out Nova Launcher. It’s much better…