Category Archives: google

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…


Niantic Labs is Leaving Google



Niantic Labs logoNiantic Labs is the creator of Ingress, a video game that requires people top get up and go outside in order to play the game. Up until now, Niantic Labs was part of Google. That is changing.

Niantic Labs shared information on their Ingress Google + page that explains that they are leaving Google. The post was aimed at people who currently are playing Ingress.

Niantic Labs Announcement

The key part of the announcement is that Niantic Labs is becoming an independent company. “We will be taking our unique blend of exploration and fun to even bigger audiences with some amazing new partners joining Google as collaborators and backers.” Niantic Labs suggests that people who want to learn more about this change should stay tuned to their website or their social channels.

This news comes a few days after Google announced that they were creating a new company called Alphabet. The announcement said that Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity.


Uncanny Valley Fever



2015-05-08 16.44.00For the past few years we’ve been periodically hearing about autonomous vehicles; both cars and trucks. Most of the stories have been positive, yet vague on when we might actually see them. The nebulous “10 year” catch phrase always seems to make it’s way into these stories.

Most of the stories about the Google self-driving car seem to have been carefully managed. The Google car has driven hundreds of thousands of miles without causing an accident. However, that hasn’t stopped other human driven vehicles from plowing into it.

Automation theory demands closed systems, where all variables are known, without the possibility of new or unknown variables being introduced into the system. For example, it has long been possible to create 100% robotic warehouses. However these storage and retrieval warehouses are completely closed systems, closed in the same way that electronic circuit boards are closed that run smartphones, televisions or computers. There are automated garages in New York City that make it possible for every resident of incredibly expensive apartments to park their cars in marvelously automated and efficient parking garages, maximizing the expensive New York City real estate. These automated car storage systems are totally closed systems, where all variables are known 100% of the time.

Few of the glowing stories about the Google self-driving car seem to mention how Google has managed to achieve such an amazing feat as a self-driving car. The vast majority of these miles have all been in the relatively tiny city of Mountain View, California. Google has had to meticulously scan and map out every square inch of Mountain View, and come up with specific software to deal with each and every quirk that makes Mountain View, California unique. In other words, Google has managed to recreate a high-resolution virtual version of Mountain View, California for the car to follow.

In other words, Google has managed to turn Mountain View into a closed system, with every possible address known, every parking space known, and every variable the car might encounter known and accounted for. Think of it in terms of how a roller coaster makes a closed loop. The only thing that remains open-ended in Mountain View for the Google self-driving car is the presence of other pedestrians and traffic.

Contrast that with the real world, where the number of open-ended variables are frequently vast. I use Google Maps multiple times a day on a daily basis. Even though Google Maps is probably the best mapping database available, it is only accurate about 90% of the time. If I put in an address of a large business complex, Google Maps or any other GPS system can only take me to the main address, which most times can be a block or more away from the location of the drive I actually need to turn in to. A self-driving car in the open system of the real world would likely not know where the front entrance of any given business actually was or where vehicles should even park. Each one of these things would have to be specifically programmed in for each of literally millions and millions of locations, and there would still be unacceptably large database errors. Sometimes Google Maps and other GPS systems will say an address is on the left when it is actually on the right or vice versa. It may say that the address is actually out in a field.

A self-driving car might work if you live in Disney Land, but in the real world probably not so much.

In recent months Daimler has demonstrated both in Germany and Nevada so-called self-driving semi trucks. The systems demonstrated are what are in essence best described as a “super cruise control” where once the truck is being driven down a freeway the driver can press a button and the truck will steer itself with the cruise control engaged. Big trucks have had conventional cruise control systems for quite a few years. In the past few years, radar systems have been integrated into the throttle and braking systems making adaptive cruise control a reality.

Adaptive cruise control systems can be handy for maintaining adaptive speed on a busy road. However, the system quickly breaks down with vehicles that are traveling slower than the rest of the traffic. The truck’s radar-based adaptive cruise control will simply match the speed of the vehicle in front of it, unless the driver overrides it by accelerating or getting into the passing lane.

There is an occasional problem with false positives. Driving trucks with adaptive radar based systems I have had the truck slam on the brakes because of a false positive from an overpass or even from a slowing vehicle in an off ramp. On a rain or snow slickened surface slamming on the brakes could cause a jackknife or even collision from behind from someone following too close.

Another problem with radar-based cruise control and braking systems is that the sensor in the front bumper of the truck can become covered with bugs or ice and snow and the system simply stops working. Sometimes it stops working anyway for no reason, requiring the truck to be stopped and the motor turned off and back on, rebooting the cruise control electronics to try to get it to function properly again.

The Self-Driving Truck

Aside from these mechanical problems, there’s another problem having to do with security. Have you ever wondered why in this day and age of high-resolution cameras and ubiquitous electronic surveillance systems there are still so many human security guards? There’s a very simple reason for this. The physical presence of a human being security guard scares off would-be thieves much more effectively than cameras or other surveillance devices. If something is apparently unattended by a human presence, psychologically it is much easier for would-be crooks than it is if a human being is around watching.

I expect the same thing would happen with would-be highjackers of self-driving trucks. All they would have to do to make the automated truck come to a complete stop would be to completely block its path. Then it would be a simple matter of breaking into it and stealing the cargo. The would-be thieves would likely not be deterred by the presence of cameras or even automated no trespassing warning messages broadcast over integrated speakers. There would be no human witness to injure or kill, making it an easy, even desirable target from the criminal mind’s point of view.

If you have never been a long-haul truck driver, then it is easy to look at the job from the outside and think that it consists of just driving down the freeway. While driving does constitute a considerable amount of the job, there are hidden parts of the job that are not readily apparent to someone passing a truck on a freeway.

To get an idea of what the more hidden, complicating parts of the job entails, it is helpful to think of it in terms of would it be possible for someone confined to a wheelchair to autonomously drive a long-haul truck. The truck itself could easily be modified so that a wheelchair-bound individual could drive it in much the same way that conventional automobiles can be modified. However, there’s more to the job of moving freight around than simply driving.

A fair amount of face-to-face business negotiation has to take place to set up the loading and unloading processes. With every load, the driver has to figure out how how to get to a customer’s facility, where to park the truck out of the way, and figure out where the shipping or receiving entrance is located at to take the load information or paperwork to the shipping or receiving clerk. There are virtually ALWAYS stairs involved, occasionally a lot of them, and most do not have wheelchair ramps. Upon being given a door to back into, the trailer doors must be opened and once loaded or unloaded the same doors have to be closed. The trailer wheels frequently must be adjusted to meet weight law limitations in order to make the overall weight legal. A person in a wheelchair would also have to be able to fuel the truck, check its oil and inspect it each day for potential mechanical and tire problems. They would have to devise a way of getting into the back of the trailer to sweep it out, or even load and unload on occasion. Certainly all of these problems could be overcome with vast effort and great expense, but it’s just not practical.

A self-driving truck would be even more handicapped than a person in a wheelchair. It would not be able to fuel itself, nor could it handle face-to-face negotiations. It would just be a dumb piece of equipment, easy to rob from or just ignore.

The face-to-face business negotiation aspect is far more important than it appears at first blush. This aspect is one reason that 70% of long-distance freight is moved by truck and not by rail.

The Uncanny Valley

As owners of Google Glass know, there is a fundamentally important real-world aspect that Google Glass engineers failed to take into account – the so-called “uncanny valley.” Human beings are creeped-out by a camera placed directly next to human eyes. On paper it must have looked great in the closed world of Google engineers. In the real world, it’s quite creepy and produces extremely negative reactions from all kinds of different people. Why not combine it with a Twilight Zone ventriloquist dummy face for the full effect?

The concept of self-driving vehicles may also look great on paper. I think there’s another so-called “uncanny valley” problem when it comes to the self-driving vehicle. I believe the average person is going to be creeped-out when they look over and see a driver with his or her super cruise control engaged either snoozing in the driver’s seat or playing with their smartphone, or perhaps not in the driver’s seat at all.

Super cruise control is close to being here. Whether it will be accepted or not remains to be seen.

As for 100% autonomous vehicles, I’m not holding my breath.

In the meantime, I want and would be willing to pay good money for a 100% autonomous toilet-cleaning robot!


Google Launches Mobile Carrier Project Fi for Nexus 6



Google has joined the ranks of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile with their new mobile carrier service, Project Fi. Project Fi, which is exclusive to owners of Google’s Nexus 6 smartphone, offers a completely new take on wireless plans.

project fiMost carriers charge a flat rate for a specific amount of data, even when you don’t use it all, but Project Fi only charges you for the data you actually use and reimburses you for what you don’t. For example, if you spend $20 on a 2GB monthly plan but only use 1GB, Google will refund you $10. If you only use 0.5GB, you’ll get $15 and so on.

Project Fi is available in over 120 countries (with no roaming charges– yay!) and offers unlimited talk and text, personal hotspot usage, Google Voice integration, and unlimited international texting for a flat rate of $20 per month; you can add a data plan for $10/GB per month as well.

In addition, Project Fi lets you connect to both Sprint and T-Mobile’s 3G and 4G LTE networks, so if your T-Mobile signal starts to lag and Sprint has a faster signal available, Project Fi will automatically switch over to Sprint so you’ll always have the fastest possible connection. And if no cell networks are available, Project Fi lets you connect to more than 1 million free open-access WiFi hotspots, automatically encrypting your data so you can have fast, secure online access wherever you are.

Project Fi is currently in its early-access stage and only available for the Nexus 6, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see support for other smartphones coming soon, and perhaps a partnership with AT&T or Verizon, too.

Until then, you can get all the details and request an invitation here.