Category Archives: google

Google Now to Be Replaced with Google ‘News Feed’ on Some Platforms



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.

In an upcoming change to Google’s iOS and Android apps, the search engine giant will be replacing its Google Now service with a “news feed” that’s created based on your own web browsing behavior:

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.

Especially if there’s no Like button.


Google’s Round Icons Are Rubbish



Android LogoMy 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 Announces Changes to Hangouts, Gmail, and Google+



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″.

 


Todoist Adds Google Assistant Integration, Launches Google Home Contest



Todoist LogoThe 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.


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