Category Archives: google

Google Lets You Mute Reminder Ads

Google has decided to give people greater control with new features in their ad settings. A new feature that is being rolled out allows people to mute reminder ads. This solves the annoying problem of being shown an ad from a website that you browsed and/or already made a purchase from.

You visit Snow Boot Co.’s website, add a pair of boots to your shopping card, but you don’t buy them because you want to keep looking around. The next time that you’re shopping online, Snow Boot Co. might show you ads that encourage you to come back to their site and buy those boots.

Reminder ads like these can be useful, but if you aren’t shopping for Snow Boot Co.’s boots anymore, then you don’t need a reminder about them. A new control within Ads Settings will enable you to mute Snow Boot Co.’s reminder ads.

Today, Google began rolling out this new ability to mute the reminder ads both in apps and on websites. You will be able to mute the reminder ads on websites that partner with Google to show ads. Google plans to expand mute reminder ads tool to control ads on YouTube, Search, and Gmail in coming months.

In addition, Google has updated the Mute This Ad tool. It allows you to stop seeing an add that you do not want to see. The update of this tool means it will now recognize your feedback about a specific ad on any device where you are signed in to your Google Account. The example Google gives is: “If you mute an ad for Snow Boot Co. on your smartphone, it will also be muted on your laptop.”

Google says users will see Mute This Ad in even more places as a result of the update. Google is expanding to tool to work across more apps and websites that partner with Google and that show ads.

Plex Introduces Plex VR on Google Daydream

Plex introduces a way to experience your movies and shows in virtual reality with Plex on Google Daydream. It includes interactive environments, voice chat, and a way to watch with friends.

In order to do this, you are going to need a Google Daydream ready Android phone, a Google Daydream View headset, and the Plex VR app. Launch the Plex VR app, and it will prompt you to sign in to your Plex account. Plex put together a Getting Started page with more details.

Plex VR can play back any videos on a Plex Media Server that you have access to, and any videos in common video locations (Downloads, Movies, etc.) on your Daydream-compatible phone. Subtitles are not supported for this first iteration of Plex VR. Photo and music libraries are not supported in Plex VR.

Plex VR lets you choose from three different VR environments. Two are readily accessible: Loft Apartment and The Void. The third is called Drive-In Theater, and it is only available with Plex Pass.

The Watch Together feature allows you to watch with friends. This feature is free for your first week, and then requires Plex Pass. Up to four friends can enjoy Watch Together. Participants must be Plex Friends. Plex VR lets you customize your avatar. Your friend’s avatar will appear in your Plex VR environment, seated next to you.

Santa Trackers

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.

The holiday season in perspective [Infographic]

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 First Click Free

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.

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).

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 which tells you who’s been sloppy with your details (thanks, Adobe and LinkedIn).