Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


YouTube Acknowledges Spammy Comments

Posted by JenThorpe at 9:56 PM on November 28, 2013

YouTube logoHave you noticed an increase in the amount of spammy comments on your YouTube page in the past few weeks? You aren’t alone. YouTube has acknowledged on its Creator Blog that they have received a lot of feedback from creators about the increase in comment spam.

The increase in spammy comments began after YouTube decided to make new YouTube comments powered by Google +. The idea was that this would allow the content creators on YouTube to more easily see the comments from the people that mattered to them (like their friends, for example). Instead, something unexpected happened. The YouTube Creators Blog notes:

While the new system dealt with many spam issues that had plagued YouTube comments in the past, it also introduced new opportunities for abuse and shortly after the launch, we saw some users taking advantage of them.

To combat this problem with spam comments, YouTube is going to do some updates. The updates will include better recognition of bad links and impersonation attempts, improved ASCII art detection, and a change to how long comments are displayed. They are working on improving comment ranking and moderation of old-style comments. YouTube is also going to release tools that will allow creators to do bulk moderation soon.

YouTube Identity Crisis

Posted by tomwiles at 9:10 PM on November 16, 2013

Google has created a real identity mess. Between my original YouTube account and my main Gmail account, I have somehow ended up with two separate Google identities with no easily apparent way of straightening things out.

Of course I had a YouTube account long before YouTube was purchased by Google. Once Google owned YouTube, they seemed to merge my previously-existing YouTube identity with my main Gmail identity. Google seemed to have a single identity across all Google-owned properties and all seemed to be well.

What The   $&!@%&)&   Were They Thinking?

That is, until now. Somehow I now have two separate Google identity “channels” when it comes to both YouTube and Google+. Of course, the 236 existing videos I have uploaded to YouTube over the years were on my original YouTube sign-in. Maddeningly, if I now make comments with that original sign-in they DO NOT appear on the Google+ identity that I have invested my time and effort into since the inception of Google+ that seems to be tied to what I thought was my main Google identity.

Google’s very unhelpful “Help” suggests that the only way to correct the situation is to delete and re-upload the videos under the so-called “channel” identity I wish to use. Are they insane? Of course, I’m NOT going to do that.

If I post comments in YouTube they will go to the Google+ identity that will only receive YouTube comments, rendering my regular Google+ identity less valuable.

If I’m forced to keep switching back and forth between these two separate identities (that somehow magically share the same Gmail address and password) in order to make a post to the Google+ identity I’ve invested my time and effort into, the net result is likely that I will completely avoid the hassle of switching back and forth and just forget about posting to Google+.

The net effect is that I now have a genuine disincentive to avoid using Google+.

People are always going on and on about how smart the folks at Google are overall. Really? With this move, perhaps not so much…

A Microsoft Future

Posted by Andrew at 5:56 PM on November 14, 2013

Microsoft Windows 8Last week’s “Microsoft Fantasy” here on GNC suggested that Microsoft was in danger of fading into irrelevance; that it should retreat to servers and gaming; that it should re-orient its mobile strategy around Android. I suggest that Microsoft is now very well positioned to offer far more than its competitors. And to negate any ad hominem attacks, I’m no Microsoft fanboy – I’ve a Linux desktop, Android tablet, Nexus smartphone and a Chromebook – but I can see a better strategy in Microsoft than defeat and retreat.

There are three players in the OS space – Microsoft with Windows, Google with Android and Apple with iOS. Each of these pairings has strengths and weaknesses. Microsoft is strong in servers, PCs and gaming. Google is good in mobile. Apple’s strength lies in PCs, entertainment and mobile. Obviously there are other players, such as Sony who are strong in gaming, but they can be discounted without OS aspirations.

Microsoft is a large organisation. It can be slow to respond and doesn’t always identify and embrace future technologies as fast as it should. The internet and Internet Explorer is a pretty good example. Other times, it moves into new markets, starting slowly and building up: look at the Xbox – it’s the market-leader. Certainly Microsoft has never been strong in the smartphone market being overshadowed previously by Blackberry and Palm, but it has a track record of trying tablet-type devices. Anyone remember Windows XP Tablet Edition? No, you probably don’t, but it existed.

But let’s think about how Microsoft’s competitors can realistically move in on their turf. For all the rise of BYOD, most large organisations use Windows on the desktop, Exchange for email, Ms Server on the tin. Google is trying hard to offer software as service in the cloud but there’s still lots of nervousness about the cloud and the leaks about US snooping aren’t going to help. Apple isn’t big in business by any stretch of the imagination and this is unlikely change. Both Apple and Google are into entertainment but neither have expressed much interest in hardcore gaming. It’s certainly not impossible for a hot Android or iOS console to come out but for now I think we can discount that.

Accepting then that Microsoft is reasonably unassailable (without being complacent) in gaming or business, let’s look at mobile and tablets in particular. Both Apple’s iPad and Android-based tablets are great devices, but even the most ardent fan will admit that tablets are generally best for consumption rather than production – it’s watching videos, surfing the web, listening to music. For creation, most people return to the keyboard and mouse on a desktop or laptop. Looking at business, while opportunities exist for tablets in business without a doubt, the bread and butter is still going to orient around Word and Excel.

The trend to mobile has been going on for years: from the desktop to the laptop to the tablet. But it’s extension to new devices, not extinction of the old. When laptops came out, did all the desktops go away? No. And it will be no different with tablets. We can see the rebalancing in the slow down of PC sales but this is entirely to be expected.

And this is Microsoft’s killer advantage – a potentially seamless suite of devices and form-factors from servers, through desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones. Business in particular want to use what they have already invested in – ActiveDirectory, Group Policies, Sharepoint. Microsoft and its partners are responding to this with devices that offer both a touch interface via the Modern UI and a traditional desktop for legacy applications where a keyboard and mouse is needed. The bottom line is that there’s no longer any need to shoehorn in Apple or Android onto the infrastructure at extra cost.

But what about the consumers? They’re not businesses, they’ve no investment, they’re not going to be swayed by ActiveDirectory concerns. They want apps! Absolutely, but let’s be honest about apps – most key apps and popular games are available across all platforms, and the relative low cost of apps means that it is easier to jump ship to a different OS.  Windows 8 isn’t perfect, but I would lay good money that if a 7″ Windows-based tablet was available for Nexus 7 money, they’d sell shed-loads. A similar argument follows for smartphones and Windows Phone has actually been doing quite well recently with solid gains according a recent IDC survey.

Microsoft is ahead of the game in recognising that the future is not a tablet future, but a touch future, and building touch into the core of Windows is a winner. For me, all Microsoft needs to do it get the prices down, tweak the usability of Windows 8 and continue with the “Windows Everywhere” advertising. It’s a Microsoft future.

Practical Meter for USB Charging

Posted by Andrew at 5:09 PM on November 13, 2013

Practical MeterWith the plethora of USB charging power sources and charging rates, it was probably inevitable that someone would develop a meter to measure the power going to a device. The bragging rights go to Utah-based Power Practical and the Practical Meter, a USB in-line power meter. Looking much like a USB dongle, 5 LEDs show the power transfer from 1 W up to 10 W.

Originally a Kickstarter campaign that met its funding back in the July raising nearly $170,000, the Practical Meter has been today recognised as International CES Innovations 2014 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.  “Just last week we shipped out the 10,000 pre-order units we received during our Kickstarter campaign to have the Practical Meter come to market,” says Matt Ford, CEO of Power Practical. “It’s crazy that a week later we’re being honored by something as prestigious as the CES Innovations awards.

As a pure USB device, it will work with anything that charges via USB such as smartphones, mp3 players or battery packs. Practical Meter is available now for $24.99 online and includes a 3-in-1 fast charge cable with mini-USB, micro-USB and Apple connectors.

Practical Meter Charging

AVG Android Social Apps

Posted by Andrew at 11:05 AM on November 12, 2013

AVG LogoToday’s Android apps from AVG are aimed at social media users rather than performance junkies whose needs were covered yesterday. AVG has two apps in this space, Image Shrink & Share, and Privacy Fix. Very different apps themselves but both are worth a look..

AVG Image Shrink & Share works on the premise that the average smartphone camera takes photographs which are unnecessarily large for social media purposes. Most people can’t be bothered to downsize the photos and risk incurring bandwidth charges by uploading the large photos anyway. Image Shrink & Share solves this problem by resizing photos on the fly before passing them onto the relevant social networking app. The original photo is not affected and stays on your phone or tablet.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you want to share a photo on Facebook. You review the photo in Gallery or Photos as normal. Hit the share icon and choose AVG Image Shrinker instead of the app you would normally use (it’s on the left in the screen shot which is from the new Photos app which has a different layout and background).

AVG Shrink & Share Apps Onward Sharing Apps

Then you are prompted for the final app that you want to use to post the photo, say, Facebook or Google+. Image Shrink & Share resizes the photo based on your default selection and then passes it on to the social media app (or other app) for comment and posting.

You can setup the default size for each application individually in the Settings menu. If you turn an app off, it doesn’t show in the second list presented by Shrink & Share, so it’s a useful way to declutter your sharing screen as well.

Social Media App wpid-Screenshot_2013-11-11-18-53-01.png

In practice, I found that it worked very well and solves the problem very neatly. Images resized correctly and looked good. If I had one suggestion, it would be to have a native resolution option on the resize settings so that photos can be passed through without alteration. I know that it’s not strictly necessary as I can simply choose to share directly to the app, but it makes the process consistent.

Overall, if you post lots of photographs to social media sites, this is a must-have app. Personally I’ve found it handy for uploading images to WordPress as it has a 2 MB limit on photos, so AVG’s tool gets round that problem for me.

Moving on, AVG PrivacyFix is less about sharing and more about controlling your exposure on Facebook and Google+. It’s a complementary app to the PrivacyFix website which covers LinkedIn too, but the app currently only looks at Facebook and Google+. It’s simply a case of giving the app access to your accounts after which PrivacyFix will make some comments and recommendations.

PrivacyFix Start

Here are the recommendations PrivacyFix gave me for Facebook and Google+.

PrivacyFix Facebook PrivacyFix Google+

You can tap through each and PrivacyFix will give you some information on the impact of changing the option and if you wish to proceed, show you what was done. Here’s some info on turning off Search History and then the output from opting out of ad tracking.

PrivacyFix Implications PrivacyFix Ad Tracking

AVG PrivacyFix is another great app. It’s certainly not one that you are going to use everyday, but it’s definitely worth running every month or so to check that your exposure on social media is at an acceptable level. Clearly you can use the PrivacyFix website to cover LinkedIn, but I hope AVG extend the Android app to cover LinkedIn and perhaps others such as Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, etc. I also think that this would be a great tool for parents to check the privacy settings on their children’s accounts and that’s a feature that AVG ought to promote directly within the app and website.

Both Shrink & Share and PrivacyFix are free apps, so go ahead, download them from Google Play and try them out.

iGoogle Officially Shut Down… For Now

Posted by J Powers at 9:42 AM on November 4, 2013
iGoogle

iGoogle

They talked about it for over a year. People were confused why the personal homepage was shuttering. But is the page really gone, or just hiding?

iGoogle Shut Down

On November 1st, iGoogle – the webpage that allowed you to add RSS feeds, widgets and more – went offline. It was over a year in the making when Google announced they were shutter the service.

iGoogle launched in 2005 as an Ajax driven browser. You could create your own widgets using the Google Gadgets API. Of course, you could add RSS feeds for news from your favorite web sites.

Yahoo Capitalizes

Yahoo was one of the original creators of a customizable home page. If you were an IT administrator back in 2000, you saw the majority of employees that either wanted or had Yahoo as their homepage.

If you do a search for iGoogle, you will get www.yahoo.com/igoogle - pointing to the newest version of Yahoo’s customizable home page.

Is iGoogle Really Dead?

While Matt Eichner said it is no longer relevant 16 months ago, it might still be a part of future Google’s plans. Since Google is pushing more into their social network Google+, could iGoogle eventually reform into some type of page within Google+?

Chrome also has bounced back and forth on homepage ideas. It could easily add an iGoogle-esque option. all without having to type in iGoogle.

Of course, Google is moving to HTML5 and the Ajax driven iGoogle just wasn’t in the plans.

Pandora now on Chromecast

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 1:25 PM on October 31, 2013

Pandora When the Chromecast first came out in late July it connected to very few things. You could cast YouTube, Google Music, Google Movies and Netflix. Hulu Plus was added in mid October. Today Pandora has been added to Chromecast.

It works great on my HTC One which is an Android phone. The icon shows up at the bottom and it works exactly like all other Chromecast enable app. It also works on the iPad. However I did run into a glitch while trying to run it on my iPad mini. First it took me some time to find out where the icon was, if you tap on the volume button it is right there next to the Airplay button. Like the Android device the iPad version connects perfectly and starts playing and you can control everything on the iPad.   The problem came when I was trying to disconnect Pandora from Chromecast. On my HTC One you simply hit disconnect and it stops casting. On the iPad there is no disconnect button. I tried to switch to iPad as my choice, but it continued to casting to my TV. Then I started to play a different song on the iPad but the older song continued to play on the Chromecast. The only way I could get it to stop casting was to start YouTube and cast that and then disconnect. I suspect that this is something that will be fixed in the next update.  Other than this glitch it works great.

If you are a Pandora user and don’t have a Chromecast I recommend getting one. I think it adds value to the Chromecast, which in my opinion already was well worth the $35.00 I spent on it.   Being able to play Pandora through my big screen TV which is connected to my full sound system and control it on my tablet or phone is great.

Much Speculation About Mysterious Barges

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:14 PM on October 29, 2013

San Francisco BayWhat, exactly, is going in with the large barges that have appeared more than one port? The speculation on the internet points to Google. Are these mysterious floating structures intended to become Google Glass stores? Might these become new data centers for Google? It doesn’t seem like anything is 100% confirmed as of yet.

Not a lot is known right now. We know there is a barge in the Portland Harbor in Maine. Its registration number is “BAL 0011”. The Portland Press Herald says it is currently docked at Rickers Wharf.

There is another barge in San Francisco Bay, with a registration number of “BAL 0010”. That one is docked at Treasure Island. According to KSBY, there is a second barge in San Francisco Bay with the registration number “BAL 0001”.

I’m not sure where the fourth barge is located. Several articles have noted that the fourth barge has the registration number of “BAL 0100”. Many have noted that BAL001, BAL0010, BAL0011, and BAL0100, are binary code for “one”, “two”, “three” and “four”. It appears that the structures on the barges might have been made from shipping containers.

One idea that has been tossed around the internet points at Google. It has been said that Google has a patent for a floating data center that would use the ocean water for cooling. Could that be the purpose of these barges? Again, right now there is much speculation with little confirmation. It will be interesting to see what happens with the mysterious barges.

Image San Francisco Bay from Wikimedia Commons

New HTML5 Standards for YouTube: Is Google Being Evil

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 7:41 AM on October 28, 2013

If you watch HD videos on YouTube videos you may have noticed lately that there is a difference depending on what browser you are watching them on. The difference is not your imagination. Google who owns YouTube is now using HTML5 with MPEG-Dash which uses the Media Source Extension API.  This allows an adaptive stream meaning that videos can be automatically switch to lower or higher bit rate depending on bandwidth. This should help to prevent buffering especially during live videos. At first glance this appears to be good news and in the long run it maybe, but at the present time it there is a problem.

Currently only a few browsers support HTML5 with MPEG-Dash they are Chrome, IE–11 for Windows 8 and Opera. If you prefer to use Safari or Firefox than the highest bit rate you can watch a HTML5 video on YouTube is  720p. This is also true for the YouTube App on iOS and other third-party apps that play YouTube videos. It also blocks third-party apps and extensions that download YouTube videos and break the YouTube terms of use.

 

Some people especially on Google Plus are wondering if this is Google being evil, because it forces both Safari and Firefox users to choose between their favorite browsers and watching YouTube videos full HD when available. I believe that what Google is trying to do is to move everyone to the same standard which is set by the World Wide Web Consortium(W3C). If they continue to support the older version of HTML5 than there is no incentive to move forward. Whether that is being evil or not may depend on your point of view. One of the main objections to the way the HTML5 has been drafted is the inclusion of DRM and Encrypted Media Extension. The Electronic Frontier Foundation sent a formal written objection back in May 2013. This issue does not affect Flash videos.  Have you run into this issue and how have you solved it.

Google Testing Banner Ads? Goodbye 2005 Decree…

Posted by J Powers at 9:34 AM on October 25, 2013

Back in 2005 Google created an enhanced strategic partnership with AOL, which caused some rumblings. Google’s blog (a post by Marissa Meyer, who was VP of Search Products & User Experience at the time) cleared up some misconceptions – including not putting banner ads on their search site. However, times are changing and Google has to look at all possibilities for continued growth. That includes banner ads.

The AOL partnership mostly brought on concern that AOL search results would get priority and bias competitors. Google posted it’s reply to most of those, including:

There will be no banner ads on the Google homepage or web search results pages. There will not be crazy, flashy, graphical doodads flying and popping up all over the Google site. Ever.

Ever is a big word. While Google is probably still not going to place “crazy, flashy, graphical doodads”, there might be some other product placement on Google search results.

Google's testing simple banner ads

Google’s testing simple banner ads

Google confirmed they were testing images on top of search results. This is to make up for falling ad prices and slower desktop search results. While images on top of a page might not be called “banner ads” per se, it kinda feels like a banner ad.

Of course, Google runs tests all the time. Therefore it goes to see how people would react to an image at the top of the screen.

It’s also an ad that shows up if you are looking for air travel or information on Southwest. So if you are looking for it anyway, would an ad at the top be invasive?

Ads have been on Google for a while – in text formats to the right. It’s part of Google’s “Multi-year evolution” – adding text ads and videos to the site.

It’s all about a lack of mobile ad solution to search, since people are switching to their phones and those dedicated apps. After all, how many of us did a search for Facebook or Twitter and clicked on the link in the search results to get to the website?