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


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?

Is the new Nexus 10 imminent?

Posted by Alan at 12:11 PM on October 24, 2013

nexus-10It has been since mid-summer when Google released a Nexus device, rolling out the second-generation Nexus 7, with a fantastic HD screen. Since then, rumors have abounded of what is to come, with Nexus phones and tablets.

The wait may just be over — the Android KitKat Twitter account has dropped hints that seemed to lead viewers to believe the 18th or 28th were viable options. The 18th has clearly passed and the 28th now looms large on the horizon, but there are a couple of signs that may just point to another date entirely.

First and foremost, Google is holding an event this evening in New York City — it’s billed as a “Play” event and journalists have been asked to not write about it. Second, the current Nexus 10 has today gone to an “out of stock” listing on the Play store. Couple that with various leaks which began appearing today, portending to show press renders of the tablet, and throw in last week’s “accidental” posting of the Nexus 5 on the Play store.

Both devices are obviously very close to release. Will they be unveiled under some sort of NDA tonight? Is too much being made of the hints and the show tonight? We will soon find out, as both devices are surely just around the corner.

Chromebook gets a bit more family friendly

Posted by Alan at 1:34 PM on October 22, 2013

Google is taking aim at the PC market with its increasingly better offerings of Chromebook hardware. Now the search giant is also touting “family safe” as one of its selling points.

If you are using the beta channel version of Chrome, you now have access to monitor and control what other users access through the browser/operating system. “Let’s say you’ve recently purchased the new HP Chromebook 11 and want to share it with your son. He’ll be able to use your Chromebook as a supervised user. This means once you’ve created a supervised user for him on your Chromebook, you’ll be able to visit chrome.com/manage to review a history of web pages he has visited, determine sites that you want to allow or block, and manage permissions for any blocked websites he has requested to view”, says Google’s Pam Green.

The feature is called “Supervised Users” and has been in testing in the Canary build for sometime. Canary, if you aren’t familiar, is the cutting -edge version of the browser that customers can opt for — at their own risk.

google-supervised-users

Google + is Adding Shared Endorsements

Posted by JenThorpe at 3:40 PM on October 11, 2013

GoogleGoogle has changed its Terms of Service in a way that some people are not going to like. As of November 11, 2013, your Google Profile name and photo may appear in Shared Endorsements. In short, this means that your name and image may be placed into advertisements (without notifying you before it happens).

This reminds me a lot of the Sponsored Stories that appear on Facebook. I cannot think of a more obvious way for a social media company to proclaim that it sees users as living, breathing, advertisements.

Neither Facebook’s Sponsored Stories, nor the Shared Endorsements from Google +, will result in paying the people that are includes in ads. One difference is that the Google + Shared Endorsements are not limited to Google +. Your Google Profile name and photo could also pop up in the Google Play music store.

You have a couple of options if you want to avoid becoming part of an ad on Google +. The most obvious way to do this would be to quit using Google +. Not everyone is going to want to immediately go with the “nuclear option” though.

Another way to try and avoid becoming an ad is to go into the Google Account Settings and opt-out. Look for a box that has already been checked for you. Next to that box, it says: Based upon my activity, Google may show my name and profile photo in shared endorsements that appear in ads. Uncheck that box! Don’t forget to click “save”.

There is another difference between Facebook’s Sponsored Stories and the Shared Endorsements from Google. Facebook automatically assumes that parents of users who are under the age of 18 have given Facebook permission to use their child’s name and photos in ads.

There is a note at the bottom of the Shared Endorsements information in the Google Account Settings. It reads: If you are under 18, you may see shared endorsements from others but your own name and profile will not be paired with endorsements in ads and certain other contexts.

Google finally releases official Nexus 7 cases

Posted by Alan at 11:32 AM on October 8, 2013

Google released generation two of its Nexus 7 tablet back on July 24th, and the device has received largely positive feedback. From the beginning, customers could buy cases for their new tablet from Amazon and other retailers. Despite that already available, and rather large, selection, today Google has got around to releasing its “official” line of cases.

The company advertises a collection of four cases that are “custom-molded to protect your Nexus 7, with a microsuede cover and built-in stand. Choose from four colors”.

nexus 7 case

The collection contains a solid black model, a white one with a swipe of red and two grey models — one with a swipe of red and other with a bit of blue. All four are designed the same, and each opens to function as a stand. All retail for $49.99 and can be purchased directly from the Google Play store.

The cases are extremely sharp looking and appear to be well made, but the price is a bit steep, given what can be found on Amazon — I bought a nice rubberized case by Poetic for only $8 just a few days after I received the device.

Jazooli’s Portable Tablet Desk Stand Review

Posted by Andrew at 2:29 PM on September 29, 2013

For some time I’ve been looking for a decent desk stand to hold my 10″ tablet but all the ones tried so far have some annoyance or niggle. Usually the stand wouldn’t work well with the tablet still in its case, but others would be bulky, flimsy, only for the iPad or just plain rubbish. The good news is that I think I’ve found the answer in the shape of Jazooli‘s “Portable Lightweight Universal Foldable Desk Stand“. They’re fibbing a little with the “lightweight” but in all other respects this is a good product. It’s solid metal, folds up, has two positions and works while the tablet is in its case. Perfect!

When folded up, the Jazooli is nice and slim, fitting neatly into a little pouch. At 200g, it’s not what I would call lightweight but the mass does mean it’s not easily knocked over.

Jazooli Folded

There are two ways that the stand can be stood up. Here it is in the upright position, which is good for viewing movies or keeping an eye on Twitter.

Jazooli Upright

For typing on the tablet, the stand has a reclined mode, aka “I-dont-want-everyone-else-in-the-office-to-see-I’m-on-Facebook-instead-of-working” mode. This position works well with ultrabooks, notebooks and small laptops to give an angle to the keyboard.

Jazooli Lying Back

There’s an extra smaller leg that pops out from the main support – it’s more obvious in this close up. The metal finish is better seen in the image too.

Jazooli Close-up

Finally, here’s what the stand looks like with a 10″ Android tablet on board. Note that the tablet is still in its case.

Jazooli Stand with Tablet

 

In summary, Jazooli’s portable foldable desk stand is currently my favourite tablet stand. Obviously your needs may not be the same as my needs but as it’s currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99 and from Amazon.com for $2.55, it’s hard to go wrong!

[Disclosure: this was a personal purchase]

Google Quietly Released Hummingbird

Posted by JenThorpe at 8:29 PM on September 26, 2013

GoogleThe new version of the Google search algorithm is called “Hummingbird”. It has already been released. For whatever reason, Google decided not to make a specific announcement about the release of the new algorithm before switching over to it. For good or ill, it has already affected how your blog is placed in order of the results that appear whenever someone does a Google search.

The purpose of Hummingbird is, in short, to keep up with how people use the internet. Many people will type an entire phrase into the search engine, instead of just one word, when they are looking for information about something.

This means that the algorithm has to “understand” the entire meaning of each word in the phrase, and how they relate to each other. Once it “gets” what you are looking for, it can show you websites that match what you are hoping to find. Things have gotten too complex for a “Boolean” type of search system.

In other words, “Hummingbird” has been designed to give us better results when we do a Google search. This is because it is going to “get” the meaning and context of what you typed in the search engine.

Overall, I see this as a good thing. My hope is that this will bring the blogs, articles, and websites that have the best content (based upon your query) to the top of the list. I cannot help but wonder if the blogs that have been crafted in ways that were designed around SEO, but that lack quality content, will notice a drop in their page clicks soon as a result of Hummingbird.

Tesco Launches Hudl Android Tablet

Posted by Andrew at 10:13 AM on September 23, 2013

One of the UK’s largest supermarkets, Tesco, has today announced the Hudl, a 7″ Android tablet priced at just £119 (US$190). In a range of four colours, the Hudl is aimed squarely at families, and this could be the tablet to take on the Nexus 7 in the UK.

Hudl

The Hudl comes with a 1440 x 900 HD screen and runs on a 1.5 GHz quad core processor. Storage-wise, there’s 16 GB RAM plus a microSD slot to boost space. The screenshots suggest that it’s largely vanilla Android with the addition of Tesco’s services such as online grocery shoppingblinkbox and banking. Crucially, it also comes with access to the Google Play, which means purchasers will get everything that Google has plus Tesco’s offerings. Wi-fi only (no 3G), this is a home entertainment device, not for out and about, although it does come with GPS. The pictures suggest both front and rear facing cameras but there’s no detail in the announcement.Red Hudl

There’s a selection of accessories too – headphones for children, a range of three different types of case, car chargers and so on.

Interestingly, one of the screenshots suggests that Hudl will support multiple profiles, which I think makes this the first tablet after the Nexus to do so (correct me if I’m wrong), and it looks like there’s some kind of content filtering to protect children. Again, important for the family market.

At £119 the Hudl is cheaper than both the Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD, and it’s unlikely that many customers will actually pay the full £119. The press release says that the Hudl will be included in their Clubcard Boost loyalty scheme, meaning that loyalty vouchers can be doubled in value and many will pay less than £100 for the Hudl.

Launching a the end of the month, I think is going to be massive seller coming up to Christmas.