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.
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.
Google has created curriculum that can be used by educators and parents to teach their kids how to make smart decisions online. It is called “Be Internet Awesome”, and it aims to teach children the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence.
“Be Internet Awesome” focuses on five fundamentals in “The Internet Code of Awesome”: Share with Care; Don’t Fall for Fake; Secure Your Secrets; It’s Cool to be Kind; and When in Doubt, Talk it Out.
Share With Care points out that good (and bad) news can travel fast online. It encourages kids to communicate responsibly. Keep personal details about family and friends private. It emphasizes “If it isn’t right to say, it isn’t right to post.”
Don’t Fall For Fake teaches kids to discern between what’s real and what’s fake online. It notes that people and situations online aren’t always what they seem.
Secure Your Secrets also emphasizes privacy. It teaches kids how to safeguard valuable information and helps kids avoid damaging their devices, reputations, and relationships.
It’s Cool to Be Kind is a lesson that I think many people on the internet need to learn. This section of the “Be Internet Awesome” fundamentals informs kids that the internet is a powerful amplifier that can be used to spread positivity or negativity. It encourages kids to take the high road and apply the concept “treat others as you would like to be treated.”
When in Doubt, Talk It Out was designed to help kids understand what to do if they see something online that is questionable, or that makes them uncomfortable. They should talk it out with a trusted adults. This portion of “Be Internet Awesome” notes that adults can support this behavior by fostering open communication at home and in the classroom.
Google has created a video game that pairs with “Be Internet Awesome”. The game is called Internetland, and it can be played directly through a browser via a link that is on the “Be Internet Awesome” website. The game gives kids a safe way to put the key lessons of digital safety into practice. It includes four challenging games.
Educators can download the “Be Internet Awesome” curriculum (which includes lesson plans and classroom activities.) Parents can download the “Be Internet Awesome Pledge”, which can be used to encourage the entire family to review the fundamentals and be safe on the internet.
My 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 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″.
The 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.
A 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).
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).
Adobe 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.
Magnetic 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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It’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.
Google has been busy expanding its Chrome-branded line of products with the latest item being its new Chromebit. The Chromebit is somewhat similar to the Chromecast, Google’s low-cost video streaming stick. Both devices are about the size of a candy bar, both devices connect directly to a TV or digital display thru an HDMI port. But the Chromebit is more than a simple video-consumption device.
Pair a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse with the Chromebit and you’ve got an instant computer. Check e-mail, surf the web, stream YouTube videos and more. The Chromebit is in contention for the world’s lowest-cost computer. The stick is set to retail for $85.00 (this of course doesn’t cover the cost of mouse, keyboard, display, and Internet connection).
The Chromebit is powered by a Rockchip processor and comes with 2GB RAM, and it relies on Google’s Chrome OS. It’s hardly a powerhouse computing system, and it probably won’t replace your trusty desktop, laptop, or tablet computers. But it’s still an impressive achievement in small-form factor computing and could be incredibly useful to institutions that need to quickly fill a computer lab on a budget. Also, Chromebit could be useful when traveling, due to its compact nature and the fact that it’ll work with any HDMI-enabled display.
The Chromebit is not currently available for purchase. It’s unclear as to when the device will officially be on the market.