Chrome 32 Launches With Tab Indicators For Sound And Video, Improved Malware Blocking & New Win8 Metro Design


Google today released the latest stable version of its Chrome browser. Version 32includes many of the features that recently arrived in the beta channel, including improved malware blocking and tab indicators for when a site is playing sound, accessing the webcam and sending video to your Chromecast. Google uses a speaker icon, blue rectangle and red dot to indicate these different functions.

Those indicators are a godsend for anybody who has ever tried to figure out which tab suddenly started playing music or a video. Google first started playing with this idea in early 2013, but the beta only got this feature in November.

chrome_noisy_tabs

This new version also includes Google’s new malware blocker, which arrived in the experimental Canary build of Chrome last October. With this, Google will automatically block any downloads its systems have flagged as malware.

felt_screenshot

For Windows 8 users, the new version now sports a new look in “Metro” mode (Google still uses that term, even though Microsoft itself has moved away from it and left it rather unclear what the new terminology should be). In Metro mode, Chrome now looks like ChromeOS  with its integrated app launched on Windows. In previous versions, the Metro mode simply presented users with the regular Chrome interface. This never looked quite right, but with this new interface, Google is actually using the Metro mode to its advantage and is basically bringing ChromeOS to Windows.

Also new in this version is support for Chrome’s “supervised users” feature, which is officially still in beta. With this, family members can check on a kid’s browsing history, for example, and set up site restrictions through chrome.com/manage.

As always, this release also includes a good number of security fixes (21 in total), as well as stability and performance updates.

Excerpt: Techcrunch

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Hands-on with Google Glass’ big December (XE12) update


Gizmag runs through the big updates from Google's XE12 update for Glass Explorers

Gizmag runs through the big updates from Google’s XE12 update for Glass Explorers

Image Gallery (7 images)

Earlier this week, Google pushed out the last software update of 2013 to Google Glass Explorers. As Gizmag is now part of the Google Glass beta-testing party, we thought we’d give you our hands-on impressions of some of the new features.

Wink wink, nudge nudge

Wink is extremely handy if you're a Glass-wearer ... and maybe a little creepy if you're a...

The biggest new feature might be Wink, which lets you snap a picture just by winking. There was already a sideloadable app from a third-party developer that let you do this, but the experimental feature now comes straight from Google, baked right into the firmware.

In my experience, Wink works just as advertised. Wink with your right eye, and about a second later, you’ll hear the chime as Glass snaps a pic of whatever you’re looking at. It registers almost all of my deliberate winks, and it also differentiates them from regular old double-eye blinks. I did set it off by mistake a few times, but it was probably because I absentmindedly closed my right eye (too much caffeine perhaps?), not through some fault with the software.

If your goal is to always be ready for that Kodak moment, then Wink is something of a breakthrough feature. It’s never been easier to snap shots, no matter where you are, what you’re doing, or what your hands are holding. If your goal, however, is privacy, then you might want to keep an eye out for people wearing Google Glass. They can sneak pictures of you easier than ever.

Gatekeeper

You'll need to pick four gestures to unlock your device (not to lock it, as Google's visua...

Another big addition is the new Google Glass lock screen. If you set this up, anyone will need to know your handpicked series of taps and swipes to unlock Glass (much like a passcode on a smartphone). If you have Glass’ on-head detection set up, the screen doesn’t appear to lock when you take Glass off; you’ll have to actually power it off (by pressing the power button for a moment) to lock it.

Unlocking Glass is simple. When you wake the device from sleep, you’ll see a lone dot sitting below the current time. Enter your unique series of taps and swipes, and Glass will unlock. You even get visual feedback, showing each gesture as a series of dots on the screens … kinda like sheet music for security buffs.

Glass gives you some visual cues when you're setting up your lock screen gestures

The new lock screen gives you a nice layer of security for your US$1,500 device, though you will have to remember to press that power button to put up the gates.

MyGlass for iPhone, Hangouts, and more

The MyGlass companion app is now available in the iOS App Store

Another huge addition is better compatibility with the iPhone. Google just launched the MyGlass companion app into the App Store, so iPhone-owning Explorers now have some extra features.

The biggest are turn-by-turn navigation on your Glass display and a screencast of your Glass display on your phone. Android users have already had both of these features for a while, but hey, it’s nice to see this make its way into the App Store nonetheless. The iOS version is still much more limited though (due to iOS’ system-wide restrictions for third-party apps), so you can’t use SMS and you’ll need to pay for a personal hotspot plan to use navigation.

Hangouts messaging is now compatible with Glass, just be prepared for it to hijack all of ...

With the XE12 update, Google also brought a few more officially-supported apps to Glass. Google Hangouts is a big one. You could already use Hangouts for video calls, but you can now use it for messaging. This includes picture messages, something Glass couldn’t do before. It also helps to fill in for the lack of SMS on the iPhone version, though your friends will need to be in the Google ecosystem with an active chat app to get your messages.

The biggest problem I have with the new Hangouts messaging is that it automatically becomes the default way of sending messages. See, Glass doesn’t let you choose how to contact a friend. You say “OK Glass, send a message to Suzie” and it handles it from there. Hangouts gets priority, followed by SMS, and then email. So if a contact has their email address tied to a Hangouts account, you can’t send them a regular email. It will always send it as a Hangouts chat message. You can get around this by turning off Hangouts integration altogether, but then you miss out on its other perks.

YouTube is also in the fold now, though maybe not in the way you’d expect. You still can’t watch YouTube videos on Glass (that would probably kill its battery anyway), but you can now share videos you’ve taken to the popular video-sharing service. After recording a video, just bring up the “Share” option and choose a YouTube card. There are separate cards for Public, Unlisted, and Private options, so there shouldn’t be any confusion about who can and can’t see your masterpiece.

You can also now share your Glass-recorded videos to YouTube, including with public, priva...

There are also a few extra apps added to MyGlass’ Glassware section, like Weather Alert and Wall Street Journal. I don’t live in an area with much severe weather, so I haven’t been able to test that one yet. But it could be a handy feature to have onboard, especially if things like tornadoes, blizzards, or icy roads are concerns in your area.

Winkfeed is another new app that puts RSS feeds on Google Glass. You can read them on the device itself, have them read aloud to you, or save them to Pocket to read later on another device. Winkfeed doesn’t really fit my workflow, but if you only have a few feeds you follow, it could be a handy way to get news alerts from your favorite sources pushed to Google Glass.

We’re going to have much more on Google Glass in the coming weeks, but don’t expect to see any big software updates from Google for a while. Google says that this month’s big batch counts for both December and January, so these will have to tide you over until February.

 

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Microsoft Windows Rumors: ‘Project Threshold’ Release Date Coming In Spring 2015?


Microsoft
Microsoft logo Microsoft

According to a leaked internal email, Microsoft Corp (NASDAQ:MSFT) is planning a major update to all of its Windows operating systems. Codenamed “Threshold,” the update will further unify the Windows platform across PCs, mobile devices and the Xbox One video game console, and could be released in the spring of 2015.

The Xbox One OS, Windows 8.x OS and Windows Phone 8 OS already share many features and are built from a common Windows NT core, but ZDNet reports that Microsoft wants to make them even more similar with Threshold.

Threshold will focus on “high value activities” like Office, Bing and IT management programs and make these products the same across all platforms. Microsoft is reportedly developing a singular app store and tool sets designed to make it easier for developers to create applications for each Microsoft platform.

Threshold falls in line with CEO Steve Ballmer’s announcement in July of a corporate reorganization of Microsoft and a new company mission of “One Microsoft.”

It’s the second codename to come from the “Halo” video game series. Microsoft also borrowed the name “Cortana” from the Xbox franchise to be the codename for its Siri-like personal assistant program.

Microsoft has not confirmed Threshold, and will probably release another update first. Microsoft is rumored to be planning a release an update to Windows 8.1 and the new Windows Phone “Blue” operating system in the spring of 2014.

 

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Windows 8.1: What you need to know (FAQ)


(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

One year after the debut of Windows 8, Windows 8.1 is here. It feels significantly less dramatic, but Microsoft’s latest version of its PC operating system has some changes, and some requirements, all its own. If you’re a curious would-be adopter, or a diligent Windows 8 upgrader, read on for some answers to your questions.

What’s new?

 

Last year’s Windows 8 was a brand-new, somewhat jarring operating system aimed at making touch-screen devices, and Windows devices that could convert between touch and keyboard/mouse modes, easier to use.

Windows 8.1 is a series of subtle changes, a software patch of sorts to last year’s software. There are some differences, but most of them seem to exist to appeal to more-traditional PC users — those who want more of a return to the traditional Windows experience. The biggest changes are:

  • You can boot directly into Desktop mode instead of the tile-based app user interface
  • The long-lost Start button is back
  • You can snap more apps side-by-side for better multitasking
  • There’s also better cross-system search, along with search that ties into cloud-based SkyDrive storage

For the full rundown, read CNET’s review. Or, check out our list of the top new features you need to know in Windows 8.1.

 

What’s the different between Windows 8.1 and Windows RT?

 

Windows 8.1 is the “real” Windows OS that runs on PCs and tablets; it includes backward compatibility with most earlier Windows software — programs and games that were designed to run on Windows 7, Vista, and XP. By contrast, Windows RT is a stripped-down version of Windows 8.1 that does not deliver that backward compatibility. (The reason: RT machines run ARM chips rather than full Intel or AMD “x86″ CPUs, allowing them longer battery life and cheaper prices.) Instead, Windows RT only runs the apps available in the Windows Store (which, confusingly, is available in both 8.1 and RT). Notably, however, Windows RT includes a free copy of Microsoft Office 2013, which has been designed to run on both versions of Windows.

While there were a handful of devices that ran RT in 2012, so far, the Microsoft Surface andSurface 2 tablets appear to be the only RT machines currently available. (Again, adding to the confusion: the Surface Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 2 tablets run full Windows 8.1.)

 

Do I need to buy a tablet to use Windows 8.1?

 

No, you can use any PC, as long as it fits the Windows 8.1 hardware requirements. Touch screens aren’t required. In fact, Windows 8.1 makes it easier: you can stay in “Desktop mode” and just use your PC in a way that (largely) bypasses the touch-friendly tile interface. Even those, should you encounter them, can be navigated with keyboard and mouse/touch pad, however.

Start button!

 

Is the Start button back?

Yes — sort of. The annoying absence of a Start button made easy-access navigation on Windows 8 a confusing chore, but it’s back — although it just provides a shortcut to the tile menu. However, right-clicking it brings up a contextual menu with additional options.

 

How do I get Windows 8.1, and what does it cost?

 

For existing Windows 8 users, Windows 8.1 is a free upgrade. Just go the app store if you’re a Windows 8 user, and start downloading.

If you’re coming from Windows 7 (or an even earlier version of Windows), it can be bought herefor $120, or $200 for the business-targeted pro version. For more step-by-step information, read our how-to guide.

 

What are the system requirements?

 

For the full rundown, click here. But here’s the bare-bones needs:

  • 1GHz or faster processor with support for PAE, NX, and SSE2
  • 1GB of RAM for 32-bit computing, or 2GB for 64-bit
  • 16GB of hard-drive space (32-bit) or 20GB (64-bit)
  • A Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver

 

What’s the ideal system to use with Windows 8.1?

 

Despite the return of the Start button, having a touch screen is still the preferred way to go with Windows 8.1. In the portable realm, look for a tablet (Sony Vaio Tap 11 or Microsoft Surface Pro 2), a convertible laptop (the upcoming Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga), or a touch-screen laptop (theSamsung Ativ Book 9 Plus).

In the desktop world, larger touch-screen all-in-one machines like the Dell XPS One 27 or Sony Vaio Tap 21 are ideal.

 

Should you upgrade to Windows 8.1?

 

My colleague Dan Ackerman said it best in his Windows 8.1 review. If you’re a regular PC user, I’ll repeat in his paraphrased words what you should do:

  • If you’re an existing Windows 8 user, the update is free and largely seamless, and adds some useful new tweaks and features. You should upgrade as soon as possible.
  • If you’re a Windows 7 user thinking of upgrading your legacy hardware, consider keeping with Windows 7 until it’s time for a new PC; those touch-optimized Windows 8 and 8.1 elements won’t do much for you anyway, and Windows 7 still works well with all sorts of applications.

 

Either way, you’ll probably have to get used to Windows 8 eventually, since it’s Microsoft’s PC operating system now. It’s really, however, more of a finishing touch for Windows 8-optimized machines.

The best way to get Windows 8.1? Wait to buy a new PC with Windows 8 or 8.1 installed: it’ll run the software better, and it won’t cost anything extra.

I’m moving on from Windows; what other alternatives are there?

 

 

Windows isn’t the only game in town: you can always opt for a Mac, a tablet (Android, iPad), or aChromebook. There are more choices than ever before; just realize that each of them has relative advantages and disadvantages, and none of them will run your legacy Windows software (unless you invest in a solution like Parallels for Mac).

 

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BBM Finally Launches For Android And iOS, Years Too Late (Download here)


If this was 2010, RIM launching BBM on Android and iOS would have been viewed as a nod to open communication and a platform-agnostic product strategy. If this was 2010, it would have been marked as a win for RIM and a sign that company is here to fight. If this was 2010, RIM might still have a chance.

But at the close of 2013, BBM launching on Android and iOS is a swan song for Research In Motion-turned BlackBerry. And the 5 million downloads are just a hint of what could have been.

BlackBerry finally launched BBM on Android and iOS today, leaning on a reservation system likely to prevent the issues that plagued the first launch. And just eight hours after launching, BlackBerry took to Twitter to proclaim 5 million users had already downloaded the app. As of writing, BBM is the top free download in the App Store. The demand is there, but the future is not.

BBM was once the king of messaging platforms. Hit Me Up On BBM. It was iMessage and ChatOn before either one existed. And even five years ago it seemed to work better than its modern day counterparts. It was RIM’s secret sauce and had the company been willing to share a few years back, things could have been different for the Canadian smartphone maker.

RIM’s decline was clear a few years ago, yet the company proceeded as business as usual. BBM could have been a type of Trojan horse, showing Android and iPhone users the strength of RIM’s platform. But the company took too long to launch the messaging app on competing platforms. BlackBerry is now seeking a corporate buyer. Canadian wireless companies are not carrying the latest BlackBerry. And it won’t be long until BBM will be just a footnote in the company’s storied and sad history.

 

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