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

Advertisements

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.

 

BlackBerry Messenger hits iPhone and Android devices this weekend


Once a unique tool to send short messages without running up SMS charges, BlackBerry Messenger now competes with mobile instant messaging products from Facebook, Apple and others, and less directly with the micro-blogging service Twitter.

AP Photo/Eric RisbergOnce a unique tool to send short messages without running up SMS charges, BlackBerry Messenger now competes with mobile instant messaging products from Facebook, Apple and others, and less directly with the micro-blogging service Twitter.

 

TORONTO — BlackBerry Ltd said on Wednesday that its popular BlackBerry Messenger instant chat application will be available for rival devices using Google Inc’s Android software and for Apple’s iPhone this weekend.

The struggling Canadian smartphone maker had announced plans to open up the service, often referred to as BBM by both fans and the company, back in May.

Once a unique tool to send short messages without running up SMS charges, BBM now competes with mobile instant messaging products from Facebook, Apple and others, and less directly with the micro-blogging service Twitter.

Android users will be able to download the application on Saturday, while iPhone users can get it on Sunday.

 

Google Glass: what you need to know (Price, Specs and feel)


Are Google’s glasses more than just a gimmick?

Google Glass: what you need to know
Does Project Glass represent the next big step in mobile communications

When Google Glass was unveiled, the tech world instantly fell into two camps. Camp one was excited: we’re living in the sci-fi future! Camp two, though, wasn’t so happy. It’s vapourware! some said, while others worried that Google just wanted to plaster ads on the entire world. Is either camp correct? Let’s find out.

What is Google’s Project Glass?

Google Glass is the attempt to make wearable computing mainstream, and it’s effectively a smart pair of glasses with an integrated heads-up display and a battery hidden inside the frame.

Wearable computing is not a new idea, but Google’s enormous bank account and can-do attitude means that Project Glass could well be the first product to do significant numbers.

When will it be released?

Originally Project Glass was mooted for a public release in 2014 at the earliest but the latest news on the Google Glass release date suggest it’s beginning to look like we could seeconsumer units by the end of 2013.

That’s because the prototype Explorer units are becoming an increasingly common site around San Francisco – and Google is even allowing competition ‘winners’ to pay $1,500 to get these early offerings.

What does Google Glass do?

The core of Google Glass is its tiny prism display which sits not in your eyeline, but a little above it. You can see what is on the display by glancing up. The glasses also have an embedded camera, microphone, GPS and, reportedly, use bone induction to give you sound.

Voice control is used to control the device; you say ‘ok glass’ to get a range of options including taking pictures, videos, send messages using speech to text, ‘hang out’ with people or get directions to somewhere. You access these options by saying them out loud.

Most of this functionality is self explanatory; hang out is Google’s video conferencing technology and allows you to talk to a people over web cam, and stream them what you’re seeing and the directions use Google Maps and the inbuilt GPS to help you find your way.

The results are displayed on the prism – essentially putting data into your view like a head up display (HUD). It’s potentially incredibly handy. Also rather nifty is the potential for automatic voice and speech recognition – and Google has given its Glass project a big boost by snapping up specialists DNNresearch.

People are already developing some rather cool/scary apps for Google Glass – including one that allows you to identify your friends in a crowd, and another that allows you to dictate an email.

What are the Google Glass specifications?

An FCC filing in the US revealed many potential details, suggesting that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth would be used to send pictures to the screen, whilst bone-induction may be used for sound, vibrating your skull to communicate the sound into your inner ear. It’s not a new technology, but certainly does have critics who suggest that it falls short of traditional headphones.

We don’t have a lot of the final details on specs just yet – but expect Google Glass to run modified Android, to sport a decent resolution camera with a decent lens and we’d be fairly certain that the microphone needs to be a good quality.

There will be a GPS chip, and the lightweight and flexible glasses design will come in five colours – Charcoal, Tangerine, Shale, Cotton, Sky. That’s black, orange, grey, white and blue for anyone that prefers plain English over marketing speak.

 

project glass

 

I already wear glasses. Will Google Glasses work for me?

Yes. Google is experimenting with designs that will fit over existing glasses so you don’t have to wear two lots of specs.

In fact, you should be able to get them before 2013 ends, according to Google.

 

Google Glasses-glasses

 

Update: Warby Parker, a well-known designer of hip-looking glasses, is rumored to be working with Google to create stylish Google Glass frames. We’ll keep an eye on the developments as the launch date approaches.

What is the Project Glass price?

The NYT again: according to “several Google employees familiar with the project who asked not to be named,” the glasses are expected “to cost around the price of current smartphones.” So that’s around $750/£500, then, possibly with the help of a hefty Google subsidy.

The latest hints definitely suggest a price that will make them attractive to technophiles.

The developer versions – traditionally more expensive that the final consumer units – were made available for pre-order for $1,500 (c£966).

As to WHERE you can buy the specs; online will be a certainty, but don’t rule out Glass making a debut in a all-new Google Store, with the search giant apparently considering actual shops to showcase the tech to those who haven’t been following every development.

Who is providing the competition?

Of course, with something as high profile as Google Glass, every major company has been linked with building a competitor.

Apple and Microsoft are Google’s most obvious rivals – and both are rumoured to be working on their own equivalents, and Sony has gone as far as to patent a Glass-alike offering.

Is Project Glass evil?

It could be. Google’s business is about making money from advertising, and some people worry that Google Glass is its attempt to monetise your eyeballs by blasting you with ads whenever you look at something.

If you think pop-ups are annoying in a web browser, imagine them in front of your face. The ADmented Reality spoof is one of very many parodies that made us laugh.

Some of the parodies actually make a good point by showing people bumping into stuff: heads-up displays can be distracting, and there may be safety issues too. Until Google ships its self-driving car, the thought of drivers being distracted by their glasses is fairly terrifying.

There are privacy implications, too. Never mind your web history: Google Glass might record everything you see and do.

There is a red recording light, but the tech certainly raises some key debates that will become more relevant as this kind of technology surfaces. What are the repercussions from having everything you say potentially taped, turned into text and searchable? What are the repercussions for free speech.

All radically new tech brings new potential for evil. But you have to weigh that against the capacity for good and the progress it brings.

Google Glass pre-order customers will get regular updates

Those people who paid Google $1,500 for the privilege of pre-ordering some Project Glass specs will be receiving “private updates” through Google+.

Will it make me look like a dork?

Er… yes.

Mobile video calling creates a new frontier


Mobile video calling creates a new frontier

Quentin Hardy, The New York Times, December 10, 2012

mobile_video_calling.jpg

 

The next competition in technology is your face – anywhere, anytime.As the cameras and screens of smartphones and tablets improve, and as wireless networks offer higher bandwidth, more companies are getting into the business of enabling mobile video calls.

The details vary from one service to the next, but the experiences are similar: from anywhere in the world with a modern wireless network, a smartphone’s screen fills with the face of a friend or relative. The quality is about the same jerky-but-functional level as most desktop video. Sound is not always perfectly synced with the image, but it is very close. The calls start and end the same way, by pressing a button on the screen.

Mobile video calling has risen so quickly that industry analysts have not yet compiled exact numbers. But along the way, it is creating new business models, new stresses on mobile networks and even new rules of etiquette.

“All the communications – social messages, calls, texts and video – are merging fast,” said Eric Setton, co-founder and chief technology officer of Tango Mobile, whose free video calling service has 80 million active users. An additional 200,000 join daily, Mr. Setton said.

Once an interesting endeavor for a few start-ups like Tango, mobile video has caught the attention of big companies. Apple created FaceTime and made it a selling point for the iPad.

In September, the company made FaceTime available on cellular networks instead of limiting it to Wi-Fi systems, almost certainly in response to increasing consumer demand.

Last week, Yahoo purchased a video chat company called OnTheAir. And in 2011, Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for Skype, a service for both video and audio-only calls. Though most people use Skype on desktop and laptop computers, the software for the service has been downloaded more than 100 million times just by owners of phones running Google’s Android mobile operating system. Microsoft built a service for its Windows 8 mobile phone that lets people receive calls even when Skype is not on.

Google, which has more than 100 million people a month using its Google Plus social networking service, now offers more than 200 apps for its video calling feature. It says it is interested not in making money on the applications, but in learning more about them so it can sell more ads by getting people to use its free video service, called Hangouts. Hangouts can be used for two-person or group calls, or for a video conference with up to 10 people.

“On a high level, Google works better when we know who you are and what your interests are,” said Nikhyl Singhal, director of product management for Google’s real-time communications group. “Video calling is becoming a basic service across different fronts.” While Mr. Singhal is an occasional user, he said, his 4-year-old daughter “is on it every day.”

Don’t expect video calling to improve productivity. Tango uses the same technology that enables video calls to sell games that people can play simultaneously. It sells virtual decorations like balloons to drop around someone’s image during a birthday call (both parties see the festive pixels). Google says some jokey applications on Hangouts, like a feature that can put a mustache over each caller, seem to encourage people to talk longer.

Currently, popular two-way games like Words With Friends on Facebook work by one player making a move and then passing the game over to the other player, not watching moves as they are made. Another promising area is avatars, like cartoon dogs and cats, that mouth speech when a user wants to have a video call but does not want to be seen.

The prospect of having to appear on-screen at any given moment might sound like a nonstarter for people who worry about bad hair days. But in fact, using mobile devices for video calls may be less bother than it seems.

“There may be natural inhibitions to being seen, but when I’m on a mobile device I’m out and about, so I’m more likely to be presentable,” said Michael Gartenberg, a consumer technology analyst at Gartner. “How people use this remains to be seen, but they are starting to expect it.”

Yet a new etiquette for mobile video calls is already emerging. People often text each other first to see if it’s O.K. to appear on camera. Video messages sent in the text box of a phone, like snippets of a party or a child’s first steps, are also useful precursors to video conversations. Mr. Singhal said making avatars for users of Hangout would be “an extraordinarily important area” as well.

The greatest challenge for the business may not be getting more consumers to use the service, but making sure the service works. Most phones have slight variations in things like camera placement and video formatting from one model to the next. “A camera can show you upside down if you load the wrong software on it,” said Mr. Setton of Tango.

As a result, the 80 engineers among Tango’s 110 employees have adjusted their software to work on more than 1,000 types of phones worldwide. The top 20 models have more than a million customers each, but the complexity of building software for a wider range of phones has made it hard for new mobile video companies to enter the field, Mr. Setton said.

Tango’s average video call used to last six minutes, Mr. Setton said, but when the company started adding other applications to go with the videos, like games and designs that float over people, the average call length rose to 12 minutes.

© 2012, The New York Times News Service

 

Apple, Google reportedly team up to bid for Kodak’s patents


 

apple-google-635.jpg

 

Bitter rivals Apple and Google have teamed up in a bid to buy patents that bankrupt Kodak has put up for auction, Bloomberg reports.

The two companies, competing for dominance of the smartphone market, have partnered after leading two separate groups this summer to buy some of Kodak’s 1,100 imaging patents, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the process is private.

The Apple-led group pursuing Kodak’s patents included Microsoft and Intellectual Ventures Management LLC as of July, the people said, while Google’s partners included patent- aggregation company RPX Corp. and Asian makers of Google’s Android phones. The two groups had separately offered less than $500 million for Kodak’s portfolio. They now teamed up to offer more together, said two of the people.

Apple and Google were on the opposite sides of an auction for Nortel‘s patents last year. The patents and patent applications, which were expected to fetch up to $1.5 billion, finally went for $4.5 billion after a fierce bidding war won by a consortium of Apple, Microsoft, BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM), Ericsson, Sony and EMC.

Google, which ended up on the losing side after having started the auction process of Nortel’s patents with a $900 million bid of its own, slammed Apple and Microsoft for “using patents as a weapon to stop innovation”.

Back in present day, Richard Ehrlickman, former vice president of Intellectual Property at International Business Machines Corp. and president of IP Offerings, a patent brokerage and consulting company in Boca Raton, Florida, told Bloomberg he believes Apple and Google have learned a lesson from the Nortel auction. “They have decided to come together in this process to reduce the cost of purchasing the Kodak patents, while meeting their business needs,” said Ehrlickman.

 

Google employee teases the Internet with Key Lime Pie comic


With Android 4.2 Jelly Bean stepping out the door and onto devices, eyes are slowly focusing on Google to see what their next major mobile OS, rumoured to be called ‘Key Lime Pie’, is all about. Playing along these lines, Google employee Manu Cornet has drawn a comic on his Google+ profile showing the evolution of Android, and the last Android mascot is depicted eating a Key Lime Pie. This has prompted the Internet to go into a flurry and state that this is a confirmation that Google will indeed call its next mobile OS ‘Key Lime Pie’. However, Cornet has dismissed this and stated that people should not read too much into it as the comic was drawn merely for fun.

Though it is widely speculated that Google will name its next Android OS Key Lime Pie, there is no confirmation regarding the same. It should also be noted that Cornet is part of the Gmail team and would not have much insight into the plans of the Android team, and hence you should take it with a pinch of salt.

The drawing as seen on the Google employee's Google+ profile

The drawing as seen on the Google employee’s Google+ profile

 
However, if the next Android does turn out to be called Key Lime Pie, this would be the place where it’s been first revealed.

Google announced the latest version of Android OS, 4.2, in late October, and like its predecessor it too was named Jelly Bean.

The camera app on Android 4.2 features what Google calls Photo Sphere, which enables users to take high resolution, 360-degree photographs on all axes, resulting in pictures that look very much like Google Street View. You will instantly be able to share the photograph on whatever medium you desire, including Google Maps, if you want to make the picture public.

The new keyboard on Android 4.2 also supports gesture-typing. This allows you to type out words by sliding your finger across the keyboard over letters that are part of the word, without having to tap individual letters on the screen. This is a lot like Nuance’s Swype keyboard that’s commonly found pre-installed on Samsung devices.

Another big feature in the new version is the ability to have multiple user profiles on tablets. This allows users to share their tablets without fear of their privacy being compromised due to another person using the same device. Users can have a separate profile with different accounts, settings and apps for different members of the family, for instance. Schools could use the same tablets for different children from different classes.

Another major feature of the latest version of Android is the update to Google Now, a service that Google introduced with Jelly Bean. The service now alerts you of flight and hotel recommendations, nearby attractions, photo spots, movie times, and concert timings. All this comes thanks to the new Knowledge Graph, which, according to Google, gives you more information on things you didn’t even know you were looking for. While looking for websites, the new Knowledge Graph could lead you to more in-depth information on subjects that are closely related to your search.

The update will also add Miracast functionality to the Android platform. It will allow users to display the content playing on their screens to a TV, DVD Player, or any other device that supports Miracast. A trade name for Wi-Fi Direct, Miracast is an 802.11n compatible network for display-sharing.

by Aaron Almeida