Tag Archives: Features

Google Roundup: July's Best New Features For Google's Apps And Devices
July 29, 2018 12:00 pm|Comments (0)

What’s new for Google’s apps and devices.Credit: Alexas Photos/Pixabay

Google is always modifying its apps and devices with upgrades and new features. The pace of change is so relentless that trying to keep track can be overwhelming. In case you missed them, here are some of the best new features Google introduced during July.

Site Isolation for the Chrome browser

Site Isolation a major security update for the Chrome browser that protects users from malicious websites that steal sensitive data like passwords and encryption keys. Site Isolation puts content from a website’s domain in a sandboxed process that is prevented from sharing memory with other domains. Malicious websites and threats like Spectre can’t steal what they can’t access.

Site Isolation can increase memory overhead by 10 to 13% in some cases. This change produced a flurry of misleading headlines implying the memory increase is some kind of major problem. It isn’t. The increased memory demands are only likely to result in a performance decline for some users in some circumstances. If you’re a Windows user, it’s a simple matter to find out if Chrome is stressing your system memory with the Task Manager. If it is, easy solutions range from closing some tabs to using any one of a number of Chrome extensions that put background tabs to sleep.

Site Isolation is currently operating in Chrome for Windows, Chrome OS, Mac and Linux. Google estimates that 99% of Chrome users on these operating systems are protected. More information about Site Isolation can be found here.

Chrome 68 labels HTTP websites “Not Secure”Credit: Google

Chrome 68 arrives

Site Isolation wasn’t July’s only security enhancement for the Chrome browser. Warning labels were attached to unsafe websites and users were protected from malicious redirects in Chrome 68 which rolled out several days ago.

While most websites have migrated from the unsafe HTTP network protocol to the much safer HTTPS, some haven’t. Data is sent in clear text over HTTP which means anyone who intercepts it can read it. This is not good if, for example, you enter your credit card information when you buy something online. HTTPS is a secure version of HTTP. Communication between the website and the browser is encrypted and if it is intercepted, it can’t be read without the encryption key.

Chrome 68 adds a “Not secure” warning label in the URL bar at the top of the page on websites that still use HTTP. If you see the label, be aware that any communication with the website is easily stolen.

A website redirect sends the user to a different website or pops up a new window when the user opens a page. Redirects have many legitimate uses, but they are also commonly employed to pop up annoying ads or surreptitiously send users to malicious websites. Chrome 68 interferes with redirects that are frequently used for malicious purposes by opening a window that gives the user the option of moving to the new website or staying where they are.

More information about Chrome 68 can be found here.

The For You tab in Google MapsCredit: Kevin Murnane

Google Maps adds personal recommendations and neighborhood tracking

Google Maps now surfaces information tuned to your tastes and interests with a redesigned Explore tab and a new For You tab. For You also lets you keep track of what’s going on in the neighborhoods where you hang out. Here’s what’s new.

  • The Explore tab gives eating and drinking recommendations for any location you choose. Recommendations can be filtered by type of food.
  • If you’re trying out the places on a trending list, Maps will keep track of the ones you’ve visited and the ones you haven’t.
  • Explore also surfaces upcoming events and activities that can be filtered for the kind of thing that interest you in an area of your choosing. 
  • Restaurants and bars have a numerical rating that reflects Google’s best guess about whether you’ll enjoy the place. The ratings are ennabled on Android but not iOS and location sharing has to be turned on.
  • For You lets you track establishments and neighborhoods. It’s a great way to find out if a new place that caters to your interests has opened in your neighborhood or if something about one of your favorite places has changed.

The revamped Explore tab is available for Android and iOS worldwide. For You is only available for Android in the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan.

Visual Snapshot brings personalization to the Assistant

Maps wasn’t the only app that received enhanced personalization features in July. Visual Snapshot brings the defunct Google Now’s summary of information that helps you navigating through your day to the Assistant.

Visual Snapshot adds reminders, weather and traffic reports, events on your schedule and more to the Assistant app. It can interact with both Google and third-party apps to corral information from a variety of sources into one convenient location. Visual Snapshot is accessed through an icon that looks like a radiant inbox in the upper right corner of the Assistant app. Tap the icon to see what the Assistant can tell you about the rest of your day.

The perimeter and area of the National Mall in Washington DC.Credit: Kevin Murnane

Google Earth adds a measurement tool

How long is the route you take when you walk your dog? How many acres is your property? What’s the difference between the straight-line distance from your home to your job and the route you actually take to get to work? You can answer all of these questions with Google Earth’s new measurement tool.

Place an anchor on any two points and Google earth will return the distance between them. You can drop a string of anchors on corners and along curves to measure route distances. Enclose a space and Google Earth gives you both the perimeter and the area.

Google Earth’s new measurement tool is available on the web and Android with support for iOS promised sometime in the future.

Waze added to the Android Auto app

Waze was added to Android Auto for in-car displays last July and now it’s finally available for the Android Auto app on phones. Whether you’re using Android Auto on a head unit or a phone, Waze lets you

  • Launch navigation by tapping on a pre-programmed destination or by saying “OK Google” to wake up the Assistant.
  • Get video and audio alerts about upcoming problems and find alternate routes on a large map.
  • Access your personalized Waze experience and view your ETA panel.
  • Report accidents, road hazards or traffic jams through a visual report menu.

Waze for Android Auto is available for Android 5.0 (Lollipop) and up and is optimized for use with a car dock.

Continued Conversation arrives for Google Home devices in the US.Credit: Google

“OK Google” no longer needed before every interaction with a Home device

Google rolled out Continued Conversation in late June but it’s such a huge improvement in ease of use for the company’s Home devices that I had to include it here. With Continued Conversation you don’t have to repeat the wake-up phrase before every subsequent command or query once you’ve begun an interaction with the Assistant in Home. The Assistant has an eight-second window during which it will respond to another input without hearing the wake-up phrase. If it doesn’t hear a command or query after eight seconds, it shuts down. The Assistant will also shut down if you say “Thank you” when you’re finished. Talking to the Assistant in Home feels much more like having a conversation than it did before.

Continued Conversation is toggled off by default. You can turn it on through either the Home or Assistant apps on a smartphone, tablet or Chromebook. More information about continued Conversation can be found here.

These seven new features were the most useful for me, but Google added a lot more during July and you may discover something different that makes your life easier or more enjoyable. Take a look at these articles for more of the new features Google added to it’s apps and devices in late June and July.

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WhatsApp rolls out new group chat features
May 15, 2018 6:05 pm|Comments (0)

(Reuters) – Messaging service WhatsApp rolled out new group-chat features on Tuesday, including more controls for administrators as well as regular group members.

FILE PHOTO: The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration taken September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Users can now leave a group permanently to avoid being repeatedly added back after they have left, Facebook Inc-owned WhatsApp said in a blog post.

Administrators can no longer be removed from a group they created and users can now quickly locate messages that mention them in a group conversation.

Groups on WhatsApp have taken a central role in the messaging service that has more than 1 billion users, helping connect people with similar interests across the globe.

Reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru

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These are Google Android 8.1's five best features
December 29, 2017 6:00 am|Comments (0)

I’ve been using Android 8.1 for several weeks now on my Pixel 2 smartphone, and I’m impressed.

It’s not so much that Android 8.1 is a big jump forward for most end-users. It’s not. Google’s major 2017 Android improvements came with Android 8.0. With a smartphone containing a Pixel Visual Core chip, it’s a dramatically different story.

1) Visual Core

The Visual Core is Google’s first custom-designed consumer processor. It’s a dedicated image processing chip. Today, it’s only in the new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Tomorrow, it may be appearing in other smartphones.

CNET: Google Pixel 2 XL review: Promising phone with new caveats

With Android 8.1, the Visual Core chip has been activated and the results are dramatically better photos. First, it takes much faster High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos. By taking a series of photographs in micro-seconds, HDR-enhanced cameras do a much better job of capturing the full range of darkest blacks and lightest whites than older digital cameras.

With Google’s HDR+, your smartphone camera takes a rapid burst of pictures. The Visual Core chip then combines them five times faster than previous generation of processors into one superior picture. You may not notice the speed, but what you will notice is how much more detail you’ll get from low-light photographs.

You used to only be able to take HDR+ photos using the Google photo app. Now, third-party camera apps, which use the Android Camera application programming interface (API), such as Instagram and Snapchat, can also take advantage of HDR+’s superior processing for better photos.

2) Neural Network API

Any device which can upgrade to Android 8.1, which for now are the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, the Pixel 1 and 1 XL, the Pixel C tablet, and the Nexus 6P and 5X, can make use of Google’s Neural Networks API (NNAPI). While as a user you won’t notice anything immediately from this improvement, Android developers will. NNAPI is designed to make it possible to run machine-learning (ML) on mobile devices. This API provides a base layer, higher-level, ML framework. This, in turn, can be used by Google’s TensorFlow Lite.

What this means for you as a user is you can expect to see some very interesting smart applications coming your way soon. For example, by this time next year, you can expect speech recognition and language translation apps, which will approach Star Trek-levels of coolness.

3) Bluetooth battery levels measurements

Do you get sick and tired of not knowing if your Bluetooth earphones or headset are about to die on you? I know I do. With Android 8.1, you’ll find a Bluetooth battery display in the Bluetooth settings. I’d still rather have it on the top status bar, but this is a lot better than fumbling with my Bluetooth gadgets.

4) Better screen management

On some smartphones, notably the Pixel 2 XL, some people were seeing screen burn-in. If you don’t recall this ugly blast from old style CRT display’s past, screen burn happens when the same screen elements — such as the navigation icons or the clock — are always on. After time, these elements are “burned” into the display so their ghostly presence remains even when they should be gone.

With Android 8.1, smartphones now vary how these are displayed. The result? The end of screen burn.

5) New look

There aren’t any major changes to the interface, but there are some useful ones. These include the Pixel Launcher. This makes it easier than ever to access Google search functions and installed apps. Android’s quick settings are transparent now so you can still see a hint of the main screen beneath it. There are also new launcher themes.

All-in-all, Android 8.1 is a good step forward. What I’m really looking forward to though is seeing more smartphone vendors bringing it to their flagship phones. Thanks to Google’s Project Treble.

TechRepublic: Android Oreo rollback protection prevents hackers from exploiting past vulnerabilities

Before Treble, which first appears in Android 8.0, when Google launched a new Android version, the chip OEMs, such as Mediatek and Qualcomm, had to add drivers so their silicon could run it. Then the device vendors added their customizations. Finally, the carriers had to bless the update. Then, and only then, could you get a new version of Android on your old phone. What a mess!

Project Treble has redesigned Android to make it easier, faster, and cheaper for manufacturers to update devices to a new version of Android. It does this by separating the device-specific, lower-level software — written mostly by the silicon manufacturers — from the Android OS Framework.

By working with the chipset OEMs, the vendor interface is validated by a Vendor Test Suite (VTS). In short, Google is cutting out some of the fat, which makes Android updates so slow.

If the phone vendors cooperate by not adding too much of their own spice to the stew, many of you may finally see Android 8 and 8.1 on your phones before I’m writing about the release of Android 9.

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10 new Android O features that will make your phone better
July 30, 2017 9:05 am|Comments (0)

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Though we got out first peek at Android O back in March, Google finally revealed  more details this week at its I/O developers conference about the soon-to-drop version of Android.

Though we’re still quite a ways away from the official release, we now a lot more about the update. At first glance, many of the new changes are subtle, building on updates Google introduced last year with Nougat. (Yes, it’s another boring year for Android.)

Still, there are quite a few features to look forward to, here’s what’s caught our eye so far. Read more…

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Google Doodle features eminent Australian indigenous rights leader
June 29, 2016 9:43 am|Comments (0)

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On what would have been Eddie Mabo’s 80th birthday, Google Australia has featured the Australian indigenous rights campaigner as Wednesday’s Google Doodle.

Born in the Torres Strait Islands in northern Australia, Mabo’s name is synonymous with the native title movement, which saw some indigenous Australians regain control of their ancestral lands.

In 1992, a legal suit, now known as the “Mabo Case,” officially overturned the concept of terra nullius in the High Court of Australia. The idea that Australia was empty and belonged to no one when the British discovered it in 1770, terra nullius allowed European settlers to take the land with no regard for its original inhabitants. Read more…

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Apple iOS 9’s Top Hidden Features
December 16, 2015 3:00 pm|Comments (0)

Become an iOS 9 black-belt with this tips and tricks video.


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New MadgeTech Data Logger Software Packed With Features
November 15, 2015 4:35 am|Comments (0)

Announcing the release of MadgeTech Data Logger Software version 4.2.7.0 (MadgeTech Secure version 4.2.6.0.). This release…

(PRWeb September 22, 2015)

Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/09/prweb12976432.htm

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