Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
United States

Google Uses Search To Push Its Products: WSJ (usatoday.com) 46

Ads for Google and related companies were found in the top spot in 91% of 25,000 searches related to items, according to a report on WSJ. For example, a search for "phones" would produce ads for Google Pixel, which the company launched last year. From a report: Similar results were found for searches on "Watches" or "smoke detector," which produced ads for Android smartwatches and Nest devices, respectively. In a statement, Google says their marketing programs are "carefully designed" to not impact outside advertisers. "All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes -- set to tougher levels than our customers -- to govern the use of our own ads products." The auction is a process deciding which ads will appear for users when they type in certain search queries. Strategies such as using relevant keywords give advertisers a better shot at their ad appearing on a search results page.
Microsoft

Microsoft is Bringing Cortana To Android Lock Screen (mspoweruser.com) 81

Microsoft is testing out a new way to access Cortana, its digital assistant, from the Android lock screen, with just a swipe. It's a new feature that's clearly designed to replace Google's own quick access, and to convince Android users to switch to Cortana. According to MSPowerUser, Cortana on the lock screen doesn't replace existing lock screens, so you can still use a custom one or the default experience that ships with your Android device. Cortana is activated simply by swiping left or right on the floating logo. Microsoft is currently testing this new feature, and any Android users can opt-in to trial the new beta features over at the Google Play Store.
Education

College Fires IT Admin, Loses Access To Google Email, Successfully Sues IT Admin For $250K (theregister.co.uk) 243

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Register: Shortly after the American College of Education (ACE) in Indiana fired IT administrator Triano Williams in April, 2016, it found that it no longer had any employees with admin access to the Google email service used by the school. In a lawsuit [PDF] filed against Williams in July, 2016, the school alleges that it asked Williams to return his work laptop, which was supposed to have the password saved. But when Williams did so in May that year, the complaint says, the computer was returned wiped, with a new operating system, and damaged to the point it could no longer be used. ACE claimed that its students could not access their Google-hosted ACE email accounts or their online coursework. The school appealed to Google, but Google at the time refused to help because the ACE administrator account had been linked to William's personal email address. "By setting up the administrator account under a non-ACE work email address, Mr Williams violated ACE's standard protocol with respect to administrator accounts," the school's complaint states. "ACE was unaware that Mr Williams' administrator account was not linked to his work address until after his employment ended." According to the school's court filing, Williams, through his attorney, said he would help the school reinstate its Google administrator account, provided the school paid $200,000 to settle his dispute over the termination of his employment. That amount is less than half the estimated $500,000 in harm the school says it has suffered due to its inability to access its Google account, according to a letter from William's attorney in Illinois, Calvita J Frederick. Frederick's letter claims that another employee set up the Google account and made Williams an administrator, but not the controlling administrator. It says the school locked itself out of the admin account through too many failed password attempts. Williams, in a counter-suit [PDF] filed last month, claims his termination followed from a pattern of unlawful discrimination by the school in the wake of a change in management. Pointing to the complaint she filed with the court in Illinois, Frederick said Williams wrote a letter [PDF] to a supervisor complaining about the poor race relations at the school and, as a result of that letter, he was told he had to relocate to Indianapolis.
Businesses

Twitter Just Sold Its Developer Platform To Google (engadget.com) 27

Google has acquired a part of Twitter -- the part that isn't about tweets. Twitter's mobile developer platform Fabric will become part of Google, both companies announced Wednesday. From a report: Acquired by Twitter in 2014, Fabric is "a modular mobile platform" designed to help app developers improve the "stability, distribution, revenue and identity" of their products, according to Twitter's blog post. Everything from the ability to natively embed tweets in other apps to signing in with your Twitter credentials were made possible by Fabric. Now that it's been reacquired, Fabric will merge with Google's Firebase development platform. "We quickly realized that our missions are the same -- helping mobile teams build better apps, understand their users, and grow their businesses," the Fabric team wrote in its announcement. "Fabric and Firebase operate mobile platforms with unique strengths in the market today." And if you're an existing Fabric customer, don't worry, the platform will continue to function. You'll just need to agree to the new terms of service, which will be available once the deal is completed.
Google

The Problem With Google AMP (80x24.net) 55

Kyle Schreiber has raised some issues about Google's AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages), an open source project unveiled by the company in 2015 with which it aims to accelerate content on mobile devices. He writes on his blog: The largest complaint by far is that the URLs for AMP links differ from the canonical URLs for the same content, making sharing difficult. The current URLs are a mess. They all begin with some form of https://wwww.google.com/amp/ before showing a URL to the AMP version of the site. There is currently no way to find the canonical link to the page without guessing what the original URL is. This usually involves removing either a .amp or ?amp=1 from the URL to get to the actual page. Make no mistake. AMP is about lock-in for Google. AMP is meant to keep publishers tied to Google. Clicking on an AMP link feels like you never even leave the search page, and links to AMP content are displayed prominently in Google's news carousel. This is their response to similar formats from both Facebook and Apple, both of which are designed to keep users within their respective ecosystems. However, Google's implementation of AMP is more broad and far reaching than the Apple and Facebook equivalents. Google's implementation of AMP is on the open web and isn't limited to just an app like Facebook or Apple.
Android

Android Will Now Store Google Searches Offline and Deliver Them When You Get Signal (theverge.com) 35

Google is rolling out an update for its Android app that makes it easier to search on the web with an inconsistent internet connection. Users can make searches when offline and the Google app will store them, delivering the results later (with an optional notification) when the devices get signal again. From a report: As Google product manager Shekhar Sharad writes in a blog post: "So the next time you lose service, feel free to queue up your searches, put your phone away and carry on with your day. The Google app will work behind-the-scenes to detect when a connection is available again and deliver your search results once completed."
Android

Low-Cost Android One Phones Coming To The US, Says Report (theverge.com) 91

The Android One platform is a program designed by Google to provide budget-friendly Android smartphones to developing markets. The phones are attractive because they contain no bloatware, competing services, and a lack of software and security updates -- the stuff that most low-end smartphones contain. According to a report from The Information, the program is about to make its way to the U.S. market. The Verge reports: Android One phones have historically been produced by companies you probably haven't heard of, like Micromax, Cherry, and QMobile. Originally Google had a direct hand in detailing what components would go into the phone, but apparently became more flexible over time and eventually expanded the program beyond India to parts of Africa, Spain, and Portugal. Android One may not have been the rousing worldwide success Google was hoping for, but it's still an important initiative for the company. Especially at the low end, there's a lot of incentive for manufacturers to pile on extra software in a bid to make those devices more profitable -- but that could cut against Google's efforts to make its own services more pervasive and popular. If Google really does put some real effort behind Android One, it could make its plans for Android a little clearer. Google itself has taken a stand that it wants to make its own hardware at the high-end of the smartphone market with the Pixel, and if The Information's report is accurate, it wants to ensure that its services are not cut out from the low end.
Google

Google Maps Starts Showing Parking Availability For Some Users (arstechnica.com) 52

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Back in August, Cody found strings in his teardown of Google Maps v9.34 beta that hinted at an upcoming display of parking difficulty. The option may have crept up for some users since then, but now we have our first glance into how the feature will work since it has started showing up for more users on Maps v9.44 beta. Parking availability will be shown as a small rounded P icon next to your route duration estimate when you search for driving directions, followed by more descriptive text. As Cody's teardown showed, there are three levels to look for: Limited, Medium, and Easy. Limited parking will get the P icon to turn red. Once you start driving toward your destination, you can expand the directions to get a more descriptive explanation of the parking situation. Our tipster tells us that according to his tests, parking availability shows up for public destinations like malls and airports and various attractions. The option doesn't seem to be live for everyone on Maps v9.44 beta (APK Mirror link), so you may need to be patient to see it on your phone.
Google

Porn Pirates Exploit Well-Known Loophole To Upload Raunchy Videos On YouTube (thenextweb.com) 91

Adult video websites appear to be exploiting a YouTube loophole to host explicit material on the platform. An anonymous reader shares a report on The Next Web: A number of adult streaming websites have begun using a known backdoor that ultimately makes it possible to store infringing material on Google's servers -- entirely free of charge. To pull this off, the pirates essentially take advantage of YouTube's option to upload content without sharing it publicly, which effectively allows them to embed the videos on their websites and bypass Google's Content-ID takedown system. This means the content remains unlisted on YouTube and is served directly from the GoogleVideo.com domain instead. While the move hasn't gone unnoticed by the porn industry, California-based adult content-maker Dreamroom Productions claims it has made it much harder for producers to hunt down and flag infringing material, since the videos are not shared publicly.
Youtube

Safari Users Unable to Play Newer 4K Video On YouTube in Native Resolution (macrumors.com) 118

It appears Google recently turned on VP9 codec on YouTube for delivering 4K video. However, because of this, Safari users are unable to watch videos uploaded to the service since early December in full 4K resolution. From a report: Specifically, YouTube appears to be storing video on its servers using either the more efficient VP9 codec or the older H.264 codec. Safari only supports the latter, which explains why recently uploaded 4K videos are only able to be viewed in up to 1440p. Funnily enough, the same videos can be streamed by Safari in native 4K as long as they're embedded in another website, suggesting that the VP9 codec support requirement only applies to videos viewed directly on YouTube's website. Until Apple updates Safari to support the VP9 codec, Mac users who want to access newer 4K video on YouTube in native 2160p resolution are advised to use a different browser.John Gruber of DaringFireball writes, "I'm curious what Google's thinking is here. My guess: a subtle nudge to get more Mac users to switch from Safari to Chrome. 4K playback is going to require H.264 support if they want it to work on iOS, though."
Businesses

Worldwide App Downloads Grew 15% and Revenue Soared 40% in 2016 (venturebeat.com) 19

Downloads, revenue, and time spent in apps all grew by double digits during 2016, according to a report by market researcher App Annie. From a report on VentureBeat: Time spent in apps grew more than 20 percent to nearly 900 billion hours in 2016, according to the year-end report. That's just one sign that the global app economy saw healthy growth during the past year. In its year-end retrospective, App Annie said U.S. time spent in apps grew more than 25 percent. Worldwide, downloads increased 15 percent by more than 13 billion across both iOS and Google Play. The platform owners paid out nearly $89 billion in revenues to publishers from in-app ads and app store revenue, up 40 percent from the year before. That means apps generated $127 billion in revenues overall, as platform owners take about 30 percent of the revenue.
Communications

Amazon Seeks FCC Permission To Run Wireless Tests In Washington State (csmonitor.com) 24

Amazon has filed an application with the U.S. federal government that details plans to experiment with wireless communications technology. The application asks the FCC for permission "to test undisclosed prototypes and their related software for five months in and around its Seattle headquarters," reports Christian Science Monitor. "The experiments will involve mobile devices and anchored stations alike, according to an FCC application made public last week and first reported by Business Insider's Eugene Kim, who noted the project could be part of Amazon's drone-delivery initiatives or something even more novel." From the report: In recent years, Google and Facebook have begun conducting wireless experiments of their own with FCC approval, pursuing a number of innovative projects, such as self-driving cars, as Mr. Kim reported. Amazon, meanwhile, has focused on its aspirations of drone delivery service for its online retail business -- a service the firm has pursued in Britain and several other countries as well. Given the company's wide-ranging interests, it is difficult to anticipate precisely what the tests entail. Last year alone, Amazon unveiled projects to change the way people grocery shop, offer drivers a voice-activated driving assistant, and ship cargo with its own branded planes, as the Monitor reported. Amazon's application to the FCC notes that the tests would begin indoors at the Seattle headquarters then later move outdoors to a customer service site more than 220 miles away, in Kennewick, Wash. The tests would last five months, beginning as early as Feb. 11, 2017, the documents state.
Google

Google Reveals Its Servers All Contain Custom Security Silicon (theregister.co.uk) 118

Google has published an Infrastructure Security Design Overview that explains how it secures the cloud it uses for its own operations and for public cloud services. From a report on The Register: The document outlines six layers of security and reveals some interesting factoids about the Alphabet subsidiary's operations, none more so than the disclosure that: "We also design custom chips, including a hardware security chip that is currently being deployed on both servers and peripherals. These chips allow us to securely identify and authenticate legitimate Google devices at the hardware level." That silicon works alongside cryptographic signatures employed "over low-level components like the BIOS, bootloader, kernel, and base operating system image." "These signatures can be validated during each boot or update," the document says, adding that "the components are all Google-controlled, built, and hardened. With each new generation of hardware we strive to continually improve security: for example, depending on the generation of server design, we root the trust of the boot chain in either a lockable firmware chip, a microcontroller running Google-written security code, or the above mentioned Google-designed security chip."
China

China Orders App Stores To Join Register (bbc.com) 23

China's internet regulator has ordered mobile app stores to register themselves with it immediately. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the move would help "promote the healthy and orderly development of the mobile internet." From a report on BBC: Most smartphones in the country run Android, but Google does not operate its Play Store locally, meaning users go elsewhere to add software. A report last year linked this to the spread of malware. Cheetah Mobile Security -- a Beijing-based firm -- reported that more than 1.4 million Chinese users' mobile devices had been struck by infections as of January 2016, making it the worst afflicted nation. India and Indonesia were in second and third place. This follows previous efforts to censor what appears online, including a recent demand that Apple remove the New York Times from the Chinese version of its iOS App Store. The US newspaper was the first to report the watchdog's move outside of China itself. Because of the Play store's absence, Android users in China typically go to stores operated by local tech giants including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Huawei.
Communications

Deutsche Bank Switches Off Text Messaging (smh.com.au) 70

Deutsche Bank has banned text messages and communication apps such as WhatsApp on company-issued phones in an effort to improve compliance standards. From a report: The functionality will be switched off this quarter, chief regulatory officer Sylvie Matherat and chief operating officer Kim Hammonds told staff in a memo. Unlike emails, text messages can't be archived by the bank, said a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. "We fully understand that the deactivation will change your day-to-day work and we regret any inconvenience this may cause," Matherat and Hammonds said in the memo. "However, this step is necessary to ensure Deutsche Bank continues to comply with regulatory and legal requirements." The policy also applies to private phones used by employees for work purposes. Communication apps such as WhatsApp, Google Talk, iMessage are also prohibited, the memo said.
Education

Google-Funded Project Envisions Nation's Librarians Teaching Kids to Code (ala.org) 196

"We're excited to double down on the findings of Ready to Code 1," says one Google program manager, "by equipping librarians with the knowledge and skills to cultivate computational thinking and coding skills in our youth." theodp writes: Citing the need to fill "500,000 current job openings in the field of computer science," the American Library Association argues in a new whitepaper that "all 115,000 of the nation's school and public libraries are crucial community partners to guarantee youth have skills essential to future employment and civic participation"... The ALA's Google-funded "Libraries Ready to Code" project has entered Phase II, which aims to "equip Master's in Library Science students to deliver coding programs through public and school libraries and foster computational thinking skills among the nation's youth."

"Libraries play a vital role in our communities, and Google is proud to build on our partnership with ALA," added Hai Hong, who leads US outreach on Google's K-12 Education team... "Given the ubiquity of technology and the half-a-million unfilled tech jobs in the country, we need to ensure that all youth understand the world around them and have the opportunity to develop the essential skills that employers -- and our nation's economy -- require."

Earth

Moon Express Raises $20 Million In Series B-1, Fully Funds Trip To The Moon (techcrunch.com) 63

The company competing in the Google Lunar X-Prize, Moon Express, has raised $20 million in funding and announced that they have now fully financed their mission to the moon. The company made history last year as it became the first private company to receive permission to travel to the moon. Moon Express plans to launch their MX-1E spacecraft to the moon at the end of 2017 with the goal of winning the $20 million grand prize in the X-Prize competition. TechCrunch reports: If successful, Moon Express would become the first private company and the fourth entity in history to soft-land on the moon. The first three entities were all government-funded superpowers from the U.S., USSR and China. Of course to win that title, Moon Express will need to beat the other X-Prize competitors including SpaceIL from Israel, Team Indus from India (carrying the Japanese team HAKUTO as a payload), and the international team Synergy Moon. Each company has had launch contracts confirmed by X-Prize, a requirement to remain in the competition. The first company to soft-land on the Moon, travel 500 meters across its surface, and transmit high-definition video and images back to Earth will win the grand prize of $20 million. There's also $5 million up for grabs for the company that comes in second. Perhaps the most challenging of the X-Prize requirements is the deadline. To win the prizes, competitors must complete all tasks by the end of 2017. Although the X-Prize Foundation has pushed the deadline back before. What makes the Google Lunar X-Prize competition especially unique is that it required participants to obtain 90% of their funding from private sources. In theory, this would encourage profit-driven business plans, kick-starting a wave of lunar-based commercialization.
Android

Creator of Android Andy Rubin Nears His Comeback, Complete With an 'Essential' Phone (bloomberg.com) 73

From a report on Bloomberg: Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple and Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together, Essential is working on a suite of consumer hardware products, including ones for the mobile and smart home markets, one of the people said. The centerpiece of the system is a high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, Rubin discussed the smartphone with mobile carrier executives, including some from Sprint Corp., people familiar with the talks said. The smartphone, according to the report, would go on sale around the middle of this year and will cost nearly as much as iPhone 7 ($649, off contract).
Chrome

Chrome is Getting the Ability To Play FLAC (theverge.com) 77

Audiophiles are getting a new way to listen to one of the top formats for lossless music. From a report: Google has begun adding FLAC support to Chrome, and it should be rolling out to the masses very soon. FLAC support is already live in Chrome's beta build and it's live in the current version of Chrome OS, too. If you have local FLAC files or come across one on the web, the added support allows Chrome to open it up in a completely bare-bones music player that takes over the entire tab. It's not exactly elegant, but it works. And it means that Mac users with Chrome installed will have an easy way to play back FLAC files should they come across one. While there are plenty of apps that can handle FLAC -- VLC being a popular one -- no native macOS app is capable of it. Windows 10, on the other hand, includes native support.
Google

Google's New Compression Tool Uses 75% Less Bandwidth Without Sacrificing Image Quality (thenextweb.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Google just released an image compression technology called RAISR (Rapid and Accurate Super Image Resolution) designed to save your precious data without sacrificing photo quality. Claiming to use up to 75 percent less bandwidth, RAISR analyzes both low and high-quality versions of the same image. Once analyzed, it learns what makes the larger version superior and simulates the differences on the smaller version. In essence, it's using machine learning to create an Instagram-like filter to trick your eye into believing the lower-quality image is on par with its full-sized variant. Unfortunately for the majority of smartphone users, the tech only works on Google+ where Google claims to be upscaling over a billion images a week. If you don't want to use Google+, you'll just have to wait a little longer. Google plans to expand RAISR to more apps over the coming months. Hopefully that means Google Photos.

Slashdot Top Deals