Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘google’ Category

Bigger, Better, Badder Pixels

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Well, uh, that was awkward. 

Just a day after Google had to come clean about its Google+ privacy debacle (and announced the imminent demise of G+ for consumers once and for all), Google announced some new members of its hardware family.

I’m an iPhone guy, but I did purchase a Google Pixelbook chromebook earlier this year that I’ve been very happy with, so at minimum I wanted to pass along the speeds and feeds from yesterday’s Google Pixel 3/XL Android smartphone announcements.

The Verge has this tight breakdown:

The Pixel 3 starts at $799 for 64GB, with the 3 XL costing $899. Add $100 to either for the 128GB storage option. That’s a $150 and $50 premium over last year’s models, respectively.. Core specs for both include a Snapdragon 845, 4GB RAM (there’s no option for more), Bluetooth 5.0, and front-facing stereo speakers. Also inside is a new Titan M security chip, which Google says provides “on-device protection for login credentials, disk encryption, app data, and the integrity of the operating system.” Preorders for both phones begin today, and buyers will get six months of free YouTube Music service. The Pixels will officially launch on October 18th.

The Pixel 3 and 3 XL both feature larger screens than last year’s models thanks to slimmed down bezels — and the controversial notch in the case of the bigger phone. The 3 XL has a 6.3-inch display (up from six inches on the 2 XL), while the regular 3 has a 5.5-inch screen (up from five inches). Overall, though, the actual phones are very similar in size and handling to their direct predecessors.

And Google’s own blog post explains how the Pixel 3 will help you keep from talking to those undesirable humans you’re trying to avoid:

…Starting out in English in the U.S., Pixel 3’s on-device AI helps you screen phone calls and avoid spam calls. Imagine you’re at dinner with family or in a meeting at work and a call from an unknown caller comes in. Just tap on “Screen call” to find out who’s calling and why, as well as other information (as prompted by you). You’ll immediately see a transcript of the caller’s responses so that you can then decide whether to pick up, respond by tapping a quick reply (e.g., “I’ll call you back later”), or mark the call as spam and dismiss. Processing the call details on-device means these experiences are fast, private to you, and use up less battery.

Second, Pixel users in the U.S. will be the first to get access to an experimental new Google Assistant feature, powered by Duplex technology, which helps you complete real-world tasks over the phone, like calling a restaurant to book a table. This feature will initially be available later this year in New York, Atlanta, Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area to help people book restaurant reservations and will roll out to other U.S. cities in the future.

Because why talk to even yet another human to make a restaurant reservation when your Google Assistant can do all the work?

Written by turbotodd

October 10, 2018 at 9:44 am

Posted in 2018, google, privacy, smartphone

Tagged with ,

Google Hides A Bug

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Happy Monday.

If it’s Monday, it must be a security and/or privacy breach day!

In today’s privacy cluster—— spotlight, The Wall Street Journal informs us that Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network — and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring.

According to the story, the company did so “in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage.”

This from the very same company that refused to send a very senior executive to the recent tech hearings on Capitol Hill (as opposed to Facebook and Twitter, who sent their COO and CEO, respectively).

Here’s the rundown on the core of the technical glitch and failed response:

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google’s legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest” and invite comparisons to Facebook’s leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica….

….The internal memo from legal and policy staff says the company has no evidence that any outside developers misused the data but acknowledges it has no way of knowing for sure. The profile data that was exposed included full names, email addresses, birth dates, gender, profile photos, places lived, occupation and relationship status; it didn’t include phone numbers, email messages, timeline posts, direct messages or any other type of communication data, one of the people said.

The PII crown jewels, if you will.  

In response, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, is going to announce “a sweeping set of data privacy measures that include permanently shutting down all consumer functionality of Google+.”

To which millions of tech geeks like myself around the globe publicly ponder, “Is Google+ even still a thing?!!”

So you think that Google search history of yours that you wouldn’t want your spouse or closest friends and colleagues to see is still safe?!!

Think again.

Want to send Serge and Larry and the gang a message?  Go to the following page and delete your entire Google history:

https://myactivity.google.com/delete-activity

Written by turbotodd

October 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm

Posted in 2018, google, privacy

Tagged with , ,

Google’s Getting AMPed

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How about that gold medal for America’s own Chloe Kim in the halfpipe snowboarding competition in Pyeonchang.  She was flyin’ like an eagle, in spire of the harsh winter winds.

Keep on truckin’, US of A.

Meanwhile, over at the Alphabet, Google has unveiled some new capabilities that seemed to be aimed squarely at Snapchat and Instagram in some friendly competition of their own.

The new capabilities, as reported in today’s Wall Street Journal, let publishes create visual-oriented stories in a mobile-friendly format not dissimilar from Snapchat and Instagram. 

Starting today, publishers can try out the developer preview of AMP stories, which include swipeable slides of text, photos, graphics and videos.

The Journal writes that “AMP stories are reminiscent of the immersive, vertical stories pioneered by Snapchat,” but that AMP stores don’t yet allow advertising to be incorporated, suggesting that Google is in the process of “building support for ads but didn’t disclose a time frame.”

It’s only a matter of time.

Written by turbotodd

February 13, 2018 at 9:31 am

Smarter Chips

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Couldn’t help but notice these two in-the-same-orbit headlines from Amazon and Google re: their own AI chips.

First, in The Information, it’s being reported that Amazon is developing a chip designed for AI to work on the Echo and other hardware powered by Alexa. 

They report that the chip should allow Alexa-powered devices to respond more quickly to commands, by allowing more data processing to be handled on the device than in the cloud. 

It seems the cloud’s edge is moving back towards the center.

And at Google, according to a post in the Google Cloud Platform blog, the company’s cloud Tensor Processing Units (TPUs) are available in beta to help machine learning experts train and run their ML models more quickly.

Some speeds and feeds deets:

Cloud TPUs are a family of Google-designed hardware accelerators that are optimized to speed up and scale up specific ML workloads programmed with TensorFlow. Built with four custom ASICs, each Cloud TPU packs up to 180 teraflops of floating-point performance and 64 GB of high-bandwidth memory onto a single board. These boards can be used alone or connected together via an ultra-fast, dedicated network to form multi-petaflop ML supercomputers that we call “TPU pods.” We will offer these larger supercomputers on GCP later this year.

Written by turbotodd

February 12, 2018 at 4:28 pm

A Pixel at a Time

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You know that whole Yahoo! data breach thing, the one where the company late last year revealed that a 2013 hack exposed the private information of over 1 billion users…yeah, well, Verizon (which bought Yahoo!, has revised the impact of the breach, suggesting that it impacted all 3 billion of its users.

While you get your head around that, a friendly reminder that former Equifax CEO Richard Smith testified on Capitol Hill yesterday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

On September 7, Equifax announced it had suffered a massive cyber breach in which the Social Security numbers, names, birthdates, and addresses of 145.5 million Americans were stolen.

How did Smith explain the hack? Equifax had learned of a weak spot in the Apache Struts software in a key computer system back in March, but never patched it. Smith then laid blame on a faulty scanner and a single Equifax staffer responsible for mishandling patches.

In a company of 9,900 employes, a single individual person was in charge of its patching process.

According to a C|NET report of the testimony, several House committee members suggested federal laws to regulate credit monitoring companies like Equifax.

Don’t hold your breath.

But if you do, let it go starting around 12 EST today, especially if you’re an Android, because Google is hosting an announcement event with news on the Android, smartphone, Chromebook, and related fronts.

Gizomodo’s sneak peak suggests that new Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones will be on offer. Also rumoured, a new Google Home Mini (think Google’s version of the Echo Dot) as well as a pricey Google “Pixelbook” that is expected to have a $99 optional Pixelbook Pen and a 360-degree hinge that allows the device to morph instantly into a tablet.

There’s also talk of a new Daydream VR headset, and possibly even more support for the increasingly popular Google Assistant.

The clock is ticking…you can follow the action starting at 9 AM PDT on The Verge.

Written by turbotodd

October 4, 2017 at 10:10 am

Supercharge Me

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Google and HTC have announced a $1.1 billion cooperation agreement, one under which HTC employees will join Google and HTC will continue to work with Google on smartphones, including its Pixel line of phones released last year.

As The New York Times reported, “Bringing on the team from HTC is a sign that Google is doubling down on plans to produce its own hardware.” But the two sides did not reveal how many engineers and other key employees would move over to Google.

HTC would still be free to continue making its own smartphones under the deal, but it seems evident that Google would take on the creme de la creme of HTC design and engineering staff, but not be required to take on its manufacturing facilities.

It would be easy to forget Google has traveled down this road before, having acquired Motorola Mobility in 2011 for $12.5 billion before selling the company to Lenova in 2014 for $2.9 billion.

This is from the press release back when the Google/Motorola deal was going down:

The acquisition of Motorola Mobility, a dedicated Android partner, will enable Google to supercharge the Android ecosystem and will enhance competition in mobile computing. Motorola Mobility will remain a licensee of Android and Android will remain open. Google will run Motorola Mobility as a separate business.
– via TechCrunch

And this is from HTC’s press release overnight: 

For Google, this agreement further reinforces its commitment to smartphones and overall investment in its emerging hardware business. In addition to the talented and experienced team of professionals, Google will continue to have access to HTC’s IP to support the Pixel smartphone family. Additionally, this agreement also represents a significant investment by Google in Taiwan as a key innovation and technology hub.
– via HTC

So one would surmise from all this that what this is really all about is supercharging smartphone hardware…and Taiwan?

If I do the math, Google spent $12.2B on Motorola Mobility, sold it for $2.9B, which resulted in a loss of $9.6B. Now, they’ve bought part of HTC for $1.1B, which means they’ve invested $10.7B in smartphone hardware over the past six years.

That amounts to their spending about $148,611,111.11 per month on smartphones since August 2011.

I think I’ll stick with my iPhone plan on Verizon.

Written by turbotodd

September 21, 2017 at 8:49 am

Posted in 2017, android, google, htc, pixel

Google To Scrub Out Private Medical Records

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Happy Friday.

Bloomberg is reporting that Google has “quietly decided to scrub an entire category of online content — personal medical records — from its search results.

On Thursday, the company added the line: “confidential, personal medical records of private people” to its policy page.

As Bloomberg observes, prior to that Google had only removed webpages with identifying financial information (credit card numbers) and content that violated copyright laws. Revenge porn was later added in 2015.

What led to the change?

According to Engadget, last December an Indian pathology lab mistakenly uploaded 43,000 patients’ blood tests, including their names and corresponding HIV test results.

Google indexed them all because, well, that’s what Google’s algorithm does.

Written by turbotodd

June 23, 2017 at 9:34 am

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