Google Continues Clamping Down on HTTP

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 11:02 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome, http, https

Many software vendors want to impose security and encryption basically everywhere. Google and Mozilla are two of the more vocal organizations about it, and they have been slowly implementing ways to discourage insecure HTTP (in favor of HTTPS). Some of these make sense, like preventing insecure sites from accessing your webcam so the video stream cannot be intercepted, while others seem a bit pushy, like lowering HTTP-based sites down in search results.

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This announcement's change is technologically benign, but is designed to make HTTP feel a bit uncomfortable. Rather than just promote HTTPS sites with a secure padlock symbol, Google Chrome 56 and later will begin to add a “not secure” label to HTTP sites. At first, Google claims that it will only mark sites that transmit sensitive data, like passwords and credit card info. They intend to expand this to all HTTP websites going forward.

Again, this has pros and cons. The main benefit of encryption is that it's much harder to view or manipulate what flies across the data stream. One major disadvantage is that the content needs to be authenticated, which is a concern for truly anonymous expressions. Google Chrome treats local, offline content as secure, but that use case could be easily forgotten, and that could have terrible rammifications, especially in areas controlled by oppressive governments that massively censor art.

Source: Google

Google tests switching to a low fibre diet; WiFi almost all the way

Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2016 - 12:22 PM |
Tagged: google, wireless isp, LTE

The FCC bidding was not terribly exciting but the result was numerous companies buying up parts of the spectrum and more importantly to this post, the opening of 3550-3650 MHz band for anyone to use.  The 3.5GHz band is already allocated to shipborne navigation and military radar systems, this will be a test of ability of computer systems to moderate interference instead of the blanket ban they have always relied on in the past. 

Google is about to test that ability, they will be running a test in several US cities to check the propagation of the signal as well as any possible maritime or military interference from the broadcast.  This could be a way to get high speed internet to the curb without requiring fibre optic runs and would also be compatible with LTE, if Google wanted to dip their toes into that market.  You can read about the tests and where they will be happening over at Hack a Day.

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"In a recently released FCC filing, Google has announced their experimental protocol for testing the new CBRS. This isn’t fast Internet to a lamp pole on the corner of the street yet, but it lays the groundwork for how the CBRS will function, and how well it will perform."

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Source: Hack a Day

Google may be abandoning their VR headset, but not VR entirely

Subject: General Tech | July 18, 2016 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: google, VR, daydream, rumour, Huawei

Detailed information on Google's Daydream VR Headeset was conspicuously absent from io16.  At that time it was still expected that Google was developing a VR headset to compete with the Rift and Vive which is why it seemed strange they merely mentioned it in passing.  Today rumours are spreading that Google may have abandoned that particular project on favour of improving mobile VR, taking advantage of Google Cardboard one might assume.  They are instead focusing on the software side, the Daydream VR platform designed to enhance VR capabilities on Android N will be improved and offered to vendors; Huawei was mentioned in the post on The Inquirer.  While it is still rumour at this point it certainly makes sense to stop spending money to develop competing hardware when they can focus on improving mobile software which any Android phone could use.

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"While Daydream persists, Recode said that Google has cancelled plans to create its own VR headset as it does not want to compete with Facebook, Samsung, HTC and others."

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Source: The Register

Google's take on the quantum computer

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2016 - 01:14 PM |
Tagged: google, quantum computing

 IBM, D-Wave and Google are the major players in quantum computing research, with each taking a different route towards developing a Universal Turing Machine using qubits; a machine that can perform all the computations of a traditional processor but at speeds exponentially faster.  Before the research discussed in this article at Nanotechweb, Google had focused on adiabatic solution which is essentially a quantum computer purpose built to solve a particular problem, not a machine capable of performing any data manipulation problem presented.  They have switched tactics have digitized their adiabatic quantum computer to allow for error correction and to allow for non-stoquastic interactions.  This should, in theory, allow for scalability thanks to the unique direction the research is taking.  The reading is rather heavy, especially if you follow the link to Nature but very interesting if you are curious about new methods of developing quantum computers.

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"Bringing together the best of two types of quantum computer for the first time, researchers at Google have created a prototype that combines the architecture of both a universal quantum computer and an analogue quantum computer."

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Source: Nanotechweb

Was Google holding back at I/O? Not really; but here are a few things you might have missed.

Subject: General Tech | May 20, 2016 - 12:29 PM |
Tagged: google

The Inquirer put together a list of topics that received little to no coverage during the Google I/O keynote, though why Daydream VR was included is hard to say as it was all over the news yesterday.  The Google Play store coming to Chromebooks and Android Pay arriving in the UK were also services we knew about but which did not get a mention.  On the other hand, Google's Tensor Processing Unit really should have received more emphasis as it is rather impressive. If AMD, NVIDIA and Intel were hoping to get a contract from Google to power the next generation of Deep Dream or Google Assistant then they are out of luck.  Take a peek at the other topics The Inq wanted to hear more about here.

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"As such, here's the INQ top 10 announcements that got bumped from the I/O keynote to a footnote or out of the main speech altogether."

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Source: The Inquirer

Curious how Google handles its Cloud? Meet Chromium OS

Subject: General Tech | May 16, 2016 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: google, Chromium OS

Google has released a beta version of their Container-VM Image to those interested in how they manage their Cloud.  It is built to handle Docker and Kubernetes instances on the Google cloud, not for home usage on a small scale.  If you are curious about the competition for Amazon, Microsoft and other providers of Clouded services you should follow the links from the post on The Register for a look.  Be aware this is a beta, not all features are available and some of the ones which are may not be compatible with future updates but it is a great way to familiarize yourself with the inner lining of the Google Cloud Platform.

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"Google's decided the Chromium OS is its preferred operating system for running containers in its own cloud. And why wouldn't it – the company says it uses it for its own services."

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Source: The Register

Patch 'em if you got 'em; 40 Google patches for you

Subject: General Tech | May 3, 2016 - 02:09 PM |
Tagged: Android, google, security

Assuming your service provider is not one of those who block Google's patches from coming to you directly you should probably charge up that device, get on WiFi  and check your available updates.  Any Google device running 4.4.4 or newer, including Nexus devices, will have up to 40 patches to slurp up.  Many of the patches are for a vulnerability similar to the previous Stagefright exploit, apps can use the drivers from Qualcomm and NVIDIA to break into the Qualcomm TrustZone on unpatched devices.  The Register provides a full list of the patches which are being pushed to Nexus and Android One devices.

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"Google has today issued a bundle of 40 security patches for its Android operating system.

A dozen of the fixes correct critical vulnerabilities in versions 4.4.4 of the operating system and above. About 74 per cent of in-use Android devices run Android 4.4.4 or higher."

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Source: The Register

Android N Developer Preview 2 Includes Vulkan

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, google, android n, Android

We knew it was coming. Google was a partner of Vulkan since it launched, but support was coming at some point after the desktop launch. We expected that it would be soon, but now we know that the new graphics API is in Android N Developer Preview 2. Other platforms, like apparently the Samsung Galaxy S7, are able to ship Vulkan drivers, but it is “a part of the platform” in this Android N pre-release.

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Vulkan is particularly useful for mobile because those devices tend to have many cores, but relatively slow cores, which drive a decently fast GPU. Whether the benefits end up being higher performance or just better battery life (as the CPU can downclock more and more often) depends on the application, but it can be useful for 3D applications, and eventually even 2D ones, like future Qt applications with many elements, or even web browsers (when drawing complex sites).

It's good that Google is supporting Vulkan, especially after their ban of OpenCL drivers from Nexus devices. We want a single GPU compute interface across as many platforms as possible. While Vulkan isn't as complete as OpenCL, lacking some features such as unified memory, it should be more useful than OpenGL ES compute shaders.

Android N Developer Preview 2 launched (again, as a preview) yesterday.

Source: Google

Pixel C Developer Discounts Have Expanded

Subject: Mobile | March 31, 2016 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: google, pixel c

A few weeks ago, Google published preview builds of Android N, and they announced a developer discount page for the Pixel C. At the time, it was US-only and applied to the 64GB version, bringing it down to $450 USD. The website also seemed... broken... so I wasn't sure if Google were fixing it or whatever. A few people received discount codes on the first run, but the websites now say that they will email you within a few days with a promotional code.

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The discount website has now been updated, and the terms have changed. The major difference is that it is now available in 13 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States, of course. The discount is now a blanket 25% off a Pixel C tablet (just one, like before). I haven't received the promotion code yet, so I can't confirm that it applies to both 32GB and 64GB models, but ZDNet claims it does, and Android Police states that Google confirmed it to them. The discount still does not apply to the keyboard.

Google's Nexus line has been known to limit API access, specifically by not shipping OpenCL drivers and pushing developers toward their proprietary RenderScript instead. That said, it should be kept up to date with Google's latest OSes for longer than most devices. Also, Vulkan is being considered a Google-supported API, so, unless something weird happens, Pixel C should get those drivers, which should be sufficient for upcoming GPU compute and gaming tasks.

Source: Google

Android N Preview Published and Pixel C for Devs Discounts

Subject: Mobile | March 9, 2016 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: pixel c, nexus 6p, nexus 6, nexus 5x, google, android n, Android

With basically zero warning, Google has released Android N previews for the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6, the Nexus 6P, the Nexus 9, the Nexus Player, and the Pixel C. It can be installed by flashing the OS onto the device, or by joining the Android Beta Program. Personally, I'd recommend joining the program, because then updates are pushed over-the-air. Be sure to back up your personal data, too. Almost every method of installing or removing the preview build will intentionally wipe the device. (Technically, installing from the Android Beta Program shouldn't erase user data, but errors can occur, and, even then, the device will be wiped when you leave.)

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Aligning with this announcement is a discount on the Pixel C. It is only available to developers, and only within the US. Also, before I found out that Canadians were not eligible, I tried getting a code and the website seems to silently fail. It basically just refreshes and no email is sent, so Google might have pulled the plug once non-developers heard the news. Android Police believes that it only applies to the 64GB version, but Google's announcement wasn't clear on that. This would make the Pixel C available for $450 USD, which is quite cheap for a 10-inch, Tegra X1 device.

Android N will have a few user experience (UX) changes. The two most obvious ones are app splitscreen, which behaves like Windows 8's Windows Store app snapping, and “direct reply notifications,” which allows, for instance, replying to a chat message from the notification itself. Google has also moved to OpenJDK, as we mentioned during the holidays. This is an Oracle-approved, open-source implementation of Java that can be freely used.

Source: Google