PCPer 10 Days of Christmas: Day 4 - Google Chromecast

Subject: General Tech | December 17, 2014 - 12:00 PM |
Tagged: holiday, google, chromecast, 10 days of christmas

Are you still hunting for that perfect gift for the hardware and technology fan in your life? Or maybe you are looking for recommendations to give to your friends and family about what to buy for YOU? Or maybe you just want something new and cool to play with over the break? Welcome to PC Perspective's 10 Days of Christmas where we will suggest a new item each day for you to consider. Enjoy!

Getting media from your PC to your TV is still a feat that can often take complicated software and dedicated hardware. There are several methods for getting around this headache including things like the Amazon FireStick, Intel's Wireless Display technology and Miracast. But perhaps the most interesting, and one of the least expensive, is the Google Chromecast.

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Chromecast is a small thumb-stick sized device that plugs into an HDMI port on your TV and then connects to your wireless network. From there you can connect to the Chromecast with your desktop, laptop or mobile device that uses Chrome as the browser. Essentially, anything that can you watch or read or stream in Chrome can be send wirelessly to your TV. In addition, for Android smartphone and tablet users, a growing number applications support streaming to the Chromecast directly including Netflix, YouTube, HBO Go, Hulu Plus, Pandora, ESPN, MLB.TV, Google Play Movies and Music, Plex, MLS, crackle, Vevo, Rdio.

chromecast2.jpg

The only annoyance in setup is that the Chromecast requires a USB connection for power - but most TVs today have the necessary USB port so you don't have to use an AC adapter.

But damn, for only $29, this is a neat gadget worth giving a try!

If you are having trouble picking out a gift for a loved one, consider buying an Amazon.com gift card! Amazon has basically every product on the planet for your gift recipient to order and purchasing gift cards through these links directly sponsors and supports PC Perspective! And hey, if you were to buy gift cards for yourself to do your own Amazon-based Christmas shopping...that wouldn't exactly be a bad thing for us either! ;)

Did you miss any of our other PCPer 10 Days of Christmas posts?

NVIDIA Launches Half-Life 2: Episode One on SHIELD Tablet

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 15, 2014 - 03:31 PM |
Tagged: shield tablet, shield, Portal, nvidia, half-life 2: episode one, half-life 2, google play, google, Android

Back in November, we published news about the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet update to Android 5.0. A part of the update was the “Green Box” promotion, which gives Half-Life 2, Portal, and Half-Life 2: Episode One free with the purchase of a 32GB LTE SHIELD Tablet. Today, Half-Life 2: Episode One launches on Google Play store for $7.99 USD (or free with the Green Box). Unlike Half-Life 2 and Portal, which runs on the original NVIDIA SHIELD, Episode One requires an NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet. It also requires a controller.

nvidia-shield-tablet-hl2episodeone.jpg

Like the previous release of Half-Life 2 and Portal, this is a complete port to the ARM architecture of NVIDIA Tegra K1. The game will run natively on the device, without being streamed from a host PC. For a little perspective, the Tegra K1 has a little more compute performance than a GeForce 9600 GT – a popular mid-range GPU that launched two years after Episode One.

Half-Life 2: Episode One launched today for $7.99 USD (or free with “The Green Box” bundle).

Source: Google

Microsoft and Yahoo Want to Be Apple's Default Search

Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2014 - 09:29 PM |
Tagged: apple, safari, google, yahoo, bing, microsoft, mozilla

After Mozilla inked the deal with Yahoo, the eyes turned to Apple and its Safari browser. Currently, the default search engine is Google on both iOS and OSX, although Bing is the primary engine used for other functions, like Siri and Spotlight. Until early 2015, they are tied into a contract with Google for those two browsers, but who will get the new contract?

bing-squirrel.jpg

Apparently Yahoo and Microsoft have both approached the company for the position, and Apple is not ruling any of the three out. Probably the most interesting part is how Yahoo is genuinely taking the search business seriously. The deal with Mozilla is fairly long-term, and with Yahoo approaching Apple as well, it probably was not just charity on Mozilla's part because no-one else wanted to be Firefox's default. Yahoo would probably need some significant monetary backing for an Apple deal, which suggests the same for their deal with Mozilla.

If both Mozilla and Apple leave Google, it will take a significant chunk out of the search engine. Power users, like those who read this site, will likely be unaffected if they care, because of how low the barrier is to change the default search engine. On the other hand, even the most experienced user will often accept default settings until there is a reason to change. The winning party will need to have a good enough product to overcome that initial shock.

But the money will at least give them a chance when the decision comes into effect. That is, unless the barrier to changing default search engines is less than the barrier to changing default web browsers.

Google will always be default on Google Chrome.

Mozilla Partners with Yahoo! for Five Year Search Deal

Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2014 - 10:10 PM |
Tagged: yahoo, mozilla, google, firefox

Mozilla, developer of the Firefox web browser, has been mostly funded by Google for the last decade. Between 2005 and 2011, the search giant slowly ramped up its contributions from around $50 million USD for a single year to just over $100 million for the last year. All of this money was to keep the default search engine set to Google for the location and search bar. At that time, journalists were voicing their concerns that Mozilla would be cut off after the success Google saw with their Chrome browser.

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In December 2011, Google and Mozilla surprised the world with a different announcement, $300 million dollars per year until November 2014, or almost three times their previous annual contributions. I could not help but feel it was like a light bulb that flares before it extinguishes, although later rumors claimed that Microsoft and Yahoo drove up Google's bid with high counter-offers. Of course, that deal ends this month and Google is no longer the winning bid, if they even proposed a deal at all.

This time, Yahoo won for the next five years (in the US) with a currently undisclosed sum. Yandex will be the default for Russia, and Baidu has been renewed as the default in China.

Yahoo also committed to supporting the Do Not Track (DNT) header for Firefox browsers. If your settings have DNT enabled, the search engine will adjust its behavior to acknowledge your request for privacy. One thing that has not been mentioned is how they will react to your request. This could be anything from treating you as completely anonymous, to personalizing your search results but not your ads, to personalizing your ads but not your search results, to only looking at the geographic location of your IP address, and so forth.

The search experience is not what you will get by going to the Yahoo homepage today; the new site was developed in collaboration with Mozilla and will launch for Firefox users in December. It will go live for every other Yahoo user in 2015.

Source: Mozilla

A slew of updates from Google

Subject: General Tech | November 20, 2014 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: google, lollipop, google play, shield

As you have no doubt heard, Android 5.0 aka Lollipop has been released, with NVIDIA's Shield picking it up immediately and most users having no issues whatsoever.  Nexus devices have also started to download and install it although that process is not going as smoothly as The Inquirer reports that many users are finding their devices almost unusable after they installed the new OS.  We shall see over the coming days if that is a rare occurrence or if the problems are widespread.  There was also an update to Chrome which brings stable 64bit performance to Apple users and some changes to the way bookmarks are handled in the beta version as well as numerous bugs which were found and bounty was paid on.  There are even more updates to Google Play, maps, wallet and other products which you can catch up on at The Inquirer.

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"YEE-HAW AND HOWDY pardners. In the week when it began to rain Lollipops in earnest, it's time to hit the trail for the Google Round-Up."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Remember the Google Barges? We know why they left

Subject: General Tech | November 7, 2014 - 12:54 PM |
Tagged: google, barges, mysterious

Not even Google is able to defeat the enforcement powers of local fire marshals which is why the mysterious barges are no longer anchored off the coast of San Francisco.  It seems that may not have met the fire safety rules required by law and so they have departed for places unknown.  The variety of theories which attempted to explain the barges, from floating data centres to a project to cede from the USA, were far more entertaining than the truth but perhaps we can enjoy a resurgence of entertaining internet hypothesizing now that the barges have disappeared.  The Inquirer did get a chance to speak with Google about the barges and it turns out that they were simply a very unique way to set up a display room to show off Google's newest projects.

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"TWO MYSTERIOUS BARGES moored by Google off the coast of the US last year were apparently moved because coastguards feared they did not conform to fire regulations."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Google is looking for a brand new band

Subject: General Tech | October 16, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: wireless, google, FCC

Google seems to be investigating a new way to extend their reach as an ISP, over and above Google Fibre and WiFi in Starbucks.  They have applied to the FCC to test data communication on 1mm frequency waves between 5.8GHz and 24.2GHz frequency band as wll as 2mm waves from 71-76GHz and 81-86GHz.  The wireless spectrum available continues to shrink as carriers bid on the remaining unclaimed frequencies which can penetrate the electronic noise that permeates highly populated areas and so companies are exploring frequencies which were not used in the past.  From what The Inquirer was told, these particular frequencies could be capable of sending data at speeds of several gigabits per second bandwidth over short distances, that could really help reduce the cost of connecting new users to their fibre network as the last mile could be wireless, not wired.

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"GOOGLE HAS FILED A REQUEST with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to test high-speed wireless spectrum at several locations in California."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Google Nexus 9 Powered by NVIDIA Tegra K1, Denver 64-bit SoC

Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2014 - 01:10 PM |
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, nvidia, nexus 9, Nexus, google, Denver

Along with the announcement of the Google Nexus 6 phone, Google is also announcing a new tablet, the Nexus 9. Sporting an 8.9-in IPS screen with a 2048x1536 resolution (4:3 standing strong!), a 6700 mAh battery as well as the new Android Lollipop operating system, perhaps the most interesting specification is that it is built around NVIDIA's Tegra K1 SoC. Specifically, the 64-bit version based on the dual-core custom built Denver design, marking that architectures first release in shipping product.

UPDATE: Amazon.com has the Google Nexus 9 up for pre-order in both 16GB and 32GB capacities!

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Tegra K1 using 64-bit Denver cores are unique in that it marks the first time NVIDIA has not used off-the-shelf cores from ARM in it's SoC designs. We also know, based on Tim's news post on PC Perspective in August, that the architecture is using a 7-way superscalar design and actually runs a custom instruction set that gets translated to ARMv8 in real-time. 

A software layer and 128MB cache enhance the Dynamic Code Optimization technology by allowing the processor to examine and optimize the ARM code, convert it to the custom instruction set, and further cache the converted microcode of frequently used applications in a cache (which can be bypassed for infrequently processed code). Using the wider execution engine and Dynamic Code Optimization (which is transparent to ARM developers and does not require updated applications), NVIDIA touts the dual Denver core Tegra K1 as being at least as powerful as the quad and octo-core packing competition.

nexus9-3.jpg

It is great news for NVIDIA that Google is using this version of the Tegra K1 (can we please just get a different name for this version of the chip) as it indicates Google's commitment to the architecture in Android going forward, opening doors for the parts integration with even more devices with other hardware vendors moving forward. 

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More than likely built by HTC, the Nexus 9 will ship in three different colors (black, white and beige) and has a lot of callbacks to the Nexus 7, one of if not THE most popular Android tablet on the market. The tablet has front-facing speakers which should make it good for headphone-free media consumption when necessary. You'll be able put the Nexus 9 into a working mode easily with a new magnetically attached keyboard dock, similar to the iPad accessories widely available.

The Nexus 9 weighs in at 425g (the iPad Air weighs 478g), will have 16GB and 32GB capacity options, going up for preorder on 10/17 and shipping by 11/03. Google will sell both a 32GB Wi-Fi and 32GB LTE model with the LTE version (as well as the Sand color) shipping "later this year." Pricing is set at $399 for the 16GB model, $479 for the 32GB model and $599 for the 32GB+LTE version. That is quite a price hike for LTE capability and the $80 gap between the 16GB and 32GB options is annoying as well.

 Screen  8.9" IPS LCD TFT 4:3 aspect ratio QXGA (2048x1536) 
 Size  153.68 mm x 228.25 mm x 7.95 mm  
 Weight  WiFi: 14.99 ounces (425g) LTE: 15.38 ounces (436g) 
 Camera  Rear Camera: 8MP, f/2.4, 29.2mm focal length (35mm equiv), Auto-focus, LED flash Front Camera: 1.6MP, f/2.4, 26.1mm focal length (35mm equiv), Fixed-focus, no flash 
 Audio  Front-facing stereo speakers, complete with HTC’s BoomSound™ technology
 Memory  16, 32 GB eMMC 4.51 storage (actual formatted capacity will be less)  
 CPU  NVIDIA Tegra K1 - 64 bit; Dual Denver CPUs @ 2.3 GHz 
 GPU  Kepler 192-core GPU 
 RAM  2GB LPDDR3
 Wireless  Broadcom 802.11ac 2x2 (MIMO)

 

 Network  Quad-band GSM, CDMA, Penta-band HSPA, 4G LTE
 Power**  6700 mAh Wifi Browsing: Up to 9.5 hours LTE Browsing: Up to 8.5 hours Video Playback: Up to 9.5 hours Wifi Standby: Up to 30 days LTE Standby: Up to 30 days
 Sensors  GNSS support for GPS, GLONASS, and Beidou Bosch gyroscope and accelerometer AKM magnetometer & hall effect sensor Capella ambient light sensor
 Ports & Connectors  Single micro-USB 2.0 for USB data/charging 3.5mm audio jack Dual front-facing speakers Dual microphones, top/bottom 
 OS  Android 5.0 Lollipop
Source: Google Nexus

HTC Making the Google Nexus 9 with NVIDIA Tegra K1?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 26, 2014 - 01:45 AM |
Tagged: tablet, Nexus, google, nexus 9, nvidia, tegra k1

The Nexus line is due for an update, with each product being released for at least a year. They are devices which embody Google's vision... for their own platform. You can fall on either side of that debate, whether it guides OEM partners or if it is simply a shard the fragmentation issue, if you even believe that fragmentation is bad, but they are easy to recommend and a good benchmark for Android.

google-nexus-logo.png

We are expecting a few new entries in the coming months, one of which being the Nexus 9. Of note, it is expected to mark the return of HTC to the Nexus brand. They were the launch partner with the Nexus One and then promptly exited stage left as LG, Samsung, and ASUS performed the main acts.

We found this out because NVIDIA spilled the beans on their lawsuit filing against Qualcomm and Samsung. Apparently, "the HTC Nexus 9, expected in the third quarter of 2014, is also expected to use the Tegra K1". It has since been revised to remove the reference. While the K1 has a significant GPU to back it up, it will likely be driving a very high resolution display. The Nexus 6 is expected to launch at around the same time, along with Android 5.0 itself, and the 5.2-inch phone is rumored to have a 1440p display. It seems unlikely that a larger, tablet display will be lower resolution than the phone it launches alongside -- and there's not much room above it.

The Google Nexus 9 is expected for "Q3".

Source: The Verge

Google+ Not Required for Google Accounts Anymore

Subject: General Tech | September 22, 2014 - 05:15 PM |
Tagged: google, google+

I cannot help but feel like this is a step on the eventual phasing-out of Google's most recent attempt at a standalone social network, Google+. Until just recently, the company was doing all that they could to force it into each of their services; now, they give you a "no thanks" option when creating a Google account (for GMail, Google Docs, and so forth).

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Image Credit: Marketing Land

Marketing Land claims to disagree. They expect that Google will "continue making subtle changes to the service" such as enhancements to Hangouts and Hangouts on Air, or even spinning out Google+ Photos. The thing is, these initiatives will not mean that they are supporting Google+; rather, it says that they are supporting the parts of it that worked. The article did not even mention actual Google+, the social network, as something that Google might consider updating -- just Hangouts and other sub-products.

This all depends on what you consider "Google" to be. Not having a profile on a message-sharing service does not really change much, despite how it feels. The real point should be reducing the barrier-to-entry for cross-promotion. A unified login helps in reducing effort to acquire new users without any real risk. Forcing users into your ecosystem could help, if it does not shove them away.

And Google seems to care even less about keeping users in their eco-system with a limited communication and microblogging platform.