Google's take on the quantum computer

Subject: General Tech | June 14, 2016 - 05:14 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 - 04:29 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 - 07:12 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 - 06:09 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 - 08:59 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 - 07:40 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 - 07:22 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

PSA: Get An Additional 2GB of Free Google Drive Storage by Securing Your Account

Subject: General Tech | February 13, 2016 - 02:56 AM |
Tagged: google drive, google, cloud storage

In honor of Safer Internet Day, Google is offering up 2GB of additional Google Drive storage space for free to users that run a security checkup on their accounts through this Google tool.

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Google will ask you to go through several steps to secure your Google account and verify your information. You will need to confirm your account recovery information and connected devices. The tool will also show you what applications and services have access to your Google account (for me it was only Chrome and Target's Cartwheel app). Further, it will ask you to set up 2-factor authentication and confirm that you still want to leave the listed app passwords active (app passwords are randomly generated passwords used in apps that do not support 2-factor authentication, such as Thunderbird).

After stepping through the security checklist, you will find an addtional 2GB of storage space in your Drive account. Note that native Google Docs do not count against your space, but uploaded copies of things like Excel spreadsheets and Word documents kept in those formats do. Get the free space while it's still being offered!

Also, I hope that you have already locked in your OneDrive storage space as well!

Source: Google

Are you going to phish or cut clickbait?

Subject: General Tech | February 4, 2016 - 07:08 PM |
Tagged: security, google

Remember the thrill of finding the actual download button for the software you need, hidden on a webpage featuring at least four other large download buttons leading to unrelated and generally nasty software?  Well those horrible people at Google want to take that joy away from you!  Instead of practicing your skills at slapping the monkey, shooting the duck or pretending you are on an online version of Let's Make a Deal trying to pick the right download button to reveal the prize you want, they will present you with a bright red warning screen. 

For some reason those hacks over at The Inquirer think it is a good idea to take away the hours of time spent with your family, and all the interesting things that "just appeared" on their machines.

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"Google is still chipping away at creating a secure online experience and has just unearthed a new element for safe browsing that stops click-happy idiots doing click-stupid things."

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Source: The Inquirer

Google Releases Chrome 48 with Interesting Features

Subject: General Tech | January 21, 2016 - 07:59 AM |
Tagged: google, chrome

Web browsers are typically on rapid release cycles so they can get features out frequently. The Web is changing on a constant basis to help it become an effective application platform, which is cross-compatible with competing implementations. A common complaint is that the cycle is to yield high version numbers for marketing, to give a false sense of maturity, but I'd expect that frequent, breaking changes are kind-of necessary to synchronize features between implementations. If Google lands a feature a month after Mozilla publishes a new version, should they really wait two years for their next one? Granted, they probably knew about it pre-release, but you get the idea. Also, even if the theory is true, artificially high version numbers is one of the most benign things a company could do.

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Some versions introduce some fairly interesting features, though. This one, Google Chrome 48, deprecates RC4 encryption for HTTPS, which forces web servers to use newer cyphers or they will fail to load.

Another major one, and probably more interesting for our audience, is the introduction of VP9 to WebRTC. This video codec is Google's open competitor to H.265. At similar quality settings, VP9 will use about half of the bandwidth (or storage) as VP8. WebRTC is mostly used for video conferencing, but it's really an open platform for webcam, microphone, audio, video, and raw, peer-to-peer data connections. There are even examples of it being used to synchronize objects in multiplayer video games, which has nothing to do with video or audio streaming. I'm not sure what is possible with this support, but it might even lead to web applications that can edit video.

Google Chrome 48 is available today. Also, as a related note, Firefox 44 should release next week with its own features, like experimental rendering of WebGL images offscreen and multi-threaded. The full changelog for Google Chrome 48 from Git is about 42 MB large and, ironically, tends to crash Firefox.

Source: VentureBeat