Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 10:17 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: sony, smart tv, htpc, google tv, google, Android
Yes, it does appear that Google TV is still a “thing” – though I am only reminded because Sony has not stoppsed releasing new boxes running Android. The NSZ-GS7 is a small box designed to sit between your TV and cable box to add additional smart TV-like functionality. It is running a dual core Marvell ARM processor, and has 8GB of storage space, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth radios. Rear IO on the device includes two HDMI ports (for HDMI passthrough of your cable box or other media device), optical audio output, an IR blaster port, Ethernet, two USB ports, and a power input port.
The interesting thing about these Google TV products has always been the remotes. There have been some strange designs in the past, but the Sony NSZ-GS7’s remote actually looks nice and comfortable. The front of the remote resembles any standard TV remote with a track pad added to it while the back of the remote features a full QWERTY keyboard. It also has an accelerometer and is allegedly capable of detecting which side of the remote you are using – and will turn off the buttons on the underside to avoid accidental key-presses.
I really like this remote. Image credit goes to Tom's Hardware.
Beyond the hardware itself, the Google TV box is running Android 3.2 Honeycomb. It is able to acts as an enhanced TV guide as well as providing web access and Google App functionality (for the few apps that have been modified to work specifically with Google TVs anyway). One of the cool apps available is one that can control a Parrot AR.Drone on the big screen with the TV remote, which sounds like fun (my dog would go nuts!). It is also capable of doing picture-in-picture where users can browse the web while also watching the TV in a smaller window.
Tom’s Hardware managed to gets a hands-on demo with the new device courtesy of Sony Canada. They managed to snag several good photos of the hardware and interface. They note that the NSZ-GS7 Google TV box will be coming out next month for those in the US and UK – a Canadian launch is following in August – for $199. You can find more photos at the link above.
Especially with the release of the Nexus Q, I have to wonder if Google is even aware that Google TV is still around, because it really feels like they launched it and then walked away from it. Now that they are focusing on “the cloud” for media playback, the Google TV has even less relevance to the company. On the other hand, I could see an perspective where both devices are able to coexist and flesh out total living room media functionality with the Nexus Q handling the social and cloud media playback and Google TV acting as a better cable box for “offline” media. I am curious though, what you think of Google TV. Do you like it, or would you rather have a beefier HTPC running Windows or Linux on x86/64 hardware? Where do you think the Google TV fits into the living room?
Other Google I/O News:
- Google I/O: Day One Announcements
- Google Glasses
- Google Selling Nexus 7 At Cost, Pushing Its Google Play Store
- The ASUS tablet that became the Nexus 7
- Google I/O talk on the PC Perspective Podcast
Subject: General Tech | June 29, 2012 - 06:47 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, Nexus, jelly bean, google io, google, Android
We first saw an ASUS 7” tablet at CES 2012. That tablet would quickly drop off the radar only to emerge again at this year’s Google I/O developer conference as the Google Nexus 7. The Nexus 7 is a 7” tablet that closely resembles the original ASUS model but tweaks the case and knocks the price down to $199.
Specifications include a quad core Tegra 3 processor with 12-core GPU component, 8GB or 16GB of storage space, and 1GB of RAM. Other features include WiFi, NFC, and Bluetooth. Further, Google announced during its Day 1 keynote that the Nexus 7 weighs in at 340 grams and offers up to 9 hours of video playback time. All that hardware drives Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and an IPS display with resolution of 1280x800 resolution.
All Things D talked with both ASUS CEO Jonney Shih and Google’s Andy Rubin about the new Google Nexus 7 tablet and how it came to be. Reportedly, ASUS had just four months to come up with a 7” tablet for Google that they could sell at cost for $200. Both of those added up to a tight time schedule with 24-hour development cycle and a tablet that was mostly similar to its CES tablet but at the lower Google price point. Dubbed Project A Team internally, ASUS added a number of new people to the tablet project and moved engineers around the work – including some postings in Silicon Valley so that they could work closely with Google. It also enabled ASUS to work around the clock on the hardware (albeit by different workers). Google has stated that ASUS was one of the few companies that could have pulled off the tablet in the short time frame given. AllThingsD quoted Google’s Andy Rubin as saying “We went from zero to working product in four months.”
On the ASUS side of things, Jonney Shih told the site that “our engineers told me it is like torture” regarding working with Google to develop the tablet. Also, he stated that Google can be a demanding company to work with. “They ask a lot.”
Granted, ASUS had a good starting point with its 370T tablet that it showed off at CES, but the difficult part was taking that same tablet and making it cost less than $200. Google’s goal with that price point was to attempt to capture the mainstream market – a market that is currently buying into the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet tablets (and accompanying ecosystems). Despite being based on Android, both Barnes and Noble and Amazon have heavily tweaked the interface and heavily tied the hardware into their content ecosystems. Google wants to do the same with its Play Store by releasing a tablet at cost on its Google Play Store that will run the latest – and bloatware-free – version of Android. The company is trying to position the Nexus 7 as the perfect tablet to consumer Play Music, Play Books, and Play Movies on. The hardware inside and out along with the latest Android OS do make it a very compelling option for people wanting a tablet with the form factor of the Kindle Fire but the full (and latest) stock version of Android. Both companies seemed to run into the Nexus 7, but in the end the pressure ASUS was under may have resulted in a "diamond in the (Android tablet) rough."
What do you think of the Nexus 7? Is it the Kindle Fire for the more tech savvy (and/or those not already heavilly invested in a competing media catalog like Itunes, Amazon Kindle, et al)?
Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2012 - 11:12 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: project glass, google+, google io, google glasses, google, explorer edition
One of the cooler presentations during today’s Google I/O Keynote events was the surprise reveal of Explorer Edition Google Glasses (the hardware emerging from Project Glass). They kicked off the presentation by live streaming a wing suit flight from a blimp using – you guessed it – Google Glasses and a Google+ Hangout. Extremely cool! The video of the event is embedded below for those that missed the live stream.
The Google Glasses have a built in camera and small transparent display mounted over the rim of the right glasses and is visible when looking slightly upwards. They have been constructed so that they are balanced, with the majority of the weight spread out behind and around the ears instead of being front-heavy and pushing down on the bridge of your nose. The Explorer (developer) Edition glasses are WiFi and Bluetooth only, and feature a touch pad on the right side and camera button on the top of the glasses rims. They further are able to locally store images or videos with the option to offload some or all of the media to your computer. (a 3G/4G modem would probably affect battery life too much to be useful).
Despite feeling a bit like a Universal Soldier, I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a pair of Google Glasses. The catch is that they are only available to Google I/O attendees, won't ship until early 2013, and will run $1500 each. That’s a high price for what would amount to a toy for me, but it is not out of the question to expect from a developer – who in turn gets early access to the hardware and can get a head start at developing applications for it.
My only real problem with the idea of wearing Google Glasses is that the company already has a mountain of data about me (Google+, Google search history, Analytics, Adsense, Drive, Play, Android, Chrome... wow I never really have Google-fied my browsing is!), and Google Glasses sound like a device that is a bit /too perfect/ of a tool for gathering data on me and presenting me with “relevant ads” for Google to ignore! (hehe)
What do you think of Google Glasses? Could you see yourself wearing them? And if so, what would you use them for?
Subject: General Tech | June 27, 2012 - 10:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, google io, google drive, google, developers, conference, chrome, asus, Android
Every June, the tech world lights up with numerous tech conferences that pack dense information into a couple days (and takes weeks to fully decompress). One of the bigger conferences (by a single company, Computex is its own beast) is Google I/O.
The biggest rumor to come out concerning this year’s Google I/O announcements is an ASUS manufactured 7-inch Nexus Tablet. It is allegedly packing some high end hardware with the Tegra 3 Soc, up to 16GB of memory, IPS display, and an extremely attractive price at less than $200. Beyond that, we can expect Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) information, developer talks, software demos, and more talk of Google Wallet, and NFC technology. Heck, Google may even make a second attempt at pushing Android@Home (or maybe not heh).
Being June 27th, it is the first day of Google I/O and that means it is time for keynotes! On the schedule for today, Google has talks on the new aspects of Android, Google Play, cloud computing, Youtube cloud rendering, Google+ (including Hangouts), and new features of Google Maps. They also have talks scheduled with Google Drive information that should demo some of the things developers can do with the Drive SDK.
We are excited to see if the Nexus tablet rumors are true or not, as well as learning more about the latest version of Android. If you are interested in watching the event, check out the Google I/O schedule where you can tune into the most of the events live. The first event starts soon at 9:30am PST!
Check back later today for updates!
Update: (9:00 PST) A leaked screenshot indicates that the Nexus tablet may be called the Nexus 7.
Update: (9:30 PST) Vic Gondotra stepped on stage to kick off the Google I/O conference. He stated that there are more than 30,000 people in attendance.
What are you excited about at Google I/O? Let us know in the comments below!
Search engine giant Google took the wraps off its long rumored cloud storage service called Google Drive this week. The service has been rumored for years, but is (finally) official. In the interim, several competing services have emerged and even managed to grab significant shares of the market. Therefore, it will be interesting to see how Google’s service will stack up. In this article, we’ll be taking Google Drive on a test drive from installation to usage to see if it is a worthy competitor to other popular storage services—and whether it is worth switching to!
How we test
In order to test the service, I installed the Google desktop application (we’ll be taking a look at the mobile app soon) and uploaded a variety of media file types including documents, music, photos, and videos in numerous formats. The test system in question is an Intel i7 860 based system with 8GB of RAM and a wired Ethernet connection to the LAN. The cable ISP I used offers approximately two to three mpbs uploads (real world speeds, 4mbps promised) for those interested.
Google’s cloud service was officially unveiled on Tuesday, but the company is still rolling out activations for people’s accounts (my Google Drive account activated yesterday [April 27, 2012], for example). And it now represents the new single storage bucket for all your Google needs (Picasa, Gmail, Docs, App Inventor, ect; although people can grandfather themselves into the cheaper Picasa online storage).
Old Picasa Storage vs New Google Drive Storage Plans
|Storage Tier (old/new)||Old Plan Pricing (per year)||New Plan Pricing (per year)|
|20 GB/25 GB||$5||$29.88|
|80 GB/100 GB||$20||$59.88|
(Picasa Plans were so much cheaper–hold onto them if you're able to!)
The way Google Drive works is much like that of Dropbox wherein a single folder is synced between Google’s servers and the user’s local machine (though sub-folders are okay to use and the equivalent of "labels" on the Google side). The storage in question is available in several tiers, though the tier that most people will be interested in is the free one. On that front, Google Drive offers 5GB of synced storage, 10GB of Gmail storage, and 1GB of Picasa Web Albums photo backup space. Beyond that, Google is offering nine paid tiers from an additional 25GB of "Drive and Picasa" storage (and 25GB of Gmail email storage) for $2.49 a month to 16TB of Drive and Picasa Web Albums storage with 25GB of Gmail email storage for $799.99 a month. The chart below details all the storage tiers available.
|Storage Tiers||Drive/Picasa Storage||Gmail Storage||Price (per month)|
1024MB = 1GB, 1024GB = 1TB
The above storage numbers do not include the 5GB of free drive storage that is also applied to any paid tiers. The free 1GB of Picasa storage does not carry over to the paid tiers.
Even better, Google has not been stingy with their free storage. They continue to allow users to upload as many photos as they want to Google+ (they are resized to a max of 2048x2048 pixels though). Also, Google Documents stored in the Docs format continue to not count towards the storage quota. Videos uploaded to Google+ under 15 minutes in length are also free from storage limitations. As far as Picasa Web Albums (which also includes photos uploaded to blogger blogs) goes, any images under 2048x2048 and videos under 15 minutes in length do not count towards the storage quota either. If you exceed the storage limit, Google will still allow you to access all of your files, but you will not be able to create any new files until you delete enough files to get below the storage quota. The one exception to that rule is the “storage quota free” file types mentioned above–Google will still let you create/upload those. For Gmail storage, Google allows you to receive and store as much email as you want up to the quota. After you reach the quota, any new email will hard bounce and you will not be able to receive new messages.
In that same vein, Google’s paid tiers are not the cheapest but are still fairly economical. They are less expensive per GB than Dropbox, for example, but are more expensive than Microsoft’s new Skydrive tiers. One issue that many users face with online storage services is the file size limit placed on individual files. While Dropbox places no limits (other than overall storage quota) on individual file size, many other services do. Google offers a compromise to users in the form of 10GB per file size limits. While you won’t be backing up Virtualbox hard drives or drive image backups to Google, they’ll let you backup anything else (within reason).
Subject: General Tech | April 19, 2012 - 04:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: dropbox, storage, free storage, google, google drive
Users of online storage have been spoiled by services like Dropbox, Spider Oak, and Box.com who offer up gobs of free storage space. Before they became prevalent, there was Gmail and rumors of a Google Drive. This Google Drive never really materialized beyond user workarounds to upload files using a program that stored them in Google’s Email service’s approximate 9 GB of space.
Finally, after years of other services entrenching themselves in the market, it seems like Google may be jumping in. If rumors are true, the new online storage service will launch in the middle of next week at the drive.google.com URL. The Google Drive will reportedly offer 5GB of free storage space as well as paid tiers for increased storage levels (pricing unknown). Further, users will be able to access the files via the website and using applications. So far, rumors are pointing to a Windows and Mac OSX application, though it would not be surprising to see an Android app in the future.
I’m excited to see this service finally launch and what Google’s take on online storage will be. My only concern is whether they are jumping into the game at a time when it is too little too late. Sure, everyone and their grandmother likely have at least one Google/Gmail account but many of those people also have Dropbox accounts. The free services that were not really around when the first hints of a Google Drive emerged have not blossomed and dug their roots into the market. Even Apple and Microsoft have beat Google to the punch with cloud storage, so it is going to be an uphill battle for Google requiring something unique in order for it to catch on.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely going to be checking it out, but I believe they are really going to have to knock this out of the park on the first try in order to succeed. Will you be checking it out, and when (if?) you do please report back and let us know what you think of it. How do you think the other free and paid storage services will react to Google entering the market?
Image courtesy pmsyyz via Flickr Creative Commons
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 28, 2012 - 02:33 PM | Scott Michaud
Google patents the ability to take a photo of an internet-capable application such as a website or videogame to share its state to another device.
If you have ever used a smartphone keyboard than you would probably know how difficult it is to type certain web addresses into your location bar. If you are leaving a device but want to resume using the web application you left behind then you might just need to take a picture of it. In the future that might be preferred way to transfer what you are doing between devices.
Imagine how different the Copy/Paste war would we have been given this on the iPhone?
From how I understand the patent, both devices would need to be logged into the same Google account. Such a limitation means that you could not show your laptop to a friend in a lecture hall and share the state of your website with them. This limitation also means that someone malicious could not take a picture over your shoulder to find out where your Google Maps destination will be. It is possible that Google could allow you to share it with, for instance, Google+ circles -- but that is all my speculation.
The patent extends beyond surfing web sites. Specifically mentioned is the ability to capture the state of a videogame and transfer it to a different platform.
So what do you all think? Creepy or cool, perhaps both?
Subject: General Tech | March 17, 2012 - 04:33 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: nexus tablet, google, Android
The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablets are two low cost Android tablets that are arguably the first Android tablets to be very successful, especially as gifts during this past holiday season. The $500+ iPads are nice, but not everyone is willing to pay that much money for a secondary computing device (the PC isn't dead yet!). There is also the form factor issue in that many consumers prefer the smaller and more portable 7" tablets that Apple has yet to provide.
Image via techiser
It seems as though Google has taken notice of the success of the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet and is ready to throw it's weight around and show manufacturers how to replicate that success with a reference 7" tablet of their very own. Much akin to the Google Nexus smart phones that Google released to act as a base / vanilla platform for manufacturers to base their designs on; Google is planning to release a Google Nexus Tablet. Recent rumors suggest that such an Android tablet is a "done deal" according to sources within Google's supply chain. Further, the Nexus tablet will allegedly feature a 7" form factor and will be powered by a TI OMAP 4 processor to keep costs low (versus using NVIDIA's Tegra 3). In addition, the Nexus Tablet would run an updated version of Android, specifically Android 4.1.
Speaking of costs, the Verge has stated that the new Nexus Tablet will retail for $199 USD, though there may be other varied SKUs that come in at lower/higher price points depending on the amount of RAM and storage.
The Google Nexus smart phones never really caught on with the majority of consumers, but many tech savvy people appreciated the vanilla Android experience that did not involve waiting months for OS updates (I'm looking at you, Samsung). If anyone can create a low cost tablet to replicate the success of the Kindle Fire, it's Google. What are your thoughts on these recent rumors?
Subject: General Tech | March 12, 2012 - 10:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SSL, search, international, google, encryption
Google recently announced on their Inside Search blog that the company would be rolling out the default SSL encrypted search option for users signed in with a Google account internationally. Previously, the company made SSL encryption the default setting for Gmail and provided an alternative encrypted.google.com webpage for users that wanted to opt in to encrypted search. Earlier this year, they began testing SSL encrypted search and search results pages for users signed into Google in the US, and they are now ready to expand the default setting to international users.
They announced that over the next few weeks, they will begin introducing an SSL (secure socket layer) encrypted search page for localized international google pages such as google.co.uk (United Kingdom) and google.fr (France) among others. Further, they hope that their increased SSL commitment will encourage other websites to enable SSL on their domains to protect users from MITM (man in the middle) attacks and to ensure their sessions stay private.
More encryption is a good thing, and international users will be pleased to finally get a taste of it for their google search queries, especially now that the big G has enabled personalized search results.
Yesterday morning the Internet juggernaut that is Google announced that its public DNS service has far surpassed their expectations for the experimental service. In fact, the company has taken the 'beta service' training wheels off of what they believe to be "the largest public DNS service in the world," and their statement that they are now handling 70 billion requests a day means the claim may not be far from the truth.
Interestingly, 70% of the service's users come from outside of the US, and Google has announced that they are beefing up their overseas presence to service them with new access points in Australia, India, Japan, and Nigeria. Further, they are expanding their offerings in Asia in addition to maintaining the current servers in North America, South America, and Europe.
The company is continuing to provide their DNS service for free, and they ended their announcementby stating "Google Public DNS’s goal is simple: making the web—really, the whole Internet!—faster for our users."
For those curious, DNS is the technology that allows users to punch in easy to remember text URLs and have their computers connect to the proper servers via numerical IP addresses (which are definitely not as easy to remember). It has been likened to the Internet equivalent of a phone book, and that description is an apt one as DNS servers maintain a running list of IP addresses and the accompanying URL (universal resource locator) so that humans can input a text URL and connect to servers using an IP address. DNSSEC makes things a bit more complicated as it adds further layers of security, but on a basic level the description fits.
DNS benchmark "namebench" results
There are several free offerings besides the DNS services provided by your ISP, and open source tools like Name Bench can help you track down which DNS service is the fastest for you. Users connect to DNS servers using an IP address on one of several levels (in software, at the computer level, or at the router level, et al), and for the majority of people your modem and/or router will obtain the default DNS automatically from your ISP along with your IP.
The default DNS is not your only option, however. Further, many routers can support up to three DNS IP addresses, and by connecting to multiple (separate) services you can achieve a bit of redundancy and maybe even a bit of speed. A fast DNS server can result in much faster web page load times, especially for sites that you don't normally go to (and thus are not cached).
In the case of the Google Public DNS, they operate on the following IP addresses.
(The latter two are IPv6 addresses, and were announced on World IPv6 Day.)
If you have not looked into alternative DNS services, I encourage you to do so as they can often be faster and more reliable than the default ISP provided servers (though that is not always the case). It does not take much time to test and is an easy configuration tweak that can save you a bit of time in getting to each web page (like PC Perspective!). Have you tried out Google or other alternative DNS services, and did you see any improvements?
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