Subject: Mobile | October 20, 2016 - 05:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: pixel, pixel xl, google, Android, Snapdragon 821, nougat
Ah, the tech industry; blink and suddenly familiar things disappear and yet you are also simultaneously overcome with a sense of deja vu. Former Motorola President Rick Osterloh now heads a team at Google which is the combination of Nexus, Pixel Chromebooks, Chromecast, OnHub, ATAP, and Google Glass and this team have just released two new Google phones. The 5" 1920x1080 Pixel and the 5.5" 2560x1440 Pixel XL have arrived on the market, priced to compete with Apple's new lineup, though still far less expensive than the Chromebooks which bore the same name up until recently. The phones run Android 7.1 Nougat on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 and are manufactured by HTC. Ars Technica considers them to now be the best Android phones on the market and yet somehow bland; read their full review to see if you agree.
"Welcome to the age of Google Hardware. Apparently tired of letting third-party Android OEMs serve as the stewards of Android handsets, Google has become a hardware company. (Again)."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
More Mobile Articles
- Google Pixel XL @ The Inquirer
- MSI GT83VR 6RF Titan SLI GTX 1080 Laptop @ Kitguru
- Gigabyte P57X v6 GTX 1070 Gaming Laptop @ eTeknix
- MSI GT83VR 6RF-028UK GTX 1080 SLI Laptop @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech | October 17, 2016 - 12:48 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: google, Intel, power9, zaius
Not too long ago Google revealed it had updated the code that runs behind its popular web based services to make it more hardware agnostic. With a trivial tweak to the code their software can switch between running on Intel x86, IBM Power or 64-bit ARM cores. On Friday Google Cloud's technical program manager, John Zipfel, provided more information on the OpenCAPI compliant Zaius P9 server that is in development and revealed it will use an IBM Power 9 chip. As it will be OpenCAPI, it will use interconnects such as NVIDIA's NVLink or AMD's as yet unnamed fabric interconnect but will not leverage Intel's. The Register has a bit more information on Google's plans and the Zaius here.
"Google has gently increased pressure on Intel – its main source for data-center processors – by saying it is "looking forward" to using chips from IBM and other semiconductor rivals."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- 'Pork Explosion' backdoor found on Foxconn-made Android devices @ The Inquirer
- There's Bugs In The Windows 10 Implementation of Bash @ Slashdot
- How a chunk of the web disappeared this week: GlobalSign's global HTTPS snafu explained @ The Register
- More Lithium Battery Product Recalls Predicted @ Slashdot
- The DJI Matrice 600 Drone Preview & Flight Demonstration @ TechARP
- NikKTech & QNAP Tri-NAS Global Giveaway
Subject: Networking | October 9, 2016 - 01:42 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wifi, onhub, mesh, google wifi, google, 802.11ac
Building on the company’s OnHub WiFi router program, the search giant will be offering up its own mesh WiFi network solution for home users later this year aptly named “Google WiFi.” Available in November for pre-order Google will offer single and triple packs of its puck-shaped smartphone controlled WiFi nodes.
Google WiFi is a new product that takes advantage of an old technology called mesh networking. While most home users rely on a single powerful access point to distribute the wireless signal throughout the home, mesh networks place nodes around the home in such a way that the WiFi networks overlap. Devices can connect to any node and transition between nodes automatically. The nodes communicate with each other wirelessly and connect end devices to the router and Internet by taking the best path (least number of hops and/or highest signal strengths). This model does have some disadvantages that are shared with WiFi repeater solutions in that as much as 50% (or worse!) of the bandwidth can be lost at each hop as the devices use wireless for both communicating with end devices and the backbone to the router. The advantage though is that you need only find a power outlet to set up the mesh node and there is no need to run Ethernet or deal with Powerline or MoCA setups.
Fortunately, it looks as though Google has mitigated the disadvantage by including two radios. The circular Google WiFi nodes (which measure 4.17” diagonally and 2.7” tall) pack a dual band 802.11ac WiFi chip that can operate at both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Using the 5 GHz network for in room end devices (PCs, smartphones, game consoles, Rokus, et al) and the 2.4 GHz network to communicate with each other will help to eliminate a major bottleneck. There will likely still be some bandwidth lost, especially over multiple hops, due to interference, but it should be much less than 50% bandwidth loss.
Each Google WiFi node features two Gigabit Ethernet ports that can be setup as LAN or WAN ports, Bluetooth, and an 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi radio with beamforming support. The nodes are powered by an unspecified quad core processor, 512MB DDR3L memory, and 4GB of eMMC flash storage. The nodes apparently draw as much as 15 watts.
Of course, being Google, the Google WiFi can be controlled using an Android or iOS app that allows the administrator to pause WiFi on a per-device basis (e.g. set time limits for children), monitor device bandwidth usage and prioritize traffic, and automatically apply firmware updates to mitigate security risks. Additionally, Google WiFi automatically configures each node to use the best channel and band to get the best performance that supports all devices.
The nodes currently come only in white and are constructed of plastic. There are blue LEDs around the middle of the puck shaped device. Google WiFi will be available for pre-order in November. A single node will cost $129 while a three pack will cost $299. Google is not first to the wireless mesh party but it looks like it will be competitively priced (the three pack is $200 cheaper than eero, for example).
This looks like it might be a simple to setup solution if you or your family are currently running a single access point that can’t quite cover the entire home. I don’t really see this as a product for enthusiasts, but it might be worth recommending to people that just want WiFi that works with little setup. I will have to wait for reviews to say for sure though.
What are your thoughts on Google WiFi?
Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2016 - 01:20 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: google, pixel, pixel xl, nougat, Android 7.1
The Inquirer had a chance to lay their hands on the new Google Pixel and Pixel XL and have shared their experiences here. We have covered the specs of the phone previously and so will not reiterate them here, check out Tim's coverage for the details. The impression that The Inq immediately had upon grasping the phone is that it feels very much like a slimmer HTC 10, which they were not overly impressed by. That HTC phone was rated 88 in DxOMark, the Pixel an 89 while the iPhone 7 garnered a rating of 86, if you follow that particular benchmark tool. They had a strong feeling that Google may have missed too many marks on this phone to justify the pricing, read on to see if you agree with their experiences.
"On first impressions, we can't help but feel that the Pixel is a bit of a wasted opportunity. The handset has a largely boring design, doesn't offer much in the way of innovation and is expensive compared with previous Nexus smartphones."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
More Mobile Articles
- The ASUS ZenFone 3 Ultra @ Tech ARP
- Xtorm AL450 Power Bank Essential 12.000mAh Review @ NikKTech
- Hands On Look At The Tencent QQ Watch @ Tech ARP
Subject: Storage | October 5, 2016 - 07:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: ssd, mozilla, google, firefox, endurance, chrome
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post pop up on Twitter a few times about Firefox performing excessive writes to SSDs, which total up to 32GBs in a single day. The author attributes it mostly to a fast-updating session restore feature, although cookies were also resource hogs in their findings. In an update, they also tested Google Chrome, which, itself, clocked in over 24GB of writes in a day.
This, of course, seemed weird to me. I would have thought that at least one browser vendor might notice an issue like this. Still, I passed the link to Allyn because he would be much more capable in terms of being able to replicate these results. In our internal chat at the time, he was less skeptical than I was. I've since followed up with him, and he said that his initial results “wasn't nearly as bad as their case”. He'll apparently elaborate on tonight's podcast, and I'll update this post with his findings.
Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 11:47 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: usb-c, Snapdragon 821, pixel, Kryo, google, android assistant, adreno 530, 802.11ac
Google introduced its own premium smartphone today in the form of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Running Android Nougat 7.1, the Pixel smartphones will not only run the latest operating system but will be the new premium experience with the best Android features including Google Assistant and Smart Storage with unlimited cloud storage of photos and videos.
Google is definitely taking a greater interest in promoting Pixel than they have with even their Nexus devices. It will be interesting to see how other Android manufacturers react to this news but I would imagine that they are not all that pleased and Google will be in a similar position to Microsoft with its Surface products and Nvidia with it's Founder's Edition graphics cards.
Google's Pixel lineup includes the Pixel (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3") and the Pixel XL (6 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34") that wrap their respective 5-inch 1080p (441 PPI) and 5.5-inch 1440p (534 PPI) displays in a full aluminum and glass unibody design that will come in one of three colors: Very Black, Quite Silver and Really Blue. The smartphones feature curved corners and rounded edges with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and half of the back. Google has put a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone and power, volume, three microphones, a USB-C port, and, yes, a 3.5mm audio jack.
There are both front and rear cameras and Google is claiming that the rear camera in particular is the best smartphone camera yet (with a DxOMark score of 89 points). The rear camera (which sits flush with the back of the phone) is rated at 12.3 MP with a f/2.0 aperture, and 1.55µm pixels. The camera further features an IMX378 sensor. electronic image stabilization, and both phase detection and laser auto focus. The Pixel can take HDR+ photos and videos at up to 4K30, 1080p120, or 720p240. Users can adjust white balance and use automatic exposure or auto focus locking. The front camera is less impressive at 8MP with fixed focus lens and f/2.4.
Internally, Google has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which is a 2+2 design that pairs two Kryo cores at 2.15 GHz with two Kryo cores at 1.6 GHz along with an Adreno 530 GPU, an impressive 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage which is regrettably non-expandable. The smartphones can tap into up to Category 11 LTE (Cat 9 in the US), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. Sensors include GPS, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, and hall sensors.
The Pixel features a 2,770 mAh battery and the Pixel Xl uses a slightly larger 3,450 mAh battery. In either case, Google rates the Pixel and Pixel XL at 13 hours and 14 hours of internet browsing and video playback respectively. Further, the batteries are able to be quick charged enough for up to "seven hours of use" after just 15 minutes of charging time using the included 18W USB-C charger.
Pricing works out to $649 for the 32GB Pixel, $749 for the 128GB Pixel, $769 for the 32GB Pixel XL, and $869 for the 128GB Pixel XL. In the US Google has partnered with Verizon for brick-and-mortar availability in addition to it being available on the Google store and other online retailers.
Google is banking a lot on these devices and asking a very premium price tag for the unlocked phones. It is certainly a gamble whether users will find the unique features enough to go with the Pixel over other flagships. What do you think about Google's increased interest in the smartphone space with the launch of its own hardware? How well will Pixel fit into the existing environment – will Pixel lead Android hardware and the OS to success or simply fragment it more?
I do like the look of the Pixel (especially the blue one) and the feature lists sounds good enough that maybe I could live without a removable battery and non-expandable storage (I'll be holding onto my old T-Mobile unlimited plan for as long as possible! heh). Pricing is a bit steep though and I think that will trip a lot of people up when searching for their next device.
Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 04:28 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: google, chromecast, media streaming, 4k, hdr, google home
During Google's #madebygoogle event (embedded below), the company introduced a number of new pieces of hardware including a new Chromecast. The Chromecast Ultra is aimed at owners of 4K televisions and supports both 4K Ultra HD and HDR content from the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and other apps. Like previous models, the Chromecast takes input from Android, iOS, Mac OSX, and Windows devices that "cast" media to the TV. Additionally, it can be paired with Google Home where users can use voice commands such as "Ok, Google. Play the sneezing panda video on my TV."
The Chromecast Ultra is a small circular puck with a Micro USB port and a short flexible flat HDMI cable that is permanently attached to the device. The Micro USB port is used for both power and data. One neat feature about the new Chromecast Ultra is that the power adpater has an Ethernet port on it so that users can hook the streaming device up to their wired network for better performance (important for streaming 4K content). Not to worry if you rely on WiFi though because it does support dual band 802.11ac.
Google has not yet revealed what hardware is under the hood of its new 4k capable Chromecast, unfortunately. They did release pricing information though: the Chromecast Ultra will be $69 and is "coming soon". If you are interested you can sign up to be notified when it becomes available.
Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2016 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Machine translation is quite difficult, especially between certain pairs of languages that vary greatly in how they handle implied context and intonation. At Google, the current translation system picks out known words and phrases, converts them to the target language, and blindly outputs them. This, unfortunately, ignores how the phrases are structured together.
Google has been working toward a newer system, though. Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT) considers whole sentences, rather than individual words and phrases. It lists all possible translations, and weighs them based on how humans rate their quality. These values are stored and used to better predict following choices, which should be a familiar concept to those who have been reading up on deep learning over the last couple of years.
This new system makes use of Google's “TensorFlow” library, released to the public last year under a permissive, Apache 2.0 license. It will also be compatible with Google's custom Tensor Processing Unit (TPU) ASICs that were announced last May at Google I/O. The advantage of TPUs is that they can reach extremely high parallelism because they operate on extremely low-precision values.
The GNMT announcement showed the new system attempting to translate English to and from Spanish, French, and Chinese. Each pairing, in both directions, showed a definite increase, with French to English almost matching a human translation according to their quality metric. GNMT is currently live to the public when attempting to translate between Chinese and English, and Google will expand this to other languages “over the coming months”.
Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 11:02 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech | August 15, 2016 - 12:22 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
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.
"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."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- 7 reasons Windows XP refuses to die @ The Inquirer
- Native Skype for Windows Phone walked behind shed, shot heard @ The Register
- A Trove Of 3D Printer Filament Test Data @ Hack a Day
- Firefox 49 For Linux Will Ship With Plug-in Free Netflix, Amazon Prime Video Support @ Slashdot
- Adobe stops software licence audits in Americas, Europe @ The Register