Subject: General Tech | September 17, 2017 - 08:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, VR
So this is a bit of a weird one. As our readers are probably well aware, Google Maps offers Street View, which allows you to see 360-degree images from a car as it travels as many roads as it can... since, like, 2007. Also, this year, they are beginning to upgrade the quality of these images with new cars. Now that VR is taking off, it would be kind-of cool to see this data around you. Daydream (and apparently Cardboard) have an app that offers a few locations that you can view... sort-of like you would see in QuickTime in the 90s. Meanwhile, on Oculus, you had Google Earth, which let you see a view that was based on their new 3D Google Maps Satellite view, but it wouldn’t pull in the Street View data.
Image Credit: Google
Now it will. A couple of days ago, Google updated Google Earth VR to allow teleporting into that spherical image. You will see a preview in a sphere atop your left hand. The weird part, though, is that you can’t travel while within street view. As far as I can tell, you need to jump back to the satellite view, move, then drop back down into street view any time you want to go anywhere. This... makes little sense to me, unless they plan on adding that feature but it just didn’t make this release schedule. It seems like they have all of the pieces scattered across existing software, but it's obviously next-to-impossible to tell for sure from the outside. Perhaps the data linked into the web-based Street View is insufficient for some reason?
Rant aside, if you have a compatible headset (which Steam says is an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive) then it’s worth a free download to check it out.
Subject: General Tech | July 10, 2017 - 12:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: wannacrypt, petya, security, samba, smbv1, google, andriod
If you missed out on having all your files encrypted and the chance to send bitcoin to a bunch of misanthropes who have no plans on unencrypting those files after you do, then download this new app from Google Play! Then you can enable SMBv1 on all your other machines so your Android can share the virus amongst your other machines, perhaps you could even share this unforgettable experience with your friends and family. Do you really trust that the patches applied to this outdated network file sharing protocol will protect from the next wave of attacks or will you follow the advice from Microsoft's Ned Pyle that The Register quoted, "Stop using SMBv1". There are a lot of other ways to share your files, most are even more effective than SMBv1 and are certainly more secure.
"This made Google's decision so odd, The Register wondered if the app were faking the Google brand, but no: the source code linked from the app is at the Chocolate Factory's GitHub repo."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft 365 bundles Windows 10 and Office for SMBs and enterprises @ The Inquirer
- 48-year-old Multics OS comes back to life on the Raspberry Pi @ The Inquirer
- Someone's phishing US nuke power stations. So far, no kaboom @ The Register
- The Palaeontology of Cyberattacks by Vitaly Kamluk @ TechARP
- The BitScout Free Cyber Forensics Tool @ TechARP
- Eugene Kaspersky Interview : No Kremlin Ties! @ TechARP
- A Poor-Man’s Laser CNC Engraver @ Hack a Day
Subject: Mobile | June 27, 2017 - 08:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: xr, VR, qualcomm, google, daydream, AR
Qualcomm has put forward steady work on creating the vibrant hardware ecosystem for mobile VR to facilitate broad adoption of wireless, dedicated head mounted displays. Though the value of Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View cannot but overstated in moving the perception of consumer VR forward, the need to utilize your smart phone in a slot-in style design has its limitations. It consumes battery that you may require for other purposes, it limits the kinds of sensors that the VR system can utilize, and creates a sub-optimal form factor in order to allow for simple user installation.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device
Qualcomm created the first standalone VR HMD reference design back in early 2016, powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor. Google partnered with Qualcomm at I/O to create the Daydream standalone VR headset reference design with the updated Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform at its core, improving performance and graphical capability along the way. OEMs like Lenovo and HTC have already committed to Daydream standalone units, with Qualcomm at the heart of the hardware.
Qualcomm Technologies recently announced a HMD Accelerator Program (HAP) to help VR device manufacturers quickly develop premium standalone VR HMDs. At the core of this program is the standalone VR HMD reference design. It goes beyond a simple prototype device, offering a detailed reference design that allows manufacturers to apply their own customizations while utilizing our engineering, design, and experience in VR. The reference design is engineered to minimize software changes, hardware issues, and key component validation.
- Hugo Swart, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.
As part of this venture, and to continue pushing the VR industry forward to more advanced capabilities like XR (extended reality, a merger of VR and AR), Qualcomm is announcing agreements with key component vendors aiming to tighten and strengthen the VR headset ecosystem.
Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.
Ximmerse has built a high-precision and drift-free controller for VR applications that offers low latency input and 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) capability. This can “provide just about any interaction, such as pointing, selecting, grabbing, shooting, and much more. For precise 6 DoF positional tracking of your head, tight integration is required between the sensor fusion processing (Snapdragon) and the data from both the camera and inertial sensors.”
Bosch Sensortec has the BMX055 absolute orientation sensor that performs the function that its name would imply: precisely locating the user in the real world and tracking movement via accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.
Finally, OmniVision integrates the OV9282 which is a 1MP high speed shutter image sensor for feature tracking.
These technologies, paired with the work Qualcomm has already done for the Snapdragon 835 VR Development Kit, including on the software side, is an important step to the growth of this segment of the market. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t believe standalone, wireless headsets are the eventual future of VR and AR and the momentum created by Qualcomm, Google, and others continues its steady pace of development.
Introduction and Design
In case you have not heard by now, Pixel is the re-imagining of the Nexus phone concept by Google; a fully stock version of the Android experience on custom, Google-authorized hardware - and with the promise of the latest OS updates as they are released. So how does the hardware stack up? We are late into the life of the Pixel by now, and this is more of a long-term review as I have had the smaller version of the phone on hand for some weeks now. As a result I can offer my candid view of the less-covered of the two Pixel handsets (most reviews center around the Pixel XL), and its performance.
There was always a certain cachet to owning a Nexus phone, and you could rest assured that you would be running the latest version of Android before anyone on operator-controlled hardware. The Nexus phones were sold primarily by Google, unlocked, with operator/retail availability at times during their run. Things took a turn when Google opted to offer a carrier-branded version of the Nexus 6 back in November of 2014, along with their usual unlocked Google Play store offering. But this departure was not just an issue of branding, as the price jumped to a full $649; the off-contract cost of premium handsets such as Apple’s iPhone. How could Google hope to compete in a space dominated by Apple and Samsung phones purchased by and large with operator subsidies and installment plans? They did not compete, of course, and the Nexus 6 flopped.
Pixel, coming after the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6p and LG-manufactured Nexus 5X, drops the “Nexus” branding while continuing the tradition of a reference Android experience - and the more recent tradition of premium pricing. As we have seen in the months since its release, the Pixel did not put much of a dent into the Apple/Samsung dominated handset market. But even during the budget-friendly Nexus era, which offered a compelling mix of day-one Android OS update availability and inexpensive, unlocked hardware (think Nexus 4 at $299 and Nexus 5 at $349), Google's own phones were never mainstream. Still, in keeping with iPhone and Galaxy flagships $649 nets you a Pixel, which also launched through Verizon in an exclusive operator deal. Of course a larger version of the Pixel exists, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the Pixel XL. Unfortunately I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that stock for the XL has been quite low with availability constantly in question.
The Pixel is hard to distinguish from an iPhone 7 from a distance (other than the home button)
|Google Pixel Specifications|
|Display||5.0-inch 1080x1920 AMOLED|
|SoC||Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996)|
|CPU Cores||2x 2.15 GHz Kryo
2x 1.60 GHz Kryo
|GPU Cores||Adreno 530|
|Storage||32 / 128 GB|
|Network||Snapdragon X12 LTE|
|Dimensions||143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, 143 g|
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 17, 2017 - 02:30 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, google io 2017, google, daydream
During the Google I/O keynote, Google and Qualcomm announced a partnership to create a reference design for a standalone Daydream VR headset using Snapdragon 835 to enable the ecosystem of partners to have deliverable hardware in consumers’ hands by the end of 2017. The time line is aggressive, impressively so, thanks in large part to the previous work Qualcomm had done with the Snapdragon-based VR reference design we first saw in September 2016. At the time the Qualcomm platform was powered by the Snapdragon 820. Since then, Qualcomm has updated the design to integrate the Snapdragon 835 processor and platform, improving performance and efficiency along the way.
Google has now taken the reference platform and made some modifications to integrate Daydream support and will offer it to partners to show case what a standalone, untethered VR solution can do. Even though Google Daydream has been shipping in the form of slot-in phones with a “dummy” headset, integrating the whole package into a dedicate device offers several advantages.
First, I expected the free standalone units to have better performance than the phones used as a slot-in solution. With the ability to tune the device to higher thermal limits, Qualcomm and Google will be able to ramp up the clocks on the GPU and SoC to get optimal performance. And, because there is more room for a larger battery on the headset design, there should be an advantage in battery life along with the increase in performance.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device
It is also likely that the device will have better thermal properties than those using high smartphones today. In other words, with more space, there should be more area for cooling and thus the unit shouldn’t be as warm on the consumers face.
I would assume as well that the standalone units will have improved hardware over the smartphone iterations. That means better gyros, cameras, sensors, etc. that could lead to improved capability for the hardware in this form. Better hardware, tighter and more focused integration and better software support should mean lower latency and better VR gaming across the board. Assuming everything is implemented as it should.
The only major change that Google has made to this reference platform is the move away from Qualcomm’s 6DOF technology (6 degrees of freedom, allowing you to move in real space and have all necessary tracking done on the headset itself) and to Google calls WorldSense. Based on the Google Project Tango technology, this is the one area I have questions about going forward. I have used three different Tango enabled devices thus far with long-term personal testing and can say that while the possibilities for it were astounding, the implementations had been…slow. For VR that 100% cannot be the case. I don’t yet know how different its integration is from what Qualcomm had done previously, but hopefully Google will leverage the work Qualcomm has already done with its platform.
Google is claiming that consumers will have hardware based on this reference design in 2017 but no pricing has been shared with me yet. I wouldn’t expect it to be inexpensive though – we are talking about all the hardware that goes into a flagship smartphone plus a little extra for the VR goodness. We’ll see how aggressive Google wants its partners to be and if it is willing to absorb any of the upfront costs with subsidy.
Let me know if this is the direction you hope to see VR move – away from tethered PC-based solutions and into the world of standalone units.
YouTube Tries Everything
Back in March, Google-owned YouTube announced a new live TV streaming service called YouTube TV to compete with the likes of Sling, DirecTV Now, PlayStation Vue, and upcoming offerings from Hulu, Amazon, and others. All these services aim to deliver curated bundles of channels aimed at cord cutters that run over the top of customer’s internet only connections as replacements for or in addition to cable television subscriptions. YouTube TV is the latest entrant to this market with the service only available in seven test markets currently, but it is off to a good start with a decent selection of content and features including both broadcast and cable channels, on demand media, and live and DVR viewing options. A responsive user interface and generous number of family sharing options (six account logins and three simultaneous streams) will need to be balanced by the requirement to watch ads (even on some DVR’ed shows) and the $35 per month cost.
YouTube TV was launched in 5 cities with more on the way. Fortunately, I am lucky enough to live close enough to Chicago to be in-market and could test out Google’s streaming TV service. While not a full review, the following are my first impressions of YouTube TV.
Setup / Sign Up
YouTube TV is available with a one month free trail, after which you will be charged $35 a month. Sign up is a simple affair and can be started by going to tv.youtube.com or clicking the YouTube TV link from “hamburger” menu on YouTube. If you are on a mobile device, YouTube TV uses a separate app than the default YouTube app and weighs in at 9.11 MB for the Android version. The sign up process is very simple. After verifying your location, the following screens show you the channels available in your market and gives you the option of adding Showtime ($11) and/or Fox Soccer ($15) for additional monthly fees. After that, you are prompted for a payment method that can be the one already linked to your Google account and used for app purchases and other subscriptions. As far as the free trial, I was not charged anything and there was no hold on my account for the $35. I like that Google makes it easy to see exactly how many days you have left on your trial and when you will be charged if you do not cancel. Further, the cancel link is not buried away and is intuitively found by clicking your account photo in the upper right > Personal > Membership. Google is doing things right here. After signup, a tour is offered to show you the various features, but you can skip this if you want to get right to it.
In my specific market, I have the following channels. When I first started testing some of the channels were not available, and were just added today. I hope to see more networks added, and if Google can manage that YouTube TV and it’s $35/month price are going to shape up to be a great deal.
- ABC 7, CBS 2, Fox 32, NBC 5, ESPN, CSN, CSN Plus, FS1, CW, USA, FX, Free Form, NBC SN, ESPN 2, FS2, Disney, E!, Bravo, Oxygen, BTN, SEC ESPN Network, ESPN News, CBS Sports, FXX, Syfy, Disney Junior, Disney XD, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, Fox Business, National Geographic, FXM, Sprout, Universal, Nat Geo Wild, Chiller, NBC Golf, YouTube Red Originals
- Plus: AMC, BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV, We TV, Telemundo, and NBC Universal (just added).
- Optional Add-Ons: Showtime and Fox Soccer.
I tested YouTube TV out on my Windows PCs and an Android phone. You can also watch YouTube TV on iOS devices, and on your TV using an Android TVs and Chromecasts (At time of writing, Google will send you a free Chromecast after your first month). (See here for a full list of supported devices.) There are currently no Roku or Apple TV apps.
Each YouTube TV account can share out the subscription to 6 total logins where each household member gets their own login and DVR library. Up to three people can be streaming TV at the same time. While out and about, I noticed that YouTube TV required me to turn on location services in order to use the app. Looking further into it, the YouTube TV FAQ states that you will need to verify your location in order to stream live TV and will only be able to stream live TV if you are physically in the markets where YouTube TV has launched. You can watch your DVR shows anywhere in the US. However, if you are traveling internationally you will not be able to use YouTube TV at all (I’m not sure if VPNs will get around this or if YouTube TV blocks this like Netflix does). Users will need to login from their home market at least once every 3 months to keep their account active and able to stream content (every month for MLB content).
YouTube TV verifying location in Chrome (left) and on the android app (right).
On one hand, I can understand this was probably necessary in order for YouTube TV to negotiate a licensing deal, and their terms do seem pretty fair. I will have to do more testing on this as I wasn’t able to stream from the DVR without turning on location services on my Android – I can chalk this up to growing pains though and it may already be fixed.
Features & First Impressions
YouTube TV has an interface that is perhaps best described as a slimmed down YouTube that takes cues from Netflix (things like the horizontal scrolling of shows in categories). The main interface is broken down into three sections: Library, Home, and Live with the first screen you see when logging in being Home. You navigate by scrolling and clicking, and by pulling the menus up from the bottom while streaming TV like YouTube.
Subject: General Tech | May 10, 2017 - 04:44 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: fuschia, google, Android, iot
Fuchsia is still a work in progress which has been available on Github for a while now but we haven't really seen a demonstration of it in action. A Texan enthusiast has been working on creating one and you can take a peek at it in this video over at The Register. The tiny OS is design to run on almost anything, from smart light bulbs to phone and even full sized computers. It is based on BSD with additional resources developed at MIT and will be backwards compatible with current Android libraries.
"When Fuchsia broke cover last August, we noted the project's ambition. The presence of a compositor indicated it was capable of running on more than lightbulbs and routers, although the tiny new Magenta kernel also allows it go there too."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Nvidia GTC: A first look at Nvidia's new campus @ The Inquirer
- It's 2017 and Windows PCs are being owned by EPS files, webpages @ The Register
- Windows 10 Now On 500 Million Devices, Up By 200 Million in a Year @ Slashdot
- Persirai: Mirai-a-like malware is your latest IoT security worry @ The Inquirer
Back in February we took a quick initial look at the eero Home Wi-Fi System, one of several new entrants in the burgeoning Mesh Networking industry. Like its competitors, eero's goal is to increase home Wi-Fi performance and coverage by switching from a system based upon a powerful standalone router to one which utilizes multiple lower power wireless base stations positioned throughout a home.
The idea is that these multiple wireless access points, which are configured to communicate with each other automatically via proprietary software, can not only increase the range of your home Wi-Fi network, but also reduce the burden of our ever-increasing number of wireless devices on any one single access point.
There are a number of mesh Wi-Fi systems already available from both established networking companies as well as industry newcomers, with more set for release this year. We don't have every system ready to test just yet, but join us as we take a look at three popular options to see if mesh networking performance lives up to the hype.
Subject: Mobile | March 30, 2017 - 12:37 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, Android, android o
A couple of sites have downloaded the upcoming Android preview and walked through the new features that they found. Google, themselves, published a “what’s changed” video (embed below) to their Android Developers channel, which is mostly about the specific API changes, rather than UI and feature differences.
The first couple of minutes was dominated by new limitations on background applications, increasing the privacy and decreasing the battery impact of apps that are not currently focused. “Notification Channel” interests me personally, because it allows apps to categorize notifications, which users can block individually. While good apps should have that sort of control in their own settings already, a unified implementation in the OS is welcome (if it can limit how many applications I need to outright block everything from).
As for the third-party previewers, Ars Technica has a pretty in-depth look, with screenshots for most differences (often side-by-side with the Nougat equivalent). For a second opinion, Paul Thurrott also has a brief overview with a handful of screenshots.
We should learn a lot more at Google I/O in mid-May.
As I mentioned last week, my ZTE Axon 7 has just received Android 7.0 Nougat, which also unlocked Google Daydream VR. I wasn’t able to pick up Google’s VR headset at the time, but now I can, so I did, and I spent a couple of hours messing around with it.
First, I have to say I am very glad that Google made one headset (and controller) that works with all Daydream-compatible phones. That wasn’t entirely clear when I ordered my Axon 7 last summer, and I feared it would lead to a lot of waiting for my OEM to release a specific headset that may or may not be as good as any another vendor’s, especially sight unseen. I don’t really know how they properly align the screens, across all possible phones and accounting for user-error, but it seems to accept my phone perfectly without really any fiddling. Maybe it’s a simpler problem than I am envisioning, but, either way, the one viewer works with my ZTE Axon 7 -- it’s not just for the Pixel.
My second point is that the phone gets very hot, very quick. I’m sure ZTE knows about this, and the phone is designed around it, but it doesn’t just get warm, it borders on hot-to-the-touch at times. To be safe, I’m removing the case each time I insert it into the Daydream View, although the device seems to work either way. The battery does drain quickly, relative to other workloads, but a single, hour-or-so VR sitting took about 25% off (~75% remaining). Despite the heat and the quick battery drain, you will probably be done with a VR sitting before the device is, so I consider those aspects to be all-around positive.
As for the YouTube app, I’m glad that the virtual screen for standard video can be adjusted in pretty much any way. You can make it bigger or smaller with the track pad, pull it in any direction with motion controls, and adjust whether it’s flat or curved (so all points are equidistant) in the settings. If you want to lay on your back in bed and watch movies “on the ceiling”, then you can... and without holding the phone over your face while your arms go numb.
Yes, I’m speaking from experience.
As for games? Eh... about the only thing that caught my eye is maybe “Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes”. I’m pleasantly surprised it’s there, but it’s about the only thing that is. I knew there wasn’t a whole lot of apps, and that’s fine for me, but you probably shouldn’t get too excited outside of video.
Also, it’d be nice to see Google Chrome in VR. Get on that, Google! A virtual void would make a good place to keep my many, many tabs. It will apparently support WebVR content very soon, but in a “browse, click the Daydream button, mount it in the View, and put it on your head, then undo all that when you’re done” sort of way. It’d be nice to just... stay in the headset to browse.
Anywho, I have it, and those are my thoughts. It’s early, but it seems to work pretty well. I haven’t tried an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive yet, though, so I can’t make any comparisons there.