The tech world seems to be slowling down slightly in the run up to Christmas, but there have still been a lot of stories over the past seven days. There are sure to be a whole new raft of sales to look forward to both before and after Christmas, but if the Thanksgiving sales are anything to go by they may not offer as good a deal as first appearances would have you believe. Whether you bag a bargain or not, it looks as though tech presents are going to be as popular as ever this year -- and if you buy a Windows device, you'll get a free gift card.
After Microsoft tried comparing the Surface to the iPad Air, Amazon decided to follow suit -- guess which was more popular! Microsoft kept its fire trained on Google, taking a swipe at the Chromebook. Tablet makers may be pushing their product in the run up to Christmas, but PC shipments have suffered the largest decline ever. New computers will have an updated USB connection in the near future. USB type C brings to an end a problem that has plagued anyone who has ever plugged in a USB cable -- this generation can be plugged in either way up!
If you've been on a bus or subway lately, you probably observed many people consuming the news on a mobile device. However, this is not a new phenomenon. After all, 20 years ago, you would see people consuming the news on-the-go too -- just in paper form.
While the medium and method of consumption has evolved, on-the-go news can still improve. Today, Google announces that it is improving its news service in mobile browsers. Sadly, Windows Phone users are getting the shaft again -- it is an Android and iOS-only affair.
A few weeks ago Google's Chromebook 11 was removed from sale after an overheating problem was found with some chargers. No recall was ever announced, but users were advised against using the supplied charger in favour of another Micro-USB charger of their own. In fact, both Google and HP have been very quiet since the announcement, but now a new Chromebook 11 charger has appeared in Google Play.
The charger is not currently available; it is listed as 'Coming soon'. It also has a $19.99 price tag associated with it (or £14.99 if you're in the UK). This is a very simple piece of equipment, as illustrated by the short and sweet product description: "Keep your HP Chromebook 11 topped up with an extra charger."
Phishing scams are a blight on the internet that will never be totally eradicated. If you aren't familiar with the term, "phishing" is when someone attempts to glean information through means of impersonation. Sending you a message purporting to be from your bank for example. Try as we may, this crime will always be a part of life. However, there is no reason that the risk of these dangerous emails cannot be decreased.
Since 2004, various groups have been slowly developing authentication standards, in an attempt to thwart these malicious messages. Today, Google has some great news -- the standards are working.
The permissions screen that pops up during the installation of an Android app has become the new EULA. Very few people bother to read through what is on screen before clicking through and going ahead with the installation -- you could be signing your life away for all you know!
Apps will let you know if they make use of your location, have access to your contacts, could send messages on your behalf and numerous other things. But in the case of Brightest Flashlight Free it turned out that the app was not only sharing users' location and device ID information with third party advertisers, but it was doing so secretly.
Barely three weeks have passed since KitKat started to roll out, but now Google is updating its compatible Nexus devices to Android 4.4.1. The new version is being pushed over the air for the Nexus 4, Nexus 5 and 4G LTE Nexus 7, and will also be baked in factory images next week.
The biggest change that Android 4.4.1 introduces is focused on improving the Nexus 5 camera quality and performance, which have been pointed out as major downsides when compared to top smartphones available today. As some have noticed already in ads, Google is marketing the new handset as a capable device for photography and with Android 4.4.1 on board it finally seems to deliver in this regard.
Just over a week ago, Microsoft lashed out at Google with its latest installment in the Scroogled campaign, hiring Pawn Stars to belittle the Chromebook platform. Reaction ranged from positive to negative, but it can't be argued that it did get attention. Despite those negatives, Microsoft has no intention of backing down, and actually added another video to the archive today.
This time, the company has enlisted the aid of its popular spokesperson Ben Rudolph, "Ben the PC Guy", of "Smoked by Windows Phone" fame. Microsoft sent Rudolph out on the streets of Venice, California with a Chromebook in his hands and a camera crew in tow.
Google deserves some credit for providing its 'Takeout' service that allows customers to easily move their data somewhere else if they decide to make a switch. It's a service many of us became all too familiar with in the summer when Google killed off Reader. Now the search giant is providing another way for customers to take control of their data.
Gmail and Calendar users will now be able to directly download their personal information. "Starting today we're rolling out the ability to export a copy of your Gmail and Google Calendar data, making it easy to back up your data or move to another service", states Google software engineer Nick Piepmeier.
Google has revealed a "one-time optional swap out" program for the first-generation Google Glass, giving owners the option to upgrade, free of charge, to the new model, by sending their older one back. The program was introduced following the release of the new Glass Explorer Edition.
The new Google Glass is, according to the company, basically the same as the old model with the exception of "some subtle improvements". "It's a bit faster and more durable. It's compatible with upcoming prescription frames. All new accessories were designed for the new hardware, including the new Shades and a mono earbud included with your new Glass. It's the future", says Google.
It is very easy to become reliant on Google -- it is the first port of call for many people looking to check everything from currency exchange rates, cinema listings, restaurant reviews and news. This is certainly the case on desktop computers, but it also rings true for Android devices. You’ve probably built up a little memory muscle yourself. When you want to know more about a movie, do you fire up the IMDB app you installed, or do you instead launch Chrome and perform a regular web search?
Google is only too aware that you probably do the latter, but the search giant is keen to push users into making use of apps. This means not only the apps that they have installed, but also those they are yet to discover. Starting now, Google is rolling out an update to searching that means that in addition to regular search results, you'll also be provided with links to related apps when appropriate.
As Christmas approaches, we start to be bombarded with images of a fat jolly man (no, not me). He is of course, Santa Claus -- the bringer of toys and cheer. Since we live in a very materialistic, commerce-focused world, corporations are looking to take advantage of Mr. Claus' image. After all, the image is royalty free.
Google and NORAD used to be partners in the Santa-tracking business. However, that relationship soured (like milk left out for Santa) and the USA and Canadian installation partnered with Microsoft instead. Not to be outdone, Google announces that not only is it too offering tracking of Mr. Claus, but also an interactive Santa Village filled with games and animations.
Most businesses by now will have heard of the Google Cloud Platform which lets developers run applications on Google's servers. The company today announces general availability of its Google Compute Engine offering scalable, secure virtual machines running Linux.
In its preview phase Compute Engine supported only Debian and Centos running with a customized Google kernel. It now supports any out of the box Linux distro so that developers can work with a familiar environment but also support software that needs a specific kernel or file system.
It being the week of Thanksgiving, anyone looking for a bargain will have been eagerly anticipating Black Friday. The big names did not disappoint including Microsoft who had special prices on Surfaces. If you were undecided between buying a Surface or an iPad, Microsoft compared the two devices so you don’t have to -- and there are no prizes for guessing which comes out on top! If you give or receive giftcards as presents this year, they can now be used to pay for things through PayPal checkout.
Microsoft's Scroogled campaign may not be in the spirit of the season, but it continues apace. In one advert, the services of Pawn Stars were called upon to take a pop at Google's Chromebook -- Alan was less than impressed. Brian, however was pleased to be the recipient of a surprise, unadvertised mug having placed an order via the Scroogled store, and Joe is a big fan of the campaign. Speaking of Chromebooks, Acer announced an ultra-cheap touchscreen device in the form of the C720P.
Several of the folks here at BetaNews have recently been enjoying the latest version of the Android mobile operating system, known as 4.4 KitKat, through both Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 devices. The new version brings a number of noticeable changes to the Google platform, the biggest of which is the new Google Experience Launcher.
However, there is another notable difference, as the search company has brought along Moto X-like capability in the form of "OK Google". It's not quite up to what Motorola does, as you do have to turn the phone on first, but once you do that then it is essentially the same.
Windows Phone 8 has been available on the market since late-October, 2012. That makes it more than a year old in human time and quite a bit older in tech years. So far, I've been through two smartphones running the tiled operating system -- the HTC Windows Phone 8X (in an insanely gorgeous purple) and Nokia Lumia 920 (the boring "businessman-black" version as I like to call it). There is also a Lumia 520 nearby (in a nice shade of red), that I use from time to time to gauge how it gets along with Windows Phone 8 and various new apps.
I have been playing with three important handsets that are available under the Windows Phone 8 umbrella, in order to discover the benefits and the downsides of the platform as well as get an idea of the direction Microsoft wanted to impose for its latest attempt to make great strides in the smartphone OS market. On paper, the software giant only wants the best for Windows Phone, but in practice there are still a couple of bad points about its strategy that indicate, to a certain degree, smartphones are not really a priority for the Redmond, Wash.-based company.