Google has a lot of mud thrown at it, and while a lot of it slides off, there is a good proportion that sticks. There are a variety of accusations levelled at the search giant -- evil, self-serving, monopolistic, nosey, invasive, overbearing, corporate, et cetera, et cetera -- but could it be that the power the company wields is actually a good thing? Could Google use the sway it holds over website owners to make the web a better place? But before we start praising Google, there's no harm in sticking the boot in first, eh?
For many people, Google is a bully. In the constant search for page views, ranking in Google matters -- it matters a lot. My colleague Joe Wilcox argues that writers should write for themselves and their readers rather than Google -- something I would strongly advocate -- but until this notion gathers momentum, there are still countless bloggers panicking themselves silly about what impact the latest search algorithm changes will have on their position in search results. It can be a constant game of catch-up, requiring endless changes to optimize content for maximum visibility -- all too often at the expense of readability and reader experience.
Microsoft was in the headlines this week not for launching new products but for, finally, bringing an end to support for Windows XP. Yes, the now ancient and decrepit -- although still much loved and used -- operating system is no more. It will be interesting to see how long it manages to survive now it has been officially dropped -- some are suggesting that a move to Linux might be in order, or even a switch to Chromebook. But, of course, it hasn’t all been about XP. After the announcements at Build, Joe Belfiore revealed on Twitter that developers will be able to get their hands on Windows Phone 8.1 in the "first part of April".
There is also renewed interest in Windows 8.1 following the release of Update, and Microsoft published a guide to making the most of the new features and options. Will the operating system be viewed as fondly as XP in years to come? Only time will tell. Working in conjunction with Google, Microsoft also gave a new and improved YouTube experience to Xbox One owners.
While Easter is technically a religious holiday, many people do not celebrate it as such. Instead of biblical stories, they speak of magical bunny rabbits that deliver chocolate, and that is OK. After all, people have the right to celebrate as they want.
One iconic Easter treat is Easter Bunny-shaped chocolate. Many children look forward to seeing this in their Easter basket every year. But did you know that there is a classic hare painting on which many of the confections are based? It's true and now Google is "blowing it up" by making it a gigapixel image.
Google Glass has yet to be officially released to the public, yet the product has already made a big impact on society. If you aren't familiar, it is a computer that you wear on your head, like glasses, with an integrated camera. The camera is what has ingrained the product into popular culture by way of controversy. It should come as no surprise that people become uncomfortable when a camera is pointed at them. News reports started hitting the airwaves that wearers of the product were being assaulted, banned from businesses and issued traffic tickets.
However, the controversy and hatred towards the product has been minimized thanks to its relatively small footprint. You see, Google limited sales to what the company officially dubbed "Explorers" -- basically technology nerds that the company knew would like the product. Unofficially, people that dislike the product have started calling owners "Glassholes". Today, the company announces that starting on April 15th, all adults in the USA are welcomed to buy it -- but availability will be limited.
The Heartbleed bug is quite the devastating blow to computer security. The OpenSSL failure has the unfortunate effect of lowering computer users' confidence in SSL. However, the mistrust in SSL is misplaced, as it is only the OpenSSL implementation that is affected. No matter though, the damage is done and the flaw has been available for exploit since 2011.
When the news of the flaw was announced, many people's attention turned to Google. No, the company is not the cause of the bug, but since it controls such a huge part of the Internet, people hoped that its services were unaffected. Sorry people, Google was affected too. However, the company was also quick to patch, announcing the details of such today.
Support for Windows XP comes to an end today. Despite that, there are still a fair number of customers continuing to run the aging operating system. While those customers may be a bit sad about the demise, not everyone is.
On the heels of my colleague Joe Wilcox touting Chromebook, Google does the same. The company is taking advantage of this situation to lure current Windows XP users over to its Chromebook platform. In fact, the search giant is using the company's own PR against it, stating "even Microsoft admits: it's time for a change". That statement is followed by an image of an aged computer, complete with CRT monitor.
Today Mihaita Bamburic bids "Goodbye, Windows XP!" Meanwhile, Wayne Williams walks down eXPerience memory lane. For good reason: This week, Microsoft pulls the life support plug -- following many, many, many delays. Henceforth, you use XP at your own risk, or forcibly march forward into the second decade of the 21st Century. You could follow Microsoft to Windows 8.1, or be truly courageous. Mac or Linux laptop are options, or you could go Chromebook. Yeah, you read right.
Here in the United States, Best Buy will trade in your XP clunker and give "minimum of $100 toward the purchase of a new Windows computer, Apple computer or Chromebook". The offer ends April 19, so hurry. The cash back will practically pay for a new Chromebook, which costs so little and does so much -- surely more than your XP wheezer. Someone from the Windows division once told me that O2, as in Oxygen, was one of the runner-up names for XP. How fitting. Your old machine has been living off oxygen for far too long. Pull the plug. I'll give you some reasons why Chromebook.
Microsoft and Google are unlikely partners nowadays. After all, they are direct competitors on many fronts. There is Bing vs. Google Search, Windows vs. Chrome OS and Office vs Google Docs. Let us not forget that Google has been blocking Microsoft's YouTube app on Windows Phone. Heck, Google has essentially ruined Windows Phone for many, by not bringing its services to the platform.
Surprisingly, despite all the bad blood, Google has embraced Microsoft's Xbox One game console. Today, both companies announce that you can now upload Xbox One gameplay footage directly to YouTube or watch a YouTube video while simultaneously playing a game.
Rapper, producer, Black Eye Pea and all round tech-loving futurist tech-head will.i.am has designed his own smart watch which will be ready for launch in the coming months. The music titan has, apparently, self-designed and self-funded a project which should lead to a release in July. Very little is known about the device at the moment, but it has made a few appearances on TV screens that give an intriguing glimpse of what's to come. Unlike other wearables, this one looks like it will not require tethering to a smartphone -- it will stand on its own two feet.
It's worth pointing out for non-UK residents that product placement (endorsements, 'support from', 'promotional consideration' or however you want to view it) does not really exist in the UK in the same way as in the US and some other countries. But that said, will.i.am has been spotted on more than one occasion, "subtly" interacting with a device strapped to his wrist. Viewers of The Voice in the UK (yeah, sorry, I've been known to dip into it from time to time) will probably have noticed him fiddling with his wrist, and reference has been made to his actions on a couple of occasions.
The office suite battle is really starting to heat up. Last week, Microsoft released Word, Excel and PowerPoint for the iPad, signaling a sea change in the company's focus. However, Google is still pushing forward with its attempt to sway users with its web apps. While both are good, no one can deny that Microsoft's offers more features.
With that said, more features does not always equate to better. In other words, if Google's offering meets a user's or business' needs, then it may be more cost effective. Quite frankly, too many features can be seen as noise when unused. One such company, the Glyndebourne opera house, switched from Microsoft to Google with great results.
Yesterday was April Fool's Day -- a celebration of hijinks that are enjoyed by readers and somewhat feared by media outlets. Every story requires extra attention, as it is combed for signs of a prank. However, like the readers, the writers mostly enjoy the day as well -- there are notable exceptions, mostly those who managed to get bit by a joke.
One of the popular memes for this year was Gmail Shelfies which, if you were not careful, changed your email theme to a lovely picture of Katy Perry.
It has often been said that making use of any social network is an exercise in vanity or narcissism. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other similar tools give anyone a platform to voice their views, concerns, complaints and anything else they feel inclined to get off their chest. But what matters about each of these social networks -- for the vane narcissist, at least -- is the number of people who are actually reading the words that are published. Unburdening online can be a wonderfully cathartic experience, but all the better if it is read by tens of thousands of people rather than just hundreds.
Each network gives you its own way to keep track of your potential audience. On Facebook, it's easy to keep track of the number of friends you have, while on Twitter it's the number of followers that's important -- as well, of course, as the coveted blue verified badge. Similarly on LinkedIn, it is easy to see how many people you’re connected to, and in the case of Google+ you can check how many people have circled you. But then there is the matter of how these figures translate into actual views.
One of the great things about social networks is that it is possible to connect with people without the need to share email addresses. This means that you can remain "friends" with someone on Facebook, but not get to the point where you're handing out your email address and worrying about checking your inbox. The same is true of LinkedIn, but the difference with this "professional network" is that you're probably connecting with a larger number of people you would rather didn’t have your personal contact details. This comforting level of security was wiped out by Sell Hack.
This free browser extension -- available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari -- could be used to expose the email address associated with any LinkedIn account, regardless of whether you are connected to the person you are, essentially, spying on. Perhaps understandably, this caused a degree of upset and resulted in LinkedIn sending a cease and desist notice to the extension's developers. Sell Hack adds a "Hack In" button to social network pages which, when clicked, reveals the email address used by the account owner to create their page.
Whether you love or hate them, Google’s April Fools' Day announcements are something we’ve come to expect, and they’re usually pretty creative, even if they don’t fool many people. Some of this year’s pranks include Google+ Auto Awesome Photobombs with The Hoff, Gmail Shelfie and Google Maps: Pokémon Challenge.
Ten years ago though, Google made what was easily its greatest April Fools' announcement ever -- introducing the world to Gmail, a new free webmail service. Few people fell for it though, as the 1GB of free storage being offered was too fantastical. Hotmail, the market leading service at the time, gave its free users just 2MB and had a policy of ruthlessly deleting new messages once that limit was reached. If you wanted to increase the size of your inbox to 10MB you could, but at the cost of $19.95 a year. And here was a search engine promising 500 times as much storage, for free? Yeah, right. Nice try Google!
Email is a means of communication. Sure, it can be used for personal means; having fun or whatever. But many people, including myself, use it for business too. And so, I expect my email provider to be professional and reliable.
Imagine my shock when I logged in to Gmail today and was alerted to a new feature called "Shelfie". Now, I'm just trying to read my email, but instead I get presented with an alert, so I assume it is serious. But no, it turns out that is was an April Fool's prank that sets a picture of Katy Perry as my theme. Funny right? Heck, no. This nonsense really needs to stop.