An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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March 31, 2014

Google Releases Windows Phone App for Google Reader

Google is about to launch its second Windows Phone app. This time, Google picked a service that was used by a few million users until it was discontinued last year: Google Reader.

While the new app won't be able to show the latest news from your feeds, it's a clear sign that Google started to embrace Microsoft's mobile platform. Apparently, Google was about to launch the app in January 2013, but developers were busy updating Google's apps for Android and iOS. A week ago, someone found the app and decided it's a good idea to release it. The application lets you login to your Google account and shows this message: "Google Reader has been discontinued. We want to thank all our loyal fans. We understand you may not agree with this decision, but we hope you'll come to love these alternatives as much as you loved Reader."


It's simple, minimalist and pretty late, just like Windows Phone.

Gmail, Back to 2004

To celebrate 10 years of Gmail, Google will launch a special Gmail interface that takes you back to 2004, when Gmail was launched. The retro interface doesn't include a contact manager, drafts, a rich text editor and other advanced features. Gmail will only show the most recent messages, since the storage is limited to 1GB.


Source: Kevin Fox

Update: This is a joke for April Fools' Day 2014.

NS5, Free Phone From Google

Google is about to launch a free phone that will be called NS5. It's a free 8GB version of Nexus 5 ("Nexus Special 5") that will only be available in the US. You'll still have to pay $50, but you'll get $50 Google Play credit, so the phone is actually free.

NS5 will only be available online at the Google Play Store. It comes with a special version of Android KitKat that installs some new software, adds new features and restricts a few options. Chrome's data compression proxy is now used at the OS level, so all the traffic is routed through Google's servers and you can't disable this feature. Your phone is associated with a Google account, you can no longer disable location services or Google+ Auto Backup and there's a new sponsored card in Google Now that shows personalized recommendations. You'll also hear some relevant audio ads when calling companies or when you play your music.



It's a great opportunity for Google to test new software, find new ways to monetize its services and capture the value of free hardware. Building a platform that makes mobile phones accessible for everyone has always been at the heart of Android.

Update: This is a joke for April Fools' Day 2014.

Google Maps for Android Adds Feeling Lucky Button

The latest version of Google Maps for Android adds an "I'm Feeling Lucky" button that automatically picks the destination when searching for directions. This only works when "my location" is selected as the starting point and Google has enough information to offer relevant recommendations.


The "I'm Feeling Lucky" option works especially well when it's obvious where you are going, for example when you're heading home from work. Google uses information from Gmail, Google Calendar, Google+, Google Search history, Google Maps history, Google Trends, Google Drive, Chrome and even Google Reader. The power of Google Reader's data is yet to be fully unlocked, but there's a lot of potential.

Update: This is a joke for April Fools' Day 2014.

Google April Fools' Day 2014

It's that time of the year: the day when Google's teams from all over the world come up with so many hoaxes that it's hard to list all of them. It's Google April Fools' Day.

Google Japan found an innovative input method for smartphones: the Magic Hand. "Once you have set in front of this device a smartphone on hand, just hold the lever afterward. Instead of you, magic hand takes care of operating the smartphone. Problem of the touch panel of the past, I can solve all. Operability of comfortable buttons and levers, will make for some of the space further, the mobile life of you." (machine translation) More details here.




Gmail celebrates its 10th anniversary by adding a new feature: Gmail Shelfie. "You all love setting selfies as your custom theme in Gmail, but you've told us there's one major problem: there isn't a way to share your selfie with others. As the pioneering platform for selfies, Gmail is committed to being at the forefront of innovation in the selfie space. Today, we're proud to free your selfies by launching Gmail Shelfie, the SHareable sELFIE. Gmail Shelfie is built on the idea that you shouldn't be selfish with your selfie. With just a few clicks, your mom, your aunt, or that girl you have a crush on can set your Shelfie as their Gmail theme so they can enjoy checking, reading, and writing emails while seeing your friendly face in the background."


This feature is rolling out over the next few hours. Just enable the "Trending Shelfies" Gmail theme to see some funny Shelfies.


Google Maps lets you find Pokémon. "If you think you're up to the challenge, grab your Poké Ball and the newest version of Google Maps for iPhone or Android. Then tap the search bar, 'press start,' and begin your quest. Leave no stone unturned or city unzoomed as you seek out wild Charizards and Pikachus to add to your Pokédex. Be vigilant — you never know if a wild Steelix will appear in Tokyo, Japan or New York City, USA."




Nest "teams up with Virgin America to reinvent the way people fly. Watch as Tony Fadell and Sir Richard Branson introduce Total Temperature Control, the newest product from Nest."


Google introduces Auto Awesome Photobombs, so that anyone can get a celebrity photobomb. "We're starting with surprise appearances by David Hasselhoff, everyone's favorite crime-fighting rockstar lifeguard. Upload a new self-portrait, or a group photo with friends, and leave some room for The Hoff. He might just make your photo a little more #Hoffsome."


Google Chrome announced "Google Translate support for Emoji, built directly into Chrome for Android and iOS. You can now read all your favorite web content using efficient and emotive illustrations, instead of cumbersome text. To view webpages in Emoji today on your Android and iOS devices, make sure you have the latest version of Chrome for Mobile from the Play Store or App Store. Then simply tap on the menu icon and select the 'Translate to Emoji' option. Tap 'Reload' to view the original page. This feature is currently only available in English.



There's also Chromecast for squirrels. "A new era of squirrel entertainment is upon us. No longer will squirrels be restricted to watching human music and videos on TV."


Waze announced "the acquisition of Israeli social enterprise software SingleSpotter, and the subsequent launch of its most social feature yet: WazeDates. After a successful limited beta in San Francisco and Tel Aviv, the feature will launch as an expanded pilot to all Wazers mid-April 2014, allowing drivers to take the same hands-on approach to their personal life as they do to fighting traffic. WazeDates, powered by SingleSpotter, alerts drivers to other likely singles on the road nearby. Wazers can adjust preferences to search for drivers based on age, sex, orientation and more. Once a desirable driver is found, users simply invite them to a destination by sharing their ride, or use Map Chat to say hello."


Google Play Signature Edition adds support for a new way to distribute Android apps. "With Signature Edition, you can bring back the physical connection to your users. App delivery is completed via USB drives shipped in carefully crafted boxes, each proudly bearing your signature. This not only gives your users the very latest version of your app, but also adds a personal touch that is so often missing in our modern digital age."


AdSense shows a list of the top planets and moons:


YouTube announces the upcoming viral video trends: clocking, baby shaming, Glub Glub, elaborate divorces, kissing dad and more.


Chrome can now detect cat input using the Qwerty Cats extension. "We've designed a cat-friendly on-screen keyboard, based on extensive Animal-Computer Interaction (ACI) research. You or your cat can install the kitty keyboard and try these features: four pawing modalities using your trackpad or touchscreen, mouse mode, cat translation technology (beta)."


AutoAwesome can make your resume stand out:



There's even a dogengineer job at Google. You need to "write much web-based code, very programming, so participation in code review, much scary, no cry pls, type type type on computer, very building, much system OS/corn, such complicate."


Google also launched "a full translation of Blockly in Klingon". This version of "Blockly has no syntax errors. This reduces frustration, and reduces the number of computers thrown through bulkheads. Debugging and bug reports have been omitted, our research indicates that in the event of a bug, they prefer the entire program to just blow up." Apparently, "less than 2% of Google engineers are Klingon". You can try a demo here.


Google Helpouts lets you "increase your pirate vocabulary". "Ahoy mateys, if ye wanta' speak like a pirate this be yer ship. From 'ahoy' t' 'yo-ho-ho,' ye'll sound like seven seas marauders faster th'n a scalawag gits scurvy".



{ Thanks, Mark Stead, François Beaufort and Scowlin' Guideon Scabb. }

March 29, 2014

Google Pal?

If you go to www.google.com/pal, Google redirects the page to: www.google.com/landing/pal/ and shows a 404 error message. The redirect suggests that this could be an actual Google page, but it's not yet launched.


Google has many landing pages with information about Google services at google.com/landing: Image Search, Google Now, Cloud Print, India, Thailand, Japan, Chinese New Year, Ramadan and more. Last year's main April Fools' Day joke, Google Nose BETA, was hosted at: www.google.com/landing/nose/.

{ Thanks, Florian. }

March 27, 2014

Google Latitude and Knowledge Graph

Google Latitude was the name of a Google product. When you search for [google latitude], Google now shows the physical coordinates of its headquarters.


This is powered by Knowledge Graph and it's no limited to the Googleplex. It also works for [pentagon latitude], [tour eiffel coordinates] and more.

Rearrange Apps in Google's Navigation Menu

Google's navigation menu now lets you rearrange apps using drag and drop. You can now personalize the app launcher, just like you can drag and drop apps in Chrome's app launcher. You can also add other Google services.


You can drag apps from the second page of the launcher to the first one, drag apps from the first page of the launcher to the second one, increase or decrease the number of apps from the first page.

Here's an example:


And another one:


You can even drag all the apps to the second page:


Google now lets you add other Google services: just visit Google Keep, Google Sites, Google Groups, Google Play Music, Webmaster Tools, Patent Search, Google Voice, click the launcher icon and add shortcuts for those services.


Google Contextual Search

Chrome Beta for Android has a flag called "Enable contextual search". You can find it by opening a new tab, pasting this in the address bar: chrome://flags/#contextual-search and pressing Enter. If you click "Enable" and "Relaunch now" at the bottom of the page, you'll enable this new feature.



What happens after enabling the feature? Tap a word from a page and Google will display it at the bottom of the page next to other surrounding words and a Google logo. Tap the logo and Chrome sends you to an internal Google page you can't access. The URL starts with: https://layers.sandbox.google.com/contextualsearch and includes the word you've tapped, the context and the URL of the page.

It's not clear what's the goal of this feature, but I assume that Google might show some search results related to the words you've selected and the context.

{ Thanks, Jérôme Flipo. }

The Best of Gmail

Gmail shows an interesting ad for the mobile Gmail app. I spotted the promotional message in the Gmail sidebar: "The official Gmail app. The best of Gmail is only available in the official app. Try it now".


When clicking "Try it now", Gmail shows this inline box with 3 options to get the right Gmail app for your device: sending a link by SMS, scanning a QR code or visiting gmail.com/app on your mobile device.


Chrome Bandwidth Stats

Chrome has an internal page that shows the amount of data transferred this session and the total amount of data transferred ever since this feature was added or you first used Chrome. Just open a new tab, paste this in the address bar: chrome://net-internals/#bandwidth and then press Enter.


Check the Original (KB) row of the table, where you can find bandwidth consumption data in kilobytes. For example, I used 40,024.5 KB since launching Chrome. The Savings values are only useful in the mobile Chrome for Android and iOS if the data saving proxy is enabled.

Savings = Original - Received

Google Play Music Match

How to tell if a song from Google Play Music was uploaded from your computer or it was simply matched with a copy from Google's servers? Click the 3-dot icon next to the song's name in the desktop interface and see if you can find a menu item called "fix incorrect match". If so, you'll listen to Google's version of the song.


"In order to upload your music quickly, Google Play matches your music files with copies on our server. Occassionally we might match with the wrong song. Report the problem here and the song will be corrected to use your copy instead of the matched copy," mentions Google's dialog.


If you click "fix match", you'll get this message: "Please make sure that the computer where you keep this song is running Music Manager and is connected to the internet. The song will be uploaded again within the next day."


Google's copies have a bit rate of 320kbps, so many of your songs will be "upgraded". You can check this by clicking "edit info".

Google Play Music Mini Player and Browser Upload

There's a new experimental feature in Google Play Music Labs: it's called Google Play Music for Chrome and it lets you "control music playback with a new mini player, add your existing music collection, and download free and purchased songs without installing Music Manager."


The Labs feature only works in Chrome and it uses Native Client to bring many of the features of the Music Manager app to the browser (great news for Chrome OS users).

You first need to install the Play Music app from the Chrome Web Store.


You can enable a mini player that lets you control your music. The mini player doesn't work if you close the Play Music tab, so you still have to keep it open.



You can also upload your music directly from Chrome. Pick your folders or use the iTunes library. By default, Google will continue to monitor your folders and upload new music.


This is the "media file permissions" dialog:


I've picked my Music folder.



You can continue to use Play Music while the files are uploaded. Check the progress at the bottom of the window, in the left sidebar. Files are uploaded even if you close the Play Music tab.


If you don't have a lot of files to upload, use drag and drop. Just drag the files to the Play Music tab.


When downloading multiple files, Google used to create a ZIP archive. Now you can set a download folder and all the files are automatically downloaded to that folder.



"We built this lab using Chrome Apps and Native Client technology. Uploads, downloads and the mini player are just the start, and we are excited to push the boundaries of what's possible on the web," says Google.

{ via Google Play }