Posts Tagged

Google

Video calling is definitely the next step in communication, but for business, it’s a step too far. Or, at least in some instances. When I’m at home, the last thing I want is a complete stranger having a live video stream of my living room. Google see things differently and want to bring yoga lessons, home improvement advice and customer service right to your laptop with their new web app.

Its name? ‘Helpouts from Google‘.

The idea seems so revolutionary to Google that they think the service could rival ‘How To’ videos on YouTube or text based guides. Unfortunately, their shiny new offering has some fundamental flaws that could be off setting to many users. Lets take a look.

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A lot of what we all do with our computers these days is online. A very large proportion of us forego the comfort of an email client and rely instead on a web based mail service such as Gmail or outlook.com. In recent years there has been a big push from a lot of big name companies — the likes of Google, Adobe and Microsoft — to encourage their customers to work increasingly in the cloud.

It is likely that the widespread use of webmail has helped to make the idea of breaking away from the confines of desktop software, but the ever-increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets can probably also claim some responsibility. The ability to work on the move on a smaller-screened device is obviously very liberating, but there are new considerations to keep in mind. It is all well and good being able to work away from the desktop, but there will probably come a time when you want to work on a regular computer rather than a portable device. Of course, you can plug your phone or tablet into your computer and copy files back and forth as required… but this is too much like hard work!

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I never did like Facebook. In fact, I only joined the benighted data-grabber two years after I started tweeting. Perhaps this reluctance was an indication of my desire to communicate, rather than staying up to date with my friends’ latest FarmVille scores. Maybe I didn’t want to be the plaything of an advertising network. Or, I suppose that Zuckerberg might have been right, and I really was so darned anti-social that I detested my friends and never wanted to see their annoying faces again [note: sarcasm].

All the same, I joined. And now, I’ve had enough.

Except, there’s a problem with the Facebook-leaving sentiment, however appealing, fashionable and written about it might be. When you delete your account (…he says, as if such a thing were possible…), you’ll still want to keep in touch with your close friends when you can’t see them, and with your relatives on the other side of the world, who still want to see your latest pictures. You’re going to have to find an alternative.

Okay, so let’s have a think. Ah, yes, of course: Google+.

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The prevalence and compactness of high quality photographic equipment today is fantastic. The always-there, always-on nature of the smartphone makes missing a photo opportunity a rare occurrence. We’ve always captured parties, weddings, births and graduations, but we’re now able to fill in the gaps between these big events by recording everyday happenings, which are often just as precious, and are usually a great deal more intimate. These life-documenting images are stored as digital files, so they are memories which we will forever have access to.

Well, it should be forever. But ever since digital photography became the norm, we’ve all shared one problem – what do you do with all those images? As a committed DSLR photographer, I’ve filled hard drives with my camera’s output alone, so the increased photographic output made possible by my phone is a serious problem. Sure, you can back up online, but most options are worrisome or expensive, or a combination of the two.

Both Google and Apple have, in recent times, sought to address this issue. Google+ and Photostream both provide automatic cloud backups, and both also provide later access to your images online. A new service called Loom (still in private beta) thinks it can do better still. It provides automatic backup, 5GB of free space, Mac and iOS apps, as well as a web interface. But does it provide a compelling alternative to the built-in OS backup systems?

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When browsing through my RSS feeds during a regular April workday (and prior to Google killing off its most beloved RSS tool), I came across an image that made me quadruple-blink. My rapidly blinking eyes were, in fact, trying to process the fact that Robert Scoble — the renowned tech evangelist and Rackspace spruiker — had just posted online a naked photo of himself wearing Google Glass in the shower.  Now don’t get me wrong: I’m neither a Luddite nor a prude, but there was something heavily cringe-worthy about seeing a guy like Scoble nude-it-up for the sake of rampant page views… (more…)

We talked earlier this week about our waning trust in Google. They've killed so many products — Wave, Reader, free Apps for Domains — that it's becoming harder to trust them to keep stuff running. It's one thing to keep using their products we're already used to, but trusting something new from Google? That takes a bit of a leap of faith.

We don't expect to see Docs or Gmail to disappear anytime soon, and if Google Search disappears you'll know the end is nigh. But what about their less popular products? Could Google+ get killed, despite how hard Google's tried with it? How about Feedburner, or Blogger? Or will they finally pull the plug on Orkut? AppleInsider even speculated that Android might get left behind in lieu of Chrome, a move that'd be shocking to say the least. But these days, anything's believable it seems.

We can't predict the future, but it's sure fun trying. So let us know what Google product you think will get killed next. My money's on Feedburner, as much as I'd hate to see it go. Yours?

Google’s an interesting company. They have one cash cow — their namesake search engine and its ads — that, for the most part, fuels all the rest of their projects. But that hasn’t stopped them from taking on ambitious projects; if anything, it drives their creativity into places few else would date to invest.

So, they set out to do projects that make their April Fools’ jokes seem plausible. They drive cars around practically every part of the inhabited planet to take 360° photos of storefronts and trees and traffic. They build a new browser, then try to take on the giant in Redmond by turning said browser into a laptop OS, and a Mac Mini replacement, and a smart TV killer. They buy out a smartphone OS, and take on Apple directly by giving it away for free (mostly, anyhow). They design self-driving cars (but so far aren’t giving them away). And, now they’re apparently trying to disrupt the mobile OS market they already own with smart glasses. If Apple salutes the crazy ones, they’d certainly have to salute Google.

But now we’re stoping to wonder: is Google crazy, or crazy like a fox — and a rather devious fox at that?

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Aside from roaming aimlessly around the streets, the Internet is the most obvious way to find new places to eat, drink and relax. Yelp dominates the directory market in most countries but since 2011 Google have been building up a small acquisition of theirs: Zagat.

Zagat has just relaunched with an all new business model and apps to go along with it. The chic review site gained popularity in wealthy US cities such as San Francisco, New York and Washington DC. Now they’re taking things global by expanding into Europe, with London as their flagship city.

But what makes one jumped up directory site different from the rest? The new Zagat, for one, has added some cool features to embrace online communities and social networking, with quality multimedia content to boot. It’s definitely worth checking out.

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Last week, few people were surprised to see Google launching their latest Nexus 7 tablet. That was rather expected. What surprised us all was the launch of the $35 Chromecast, a HDMI dongle to steam internet video from apps and the Chrome browser to your TV. The feature set and price were interesting, of course, especially after the failure of last year's Nexus Q and Google TV. But what was more interesting, perhaps, was the Chromecast's branding — with the Chrome browser's name, not Android — especially after it was discovered that the Chromecast is powered by a stripped-down Android.

AppleInsider has published a rather interesting piece speculating that Google will eventually drop the Android brand and focus everything on Chrome. Google already makes the majority of their money from search, and Android — despite its popularity and prevalence in smartphones, tablets, and even refrigerators — has yet to make much at all. The Chrome browser, though, is more directly aligned with Google's web interests since it keeps you on the web, where Google's already monetized their services.

It seems an unlikely stretch of imagination to think that Google would drop Android now, but the lack of a new version this year does seem odd. So what do you think? Will Google focus more on Chrome going forward, or will Android continue to be an equally significant part of Google's interests?

Recent statistics show that Chrome is solidly in third place in the “browser wars”. Perhaps the main reason for Chrome’s rapid growth over the past four plus years is the Chrome Web Store. The plethora of extensions and apps available for Chrome packaged in an accessible online store has enticed many users to make the switch.

I recently switched back to Chrome specifically for the productivity extensions. There were a few extensions I couldn’t live without and some I recently encountered having a good ol’ time perusing the Web Store. The result is a set of 15 extremely handy productivity extensions for Chrome. So, in some kind of order, here they are…
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