Category: Google

Rogue One – A Star Wars Story Now Available For Purchase

The day has finally arrived Star Wars fans.  Rogue One:  A Star Wars Story is now available for purchase in the Google Play Movies & TV Store.  The movie has been available to add to your wishlist since January and was one of the most successful movies of 2016.  The movie is set between the much maligned prequels and A New Hope, the original Star Wars movie, focusing on a band of Rebels who are trying to steal the plans to the Death Star.  If you haven’t seen it yet, rent it and see what you missed.  It has become one of my favorite movies in the franchise.

The movie is $19.99 in HD.  Right now there is not a rental option nor is there a UHD option for the movie.

Google Trips Update Brings Ability to Manually Add Reservations

Google Trips has seen its second update this week, bringing two new features that users will appreciate.  First, you now have the ability to manually add hotel and airline reservations to a trip.  Previously, there was no way to do this and the only way to get reservations into a trip was by having it automatically added via Gmail.  Now when you go into a trip within the app, you will see a FAB (Floating Action Button) which will now let you add flight and hotel information.

The other big change in this update is that Google Trips will now watch your Gmail for bus and train travel and add those automatically to your trips.  This expands the apps ability in searching Gmail as previously only hotel and airline information was automatically added.

Pick Up Two Google Home for $229, a Savings of $29

Google is making it easier for you to fill your home with, erm, Google Home.  Right now at the Google Store you can pick up two of the smart speakers with Google Assistant built in for $229.  That’s a savings of $29 if you bought them separately.  Having multiple Home devices is something that has been supported since its release and allows you to get access to Assistant in which ever room it happens to be in with you.  There are also commands built into Home that allow you to play music across multiple Home devices too.

Google Home certainly doesn’t have the number of commands that its primary competitor, the Amazon Echo, has today.  But that gap is closing and closing fast.  Google nearly every week is announcing new services, bots and commands that can be used with the device.

Google Assistant is not Coming to Android Tablets

With Google Assistant rolling out widely to Android Marshmallow and Nougat running phones, the question of if the new feature would be hitting Android tablets too.  The answer is no.  The team over at Android Police got confirmation from Google directly that the feature will only be rolling out to phones and not to tablets.  As an Android tablet user (albeit limited these days), its a bit disappointing that the feature won’t be rolling out.  That said, it’s understandable.  Given that tablet sales are stagnate at best and most people are driving activity and searches from their phones, it just makes sense for Google not to invest the time and effort into getting it onto tablets.

If you are desperate to get Google Assistant on your tablet, there are hacks that will get it there for you.  If you hit the link to the Android Police article, they have a link to show you how to do it.  But,

Google Assistant

Google Assistant

as always, proceed with caution.

Keep in mind that you can still use OK Google on your tablet, you just won’t have all the new benefits of Google Assistant on it.

Is this disappointing news for you?  Are you surprised?  Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Google Home Update Brings Dedicated Listen Tab

Google Home for Android has been updated with a new Listen tab that makes it easier to find curated music streams across a wide range of services.  The app itself was updated last week but the new Listen tab has now been enabled on the back end.  If you don’t see it yet, don’t fret.  It will be there over the course of the next few days.  Once you have it, you will be able to see music streams from the likes of Spotify and Google Play Music that you can listen to at any time.  You will also get recommendation for apps that can be used by Google Home for music streaming.

The new Listen tab also gives you recommendations of artists and music streams based on your listening habits.  This is a great way to discover new music but also rediscover an old favorite from the past.

Listen Tab in Google Home

Listen Tab in Google Home

Google’s drive is to make it easier to find streaming music.  With so many options, having the ability to scan a single tab in the Home app makes things easier and faster for you.  If you have accounts with Spotify and Google Play Music, you will be able to open those apps from within the Home app to get to the music stream easily but you can also play them from within the Home app too.

 

Send Money to Friends and Family via Gmail

Google has rolled out the ability to send friends and family funds via Gmail on your Android phone.  The update requires the latest version of Gmail (which rolled out last week) but the ability is a back-end change that Google has enabled.  The ability to send funds is something that has been on the Gmail web portal for a while now and having it added to the Android version just makes it that much easier to use.

How it works is pretty straightforward.  When you are composing an email to another Gmail user, tapping the attachment icon (the paperclip icon) will give you the option to send money.  This will pop-up a page that allows you to type in the amount of money which can then be sent from your Google Wallet to the recipient.  On their end, they simply accept the transfer in the email sent to them and they can have it added to their Google

Send Money in Gmail

Send Money in Gmail

Wallet or transferred to their bank account if they have it configured.

There are some catches to this as you may have figured out.  First, it only works to other Gmail recipients.  You can’t, for example, send mail to a friend on Exchange or Outlook.com.  Second, this update is tied to your Google Wallet so you will need to fund that wallet in some way.  This is usually just tying your Wallet to a credit card.  Finally, this update is for Android only.  iOS users don’t have this functionality yet.

 

Chrome 57 Brings Improvements in Background Tab Power Consumption

Google has announced that the latest version of Chrome for Windows, Mac and Linux has a new CPU consumption throttle that will limit the power consumption of background tabs in the browser.  This new throttling policy should shows improvements to users in the form of prolonged battery life, something that Chrome and other browsers are known to impact.

The update is a change from the current timer model that is used in Chrome today.  That timer limits the refreshing of background tabs to once per second.  In this new timer, it is based on CPU consumption.  Build 57 will delay timers to the limit average of CPU load of 1% of a core.  So think of it as an augmented and improved timer model over the once-per-second timer used today.

Google Chrome for Windows

Google Chrome for Windows

It should be noted that tabs playing audio or real-time connections (like WebRTC) won’t be impacted.

So what does this really mean for end users?  It should result in improved battery life.  With fewer timer updates happening in the background, you should see battery life improvement.  How much is going to be dependent on how many background tabs you have open at any given time.  Even with these improvements, it is recommended that you keep tabs to a minimum as you work throughout the day, especially if you are running your laptop on battery power.

Eventually the Chrome team wants to get tabs fully suspended in the background and leverage new APIs to bring them back to life when you need them.  That’s still a bit away but is the end goal for the team.

 

Google Play Music Releases Their First Podcast, City Soundtracks

Google Play Music has released their first podcast produced by Google, City Soundtracks.  The 15-odd minute casts are aimed at highlighting an artist and the city from which they originate.  While Play Music has had the ability to listen to podcasts for a while now, this is the company’s first foray into actually producing one.  And I have to say, it’s pretty good.  Right now the cast list is only three episodes, all released yesterday, featuring artists from Austin, New Orleans and Oakland.  You can check it out here.

The official description pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

City Soundtracks by Google Play Music is a traveling conversation about the people, places and moments that shape our musical lives. Each episode features an artist and a city. Host Hrishikesh Hirway invites musicians to lead listeners on a tour of the city through conversation and music.

I’ve listened to two of the three episodes and I have to say, it’s not bad.

Add-Ons Coming to GMail for Additional Productivity

Productivity enhancing add-ons are going to be coming to Gmail later this year.  At Google Cloud Next today, the company announced that developers will soon be able to create add-ons that allow users to immediately jump to another app from within Gmail to complete a task or perform another task.  The idea is to increase productivity as you can stay within one app, Gmail, yet complete other tasks from another app.

The example used was from Intuit where someone could send an invoice to a customer right from within Gmail.  Using Machine Learning to figure out that the email was about a bill, users will be able with a tap to move into Quickbooks to create and send the invoice without ever having to leave the mail app itself.  Salesforce would be another example as you could add a contact to your contacts list within SalesForce right from Gmail.

Google Announces Jamboard for Collaboration That Takes on Surface Hub

Google is taking on the conference room and collaboration in a big, bold new way.  I’ve already told you about Hangout Meet but add to that Google Jamboard.  Jamboard is aimed at being a whiteboard with collaboration across multiple sites with deep integration into G Suite for file collaboration and sharing.  The 55″ 4K monitor comes with a stylus for interactions (it’s passive so no pairing required) and can even distinguish between the stylus and your finger.  Think of drawing with the stylus and erasing with a finger.

Google states it is a merge of digital and physical creativity and having seen a demo and using it at Google Cloud Next today, it is mighty impressive.

Google Aiming To Be A “Great” Windows Platform

Today at Google Cloud Next, the company made it clear:  They want to be the platform for your Windows applications.  In the keynote message, Google’s Brian Stevens announced that they were releasing a wide set of tools to help enterprises migrate their Windows-based servers and other solutions to Google Cloud Platform.  The company already has SQL Server Enterprise and Windows Server Core in Google Compute Engine but they certainly upped the ante today.  Now on GCP, you have SQL Server Enterprise plus a beta of .NET for both Google App Engine and Google Container Engine.  Further, things like Active Directory and other Windows-based server solutions can now be migrated to GCP.

The move is aimed at making GCP a solid base by which you can run your Windows-based solutions without having to actually have a physical server sitting on your premise, yet keeping the Windows solutions available to your enterprise.  In other words, to use GCP, you don’t necessarily have to use Google solutions.

Google Extends Auto-Update Policy on Chromebooks to Over 6 Years

Good news for those of you who have older Chromebooks.  Google has updated their auto-update policy and have added a full 18 months of support for devices.  The change comes as part of a general overhaul of what use to be called the End of Life policy on Chrome OS.  Along with the name change, and given the significant number of Chrome OS devices in the education sector, Google has extended the time in which a device will receive updates.  Up until this change over the weekend, devices would receive updates for five years.  Now that has been extended another 18 months to 6-and-a-half-years.  Given the lightweight design and somewhat “cookie cutter” layout of Chrome OS, this makes a lot of sense and, frankly, is easier for Google do with this platform than it is for Microsoft with Windows as a comparative example.

In real terms, this is a big deal.  If you have an Acer Chromebook 14 like me, support for that Chromebook now extends to March 2021.  While as a tech user I will undoubtedly update my Chromebook to something else before 2021, it is good news for organizations who have a lot of a particular device.  They can now plan on when they need to start doing technology refreshes.