Google Now 4.1 teardown reveals upcoming features like voice commands, read-aloud notifications

January 17th, 2015 | Edited by | software


The Google Search 4.1 update added some cool new features to Google Now, but there’s a lot more lurking underneath the hood.
Android Police tore into the APK, finding evidence that Google has even bigger ambitions for its digital assistant. While there is no guarantee that any of the discoveries will make it into a future update, it provides a hint at how Google wants to bring even more of its machine learning prowess into Android.
Why this matters: Google Now is one of Android’s best features because it more deeply ties you to Google services, turning your phone into a more useful tool. It’s Android’s main trump card over iOS, putting key information right on your home screen, instead of keeping it locked away inside separate applications.


A smarter Google Now

One interesting find is something called Project Hera. The best we know about it so far is that it’s part of Google’s continuing effort to more deeply tie together the web, Android, and Search. Think of it as the next step in Material Design, which has been used to bring a unified look across all of Google’s products (think how Inbox looks the same on mobile or the web). If Google can more deeply tie your search data, messages, and other info to interact between the web  and Android it makes the latter just that more powerful.
The code hints at more direct social network sharing capabilities. The icons are similar to those used on Google Glass, so all those news alerts, TV suggestions, and other cards that pop up could one day be quickly shared to your favorite network.
The lock screen also gets attention, with some kind of interaction for headsets, devices like Glass, or just more voice commands. You can already use the “Okay Google” command without unlocking the phone, but Google clearly has plans for building in more capabilities here. The code indicates that similar to how the Moto X reads aloud information, your phone may be able to read to you key notifications.
One feature that’s already in place is the way the Google Now Launcher will now hang around in the foreground when you’re interacting with certain apps. This could vary, of course, depending on your specific device’s user interface. But it’s a better visual cue for what task you were working on.
Another item I’m rooting for is the capability to copy text over from your browser to your phone. Pushbullet recently added a feature like this, but it would be great to have it as a native Android feature. The code Android Police found offers some good evidence, so let’s hope it shows up eventually.

No matter which of these pan out, you’re likely to see a lot more Google Now interaction in the future of Android. We’ll keep an eye out for such features should they ever materialize.


Protecting yourself on social networks

January 15th, 2015 | Edited by | software


We all love to spend time (some would say waste time) fooling around on Facebook, Twitter, and other services. We also use these sites for serious, professional reasons. But like almost everything else on the Internet, they’re inherently dangerous. Hackers can use social media to discover your private information and to deliver spam or malware. You can be stalked and bullied through social media. It can ruin your reputation, your career, and your life.
So you need to protect yourself. Follow these rules and your online social life won’t become anti-social.


Protect your account

Of course, you should never give anyone else your password to a social network. And you shouldn’t let them steal it, either. Use a long, strong password containing upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and punctuation. And use a unique password for every site.
If you can’t remember all of those long and complex passwords, install a password manager onto your computer, tablet, and phone. Many of them are cross-platform.
But don’t depend on just the password. Most sites offer some form of two-step authentication, which requires you to prove your identity using both a password and an external factor, such as a text sent to your smartphone.

Be careful about what you post

Sharing too much personal information can cause considerable harm. If you let your social media network know that you’re on vacation, someone may take that as an invitation to burgle your house. Your physical address, your phone number, and even your birthday can be used against you by an identity thief.
The wrong post can also hurt an important relationship or a prospective job. Photos of you drinking or with your arms around the wrong person can create conflicts and make you appear immature or irresponsible.
Control who can see what on a social network; some posts may be for everybody, others for friends, and still others for only very good friends.
If you use a social network, learn its privacy settings. The links below will take you to the various services’ privacy pages.

Don’t fall victim to cyberbullies

You don’t have to be a teenager, or the parent of one, to worry about cyberbullying. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, “Fully 73% of adult internet users have seen someone be harassed in some way online and 40% have personally experienced it.”
Cyberbullying can range from childish insults to rape and death threats. A great many attacks have been aimed at feminist activists, as the recent GamerGate campaignillustrated.
If you’re caught in some troll’s crosshairs, do not retaliate. Keep a record of every attack. Depending on the nature of the attacks, you may need to notify your employer, the social network involved, and possibly the police.
Visit the Cyberbullying Research Center for more detailed advice.

Keep your eyes out for scams

You’ve probably already heard about social engineering in email, where a cybercriminal or organization manipulates you into providing personal information. Not surprisingly, you can find it in social networks, too.
Here’s a relatively harmless example: If you’ve spent any time on Facebook, you’ve probably seen items on your newsfeed like “I got Mick Jagger! Which rock star are you?” Fill in the questionnaire, and some company now knows something about your tastes. In the wrong hands, that information can be used against you.
More serious scams can trick you into giving away your credit card number or password. Some will download malware (see below). Keep an eye out for offers of free stuff, celebrity secrets, promises to add thousands of Twitter followers, or services that can tell you if old flames have viewed your profile.
If something smells fishy, assume someone is phishing.

Make sure your computer or device is protected

Social networks constitute one more path for malware to make its way to your computer or device. If you’re using social media, keep a good, up-to-date antivirus program running at all times.
The best programs offer tools specific to social networks. For instance, Bitdefender Total Security uses special filters to look for and stop social network-specific attacks and warn of potential fraud.

Social networks help you keep up with your friends and promote your career. But without the right precautions, they can lead to disaster.


Denon’s HEOS multi-room audio system climbs on the Google Cast bandwagon

January 13th, 2015 | Edited by | hardware


Audio manufacturer Denon Electronics announced at CES that its new line of HEOS wireless multi-room audio system will soon support Google Cast for Audio, allowing you to “cast” music, podcasts, and Internet radio from an Android smartphone or tablet to any of the wireless products in Denon’s HEOS ecosystem.
“Casting” is already a popular way to stream video from an Android device to larger display, such as a TV. Using a Wi-Fi connection, people can queue up their content fairly painlessly. Google’s audio-only version could become just as popular, especially if the capability comes integrated as it does in this case. The growing list of Google Cast Ready apps might provide an incentive to choose Casting over Bluetooth streaming as well.
“Based on the success of Chromecast, we’re excited to expand the Google Cast ecosystem by working with leading manufacturers like Denon to include audio devices,” said Suveer Kothari, Google Cast director of business development, in a press release.
There are three speakers in the HEOS line with increasingly large drivers and amplifiers for different applications: The $299 HEOS 3 is designed for small bedrooms and home offices, while the HEOS 5 ($399) can fill larger bedrooms or a small living room with sound. The largest speaker in the collection, the $599 HEOS 7, houses two tweeters, two midrange drivers, and a subwoofer, each of which is driven by a dedicated Class D amplifier. Denon says the HEOS 7 is powerful enough for very large rooms.
The impact on you: Google’s Chromecast technology has become tremendously popular for streaming Internet video to TVs, but you need to buy a dongle to pull off that trick. Denon’s HEOS speakers have the technology needed for streaming audio from an Android device built right in, so there’s nothing else you need to buy.
Does that make them a good deal? We’ll have to get one in to see how it sounds—and how it stands up against other multi-room audio systems, such as Sonos.
Source: www.pcworld,com