Archive for the ‘Tech’ Category

Android 8.0 Oreo is official, starts rollout to devices

August 21st, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Google)

NEW YORK CITY—Happy Eclipse Day! As the Moon slowly crept its way across the Sun, Google took the opportunity to host an Eclipse-themed Android 8.0 launch event in New York City. Along with eclipse glasses and a simulcast of NASA’s eclipse livestream, Android “O” finally got its full name: “Android 8.0, Oreo.”

Like KitKat before it, Android’s alphabetical snack-themed codenames have gone commercial and partnered with an actual snack producer, adopting Nabisco’s trademarked “Oreo” as the name for this release. The event also came with the traditional statue unveiling: a superhero Android Oreo.

With today’s event, Android 8.0 Oreo is shipping out across all the usual distribution methods. The Android Open Source Project (AOSP) is getting the 8.0 code drop. OTAs will begin to roll out “soon” to the Pixel, Pixel XL, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, and Pixel C, and system images should be up on developers.google.com soon. Any device enrolled in the Android Beta Program will also be upgraded to these final builds.

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Intel first 8th generation processors are just updated 7th generation chips

August 21st, 2017

Enlarge / A Kaby Lake refresh die. (credit: Intel)

The first “8th generation” Intel Core processors roll out today: a quartet of 15W U-series mobile processors. Prior generation U-series parts have had two cores, four threads; these new chips double that to four cores and eight threads. They also bump up the maximum clock speed to as much as 4.2GHz, though the base clock speed is sharply down at 1.9GHz for the top end part (compared to the 7th generation’s 2.8GHz). But beyond those changes, there’s little to say about the new chips, because in a lot of ways, the new chips aren’t really new.

i7-8650U i7-8550U i5-8350U i5-8250U
Base clock/GHz 1.9 1.8 1.7 1.6
Maximum 1-core clock/GHz 4.2 4.0 3.6 3.4
Maximum 2-core clock/GHz 4.2 4.0 3.6 3.4
Maximum 4-core clock/GHz 3.9 3.7 3.6 3.4
Cores 4 4 4 4
Threads 8 8 8 8
Cache size/MB 8 8 6 6
Maximum GPU clock/GHz 1150 1150 1100 1100

Although Intel is calling these parts “8th generation,” their architecture, both for their CPU and their integrated GPU, is the same as “7th generation” Kaby Lake. In fact, Intel calls the architecture of these chips “Kaby Lake refresh.” Kaby Lake was itself a minor update on Skylake, adding an improved GPU (with, for example, hardware-accelerated support for 4K H.265 video) and a clock speed bump. The new chips continue to be built on Intel’s “14nm+” manufacturing process, albeit a somewhat refined one.

Earlier this year, Intel claimed that the new chips would add 30 percent performance over 7th generation parts; that number is now 40 percent. A total of 25 percent of that boost (in the SYSmark benchmark) comes from the doubled core and thread count. The remainder is split evenly between “manufacturing” improvements (which is to say, higher clock speeds) and “design” improvements.

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Android O is O-fficially launching August 21

August 18th, 2017

Enlarge

Google has revealed the launch date for the final version of Android O: August 21. Google will be livestreaming an unveiling event live from New York City at 2:40pm ET to coincide with the solar eclipse. There’s a new teaser site up at Android.com/eclipse, which counts down the time until the event. “Android O is touching down to Earth with the total solar eclipse,” the site promises, “bringing some super (sweet) new powers!”

Android O (which we know will be version 8.0) is currently on its fourth developer preview, having originally launched in March. At the event we’re expecting Google to unveil the traditional snack-themed codename for the OS, finally revealing what the “O” in “Android O” stands for. It should also start pushing out OTA updates for at least the Pixel and Pixel XL, with updates for older Google devices happening the day of the event or shortly after.

Android O is not a mystery at this point. The OS brings a big revamp of the notification panel with a new layout, colors, and features like snoozing. Google is clamping down on background apps for more consistent performance and better battery life. There are new, updatable emoji, a faster startup time, an all new settings app, and lots of security enhancements, including the new “Google Play Protect” anti-malware branding. Most importantly, Android 8.0 brings Project Treble to new devices, a modularization of the OS away from the hardware. That initiative should make it easier to develop and roll out new Android updates.

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Android O is O-fficially launching August 21

August 18th, 2017

Enlarge

Google has revealed the launch date for the final version of Android O: August 21. Google will be livestreaming an unveiling event live from New York City at 2:40pm ET to coincide with the solar eclipse. There’s a new teaser site up at Android.com/eclipse, which counts down the time until the event. “Android O is touching down to Earth with the total solar eclipse,” the site promises, “bringing some super (sweet) new powers!”

Android O (which we know will be version 8.0) is currently on its fourth developer preview, having originally launched in March. At the event we’re expecting Google to unveil the traditional snack-themed codename for the OS, finally revealing what the “O” in “Android O” stands for. It should also start pushing out OTA updates for at least the Pixel and Pixel XL, with updates for older Google devices happening the day of the event or shortly after.

Android O is not a mystery at this point. The OS brings a big revamp of the notification panel with a new layout, colors, and features like snoozing. Google is clamping down on background apps for more consistent performance and better battery life. There are new, updatable emoji, a faster startup time, an all new settings app, and lots of security enhancements, including the new “Google Play Protect” anti-malware branding. Most importantly, Android 8.0 brings Project Treble to new devices, a modularization of the OS away from the hardware. That initiative should make it easier to develop and roll out new Android updates.

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Major revamp of the Google app starts rolling out to Android users

August 17th, 2017

The Google Feed, Google’s revamp and rebrand of its “Google Now” card feed inside of the Google app, is rolling out to Android users. The Feed is mostly a new coat of paint for features that already existed, but let’s cover what’s here.

The first is the new tabbed-Feed interface. Open the Google app and at the bottom you’ll see three sets of tabs: “Home,” “Upcoming,” and “Recent.” “Home” is the news feed, showing suggested articles based on your search history. The “Upcoming” tab contains cards based on your calendar, e-mails, reminders, and suggested travel times. Finally there’s the “Recents” tab, which is basically your search history designed to look like the iOS recent app screen.

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Google Home gets free phone calls in the US and Canada

August 16th, 2017

Enlarge / Google Home. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

At I/O 2017, Google promised that Google Home would get the ability to make phone calls. Today, the feature is rolling out to users in the US and Canada.

Google Home users can call businesses listed in Google Maps or people in Google Contacts with a simple “OK Google, call [whoever].” It also combines Google Contact’s relationship knowledge and Google Home’s multi-user support, allowing people to say something like “Call my mom” and have the system accurately look up and dial the right person.

Calls are free to anyone in the US and Canada. For most people, international calls and premium numbers are not supported, and the recipient will see “Unknown” or “No Caller ID.” Subscribers to Google’s Project Fi MVNO service or Google Voice numbers get a whole other experience, though: there’s an option in the settings to have caller ID show your Google number, and international and 900 numbers can be billed to your account at the usual rate. For everyone else, Google says that, “by the end of the year,” you’ll be able to link any mobile number to the Google Home for caller ID. 911 calls aren’t supported, and it doesn’t sound like it can receive calls to your number.

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It took a year, but Google Allo finally works on a desktop

August 16th, 2017

Google Allo, Google’s latest attempt to stay relevant in the instant messaging market, is finally going to work on something other than a single smartphone. Google is launching a web interface for the struggling instant messaging service.

Google Allo launched in September 2016, and it was missing so many basic messaging features it was dead on arrival. It only worked on phones, leaving tablets, laptops, and desktops out in the cold. It couldn’t be used on multiple devices at once. It didn’t work with SMS messages, so you couldn’t talk to your friends that weren’t on Allo. It didn’t even pull information from your Google account, needing a name and picture at registration. Instead of working to quickly fix these gaps in core functionality, the Allo team burned through their first year (and all their launch hype) launching superfluous features like additional stickers and animated gif support.

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Review: System76’s Galago Pro solves “just works” Linux’s Goldilocks problem

August 16th, 2017

Enlarge (credit: Scott Gilbertson)

The Linux world has long maintained a very specific rite of passage: wiping the default operating system from your laptop and plugging in a USB stick with your favorite distro’s live CD. Some of us get a little, dare I say, giddy every time we wipe that other OS away and see that first flash of GRUB.

Of course, rites of passage are supposed to be one-time events. Once you’ve wiped Windows or OS X a time or two, that giddiness vanishes—replaced by a feeling of annoyance, a kind of tax on being a Linux user.

In recent years, the PC industry has finally spawned a few manufacturers offering up machines with Linux pre-installed to eliminate this issue. By this point, I’ve tested most of them around Ars: Dell’s XPS and Precision lines both have Linux-friendly offerings, and dedicated Linux manufacturers like System76 have long offered decent hardware with Linux pre-installed. In all this testing, I’ve yet to encounter a driver problem, which is the real benefit of a machine with Linux pre-installed. (Though to be fair, I could say the same for the Lenovo x240 that serves as my daily driver.)

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An ancient Chrome tab trick just blew my mind

August 15th, 2017

If your browser is a catastrophe of tabs as mine is—I currently have six Chrome windows across three monitors with more than 100 tabs open, because tabs are the new bookmarks—then this thing I just discovered may be life-changing. (Though it’s certainly not new.)

We all know that you can tear a tab off the tab bar to drag it into a new window (or drag it into a different tab bar to move it from window to window). What if I told you that you can use the standard selection modifiers—ctrl-click for multiple non-contiguous tabs, shift-click for multiple contiguous tabs—to tear off entire groups of related tabs in a single action?

Because believe it or not, you can.

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Intel’s next generation chip plans: Ice Lake and a slow 10nm transition

August 15th, 2017

Enlarge / A Kaby Lake desktop CPU, not that you can tell the difference in a press shot. This is built using Intel’s 14nm+ process. (credit: Intel)

Intel has given an unusual insight into the road ahead for its mainstream desktop and laptop processors, confirming the existence of a new processor family called Ice Lake.

Once upon a time, the company planned to follow up Skylake, built on a 14nm process, with Cannon Lake, built on a 10nm process and shipping in late 2016. But that plan was derailed. The 14nm process took longer than expected to bed down and start working properly. Our understanding is that Intel moved engineers that were developing 10nm to help with fixing 14nm. This had a few knock-on effects. First, it required Intel to produce additional designs built on 14nm: last year’s Kaby Lake uses the second-generation 14nm+ process, and this year’s Coffee Lake will use a third-generation 14nm++ process.

Second, it delayed 10nm. 10nm parts aren’t now expected until 2018, when Cannon Lake finally materializes. The newly confirmed Ice Lake will use a second-generation 10nm process, 10nm+.

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