Archive for the ‘google’ Category

Stadia’s E3 Doom Eternal demo made me a cloud gaming believer

June 13th, 2019

LOS ANGELES—Since Google's Project Stream beta test in October and the company's March announcement of the full Stadia platform, one question has loomed large over the service: will it actually work well enough for fast-paced, reflex-intensive games? After playing a demo of Doom Eternal for about half an hour Wednesday, I'm ready to say that the answer to that question seems to be yes—at least in Google's controlled testing conditions.

Google invited me out to its downtown LA YouTube Gaming creator's space—away from the Internet-congested E3 show floor—to try out the latest build of Stadia. My demo was running locally on a Pixelbook with the Chrome browser, connected to a TV via HDMI, and remotely to data centers more than 300 miles away in San Francisco. The Pixelbook had a wired Internet connection that I was told was running at "about 25 Mbps" (Google wouldn't let me run a speed test to confirm the connection quality). I controlled the demo with a Stadia controller connected to the Pixelbook via USB, but keyboard and trackpad controls also worked.

Over thirty minutes of Doom Eternal play, I'd have been hard pressed to point out any differences between the Stadia version and one running on a local PC. The 60fps animation didn't noticeably stutter for the entire demo, and the apparent resolution didn't dip below 1080p either (though a Google representative said Stadia will sometimes lower that resolution briefly to maintain a smooth frame rate if and when bandwidth dips). There were no signs of video compression artifacts or the color gradients you might see in a low-res YouTube video.

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Posted in cloud, E3, e3 2019, Gaming & Culture, google, stadia, streaming | Comments (0)

I’ll be passing on Google’s new 2fa for logins on iPhones and iPads. Here’s why

June 12th, 2019
I’ll be passing on Google’s new 2fa for logins on iPhones and iPads. Here’s why

Enlarge (credit: Google)

Google is expanding its new Android-based two-factor authentication (2fa) to people logging in to Google and Google Cloud services on iPhones and iPads. While Google deserves props for trying to make stronger authentication available to more users, I’ll be avoiding it in favor of 2fa methods Google has had in place for years. I’ll explain why later. First, here’s some background.

Google first announced Android’s built-in security key in April, when it went into beta, and again in May, when it became generally available. The idea is to make devices running Android 7 and up users’ primary 2fa device. When someone enters a valid password into a Google account, the phone displays a message alerting the account owner. Users then tap a "yes" button if the login is legitimate. If it's an unauthorized attempt, the user can block the login from going through.

The system aims to tighten account security in a meaningful way. One of the key causes of account breaches is passwords that are compromised in phishing attacks or other types of data thefts. Google has been a leader when it comes to two-factor protections that by definition require something in addition to a password for someone to gain access to an account.

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Posted in 2FA, Android, Biz & IT, google, iOS, iPads, iPhones, two-factor authentication | Comments (0)

Google confirms that advanced backdoor came preinstalled on Android devices

June 6th, 2019
Man wearing T-shirt that reads

(credit: Alexandre Dulaunoy / Flickr)

Criminals in 2017 managed to get an advanced backdoor preinstalled on Android devices before they left the factories of manufacturers, Google researchers confirmed on Thursday.

Triada first came to light in 2016 in articles published by Kaspersky here and here, the first of which said the malware was "one of the most advanced mobile Trojans" the security firm's analysts had ever encountered. Once installed, Triada's chief purpose was to install apps that could be used to send spam and display ads. It employed an impressive kit of tools, including rooting exploits that bypassed security protections built into Android and the means to modify the Android OS' all-powerful Zygote process. That meant the malware could directly tamper with every installed app. Triada also connected to no fewer than 17 command and control servers.

In July 2017, security firm Dr. Web reported that its researchers had found Triada built into the firmware of several Android devices, including the Leagoo M5 Plus, Leagoo M8, Nomu S10, and Nomu S20. The attackers used the backdoor to surreptitiously download and install modules. Because the backdoor was embedded into one of the OS libraries and located in the system section, it couldn't be deleted using standard methods, the report said.

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Posted in Android, backdoor, Biz & IT, google, malware, supply chain attack | Comments (0)

Despite “revolutionary” promises, Stadia’s biz model is pure establishment

June 6th, 2019
"Play Now"... but first, do you want to pay full price to buy the full version of the game?

Enlarge / "Play Now"... but first, do you want to pay full price to buy the full version of the game?

In announcing Stadia this March, Google executives sold their streamed-gaming ambitions as a way to revolutionize the gaming business and the community surrounding it. With today's announcement of Stadia's pricing and business model, though, the company seems to be stuck in a decidedly old-fashioned mode that doesn't really exploit streaming's biggest benefits.

It starts with the initial hardware purchase requirements. A big part of Google's sales pitch for Stadia was the fact that the service would work on any computer with a Web browser, as well as generic mobile phones and tablets, using non-proprietary USB controllers. Requiring early adopters to purchase $129 worth of Chromecast Ultra and Stadia Controller hardware cuts against that "open to anyone" messaging. In a world where an Xbox One with a bundled game routinely sells for under $250, asking for a $129 hardware commitment to use Stadia's platform doesn't seem especially revolutionary.

Yes, that "Founder's Edition" purchase requirement (and the attendant $9.99 Pro-tier monthly subscription) will go away sometime in 2020—likely after Google has confirmed its game streaming servers can work at scale. But by then Google will have already lost the initial impact it could have had with a launch to billions of Chrome users. Requiring mobile users to have a Google Pixel 3/3a phone similarly deadens the market impact of Stadia's planned November rollout.

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Posted in cloud based, Gaming & Culture, google, stadia, streaming, streaming games | Comments (0)

Google Stadia requires $130 upfront, $10 per month at November launch

June 6th, 2019

Players will have to pay $129.99 up front and $9.99 a month, on top of individual game purchase costs, when Google's previously announced Stadia game-streaming service launches in November. A free tier will be available some time in 2020, as will a paid subscription tier that doesn't require the upfront purchase.

The Stadia Founder's Edition and its contingent Stadia Pro subscription will be the only way to get access to the Stadia service when it launches, Google announced today. That $129.99 package, available for pre-order on the Google Store right now, will include:

  • A Stadia controller in "limited-edition night blue"
  • A Chromecast Ultra
  • Three months of Stadia Pro service and a three-month "buddy pass" to give to a friend
  • First dibs on claiming a "Stadia Name"

After the first three months, Stadia Pro users will have to pay $9.99 a month to maintain their membership. For that price, they will get access to Google's highest-quality streams, at up to 4K/60fps with high-dynamic range (HDR) and 5.1 surround sound. In 2019, users will not be able to sign up for Stadia Pro without investing in the Founder's Edition hardware package, and Founder's Edition packages will only be available "in limited quantities and for a limited time."

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Posted in Gaming & Culture, google, stadia | Comments (0)

This week’s dead Google product is Google Trips, may it rest in peace

June 6th, 2019

Google's wild ride of service shutdowns never stops. Next up on the chopping block is Google Trips, a trip organization app that is popular with frequent travelers. Recently Google started notifying users of the pending shutdown directly in the Trips app; a splash screen now pops up before the app starts, saying "We're saying goodbye to Google Trips Aug 5," along with a link to a now all-to-familiar Google shutdown support document.

Trips was a well-received app with over five million downloads on the Play store and a 4.1 rating. Usually when you schedule a trip, a plethora of reservation emails arrive in your inbox for things like the plane flight, hotel, and/or car rental, and Google Trips would automatically suck up all this information and create a basic outline of your trip. From there it leveraged Google Maps information, displaying nearby attractions, things to do, and other planning information. When you needed to quickly reference something, it was a lot easier to open Google Trips than it was to start digging through your email inbox. Trips also had a focus on offline information access, downloading all this reservation information and even prompting you to download your destination area in Google Maps for offline access.

The death of Google Trips is part of Google's big travel revamp. The company recently launched the Google Travel website, which in addition to most of the Trips information, also serves as (wait for it...) a search engine for hotels, flights, and travel agency-style combo bookings. Google Travel is full of advertisements—the site is probably 50 percent ads, and these are very poorly labeled and look like the core user interface. Entire UI elements like "Check Availability" and "Select a room" just have "Ads" next to the main title, indicating the entire section or page is an advertisement. The point of interest information seems to be organic information from Google Maps, but I think every actionable item (like booking hotels and flights) eventually leads to a list of exclusively paid ads.

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Posted in google, google kills, Tech | Comments (0)

Congressional hearings signal growing antitrust problems for big tech

June 4th, 2019
The European Commission is investigating potentially false claims that Facebook cannot merge user information from the messaging network WhatsApp, which it acquired in 2014. Warsaw, Poland, on December 21, 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Enlarge / The European Commission is investigating potentially false claims that Facebook cannot merge user information from the messaging network WhatsApp, which it acquired in 2014. Warsaw, Poland, on December 21, 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images) (credit: NurPhoto | Getty Images)

The House Antitrust Subcommittee will conduct a series of hearings on the growing power of big technology companies, Chairman David Cicilline (D-R.I.) announced on Monday. It's the latest sign of growing interest in antitrust action against the largest technology companies—especially Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple.

"After four decades of weak antitrust enforcement and judicial hostility to antitrust cases, it is critical that Congress step in to determine whether existing laws are adequate to tackle abusive conduct by platform gatekeepers or whether we need new legislation to respond to this challenge," Cicilline said in a press release.

The announcement came shortly after news about a deal between the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, which share responsibility for antitrust enforcement. Under the deal, the Justice Department will focus on investigating Google and Apple, while the FTC will be responsible for Facebook and Amazon. The Justice Department has reportedly begun an investigation of Google; it's not known if the agencies have begun investigating the other firms.

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Posted in amazon, antitrust, apple, Facebook, google, Policy | Comments (0)

Facebook, Google stocks fall on imminent antitrust probes

June 3rd, 2019
Facebook, Google stocks fall on imminent antitrust probes

(credit: Sam Churchill / Flickr)

The stock market has reacted badly to reports in The Wall Street Journal that two of the nation's largest technology companies—Facebook and Google—are likely to face intensifying antitrust scrutiny from federal regulators in the United States.

As I write this on Monday afternoon, Facebook stock is down 7 percent, while Google stock is down 6.5 percent. The S&P 500 index of large stocks is down less than 1 percent.

An unusual legal arrangement gives the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission joint responsibility for antitrust enforcement. The two agencies negotiate to decide which one will represent the government in any particular inquiry.

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Posted in antitrust, Facebook, google, Policy | Comments (0)

Lenovo Smart Clock review: A small smart display that doesn’t display much

June 3rd, 2019
Lenovo Smart Clock review: A small smart display that doesn’t display much

Enlarge (credit: Valentina Palladino)

Google, Amazon, Facebook, and the like want to convince you that you need a smart display. But as we've explored in previous reviews, most smart displays are luxury versions of their screen-less counterparts. Everything that you can do with an Amazon Echo or a Google Home can be done with a comparable smart display, but the latter can show you visual information and (in some cases) videos. If you don't care much for visual information in such a device, why spring for a smart display? These devices are hard sells, particularly because most cost $150 or more.

That's not the case with Lenovo's new Smart Clock. It's the first Google-Assistant answer to Amazon's Echo Spot, serving as a tiny smart screen that shows the time by default and can be used to set alarms and do everything a regular Google Home device does. It could be an ideal device for someone who wants a virtual assistant at home and could use some visual information in their daily routine. But most importantly, it's great for those who don't want to spend a lot—Lenovo's Smart Clock costs $79, which is even more affordable than the $129 Echo Spot.

But a few big differences distinguish Lenovo's Smart Clock from Amazon's Echo Spot, and they will be make-or-break for some users. We used both devices for about a week simultaneously to see if a tiny smart display is the way to go and how the two compare to each other.

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Posted in alexa, amazon, echo spot, Features, google, Google Assistant, Google Home, Lenovo, smart clock, Tech | Comments (0)