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Facebook has Won. Google+ is Shutting Down

Google announced that it will shut down its social network Google+, citing a security vulnerability that affected 500,000 users. The vulnerability was found during a security investigation into the Google APIs, while the company was looking for APIs that were too broad, or that didn't deliver on their promises. According to Google, Google+ "has not achieved broad consumer or developer adoption, and has seen limited user interaction with apps. The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds."

After scrutiny, Google confirms that no data breach occurred, but the executives still chose to not publicly report on it, fearing regulatory action. The official statement from Google was released only after a Wall Street Journal article reported the flaw.

In addition to shutting down Google+ consumer accounts, Google also plans to make changes to its privacy policy, including new changes to its APIs to limit developers access to user's data on Gmail and Android devices.

Project Stream is Google's Version of Game Streaming: Play Assassin's Creed Odyssey in Chrome Browser

In 2010, a company called OnLive believed that game streaming was the future. The problem was that they believed that this future would come sooner than what ended up happening. The company (or rather, its IP) would end up being bought by Sony instead. The Japanese company then launched PlayStation Now later, which in itself is a cloud gaming platform that finally brought us closer to that future.

They weren't the only ones hedging this bet, however, and soon the cloud gaming fever spread to other companies and manufacturers. NVIDIA's GeForce NOW is one of the clearest examples of that venture, with its own pros and cons. But now we have a new, promising competitor in this field: Google, which announced yesterday the birth of the so-called "Project Stream". As the name suggests, this initiative is intended to offer end users the possibility of playing any game from any device and with only one requirement: to have access to the Google Chrome browser.

Chrome 69 Adds Forced Login, Threatens Privacy: How to Fix it

There was a time when Chrome users could be safe and think that what they did in Google Services (Gmail, YouTube, Maps, etc) was separated from their actions in the browser. One thing wasn't necessarily tied to the other, but now things have changed - and without any public disclosure from Google.

Starting with the recently published Chrome 69, if you use this version of Chrome and log into any Google service or site, you will be automatically and magically logged into Chrome with that user account. A systems architect called Bálint disclosed a problem that changes Chrome behavior in a way that could potentially harm user's privacy.

YouTube Begins Beta-testing AV1 CODEC on Beta Web-browsers

YouTube began posting its first test videos that implement the AV1 video CODEC, which aims to significantly reduce video stream bandwidths without sacrificing quality, exceeding the compression standards set by even HEVC. AV1 provides an architecture for both moving and still images, and Google, which is partly funding its development, foresees a future in which it replaces entrenched standards such as JPEG and H.264. Besides better compression, its key USP is its royalty-free license, which could translate to tangible operating-cost savings for YouTube and other video streaming services.

YouTube developers posted this playlist with a selection of videos that are encoded in AV1. You may not notice a reduction in your data consumption just yet, because the first batch of videos have been encoded at a very high bitrate to test performance. Future playlists (which will pop up on YouTube Developers channel), could test the CODEC's other more important aspects, such as data savings. To watch them, and test YouTube's AV1 player for them, you'll either need Chrome 70 beta or the latest nightly-build of Firefox (64.0a1), which pack AV1 support.

Dell Brings New Modern, Innovative Devices for Consumers and Small Businesses at IFA 2018

Straight off the heels of Gamescom 2018, where Dell announced their new gaming monitors and the refresh of their Alienware desktops, the excitement continues at IFA 2018. Dell is unveiling a new suite of innovative devices that elevate the computing experience for the everyday consumer, mobile professional and fast-paced small business owner. The enhanced Inspiron, XPS and Vostro portfolio is built with a combination of beautiful design, superior materials and top performance dedicated to deliver a device for every function and user. In addition, Dell is expanding its monitor leadership with a stunning new Dell 27 USB-C Ultrathin Monitor built with beauty and function.

Dell's commitment to thoughtful design and truly immersive cinematic experiences on the PC continues with this generation of new products. Launched at CES 2018, Dell Cinema is the combination of several cutting-edge technologies all working in concert to give the viewer an immersive, captivating experience on their PCs. Dell Cinema is available across the XPS portfolio and new Inspiron products starting this autumn.

Google Cloud Introduces NVIDIA Tesla P4 GPUs, for $430 per Month

Today, we are excited to announce a new addition to the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) GPU family that's optimized for graphics-intensive applications and machine learning inference: the NVIDIA Tesla P4 GPU.

We've come a long way since we introduced our first-generation compute accelerator, the K80 GPU, adding along the way P100 and V100 GPUs that are optimized for machine learning and HPC workloads. The new P4 accelerators, now in beta, provide a good balance of price/performance for remote display applications and real-time machine learning inference.

Antitrust: European Commission Fines Google for Record €4.34 billion for Illegal Practices

It's a record-setting fine: the European Commission has officially ruled that Google must pay a fine of €4.34 billion for breaking antitrust laws, specifically related to the implementation of its services within the Android ecosystem. The three key areas within which the EC has found wrongdoings pertain to bundling of its search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system; blocking phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android (claiming, without proof, that these versions would offer more security risks), and "made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators" to exclusively bundle the Google Search app on handsets.

Google now has 90 days to comply with the EC's decision (notwithstanding payment of the fine), which Google, obviously, has already announced will appeal the decision. In a statement to The Verge, a Google representative said that "Android has created more choice for everyone, not less. A vibrant ecosystem, rapid innovation, and lower prices are classic hallmarks of robust competition," and that Google "(...) will appeal the Commission's decision." The idea here seems to be to stop Google from forcing manufacturers to bundle their app and search software stacks - many times in a seemingly unremovable way. You can check the press release in the source link, but some of the more interesting snippets have been collated after the break.

Google Might Be Preparing a Kaby Lake G-Powered Chromebook

Chromebooks are all the rage right now. As a matter of fact, Acer recently released the first convertible Chromebook and a couple of other premium models aimed at business users. Google isn't staying behind either. A device under the codename "Kidd" was recently discovered in a Chromium OS code commit. Kidd is allegedly supposed to be a Chromebook, and the first to come with a quad-core Kaby Lake G processor with AMD Radeon Vega graphics inside. The Kaby Lake G family is comprised of the Intel Core i5-8305G, i7-8705G, i7-8706G, i7-8709G, and i7-8809G. That's a total of five processors for Google to choose from. But, at the moment, it's unclear whether Kidd will employ a 65 watt model or opt for a more powerful 100 watt variant.

The latest Chrome OS update brought support for Linux applications. Therefore, users can now install Steam on their Chromebooks. While GPU acceleration isn't quite there yet, it's on the roadmap. Support for GPU acceleration should arrive later this year. Once that happens, users will finally be able to game on the Chrome OS. So, expect to see a lot more Chromebooks with Raven Ridge and Kaby Lake G processors very soon.

Google to Remove Cryptomining Extensions from Its Store

In a continued crackdown from regulatory and tech companies alike, Google has just announced an addendum to their purge of all manner of cryptocurrency or mining-related content that they deem may be dangerous for users. After the company went through the trouble of establishing clear guidelines on what exactly would be classified as an acceptable cryptocurrency and cryptomining extension on its store (basically, what Google wanted was transparency from the part of the developers as to what the extension would do with users' hardware resources), and seeing those warnings and guidelines fall on deaf ears, Google has taken, again, the nuke approach: they're just banning all related content and extensions from their store altogether.

Twitter Reportedly Looking Into Banning Cryptocurrency-Related Ads as Well

After Google has actually announced a change to their financial services-related ad policies that will ban all cryptocurrency-related ads that run through its advertising platform, reports now place Twitter as the next major service to follow suit. According to Sky News, the banning will affect the majority of ads relating to cryptocurrency products, services, and advice, cutting it diagonally and indiscriminately if services are actually legit or fakes. The publication says the decision comes "amid looming regulatory intervention in the sector."

Sky's sources say this ban will enter into effect within the next two weeks. If so, this is now the third major servie (after Facebook and Google) to ban all crypto-related content form its advertisements. That regulatory intervention is looming on the sector is putting it mildly; and it's high time that happened. The cryptocurrency market really is "being chilled", to quote Mike Lempres, chief legal and risk officer at Coinbase. And it's coming from all sides: regulatory bodies, general services, John Oliver shows, mainstream media, and even investors' own risk-assessment. It was bound to happen - the frenzy was getting quite old, really - and is an expected development. Let's hope this is just the beginning of a renewal of sorts for the cryptocurrency and blockchain world.

Google To Ban Crypto-Related Advertisements

Google has surreptitiously announced, via an update to its financial services-related ad policies, that cryptocurrency-related ads on its services will be banned before long. As both public and regulatory bodies have become increasingly aware of cryptocurrencies' successes and shortcomings, the company has decided to take a stance until the as-of-yet deeply unregulated cryptocurrency field becomes clearer for users, and is less of a metaphorical minefield. While blockchain is one of the most promising technologies in recent years, and is definitely here to stay, the path for cryptocurrencies is much less clear, and there have been enough warning shots fired across the bow.

As there are veritable cybernetic graveyards of scams and failed crypto endeavors that ruined millions of peoples' lives, Google won't be facilitating these events. As Google's director of sustainable ads, Scott Spencer, told CNBC, "We don't have a crystal ball to know where the future is going to go with cryptocurrencies, but we've seen enough consumer harm or potential for consumer harm that it's an area that we want to approach with extreme caution." The new approach will be brought upon initial coin offerings (ICOs), wallets, and trading advice alike, starting in June this year.

Google Unveils 72-Qubit Quantum Computer - On the Verge of Quantum Supremacy

(Editor's Note: Quantum supremacy may still be some years away as researchers strive to surpass the challenges of keeping such exotic systems stable and error-free enough for them to provide actually useful in more complex calculations. As complexity increases, so does the system's stability decrease, so researchers have to come up with novel ways of not only expanding the scope of the quantum computer, but also stabilizing it. That quantum supremacy is some years away should elicit a sigh of relief from users, as it means that our current encryption techniques will be relevant for that much more time; however, it's really only a matter of time before quantum-based encryption schemes are necessary to maintain the status quo. Of course, general purpose computers will - and do - keep on evolving and increasing in performance as well, so quantum supremacy may find itself chasing the goose, so to speak, for a little more time.)

The goal of the Google Quantum AI lab is to build a quantum computer that can be used to solve real-world problems. Our strategy is to explore near-term applications using systems that are forward compatible to a large-scale universal error-corrected quantum computer. In order for a quantum processor to be able to run algorithms beyond the scope of classical simulations, it requires not only a large number of qubits. Crucially, the processor must also have low error rates on readout and logical operations, such as single and two-qubit gates.

Google To Integrate "Not Secure" Tag in Websites Sans HTTPS

Google has been one of the more vocal advocates of a HTTPS-based web, and the company is mounting an offensive of sorts that aims to push web page managers to adopt the more secure protocol. Starting July of this year, with Chrome 68, the Google web browser will start marking all non-HTTPs websites as "Not secure", thus warning users of heightened security risks. From the way Google is doing this, it seems the company hopes users that see the "Not secure" badge on web pages will start gradually choosing other options for their web surfing habits - HTTPS-enabled options, ideally - and thus force page managers to upgrade their security to stem the leaving user base.

Google has some interesting bullet points as it pertains to the adoption of HTTPS; they say that over 68% of Chrome traffic on both Android and Windows is now protected; over 78% of Chrome traffic on both Chrome OS and Mac is now protected; and that 81 of the top 100 sites on the web use HTTPS by default (which this editor would personally expect to be closer to 100 out of 100, but there are just some websites that really can't be moved). In the blog post announcing the change, Google engineers also bring attention to the company's Lighthouse utility, which automagically scans web pages for non-HTTPS elements, highlighting them, and noting those that can easily and painlessly be converted to their secure, HTTPS equivalent - which in some cases, might even enable more powerful tools.

It's a Web Mining Odyssey, Part 3: YouTube Falls to Injected Mining Code

Web mining's advent was the opening of a veritable Pandora's box when it comes to users' peace of mind while surfing the internet. What started with The Pirate Bay's implementation and ended up with a full-on browser war against these injected, unauthorized hijacks of users' electricity and computing resources has now taken to one of the world's most known and visited websites: YouTube.

Users of YouTube started getting heads-up that something might be wrong due to their antivirus protection kicking off some cryptocurrency mining warnings that seemed to only pop up when users were visiting YouTube. These warnings kept popping up even after a web browser change, and then, on Friday, researchers from TrendMicro touched upon the issue, saying that YouTube's web mining injections had led to a more than three-fold spike in the total number of cryptocurrency web mining warnings. Luckily, the web mining exploit wasn't deployed across the entire world: Trend Micro researchers said that the attackers behind the ads were abusing Google's DoubleClick ad platform to display them to YouTube visitors in select countries, including Japan, France, Taiwan, Italy, and Spain.

Google and Mozilla Push for AV1 Image Format Adoption, Beats JPEG and HEIC

Google and Mozilla, the companies behind the Chrome and Firefox cross-platform web-browsers; are pushing for the adoption of a new web image format to replace the ageing and inefficient JPEG, and the license-ridden HEIC. The two companies are leading a consortium of Internet businesses, called the Alliance for Open Media, to push for the proliferation and standardization of the new AV1 image file format. Early testing shows AV1 files to be 15 percent smaller than HEIC for comparable quality, which in turn promises half the file-size of JPEG for comparable quality. Apple uses HEIC as the default image file format for iOS and MacOS, while JPEG, PNG, and GIF continue to be the dominant web image formats, and have been prevalent for over two decades now.

"It seems downright silly that we're still relying on compression tech from 20 years ago," said Kelly Thompson, general manager at 500px, a photo sharing and sales site. "The equipment we're using to capture and display images is now exceeding JPEG's upper limits." JPEG is not just inefficient, but also has severe color palette limitations, and lack of support for transparency. Adoption of newer image file formats could significantly reduce Internet bandwidth usage benefiting both end-users running on slower/metered connections; and for infrastructure providers, such as ISPs.

Blade Runner: Revelations - A VR Noir Adventure

If you quite enjoyed the original Blade Runner, even after 35 years of its release (like this editor) and enjoyed Blade Runner 2049 even more (also like this editor), then you're likely interested, at some level, in the upcoming VR adventure. Blade Runner: Revelations is a VR video game that's being developed by Seismic Games and Alcon Media Group, and has an expected release date of mid 2018.

The story is set right after the original Blade Runner, and its events lead up to the Blade Runner 2049 narrative. Gamers will take on the role of Harper - an experienced blade runner that aims to keep 2023 Los Angeles safe. Caught within a twisted replicant plot, players will be tasked with searching for evidence to piece together the truth in some events. Gameplay features include access to a flying spinner, unique weaponry and the Esper image reconstruction technology. And contrary to most VR games, Blade Runner: Revelations features a free-movement design, though it's not a full liberty one, much like the real world's.

Google, ARM, Microsoft Issue Statements Regarding Discovered Security Flaws

After Intel and AMD's differing statements on the same issue, now is the time for Google, ARM, and Microsoft to release statements regarding the recently discovered (and still in the spotlight) security flaws that impact almost all Intel CPUs from the last decade. Google is the company that originally alerted Intel to the existence of the security vulnerabilities, and mentioned some reservations regarding AMD and ARM's immunity as well. Microsoft, as the maker of the world's most recognized and widely-used OS, has also issued a statement. The ARM statement follows, with both Google and Microsoft's statements transcribed after the break.

ARM
This method requires malware running locally and could result in data being accessed from privileged memory. Our Cortex-M processors, which are pervasive in low-power, connected IoT devices, are not impacted.

Intel Aware of CPU Flaws Before CEO Brian Krzanich Planned $24M Stock Sale

The news and details on Intel's most recent chip flaw have been coming in almost faster than news outlets can put them out, and it just seems that the company is going through a phase where news are seldom good. New information has come to light that paint Intel CEO's Brian Krzanich's sale of $24M worth of stocks in November 24th in a negative spotlight, euphemisms be allowed. We (meaning, this editor) previously dismissed the share sale as a pre-planned event that didn't show any kind of shady wrongdoing in the face of news breaking out regarding Intel's VM security flaw. However, it seems as if it pays off to be negative rather than positive in the world at large, and the skeptic in me is saying "serves you right".

Intel Secretly Firefighting a Major CPU Bug Affecting Datacenters?

There are ominous signs that Intel may be secretly fixing a major security vulnerability affecting its processors, which threatens to severely damage its brand equity among datacenter and cloud-computing customers. The vulnerability lets users of a virtual machine (VM) access data of another VM on the same physical machine (a memory leak). Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are among the big three cloud providers affected by this vulnerability, and Intel is reportedly in embargoed communications with engineers from the three, to release a software patch that fixes the bug. Trouble is, the patch inflicts an unavoidable performance penalty ranging between 30-35%, impacting the economics of using Intel processors versus AMD ones.

Signs of Intel secretly fixing the bug surfaced with rapid changes to the Linux kernel without proper public-visibility of the documentation. The bulk of the changes involve "kernel page table isolation," a feature that prevents VMs from reading each other's data, but at performance costs. Developers note that these changes are being introduced "very fast" by Linux kernel update standards, and even being backported to older kernel versions (something that's extremely rare). Since this is a hardware vulnerability, Linux isn't the only vulnerable software platform. Microsoft has been working on a Windows kernel patch for this issue since November 2017. AMD x86 processors (such as Opteron, Ryzen, EPYC, etc.,) are immune to this vulnerability.

SolidRun's MACCHIATObin ClearCloud 8K Comes with Google Cloud IoT Core Support

SolidRun, a leading developer and manufacturer of high-performance embedded solutions, and edge computing platforms, today announced support for the public beta of Google Cloud IoT Core, a fully managed service on Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to securely connect and manage IoT devices at scale. Cloud IoT Core is now publicly available to all users in beta, including new features and pricing plan. With Cloud IoT Core, businesses can easily connect and centrally manage millions of globally dispersed IoT devices. When used as part of the broader Google Cloud IoT solution, it can ingest all IoT data and connect to Google Cloud's state of the art analytics services including Cloud Pub/Sub, Dataflow, Bigtable, BigQuery, and Machine Learning.

The MACCHIATObin ClearCloud 8K, is based on a Marvell ARMADA A8040 SoC, and features a quad core Arm Cortex A-72 1.6GHz processor, including 4GB DDR4 DIMM memory (16GB optional), dual 10GbE, microSD connectors, 3 x SATA 3.0, USB 3.0 and PCIe x4 3.0 slot. SolidRun's MACCHIATObin ClearCloud 8K with Google's Cloud IoT Core allows users to easily and securely connect to GCP. The solution has been developed in collaboration with Sartura Ltd., a leading specialized open source developer and integrator for embedded applications, in conjunction with Marvell.

Eric Schmidt Steps Down as Alphabet's Exec Chairman

Eric Schmidt late Thursday surprised the tech industry with an announcement to step down as executive chairman of Alphabet, the all-encompassing conglomerate that owns Google's various divisions, including Google Inc., which handles Google's search, web, and online advertising businesses, led by Sundar Pichai. Schmidt did not name a successor.

Eric Schmidt, who served the Internet giant from 2001, is credited with overseeing its 2015 reorganization from the monolithic Google with its various brands, divisions, and subsidiaries, to Alphabet, a conglomerate that owns its various businesses transcending Internet-based services. We are awaiting more details on Schmidt's future plans, and what his exit means for Alphabet.

Google Chrome's Integrated AdBlocker to Go Live on February 15th

In what is certainly a major step forward for Internet advertising and the way these are delivered to users, Google has announced that their in-Chrome AdBlocker, which will ship embedded on the Chrome web browser, should be up, running, and being distributed in installation packages by February 15th. This move by google comes after the company joined a voluntary association in the form of the Coalition for Better Ads Experience Program, which aims to better the Internet - and its ads - on both consumers and publishers. This coalition's aim is to define standards for advertising, marking ads as either acceptable or not under the standard's rules, and will "certify web publishers that agree not to use the most disruptive ads identified in the Standards and will accredit browsers and advertising technology companies that will assess publishers' compliance with the Standards and filter digital ads based on the Standards."

Following its integration in the Better Ads Coalition, google will officially activate its AdBlocker on February 15th, whose criteria for blocking ads will be based off of the Coalition's white and black listing of websites and ads according to whether or not they conform to the body's advertising Standards. Google wrote on a developers blog post that "Starting on February 15, in line with the Coalition's guidelines, Chrome will remove all ads from sites that have a "failing" status in the Ad Experience Report for more than 30 days."

Google Uses the Nuclear Option Against Amazon, Pulls YouTube from Fire TV

Google Tuesday announced that it is discontinuing YouTube on Amazon's home entertainment platforms Fire TV and Echo Show. YouTube is the world's most popular on-demand video service, and continues to be the largest video sharing site. In a statement, Google said that the decision to pull YouTube from Amazon platforms was in reciprocity to Amazon continuing to hamper sales of Google devices, and preventing Amazon Prime Video from working on Google Chromecast. "Amazon doesn't carry Google products like Chromecast and Google Home, doesn't make (its) Prime Video available for Google Cast users, and last month stopped selling some of (our sister company) Nest's latest products. Given this lack of reciprocity, we are no longer supporting YouTube on Echo Show and Fire TV," Google said.

As if preventing Prime Video from working on Chromecast doesn't amount to "selectively blocking customer access to an open website," a hypocritical Amazon retorted "Google is setting a disappointing precedent by selectively blocking customer access to an open website." Google has, in its statement, left the door open for a possible agreement between the two. "We hope we can reach an agreement to resolve these issues soon," Google stated. This could likely see Google devices such as Chromecast and Google Home return to Amazon, and the availability of Prime Video on Chromecast and other Google Cast platforms. If it gets any worse from here on, Google has another, more destructive weapon in its arsenal against Amazon - Search results.

Onward to the Singularity: Google AI Develops Better Artificial Intelligences

The singularity concept isn't a simple one. It has attached to it not only the idea of Artificial Intelligence that is capable of constant self-improvement, but also that the invention and deployment of this kind of AI will trigger ever accelerating technological growth - so much so that humanity will see itself changed forever. Now, really, there are some pieces of technology already that have effectively changed the fabric of society. We've seen this happen with the Internet, bridging gaps in time and space and ushering humanity towards frankly inspiring times of growth and development. Even smartphones, due to their adoption rates and capabilities, have seen the metamorphosis of human interaction and ways to connect with each other, even sparking some smartphone-related psychological conditions. But all of those will definitely, definitely, pale in comparison to what changes might ensue following the singularity.

The thing is, up to now, we've been shackled in our (still tremendous growth) by our own capabilities as a species: our world is built on layers upon layers of brilliant minds that have developed the framework of technologies our society is now interspersed with. But this means that as fast as development has been, it has still been somewhat slowed down by humanity's ability to evolve, and to develop. Each development has come with almost perfect understanding of what came before it: it's a cohesive whole, with each step being provable and verifiable through the scientific method, a veritable "standing atop the shoulders of giants". What happens, then, when we lose sight of the thought process behind developments: when the train of thought behind them is so exquisite that we can't really understand it? When we deploy technologies and programs that we don't really understand? Enter the singularity, an event to which we've stopped walking towards: it's more of a hurdle race now, and perhaps more worryingly, it's no longer fully controlled by humans.

Microsoft Office Makes it to Chromebooks, Still Eludes Other Linux Distros

Microsoft released one of its key software products, Microsoft Office, to all Chromebooks. Office for Android is now available on all Google Play-enabled Chromebooks. Chrome OS is derived from Android, which itself is a Linux-based operating system. Like the rest of the Android software ecosystem, Office for Android eludes other desktop Linux distributions, due to lack of the required APIs and other quasi-proprietary dependencies exclusively found on Android and Chrome OS.

Microsoft Office is one of the "killer apps" that keep Windows popular. It's been available on the Apple Mac platform for over a decade, and made its long march to the Android platform with the decline of Microsoft's Windows Mobile platform. It should finally make premium chromebooks, such as the Google Pixelbook (pictured below), worth the buy to business professionals on the move.
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