Google Archive

Google is buying Fossil’s smartwatch tech for $40 million

Rumors about a Pixel Watch have abounded for years. Such a device would certainly make sense as Google attempts to prove the viability of its struggling wearable operating system, Wear OS. Seems the company is finally getting serious about the prospect. Today Fossil announced plans to sell its smartwatch IP to the software giant for $40 million. Sounds like Google will be getting a nice head start here as well. The deal pertains to “a smartwatch technology currently under development” and involves the transfer of a number of Fossil employees to team Google. Wear OS is definitely struggling, but it sure isn’t because of lack of trying from Fossil. The company has been churning out a whole wide variety of Wear OS devices, and they offer enough choice in design that anyone can find something they like – at acceptable price points, too. Sadly, like any other Wear OS OEM, they’re held back by a lack of acceptable silicon, since Qualcomm has been unable to deliver a chip that’s even remotely as good as Apple’s wearable SoC. Perhaps Google’s stewardship can address this problem.

Fuchsia OS confirmed to have Android app support via Android Runtime

We’ve long suspected that Google’s upcoming operating system, Fuchsia, would join the ranks of Chrome OS (and Android) in its support for Android apps. Today, that suspicion has been confirmed by a new change found in the Android Open Source Project, and we can say with confidence that Fuchsia will be capable of running Android apps using the Android Runtime. This just adds more fuel to the fire for Fuchsia’s future.

A first look at the Fuchsia SDK

With the significant news this week that the Fuchsia SDK and a Fuchsia "device" are being added to the Android Open Source Project, now seems like a good time to learn more about the Fuchsia SDK. Today on Fuchsia Friday, we dive into the Fuchsia SDK and see what it has to offer developers who might want to get a head start on Fuchsia.

Fuchsia is the only publicly known truly new operating system designed and built by one of the major technology companies. It's strange to think this may one day power Chromebooks and "Android" devices alike.

Dr. Google is a liar

It started during yoga class. She felt a strange pull on her neck, a sensation completely foreign to her. Her friend suggested she rush to the emergency room. It turned out that she was having a heart attack.

She didn’t fit the stereotype of someone likely to have a heart attack. She exercised, did not smoke, watched her plate. But on reviewing her medical history, I found that her cholesterol level was sky high. She had been prescribed a cholesterol-lowering statin medication, but she never picked up the prescription because of the scary things she had read about statins on the internet. She was the victim of a malady fast gearing up to be a modern pandemic - fake medical news.

While misinformation has been the object of great attention in politics, medical misinformation might have an even greater body count. As is true with fake news in general, medical lies tend to spread further than truths on the internet - and they have very real repercussions.

We already see the consequences of this with abusive parents not vaccinating their children based on clearly disproven lies and nonsense, but it also extends to other medical issues. What's especially interesting is that this affects people with higher educations a lot more than people with lower educations - might overconfidence be a slow and insidious killer (have a cookie if you catch that reference without Googling/DDG'ing)?

In any event, while people not vaccinating their children should obviously be tried for child abuse, I can't say I can really care about what people do to their own bodies. If a grown adult wants to trust some baseless Facebook nonsense or whatever over qualified medical personnel, then she or he should be free to do so - and suffer the consequences.

Android Emulator picks up support for Fuchsia’s Zircon kernel

With yesterday's Flutter Live event and the stable release of Flutter, one of the primary ways to create Fuchsia apps, Google is one step closer to possibly unveiling their in-development operating system. Another unexpected step is coming, in the form of the official Android Emulator from Android Studio gaining the ability to boot Fuchsia's Zircon kernel.

While Google can be quite fickle, I feel every step forward for Fuchsia is a step towards the grave for Android/Linux.

Riding in Waymo One, Google’s first self-driving taxi service

Waymo, the self-driving subsidiary of Alphabet, launched its first commercial autonomous ride-hailing service here in the Phoenix suburbs on Wednesday - a momentous moment for the former Google self-driving project that has been working on the technology for almost a decade. I was one of the lucky few to test out the company's robot taxi experience a week before the launch. And I say "lucky" because to ride in one of Waymo's autonomous minivans, not only do you have to live in one of four suburbs around Phoenix, but you also have to be in a very exclusive, 400-person club called the Early Riders.

I want this technology to work.

Measuring Google’s “filter bubble”

The filter bubble is particularly pernicious when searching for political topics. That's because undecided and inquisitive voters turn to search engines to conduct basic research on candidates and issues in the critical time when they are forming their opinions on them. If they're getting information that is swayed to one side because of their personal filter bubbles, then this can have a significant effect on political outcomes in aggregate.

Now, after the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and other recent elections, there is justified new interest in examining the ways people can be influenced politically online. In that context, we conducted another study to examine the state of Google's filter bubble problem in 2018.

Interesting study into the very real problem of Google's filter bubble, but do note that the study is performed by DuckDuckGo, a competitor to Google Search (one that I use myself, I might add). That being said, all the results, methodology, and data is freely available, and the code used to analyse the data is available on GitHub.

Huawei is testing Google’s Fuchsia OS on the Honor Play

In a Thanksgiving surprise, a new code change has revealed the first Android smartphone to be used as a testbed for Fuchsia, Google's in-development operating system for devices of all kinds. The bigger surprise - it's a Huawei.

Fuchsia is still such a mystery - there's clearly a lot of effort being put into it, but at this point, we still have no solid word on that, exactly, Google intends to do with it.

Google, Microsoft working on Chrome for Windows 10 on ARM

Windows 10 is catching up with all the other operating systems by offering better support for ARM processors, but this means third-party developers will also need to work on making their apps faster in the new ecosystem. Google now seems to have begun work on Google Chrome for Windows 10 on ARM, with a little help from an unexpected ally.

I am a proponent of ARM laptops, simply because of their long battery life and fanless operation. While I personally do not use Chrome, there are many applications that rely on it, such as Discord, which I do use every single day to hang out with friends and play games. Slack, which I personally don't use but is a hugely popular application, also uses Chrome.

Google Discover rolling out to google.com on mobile web

One of the most notable steps Google took last month to prepare for the next 20 years of Search is Google Discover. A rebrand of the Google Feed, it is part of the company's efforts to surface information without users actively having to ask for it. Google Discover is now beginning to roll out in google.com on mobile devices.

I don't quite understand this strong desire to shove "feeds" into every single possible product. Am I just old?

How Google protected Andy Rubin, the ‘father of Android’

What Google did not make public was that an employee had accused Mr. Rubin of sexual misconduct. The woman, with whom Mr. Rubin had been having an extramarital relationship, said he coerced her into performing oral sex in a hotel room in 2013, according to two company executives with knowledge of the episode. Google investigated and concluded her claim was credible, said the people, who spoke on the condition that they not be named, citing confidentiality agreements. Mr. Rubin was notified, they said, and Mr. Page asked for his resignation.

Google could have fired Mr. Rubin and paid him little to nothing on the way out. Instead, the company handed him a $90 million exit package, paid in installments of about $2 million a month for four years, said two people with knowledge of the terms. The last payment is scheduled for next month.

Mr. Rubin was one of three executives that Google protected over the past decade after they were accused of sexual misconduct. In two instances, it ousted senior executives, but softened the blow by paying them millions of dollars as they departed, even though it had no legal obligation to do so. In a third, the executive remained in a highly compensated post at the company. Each time Google stayed silent about the accusations against the men.

Great reporting by The New York Times - a story they've been working on for over a year.

So just to summarise this story: Andy Rubin and several other powerful men at Google have been either paid vast sums of money or given a high-paying job after being credibly accused of sexual harassment. This would be unbelievable if it wasn't 100% in line with everything we know about the male-centric bro culture of the technology industry. This should be 100% unacceptable, and not only the men involved ought to be fired, but Larry Page should also be forced to resign.

Unless these acts have consequences - as opposed to millions of dollars in rewards - society will never get rid of pathetic little men like these.

Making it easier to control your data in Google products

We're always working on making it easier for you to understand and control your data so you can make privacy choices that are right for you. Earlier this year, we launched a new Google Account experience that puts your privacy and security front and center, and we updated our Privacy Policy with videos and clearer language to better describe the information we collect, why we collect it, and how you can control it.

Today, we're making it easier for you to make decisions about your data directly within the Google products you use every day, starting with Search. Without ever leaving Search, you can now review and delete your recent Search activity, get quick access to the most relevant privacy controls in your Google Account, and learn more about how Search works with your data.

I guess it's a good step, but I think we're long past the point where it even matters.

Google’s new smart display does not run Android Things

Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn't really have an interface. It's designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm's "Home Hub" platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software - the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers.

When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn't use any of this. At the show, I had a quick chat with Diya Jolly, Google's VP of product management, and learned that Google's Home Hub doesn't run Android Things - it's actually built on Google's Cast platform, so it's closer to a souped-up Chromecast than a stripped-down Android phone. It also doesn't use Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform. Instead, Google opted for an Amlogic chip.

This is such an incredibly Google thing to do. Build an entire platform specifically for things like smart displays, and then build a smart display that does not use said entire platform. It's a nerdy little detail that virtually no user will care about, but it just makes me wonder - why?

Google unveils Pixel 3, Pixel Slate

Google unveiled its new Pixel phones today, as well as the Pixel Slate, a ChromeOS tablet/laptop device that's basically a cross between an iPad Pro and a Surface Pro. Virtually everything from the event was leaked over the past few weeks, so there were few - if any - surprises. The new devices are certainly interesting, but Google continues its policy of not making these products available in most of the world, so there's little for me to say about them - I have never seen them, let alone used them.

One thing that stood out to me about the Pixel Slate are its specifications - it runs on Intel processors, and in order to get a processor that isn't a slow Celeron or m3, you need to shell out some big bucks. I don't have particularly good experiences with Celeron or m3 processors, and even Intel's mobile i5 chips have never really managed to impress me - hence why I opted for the i7 version of the latest Dell XPS 13 when I bought a new laptop a few weeks ago. In The Verge's video, you can clearly see the user interface lagging all over the place, which seems like a terrible user experience to me, especially considering the price of $599 for the base Celeron model without a keyboard.

Time will tell if this machine is any good, but I am quite skeptical.

Google exposed user data, chose to not disclose it

Google exposed the private data of hundreds of thousands of users of the Google+ social network and then opted not to disclose the issue this past spring, in part because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage, according to people briefed on the incident and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

A software glitch in the social site gave outside developers potential access to private Google+ profile data between 2015 and March 2018, when internal investigators discovered and fixed the issue, according to the documents and people briefed on the incident. A memo reviewed by the Journal prepared by Google's legal and policy staff and shared with senior executives warned that disclosing the incident would likely trigger "immediate regulatory interest" and invite comparisons to Facebook's leak of user information to data firm Cambridge Analytica.

Data leaks and breaches happen. They are a fact of life we're pretty much forced to accept. However, how one handles such a leak sets the willfully malicious apart from those who have the best interests of their users at heart. From Google's response - or lack thereof - to this incident we can clearly deduce to which group Google belongs.

This breach is the reason Google announced the sunsetting of the consumer-facing side of Google+ today.

Google memo Reveals plans to track search users in China

Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned.

The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, code-named Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location - and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have "unilateral access" to the data.

These are the requirements set forth by the Chinese government that you must fulfil in order to do business of this kind in China. It's the same reason why Apple handed over all of its iCloud data to a company owned and run by the Chinese government - if you want to make money in China, you have to play by their rules. It just goes to show that while these companies make romp and stomp about caring about the privacy of western users, said care goes right out the window if it means they can make more money. Your privacy does not matter - only money matters.

And yes, they will do the same thing here in the west the moment it's financially advantagous for them to do so.

Google China prototype links searches to phone numbers

Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users' searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people's queries, The Intercept can reveal.

The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

Don't be evil.

Where in the world Is Larry Page?

It's not just Washington. Even in Silicon Valley, people have started wondering: where's Larry? Page has long been reclusive, a computer scientist who pondered technical problems away from the public eye, preferring to chase moonshots over magazine covers. Unlike founder-CEO peers (Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind), he hasn't presented at product launches or on earnings calls since 2013, and he hasn't done press since 2015. He leaves day-to-day decisions to Pichai and a handful of advisers. But a slew of interviews in recent months with colleagues and confidants, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about retribution from Alphabet, describe Page as an executive who's more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company. Supporters contend he's still engaged, but his immersion in the technology solutions of tomorrow has distracted him from the problems Google faces today. "What I didn't see in the last year was a strong central voice about how going to operate on these issues that are societal and less technical," says a longtime executive who recently left the company.

The money quote - quite literally: "People who know him say he's disappearing more frequently to his private, white-sand Caribbean island.". With the numerous challenges Google is facing, it seems odd that Page is being so reclusive.