The Pixel 2 Has a Custom Google SoC for Image Processing →

October 17, 2017 · 18:20

Ron Amadeo, writing for Ars Technica:

In addition to the usual Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, the Pixel 2 is equipped with the “Pixel Visual Core,” an extra, second SoC designed by Google with hardware-accelerated image processing in mind. At the heart of the chip is an eight-core Image Processing Unit (IPU) capable of more than three trillion operations per second. Using these IPU cores, Google says the company’s HDR+ image processing can run “5x faster and at less than 1/10th the energy” than it currently does on the main CPU.

The Pixel Visual Core is currently in the Pixel 2, but it doesn’t work yet. Google says it will be enabled with the launch of the Android 8.1 developer preview. At that time, the chip will let third-party apps use the Pixel 2’s HDR+ photo processing, allowing them to produce pictures that look just as good as the native camera app. The chip isn’t just for Google’s current camera algorithms, though. Google says the Pixel Visual Core is designed “to handle the most challenging imaging and machine learning applications” and that the company is “already preparing the next set of applications” designed for the hardware.

Having two entirely separate SoCs inside a smartphone is unusual. The Pixel Visual Core has its own CPU (a single Cortex A53 core to play traffic cop), its own DDR4 RAM, the eight IPU cores, and a PCIe line, presumably as a bus to the rest of the system. Ideally, you would have a single SoC that integrates the IPU right next to that other co-processor, the GPU. The Pixel 2 is based on the Snapdragon 835 SoC, though, and you aren’t allowed to integrate your own custom silicon with Qualcomm’s design. What Google can do is wrap a minimal SoC around its eight IPU cores and then connect that to the main system SoC. If Google ever set out to compete with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon line, an IPU is something it could build directly into its own designs. For now, though, it has this self-contained solution.

I’m willing to bet Google is planning to or already working on their own SoC. Once (and if) it goes to market, I wonder if they’ll be able to compete with Qualcomm and Apple, and how many years it will take them to catch up. Designing your own custom silicon is definitely a huge advantage, one which Apple is currently successfully leveraging over their competitors.


Google Flipped Out →

September 2, 2017 · 10:35

Kashmir Hill:

I was working for Forbes at the time, and was new to my job. In addition to writing and reporting, I helped run social media there, so I got pulled into a meeting with Google salespeople about Google’s then-new social network, Plus.

The Google salespeople were encouraging Forbes to add Plus’s “+1″ social buttons to articles on the site, alongside the Facebook Like button and the Reddit share button. They said it was important to do because the Plus recommendations would be a factor in search results—a crucial source of traffic to publishers.

This sounded like a news story to me. Google’s dominance in search and news give it tremendous power over publishers. By tying search results to the use of Plus, Google was using that muscle to force people to promote its social network.

I asked the Google people if I understood correctly: If a publisher didn’t put a +1 button on the page, its search results would suffer? The answer was yes.

After the meeting, I approached Google’s public relations team as a reporter, told them I’d been in the meeting, and asked if I understood correctly. The press office confirmed it, though they preferred to say the Plus button “influences the ranking.” They didn’t deny what their sales people told me: If you don’t feature the +1 button, your stories will be harder to find with Google.

With that, I published a story headlined, “Stick Google Plus Buttons On Your Pages, Or Your Search Traffic Suffers,” that included bits of conversation from the meeting […]

Google promptly flipped out.

This borders on blackmail, NDA or not.


Google Removes 300 Apps Used to Launch DDoS Attacks From Play Store →

August 29, 2017 · 14:32

Kate Conger, writing for Gizmodo:

Google has removed roughly 300 apps from its Play Store after security researchers from several internet infrastructure companies discovered that the seemingly harmless apps—offering video players and ringtones, among other features—were secretly hijacking Android devices to provide traffic for large-scale distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

How many more have yet to be discovered?


Google Will Pay $3 Billion to Remain Top Search Provider on iOS →

August 16, 2017 · 15:11

Luke Dormehl, writing for Cult of Mac:

Google could pay Apple as much as $3 billion this year in order to remain the default search engine on iOS devices, a new report claims.

The claim comes from Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. If true, it would represent a sizable increase from the $1 billion that Apple was paid by Google for the same reason back in 2014.

While this is (or would be) a good business decision on Apple’s part, they really should just set DuckDuckGo as the default search engine. The good of the users should come first and DDG is easily good enough for most.


So, About this Googler’s Manifesto →

August 7, 2017 · 10:07

Yonatan Zunger:

I’m writing this here, in this message, because I’m no longer at the company and can say this sort of thing openly. But I want to make it very clear: if you were in my reporting chain, all of part (3) would have been replaced with a short “this is not acceptable” and maybe that last paragraph above. You would have heard part (3) in a much smaller meeting, including you, me, your manager, your HRBP, and someone from legal. And it would have ended with you being escorted from the building by security and told that your personal items will be mailed to you. And the fact that you think this was “all in the name of open discussion,” and don’t realize any of these deeper consequences, makes this worse, not better.


Google Stops Reading Emails For Gmail Ad Personlisation →

June 24, 2017 · 20:21

Diane Greene:

G Suite’s Gmail is already not used as input for ads personalization, and Google has decided to follow suit later this year in our free consumer Gmail service. Consumer Gmail content will not be used or scanned for any ads personalization after this change. This decision brings Gmail ads in line with how we personalize ads for other Google products. Ads shown are based on users’ settings. Users can change those settings at any time, including disabling ads personalization. G Suite will continue to be ad free.

This is a great decision. Surprising, but great. It still doesn’t change the fact, that Gmail’s proprietary implementation makes it terrible to use with third-party email clients, but hopefully this is the beginning of a more privacy-focused Google. I doubt this, but I can be hopeful, right?


Google Sucks →

June 2, 2017 · 11:14

Google update on the Nik Collection:

The Nik Collection is free and compatible with Mac OS X 10.7 through 10.10; Windows Vista, 7, 8; and Adobe Photoshop through CC 2015. We have no plans to update the Collection or add new features over time.

I knew this would happen. This is fucking unacceptable. There’s also a petition going, if you want to try to save it.


Google’s Proprietary Fork of HTML Is Taking Over the Open Web →

May 22, 2017 · 08:14

Nick Heer:

Consider this: Google owns the most popular search engine and the biggest video hosting platform in most countries, operates one of the most-used email services on Earth,1 has the greatest market share of any mobile operating system, makes the most popular web browser in many countries, serves the majority of the targeted advertising on the web, provides the most popular analytics software for websites, and is attempting to become a major internet service provider. And, to cap it all off, they’re subtly replacing HTML with their own version, and it requires a Google-hosted JavaScript file to correctly display.


Google Plans Ad-Blocking Feature in Chrome Browser →

April 20, 2017 · 13:54

Jack Marshall:

Alphabet Inc.’s Google is planning to introduce an ad-blocking feature in the mobile and desktop versions of its popular Chrome web browser, according to people familiar with the company’s plans.

The ad-blocking feature, which could be switched on by default within Chrome, would filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web.

Google could announce the feature within weeks, but it is still ironing out specific details and still could decide not to move ahead with the plan, the people said.

I wish this meant that they would block their own ads, which I find incredibly offensive. Especially aesthetically.


‘Nexus’ Brand Will Be Replaced by ‘Pixel’ and ‘Pixel XL’ →

September 2, 2016 · 08:46

Edgar Cervantes:

Recent rumors have been suggesting the Search Giant plans to end the Nexus legacy, altering the naming scheme. The murmurs were vague and hard to wrap our heads around, but now a couple sources are claiming this is true… and that the next Google phones will be branded under the Pixel series.

To be more specific, these sources claim Google’s new handsets will be named Pixel and Pixel XL. Both are independent and one of them seems to have a great track record of information. The guys over at Android Police swear by them and multiple publications have said similar things now, so there’s a good chance of accuracy here.

As for these phones, the standard Pixel is said to be the 5-inch version, which has been so far code named as Sailfish. On the other hand, the Pixel XL is said to be the 5.5-inch Marlin.

I prefer ‘Nexus’, but ‘Pixel’ seems OK. No idea why they would do this though — Nexus has been a brand for years now and is hard to mistake for anything else.


Lack of Android Updates — Enough Blame to Go Around →

September 1, 2016 · 08:11

Andrew Cunningham:

After doing some digging and talking to some people, we can say that it will be either very difficult if not completely impossible for any phone that uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 or 801 to get an official, Google-sanctioned Nougat update (including the Z3). And that’s a pretty big deal, since those two chips powered practically every single Android flagship sold from late 2013 until late 2014 and a few more recent devices to boot.

This situation has far-reaching implications for the Android ecosystem. And while it can be tempting to lay the blame at the feet of any one company—Google for creating this update mess in the first place, Qualcomm for failing to support older chipsets, and the phone makers for failing to keep up with new software—it’s really kind of everybody’s fault.

This is such a cluster-fuck. Still.


How to Crack Android Full Disk Encryption on Qualcomm Devices →

July 25, 2016 · 09:39

Mohit Kumar:

Android users are at severe risk when it comes to encryption of their personal and sensitive data.

Android’s full-disk encryption can be cracked much more easily than expected with brute force attack and some patience, affecting potentially hundreds of millions of mobile devices.

And the worst part: There may not be a full fix available for current Android handsets in the market.


The Chrome Distortion: How Chrome Negatively Alters Our Expectations →

March 26, 2016 · 09:29

Chris Thoburn:

Chrome has taught us to idealize features for so long that we’ve become blind to its many glaring faults (…)

I’ve learned the hard way that Chrome is the new IE. I’ve learned that you have to architect an application well from the beginning for it to work well on all platforms. I’ve learned you can ship large ambitious JS apps to mobile, but it takes dedication and experience, and every trick you know to do it well for Android. I’ve learned that Apple loves the web, probably more than Google, and has invested heavily in ensuring we have a high quality platform upon which to build apps.

But most of all, I’ve learned that we’re wasting a ton of effort right now trying to fix Chrome from the outside. We’re dancing around the issue; pretending that universal rendering, service workers, app-shell architecture, and keeping more of our applications on servers (where they don’t belong) is more than just a workaround for how bad Chrome is. Yes, these ideas have uses, merits, and probably are the future; however, our need and love of them right now is because our performance expectations have been badly distorted by the situation Chrome has left us in.


Facebook, Google and WhatsApp Plan to Increase Encryption of User Data →

March 14, 2016 · 20:38

Danny Yadron:

Silicon Valley’s leading companies – including Facebook, Google and Snapchat – are working on their own increased privacy technology as Apple fights the US government over encryption, the Guardian has learned.

The projects could antagonize authorities just as much as Apple’s more secure iPhones, which are currently at the center of the San Bernardino shooting investigation. They also indicate the industry may be willing to back up their public support for Apple with concrete action.

Within weeks, Facebook’s messaging service WhatsApp plans to expand its secure messaging service so that voice calls are also encrypted, in addition to its existing privacy features. The service has some one billion monthly users. Facebook is also considering beefing up security of its own Messenger tool.

Snapchat, the popular ephemeral messaging service, is also working on a secure messaging system and Google is exploring extra uses for the technology behind a long-in-the-works encrypted email project.

At this point in time I would like to see more action from the other tech companies — this is obviously a delicate situation, but too much is at stake.


Nilay Patel Bought His Mom a Chromebook Pixel →

February 2, 2016 · 21:31

Nilay Patel:

We were off to the races. It’s a month later and she loves the thing. It’s not fighting her, or asking her to learn anything new, or foisting complicated new products on her. There are no apps to update, and no new versions of the OS to install every year. It’s just Chrome, doing its thing. And because it’s still a thousand-dollar laptop, it’s incredibly fast. (Apparently the secret to making Chrome run really well is to totally dedicate a 2.2GHz Core i5 and 8GB of RAM to it.)

I’ve used a Pixel for a few weeks and even reviewed it — it truly is an amazing little computer, certainly much better in its second iteration. What I don’t still quite understand is why it requires a Core i5 and 8 GB of RAM to run as well as it does. It shouldn’t need it.

When we talk about laptops still being popular and important, we tend to talk about things like the precision of the mouse and the power and flexibility of a desktop operating system. We talk about all the things they can do better than a phone or a tablet. We talk about more. But it’s worth talking about the power of technology that strives to do less — much less. The thousand dollars I spent on a Pixel didn’t buy my mom crazy extensibility, or the ability to run powerful apps like Photoshop or Excel. It didn’t even buy her that much storage. But it did buy her a beautiful, well-designed product. And most importantly, it bought her focus, and the ability to spend her time using her computer instead of trying to learn how to use it.

That’s a lesson I think Steve Jobs would have liked very much.

I believe that Steve understood the concept quite well — please don’t take this as putting words in his mouth; that’s not my intent. I am referring to a product you can actually buy, which most certainly ticks the ‘focus’ box. It’s called the iPad. While probably not best suited for Nilay’s mom, you can’t beat the focus a single window into the internet gives you. That’s probably why I get so much done on my iPad Pro, with or without an external keyboard.


Sanmay Ved Was the Owner of Google.com for One Minute →

February 1, 2016 · 09:06

Eduardo Vela Nava for Google Security, recalling a past incident:

You may have read about Sanmay Ved, a researcher from who was able to buy google.com for one minute on Google Domains. Our initial financial reward to Sanmay—$ 6,006.13—spelled-out Google, numerically (squint a little and you’ll see it!). We then doubled this amount when Sanmay donated his reward to charity.

It always surprises me when huge companies forget something which seems to obvious. Then I remember that errare humanum est.

I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if in an alternate universe, Ved actually retained the Google.com domain, and set something of his own on it.


Google Paid Apple $1 Billion to Keep Search on iPhone →

January 22, 2016 · 09:43

Joel Rosenblatt writing for Bloomberg:

Google Inc. is paying Apple Inc. a hefty fee to keep its search bar on the iPhone.

Apple received $1 billion from its rival in 2014, according to a transcript of court proceedings from Oracle Corp.’s copyright lawsuit against Google. The search engine giant has an agreement with Apple that gives the iPhone maker a percentage of the revenue Google generates through the Apple device, an attorney for Oracle said at a Jan. 14 hearing in federal court.

I assume DuckDuckGo isn’t. It also doesn’t track you. You can set it up as your default search engine on iOS and OS X.

Update

For those of you wondering how much this influences Apple’s finances, Horace Dediu has a nice illustration.


Nest Thermostat Fails →

January 14, 2016 · 01:15

Nick Bilton:

The Nest Learning Thermostat is dead to me, literally. Last week, my once-beloved “smart” thermostat suffered from a mysterious software bug that drained its battery and sent our home into a chill in the middle of the night.

Although I had set the thermostat to 70 degrees overnight, my wife and I were woken by a crying baby at 4 a.m. The thermometer in his room read 64 degrees, and the Nest was off.

These kinds of things are what make me stop and think if I ever want a ‘smart home’.


Gold Nexus 6P Coming to the US →

January 6, 2016 · 18:06

Brandon Chester:

One of the smaller announcements from Huawei at CES was the arrival of the gold colored Nexus 6P in the United States. The gold Nexus 6P, also known as the Nexus 6P Special Edition, was shown off at Google’s original San Francisco launch event for the phone.

Still waiting…


Mossberg: Google Should Build Hardware — but Not Like This →

December 8, 2015 · 23:09

Walt Mossberg:

But the worst part about this device, which starts at $499 for the tablet alone, is that Google has made no discernible effort to create software to match the screen real estate afforded by the first tablet it has designed and built itself. It has forfeited the big advantage its rival Apple has traded on for decades: the ability to blend your own hardware and software to provide a superior user experience.

I was curious what they came up with. I’m not any more.


Are You a Star Wars Fan?

November 25, 2015 · 09:04

If the answer is yes, then you’ll be pleased to know that Google prepared a beautiful Easter egg for the occasion. Go to google.com and search for:

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away

Don’t forget to turn your sound on!


Sometimes I Just Love Google →

October 22, 2015 · 18:05

I’m not a Google fan for various reasons, mainly due to their policies, sources of income, the way they operate, and so on. But sometimes they do something, and I just can’t stop smiling.

Read the document under the link—totally worth it. Hint: it has nothing to do with Gmail.

#BackToTheFuture


“iPhone 6 Fans, Your Phone Brought Up the Rear in Almost Every Test” →

August 25, 2015 · 12:06

Alex Cranz published a “turbo charging” test on Tom’s Guide yesterday, with various Android handsets competing for the title of “fastest charging phone.” Oh, and there was an iPhone 6 in there too. And it came last.

He specifically noted that some phones need chargers that have to be bought separately to get maximum performance out of them:

Qualcomm’s technology promises to get your battery to a full charge in less than 2 hours, but some Quick Charge-capable phones, like the LG G4, don’t actually ship with the necessary brick. Other companies rebrand the technology. Motorola calls its solution Turbo Charge in the Droid Turbo and the Google Nexus 6. The Zenfone 2 uses Asus’s branded “Boostmaster technology” and requires a special power brick (only available with the $299 edition) that’s supposedly 17 percent more potent than the typical Quick Charge 2.0 brick.

He then proceeded to comment on the iPhone’s lacklustre performance:

As for iPhone 6 fans, your phone brought up the rear in almost every test.

Apple users will be delighted to know that the iPhone was no longer the slowest of the lot. It was charged to 36 percent (…)

Alex however forgot to mention one important detail—he used the 5W/1A charger with the iPhone 6, instead of one capable of delivering at least 2.1A, such as the iPad 10W/2.1A brick. This would cut the charge time from over two and a have hours by almost a full hour.

I’m sure it was an honest oversight.

P.S. To clarify—the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the first iPhones capable of charging faster by using a more powerful charger, such as the iPad 10 or 12W/2.1A power brick. I personally use a Belkin 2.1A model and it gets the job done.