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Tech News

Google brings Chrome to Daydream VR headsets

July 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

It’s been a long time in coming, but Chrome browsing in VR is finally here. Google has released a version of Chrome that supports both Daydream View and stand-alone Daydream headsets like the Lenovo Mirage Solo. It can visit any website and includes Chrome staples like incognito mode, syncing and voice search, just in a wearable-friendly format. Google is also promising Daydream-specific features like a “cinema mode” when you watch online video.

You should see the VR-ready version when you update Chrome on Android. This make the most sense if you have a dedicated headset (where there isn’t a guarantee of phone access), but it promises a much more consistent VR experience. You could resume reading a story from your desktop, or check on a web guide for an app without having to remove your headgear.

Tech News

Google search now provides more details on local events

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

Google is quickly turning its event info from a nice-to-have extra into a major feature. If you’re searching from your phone, you’ll now find key details for events without having to jump to websites or apps. If it’s a concert, for example, you’ll find out where and when it’s taking place, directions and other details. You can either jump to a ticket service if you’re sold on the idea or save an event for later. And if you’re not sure what to look for, you’ll get some help there as well.

The For You tab includes both personalized event suggestions as well as popular and trending events. If you’re big on food festivals, you may see the latest barbecue appear front and center.

Sites have to format their content to ensure that it shows up properly, so you might not get details for every gig in town. However, it’s quite clear what Google is aiming for — it may not be directly replacing services like Bandsintown or Eventbrite, but there’s certainly a degree of overlap.

Tech News

Firefox is the latest browser to block autoplaying web audio

July 24, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Engadget

Firefox is finally joining the ranks of web browsers that block autoplaying web sounds. Mozilla’s latest Nightly builds for Firefox now include an option to mute autoplaying audio, hopefully saving you from jumping out of your seat when an obnoxious video ad makes its presence felt. It’s finer-grained than Chrome’s recently removed automatic muting, too. You can turn the feature off entirely, force it to ask for permission and make exceptions for specific sites.

These are Nightly releases, so you can expect plenty of bugs and rough edges. It’s likely to take weeks or more before this reaches beta and developer builds, let alone the polished version. Nonetheless, it’s heartening news. If you’re no big fan of browsers like Chrome or Safari, you’ll soon have a way to put annoying web media in its place.

We are adding the ability to block and configure autoplaying videos with sound in Firefox, can check it out in @FirefoxNightly today (comments welcome) pic.twitter.com/k9K9hQC9Ye

— Dale Harvey (@daleharvey) July 21, 2018

Tech News

Google Chrome prevents sites from launching Spectre-like attacks

July 12, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Jon Fingas/Engadget

If you’re using Chrome, you now have fewer reasons to worry about Spectre-style security threats. Google has revealed that Chrome 67 for desktop and the matching Chrome OS release enable a previously experimental Site Isolation feature that reduces the chances of intruders using speculative execution side-channel attacks like Spectre. The technique limits the web renderer process to content from a single site, preventing an attacker’s page from sharing malicious code through an innocent page (say, though cross-site pop-ups or remotely stored scripts). In theory, sinister types can’t swipe passwords or other sensitive data while you’re visiting otherwise innocuous sites.

The feature “generally” shouldn’t break legitimate site behavior. It will, however, put extra strain on your system. Google believes there’s a 10 to 13 percent memory overhead compared to earlier versions since it’ll need to run processes for each site.

The company promises “additional security checks” in the future, including safeguards when an attack has already been compromised. Mobile users will have protections, too, with Chrome 68 for Android will adding an experimental Site Isolation flag. These initiatives don’t guarantee that you’ll be immune to Spectre and its kind, but they should cut off some of the more obvious avenues for stealing your info.

Tech News

ESPN axes its not-so-helpful comment sections

July 8, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA Today Sports

Add ESPN to the list of major websites that are less than thrilled with reader discussions. The sports broadcaster has confirmed to Deadspin that it has dropped its Facebook-linked comment sections across its websites, with no plans to bring them back or archive the results. There are “more touchpoints than ever” for fans to share their opinions, a spokesperson said, and ESPN is creating social media material that “embraces these conversations.” Not that many readers will necessarily mind.

There have been some positive stories to share from the comments, to be clear — we’ve seen an instance of a couple getting married after finding each other in ESPN’s discussions. However, there’s little doubt that many of the comments were less than constructive, including rants that had precious little to do with, well, sports.

ESPN certainly isn’t the first big site to make this move. Popular Science closed its section down in 2013 after expressing concern that it could not only trigger flame wars, but skew people’s interpretation of the articles themselves. It’s hard to blame ESPN for following the trend, especially now that Facebook, Twitter and other social networks are more prominent than they were a few years ago. This could keep readers focused more on the articles themselves while still offering an avenue for those who really, really want to offer their two cents.

Tech News

Google tests Pinterest-like layout for image search

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Ingrid Lunden/TechCrunch

Google hasn’t been shy about borrowing cues from Pinterest. Its latest effort, however, may be more transparent than others. The company has confirmed to TechCrunch that it’s testing a new Image Search on desktop with vertical results that will seem familiar if you’re regularly browsing Pinterest for ideas. Each image now has captions along with badges describing what those images entail, such as a product or a video. And it won’t surprise you to hear that clicking on a picture provides much, much more than before.

If it’s a product with ties to Google Shopping, you’ll both find out whether or not it’s in stock and receive a link to order it. There’s a dash of AI-related technology involved as well — you’ll see similar and related items whether or not they’re visually similar.

Google didn’t have more to add regarding the test after Engadget reached out for comment. “We’re constantly experimenting to improve our experience with Google Images and don’t have anything further to announce at this time,” a spokesperson said.

Despite the similarities, Google isn’t strictly pursuing Pinterest. Rather, it’s chasing after Amazon and other internet retailers. The company knows that it’s tempting to simply jump to your favorite online store after finding an item that catches your fancy. This potentially heads you off at the pass — you may be more likely to use the Google Shopping link in front of you instead of going through the trouble of launching another search. The problem, of course, is that this may irk searchers who had no interest in shopping and might prefer the existing layout.

Tech News

Twitch allows everyone to customize streams with multiple tools

June 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Twitch

Twitch’s work on Extensions — video overlays and visual embellishments for streams — keeps plugging along. Today the broadcasting service announced that now every user can turn on up to three different video overlays and a trio of below-player Extensions for their channel. It all sounds pretty easy to use, too. Just head over to the Extensions Manager on your channel dashboard and activate the six add-ons you want. To celebrate, there are even a handful of new Extensions available from developers, some explicitly made to be combined with one another.

Amazon’s billion-dollar baby first introduced Extensions in late 2017, and has since made them compatible with the Twitch mobile app. Sure, there are other options for customizing your broadcast’s look and feel, but setting them up isn’t exactly easy. More often than not, you need special software and some knowhow to get everything up and running. Twitch baking these tools in and making them easy to use is smart, and a good way to keep people within its platform and spending money.

Tech News

Android Messages hits the web for browser-based texting

June 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

androidmess-ed-960x634.jpg

Google

Google added Rich Communication Services (RCS) into its Android OS to help it compete with Apple’s popular iMessage. Google has also been exploring texting from your web browser since at least February. Now the feature appears to be officially available, and will roll out over the next week or so, along with four other features.

You’ll need to enable Messages for web in your mobile app, and then you’ll be ready to message all your friends from your computer’s browser. You’ll be able to send stickers, emoji and images from the web interface, too.

There are also four other updates to the mobile Messages app. You can tap the plus button on the left side of your compose bar to search for GIFs to add to your chat. There’s a new Smart Reply function, as well, with some canned messages to make responding to buddies a little easier. It’s only available in English for now, but more languages are on the way. You can now preview links within conversations, too, so that you can decide whether you want to click on it or not. While all of the above are already available in Apple’s iMessage system, one addition is not: copying one-time passwords with a single tap is now possible in Android.

Tech News

Man goes to prison for attempting to hijack web domain at gunpoint

June 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Andrew Brookes via Getty Images

Internet domains are becoming increasingly desirable, especially as the web becomes crowded and it becomes harder to find memorable addresses. However, one man unfortunately took this to a violent extreme. Iowa resident Sherman Hopkins Jr. has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for attempting to steal control of doitforstate.com (which doesn’t currently point anywhere) in an armed robbery.

Hopkins pleaded guilty to invading a home in June 2017 and demanding that that the victim (Ethan Deyo) transfer the domain through GoDaddy while pointing a pistol at his head. When Deyo asked for the mailing address and phone number he needed to complete the domain, Hopkins pistol-whipped and tased him several times. Deyo managed to get control of the gun and shoot Hopkins, but only after Hopkins had shot him in the leg.

While it’s unclear exactly why Hopkins was willing to turn to violence, the domain was potentially useful. As Motherboard noted, it’s a reference to a meme emerging from Iowa State University where you were supposed to shout “do it for State” while watching students do things they’d invariably regret. The site had been used up until a month after the incident. At first glance, it looks like Hopkins was determined to ride that bandwagon without paying Deyo, and didn’t stop to think about what a forceful domain transfer would involve. Thankfully, that’s why this sort of case is likely to remain rare going forward. Few people are so desperate for a domain that they’re willing to threaten someone’s life, and the record keeping is going to deter anyone who knows how domain transfers work.

Tech News

Google demo shows how AR can thrive on the web

June 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

Google has been hyping up augmented reality on the web, and it’s easy to understand why — it promises an immersive experience without requiring a special app. But what does that look like in practice? The company now has an easy way to find out. It recently released Chacmool, a previously seen tech demo for Chrome Canary that uses the WebXR format to bring an educational AR experience to your browser. You’ll need an ARCore-compatible Android phone running Oreo in addition to Canary, but you’re good to go after that. You can walk around a Mesoamerican sculpture reading annotations as if you were visiting a museum exhibit without the usual cordons and glass cases.

Whether or not you see more of this will depend on the adoption of WebXR, not to mention more polished versions of Chrome and broader ARCore support. This may be as good as it gets for months, if not longer. Still, it’s a good peek at how you may interact with AR in the future, especially in educational settings where museum trips aren’t always an option.

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