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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

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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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Tech News

Mozilla may be working on a voice-controlled browser

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Mozilla may be working on a voice-controlled platform of its own. A listing for an all-hands internal meeting appeared about what seems like a new project: Scout. “With the Scout app, we start to explore browsing and consuming content with voice,” it read. It’s very unclear what the platform may or may not end up doing, as the meeting is focused on technical requirements for a “voice browser” that would, as a stated example, be able to read users an article about polar bears.

Whatever it is, Scout is likely at a very early stage. “This talk will discuss the architecture and key components needed for a voice platform, the required capabilities of those components and the challenges of working with the limitations and confines of existing platforms,” the listing read. It’s unclear when (or if) we’ll hear more about it. When reached for comment, a Mozilla spokesperson said: “We use our internal All Hands conference to come together so we can plan and build for the future. We know there is a great deal of excitement about the early stage projects and initiatives we explore at this event. We look forward to discussing these efforts publicly when they are further developed.”

CNET interpreted Scout to be a new voice-controlled web browser. With Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft falling over themselves refining their voice assistant technology (with Facebook not far behind), it’s unsurprising that Mozilla would join the fray. Given the company’s decades of web platform experience, a browser is surely simpler to implement than a new proprietary speaker. Plus, vocal navigation through a browser setup is probably easier for the average person to grasp.

And, if we’re being honest, Mozilla’s fierce commitment to privacy and protecting user data makes it a more trustworthy company for vocal interaction. Not just for user data either, which tech titans are struggling to ensure will stay out of other companies’ hands, but even simple searches. I’m less likely to ask Alexa dumb questions or make strange inquiries if I know it may hand off my search transcripts or non-identifiable data to developers without my knowledge.

Tech News

Adblock Plus creator hopes blockchain will help spot fake news

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The creators of Adblock Plus, eyeo, have an uncommon solution to the fake news scourge: rely on one of the tech industry’s biggest buzzwords. They’ve introduced a beta Chrome extension, Trusted News, that will use blockchain to help you verify whether a site is trustworthy. It’s initially using four established fact sites (PolitiFact, Snopes, Wikipedia and Zimdars’ List), but the eventual plan is to decentralize the database with the Ethereum blockchain and use game-like token mechanics to reward everyday users for submitting feedback while protecting against trolls. If enough people think a site is getting a bad rap, eyeo could change the product to provide a better perspective.

Right now, the add-on can flag both sketchy and legitimate sites in a number of categories. A bogus site might be labeled as biased, clickbait or flat-out untrustworthy. It can also indicate sites that rely on user-made content or are purely satirical, so you won’t inadvertently share an Onion gag as if it were real. Eventually, the hope is to add more nuanced details like a political leaning.

The extension should remain free, and won’t include an Adblock-style white list that renders sites immune to criticism.

In theory, this creates an anti-fake news solution that applies to the broader web, not just an individual company like Facebook or Google. The question is whether or not it will find its way into the right hands. Many of the people who would install Trusted News are the sort who are already concerned enough about bogus stories to have strong critical reading skills. The people who most need it are the ones who already trust deceptive news outlets, and they may even bristle at the thought of installing something that challenges their ideology. Eyeo would need to find a way to make Trusted News very commonplace before it can change minds.

Tech News

Gmail's major redesign will be available to all in July

June 4, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Google

Google made it clear from the outset that it was merely matter of time before the new Gmail design reached everyone, and now we know when that’s happening. The internet giant has promised “general availability” of the reworked Gmail in July, with G Suite administrators having options to stagger the transition by either letting users opt-in on their own schedule or making them wait four weeks. Don’t think you can cling to the old ways forever, though.

Google notes that it’ll automatically transition users to the new Gmail about eight weeks after the general release. You’ll still have an opt-out choice for another four weeks, but after that it’s lights out — you’ll switch to the new version with no choice to revert to the old client.

We wouldn’t call the schedule a shock, as it was always going to be a question of when Google demanded a migration rather than “if.” However, the roadmap makes it apparent that Google doesn’t want to waste time or split its user base. You’ll be using the new Gmail before the year is out — it’s just a question of how quickly you embrace it.

Tech News

Google Photos' web version now behaves like a native app

June 4, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Guillaume Payen/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Not everyone can justify downloading the Google Photos app on their phone, and that just hasn’t been an option on computers. Now, however, you don’t have to think about that choice: users have discovered that Photos is now available as a Progressive Web App. You may have to manually enable PWA support in Chrome to make them work, but this provides a look and feel closer to that of the native photo management tool without a sizeable download. You can install the app on your Android phone’s home screen or, with Chrome 67, as a shortcut on your desktop.

There are still limitations to the web version. You can’t see offline photos or receive push notifications (say, when the Assistant has produced a new edit). If those aren’t deal-breakers, though, this should be a viable alternative when you can’t (or just don’t want to) install conventional software to manage your image library.

NIIIICE, Google Photos web is now a Progressive Web App #PWA!!! pic.twitter.com/zOKQ6UG7Pb

— KΞNNΞTH Christiansen in .dk 🇩🇰 (@kennethrohde) June 2, 2018

Tech News

Apple Music's web player now streams whole songs

June 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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To date, playing full songs on Apple Music has meant firing up iTunes or the mobile app. You could listen to samples on the web, but that wasn’t much different than playing iTunes Store clips years ago. This appears to be changing, though. Reddit users have discovered that Apple Music’s embeddable web player now plays complete songs as long as you sign in to your account. You can even add albums and playlists to your library without having to leave your browser.

This isn’t a full-fledged web player à la Spotify. You can’t browse the catalog, create playlists or see what your friends are playing. There’s no guarantee you’ll see a dedicated web client in the future. However, it’s still miles above the previous functionality, and suggests that Apple is taking web playback seriously where it previously served as a marketing tool for the company’s native music apps. Don’t be surprised if Apple says about this at WWDC.

In some ways, Apple might not have had much choice. If it’s going to catch up to Spotify, that means offering players everywhere Spotify is an option — and that includes the web. You may be more likely to subscribe if your favorite review site can embed Apple Music’s version of an album instead of alternative services. This also helps Apple offer some form of its service on devices where installing an app just isn’t possible, such as a locked-down work PC or a Chromebook.

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