This Week in Tech 616: That’s Not a Hot Dog

Is Apple just pretending to be innovative? Does AlphaGo’s latest victory mean that general AI is around the corner? Who knows more about you, Facebook or Google? Should the NSA stockpile exploits? How long can Tesla stay on top of the EV market? Are robot cops coming? And… Is that a hot dog?

–Clayton Morris recommends Cosmic Disclosure for the latest in UFO conspiracies.
–Dan Patterson recommends Gerrit Lansing for the latest in political data analytics.
–Tim Stevens knows that if you gaze long at the Cap’n Crunch, the Cap’n Crunch also gazes at you.

This Week in Tech 615: Biz Sized Hole

All the highlights from Google I/O. Tim Cook has a blood sugar tracking watch. Facebook’s guidelines for content moderation. Biz Stone is going back to Twitter. What happened with WannaCry. Minecraft devs don’t want you to poison your birds. The FCC is going ahead with their plan to end Net Neutrality whether you like it or not. The internet is broken, and one of the men responsible is trying to fix it.

Jeff Jarvis went to Google I/O, and all he got was this t-shirt.
Mark Millian secretly hates the way Leo pronounces “Bloomberg Business Week”
Nathan Olivarez-Giles has mad street cred.

This Week in Tech 612: Sky Pirates of Silicon Valley

Apple slashes affiliate commissions and stops paying Qualcomm royalties. Google’s founders each have their own flying contraptions in the works. Amazon’s new Echo Look wants pictures of your clothes. Uber wants all of your data. WikiTribune wants to fight fake news. Hackers just want money from Netflix. The Juicero was just a bad, bad idea.

–Ashley Esqueda has the last three pairs of chunky hot pink LA Eyeworks glasses in existence
–Greg Ferro points out that American blimps used safe, non-explosive helium.
–Devindra Hardawar begs you not to see The Circle

This Week in Tech 607: Ozark Puddin’

US Senate votes to end ISP privacy regulations. The “Turkish Crime Family” demand $100,000 in iTunes gift cards for iCloud hack. Android O needs a name. Supreme Court hears printer ink patent case. Tesla Model 3 is on the way. Samsung Galaxy S8’s big announcement is coming this week. US and UK ban electronics bigger than a phone on flights from Middle Eastern countries by Middle Eastern carriers. Google screws up messaging – again.

–Georgia Dow has two VR rooms in her house.
–Rob Reid knows what music aliens like best.
–Nathan Olivarez-Giles wants a car with a naturally aspirated engine.​​

Google kills the Chrome app launcher on Windows, Mac, and Linux | PCWorld

By   | PCWorld

Google’s attempted invasion of the Windows desktop is now officially over. The Chrome-maker recently announced that the Chrome app launcher will be removed from Windows, Mac, and Linux in July, though it’ll stick around in Chrome OS. Google says it’s dumping the app launcher in the name of streamlining the browser after discovering that most Chrome users “prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome.”

The app launcher was one of three Chrome browser features that appeared to be specifically designed to turn Chrome into a “platform within a platform” on Windows. In addition to the app launcher—which sat in the taskbar and allowed users to fire up Chrome apps just like a normal desktop program, miming Windows Start menu functionality—Google killed Chrome’s notification center in October. That feature was replaced with native web push notifications, a standardized feature that sites can use across all browsers.

Beyond those two features, Google also created a modern UI version of the browser for Windows 8 that essentially put Chrome OS inside Windows. Microsoft’s decision to do away with Windows 8’s ill-advised dual UI for a more traditional desktop in Windows 10 killed Google’s attempt at “Chrome OS for Windows.”

The impact on you at home: If you’re one of the few fans of Chrome’s app launcher, Google may still provide a way for you to launch Chrome apps from the taskbar. Right now, you can create a desktop shortcut for Chrome apps by typing chrome://apps into the Omnibox, right-clicking an app, and then selecting Create shortcuts. The shortcut can then be dragged from the desktop onto the taskbar. We’re confirming with Google that this functionality will remain once the app launcher goes away and will update this story should the company respond.

The first monthly Android security updates start rolling out for Nexus devices

Google has delivered on its promise to release monthly security updates today, with the first of said updates now rolling out to nearly all Nexus devices released in the past three years.

The updates haven’t been given their own Android version number, with Google instead opting to simply change the build number. The builds in question are ‘LMY48M’ for the Nexus 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, and 10, and ‘LMY48N’ for the Nexus Player, both of which are based on Android 5.1.1.

The update is mostly concerned with addressing memory overflow issues that could potentially lead to exploitation. There’s also a fix for a “moderate severity vulnerability” that allowed apps to bypass SMS short code notifications that informed users when a text message could cost them money.

Stagefright, a collection of dangerous Android vulnerabilities that can now be exploited by attackers, has already been patched in the latest version of Android. Nexus owners shouldn’t have to worry about becoming victim to any Stagefright exploits.

The attention now squarely turns on other Android OEMs to implement these security fixes in their devices. Google has done a pretty decent job of patching devices as old as the Nexus 4 from 2012, but some OEMs have many more models to update, some of which will, unfortunately, be left unpatched.

Samsung and LG have already promised monthly updates for some of their devices, so hopefully we’ll see these two companies release patches for their smartphones in the near future. It’s unclear whether other companies, especially those notoriously slow at releasing software updates (such as Sony), will even patch their devices at all.

Source: The first monthly Android security updates start rolling out for Nexus devices – TechSpot

Google harms users by favoring its own services in search results, study finds

Google’s favoring of its own services in search results doesn’t just harm competitors, it also harms consumers, according to research sponsored by a complainant in the EU antitrust trial against the company.

The study found that users are 45 percent more likely to click on search results organically generated by Google’s own search engine than on results in which Google favors its own services, as it does now.

“This suggests that by leveraging dominance in search to promote its internal content, Google is reducing social welfare—leaving consumers with lower quality results and worse matches,” the researchers found. The study “provides empirical evidence” that Google favoring its own products in some cases harms Google’s users.

“Such conduct therefore cannot be described as pro­competitive,” said Tim Wu, a professor at Columbia Law School, and Michael Luca, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School.

Their study was financially supported by Yelp, a site that allows users to review local businesses and one of the complainants fuelling the European Commission’s antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices. Yelp’s data science team also contributed to the research.

Yelp presented the study during the Antitrust Enforcement Symposium held over the weekend at the University of Oxford in the U.K., a spokeswoman for the university said, and also sent it to the European Commission on Friday. The Commission declined to comment on the study.

The researchers based their findings on click-surveys of 2,690 users who took part in comparative tests of search result presentation. They showed two versions of search results for local business searches, which according to the study represent roughly one-third of desktop search volume and over one-half of mobile search.

For local search results, Google currently typically shows a list of seven business pins populated by results from Google’s specialized search services such as Google+ Local and travel in relation to a map, the researchers said. Google calls such blending of results from its own specialized search engines into general search results “universal search.”

In the researchers’ alternative version, a browser plug-in was used to display a map and a list of search results based on Google’s own organic algorithm, including links from third-party review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.

The test was meant to determine which version delivered the most relevant information for the content in question. It revealed that 32 percent of users would click on Google’s current local results while 47 percent clicked on the alternative search results. This nearly 50 percent increase in click-through rate is an immense difference in the modern Web industry, the researchers said.

“Google appears to be strategically deploying universal search in a way that degrades the product so as to slow and exclude challengers to its dominant search paradigm,” the researchers said.

It’s not all bad, though: There are some instances, such as displaying time or presenting a calculator, where Google favoring its own services does not harm consumers, they found, adding that presenting a calculator on top of a search result page is preferred by users.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has always denied that it violates European antitrust rules.

The Commission opened its antitrust investigation into Google’s search practices in 2010, triggered by complaints from competitors. Google was formally charged with abusing its dominant market position as a search provider in April. The Commission said Google violates European antitrust rules by systematically favoring its own comparison shopping product over competing services, a practice that hurts consumers and stifles competition.

A redacted version of the charges was sent to Google’s foes earlier this month; they were given four weeks to respond. Meanwhile, Google has still to respond to the Commission’s charges.

Meanwhile, the Commission has also started an investigation into Google’s bundling of its apps with the Android OS.

via Google harms users by favoring its own services in search results, study finds | PCWorld.

Google launches Project Fi wireless service

If you’re an Android user, Google likely already manages your day: your email, your contacts, stories that are relevant to you, and even your fitness goals. Well, now it can be your wireless carrier, too (provided you use a Nexus 6).

After months of rumors, Google’s Project Fi is finally live. The search giant promises “fast speed in more places and better connections to Wi-Fi” by teaming up with Sprint and T-mobile to offer a wide swath of Wi-Fi and 4G LTE coverage. You can use Google’s handy search widget to see if the service is available in your area.

Basic plans cost $20 for unlimited calls and texts, plus $10 per GB for data. You have to specific how much data you want ahead of time (so, 4GB a month will cost you a total of $60), but Google has a twist: they’ll credit your bill for your unused data. There are no family plans available.

A phone with Project Fi will automatically connect to public, open Wi-Fi networks to make calls and transmit data. Google maintains a list of hotspots with robust and reliable connections. To secure your data, all transmissions over public Wi-Fi hotspots are encrypted.

Project Fi appears intended primarily for mobile coverage throughout the U.S., though there are international rates if you’re traveling overseas. These mirror T-Mobile’s offerings on post-paid plans: In 120 countries, you get free data (capped at 256kbps) and texts, while calls cost 20 cents a minute. There are also special rates for calling other countries from the US, which should bode well for those with family members spread throughout the world.

Read More: Google launches Project Fi wireless service.