Google introduces Family Link, its own parental control software for Android

Google has just one-upped Apple on mobile in a significant way: today the company today announced the launch of Family Link, an application for parents that lets them establish a child’s first Google account, as well as utilize a series of  parental controls to manage and track screen time, daily limits, device “bedtimes,” and which apps kids can use.

While all the major mobile device providers – Apple, Google, and Amazon included – offer parental controls on their devices –  Family Link is different because it’s a two-party system. Instead, it works more like the third-party parental control and monitoring software already on the market, where an app installed on a parent’s device is used to configure settings and keep an eye on kids’ digital behavior.

For the system to work, Family Link requires that both parent and child use Android. The parent will first download the Family Link mobile app to their own device, running Android KitKat (4.4) or higher. An iOS version is not yet available, says Google.

From this app, parents will set up the child’s Google account. It’s designed to be used for those children under the age of 13, Google notes.

Then, on the kid’s device, the child signs in using these new credentials. The child’s phone or tablet must be running either Android Nougat (7.0), or a supported device running Marshmallow (6.1). (A full list is here in the Family Link FAQ.)

Once signed in, the child’s phone usage is tracked and logged, so parents can see how much time kids spend in various apps, via weekly and monthly activity reports. From the parent’s app, moms and dads can set a number of rules for their kids, including how long kids are allowed to be on their mobile devices every day, at what time the devices can no longer be used that day (through a remote locking feature), and which apps can be installed.

Parents can approve or block apps the child wants to download from the Google Play Store, much like how Apple’s iCloud Family Sharing’s “Ask” feature works today.

Like Apple, Google doesn’t offer any suggestions as to whether a given app should be approved, however – that decision is left up to the parents’ discretion.

Explains Google:

“[Family Link] can’t make the apps or services on their phone that were designed for adults kid-safe; it’s up to parents to choose what’s right for their kid.”

A lack of guidance is one of the gaping holes with many parental control systems today. That’s unfortunate given that all the app stores have app ratings. It seems that simply highlighting the rating to parents during the “Ask” process could go a long way to helping parents make better decisions.

That being said, Family Link does allow parents to at least remotely configure the filtering options for some of Google’s own apps, like the Google Search app and the Chrome browser. This will protect kids from adult content and other inappropriate material when doing web searches.

Plus, having standalone application that lets parents remotely configure a variety of control mechanisms for children’s devices will be generally helpful, and could become a selling point for Android phones and tablets.

Family Link isn’t yet broadly available. Google is offering early access to testers willing to try the service during this early preview, and provide feedback.

Google’s close by for Android indicates Apps, websites relevant in your vicinity

Google has delivered a brand new characteristic referred to as nearby to suggests apps and websites to customers based totally on their area. those apps and services offer extra statistics about that region.

Google's Nearby for Android Shows Apps, Websites Relevant to Your Location

this selection will roll out as a part of the upcoming Google Play offerings release, and will work for Android four.4 KitKat users and above, Google stated in a weblog post. so as for this feature to work, the person can have to turn on Bluetooth and location on their cellphone. nearby will then do its component, and recommend apps and websites.

as an example, if an Android user is at Disney global, the close by feature will display the relevant app/website as a notification. If the consumer needs to download the app, or view the internet site, tapping at the notification will at once lead him to the app in Google Play, or the website on Chrome. instead, the user also can chose to simply avoid and swipe the notification away to remedy the display screen.

websites will ought to get guide for Google Beacons for his or her web sites to surface depending on the customers area – more info for site owners can be discovered at the developer weblog publish. assist for beacons got here to Chrome with version 49.

this can be a beneficial function for all folks that would love additional records approximately a place they’re journeying. users are not necessarily always knowledgeable about those apps and offerings supplied through sure groups, and close by seems to fill that gap. additionally Google Play houses thousands and thousands of apps, and this selection will assist relevant apps get observed, inadvertently assisting developers. earlier this yr, Google had finished a similar test in Chrome, in which it showed applicable web sites relying on the consumer’s location.

Microsoft pitches smart chats with computers (Update)

Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers

Microsoft wants you to talk more with your computer—and have more useful conversations.

The giant software company is promoting new uses for Cortana—its voice-activated answer to Apple’s Siri digital assistant—including the ability to interact with software “bots” that can have limited conversations with users and help with tasks like booking a hotel room, ordering a meal or arranging a delivery.

Voice-activated services like Siri, “OK Google,” or Amazon’s Alexa can already perform tasks for users like playing a song at a request or answering a question. Bots are smarter than traditional software apps, though, using artificial intelligence to respond to a wider range of commands and in a convenient, conversational way.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, at the opening Wednesday of the company’s annual conference for software developers, touted the power of “conversational intelligence” as he outlined a long-term vision in which Cortana, a central feature of Windows 10, becomes a digital concierge for other online interactions.

“Bots are the new apps,” Nadella told developers.

Lilian Rincon, a program manager for Microsoft’s Skype service, demonstrated how this might work. After receiving a video message from her boss that mentioned an upcoming conference in Dublin, Rincon used Cortana to mark the dates on her calendar. Cortana then used Skype to contact a hotel chain’s bot, which suggested a room and helped Rincon make a reservation for those dates.

Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers

Integrating Cortana with other companies’ bots could increase the use of Microsoft’s services, and make them more valuable, said analyst Ross MacMillan, who follows tech companies for RBC Capital Markets, in an email on Wednesday.

Bots are not perfect, however. Microsoft recently shut down an experimental Internet bot called “Tay” after some Twitter users taught it to make offensive statements.

Nadella acknowledged the episode Wednesday, saying it shows the importance of designing technology to be “inclusive and respectful.”

Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers

Cortana isn’t as well-known as Siri or OK Google. But unlike those services, which are mostly found on smartphones and tablets, Microsoft has made Cortana available on desktop and laptop PCs, via Windows 10.

But Microsoft, after seeing its business suffer because fewer people buy new PCs, has also released Cortana as an app for smartphones and tablets that run Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating software. Similarly, Skype also works on those platforms.

Microsoft is now releasing programming tools for developers to build bots that will interact with Cortana. Not surprisingly, Microsoft would be glad to see people use these services on Skype, the Internet video and voice-calling service that it owns. But some of its tools for creating bots will work with other messaging services: Microsoft listed Slack and standard text messaging, among others.

Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers

Microsoft Corp. also on Wednesday announced a free upgrade this summer to Windows 10 that adds some new features and expands others. The company has touted Windows 10 as the operating system for a wide range of devices, from personal computers to hand-held gadgets, Xbox game consoles and even the company’s HoloLens augmented-reality headset.

Microsoft says Windows 10 is now running on 270 million devices, up from 200 million in January. Analysts say that’s a respectable figure, considering it was released last July, although Microsoft is aiming for 1 billion devices in a few years.

The Windows 10 upgrade will include expanded abilities for Cortana, which will be able to provide reminders or answer questions even if it’s on a device, such as a tablet or smartphone, where the user hasn’t unlocked the screen.

Another new feature will extend Microsoft’s biometric software, Windows Hello, so users can log into more apps and online accounts through fingerprint or facial recognition. The upgrade also expands the ways in which uses can write their own notes or draw lines and sketches with a digital pen on websites, maps and other images that are displayed on their screens.

Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers
Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers
Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers
Microsoft pitches 'intelligent' conversations with computers

Oracle to Google: Pay us $9.3bn for using Java in Android

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Oracle thinks it is due $9.3bn in damages from Google, mostly from profits the search company is claimed to have made from using Java in Android.

The tech giants are scheduled to duel again in May at a federal district court in San Francisco to settle a long-running feud over whether or not Google was covered by “fair use” when it copied 37 Java application programming interfaces to build Android, now the most widely-used mobile OS in the world.

In June last year, the Supreme Court denied Google’s appealagainst an Appeals Court decision that overturned an earlier ruling that APIs aren’t covered by copyright law.

But while Oracle had previously sought damages of $1bn, a new court submission from Oracle shows the company is now seeking almost 10 times that amount.

The documents, obtained by PC World, reflect an opinion by James Malackowski, a damages expert hired by Oracle, who values the firm’s losses at $9.3bn.

The figure comprises $475m in “actual damages”, such as licensing revenues Oracle could have earned in the absence of Android, and $8.8bn in “profits apportioned to infringed Java copyrights”, which include Google’s revenues from mobile search, app sales through Google Play, and Nexus device sales.

Oracle filed its original case in 2010 when Android was not the dominant mobile platform. The new figure reflects Android’s growth in the intervening years.

The expert’s opinion factors in the proposition that Google’s alleged infringement on Java copyrights were critical to the launch of Android, and in ensuring search revenue from mobile advertising. Additionally, had Google not infringed Java copyrights, there may have been more licensing revenue from Java.

Google hit back at the huge damages estimate in a filing last week, claiming that Oracle and Malackowski improperly equated the value of the 37 APIs with the total value of Android. Google has argued Malackowski’s analysis should be inadmissible.

Google to Oracle: Your $9.3bn Android Java damages claim is mad

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Google has filed a rebuttal to Oracle’s claim that it’s due $9.3bn in damages for unlicensed use of Java code in Android.

Google says its own damages expert “strongly disagrees” with the financial relief Oracle has demanded, ahead of the companies’ May district court retrial over claims that 37 Java SE application protocol interfaces in Android infringed Oracle’s copyright.

Oracle has argued that the Java APIs were necessary to get app developers on board with Android early, which helped Google net billions in profits through app sales and mobile advertising.

Oracle’s damages expert estimated that Google has made $8.8bn in “profits apportioned to infringed Java copyrights” and that those profits should be recovered from Google. Together with actual damages of $475m, the expert thinks Google should pay Oracle a total of $9.3bn.

Just a few months after Apple released Swift for iOS, the language has become one of the most popular for developers.

Unsurprisingly, Google’s own damages expert thinks Oracle isn’t entitled to the enormous sum because most of Android’s code base is Google’s own.

The company points out in a filing obtained by Business Insider that the 37 Java SE APIs amount to 0.8 percent of over 15 million lines of non-infringing code in Android.

The search firm has asked the court to strike from the record portions of an assessment by Dr James R Kearl, who was appointed by the court to respond to the damages experts put forward by Oracle and Google and assess the appropriate sum for “disgorgement of profits”.

Google objected to three methods that Kearl offered to calculate the disgorgement sums and wants them struck from the record because the jury might consider them plausible.

First, Google says Kearl wrongly bought Oracle’s argument that Java allowed Google to attract developers, which then brought users and profits to Android.

Second, Google says it was wrong to assume that companies such as Facebook and Uber would have avoided developing Android apps if Google had not copied the Java APIs.

The final idea that Google wants expunged is that there would be no Android were it not for the Java APIs, an idea Kearl entertained in one “alternate reality” scenario that could give a basis for the jury to award the whole $8.8bn to Oracle.

Separate filings by Oracle suggest Google is angling to limit damages to $100m.

Oracle originally filed its claim against Google in 2010. In 2014, the US Court of Appeals overturned a 2012 district court ruling that the Java APIs were not copyrightable, but that Google may be covered by “fair use”.

The Supreme Court last year knocked back Google’s request for it to review the decision, so the matter is headed back to the district court to decide on Google’s fair use defense.

Google Partners Airtel, Other Operators in ‘RCS’ SMS-Replacement Initiative

Google Partners Airtel, Other Operators in 'RCS' SMS-Replacement Initiative

Google on Monday announced the launch of its Rich Communications Services or RCS initiative along with over 15 global telecom partners. The initiative will let operators “provide an open, consistent, and globally interoperable messaging service across Android devices.”

Some of the telecom operators who have struck a deal with Google include Bharti Airtel Ltd., Sprint,Telenor Group, Orange, Vodafone, and Telstra.

For those unaware, RCS is a new standard for carrier-based messaging that would feature group chats, high-res photo sharing ability, and more. As per Google, mobile messaging is falling behind modern messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Hike, WeChat, Viber, and Telegram. However, RCS is aimed to improve that.

The firm has not given a time-frame yet as to when it actually plans to bring the SMS-replacement service to Android. However, it has been mentioned that Google with operators will not bring the service immediately but will slowly ‘transition’ towards it over time. The company will be providing its open source Android-based RCS client, which will be based on the universal RCS profile in future. It might also come as a part of Android N.

“Messaging holds a central place in our lives, whether it’s coordinating a meet-up, sharing photos with friends, or sending thoughts to a loved one,” said Nick Fox, Vice President of Communications Products at Google. “Today marks an important step forward in bringing a better messaging experience for Android users everywhere, and we’re thrilled to collaborate with our partners across the industry to make this happen.”

Google last year already acquired Jibe Mobile, a team that would help it deploy RCS (Rich Communication Services) for Android.

Mobile operators can choose to deploy their own infrastructure for RCS or can use the Jibe Platform from Google.

As mentioned above, the carrier-based SMS service has seen a downfall ever since other Internet-based messenger services showed up. However, the service is still being used for receiving traffic alerts,activating or deactivating mobile Internet, train timing alerts, and more.

Google Gets Serious About Cloud Services

Google, which lags far behind Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud infrastructure services space, last week released a slew of machine learning and analytics products and services.

The Cloud Machine Learning platform provides access through REST APIs to the technologies powering Google Now, Google Photos and voice recognition in Google Search.

The tools are designed to let users build predictive analytics models with their own training data through the open source TensorFlow machine learning library.

Cloud Machine Learning will take care of everything from data ingestion to prediction, Google said.

It is well integrated with other Google Cloud Platform products such as Cloud Dataflow, BigQuery, Cloud Dataproc, Cloud Storage and Cloud Datalab, the company said.

More About the Tools

Google also released a full set of APIs that let apps see, hear and translate.

It added new services and capabilities to Cloud Dataproc, its managed Apache Hadoop and Apache Spark service.

    The company also added the following features to its BigQuery analytics data warehouse:

  • Long Term Storage, which automatically cuts the price of storage 50 percent after 90 days;
  • Capacitor storage engine, which accelerates many queries by up to 10x;
  • Poseidon, a mechanism that improves data ingest and export speed 5x;
  • Direct query and import of Apache AVRO files;
  • Automatic schema detection of JSON and CSV files; and
  • Public Datasets Program, which lets users host, share and analyze public data sets.

Automatic Table Partitions, which lets users partition tables by date and query the date ranges they want, will be added to BigQuery soon, Google said.

All of the features will be sent to users automatically without any upgrades or downtime.

Google is continuing to develop its Tensor machine learning system. TensorFlow Serving can be used with Kubernetes, another Google open source project, to scale and serve machine learning models.

Apache Beam, a new project on the Apache Incubator, lets users define data processing pipelines that can execute in either streaming or batch mode. It consists of a dataflow model, SDKs and runners submitted by Google and partners Cloudera, Talend and Data Artisans.

The Google Cloud Vision API has entered beta and is available to anyone.

Getting its Act in Gear

Amazon Web Services had 31 percent of the global cloud infrastructure services market in 2015, according to Synergy Research. Microsoft came in second with 9 percent, followed by IBM with 7 percent, and Google with 4 percent.

“Finally, Google’s taking the enterprise battle for the cloud seriously, and it’s not too late to compete,” said Al Hilwa, a research program director at IDCSeattle.

“AWS and [Microsoft] Azure have been more enterprise focused and have garnered early leadership,” he told the E-Commerce Times, but “the situation is fluid, and it’s definitely early days.”

However, Google’s efforts come five years too late, noted Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research.

“Both AWS and Azure are miles ahead, and Google will be in perpetual catchup” mode, he told the E-Commerce Times. “It’s all song and dance, announce and forget, as Google has been doing since 2011.”

The Features That Really Rock

“The machine learning platform and TensorFlow, in particular, have the most potential to bring about significant change in the computing world,” noted Carl Brooks, an analyst at 451 Research. “There are extraordinary insights to be gained from playing with data tensors, and Google is making it very easy to do so.”

The major commercial application of this kind of machine learning is advertising, “and Google’s got that locked up,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “But the potential is vast: weather, traffic, populations, scientific exploration — you name it.”

The Public Datasets platform is interesting because “if enough of these open databases eventually are added to the platform, it would be a significant hub of undiscovered information,” Brooks said.

The focus on maturing platform technologies such as Node.js, Kubernetes, machine learning, DataFlow and “many new capabilities being added to support developers who are demanding DevOps capabilities embedded in every feature,” Hilwa said, are the biggest indicators in Google’s announcement of how seriously it is taking the battle for enterprise cloud services.

Report suggests that Android malware doubled in quantity since 2014

Report suggests that Android malware doubled in quantity since 2014Despite Google’s efforts to curb Android malware, it seems like there’s no stopping this menace. According to a report from Trend Micro, the amount of Android malware has doubled in quantity by 2015, as compared to 2014. This speaks volumes about the concerns of the common public with regards to malware and overall security of Android devices.

In the chart above, about 10.6 million Android malware attacks were spotted in Q4 2015, while Q4 2014 saw just 4.26 million attacks, which is quite a lot as well.

Trend Micro suggests that a bigger threat could be posed on IoT (Internet of Things) devices, which might be prone to more attacks in 2016. These are easy targets for attackers as security is not really a concern for manufacturers of IoT devices with functionality being the primary objective.

This might leave room for potential vulnerabilities that hackers can easily exploit. Since these devices don’t run a fixed version of Android, updating them becomes a difficult task. So the onus is on the developers and manufacturers to issue timely updates in order to quell any fears of malware attacks on IoT devices. The report from Trend Micro mentions that there are currently no security solutions for IoT devices, which makes this a very concerning issue for prospective customers of IoT devices.

Google+ iOS 5.2.0 Brings it Closer on Par with Android App

G+ iOS users get some of those goodies that recently made their way to the Android app.

Though the Google+ mobile app is available for both Android and iOS devices, it seems like the former gets more of the attention, in turn receiving the most recent updates first. (The same can’t be said of Hangouts, however.) After the Android app got bumped up to v7.1.0 a few weeks ago, those on iOS can now rejoice as this latest 5.2.0 update brings it closer on par with its counterpart.

The first thing you’ll probably notice is that the bottom bar now gets out of the way when scrolling, making the overall UI less cluttered and saving on precious screen real estate. Also, tapping the Home button when going through your stream brings you right back to the top, just like on the latest G+ Android version.

Before, there was no way to go through a specific stream in the app which meant using the mobile website version to do so. Now, you can now access your circles (aka “Circle Streams”) via the left navigation menu by enabling this in Settings > Advanced Settings.

One feature that was introduced in iOS 9 is universal links, where you can directly go to an app on your device after tapping a link instead of Safari. Starting in 5.2.0, the G+ app comes with universal link support, making the transition from the web to the app both seamless and effortless. If you’re stuck on iOS 8 though, you’re gonna have to miss out on this one, unfortunately.

Other new features include the ability to log in using a page that you manage, native playback for uploaded videos, and view Collections of people you’re following.

And no update is complete without the usual round of bug fixes and the addressing of various accessibility issues.

For those whose devices meet the minimum requirements, the 5.2.0 update should’ve made it by now.

Full-Screen Profile Pics, Return of New Posts Indicator Now on Google+ Web

Another update has come out for the web preview, and it’s big!

Since the release of the new Google+ back in November, lots of improvements and fixes have been coming out at a fast pace, to the delight of us G+ fans. This time, it’s no exception, so let’s jump in and see what this newest update brings.

Full-Screen Profile Photo Gallery

For starters, you can now view profile photos of a certain person or page in a full-screen gallery. To do this, click on the circular profile picture where you’ll then be taken to a lightbox, the same as what you’d see when viewing a post’s photo.

Following Screen Update

If you want to find out who’s in your Following circle, you’ll now notice all the members, together with their profile images, laid out in grids across the screen. Although this saves from doing an extra click, I still miss the People layout in the classic Google+. It’s almost impossible to work on circle management in the new UI, no longer being able to drag and drop profiles and pages.

For now, it’s a step in the right direction, but I hope they’ll bring back the functionality of the old Google+.

New Un-Muting Capabilities

Have you ever wondered who you’ve muted previously and wanted to un-mute them? Now you can view who those profiles and pages are by heading to Settings > Activity Log > People You Muted, where un-muting them is now just a click away.(Did Luke Wroblewski actually mute Zuck?!)

Return of the New Posts Indicator

As an added bonus, the new posts indicator makes a much-awaited comeback! This time, it’s adorned in Google+ red and located at the top of the stream, underneath the red header. Personally, I’d rather see it at the bottom a la the Android and iOS apps, but I’m happy to see it back nevertheless. (Next up, hovercards?…)

Apart from these, you now have improved people search results and 101 bug fixes.

So if you’re still on the classic Google+, now might be a good time to take a second look at the web preview because you gotta admit, the new version keeps getting better with every update that comes out.