Improving Public Alerts for hurricane season

GoogleBlog - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 10:24
Ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast of the United States, flooding cities, displacing thousands of people, and causing billions of dollars worth of damage. It is the costliest natural disaster, and one of the deadliest hurricanes, in U.S. history.

After rescue efforts began in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, some Googlers wondered how they could connect people with useful information and resources related to the storm. With the help of many third-party organizations, small groups of our employees worked to display satellite imagery of affected areas in Google Earth and helped build searchable databases so people could check on the safety of friends and loved ones. These early efforts later became some of the standard actions taken today by the Google Crisis Response Team following natural disasters, from hurricanes to earthquakes to tsunamis.

As the U.S. enters hurricane season again, Katrina remains a stark reminder of the devastation a storm like that can cause. We want to be as prepared and as helpful as possible for the next one—no matter where it hits, or how big it is. So we’re always working to improve our Crisis Response efforts to help people stay safe and informed during these events.

With that in mind, we've launched some improvements to weather forecasts and Public Alerts in Google Search to track storms during this year's U.S. hurricane season. Now, when you search the web for information about particular storms or tornadoes, you may see:

  • A map showing your location in relation to the oncoming storm
  • Visualizations of its forecasted track, wind severity and arrival time, courtesy of NOAA
  • Concise instructions for preparing and staying safe, customized for the estimated intensity of the storm and its arrival time relative to your location, from FEMA and

The safety recommendations you receive will be tailored to reflect the current status of the event and your context. For example, if you search for a specific storm when it’s still several days away, you may see a map of the developing weather event and a recommendation to start preparing an emergency kit. If the storm is only hours away from your location, you might receive a reminder to start charging your phone in case power goes out. And if you search when the storm is nearby, you'll get the most urgent information, like how to avoid injury from fast-moving water or flying debris.

Tropical storm alert with precise location, wind details and customized safety checklist. Improved tropical storm alerts like this will appear in Search on mobile and desktop.
Not every storm is as devastating as Katrina was, but they all have the potential to cause damage, disrupt lives, and uproot communities. By providing useful, accurate, early-warning information, we want to do our part to help people prepare. More information won’t stop natural disasters from occurring, but it can go a long way to keeping people safe, and in some cases, could even save lives.

Posted by Pete Giencke, GIS Data Engineer
Categories: Technology

Remove my Snapchat Profile Photo?

AskDaveTaylor - Thu, 08/27/2015 - 09:33

You aren’t the first person to be taken aback by the way that Snapchat actually uses a sequence of four or five different photos to animate your profile picture. It can be fun, and it’s certainly consistent with the spirit of Snapchat itself, but it can also be frustrating and distracting, particularly if you aren’t ready for the multiple photos and don’t know how to replace it!

Still, since the whole spirit of Snapchat is a sort of flipbook of stills with captions, maybe a better solution is to simply take a deep breath and stop worrying about your profile animation. After all, it is stuck in the middle of a yellow ghost so it’s not like anyone takes it particularly seriously.

Let’s have a look. Here’s my main Snapchat screen and you can see I have a (very dark) profile photo included:

Not my favorite. You’d think that tapping on it would let you delete it, but in fact, that just gets you to a spot where you can reshoot the sequence, trying again and again to get it “just so”:

Want to reshoot it? Tap on the grey circle and be ready for the photos!

But if you want to just delete the photo and have a generic profile, turns out you can do that from here too.

Tap on the top left of the screen and you’ll see:

Proceed by simply tapping on “Remove”.

And you’re replaced by a solid white image:

That’s all there is to it. Pretty easy.

But really, go back and play with the photo tool, see if you can get a set of pictures you like!

The post Remove my Snapchat Profile Photo? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Review: Kidde RemoteLync Monitor

AskDaveTaylor - Wed, 08/26/2015 - 10:27

Look up. Odds are good that the smoke alarm and CO alarms in your house are from Kidde. If you’re in a modern house, those alarms are probably all hard-wired into your electrical system and work together to keep you and your family safe. Nice. But the industry hasn’t rested on its proverbial laurels and there are some cool new alarms on the market with features like 10-year sealed batteries. They’re not hard to replace — as I demonstrate in this YouTube video — but what if you can’t afford to just replace a half-dozen or more alarms in your home?

Enter the brilliant RemoteLync Monitor device. It’s part of a class of devices that I really love, what I call “bridge technologies” that let you gain some of the benefits of technological improvement without having to fund a full replacement or upgrade. For around $100 (retail, it’s considerably less expensive at it’s a box that sits discretely plugged into a wall outlet and listens to your home interior. If a smoke or carbon monoxide alarm is triggered, it will then immediately send out a notification to your smartphone, email you, contact someone else you’ve also listed as an emergency contact, etc. Small, easy to configure, and a “set and forget” device. Excellent.

Here’s what one looks like, plugged into the wall:

Might be hard to estimate from the photo, but it’s roughly a 2″ x 2″ x 2″ cube with the two prongs needed to plug into the wall. Since modern alarms are ridiculously loud (which is a good thing in this case) the RemoteLync can also be located just about anywhere in your house: mine’s located in the room behind the kitchen, on an exterior wall. Plenty good enough that it worked without a glitch when tested.

Configuration and setup is all done through a free smartphone app, either Android or iPhone. Once downloaded, the app prompts you to connect to the RemoteLync via wi-fi (it’s broadcasting a wi-fi signal when it’s not paired and set up):

Note that if you want to plug the unit directly into your router (for homes that don’t have wifi), that’s easily done with the second option. In my home, however, there are more devices on wifi than you can shake a stick at, so I’ll choose the first option.

Follow the steps – it’s easy – and you’ll have the app talking to the device in just a few seconds of back and forth. The Kidde app will then prompt you to choose your home network and enter the password as appropriate:

That’s basically the entire configuration process for connectivity. Next step is to set up a Kidde home account so you can specify what should happen when the unit is triggered.

This is easily done:

I will note that at this point in the process I found that I didn’t need to push the setup button on the RemoteLync as it was already automatically in “enroll” mode, making it even easier.

A tap and I was done.

To test it, I tapped the “test mode” button:

Ready to go, I pushed the center button on one of my smoke alarms a few rooms away. Since they’re all wired together the house was quickly filled with a cheery beeping echoing from room to room.

And the RemoteLync did its thing:

Next thing I knew, I was inundated with status messages, starting with text messages:

Heck, even my Apple Watch lit up and told me that there were alarms triggering in my home:

The app itself keeps a log of all trigger events too, which can be helpful if you have one installed in a rental unit or are worried you’re off the cellular grid too often:

It works great, and while it’s always easy to know about smoke alarms going off when you’re home (which is the point of having them in the first place) it’s impossible to know what’s happening when you aren’t home — or in your office — without the very latest expensive networked devices.

The Kidde RemoteLync fills that gap in a simple, elegant and cost-efficient manner. If you don’t already have the very latest and greatest throughout your home, this is a no-brainer acquisition for home safety, and at $56 at, (retail price is $100) there’s no excuse not to pick one up, set it up, and know your home’s just that much safer. Recommended.

Disclosure: Kidde Fire Safety compensated me for writing this article. My opinions, however, are my own and I really do think it’s a terrific device.

The post Review: Kidde RemoteLync Monitor appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

How does fingerprint security work on a PC laptop?

AskDaveTaylor - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 11:16

The HP person I’m interviewing is John Groden, the Director of Product Management, so if he says it’s true, it’s a good bet that he’s spot on with his comments. It also suggests that if you have a fingerprint scanner on a different device (an iPhone, for example) then you might really want to do some research to identify how it’s being stored and whether you’re opening yourself up to a vulnerability down the road or not.

Q1: Some of my readers have contacted me about the security of the scanned fingerprint on the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 and what is stored in the operating system.  Can you shed some light on that?

A1: The questions raised about fingerprint sensors and fingerprint template files are completely valid for most sensors.  However, they do not apply to the fingerprint authentication systems employed on our business-class PCs, including the HP EliteBook Folio 1020.

HP Elitebook Folio 1020 with hardened security fingerprint scanner

Unlike most fingerprint sensor implementations provided by our competitors.  HP fingerprint sensors are a “hardened”, high-security, implementation with some very important additional security features.

Q2: Okay, can you elaborate a bit on the additional security features?

A2:  Sure, unlike most fingerprint authentication solutions, HP’s fingerprint sensors actually perform the final fingerprint match on the sensor hardware itself.  This means that hacking data within the operating system does not compromise the authentication result.

Additionally, HP’s fingerprint sensor modules also have their own Non-Volatile Memory for storage of fingerprint templates (templates are the files that contain the matching information for a scanned finger).  This means that the fingerprint data cannot be accessed directly by applications running in the operating system.

Q3: So, there is a demarcation between the operating system and the hardware that protects the fingerprint data and adds an additional layer of protection?  How does that work?

A3:  The fingerprint data is also encrypted by the fingerprint sensor hardware, using keys unique to each sensor.  So, even if an attacker were to get access to the template files from the sensor module storage, the data can only be decrypted by the fingerprint sensor.

Q4: But what if an attacker did get access to the template files?  Would they be able to get sensitive information from that?

A4: It is also worth noting that for all fingerprint systems (even the less secure systems), getting access to the fingerprint templates would not provide much information that is useful to an attacker.

This is because fingerprint templates do not contain a “picture” of the fingerprint –as some people seem to think.  They only contain mathematical representations of some “features” of the fingerprint.  The “features” differ for different matching algorithms, but they do not constitute data that can be used to recreate a fingerprint image.

Thanks to John Groden for sharing this insight. Now you know, it’s something to think about before you use the fingerprint scanner on your next device, isn’t it?

The post How does fingerprint security work on a PC laptop? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

New (School) Year resolutions with #GoogleEdu

GoogleBlog - Tue, 08/25/2015 - 07:00
The tradition of ringing in each New Year with resolutions (whether we stick to them or not) is always an opportunity to reflect and start the year ahead on the right foot. As students and teachers around the world return to campuses and classrooms this fall, we’re embarking on a different kind of fresh start: a New (School) Year. And we want to help you make the most of it. So we’ve put together a few resolution ideas, plus tips to help you stick to them. We’ve also made a resolution of our own: to bring the best of Google technology to education.
The best of Google, for education
Like many resolutions, ours might sound familiar—and that’s because the Google for Education team has been working on it for a while. Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time with teachers and students, witnessing firsthand how technology is helping in the classroom and learning about challenges that are yet unsolved. With feedback from schools, we’ve improved products like Google Apps for Education and Docs, building in new features specifically useful for education. We’ve also created new learning experiences like Google Classroom—a sort of mission control for teachers and students, offering a single place to keep track of all class materials, eliminating paperwork and making it easy for teachers to collaborate with students, and students to collaborate with each other.

So as part of our resolution this school year, we’re launching some new features in Google Classroom. Teachers can now easily ask students questions in Classroom, alongside all the other class materials in the stream. Teachers also told us that they want more ways for students to engage with each other, and flex their critical thinking muscles. So now students can comment on each other’s answers in Classroom and have open-ended discussions. In the next month, we'll also make it possible for teachers to add assignments, due dates and field trips to a shared calendar.

So what’s your resolution?
We’re sure you’ve already set some big goals for the year ahead—from acing AP Bio to landing that killer internship. Whatever your plans, it can be tough to stick with those goals once assignments and social commitments start to pile up. So we’ve collected 50+ tips from more than 15 Google products to help you follow through with your resolutions. Here are some ideas:
Resolution 1. Get (and stay) organized
When you’re bogged down by clutter, it can be tough to get stuff done. Make this your year to be more organized. Never miss another study group with help from Google Calendar. Use Google Sheets to keep all your classmates' info in one place, and better manage your inbox by emailing everyone at once with a Google group.

Resolution 2. Get (mentally) fit
Push yourself to take your studies to the next level. Teach yourself how to code with Made with Code. Make the most of language class by saving your most used words and phrases with Google Translate or magically translating webpages with Google Chrome.

Resolution 3. Get some worldly perspective
Not studying abroad this year? No problem. You can still unleash your inner explorer with Google Maps Treks and visit the Pyramids of Giza or the Great Barrier Reef without leaving your room. Or bring your art history class to life by seeing those masterpieces up close and in perfect detail with Cultural Institute.

We hope these give you new ideas for how you can make this school year your best yet. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be announcing more tips and other updates—so follow along with #GoogleEdu and on Google+. We’ll be doing our homework to stick to our resolution, so we can hopefully give you what you need to do the same. Now go hit those books!

Posted by Miriam Schneider, Google for Education

Over the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time with teachers and students, witnessing firsthand how technology is helping in the classroom and learning about challenges that are yet unsolved.
Categories: Technology

G is for Google

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:59
As Sergey and I wrote in the original founders letter 11 years ago, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” As part of that, we also said that you could expect us to make “smaller bets in areas that might seem very speculative or even strange when compared to our current businesses.” From the start, we’ve always strived to do more, and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have.

We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time. Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy but we are super excited about.

We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.

Our company is operating well today, but we think we can make it cleaner and more accountable. So we are creating a new company, called Alphabet ( I am really excited to be running Alphabet as CEO with help from my capable partner, Sergey, as President.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related. Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well. We'll also make sure we have a great CEO for each business, and we’ll determine their compensation. In addition, with this new structure we plan to implement segment reporting for our Q4 results, where Google financials will be provided separately than those for the rest of Alphabet businesses as a whole.

This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google. A key part of this is Sundar Pichai. Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I’ve been tremendously enjoying our work together. He has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for our Internet businesses. Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google. I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as he is to run the slightly slimmed down Google and this frees up time for me to continue to scale our aspirations. I have been spending quite a bit of time with Sundar, helping him and the company in any way I can, and I will of course continue to do that. Google itself is also making all sorts of new products, and I know Sundar will always be focused on innovation -- continuing to stretch boundaries. I know he deeply cares that we can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organize the world's information. Recent launches like Google Photos and Google Now using machine learning are amazing progress. Google also has some services that are run with their own identity, like YouTube. Susan is doing a great job as CEO, running a strong brand and driving incredible growth.

Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things. Alphabet will also include our X lab, which incubates new efforts like Wing, our drone delivery effort. We are also stoked about growing our investment arms, Ventures and Capital, as part of this new structure.

Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and all shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights. Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet. Our two classes of shares will continue to trade on Nasdaq as GOOGL and GOOG.

For Sergey and me this is a very exciting new chapter in the life of Google -- the birth of Alphabet. We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products--the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

We are excited about…
  • Getting more ambitious things done. 
  • Taking the long-term view. 
  • Empowering great entrepreneurs and companies to flourish. 
  • Investing at the scale of the opportunities and resources we see. 
  • Improving the transparency and oversight of what we’re doing. 
  • Making Google even better through greater focus. 
  • And a result of all this, improving the lives of as many people as we can.
What could be better? No wonder we are excited to get to work with everyone in the Alphabet family. Don’t worry, we’re still getting used to the name too!

Posted by Larry Page, CEO

Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google.

Categories: Technology

Through the Google Lens: Search Trends August 8-14

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:57
It’s Friday, which means it’s time for an A-through-Z of the week’s Google Search trends (see what I did there?)

Per-see … what is it?
As the skies lit up with the Perseid Meteor shower this week, there were more than a million Google searches around the topic from people on the hunt for shooting stars. Along with questions on how to pronounce it (that would be something in the region of “percy-id”), people were asking where to watch and how to photograph the summer show, with NASA promising up to a hundred meteors an hour if you got up early enough. These meteors streak through the Earth’s atmosphere for our viewing pleasure every year -- check out the annual spike in Google searches over the last decade for a record of when we spotted them.

Headlines from China
Shocking images of destruction continue to come out of China’s northern port city of Tianjin after a massive chemical explosion Wednesday. This eye-witness video posted on YouTube by Daniel Van Duren -- who says he was watching for shooting stars when the explosions happened -- has more than 60,000 views in 24 hours. With news outlets reporting that smoke is still rising from the industrial area where the blasts occurred, the million Google searches about Tianjin are focused on the “who, what, where, when, why” of the disaster.

This was the second time news from China appeared in the world’s Hot Trends this week. China’s surprise decision to devalue its currency prompted an additional 50,000 searches Tuesday.

Because there’s apparently a day for everything
It was an awesome week for left-handed middle children everywhere. Wednesday was National Middle Child Day, where the top rising search on Google was for this meme, which pretty much sums it up. Then Thursday was Left Handers Day, prompting a spike of more than 100,000 Google searches. Looking at the top questions asked on Google around this important day for southpaws, you all wanted to know how many people in general are left-handed, and how many US presidents in particular (hard to confirm, but the White House tweeted that President Obama is one of them). Which brings us, naturally, to the next burning question on people’s minds: “Is Donald Trump left-handed?” File that one under “August.”

Posted by Abbi Tatton, who searched this week for [left-handed kangaroos].

It’s time for an A-through-Z of the week’s Google Search trends (see what I did there?).

Categories: Technology

Through the Google lens: Search Trends August 14-20

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:56
Inspirational women. A surreal theme park. And a third-party candidate we can all get behind. This week had a little of everything—read on for a look at the top topics on Google Search.

Top tabs
Lieutenant Shaye Haver and Lieutenant Kristen Griest are the first women to break a major gender barrier and graduate from the rigorous Army Ranger School this week. The course is known for its tough physical challenges and a high dropout rate, and this was the first year women were admitted. Search interest in Haver and Griest has spiked more than 150X since Tuesday; at today’s graduation, they earned their tabs—and a place in history.

This Presidential campaign is Nuts
The Republican Presidential candidates continue to draw headlines in the long lead-up to the 2016 election. One of the top topics this week? Immigration, after Donald Trump said in an interview that he would overturn the law that grants citizenship to people born in the U.S.—a law better known as the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It didn’t take long for the other candidates to take a stand one way or the other on the “birthright citizenship” issue, while searchers turned to the web to learn more about the Amendment and the ongoing debate. In less political political news, Trump also drew ire this week when he said that supermodel Heidi Klum—a knockout at 42—was “no longer a 10.” More than 200,000 searches—and a smart comeback from Heidi—weren’t far behind.

Meanwhile, there’s a new presidential candidate on the scene in Iowa. A 15-year-old high school sophomore named Brady Olson made quite the splash after he submitted his candidacy with the Federal Election Commission as “Deez Nuts.” Not only is he polling at a not-too-shabby 9 percent against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in North Carolina—Nuts was a trending topic on Twitter and he’s surpassed Clinton in search interest, too.
Cheater, beware
The cheating site Ashley Madison was a top trending term this week, after hackers stole user account and payment information and posted the data online. There were more than 1 million searches for [Ashley Madison] on Tuesday, with more than half a million for [Ashley Madison List] as people tried to find out whether someone they knew had a profile. But questions about the hacking were myriad, and sometimes innocent. Many wanted to know “who is Ashley Madison?” (spoiler: not a real person) while others asked “What is the dark web?” in an effort to find out more about the anonymous and hidden network where the data was released.
Be careful what you wish for
A new tourist attraction in the U.K. is already living up to its name. “Dismaland,” an art exhibit by the elusive Banksy, and "the U.K.'s most disappointing new visitor attraction,” features a derelict castle with a dirty moat, gloomy park attendants, and bizarre works by 50+ artists. After being shrouded in secrecy, the “bemusement park” debuted this week to the tune of 200,000+ searches, and today search interest in Dismaland surpassed that of Disneyland’s. (One of searchers’ top questions: “What does Disney say about Dismaland?”) Unfortunately (or, appropriately, depending on your viewpoint), the park has also had its fair share of troubles already. As its website crashed under the weight of 6 million hits, and hundreds of people lined up outside the resort, many are wondering whether they’re on their way to see a conceptual art work, or already a part of one.

Posted by Emily Wood, Managing Editor, who searched this week for [best restaurants bon appetit]

Inspirational women. A surreal theme park. And a third-party candidate we can all get behind.
Categories: Technology

Google Hangouts: now simpler, faster, more beautiful

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:55
The best conversations just flow: you barely have to think about what to say. With Hangouts, we want to help you stay in the moment, no matter what device you’re using or how you’re getting your voice across, from texting to talking to video. So we’ve been hard at work on big improvements to make Hangouts faster, simpler, and easier on the eyes.

Today, we’re releasing Google Hangouts 4.0 for Android, with a fresh new look, improved speed, and features that make it even easier to reach people the way you want to reach them.

New ways to compose, attach and use your watch make Hangouts simpler than everHere's what’s new:
  • Hangouts is sleeker. Now updated with material design, Hangouts has a new look and feel: items respond to your touch in more intuitive ways and transitions between tasks are more fluid. 
  • Hangouts is simpler. The new Compose button makes it easier for you to start a new group or conversation. Our streamlined contacts list helps you find the right person quickly. And attachments have been revamped and simplified, so sharing—of emoji, GIFs, your location, even multiple photos at once—is a snap. 
  • Hangouts is faster. Whether you’re sending a quick message or video chatting with family, you don’t want hold-ups. We’ve been obsessively fixing bugs and speeding up message delivery to make Hangouts faster and more reliable. Bonus: less battery consumption.

And more…
Make affordable calls from the Hangouts Dialer, now with Outbound Caller ID (so your friends won’t get any more calls from the great “Unknown”). Receive and reply to group MMS messages in Hangouts using Google Voice. Use Hangouts on Android Wear when you really have an eye on the time (just say, “Ok Google, send a Hangouts message,” into your watch). And if you’re not around but want friends to know what’s on your mind? Custom status messages are back.

The new Hangouts starts rolling out to Android users today and will be available in the Play Store (iOS users recently got many of the same updates). We hope you enjoy the new look and feel. And we look forward to keeping the conversation flowing!

Posted by Amit Fulay, Product Manager, Communications

With Hangouts, we want to help you stay in the moment, no matter what device you’re using or how you’re getting your voice across, from texting to talking to video.

Categories: Technology

Meet OnHub: a new router for a new way to Wi-Fi

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:54
Ugh...not again. You get home at the end of the day, and sit down to stream a new movie or upload vacation photos — and your Wi-Fi slows to a crawl or just stops working. Instead of relaxing in front of the screen or sharing those photos with friends, you spend it unplugging and re-plugging cords, trying to decipher blinking lights, or contemplating a call to customer support.

While we count on Wi-Fi more than ever to be entertained, productive, and stay connected, we’re streaming and sharing in new ways our old routers were never built to handle. So today, with our partner TP-LINK, we’re launching OnHub, a different kind of router for a new way to Wi-Fi. Instead of headaches and spotty connections, OnHub gives you Wi-Fi that’s fast, secure, and easy to use.

Designed for the Home
Many of us keep our router on the floor and out of sight, where it doesn’t work as well. We replaced unruly cords and blinking lights with internal antennas and subtle, useful lighting, so you’ll be happy placing OnHub out in the open, where your router performs its best.

Starts Fast, Stays Fast
During setup, OnHub searches the airwaves and selects the best channel for the fastest connection. A unique antenna design and smart software keep working in the background, automatically adjusting OnHub to avoid interference and keep your network at peak performance. You can even prioritize a device, so that your most important activity — like streaming your favorite show — gets the fastest speed.

A simple mobile app
OnHub makes it simple to set up and manage your Wi-Fi, all from the Google On app, available on Android or iOS. The Google On app tells you how much bandwidth your devices are using, lets you run a network check, and if there’s an issue with your Wi-Fi, the app offers suggestions to help. And, instead of lost passwords and sticky notes, it even reveals your password with a single tap and lets you text or email it to friends.

Just gets better
OnHub automatically updates with new features and the latest security upgrades, without interrupting your connection. In the future, OnHub can support smart devices that you bring into your home, whether they use Bluetooth® Smart Ready, Weave, or 802.15.4. We also plan to design new OnHub devices with other hardware partners in the future. Stay tuned for news from our second partner, ASUS, later this year.

Starting today, OnHub is available for pre-order for $199.99 from online retailers in the U.S. including the Google Store, Amazon, and It will be available for sale in retail stores in the U.S. and in Canada in the coming weeks.

At the end of the day, we want our Wi-Fi to just work, so that we can do all the things we love to do online. Here’s to Wi-Fi with the reliability, speed, and security you want at home, without the frustrations you don’t.

Posted by Trond Wuellner, Group Product Manager

Instead of headaches and spotty connections, OnHub gives you Wi-Fi that’s fast, secure, and easy to use.

Categories: Technology

Join our global Pride celebration: #AndProud

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:34
Pride is one of the world’s greatest celebrations of diversity, one that we’re excited to support every year. For 2015, we’re doing something a little different: we’ve created an online parade, #AndProud, so that people from around the world can celebrate Pride together.

To join the global parade, visit Androidify, where you can create your own Android character with a fun new Pride wardrobe. During the weekend of June 27-28 your character will party side-by-side with others from around the world in the online parade.

But the celebration doesn’t end there. While the virtual parade happens online, thousands of Googlers will hit the streets of San Francisco, London and New York to show their support in those citywide Pride festivals. Some of the best #AndProud characters will appear on big screens as part of Google’s pride floats in all three cities.
From left to right, Sam Smith, Tom Daley and Jessie J celebrating the #AndProud parade
In addition to #AndProud and our floats in SF, London and NYC, we’re celebrating Pride in our offices around the world, and in all sorts of ways across our products. We’re excited to be able to extend the celebration and give people around the world a new way to share their Pride.

Hope to see you at the parade!

Posted by Eddie Kalletta and Rich Terry, #AndProud parade marchers
Categories: Technology

Vertical Street View of the world’s most iconic rock wall: Yosemite’s El Capitan

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:33
Today we’re launching our first-ever vertical Street View collection, giving you the opportunity to climb 3,000 feet up the world’s most famous rock wall: Yosemite’s El Capitan. To bring you this new imagery, we partnered with legendary climbers Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell. Read more about the project from Tommy Caldwell, who completed the world’s hardest climb in Yosemite in January of 2015. -Ed.

“That is awesome. I definitely have to be a part of that.”

Maybe it was the sheer exhaustion from being in the middle of a 19-day climb of the Dawn Wall, but when the guys at Google Maps and Yosemite National Park asked if I wanted to help them with their first-ever vertical Street View collection of El Capitan in Yosemite, I didn’t hesitate. Yosemite has been such an important part of my life that telling the story of El Capitan through Street View was right up my alley—especially when it meant working with the Google engineers to figure out some absurd challenges.

Climbing is all about flirting with the impossible and pushing the boundaries of what you think you can be done. Capturing Street View imagery 3,000 feet up El Capitan proved to be an extension of that, especially when you take a camera meant for the inside of a restaurant and mount it thousands of feet up the world’s most iconic rock wall.
Brett Lowell and Corey Rich capturing Street View of Alex Honnold on the King Swing
Doing anything thousands of feet high on a sheer granite face is complicated, but everyone up there had spent years of their lives on a rope and knew exactly what they were doing. After some testing, we used our tried-and-true climbing gear like cams and ropes to make sure the camera wouldn’t fall to the ground in the middle of our Street View collection.

Once we figured out how to keep the camera on El Cap, we created two sets of vertical Street View. First, we collected Street View of legendary Yosemite climbers—and my good friends—Lynn Hill and Alex Honnold in iconic spots up the sheer vertical face.
Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell camp out 1,140 feet up El Capitan
Lynn Hill’s ascent of El Capitan changed the paradigm of climbing, and she had an extraordinary effect on my climbing career. I’ll never forget when she became the first person, man or woman, to free-climb (using only her hands and feet) “The Nose” back in 1993. Now, you can see her navigate these epic moves— like climbing sideways on tiny holds of the Jardine Traverse, inventing a “Houdini” maneuver on the Changing Corners and traversing under the Great Roof.
Lynn’s epic ascent up El Cap is now in Street View
Any story of El Capitan had to include my good friend Alex Honnold. He holds the speed record for climbing the Nose at 2 hours and 23 minutes - most people take 3-5 days. His unwavering confidence in himself is contagious; when I’m with him, I feel like the mountain has shrunk to half its size. As you make your way around Yosemite in Street View, you’ll see Alex doing what he does best: chimneying up the “Texas Flake,” racing up the bolt ladder, or getting dinner ready in the solar-powered van he calls home.
Just a normal day on on the Texas Flake for Alex Honnold
You’ll also see a glimpse of yours truly on the Dawn Wall. I spent some of my rest days during my January climb of the Dawn Wall testing out the Street View technology the Google team had sent me that month. El Cap is an intimidating environment for experimentation, but years of setting ropes proved pretty helpful in figuring out how to get the equipment rigged and ready to collect Street View.
Tommy Caldwell climbing the sheer face of the Dawn Wall
Then, we really put Alex to work to collect the second set of Street View: the entire vertical route of “The Nose” on El Capitan. One of the few people that could do this efficiently and quickly, Alex took the camera and pretty much ran 3,000 feet up with photographer partner Brett Lowell. Now, anyone can get the beta (climbing speak for insider advice) before they climb the entire route.
Alex Honnold and Brett Lowell climbed 3,000 feet to get the entire route in Google Maps
Lynn, Alex and I also helped create a new Yosemite Treks page, where you can take a tour up El Cap and learn more about climbing, from what a “hand jam” is to why we wear such tiny shoes. And as a father, I’m excited kids will learn more about Yosemite when Google brings students to the park through NatureBridge later this year as a part of this project. Plus, its pretty awesome that students who can’t make it to Yosemite yet will be able to go on a virtual reality field trip to the Park with Google Expeditions.
Hear the legendary Lynn Hill explain describe the gear she uses as she starts up El Cap
Yosemite’s driven so much of my life that I’m excited to be able to share it with the world through my eyes. These 360-degree panoramic images are the closest thing I’ve ever witnessed to actually being thousands of feet up a vertical rock face—better than any video or photo. But my hope is that this new imagery will inspire you to get out there and see Yosemite for yourself… whether you travel up a rock wall or just down the trail.
Tommy Caldwell, Lynn Hill, and Alex Honnold hanging out in Yosemite
Posted by Tommy Caldwell
Categories: Technology

A power plant for the Internet: our newest data center in Alabama

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:33
Every time you check your Gmail, search on Google for a nearby restaurant, or watch a YouTube video, a server whirs to life in one of our data centers. Data centers are the engines of the Internet, bringing the power of the web to millions of people around the world. And as millions more people come online, our data centers are growing, too.

We’ve recently expanded our data centers in Iowa, Georgia, Singapore and Belgium. And today we’re announcing a new data center in Alabama—our 14th site globally.

This time, we’re doing something we’ve never done before: we’ll be building on the grounds of the Widows Creek coal power plant in Jackson County, which has been scheduled for shutdown. Data centers need a lot of infrastructure to run 24/7, and there’s a lot of potential in redeveloping large industrial sites like former coal power plants. Decades of investment shouldn’t go to waste just because a site has closed; we can repurpose existing electric and other infrastructure to make sure our data centers are reliably serving our users around the world.
At Widows Creek, we can use the plants’ many electric transmission lines to bring in lots of renewable energy to power our new data center. Thanks to an arrangement with Tennessee Valley Authority, our electric utility, we’ll be able to scout new renewable energy projects and work with TVA to bring the power onto their electrical grid. Ultimately, this contributes to our goal of being powered by 100% renewable energy.

In 2010, we were one of the first companies outside of the utility industry to buy large amounts of renewable energy. Since then, we’ve become the largest corporate renewable energy purchaser in the world (in fact we’ve bought the equivalent of over 1.5 percent of the installed wind power capacity in the U.S.). We're glad to see this trend is catching on among other companies.

Of course, the cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use. Our Alabama data center will incorporate our state-of-the-art energy efficiency technologies. We’ve built our own super-efficient servers, invented more efficient ways to cool our data centers, and even used advanced machine learning to squeeze more out of every watt of power we consume. Compared to five years ago, we now get 3.5 times the computing power out of the same amount of energy.

Since the 1960s, Widows Creek has generated power for the region—now the site will be used to power Internet services and bring information to people around the world. We expect to begin construction early next year and look forward to bringing a Google data center to Alabama.

Posted by Patrick Gammons, Senior Manager, Data Center Energy and Location Strategy
Categories: Technology

Google Earth turns 10 today

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:32
When Google Earth was first introduced 10 years ago, it immediately stole my heart. Beyond the freedom to fly anywhere in the world, I was captivated by the ability to paint and visualize geographic data on this incredible global canvas.

Drawn to datasets backed by real human stories, I started making my own maps with KML a few weeks after Earth’s release in 2005. For my master’s degree, I used Google Earth to build a virtual representation of a high-tech biological research reserve. Vint Cerf saw my work, which eventually led to a job on the Google Earth Outreach team, turning my passion for telling stories with maps into a career.

2005 was the beginning of Google Earth’s evolution, as well. In August of that year, Hurricane Katrina showed us how useful mapping tools like Earth could be for crisis response efforts. Rescue workers compared before and after Satellite imagery in Google Earth to better locate where people were stranded. And in the years after, with more than 2 billion downloads by people in nearly every country in the world, Earth has enabled people to discover new coral reefs, journey to the Moon and into deep space, find long-lost parents, clear landmines and much more.
Google Earth images of Gulfport, Mississippi's shoreline before and after Hurricane Katrina
The ability to empower groups as diverse as school children and NASA scientists to learn more about the world is what I love about Google Earth. It has the potential to make the planet a far more connected place, if you take the time to explore, discover and share what you learn. So to celebrate how far Google Earth has come and our leap into the next 10 years, we’ve created a few new ways to help you better see places from around (and above) the world.

The world is a big place, and it can be hard to know where to begin your virtual journey. Now you can jump straight to the newest and most interesting imagery around the globe with a new layer, Voyager, available in desktop versions of Google Earth.
Different imagery types in Voyager are shown by color
In this first edition of Voyager, you’ll find five sections to explore:
  • Street View: highlights from Street View, including the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon
  • Earth View: striking landscapes around the globe as seen from space (more below)
  • 3D cities: a showcase of cities and towns available in photorealistic 3D (don’t forget to tilt!)
  • Satellite imagery updates: a map of our most recently published satellite imagery
  • Highlight tour: with thousands of Voyager locations to choose from, take a quick tour of a few to whet your appetite
The Kemgon Gompa—available in the Street View layer—is a Buddhist monastery in Lukla, Nepal
Earth View
Looking at our planet from above is not only a reminder of how interdependent our human and natural ecosystems are—it also lays bare the Earth’s staggering and often surreal beauty.
The Hammar Marshes of Iran are an uncharacteristic yet beautiful wetland feature in the otherwise arid climate
Earth View is library of some of the most striking and enigmatic landscapes available in Google Earth. It started as a 20 percent project last year by a few Googlers who enjoyed scouring satellite imagery for these gems. These images soon made their way onto Android phones, Chromecast and Chromebooks as a distinctive kind of wallpaper.
Islands surrounding Cuba seen in the Earth View Chrome Extension
For Earth's 10th birthday, we're expanding the Earth View collection to 1,500 landscapes from every continent and ocean and making it accessible to even more people. The new imagery is available with an updated version of our Chrome extension and a new web gallery. Download high-resolution wallpapers for your mobile and desktop devices, or better yet, print them up for your walls!
The coastline near Ningaloo, Australia in the new Earth View web gallery
Thank you for the last 10 years exploring your world with Google Earth. We hope Voyager and Earth View will unlock a new perspective on our planet. We look forward to seeing what the next decade brings!

Posted by Sean Askay, Engineering Manager, Google Earth
Categories: Technology

Five ways we’re celebrating the Special Olympics and #ADA25

GoogleBlog - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 17:31
"Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt." -Special Olympics Athlete Oath

Standing in Soldier Field in Chicago, 47 years ago, Eunice Shriver kicked off the first Special Olympics in history--1,000 people with intellectual disabilities from the U.S. and Canada competed in track & field, swimming and diving. Even though it was a small inaugural event, its historical impact--giving a platform to the civil rights struggles of people with disabilities that were so often overlooked-- was massive. The Games were meant to give children with cognitive disabilities, in Eunice’s words, “the chance to play, the chance to compete and the chance to grow.”

Ambitious, inclusive thinking like Eunice’s is contagious, and has inspired us to support this year’s Special Olympics World Games as part of the Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities. Launched in May, this effort is focused on supporting the development of assistive technologies for people with disabilities around the world with $20 million in grants. This weekend, to mark the Games as well as the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation that advanced the civil rights of people with disabilities when it was signed into law in 1990, we’re honoring the community in the following ways:

Google Doodle. We’ve created a homepage Doodle that shows a track inspired by the Special Olympics World Games’ "circle of inclusion,” featuring athletes of all backgrounds. In the spirit of getting moving, since we've heard from users that they love seeing doodles on the go, we're now starting to make them easier to see and share on our mobile search results in addition to desktop and the Google app.

Special Olympics World Games. Over the next nine days, the Special Olympics World Games will draw more than half a million spectators to cheer on 7,000 athletes from 177 countries in events from judo to powerlifting to kayaking and more. We’re powering the World Games’ social media nerve center, contributing as a financial supporter and are packing more than 300 Googlers into the stands.

Cheer an athlete. If you’re in Los Angeles, come visit us from July 25 until August 2 at the World Games Festival Space at USC’s Alumni Park to support the athletes. For those who can’t make it in person, you can visit to send a cheer to the athletes. Every day during the competition, we’ll decorate the dorm walls of the athletes with your cheers to encourage them to “be brave in the attempt.”

Portraits, like these at the National Portrait Gallery featuring leaders Judy Heumann and Ed Roberts, who have campaigned tirelessly for the rights of people with disabilities and Tatyana McFadden, who inspires athletes today, will decorate Washington, D.C. this weekend. See the photo galleryPainting the town. In Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, we’re marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. From men and women like Judy Heumann and Ed Roberts, who campaigned tirelessly for the rights of people with disabilities, to President George H.W. Bush, who signed the ADA into law in 1990, we’re telling the stories of 10 great leaders who have fought -- and continue to fight -- for equal rights of people living with disabilities. We’ve installed massive portraits on the stairs of historic landmarks around the nation’s capital and in L.A.’s Grand Park.

Audio description available hereTelling stories. We’re featuring the little-known history of a number of unsung heroes of the ADA movement at While people with disabilities benefit from their hard-won battles with every curb cut street corner and closed-caption film, their names are not widely known. We’d like to change that.

Posted by Jacquelline Fuller, Director
Categories: Technology

Change my Snapchat account name or delete my account?

AskDaveTaylor - Mon, 08/24/2015 - 09:52

The first thing you’ll need to do is download the Snapchat app for your Android or iOS phone — it’s a mobile app and requires mobile access. Then you’ll want to log in to your daughter’s account — and if you don’t know the password, simply request a reminder to be sent to your email address — then follow the steps below.

Interestingly, when I went to sign up for Snapchat myself, I found out that someone I don’t even know had listed my Gmail email address as their account address. Since Snapchat doesn’t require that you confirm the address, he’d proceeded to use the account for who knows how long without me having a clue. Once I realized this, however, it was easy to change the password and, ultimately, to delete the account and re-sign up using my email address for my own account.

To start, I reset the password and logged in:

You can see that my mysterious hijacker hadn’t added a selfie. Perhaps that’s a good thing!

On the top right is a gear icon. Tap on it and you’ll get to Snapchat settings:

Notice that “Jamie” hadn’t confirmed their mobile number or had but Snapchat recognized I was using a different phone but that somehow my email address wasn’t flagged as unconfirmed (and I’m positive I never confirmed their account!)

Here’s where you would think you could find a “delete” or “manage account” or similar, but it turns out that the fastest and easiest way to actually delete the account (because it turns out that you cannot change account name on an existing account) is further down on the screen. Swipe down to find the Support entry, as you can see below:

A tap on “Support” to get to the help area and a quick swipe downward to get to the popular topics (on a different site these’d be called faqs, or frequently asked questions).

Look at the fifth most popular support question:

Tap on How do I change my username? in the Snapchat app and you’ll learn the sordid truth:

So, in fact, you can’t change your username, nor can you change the username for your daughter’s account tied to your email address. Nor can I change to stop being Jamie on Snapchat either. The solution is simply to delete the Snapchat account and start over.

Tap on delete your account on the explanation of why you can’t change your username and it’ll then be pretty straightforward:

You’ll need to enter your password again – a smart idea in case someone else happened to pick up your phone and wanted to cause some mischief – and then simply tap on the big yellow Delete Account button.

That’s all there is to it. Done.

Hope that helps you clear up any confusion with the Snapchat accounts in your family!

The post Change my Snapchat account name or delete my account? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

Can I change my Amazon Echo’s name to not be “Alexa”?

AskDaveTaylor - Sat, 08/22/2015 - 09:26

I checked with the development team at Amazon and they suggested that the easiest and most logical change would be to change your daughter’s name to Gertrude or Enid. So that’s my answer.

Just kidding! 

Actually, a lot of Amazon Echo owners have requested the ability to change the name of the device — Amazon calls it the “wake word”, by the way — but at this point there are only two possibilities, either “Alexa”, the default, or “Amazon”, which should be a lot easier for you than changing your daughter’s name!

To change it you’ll need to actually use the Alexa app (used to be called the Echo app) on your smartphone. Launch it and you’ll see the results of your latest query to the Echo. For me, it’s a local weather forecast:

Tap on the horizontal lines box on the top left of the screen and you’ll get to the main menu, with its many choices and options:

You might need to swipe to scroll down a bit to see the same matches I have. You want to find Settings and tap on it.

The result is a bunch of different settings you can tweak and tune:

The very first entry should be your Amazon Echo. Good. Tap on it.

You want to find the entry labeled Wake Word and tap on it.

Notice in my case that I’ve been experimenting with the setting so the app’s telling me that the Echo needs an “over the air” update. That just means a restart.

The Wake Word setting gives you exactly two options:

Tap on the menu and it’ll offer up “Alexa” (as shown) or “Amazon”.

Change yours to Amazon, tap Save and wait a few minutes for it to adjust. Then you should be good to go and talk about your daughter in front of the Echo without it randomly triggering!

The post Can I change my Amazon Echo’s name to not be “Alexa”? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

How do I share a Website URL on Dropbox?

AskDaveTaylor - Fri, 08/21/2015 - 09:47

I also saw that Dropbox announced that it lets you now share Web site URLs, which is kind of interesting because, of course, you can also pretty easily just email someone a URL, post it to a social media site like Facebook or even send it to someone via SMS text message.

So what’s the big deal with Dropbox? Turns out that it’s the commenting feature you’re talking about, coupled with the ability to limit access to a specific URL or set of URLs. If you’ve something in ‘beta’ or want to, say, disassemble and closely analyze a competitor’s site, doing it within the confines of Dropbox might be an excellent solution.

To start, the easiest is to go to your Dropbox home page in a Web browser, then simply drag and drop a URL from another tab (or browser) directly into the Dropbox window. It’ll look like this:

Here I’m dragging the URL from this site, a page with the title “How to enable two-factor…”.

Once I “drop” the URL it’s imported into the Dropbox universe:

And this is funny: There’s some sort of bug in this first implementation of URL saving that the numeric counts are all over the place. Drop something twice and it creates a single instance of it, but will count it as ‘2’ or, perhaps 3. Or more… I imagine by the time you’re reading this it’ll be fixed, but I think it’s pretty amusing, so you’ll see how it ripples through the system.

It’s uploaded. Nice. Click on “View details” and you’ll get a bit more info about the URL saved:

If you see duplicates, just ignore them. Click “Done”.

Now on the list of files and folders you have on Dropbox the URL appears:

It will also, of course, show up everywhere else you have Dropbox logged into the same account, like on an iPhone:

Cool, eh?

Even cooler, click on it while back in your Web browser:

Now you can see the value here, with comments, the ability to share with specific people, etc.

Down the road, I expect that a page preview might replace the generic Web pic, but even without it, this is a nice addition to Dropbox, and now you know how to use it!

The post How do I share a Website URL on Dropbox? appeared first on Ask Dave Taylor.

Categories: Technology

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