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Google releases its new ‘Stars’ Bookmark Manager for Chrome

After multiple leaks over the past few months, Google’s new Stars interface for the Chrome Bookmark Manager has launched on the Chrome Web store. Downloading the extension completely replaced Chrome’s old bookmarks interface, so you’ll want to keep that in mind if you’re thinking of installing.

Once you’ve signed into Chrome and enabled sync, the new extension adds a modern interface to the Bookmark Manager and automatically grabs images when you “star” a page from the URL bar. Clicking the star pulls up a preview of the bookmark and lets you choose a folder to assign it to. The extension also retroactively adds images and descriptions to your older bookmarks.

Screen Shot 2014 10 29 at 4.48.18 PM 730x467 Google releases its new ‘Stars’ Bookmark Manager for Chrome

Google has also ramped up search for your bookmarks, analyzing content and not just the snippets. Bookmark Manager also includes a new auto section that automatically sorts bookmarks by topic or domain.

Screen Shot 2014 10 29 at 5.00.15 PM 730x339 Google releases its new ‘Stars’ Bookmark Manager for Chrome

Bookmark Manager’s release notes say you can now set bookmark folders to public and then share a link, but the option was greyed out in my browser.

Update: We’re hearing that some users aren’t seeing the new interface. You might need to update to Chrome 38 to get it.

Chrome Bookmark Manager

Now when you cast from Google Play Movies & TV you can see actor information on your device via ‘cards’

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Microsoft’s fitness wearable leaked in mobile app stores

Speculation has been circling that Microsoft will unveil a fitness wearable in the near future and we’ve now got our first look at the upcoming device thanks to a leak of its syncing software by Apple, Google and even Microsoft’s own app store.

 Microsofts fitness wearable leaked in mobile app stores

The device, which is simply referred to as the “Microsoft Band” appears to be a fitness band similar to Fitbit and Jawbone’s devices that can track steps, sleep and other activities.

The mobile app which has appeared on a number of app stores is dubbed Microsoft Health and can track health information from the armband and stores in one place and screenshots also detail GPS functionality for running with the device as well.

microsoftband Microsofts fitness wearable leaked in mobile app stores

In Microsoft’s own Windows Phone store it details that the device can do more than just fitness tracking, saying that the Band can make you “more productive with email previews and calendar alerts at a glance. Take notes and set reminders with your voice using Cortana personal assistant.”

Since the software has appeared so widely at the same time, it’s likely an announcement about the Microsoft Band is imminent. The app stores all link to this URL about ‘Microsoft Band’ but it’s not live right now.

With apps available for all major mobile platforms as well as OS X, it appears Microsoft is serious about building a fitness device that works with almost every phone out there.

We’ve contacted Microsoft for comment.

Google Play / Mac App Store / Windows Phone via Windows Central

IDC: Global smartphone shipments at 327m in Q3 2014, Xiaomi now the 3rd largest phone manufacturer

YouTube makes gamers happy with 60fps playback

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Google Ventures Unleashes Its Investment Strategy For Europe

To start off our annual European conference, we brought the new Google Ventures Europe partners onstage at Disrupt Europe in London. The panel was mostly focused on explaining Google Ventures’ investment strategy for its European arm. In particular, Google Ventures will employ the same operational strategy as in the U.S., and will be looking for co-investors for most of its deals.

“In the U.S., over the last four or five years, over a hundred startups have received time from the Google Ventures design team,” Peter Read said. This was just an example on the design front, but Google Ventures have many different teams in the U.S.

While Google Ventures Europe won’t have the same resources as its Californian counterpart, partners agreed that it was Google Ventures’ key comparative advantage compared to existing European VCs. “What differentiates us is our operational services and the Google resources,” Avid Larizadeh said.

As a reminder, Google Ventures Europe has an initial fund of $100 million to invest in the best European startups. There is no particular focus on consumer or enterprise stuff. It’s all about backing the best teams directly from London and bringing the Google Ventures way of doing things in Europe. But $100 million seems small compared to Google Ventures’ funds in the U.S.

“Look at the history of the U.S. It started out as much smaller funds,” MG Siegler said. “We will be opportunistic. There is a lot of activity in the very early stage side of things, maybe we will do something there, maybe it’s too busy.”

As we already knew, Tom Hulme, Avid Larizadeh, Bill Maris, Peter Read, and Eze Vidra were the four general partners operating out of London. Former TechCrunch writer MG Siegler was supposed to join the rest of the team for a short period of time “to serve as a liaison between the U.S. and European operations,” a spokesperson told us at the time. It seems like Siegler’s move might be a little bit longer than expected — he doesn’t have any fixed timeline to come back to the U.S.

“I think it’s sort of an open-ended question, it’s up to me, it’s up to the team here. It depends on what we are doing here,” Siegler said.

While Siegler had been working for Google Ventures in the U.S., the other European general partners have been active on their own in the European tech ecosystem and are bringing this experience to Google Ventures. “None of us would have been here if Google Ventures didn’t think that we bring something special to the table,” Eze Vidra said. “We didn’t want to create a minor league team,” Siegler said.

When it comes to geographical focus, the team is based in London but will be looking for startups all over Europe. “We are not focusing in any one country in particular. Innovation is truly global,” Eze Vidra said.

And finally, partners said multiple times that they were looking forward to working with co-investors. “80 percent of the Google Ventures deals in the U.S. are with co-investors, and we want to do the same thing here,” Read said.

In other words, Google Ventures doesn’t want to fight with the existing players of the European tech ecosystem. Instead, it wants to partner with them, add value to both startups and co-investors, and of course generate significant return on investment.

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The problem with problems: Google[X] chief on finding the right real-world issues to fix

Head of getting moonshots ready for contact with the real world‘ isn’t the simplest job title you’ll ever see, but that’s exactly what Obi Felten at Google[X] gets to call herself.

In more comprehensible terms, Felten is a director of product management for early stage Google projects, working alongside engineers, scientists and everyone else to help turn “science fiction-like technology into real world products and businesses.”

Such projects include smart contact lens, airborne delivery systems and the much talked-about driverless car, in case you were wondering.

Felten was at Wired’s annual conference in London last week, where she was on-stage to discuss everything from drones and defibrillators , to the importance of startups finding worthwhile problems to fix.

Photo 16 10 2014 17 21 15 730x500 The problem with problems: Google[X] chief on finding the right real world issues to fix

So, how does Google[X] decide what projects to work on – why contact lens and drone delivery systems? They seem like a random collection of ‘things’, so what connects them?

“There’s nothing really that connects these projects,” saysFelten. “The only thing that connects them is that they’re all about solving very large problems.”Yes, Google[X] is all about fixing big, real-world problems. ‘Moonshots’, as Google refers to them, using radical technology solutions.The 2-seater self-driving car Google revealed earlier this year is perhaps the most obvious example of how the internet giant is looking to disrupt all facets of the technological realm, not just your online world.

“There are many problems with road transportation, one of them is traffic,” says Felten. “But the biggest problem is safety – 1.3 million people each year die on the road. Almost all of those accidents are caused by driver error. The self-driving car is never distracted – it’s never texting, it’s never doing its makeup, it’s never getting into arguments and it’s never drunk. We will have a fully autonomous car before my children have to pass their driving tests.”

There’s little question that road safety is a worthwhile cause, but surely there are more immediate concerns that are arguably more worthy of our time, such as droughts and famine?

“Eleven percent of the world’s population doesn’t have access to clean water, and one in nine people still go hungry,” says Felten. “And that’s particularly disgraceful because everyone agrees there is enough food in the world, but we feed it to animals, we make bio-fuels, it’s wasted or it’s ‘just in the wrong place’. Ninety percent of the world’s energy still comes from fossil fuels, so we clearly have a long way to go on climate change. And 15 million people each year have a stroke, 6 million of whom die.”

Many of these stats make for familiar reading, and you could probably throw a ton more onto this list that would, subjectively speaking, be more worthy of our immediate attention. So why is Google working on energy kites rather than looking at ways to get more food and water to people?

“Some of these problems we work on at Google, like wind energy or internet access, and some we don’t, like water or food,” says Felten. “And that’s not because we don’t think they’re important, it’s because we haven’t found a breakthrough technology that we think we can apply to the problem.”

So if Google isn’t working on these problems – and nobody is necessarily suggesting it should be – then who is? Felten reckons startups are a good bet for fixing some of the bigger issues at hand here, but their focus is oftentimes a little too narrow.

The problem with problems

“I’m a startup mentor and an angel investor, and too many times when I talk to founders in the early stages, they’re picking a problem they think they can solve, rather than a problem that’s worth solving,” says Felten. “That must be the reason we have so many messaging and photo apps – [though] I’m not saying they aren’t useful, we all use them every day.”

In reference to her father who recently suffered a stroke, she says that although technology such as Hangouts is great for communicating with loved ones remotely, what she really, really wants is a device she can put on his wrist that will tell him before he has another stroke. “Will that take longer to build than the next mobile app, yes it will, but it will be worth it,” she says.

So how can we get more people to work on problems that matter? Felten reckons there are a few hindering obstacles.

“Large problems are daunting, they’re scary, they’re hard, it’s risky and expensive,” she says. “Another issue is less obvious – we just don’t spend enough time with a problem up front, and we reward people for problem solving, rather than problem stating. The truth is most people don’t like problems. We need to spend more time understanding the problem correctly.”

Google’s Project Loon is perhaps one good example of how problem-stating (i.e. finding the right problem to solve) is imperative.

Last year, Google launched a most ambitious project when it unveiled Project Loon, designed to bring balloon-powered internet to hitherto unconnected parts of the world. Tests kicked off earlier this year near the equator.

“If you want to take the internet to a village in Africa, you need three things,” says Felten.

“You need devices that are cheap enough, while you also need electricity to power these devices,” she continues. “And then you need the connectivity. So when the Loon team looked at the problem space, thinking about which part of the problem they should solve, they picked connectivity. Because they thought it was one of the hardest problems that nobody was having a go at. Other people have brought down the costs of smartphones, and they’ve brought down he cost of solar panels. But connectivity is still disgracefully expensive.”

This all ties in with what Felten was saying about startups not paying enough attention to the initial planning stages, in terms of establishing what the exact problem is they should and could be fixing.

“They [startups] often don’t spend enough time in that early stage,” she says. “They don’t spend enough time with the people who have the problem, to understand whether they can solve it.”

Pivoting projects

Google[X], with its bags of cash and resources, has pivoted a number of projects, including its Project Wing drone delivery service which was initially intended as a means for delivering defibrillators to heart attack victims. So you call the local emergency services, and the drone turns up with a defibrillator within 90 seconds.

“We were really excited about this, because it’s saving lives and it’s also a very hard technology problem to get something to you that quickly,” says Felten. “But it turned out that it wasn’t the right problem – because when our research team started talking to doctors and so on, even if there is a bystander [to help], it takes the person several minutes to figure out how to work the damn thing. If you imagine an elderly women dropping down on the floor, she’s not going to be reading the instruction manual. So we realized it wasn’t the right problem, and gave up on the idea.”

While Project Wing remains an early-stage ‘product’, Google is hoping that the technology can be used to deliver packages and disaster relief to remote areas in the future.

“This problem-stating process can be very painful,” continues Felten. “I want you to think of it as a problem ladder. Climbing the ladder is painful and hard, but once you’ve gotten to the top you’re rewarded with this amazing view, you understand the space of your problem a lot better and then kick the ladder away.”

Indeed, as American philosopher John Dewey once said, a problem well-put, is a problem half-solved. Of course, the size of problem really does make it harder to know which facet of it to focus on, as there are often many issues interwoven across it.

“Tackling large problems require a really weird mixture of audacity, believing in the impossible, and humility – acknowledge that it’s not going to be done any time soon, and not by yourself,” says Felten.

Though the Google[X] team undoubtedly has a ton of incredibly smart folk on board, it relies heavily on partners – academic labs for research, manufacturing partners and so on.

On Project Loon, for example, they worked with people who know how to make balloons. With the smart contact lens, Google brought in healthcare leader Novartis, because it not only knows how to make contact lenses, but it knows how to bring medical devices to market.

For startups, getting the right partners on board may not be so easy – Google is Google, after all. But the underlying point is a sound one – finding the right problems to fix may not be as easy or obvious as first seems.

Read more here: The problem with problems: Google[X] chief on finding the right real-world issues to fix

Android Lollipop Easter Egg Casts Andy The Android As Flappy Bird

Android 5.0 Lollipop is coming soon, and shipping on Google’s new Nexus hardware, but a newly discovered Easter Egg in the build is already available in the developer preview. The hidden, fun feature in Android 5 is accessible via the Settings menu, with repeated tapping on the Android version number listing, and gives users the chance to play through an Android Lollipop-themed version of the viral hit Flappy Bird.

The game looks fun and diverting, and it’s included in Android 5-running devices for free. This isn’t the final shipping version of Lollipop, and we’ll have to wait until we get our hands on some new Nexus hardware before we can verify it makes it through to that version, too, but generally speaking, Google does offer some kind of Easter Egg in its shipping software updates.

Unlike Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen, however, whoever was responsible for this game at Google probably won’t have an apparent existential crisis, pull the software, go into hiding in Vietnam and return later with sequels that have nowhere near the viral potential of the original.

See the article here: Android Lollipop Easter Egg Casts Andy The Android As Flappy Bird

Gmail for Android will soon support Yahoo Mail, Outlook and other email services

Use email? Own an Android device? Not a fan of Gmail? There’s good news coming your way.

Google is preparing a major update for Gmail for Android that will, among many things, finally handle email accounts from other service providers, such as Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo and AOL [mandatory disclaimer: AOL is, of course, the owner of TechCrunch]. That’s according to the sleuths at Android Police, who discovered evidence of a redesigned app that is expected to launch soon.

You can glimpse a look at the unified Gmail app for Android in the video tour below, which was surfaced by Android Police.

The refreshed looking app — which follows Google’s new Material Design language — includes round icons, a clean and bright design, and, most notably, said support for third-party email accounts.

We expect this update to roll out this week and suspect that this update has been anticipated by loyal Google customers for some time. Apple’s iOS has long supported multiple email accounts, so you Android folks out there will finally get on par — although, to be honest, if you’re still using antiquated email services today then you’ve only got what you deserve up to this point.

That’ll be one less excuse for not responding to your boss’s email, anyway.

Headline image via Cairo / Flickr

Originally posted here: Gmail for Android will soon support Yahoo Mail, Outlook and other email services

Google introduces Google Translate Chrome Extension for inline translations of text

Will.i.am introduces the Puls smartwatch

Google launches Nexus 9 tablet with 8.9-inch display and Android 5.0 Lollipop, available to pre-order on October 17

Today Google introduced a new Chrome extension that will help you when you hit a site in a language you don’t speak.

The new Google Translate Chrome Extension lets you highlight just the text you want to translate. Just select the text and either click the Translate icon or right click on the selected text and select “Google Translate.” If you click on the translate button in the upper right hand corner of Chrome the extension will translate the entire page.

The Google Translate Chrome Extension is available now on the Chrome Web Store.

➤ Translate web pages more easily with the new Google Translate Chrome Extension [Google]

Will.i.am introduces the Puls smartwatch

Google launches Nexus 9 tablet with 8.9-inch display and Android 5.0 Lollipop, available to pre-order on October 17

Read more here: Google introduces Google Translate Chrome Extension for inline translations of text

A Web encryption vulnerability opens ‘encrypted’ data to hackers

Turns out that the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption we’ve relied on for secure communication on the Internet has a vulnerability.

Today Google researchers announced (PDF link) that they have found a bug in the SSL 3.0 protocol. The exploit could be used to intercept critical data that’s supposed to be encrypted between clients and servers.

The exploit first allows attackers to initiate a “downgrade dance” that tells the client that the server doesn’t support the more secure TLS (Transport Layer Security) protocol and forces it to connect via SSL 3.0. From there a man-in-the-middle attack can decrypt secure HTTP cookies. Google calls this the POODLE (Padding Oracle On Downgraded Legacy Encryption) attack.

In other words, your data is no longer encrypted. Google researchers Bodo Möller, Thai Duong and Krzysztof Kotowicz recommend disabling SSL 3.0 on servers and in clients. The server and client will default to the more secure TSL and the exploit won’t be possible.

For end users, if your browser supports it, disable SSL 3.0 support or better yet use tools that support TLS_FALLBACK_SCSV (Transport Layer Security Signalling Cipher Suite Value), it prevents downgrade attacks. Google says that it will begin testing Chrome changes that disable using SSL 3.0 fallback and it will remove SSL 3.0 support completely from all its products in the coming months. In fact, there’s already a Chromium patch available that disables SSL 3.0 fallback.

In response to today’s news, Mozilla plans to turn off SSL 3.0 in Firefox. “SSLv3 will be disabled by default in Firefox 34, which will be released on Nov 25,” said Mozilla in a post. The code to disable the protocol will be available tonight via Nightly.

Anyone interested in disabling SSL 3.0 right now can do so with the SSL Version Control add on for Firefox.

Introduced in 1996, SSL protocol is supposed to allow for communication without fear of eavesdropping because the information being shared is encrypted. When a client (browser, apps etc,) pings a server they engage in a security handshake that creates keys to encrypt and decrypt information sent back and forth.

Today’s announcement lands on the heels of Snapchat and Dropbox security news that involved third-party apps leaking customer information.

➤ This POODLE bites: exploiting the SSL 3.0 fallback [Google]

Image credit: Shutterstock

See the article here: A Web encryption vulnerability opens ‘encrypted’ data to hackers

Google Glass will now let you see all your Android phone notifications

Wikipedia for Android now shows you articles based on your current location

Amazon launches ‘Pass My Parcel’ for same-day in-store order collection in the UK

There may still be a relatively small market for Google Glass, but that isn’t stopping Google from continuing to iterate with its smart lens.

Indeed, Google has announced that it’s introducing Notification Sync, meaning you’ll be able to see all your Android phone notifications within Glass. So all those WhatsApp messages and Twitter mentions will now be in your direct line of vision. The update for Glass, with support for notifications, will be arriving later this week.

Google Glass Update

Wikipedia for Android now shows you articles based on your current location

Amazon launches ‘Pass My Parcel’ for same-day in-store order collection in the UK

See the article here: Google Glass will now let you see all your Android phone notifications

Popcorn Time Finds A New Home After The EURid Pulled Its Domain

When your product streams pirated content, it’s safe to expect some complications along the way. The Time4Popcorn fork of the popular Popcorn Time project recently had to find a new domain following the sudden removal of time4popcorn.eu. But the developers tell me this latest kerfuffle won’t stop the development of the program and they have already found a new domain.

The project can currently be found at http://popcorn-time.se. That is, of course, until this domain is pulled.

According to the developers, the removal of the original domain did “tremendous damage” to the project, most notably by killing the project’s SEO with Google and other search engines.

True enough, Google Popcorn Time and the top link directs to another Popcorn Time fork.

The team tells me that the original domain was taken down because of some sort of legal investigation taking place in Belgium. Apparently, according to them, the domain was removed without any notice.

TorrentFreak noted a few days ago that the domain was removed “on suspicion that it was registered using inaccurate contact details.”

Since the rise and fall of the original open source Popcorn Time, several groups of developers have taken up the standard and charged forward with the project. This particular fork quickly rolled the program onto new platforms — most recently iOS, which can be installed on non-jailbroken devices with this trick.

The various forks of Popcorn Time shouldn’t expect to survive forever. The program streams pirated content, which for the user, isn’t particularly illegal; yet Hollywood would likely love to find ways to shut down the distribution of the content.

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