Posts with «information technology» label

Google is shutting down Duplex on the Web

Another Google service will soon join the company’s graveyard of apps. The search giant quietly announced this week it is shutting down Duplex on the Web. In a support page spotted by TechCrunch, the company notes the service won’t work after the end of 2022. “As we continue to improve the Duplex experience, we’re responding to the feedback we’ve heard from users and developers about how to make it even better,” a Google spokesperson told the outlet. “By the end of this year, we’ll turn down Duplex on the Web and fully focus on making AI advancements to the Duplex voice technology that helps people most every day.”

Google first announced Duplex on the Web in 2019 as an expansion of its Duplex phone reservation AI. Initially, the feature was designed to help Android users buy movie tickets. Duplex on the Web gave Assistant the ability to navigate websites on its own. Provided you had your credit card information stored on Chrome, Assistant could take care of all of the busy work of buying film tickets for you. Google later expanded the feature to protect users against online data breaches. At one point, you could also use it to check into flights and track discounts.

As for the reason why Google is shutting down Duplex on the Web, TechCrunch suggests it may have something to do with the cost of training an AI to parse websites. The feature’s support page notes Google used a special user agent to crawl websites as much multiple times per day. What's more, the performance of Duplex on the Web could suffer significantly if website administrators prevented the crawler from indexing their content.

Apple’s latest iPad drops to $399 at Amazon

If you missed the chance to buy the 2022 iPad when it was $30 off, don’t worry: the tablet has hit a new all-time low price on Amazon. After an 11 percent discount, the base 64GB model of the 10th-generation iPad is $399. All four colorways – blue, pink, silver and yellow – are part of the promotion. Amazon has also discounted select 256GB models by $50.

Buy Apple iPad at Amazon - $399

The 2022 iPad features several upgrades over its dated predecessor, but a higher price and a few odd design choices make it harder to recommend without caveats. Apple redesigned its entry-level tablet to give it thinner bezels, a bigger display and USB-C charging. It’s also the first iPad to include a landscape-oriented front-facing camera, a feature that makes the tablet more useful for video chatting. The 2022 model’s A14 Bionic processor is also a highlight. But then there’s the fact Apple’s latest tablet is $120 more expensive than its 9th-generation counterpart and only supports the first-generation Apple Pencil. At a more affordable $399, however, it’s easier to overlook some of those flaws.

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Second group of Activision Blizzard testers wins union vote

More Activision Blizzard workers have voted to unionize. Quality assurance testers at Blizzard Albany have voted 14-0 in favor of unionization. The team at the Diablo-focused office will join the Communication Workers of America (CWA), the representative of the existing Raven Software union.

The game publisher tried to prevent the vote in October, arguing that 88 developers should be included to prevent a "fractured" office. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) denied that bid in late November, noting that the game testers shared a "community of interest" for their cause. Expansions like this are sometimes used in union-busting efforts to reduce the chances of a successful vote. The company also tried to impound three votes that arrived late due to mail delays, although those wouldn't have affected the outcome.

Activision Blizzard told Engadget in a statement that it was "considering all options." It maintained that all Albany workers should have voted in the name of "fundamental fairness and rights" for the entire branch, not just the QA unit.

The CWA said in its own statement that this was a vote against "burn out culture," while Blizzard Albany associate test analyst Amanda Deep said the group was "advocating for ourselves" out of care for the work and the games. Workers at Raven and Blizzard Albany have complained about long hours, pay rates and other labor issues. Unionization theoretically gives staff more clout in demanding better conditions.

It may not be so simple, however. While Activision Blizzard responded to initial unionization efforts by converting 1,100 testers to full-time jobs and raising their base pay, the NLRB also found that it unfairly withheld raises from Raven QA workers who had voted to join a union. Activision Blizzard claimed that it had pass on those pay raises due to "legal obligations" around a pending election, but the NLRB attributed this to the unionization. Improved conditions might come, but they aren't guaranteed to come quickly.

Google Messages starts testing end-to-end encryption for RCS group texts

Google is starting to test end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in Messages for RCS group chats on Android. Some users who are enrolled in the Messages open beta program will gain access in the coming weeks ahead of a broader rollout. The company said during its I/O 2022 developer conference that an E2EE beta for group chats would be available by the end of this year.

The move comes 18 months after Google Messages started offering E2EE for one-on-one conversations to shield chats from prying eyes. It started testing E2EE in Messages in November 2020, so it may be several months before the privacy feature is enabled for all group chats.

Engadget

Many carriers and phone manufacturers have gotten on board with RCS over the last several years to offer features such as high-quality photos and videos, read receipts and E2EE. The 30-year-old SMS format doesn't support any of those. Still, there's one company that's continuing to turn its nose up at RCS — Apple, which is staying cozy inside the walled garden of iMessage.

Google has been publicly pleading with Apple to adopt RCS but so far those efforts haven't proven fruitful. In September, Apple CEO Tim Cook jokingly suggested that iOS users who are having trouble sending videos to a loved one with an Android device should just buy them an iPhone.

Nevertheless, Google has been trying to improve iOS and Android messaging interoperability, and it made another attempt to get Apple onboard with RCS in a blog post. "Today, all of the major mobile carriers and manufacturers have adopted RCS as the standard — except for Apple," Messages group product manager Neena Budhiraja wrote. "Apple refuses to adopt RCS and continues to rely on SMS when people with iPhones message people with Android phones, which means their texting is stuck in the 1990s."

Still, there are companies that are working on ways to make iMessage accessible on other devices. Just this week, the developers of an app called Sunbird claim to have gotten iMessage to work on Android.

Google’s best app of 2022 is an AI art generator, which sounds about right

Google is quickly joining Apple in recognizing the top apps of the year. The company has announced the Google Play Best of 2022 awards, and this year's biggest winners clearly reflect the cultural zeitgeist. The best Android app of the year is Wombo's Dream, an AI art generator — yes, one of the trendiest technologies of the year took top honors. The user's choice winner, meanwhile, is the social media phenomenon BeReal.

Respawn swept the top game awards. Apex Legends Mobile won both Google's nod as well as the user's choice pick. Todoist is Google's favorite app for Wear OS smartwatches, while Pocket's reading tool is the top tablet-friendly app. The best software for good was The Stigma App, a community platform dor discussing mental health.

Notably, Google significantly expanded the categories this year — if partly to promote its own platforms. There's now awards for Chromebook-friendly apps, including best app (the music maker BandLab) and best game (the metaverse-like Roblox). Very Little Nightmares is Google's favorite Play Pass game. The game list has expanded, too. The Android port of Papers, Please won the best story award, while the gacha game Genshin Impact took the distinction of the best ongoing game.

As with Apple, Google's year-end list is as much about driving downloads as anything else. The internet giant's Best of 2022 section on the Play Store is effectively a one-stop shop for Android and Chromebook newcomers looking to expand their app libraries. However, it does give a feel for the cultural pulse of a mobile world where AI, the metaverse and online gaming dominate.

Apple's 2022 iPad is $30 off right now

If you weren't able to grab Apple's 2022 iPad on Black Friday, don't worry: It's on sale right now for an even cheaper price. You can get the blue and the silver variants of the 64GB WiFi-only iPad right now for only $419 on Amazon, which is $30 less than retail. The yellow version of the tablet isn't quite that cheap, but you can still get it for the device's Black Friday price of $426. Those aren't quite all-time lows for the 10th-gen iPad, but you're not constricted by a time limit or by the need for a Prime subscription this time. 

Buy 2022 Apple 10.9-inch iPad (Wi-Fi, 64GB) at Amazon - $419

Apple gave the 2022 iPad a redesign to set it apart from its previous base tablets and bring its looks closer to the iPad Air and the iPad Pro. The tech giant removed the Home button and moved its Touch ID to the lock button. Its bezels are thinner, its display is bigger and its front-facing camera has been moved to the landscape border. Another big change is that the device now comes with a USB-C charging port instead of a Lightning port like previous models. 

The tablet is powered by an A14 Bionic chip, and while it's a modest upgrade from last year's A13, it does improve the device's performance. When we reviewed the device, we also found that its battery life met or exceeded the 10-hour estimate Apple provides for every iPad: It lasted 11 hours and 45 minutes when we used it to play movies purchased from the iTunes Store. 

It's unclear when the tablet's price will go back to retail, but this is a great chance to purchase one for the coming holiday season either for yourself or as a gift. 

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YouTube's top US videos of 2022 include Technoblade's farewell and Will Smith's slap

YouTube has revealed its top videos and creators of 2022. At the top of the US trending video list is the final video from Technoblade, a Minecraft creator who died after a battle with cancer. Technoblade wrote a farewell message to fans that his father read in the video, which has more than 87.6 million views.

In second place is The Guardian's uncensored version of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during the Oscars ceremony, which has 103 million total views. Another popular Minecraft creator, Dream, revealed his face for the first time in a video that racked up 47 million views. The list also includes the Super Bowl LVI halftime show, the culmination of Mark Rober's anti-porch pirate glitterbomb series and that Try Guys mess.

The trending video list is based on US video views, which explains why MrBeast's recreation (and giveaway) of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory is in fifth place despite having 126 million total views. YouTube also excludes Shorts, music videos, trailers and children's videos from this list.

Speaking of MrBeast, he was the top creator based on the number of subscribers gained in the US. That's not too surprising, since he has the most subscribers of any individual creator (Indian music label T-Series has the most overall). YouTube says that list doesn't take into account artists, brands, media companies or children's content.

Elsewhere, YouTube revealed the top songs in the US for 2022 (featuring tracks released this year or older ones that saw a significant uptick in views). "We Don't Talk About Bruno" from Disney's Encanto topped the list with 503 million views. Bad Bunny and Karol G each had two songs on the list.

Google begins refunding Stadia hardware purchases made on the Google Store

Google tweeted today that it’s beginning to process refunds for Stadia hardware bought on the Google Store. The company announced in September that its cloud gaming service was joining the long list of projects buried in the “Google graveyard.”

Google is refunding purchases for the Stadia controller and bundles that included a Chromecast Ultra with the WiFi-connected gamepad. Earlier this month, it began reimbursing users for Stadia game purchases, ensuring most users recoup the money they’d sunk into the service. However, Google isn’t refunding subscription fees for Stadia Pro (its answer to PS Plus and Xbox Game Pass) or Stadia hardware bought from Best Buy.

The company says it will process the refunds automatically. It expects most of them to complete by the time the cloud-gaming service shuts down on January 18th. If the company can’t refund your original form of payment automatically, it will email you through the Google account you used for the purchase(s).

Although Stadia’s demise disappointed its small but devoted band of enthusiasts, the shutdown wasn’t exactly shocking. The writing had been on the wall since the company began scaling back its investment in the platform barely over a year after its launch.

YouTube is repeatedly crashing for some iOS users but a fix is on the way

Google is working to fix an issue that is causing the YouTube mobile app to repeatedly crash for some iOS users. “Hi, we’re aware that many of you using the YouTube app on iOS devices may be experiencing crashes,” the company said in a tweet caught by The Verge. “We’re so sorry about this & have begun working on a fix! Updates soon.”

hi, we're aware that many of you using the YouTube app on iOS devices may be experiencing crashes

we're so sorry about this & have begun working on a fix! updates soon🔍

— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) November 30, 2022

As of the writing of this article, YouTube has yet to share more information on the situation. Google did not immediately respond to a comment request from Engadget. We’ll update this article once there’s more information to share. It’s unclear how widespread the problem is among iOS users. On my iPhone, I was able to watch this incredible video of the Artemis 1 launch synced to “Free Bird” without issue during my lunch break. However, Downdetector indicates there have been more than 7,500 reports in the US of the app not working.

The Morning After: Elon Musk says Apple has 'threatened to withhold’ Twitter app

Elon Musk claims that Apple has “threatened to withhold” Twitter from its app store. According to Musk, the company “won’t tell us why” it has issues with the social network’s app. In subsequent tweets, he railed against Apple’s 30 percent “tax” on in-app purchases and claimed the App Store owner has “censored” other developers. He also said Apple “has mostly stopped advertising on Twitter.” Apple hasn’t yet responded to a request for comment. Musk also hasn’t specified if the company is holding updates to the service or threatening to remove the app from its store altogether.

Apple has strict, if often unevenly enforced, rules that govern the content in apps in its store. You might remember Parler, a “free speech” rival to Twitter, which was removed from the App Store for its lax content moderation rules. The app returned after it rolled out an AI-based moderation system. ​​

– Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

WhatsApp's latest feature is sending messages to yourself

Message Yourself lets you send notes, reminders and shopping lists.

As confirmed by TechCrunch, a new feature called Message Yourself is now being rolled out globally to iOS and Android users in the next few weeks. Once you get the update, you'll be able to see yourself at the top of the contacts list when creating new messages. Once you click on that, you'll be able to send yourself notes and reminders. Until now, you could only message yourself by creating a group with just you as a member or by using the apps click to chat feature. Or open your notes app.

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Twitter data leak exposes over 5.4 million accounts

The dump includes private phone numbers and email addresses.

Earlier this year, Twitter confirmed an API vulnerability allowed the theft of 5.4 million users’ private user data, but the company said it had "no evidence" it was exploited. Now, all those accounts are exposed on a hacker forum. An additional 1.4 million Twitter profiles for suspended users were reportedly shared privately, and an even larger data dump with the data of "tens of millions" of other users may have come from the same vulnerability. If you're thinking about using two-factor authentication, now would be a good time.

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Apple Watch Ultra's powerful diving tools arrive with the Oceanic+ app

The smartwatch is now more useful for recreational divers.

Apple

Hush Outdoors and Apple have released Oceanic+, effectively giving Ultra owners a recreation-oriented dive computer. The software tracks fundamentals like depth, no-decompression time (a figure used to set duration limits for given depths) and water temperature. The app works without the touchscreen, and you can set compass headings using the action button. Developers have even cranked up the haptic feedback, so you can feel it through a wetsuit.

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Google sued by FTC and seven states over 'deceptive' Pixel 4 ads

Influencers who never used the phone were paid to endorse it.

Engadget

The Federal Trade Commission and seven states have sued Google and iHeartMedia for running allegedly "deceptive" Pixel 4 ads. Promo ads aired between 2019 and 2020 featured influencers extolling the virtues of phones they reportedly didn't own — Google didn't even supply Pixels before most of the ads were recorded. The FTC wants to bar Google and iHeartMedia from making any future misleading claims about ownership.

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