Posts with «small businesses» label

Google made one of its best search shortcuts even more useful

Google searches with quotes just became much more useful if you're looking for the exact place words appear on a page. The internet giant has updated quote-based searches with page snippets that show exactly where you'll find the text you're looking for. You might not have to scroll through a giant document just to find the right phrase.

There are limitations. Searches with quotes might turn up results that aren't visible (such as meta description tags) or only show up in web addresses and title links. You might not see all of the mentions in a snippet if they're too far apart. You'll "generally" only see bolded mentions on desktop, and you won't see the bolding at all for specialized searches and results (such as image searches and video boxes). You may have to use your browser's on-page search feature to jump to the relevant keywords.

The company characterized the change as a response to feedback. It hesitated to make snippets for these searches in the past, as documents didn't always produce readable descriptions. This is an acknowledgment that people using quotes to search are sometimes "power users" more interested in pinpointing words than reading site descriptions.

TikTok is testing more mini-games, including one from Aim Lab

TikTok is conducting a broader test of games in its all-conquering app. The company recently added a way for creators in some markets (including the US) to append one of nine mini-games to a video by tapping the Add Link button and choosing the MiniGame option. When viewers come across a video that links to a game, they can start playing it by tapping a link next to the creator's username.

“Currently, we’re exploring bringing HTML5 games to TikTok through integrations with third-party game developers and studios," a TikTok spokesperson told TechCrunch. One of the games is from Aim Lab, the maker of a popular aim training app of the same name. Its TikTok game is called Mr. Aim Lab’s Nightmare. TikTok's other partners on the initiative include developers Voodoo, Nitro Games, FRVR and Lotem.

Click here on mobile to play Mr Aim Lab's Nightmare! https://t.co/UTHBXLVJuK

— Aim Lab (@aimlab) July 28, 2022

None of the games have ads or in-app purchases at the minute and the project is in the early stages of testing. TikTok is looking to find out how (or if) creators craft content around them, and how users interact with the games. As The Verge notes, users can record their gameplay and share it in a fresh video.

Reports in recent months suggested TikTok was readying for a major push into gaming. Parent company ByteDance bought game developer Moonton Technology last year. TikTok teamed up with Zynga for an exclusive mobile game called Disco Loco 3D; a charity game called Garden of Good, through which players can trigger donations to Feeding America, became available on the US version of TikTok in June. TikTok previously tested HTML5 games in Vietnam.

Other major tech companies have made a push into mobile gaming, including Apple, Google and, more recently, Netflix. Zynga, of course, became a social gaming giant with the help of Facebook's massive reach, while Facebook moved into cloud gaming in 2020. It's no secret that Meta is trying to ape many of TikTok's features across many of its apps, so it's interesting to see TikTok taking a leaf out of Facebook's playbook on the gaming front.

Meta is shutting down its couples messaging app you didn't know existed

We hope you weren't using Meta's experimental Tuned app to keep your relationship fires burning. Gizmodoreports Meta is shutting down Tuned on September 19th, and that sign-up attempts for the couple-oriented app now produce errors. The company wasn't shy about its reasons for the move. In a statement to Engadget, a spokesperson said Meta's New Product Experimentation team winds down apps if they "aren’t sticking."

Meta's (then Facebook's) NPE Team launched Tuned in April 2020 to give partners a "private space" where they could share feelings, love notes, challenges and music streams. The timing was apt (if unintentional) given the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In theory, this helped distant couples cement their bonds when they couldn't connect in person.

It's not certain how many people used the app, though. While Meta brought the initially iOS-only software to Android and said there were "many couples" who used Tuned to get closer, there's little doubt Tuned remained a niche product compared to the likes of Facebook or Instagram. There's a good chance you're hearing about this app for the first time, after all. We'd add that there wasn't much point when you could text, video chat or otherwise use existing services to accomplish many of the same goals.

You might have seen this coming. Meta has routinely shut down experimental apps, and has even axed higher-profile apps when they didn't gain traction. These closures help the company save resources and focus on more popular platforms. As it stands, Tuned was increasingly an outlier for a tech giant shifting its attention from social networking to the metaverse.

Google Calendar is getting better at weeding out spam invites

Google Calendar has released a new update for an issue that it promised to fix three years ago. The "known senders" feature will finally let you block invitations from people you don't know that can effectively spam up your calendar. With the "Only if the sender is known" toggle enabled under "Event settings," it'll automatically add invites only from people in your contacts list, people you've interacted with, or users on the same domain. 

Normally, Google Calendar automatically adds events when you receive emailed invites, no matter who sends them. The only way to prevent this until now was to disable automatic event adding completely, forcing you to manually deal with each invite. 

Google

Now, you can have the automatic invitations from folks you know while cutting off spam events like "Crypto meetup 9PM tonight" sent by some rando. Simply navigate to your Google Calendar settings, choose "Event Settings" and choose the "Add invitations to my calendar dropdown." Then, select the option "Only if the sender is known."

You'll still receive spammy invites, but the new option lets you trash them before they ever see your calendar. Google notes that this may alert a sender that they're not in your contacts list, but that seems to be the only potential downside. It's a small but useful tweak, joining recent Google updates for Calendar, Gmail and other apps. 

How to get the most out of Google Drive

Google Drive is an incredibly powerful tool for storing and organizing all sorts of data. And best of all, it’s available to anyone with a Google account for free (at least to start). Additionally, because Drive holds all your files in the cloud, it offers some important advantages compared to stashing everything locally on your phone or PC. Drive also works on practically any device with an internet connection, which makes it easy to use at home, at school, in the office and everywhere in between.

However, if you’re new to Drive, there are some important basics you should know before you transfer over all your data and files. So here’s a quick rundown covering the most critical things about Google’s popular cloud storage service.

Storage and pricing

Every Google Drive user gets 15GB of free storage. However, any data you have saved in Google Photos also counts towards that limit. So if you’re using that to back up your pictures , you may not have a ton of room left over for documents and files. That said, you can increase your storage in Drive via a Google One subscription, which starts as low as $1.99 a month (or $20 a year) for 100GB of storage and goes up to $9.99 for 2TB of storage (or $100 a year).

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For most people, 100GB is more than enough to stash important files, work docs, and family photos. But if you’re planning on using Drive as a way to backup all your data, you’ll probably want to go with one of the bigger plans. The nice thing is that even though the basic $20 a year plan is relatively cheap, there are a number of ways to get additional storage for free, at least temporarily. For example, anyone who buys a new Chromebook will get 100GB of space in Drive free for a year, while customers new to Google One may get offers to test the service out with a free one-month subscription.

So before you start uploading all your files, you’re going to want to figure out how much storage you need and how much that may (or may not) cost you.

Uploading, support files, and organization

Once you’ve figured out how much storage you need, you can begin uploading or transferring your files to Drive. For single files or data stored locally on your device, you can simply tap the New button and select the option for File or Folder upload. On a computer, you can also drag and drop files into your browser window when you are on the Drive website. Drive supports a wide variety of file types including most of the most popular formats like .JPGs, .PNGs, .GIFs, .MP3s, and more. For a full list of support file types, check out Google’s official Help Center here.

After you have all your files uploaded, you can manage them just like you would locally on your phone or computer. You can create nested folders and drag and drop files from one place to another. And of course, you can look for a specific file or folder by typing in the search box, though it’s important to remember that if you’re storing a lot of files in Drive, it may take a bit longer to find them (especially if your internet connection isn’t very speedy). So if you’re able to create a general directory of folders for important projects or data sets on day one, you’ll probably save yourself a lot of time and headaches later.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

It’s also important to note that while you can create new Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. directly within Drive on PC, on mobile you need to install both Drive and the specific productivity program you want individually. That’s because while they all work together, they are considered separate apps.

Another good way to use Google Drive to organize your work is to save templates for various projects in Docs. This allows you to start writing a script or create forms without starting from scratch every time. You can also save templates for things like bibliographies, potentially saving students time when trying to cite sources for a research paper.

Alternatively, instead of using dedicated apps, you can share a Google Sheet with roommates to help figure out the cost of utilities and other shared expenses. And while it wasn’t strictly designed for this, students have discovered that when places like schools ban or put restrictions on typical messaging apps, you can still chat with friends using Google Docs. All you have to do is invite people to a blank doc and then use real-time collaboration to talk and respond to each other. And once you’re done, you can simply delete the doc, or keep it around for another day.

Collaboration

In addition to making cloud storage simple and easy to use, one of Google Drive’s most powerful features is its range of collaboration tools. Sharing a file or document with someone else is as simple as hitting the share button and entering their email. Alternatively, Drive can generate a link to send via text, social media or your messaging app of choice. Once someone has access, you’ll be able to view or edit the file with them in real-time.

That said, it’s important to know who you’re sharing your files with and how they are using them. For example, it might be really helpful to give editing permission to a teacher or mentor if you’re looking for help with an essay, but less so if you’re just sharing an ebook with a friend. In addition to the owner of the file, Drive offers three different levels of access: viewer, commenter and editor. And if something goes wrong and you ever want to see an older copy of a Google Doc, Sheet or Slide, you can open the File menu and select the option that says Version history.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Viewers are only able to see and read the document, but don’t have the ability to change any of the content. Commenters can view and surface thoughts and questions about the content by using Google’s Comment tool, while editors can make changes just like the owner of a doc.

If you want to see files that others have sent you recently, you can click on Google Drive’s Shared with me tab. And if you have a Google Workspace account through school or work, you can also open the handy Activity Dashboard by clicking on the squiggly icon. (It’s in the top right next to the blue Share button on a desktop.) Finally, if you want a fast way to see which files you’ve shared with others, you can type “to:” into Drive’s search box.

Accessing files offline

While Google Drive is intended primarily as a way to manage docs and files stored in the cloud, it does support offline access, which can be handy when you don’t have a good internet connection. However, there are some steps you need to take before you can get the full benefit of using Drive offline.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

First, you need to make some changes to your Drive’s settings while connected to the internet before going offline. On a computer, you need to click the gear icon in the top right corner of your Google Drive browser tab, hit Settings and then check the box next to the Offline menu option. On mobile, you’ll need to open the Drive app, find a specific file and then designate for offline access by enabling the option from the More icon (it's the one that looks like three vertical dots). Once you do that, you’ll be able to access, edit and save any changes you make. And the next time your device connects to the internet, it will automatically sync any changes you made to the offline doc to the one saved in the cloud. Meanwhile on a Chromebook, all you have to do is open up your Google Drive settings, scroll down, check the box next to the Offline option and hit Done.

Meta's 'Make-A-Scene' AI blends human and computer imagination into algorithmic art

Text-to-image generation is the hot algorithmic process right now, with OpenAI’s Craiyon (formerly DALL-E mini) and Google’s Imagen AIs unleashing tidal waves of wonderfully weird procedurally generated art synthesized from human and computer imaginations. On Tuesday, Meta revealed that it too has developed an AI image generation engine, one that it hopes will help to build immersive worlds in the Metaverse and create high digital art.

A lot of work into creating an image based on just the phrase, “there's a horse in the hospital,” when using a generation AI. First the phrase itself is fed through a transformer model, a neural network that parses the words of the sentence and develops a contextual understanding of their relationship to one another. Once it gets the gist of what the user is describing, the AI will synthesize a new image using a set of GANs (generative adversarial networks).

Thanks to efforts in recent years to train ML models on increasingly expandisve, high-definition image sets with well-curated text descriptions, today’s state-of-the-art AIs can create photorealistic images of most whatever nonsense you feed them. The specific creation process differs between AIs.

Meta AI

For example, Google’s Imagen uses a Diffusion model, “which learns to convert a pattern of random dots to images,” per a June Keyword blog. “These images first start as low resolution and then progressively increase in resolution.” Google’s Parti AI, on the other hand, “first converts a collection of images into a sequence of code entries, similar to puzzle pieces. A given text prompt is then translated into these code entries and a new image is created.”

While these systems can create most anything described to them, the user doesn’t have any control over the specific aspects of the output image. “To realize AI’s potential to push creative expression forward,” Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg stated in Tuesday’s blog, “people should be able to shape and control the content a system generates.”

The company’s “exploratory AI research concept,” dubbed Make-A-Scene, does just that by incorporating user-created sketches to its text-based image generation, outputting a 2,048 x 2,048-pixel image. This combination allows the user to not just describe what they want in the image but also dictate the image’s overall composition as well. “It demonstrates how people can use both text and simple drawings to convey their vision with greater specificity, using a variety of elements, forms, arrangements, depth, compositions, and structures,” Zuckerberg said.

In testing, a panel of human evaluators overwhelmingly chose the text-and-sketch image over the text-only image as better aligned with the original sketch (99.54 percent of the time) and better aligned with the original text description 66 percent of the time. To further develop the technology, Meta has shared its Make-A-Scene demo with prominent AI artists including Sofia Crespo, Scott Eaton, Alexander Reben, and Refik Anadol, who will use the system and provide feedback. There’s no word on when the AI will be made available to the public.

Google makes it easier for your stuff to sync between Android phones and Chromebooks

Google is rolling out Chrome OS version 103, which includes features that will make it easier for users to share things between Chromebooks and Android devices. For one thing, as the company announced at CES, Phone Hub is getting an upgrade. From your Chromebook, you'll instantly be able to access the latest photos you took with your phone, even when you're offline.

When you take a picture with your phone, it will automatically show up in the Recent Photos section of Phone Hub (which allows you to control some of your mobile device's features from your laptop). You'll need to click on the image to download it, though it's a more elegant option than going to the Google Photos website or emailing yourself a photo.

Google

Also new is a way to get a Chromebook connected to the internet more quickly. If you're trying to link your laptop to a WiFi network that's already saved on your Android phone, you can use Nearby Share. Go to the WiFi network tab in the internet settings on your phone. After you select the Share option, you can tap the Nearby button and choose the Chromebook you want to get online. The Chromebook should then automatically gain access to the internet and save the login credentials.

In addition, Google revealed the Chrome OS Screencast app it announced earlier this month will start rolling out this week. You can use that to record, trim and transcribe video.

Later this summer, Chromebooks will gain fast pairing support for hundreds of Bluetooth headphone models including, of course, Pixel Buds. Fast Pair will save the headphones to your Google account, so both your Chromebook and Android phone can connect to them swiftly.

Google said it will roll out more features to make Chromebooks and Android devices play more nicely with each other later this year. The company is looking to take a page out of Apple's playbook with updates like these. Apple has long offered deep integration between its devices, including features such as WiFi password sharing and iCloud photo syncing, which helps it get people more invested in its ecosystem.

'Diablo Immortal' delayed indefinitely in China just before its planned release date

Diablo Immortal was supposed to debut in China on June 23rd, but those who have been waiting for the game in the country will need to wait longer. NetEase, which co-developed the game with Blizzard, has pushed back the release date indefinitely. It wrote in a blog post that "the development team is making a number of optimization adjustments."

However, there are other factors at play. NetEase found itself in the bad graces of China's censors over a post on its Weibo social media service that seemingly referenced Winnie the Pooh, according to the Financial Times. The cartoon character is used to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the wake of a screenshot of the post (which read "why hasn't the bear stepped down?") gaining traction, the official Diablo Immortal Weibo account was banned from posting anything. Discussions related to the post were also wiped from the service.

Currently, Diablo Immortal does not have a release date in China, though NetEase still expects to ship the game in the country. It promised players an "exclusive thank-you package containing legendary equipment" as a makegood for the delay.

The PC and mobile title debuted in other territories this month. According to reports, it raked in $24 million in two weeks as a result of its aggressive approach to monetization. China is the biggest gaming market on the planet and not being able to release Diablo Immortal there would likely have a severe impact on the game's expected revenues. NetEase declined to comment to the Financial Times. Engadget has contacted Blizzard for comment.

It's not the first time a game developer has run into issues with Chinese regulators over a Winnie the Pooh reference. Publisher Indievent lost its license to sell Devotion in China, leading it to cut ties with developer Red Candle Games, which included a blatant dig at Xi in the game itself. The studio, which is based in Taiwan, later started selling a DRM-free version of Devotion on its own storefront.

Telegram now offers a Premium subscription costing $5 per month

Telegram has launched its paid $5 per month Premium subscription tier first revealed last month, it announced in a detailed blog post. Some of the notable features include a larger maximum file upload size, faster downloads, more channels and unique new stickers. 

The current limit on file size uploads is 2GB, but Premium users can send files up to 4GB in size, handy for folks who send a lot of video or large ZIP files (all users can download those extra-large documents). Paid users will also be able to download media and files at their full network speeds, rather than seeing restricted speeds. 

The Premium plan also doubles limits, letting you follow up to 1,000 channels, create up to 20 chat folders with 200 chats each, add a fourth account to any Telegram app, pin 10 chats and save up to 10 favorite stickers. And users will get unique stickers with full-screen animations visible to all users, along with unique reactions.

Other features include voice-to-text transcriptions, chat management, longer bios, animated profile pictures, more characters for media captions, 400 favorite GIFs, up to 20 public t.me links, premium badges and app icons and an ad-free experience. 

Telegram also announced that it became one of the top give downloaded apps worldwide in 2022 and now has 700 million monthly active users. It also unveiled several new features for all users, including verification badges for public figures and organizations, join request for public groups, improved bots, improved chat previews on Android, improved external sharing on iOS and more. The update is rolling out gradually, so if you don't see it now, "the new version will become available soon," Telegram wrote. 

Steam games are coming to Nreal's augmented reality glasses

Nreal users can now play some Steam games on their augmented reality glasses. The Chinese company has released the beta version of "Steam on Nreal," which gives users a way to stream games from their PC to their AR eyewear. Nreal admits that installing the beta release will require a bit of effort during the setup process, and the current version is not optimized for all Steam games just yet. It will work on both Nreal Light and Nreal Air models, though, and it already supports some popular titles like the entire Halo series. 

To note, users can already play games on Nreal's glasses by accessing Xbox Cloud Gaming on a browser inside the company's 3D system called Nebula. But Steam on Nreal will give users who don't have Xbox accounts the opportunity to see what gaming on the device would be like. Company co-founder Peng Jin said the beta release is "meant to give people a glimpse into what is possible." He added: "AAA games should be played on a 200-inch HD screen and they should be played free of location restrictions."

Nreal launched its Light mixed reality glasses in 2020 after a US court ruled in its favor for the lawsuit filed by Magic Leap. The American company accused its former employee Chi Xu of using stolen secrets to set up Nreal, but the court decided that Magic Leap failed to make any viable claim. In 2021, Nreal launched a new model called Air that was designed with streaming shows and playing mobile games in mind. Air looks more like a pair of ordinary sunglasses than its predecessor does, and it also comes with a better display.

In an effort to offer more content and perhaps entice those on the fence to grab a pair of its glasses, Nreal has also announced AR Jam, an online international contest for AR developers that will kick off on June 27th. Developers can compete in various categories that include at-home fitness, art, games and video, with each one having a $10,000 grand prize. Those interested can head over to the company's Developer page for more information.