Posts tagged “google

Apple March 2018 Education Event Breakdown

On March 27, 2018, Apple let the world know that it aims to take on education.  There are numerous reasons as to why getting into education is a good thing when you’re a large technology conglomerate:

  • Device infiltration from an early age, thus creating Apple users for life
  • Competing in a new area

For some time, Google has been dominating the classrooms with the help of their Chromebook line.  These inexpensive, easy to configure and deploy laptops running only the Chrome browser (Chrome OS) are a mainstay in American schools because they are so affordable and Google services are free (we always pay — even for free services, more on that later).  While Apple has always wanted to be in the space, the company has yet to show how fully committed they are to providing tools that schools and administrators find useful or affordable.


Overview

The highlight of this event is an all new 9.7″ iPad, coming in a just a little over one pound, that supports Apple Pencil, which is a big deal and will likely cause increased adoption of this new iPad by those wanting to use Pencil.  The device starts out at $329 for consumers and $299 for students.  This updated tablet features an A10 Fusion SOC, which is the same as the iPhone 7 and should provide lasting performance for years to come.  In addition to the Apple Pencil, Apple partnered with Logitech to create the “Logitech Crayon”, which will be available for $49, which is half of the price of Apple Pencil at $99 ($89 for students).  Logitech also created a rugged case, featuring a keyboard for $99.  This lower cost iPad does not feature the set of pogo pins, which would allow the attachment of Apple’s keyboard cover used on iPad Pro models.

Child-drawing-on-new-2018-iPad-with-Apple-Pencil

In addition to the smaller hardware announcements came big changes on the software front in iWork featuring updates to Pages, Numbers and KeyNote — all featuring Apple Pencil support.  One feature to note is “Smart annotation” to bring markup to Pages, which has been available for some time in other competing apps such as Google Docs.  Teachers will now have the ability to create digital books in Pages, which could be shared with students.  A feature that we’ve long asked for, Shared iPad, will be available for students featuring an interface where the student taps their picture and they are thrust into an experience designed for them because it will have all of their apps and settings available, regardless of device.  All of the Apple IDs created for students will be done through Apple School Manager, which can create 1500 IDs in under one minute.  Remarkable.  In the future students will be able to get handouts and more from their teachers in the Schoolwork app and be further managed in the Classroom app for Mac, which will debut in June and all work done within these apps will not be accessible by Apple.


Issues

Apple has done a great job playing catch up; however, there are still lingering problems that I see in this approach.  While the 9.7″ iPad will only cost a school $299, there are Chromebooks that cost $150 — while Apple will never say outright that they are competing against Google, the truth is they are.  In addition to the fact that in order to gain a full experience you need a pencil and under certain circumstances, certainly as the children get older and the type of work changes, you need keyboard support.  See a sample cost breakdown:

  • Apple iPad 9.7″ $299, Logitech Crayon $49, Logitech Rugged Case $99, bringing the total to $450
  • Any budget Chromebook $150-200, consumer purchase, note that a school will pay less

So for the experience that Apple is displaying, it will cost over 50% more (in fact, Apple Pencil itself can cost up to 66% the price of a Chromebook) when the end goal is the same, putting technology in the classroom to shape our future generation.

chromebook-or-ipad-for-classroom-debate


Wrap-up

Apple has made headway into education now by fully marketing towards educators; however, I feel like they’ve still missed the mark because the deployment of one iPad alone without any other accessories still costs almost double the price of one Chromebook.  It would’ve been nice to see them hit a $200 or $250 pricepoint here and with services that never seem to fully pan out — I struggle to see this changing Google’s lock on education any time soon. The hard truth is that if Apple wanted to create a true low cost competitor in this market for schools, they could — but as this announcement has shown us, they simply have not.

Additionally, many fans wanted to see a new iPhone SE or MacBook Air — this was an education event, for those of you who wanted those devices they may or may not come at a later time.

You get a notch, you get a notch, everyone gets a notch!!

APPLE!! This is your fault. You’ve started a terrible trend in smartphones and you need to fix it because as of Mobile World Congress it has officially gotten out of control.


Background

iPhone X was released last year with the promise of a full screen experience, although it’s clearly a pipe dream because the screen is interrupted because of a notch that houses the device’s True Depth camera system. Many Apple apologists claim that this notch disappears, while it mostly does, it’s still unsightly and calling it a feature is just being tone-deaf to the market. No one asked for a display that wraps around a component of the device. We want larger screens, however — why should developers have to pay the cost of having a screen larger than the iPhone Plus devices with LESS usable screen real estate because of the rounded corners and ears to the left and right of the notch?

Needless to say, it’s not pretty, functional or winning any design awards from DexJohn’s PC. In the case of edge to edge screens, while maximizing screen size….Samsung with the Infinity Display did it right, not Apple.


Fast forward

In walks every Android OEM that loves to copy Apple without reason. Some even tout that the notch on their device is smaller! But once again, who asked for it?

No one.

Although the decision to make a notch on the display is ill-advised, Apple at least does it for a reason — facial recognition. Android device makers and Google have not yet “cracked the code” on this tech, so at this point you’re copying to copy and not introducing anything new or better than the original flawed and uninspired design from Apple.

All in all, it needs to stop. These screen notches are a problem for apps, developers and end users (whether they realize it or not) and they are just plain stupid looking.


Wrap-up

Stop it, please.

Logitech Harmony Hub Review!!

One central remote, sometimes it’s a dream we never obtain; however, with technology anything is possible and it’s always fun when you’re incorporating it into a smarthome setup.

Enter Logitech Harmony (model 915-000238).


Design

There are no questions to be asked about the “cool” factor, it’s on 100 and this device gives you and your household the ability to manipulate the devices that are paired with your Harmony Hub.  This little guy works with TVs, Roku, Cable, video game consoles and even Phillips Hue lights (sorry I am on the TP-Link wagon) making this a solid addition to your living you and one that disappears given it’s unassuming look.


Setup

Setting up your Harmony Hub is very easy, it can be done either by connecting it to your PC via USB or simply downloading the Harmony app, which is preferred since you’ll need it to build activities and more later.  Once you have the hub connected to your network and running, you connect your devices.  Harmony will automatically detect devices that are connected and suggest that you add them (eg. Roku, Android TV, Apple TV and others).

Fair warning, simply because setup is easy does not mean that your activities (programmable scenes) will necessarily work all of the time.  Logitech uses a Start/End Sequence builder of getting things done, which work with a wide range of electronics, the only issue that I encountered was being able to consistently turn off and on my TV, with that being said, I created a generic “Activate TV” activity that will always run so that Harmony will always be awaiting my commands.  Hopefully, this is a hack that you do not need and is likely due to the age of my set, nearing 8 years.

HH_StartEndSequenceBuild

Logitech Activity builder.

Additionally, when creating an Activity, Harmony utilizes the Start Sequence to turn on all of the devices required for completion of that activity; however, at the end, during the End Sequence it wants to turn those same devices off — which makes no sense when you are watching Netflix, then want to issue the command “Watch Youtube”, which in the background is using the same set of devices.


Usage

Once you have Harmony setup the way you want, with any hacks that were needed to accomplish this setup, you pretty much set free to control your living room via your smartphone or digital assistant such as Google Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa.  Personally, I have my Harmony Hub integrated with Assistant so that I can utilize it with Google Home.  Integrating the two is different that most Home Control devices, so to accomplish this say “Hey Google, as Harmony to link my account”, from there you will be presented with a card that will allow you to link the two.

From there if all goes perfect, perhaps you can get an experience like the below (my original video was flagged for the music I asked Google to play, it happens):

Source: Caroline Dunn, YouTube

See the below example of activities I have created for my Harmony Hub setup:

IMG_1552.jpg


Final Impressions

The Harmony Hub is very powerful, but it is not for everyone.  Sometimes things work and other times they don’t….. The sequences that you do build are very powerful to accomplish tasks; however, in order to get simple things done can appear arduous and cumbersome but once things are in place, it is nothing short of magical.

DexJohn’s PC Score: 3.5/5

Google Home Review for 2018

Ah, Google Home and the omnipresent Google Assistant……just works and whether you are looking to get into home automation with over 1500 devices available, wanting Google Assistant smarts or wanting quality sound — you can get it from one of the Google Home options.

Left to right: Google Home Mini, Google Home, Google Home Max

Key Review Points:

  • How easy is setup?
  • How many devices should I use?
  • Is Google Home good for home automation?
  • How is Google Home for the privacy junkie (like myself)?

Background

When you receive a Google Home for Christmas, then proceed to lose your mind buying “smart” everything, a review is the least that I could do.

Google Home is currently slotted against Amazon’s Echo and the upcoming Apple HomePod in the smarthome “smart speaker” wars, although Apple is touting it as “speaker first”, so we will see how smart it is.  Additionally, similar to the Echo, Google Home comes at multiple price-points with Google Home Mini ($49), Google Home ($129) and Google Home Max ($399) — enabling Google to meet the needs of many different consumers and their underlying budgets.

Google Home.

The key features of Google Home is that it gives you and other Google accounts that are linked access to all of your personal calendars, lists, music accounts and all of the smarts of Google itself through the phenomenal Google Assistant.  Yes, Assistant is better than Siri in every way Apple fans.


Setup

The first thing that you’ll need to do to get started on your Google Home journey is download the Google Home app, which serves as the primary landing spot of every Google home and entertainment product, including the Google Home, ChromeCast and ChromeCast Ultra.  Setup is simple, requiring you to connect the device to your home wifi network and your corresponding Google account.  (Note, the first account used will be the primary account on the device, with other accounts being referred to as “linked accounts” that can also operate on the device and receive personal information such as calendars, reminders and place phone calls.)

One thing of importance, is that if you’re wanting to take full advantage of Google Home by controlling wifi enabled devices throughout your home, customizing news and getting personalized results, you will additionally need to download and use the Google Assistant app.

So, now that your Google Home is all setup, likely in your living room, what happens when you go into the office?  What happens when you go into your kitchen…..  You know where I’m heading with this.

Enter Google Home Mini (or Max).  First, let me state that having one Google Home product is enough; however, Google Home Mini devices are very affordable and can be thrown just about anywhere to ensure that your Assistant is always at your side.  Additionally, for the audiophiles out there, Google Home Max is nothing short of a complete and utter monster, delivering superb audio quality and rivaling the sounds of Sonos.


Day to Day Usage

Get used to this phrase, “Hey Google” because it’ll be around for a while. Using the Google Home, irregardless of flavor (eg. Google Home, Mini or Max), is simple and straightforward and you’re always pleasantly surprised at things just working great. The microphones are incredibly receptive and can pick up your voice from varying distances away even while the speaker is actively playing something. At times there are hiccups or occasional network blips and that should be expected with any product. The hits are far more than the misses. So what will you ask it on a day to day basis? Some of my most used phrases are for:

  • Weather
  • Lights and home automation
  • Timers
  • Music

Additionally, Google has added support for voice calls, I’ve tested this with my Google Voice account and it works flawlessly.

What are you asking your Google Home?


Home Automation

As I noted above, there are literally 1500 devices that can work with Google Home and allow you to control them all with your voice.  The way that this is accomplished is that first (unlike with HomeKit enabled devices) you must download the app from the manufacturer, create any required accounts and setup the device there.  Afterwards, you link that third party account with your Google account inside of the Google Home app.  This is done by going into the hamburger menu and tapping “Home Control”, this will open the Google Assistant app (on iOS), press the “+” button and find your manufacturer there.  Login with your account (similar steps to adding and linking accounts in IFTTT) and those devices will appear in Home Control and be at your beck and call.

Google Home, Home control.


Privacy

Being a privacy nerd is tough while utilizing Google Home because in order to work properly, Google will need to know a bit of information about you, from your location to your search and web activity; although, there are ways to circumvent this, without exposing all of your data.  Google is not some evil company that just wants to know everything about you, the information you give it, is vital to the services and information that YOU get out of it, so when certain aspects of data collection are removed some services may or may not work properly.  With that being said, I do not believe in giving entities your real location, so I chose to not give Google Home/Assistant my real address and let it triangulate it by where my wifi router is.  Additionally, apps that use your location, depending on what they are, can be nefarious — so I’ve turned off all location services from Google.

I let Google keep 3 data points:

  • Web and search history
  • Youtube watch history
  • Youtube search history

Web are search is the only option that is crucial for Assistant to work properly, so in this case with the only queries I push to it being voice, I deem this as acceptable and manually delete things that I do not wish for it to have.  An additional way to remediate this data grant is simply to not use the Chrome browser.  I have proudly switched back to my once favorite web browser, Firefox.  This allows me to more consistently use my search engine of choice, Duck Duck Go and limit the data that I pass into Google. Lastly, just mute the darn thing!!! This is something I certainly do when I am not using it for an extended period of time or if talking about sensitive things.


Final Thoughts

Google Home is fun, exciting and ever growing.  Regardless if you’re part of the Google, Amazon or Apple ecosystem — if you have a Google account, this could be an excellent tool for you to use.  Additionally, barrier to entry is very low with the most economical option, Google Home Mini, starting off at only $49.  Buying one smart device will certainly lead you down the path of “home automation fever”, but it’s a fun one and one that hopefully makes your life a little bit easier.

Made by Google Event 2017

Google has done it again.  They got on stage, as only Google does, and have shown us an array and beautiful new products that will be available in a few weeks, Fall 2017.


Google opened the event with Sundar Pichai expressing sorrow for all of the recent events taking place in the world, from the hurricanes that have swept through coastal cities and islands to the act of terrorism in Las Vegas.  From there it was back to back product announcements that showed the prowess of Google’s machine learning and artificial intelligence skills, in addition to their growing maturity at “Made by Google” hardware.

Google Home

Users of the Google Home love it, from the ability to start playing songs from Google Play Music or Spotify, to playing a YouTube video directly on your ChromeCast enabled TV, Home does an amazing job at connecting you to your “things”.  Updates to Google Home and Google Assistant including the following:

  • Voice Match — Google Home will now identify all users of the device, simply by their voice.  This means that you and your partner’s contacts do not get mixed up when trying to place a call or calendars don’t get intermingled when asking about your day.
  • Integration into an array of new Nest products, while connected will allow the user to view the stream of an entrance to a home and more all from the power of their Voice.

Updates to the Assistant that’s built into Google Home surely mean a new device right?

Absolutely.

Enter Google Home Mini.  The Google Home, in a smaller package, all for $49 and housing the power of Google Assistant.  This could turn out to be a huge game-changer for Google in their quest to capture the living room.  (Especially since this device is included with purchase of another that was released later, read more below.)

Source: The Verge


Google Home Max

Ever wanted a speaker that really “thumped” with the power of Google Assistant baked in?  Meet Max, the newest member of the Google Home family.  Starting at $399, this is a powerful (20x more powerful than the standard Google Home) speaker that’s meant to take on Apple HomePod, Sonos and others.  The device features dual 4.5″ subwoofers for deep bass pulses, a sturdy housing, which means no creaks from the speakers, custom tweeters and acoustically transparent fabric.

Google Home Max listens to where it is in the room and adjusts the audio to just the right levels so that it’s output is perfect for any room.  Additionally, the microphone is extremely sensitive, so it allows for the user to interact with the device without the need for yelling and shouting.

HomeMax_23109-28810-Screen-Shot-2017-10-04-at-124601-PM-l

Google Home Max.

Starting at $399.


Google Pixelbook

Chromebooks, we’ve all heard of them.  How about the fact that now, every child in a classroom can have their own personal laptop — thank Google.  How about the fact that you now have a device that can be essentially virus free with a keyboard — thank Google.  Also, how about the fact that you are  one sign-in away from all of your content, bookmarks, movies and email — thank Google.

Source: The Verge

These are just a few things that make the Chromebook an excellent device, but Google had to make one too.  Say hello to the Pixelbook, the all aluminum, 10 hour battery, core i5 and i7 packing, glass trackpad wielding laptop from Google.  This device is nothing short of beautiful and of course, this is the first Chromebook experience where Google Assistant is baked in.  Additionally, many Android apps are coming out of beta and should run smoothly with powerful Intel chips behind them.  Google is really pushing Chrome OS hard here, especially with the latest feature of this device, which allows you to tether automatically if you have a Pixel phone nearby and wifi signal isn’t strong — Instant Tethering.  Throw in the Pixelbook Pen, which allows you to annotate, pull out content and more all with the lowest latency currently on the market.

Source: Made by Google

Starting at $999 for Intel Core i5 with 8 GB RAM.


Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL

Building off of the success of the original Google Pixel and Pixel XL, which featured arguably the best camera on an Android device and maybe on a smartphone (Don’t believe me? Look at some pictures for yourself!) Google gives us Pixel 2.  Below is a breakdown of specs:

Pixel2_Screenshot from 2017-10-04 19-48-31

Google Pixel 2 & Pixel 2 XL key specs.

This device looks to have packaged all of the good things of “Pure Android” into a device that just works for the end user adding no gimmicks, just a device that works well without the extra bloat of apps that are trying to replicate a standard Google experience.  Additionally, adding water resistance to this years’ model is huge, which is something I have vocally criticized numerous times due to the fact that Google charges a premium for a device; yet, can’t protect us from a splash….Really?

Similarly, Google has added Portrait Mode into the camera software, which will allow the user to capture photos with realistic (one shot they showed on stage was brutally awful) shallow depth of field.  Pixel 2 is able to achieve this without the need for a second lens due to how the camera captures pixels of the shot and of course some excellent AI.

Overall, the product looks to be a top-tier device that is in contention for Android device of the year.  As said in the below video, “We make it look easy!“.

Source: Made by Google

Starting at $649 for Pixel 2 and $849 for Pixel 2 XL.


Google Pixel Buds

Wireless ear buds with the intelligence of Google Assistant built right in, giving you the capability to translate on the fly.  Yep.  That’s pretty fancy and they are here, built by Google.

Source: Android Authority

While the earbuds are not single ear buds like Apple Airpods, they are tied together; however, the buds follow a similar design scheme that we’ve seen from other Made by Google products.  Since Google Assistant is on board, a quick swipe of the right bud will get you access and you’ll be able to jam out or chat with Google for an estimated 5 hours per day while the case can further charge the headphones.

Google-Pixel-Buds-crop-780x445

Google Pixel Buds (shown in case)

Starting at $159.


Google Clips

A small camera, designed for parents and pet owners alike — that’s built to capture those special moments, with privacy built in that only saves “clips” once you’ve confirmed and stored on the camera fully encrypted before it’s transferred.  Clips is a “smart” camera and recognizes expressions, the appropriate lighting and framing of it’s objects — all automatically when the camera recognizes something that you’d like to capture all while being in the background and non-invasive (no microphone and an indicator light that shows when it’s on).

As you see, this camera is focused on freeing the user from the device and has an emphasis on privacy, something of which people think Google takes for granted — read their privacy policy if you believe that.

Starting at $249.

Source: The Verge


TLDR

Google announced an impressive array of devices, which time will only tell if the company will continue taking hardware seriously — for now and the past couple of years it has by creating solid incremental updates to existing devices and pushing out thoughtful new ones.

Good job, Google.  Good job.