All posts in “Google”

Google’s parental control software Family Link now supports Chromebooks

Since its public debut in fall 2017, Google’s parental control software dubbed Family Link, has been steadily expanding, both in terms of its capabilities and its reach. Today, it’s making the jump beyond smartphones for the first time, with newly added support for Chromebook computers. As on Android devices, parents will now be able to manage their child’s use of a Chromebook – including by setting time limits, managing the apps that can be downloaded, setting content filters, and more.

As a Family Link household ourselves, I’ve found I prefer managing my child’s device from a single, dedicated app, rather than having to dig around in the iPhone’s settings – as I did when my daughter used to tote an iPod. (Parental controls moved to “Screen Time” on iOS 12, by the way, in case you’re wondering where the “Restrictions” section went).

With Family Link, you can configure nearly every aspect of device usage, including content restrictions on apps, movies, TV, and other media. Helpfully, you can enable settings across the Google ecosystem, as well. For example, you can turn on Google’s SafeSearch, enable a mature content filter in Chrome (or even limit Chrome to select websites), disable the child’s access to third-party apps on Google Assistant, and more.

You can also track your child’s location, locate or ring a lost device (you’ll do this often), and monitor and manage screen time and device bedtime schedules.

Now parents can configure these sorts of settings on a Chromebook, too. (However, only select Chromebooks support Google Play apps.)

The expansion makes Chromebooks a more compelling option for families. Already, there are a number of affordable Chromebooks that will work well for the child’s first computer, but Family Link can also work on a shared device, Google says.

That is, the software can manage the child’s account when they’re logged in. Parents can also manage the child’s Google account from Family Link and remotely lock a supervised account, if need be.

The support for Family Link on Chromebooks follows the shutdown of Chrome’s parental controls earlier this year. At the time, we suspected that the features would make their way over to Family Link in the months ahead.

You can now give your Google Assistant a British or Australian accent

Now your Google Assistant can say "g'day."
Now your Google Assistant can say “g’day.”

Image: mashable/lili sams

Now you can get your Google Assistant device to say “g’day.”

The voice assistant features two new voices for English speakers in the U.S., with the introduction of being able to choose an Australian or British accent.

You can access these accent in your Google Assistant settings, by selecting “Assistant Voice” in the menu. 

From there, select either “Sydney Harbour Blue” for the Australian voice, or “British Racing Green” for the British iteration.

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In case you didn’t notice, these are the same accents which have been available on Google Assistant in the Australian and UK markets. 

However, to use these voices you would’ve had to change your Assistant’s language setting, which would have affected how well your own accent may have been recognised. 

With the update, there’s a separate language setting for speaking to your Assistant, and one for how it sounds. 

It’s a way to add a bit of character and fun to your Google Assistant, harking back to the days you could put all sorts of weird voices (like Cartman from South Park, or John Cleese) on your GPS.

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Amazon is officially stocking Google Chromecasts yet again

There’s been a break in the multi-year feud between Google and Amazon, apparently, as Amazon is now – once again – selling Google Chromecast devices on its site. The devices were banned from Amazon back in 2015, when the retailer then decided that only devices supporting Prime Video would be allowed. A year ago, it said it was assorting Chromecast but that didn’t hold up. Instead, the two companies entered into another feud – this time, over Amazon’s implementation of a YouTube player on its Echo Show.

But now, things seem to be cooling down again.

As first spotted by Android Police, Chomecasts are back for sale on Amazon.com.

Specifically, the $35 third-generation Chromecast and the $69 Chromecast Ultra are available, the report found.

Amazon declined to offer a public statement on the matter, but TechCrunch has confirmed that the Amazon assortment officially includes these two devices – that is, their listings are not a fluke or a mistake.

Of course this leaves some Chromecast users hopeful that Google has chosen to support Prime Video – especially since that’s the reason why Amazon finally allowed the Apple TV back on its site last year, after those two companies buried their own hatchet. That’s not the case as of today, however.

It’s a shame that Amazon and Google haven’t been able to play nice, as its consumers who suffer as a result.

Not only was it impossible for Amazon shoppers to find one of the most popular streamers on the market, Chromecast’s lack of Prime Video means that Fire TV also lacks Google’s YouTube TV. Access to these streaming services are a major selling point for media players, and likely a key reason why the more agnostic platform Roku has fared so well.

The best tech of 2018

People often forget the iPhone was not a runaway success. Neither was the iPod. And neither was the MacBook.

It wasn’t until a couple of years of iterations that all of those devices evolved into the class-leading products they are today.

So it was perhaps unfair for people to declare the Apple Watch a failure when it launched in 2015. Sure, Apple was really slow out of the gate in defining what the smartwatch’s real purpose was.

But with each new model, the Apple Watch has become more focused and more purposeful. It’s still a tiny smartphone on your wrist — more than ever now that some models offer built-in LTE connectivity — but new versions of watchOS have made it clear Apple sees the device as a health companion of sorts.

Apple Watch Series 4 builds on the top-notch fitness-tracking and heart-monitoring features found on Series 3 and earlier with even more advanced health-monitoring functions.

New features like the ECG app, irregular heart rhythm notifications, and fall detection challenge the Apple Watch’s utility as a wrist-worn computer and steer it closer towards being a powerful medical device.

Apple Watch Series 4 is by no means a replacement for a doctor. Rather, it’s a companion that encourages you to be more conscious of your health. Its small-but-powerful sensors are there to quantify what’s happening with your heart and body so you can take action (if needed) sooner rather than later.

There are tons of imitation Apple Watches and companies like Fitbit and Samsung are trying all kinds of ways to make their smartwatches different, but none of them come close to the kind of health-monitoring capabilities the Apple Watch Series 4 offers.

The Apple Watch has matured a great deal over the last three years, and on Series 4, Apple seems to finally understand what its essence is. Series 4 is a huge step forward for the smartwatch and further widens its lead.

Price: Starting at $399 (40mm) and $429 (44mm)

At the Google hearing, Congress proves they still have no idea how the internet works

Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies during Tuesday's House Judiciary Committee hearing.
Google CEO Sundar Pichai testifies during Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing.

Image: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Google CEO Sundar Pichai’s long-awaited Congressional hearing took place on Tuesday.

Pichai testified before Congress on Google+ data breaches, the controversial Chinese-censorship friendly search product, and perceived anti-conservative bias. But, there was one more pressing concern that took center stage to those watching the hearing: Several members of Congress, at least on the House Judiciary Committee, have no idea what they’re talking about when it comes to technology.

The main topic of the hearing — anti-conservative bias within Google’s search engine — really puts how little Congress understands into perspective. Early on in the hearing, Rep. Lamar Smith claimed as fact that 96 percent of Google search results come from liberal sources. Besides being proven false with a simple search of your own, Google’s search algorithm bases search rankings on attributes such as backlinks and domain authority. Partisanship of the news outlet does not come into play. Smith asserted that he believe the results are being manipulated, regardless of being told otherwise.

Rep. Steve Chabot brought us one of the most unfortunate self-owns of the hearing while discussing Google search and anti-conservative bias. Bringing up his own personal experience, Chabot questioned Pichai on why Google returned so much negative criticism on Republicans’ bill to repeal and replace Obamacare last year. Unaware of the implication that so many outlets reported on the bill in this way simply because, maybe, it was just bad, Chabot went on to bring up a similar experience with the GOP tax plan.

When Iowa Rep. Steve King demanded to know why a nasty image of the Congressman would appear on his granddaughter’s phone while she was playing a game, Pichai had to point out that Google doesn’t make the iPhone. King’s response? It could have been an Android!

But, not to be outdone by his peers, the most cringeworthy moment of the entire hearing has to go to Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert. The Republican Congressman was upset with the fact that Google shows Wikipedia in its search results. Gohmert proceeded to throw himself under the bus in a bizarre moment where he blamed the free online encyclopedia for removing edits his staff makes to his own Wikipedia page. Remember that this is being said at a hearing on political bias on the internet!

It should be no surprise that a majority of our elected officials aren’t the most tech-savvy. But, while one can argue that platforms like Facebook and Twitter are only around a decade old, Google search has been a part of our internet lives for over 20 years.

There are certainly many concerns and critiques to be had over algorithms and data collection when it comes to Google and its products like Google Search and Google Ads. Sadly, not much time was spent on this substance at Tuesday’s hearing. Google-owned YouTube, the second most trafficked website in the world after Google, was barely addressed at the hearing tool. 

Perhaps these important topics will be better addressed at Pichai’s next Congressional hearing. Members of the incoming freshman class of Congress next year are younger and, seemingly, more tech savvy. Maybe they can even invite YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki to that hearing too.

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