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Google's new Pixelbook ad is a hard jab at Windows

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Windows is the most popular operating system in the world and Google will naturally target it, in an attempt to win new customers for its upmarket Pixelbook offering.

Statistic: Global market share held by operating systems for desktop PCs, from January 2013 to January 2019 | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

January 2019, according to Statistica:

  • Windows market share 75.47%

  • MacOS market share 12.33%

  • Linux market share 1.61%

  • ChromeOS market share 1.17%

Google released a one-minute promo video entitles “If you want a laptop you can count on. You Chromebook. “ .

Truth be told the latest version of Windows 10 has been incredibly stable but this ad will be fun to watch for any Windows user annoyed with constant forced patches, badly designed progress bars and the infamous Blue Screen of Death.

This is an exaggeration of issues users experience but does highlight the main reason why many security professionals have moved to Chromebooks. Patching is almost seamless, the device is normally very stable (except v 72.x has introduced some bugs Google does need to fix) and security is on by default.

Current belief is that on a Chromebook, you have no regular maintenance, no need for an antivirus, no big bang updates that take 30-45 minutes to complete, etc.

Let’s just say Google got even with Microsoft for running the Scrooggled campaign years ago.

Snapchat usage grows among teens

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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Pew Research publishes interesting surveys, and they recently shared results about what teens use most. Contrary to public opinion, Snapchat is still king with teens, followed by Youtube. Facebook usage amongst teens is down 71% compared to the 2014-2015 Pew report. 

  • 45% of teens admitted to being online "almost constantly."
  • 24% of teens admitted to being online "several times a day."

Girls are more likely to be "almost constantly" online (50%) compared to boys (39%). 

Provided by Pew Research

Provided by Pew Research

Instagram is still going strong and 72% of teens now use it (up from 52% in 2015). 70% of teens use Snapchat (up from 41% in 2015). 

Most platforms have an equal amount of creation and consumption except Youtube, where the most significant proportion is consumption. 

You will notice that Snapchat and Instagram have higher usage than Facebook. Interestingly you will note:

  • Instagram/Snapchat are designed to post pictures, whereas Facebook supports photos but videos, links, text updates, etc.
  • Instagram/Snapchat are designed to be used on a smartphone, whereas Facebook is multiplatform. This is confirmed when the stats show that 95% of teens have or have access to a smartphone (88% of teens have access to a computer at home).

31% of teens believe social media has a positive impact on their lives while 24% think it has a negative one. 45% believe it has a neutral effect on their lives. 

Run a speed test from Google Search

GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
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There are dozens of sites and services that promise to test your internet speed. The most popular are:

Now you can also add Google to the list.

1 - Go to the Google Search Page (on a PC or Android device)

2 - Enter Speed Test

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3 - Choose the Run Speed Test option and ignore the search results

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4 - Wait until Google delivers your speed test results

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Android Smartphones - This tool also works on Android devices. Just search for Speed Test on the Google search bar on your launcher and it will perform the same test and return results with a similar look & feel.

Some public WIFI hotspots seem to block it while allowing other services to run. Not sure why.

Does it work in other languages?

 I tried the search on the Google Canada French site using both "Speed Test" and "test de vitesse" and I was not given the speed test web applet. Looks like this may be reserved for english language searches only for now.

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Conclusion

Nothing special or different here but this could be one more feature in your cap. I do like the fact that Google interprets the results and explains (in plain English) what kind of video streaming performance you should be able to expect from your connection. 

    Best 360 degree camera for consumers

    GeneralEdward KiledjianComment
    Nokia Ozo. Photo courtesy of Nokia.

    Nokia Ozo. Photo courtesy of Nokia.

    360 degree videos are the new THING because they capture more of the experience you are trying to share. Facebook, Youtube & Twitter all support this new more immersive medium. So the question is "What's the best 360 degree consumer video camera available?" Good question considering your local BestBuy has over a dozen in store and on display.

    Having tested about a dozen of them, the best one is still the Ricoh Theta S. 

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    Ricoh

    Theta S

    Why the Theta S? First it is easy to use. You press that big button and it starts to record. It has built in WIFI that allows you to review the captured content or control the camera with your smartphone. Last but not least, it captures good quality video.

    Video is good but not great

    When buying one of these devices, it is important to understand that you will get good video but it won't be an ultra sharp crystal clear 4K video (like one coming from a mid priced DSLR). The video quality will be good and acceptable but the manufacturers chose not to go super high quality because the stitching would require too much horsepower. 

    Some technical specs

    So what kind of sensor does this little device have? It has 2 12 megapixel sensors and  ultrawide 240 degree lenses. The camera then processes these two inputs and automatically created one 14 megapixel video (at 1080p) that automatically hides the camera. 

    Pair this 360 degree video with some kind of VR headset (even a cheap Google Cardboard) and you get wonderfully imersive video that feels like you are in the moment. You can move around and see everything. This means you (as the photographer) have to consider this immersive experience when taking the video. Be cognizant of how you are holding the camera. 

    Let's talk quality of video

    So the Ricoh Theta S produces some very good video with good color reproduction (even is low light situations). Using the smartphone app, you can tune basic settings like exposure compensation, shutter speed, ISO and go fully manual (which I don't recommend).

    Video clips can be up to 25 minutes long. Let's be honest, you videos shouldn't be longer than this anyway.

    Let's talk device in hand

    The Ricoh Theta S is a slim device which means it is easy to hold even for people with smallish hands. It is thin and long and a bit thick (which makes holding the device easy and comfortable).

    It has a nice easy to hold onto plastic surface that has good grip. It has a standard tripod mount on the bottom which means you can easily mount this to any tripod (including a flexible Joby Griptight).

    The device is easy to use and allows you to quickly switch from 360 degree videos to 360 degree pictures and back. All without having to fiddle with finicky menus or having to use the smartphone app. You can turn WIFI on or OFF (WIFI sucks battery so turn it off when not needed).

    Let's talk battery life

    Richoh doesn't provide good information about battery life. Assuming you are using the device for videos and have WIFI tuned off, you can expect about 1 hour of use time on a single charge. The device does not have a removable battery so you'll have to charge it with a portable battery when in the field. 

    It's a 360 degree video

    The output from the device is either a JPG or MP4 file with metadata identifying it as a 360 degree video. You can upload this to Youtube, Facebook, Twitter or Flickr and it will identify the file appropriately and then perform all of the required processing in the background to make it immersive and navigable.

    Each 1 minute of video consumes about 100MB of storage and if you transfer it via WIFI to your phone will take 3-5 minutes. During this time you have to leave the app open and therefore won't be able to do anything on your device (or you can transfer it via USB if you have a laptop).

    The free Theta+ or Theta+ video apps let you edit videos and even create non 360 degree cropped output files. They are fairly basic but allow you to add text, music or trim the video length.

    When possible, use a tripod (even a mini one) to hold the camera otherwise you are likely to see fingers in the shot as you press the recording button. Or use the smartphone app to start/stop recording.

    It can live stream

    The Ricoh Theta S can also live stream when connected to a desktop with the special Theta software loaded on it (Mac and Windows). To enable live streaming you "Press the shooting mode button and power button of the camera together". 

    You can live stream your 360 degree masterpiece to Youtube or Facebook. You may want to add the free OBS Studio app to the streaming mix.

    Important considerations

    • First is the price. At roughly $350US it isn't a cheap product and it can't be your main or only recording device. 
    • It doesn't shoot in 4K. Considering most people will be viewing this content on VR visors, smartphones or in web browsers, this should be a major problem but it is important to remember.
    • The built in 8GB of storage (no SD Card support) is annoying. It's major competitors (Nikon Keymission 360, Samsung Gear 360 and Insta360 all accept nano SD cards).
    • Without a removable SD card, you also can't just "pop out" the card and transfer data at super fast speeds using a USB card reader.
    • If you edit the 360 pictures, some editors will strip the 360 degree marker from the metadata and the uploaded sites won't know that it requires special handling. You can add this back but its a pain.

    Conclusion

    If you want to buy an affordable, easy to use 360 degree video camera, the Ricoh Theta S is the one to buy today. It offers the right combination of quality, price and features. With everything said and done, it is still early days and the experience still isn't perfect.

    I wouldn't recommend my parents go out and buy this. Not yet. Not right now. If you have a desire for 360 degree video then go out and get one. You won't be disappointed as long as you remember it's not a mass market product yet.

    For John and Jane Doe, the technology still needs to mature and improve a bit.

     

     

     

    Google Play Music gives you YouTube MusicKey for free

    technologyEdward KiledjianComment

    We've been hearing rumours about a Youtube music subscription and 2 weeks ago, we found out it would be called Youtube MusicKey. Ee knew that Google Play Music subscribers would be given access to the MusicKey service but we didn't know when. Now we see this tweet:

    Just one more shot at competitors. This is another feather that differentiates Google's hat and may be the drop that pushes some customers from Spotify to Google Play Music All Access (or Youtube MusicKey).