An unofficial blog that watches Google's attempts to move your operating system online since 2005. Not affiliated with Google.

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January 23, 2015

YouTube Music Key for Desktop: Ad-Free Music Videos

YouTube Music Key is not just for YouTube's mobile apps. One of its feature is also available if you use YouTube's desktop site: ad-free music videos. You'll notice the "ad-free" label next to the video title. Mouse over the label and you'll see this message: "Your YouTube Music Key subscription lets you play this video without ads."



"Subscribe to YouTube Music Key and you'll be able to listen to music without seeing or hearing ads. Ads won’t be shown before or during eligible music videos you watch on youtube.com, and music videos and playlists will play continuously on your mobile device, without interruption. You will still see ads on other YouTube videos, however. The Ad-free badge tells you that a video will be ad-free," informs YouTube.

YouTube Tests Rounded Channel Icons

YouTube experiments with a slightly different interface that uses rounded icons for channels and moves the title and buttons like "add to" and "share" to the right.

Here's an image that shows both the experimental interface and YouTube's regular UI:


YouTube's mobile apps already use rounded icons, just like Google+ and Google's navigation bar. "If your Channel is merged with a Google+ profile or page, then your YouTube Channel Icon and your Google+ Profile Image are synched," informs YouTube's help center.

January 21, 2015

YouTube Music Key Restrictions

An important downside of YouTube Music Key is that YouTube treats music videos just like Google Play Music songs. You can't play music videos on 2 different Android/iOS mobile devices when using the YouTube app and the same Google account.

Let's say I play a YouTube music video on an iPad and then try to play another music video on a Nexus 5. YouTube shows this message: "Playback paused because your account is being used in another location". That means I can't play YouTube music videos on multiple mobile devices at the same time. This is strange, especially when you realize that YouTube Music Key is only available in the Android app.


If I sign out, I can play music videos, but YouTube Music Key features are disabled (background playing, offline caching, no more ads). I can also play music videos in Chrome or other mobile browsers, where YouTube Music Key features aren't available.

Google Play Music has a similar limitation: "If you play music on multiple devices at the same time using the same account, playback will be paused so you can choose which device you'd like to use. To help ensure uninterrupted playback, make sure you're listening to music using one device or computer at a time."

Maybe it would be a better idea to enable Music Key on a single device at a time and disable its features when using other devices. This way, you could still use the YouTube app and play music videos just like any other videos.

January 14, 2015

Updated Google Drive App for Desktop

Google updated the Drive app for Windows and Mac. The latest version (1.19.8268.4572) brings new features: the Drive menu shows the latest synced files, there's a new three-dot contextual menu that shows the previous items from the standard menu and you can limit bandwidth for both downloads and uploads from the settings. It's interesting to notice that all these features have already been available in the Dropbox app.




{ Thanks, Eston Melton. }

Word Lens in Mobile Google Translate

Google Translate's mobile apps are about to get a major upgrade. The latest version of the Google Translate app for iOS and Android adds support for instant translation with Word Lens and improves the conversation mode. The iOS app also adds support for conversation mode and camera translation, which were already available in the Android app.

"While using the Translate app, just point your camera at a sign or text and you'll see the translated text overlaid on your screen - even if you don't have an Internet or data connection. This instant translation currently works for translation from English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish, and we're working to expand to more languages," informs Google. There's already camera translation, which works in 36 languages, but the new Word Lens is smarter and easier to use. Google bought Word Lens last year and this is the first tangible result of the acquisition.


Conversation Mode is smarter too: the app will now recognize the languages automatically, so you don't have to tap the microphone button. "Starting today, simply tap the mic to start speaking in a selected language, then tap the mic again, and the Google Translate app will automatically recognize which of the two languages are being spoken, letting you have a more fluid conversation. For the rest of the conversation, you won't need to tap the mic again - it'll be ready as you need it," explains Google.



The new version of the Google Translate app for Android and iOS is rolling out over the next few days.

Chrome Rolls Out Updated Account Switcher

A few readers noticed that Chrome's stable version started to enable the account switcher added back in August to Chrome Beta.

"Get started by clicking on 'You' in the upper right corner of your Chrome window and then clicking 'Sign in to Chrome.' You'll be able to switch devices and pick up where you left off with all of your tabs, bookmarks, and history automatically kept in sync. If you share a computer, click 'Switch person' to add your profile and get your own bookmarks, apps, and theme. Switching lets you keep your stuff separate," explained Google.



There's also support for guest mode. "With the new 'Guest mode,' you can let others use Chrome without letting them see your stuff. And after they've closed out their tabs, their browsing information is deleted from your computer as well." That's the main difference between incognito and guest mode: guest mode is treated as a separate profile that doesn't have access to the data from your main profile.


You can also enable these features in chrome://flags:

1. copy this text in the address bar and press Enter:
chrome://flags/#enable-new-avatar-menu

2. select "Enable" in the dropdown below "Enable the new avatar menu"

3. (optional) select "Enable" next to "Enable fast user switching in the avatar menu" to quickly switch between profiles

4. click "Relaunch now" at the bottom of the page to restart the browser.

Pick "Disable" instead of "Enable" to turn off the new avatar menu.


With features like guest mode and account switcher, Chrome looks more and more like an operating system. After all, these features were borrowed from Chrome OS.

{ Thanks, Konstantin Yakovlev, Fede and Karol Kobos. ]

Google's Web & App Activity

Google's Account History page has been updated and includes a few new features. The last time I checked this page, Google allowed you to pause or disable search history, location history and YouTube's search and watch history.

The search history card is now called Web & App Activity and deals with searches and browsing activity. In addition to the Google Search history, there's also an option to "include history from Chrome and other apps in your Web & App Activity." If this feature is enabled, Google saves information like your Chrome browsing history, the apps you use and the data they share with Google. "This lets you see things like sites or content that you've looked at in other apps in your Google search results," explains Google.


When you uncheck "include history from Chrome and other apps in your Web & App Activity", Google shows this warning: "Pausing this setting may result in fewer content suggestions in products like Google Now or Google+, and some autocomplete suggestions in Search will not appear. Remember, you can search or browse in incognito mode whenever you want to be more anonymous."


There's a page for Web & App Activity history: https://history.google.com/history/app and it shows the mobile apps you've used on your Android devices. You can remove this information.


Google added 2 new cards for Voice & Audio Activity and Device Information.


"Voice & Audio Activity helps recognize your voice and improve speech recognition by storing your voice and audio inputs to your account (for example, when you say 'Ok Google' to do a voice search)." This feature is automatically turned on by the mobile Google Search app when you enable the always-on OK Google hotword. You can see the audio history here: https://history.google.com/history/audio.

When you pause audio activity, Google shows this message: "Pausing Voice & Audio Activity may limit or disable features such as using 'Ok Google' to start a voice search and reduce the accuracy of speech recognition across Google products that use your voice. Note that this setting does not affect storage of information by Google products (like Voice) that can be used to store your audio or voice inputs. Google may also continue to collect and store audio data in an anonymized way."


There's also a section for device information, which "stores your contacts, calendars, apps, and other device data to improve your experience across Google". You can find the device history here: https://history.google.com/history/device, but it's not very useful. Google shows status messages like: "System state saved", "Contacts saved", "List of installed apps saved".


Click the Pause button and you should see this warning: "Pausing Device Information means you will receive fewer reminders about upcoming events, and features like speech recognition (especially of names in your contact list) may be less reliable. Note that this setting doesn't affect the storage of information by certain other Google products (like Calendar, Contacts, or Play)."


Some of these features were already available, but it's now easier to disable them from Google's account settings.

January 13, 2015

Google Domains No Longer Requires Invitation

Google Domains is now available to everyone in the US. Until now, Google's service required an invitation.


Google added a lot of new features:

* 60 new domain name endings like .company, .florist and .coffee

* a simple dashboard to manage your domain, website and email settings

* Blogger integration

* better integration with website builders

* better search suggestions

* dynamic DNS: "setup your domain and keep it pointing to the same computer even when the IP address changes".

"We're excited to share the open beta with you today and still welcome your input, questions and feedback", says Google.


Find Maps in Google Drive

Now that custom Google Maps are available in Google Drive, you may wonder how to find them. "My maps" is not included in the list of file types from the advanced search, but you can use the "opens with" feature that was added in the new Google Drive interface. Just click the arrow from the search box, select "Google My Maps" from the "opens with" list and click the search button. Google Drive will display all the maps you've created in Google My Maps. Another option is to search for app:"google my maps".


You can add some keywords to the query to find a map.

Disable Google Package Tracking

Google uses the notification messages you receive in Gmail to display useful information in Google Now, Google Search and other Google services. For example, Google shows details about your purchases, reservations, flights and more.

Google Dashboard has a new section for package tracking. If you scroll down to the package tracking section, you'll probably see this information: "Package tracking data is accessible (e.g. in Google Now and Google Wallet)." Expand the section and you'll see a button that lets you opt out: "By clicking the button you will opt out of Package Tracking in various Google applications and data will be removed. You can opt in again via Google Wallet or Google Now."


I'm not sure why package tracking is singled out and Google doesn't let you disable from Google Dashboard the other features that use data from Gmail.