24 April 2015

Android Action Cards in Google Search

Google has a few search cards that let you send some information to an Android phone from your desktop computer. In addition to finding your device, you can send directions, send notes, set alarms and reminders.

Search for [send directions], set a destination and click "Send directions to your phone". In a few seconds, you'll get a notification on your phone. Tap the notification to navigate to your destination using Google Maps on your mobile phone.

When you search for [note to self], you can enter some text and you'll get a similar notification on your mobile device.

Another action card lets you set an alarm on your phone. Just search for [set an alarm] and enter the right time for your alarm.

"You can connect your Android phone to Google, which lets you send information from your computer to your phone," informs a help center article. To use this feature, you need the latest version of the Google app for Android, Google Now cards and notifications need to be enabled, Web & App Activity has to be enabled in Google Account History. Another requirement is to log in to your Google account.

Google+ Notifications for YouTube Uploads

Ondřej Pokorný, a reader of this blog, noticed a Google+ notification about a video uploaded to one of his YouTube subscribed channels: It's Okay To Be Smart. It's a YouTube notification and it even has a special icon.

I don't remember seeing notifications like this. Google+ shows notifications when your own YouTube videos receive comments and you can disable this in the settings.

Danny Fratella, Top Contributor for the YouTube Help Center, explains that "the notifications that subscribers get in their Google+ Notifications are based on their previous engagement with your videos and your channel. If YouTube's algorithms notice that they're watching a lot of your content, they're more likely to receive notifications when you upload new videos. There isn't anything you can do to force this notification upon your subscribers."

{ Thanks, Ondřej. ]

YouTube Tests Borderless Search Box

YouTube tests a new search box. There are a few changes: YouTube no longer uses a search button, a small icon is placed next to the search box, there's a "Search YouTube" message inside the search box until you type a query and the search box doesn't have a border.

Here's the regular YouTube interface:

{ Thanks, Matthew Bohr. }

Find 360-Degree YouTube Videos

Now you can quickly find 360-degree YouTube videos. Open YouTube's desktop site or YouTube's Android app, type a query, click the Filters button and select 360° from the Features section.

For now, 360-degree spherical videos are only fully supported in Chrome for desktop and the YouTube app for Android.

22 April 2015

Google+ Celebrates Earth Day

Mr. Jingles, the Google+ mascot, has a special look for Earth Day. Just clear all Google+ notifications and you'll see the new Mr. Jingles, which looks like a terrestrial globe. Click the happy face to see the animation.

Here's a bigger version of the animation:

Export Custom Maps, Helpouts and More

Google Takeout added support for some new services: Google Moderator, Google Groups, My Maps and Google Helpouts.

Google Helpouts has already been discontinued, while Google Moderator is shutting down on June 30. "Unfortunately, Google Moderator has not had the usage we had hoped, so we've made the difficult decision to close down the product," informed Google.

Google Groups and My Maps are still available, but Takeout lets you export your group members and custom maps.

Google's Earth Day Quiz

Google has an unexpected doodle for Earth Day. It's an animated doodle that sends you to a search results page for [earth day quiz].

Google tries to answer the question: "which animal are you?". You are asked 5 questions like "What are you up to on a typical Friday night?" and you can pick between 4 funny options like "alone in my burrow", "rarely seen out", "strutting my stuff" and "following the herd".

Depending on your answers, the results is a honey bee, giant squid, komodo dragon, pangolin, cuttlefish, mantis shrimp, honey badger, woolly mammoth, red-capped manakin, sea otter, whooping crane or another animal.

"Earth Day is a great time to search for information on how to celebrate and protect our planet – and it’s now a great time to find out something about yourself too. In a doodle first, clicking on this year's Earth Day logo (or searching for 'Earth Day quiz') presents one of the Internet's favorite pastimes: a goofy quiz. Take the time to answer a few questions and you too can determine, share, and learn more about which animal most closely represents your personality. The quiz works on just about any up-to-date browsers on your mobile or desktop browsers, including the Android and iOS Google Apps. (We assure you it's all 100% accurate and scientific)," explains Google.

21 April 2015

Old YouTube Apps Will Stop Working

Yesterday YouTube retired the old version of its main API (Data API v2). Data API v3 was launched in 2012, bringing some new features like comment management, editing channel sections and retrieving user ratings. The old version was deprecated last year and developers were encouraged to migrate to the new API.

YouTube will start to show this warning video and next month "v2 API calls except for comments and captions will receive 410 Gone HTTP responses".

Unfortunately, there are still devices that won't be updated, so many people will no longer be able to use the built-in YouTube apps from iOS devices that run iOS 6 or earlier (iPhone 1st generation, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPad 1st generation), Apple TV (1st and 2nd generation), Google TV 2 or earlier, old Smart TVs and game consoles. Devices affected were "manufactured in 2012 and earlier, including Sony TVs & Blu-ray Discs, Panasonic TVs & Blu-ray Discs, older iOS devices, and devices running older versions of Google TV."

Mobile devices and smart TVs have browsers, so users can still watch videos at m.youtube.com or youtube.com. For Apple TV 2, you can still watch YouTube videos using AirPlay.

Protect your Google Accounts with a USB Security Key

Most big-name web services like Gmail, Microsoft, Evernote, WordPress and Dropbox now support 2-step authentication to improve the security of your online accounts. Once you enable two-factor authentication, a malicious person will not be able to log into your online account even if they know the password – they’ll need access to your mobile phone as well to get in.

The verification codes required for logging into a 2-step enabled account can be generated either using a mobile app – like Authy or Google Authenticator – or you can have them sent to your mobile phone via a text message or a voice call. The latter option however will not work if the mobile phone associated with your account is outside the coverage area (like when you are in a foreign country).

There’s another option that makes the process of logging into a 2-factor enabled account Google less cumbersome. Instead of generating the verification codes on a mobile phone,  you can use a hardware based authenticator that can be inserted into a USB port on your computer and you’ll be signed-in automatically without having to hand-type the digits. 

The option works for both Google and Google Apps accounts and you don’t even need the mobile phone – watch video demo.

Google 2-factor Authentication Simplified

I am using the least-expensive Yubico key though there are more options to choose from. The first stop is to associate the USB security key with your Google Account. Go to myaccount.google.com, click on 2-step verification and then switch to the Security Keys tab. Here click the Register Device button and then insert the USB key into the computer to attach it to your account.

Once registered, you can use your USB security key to log into your Google Account from any other desktop or laptop computer without requiring the mobile phone. Simply open the Google login page, type in your username & password, click the Sign-in button and then insert the USB key. The lights will blink on the device, you need to tap it once and it will instantly log you into the account.

The USB security keys require no software and they are compatible with Windows, Mac, Chrome OS and Linux computers. They need no batteries, they are tiny like a regular USB thumb drive but also rigid. You can also associate multiple Google Accounts with the same USB key which can be a huge timesaver for some users.

USB Security Keys make 2-factor authentication painless but you can only use them inside Google Chrome on desktop and laptop computers. You’ll still have to rely on SMS messages, or the authenticator app, for logging into Google on your mobile phones or in browsers like Firefox and Opera (download video).

USB Security Key for Google Accounts

The story, Protect your Google Accounts with a USB Security Key, was originally published at Digital Inspiration by Amit Agarwal on 21/04/2015 under Google, Security, Internet.

19 April 2015

Google Web History Removes Filters

Google Web History used to have a sidebar that allowed you to restrict search history to Google Images searches, Google Videos searches, Google AdWords clicks and also to results from Google Maps, Google Shopping, Google Finance, Google Travel, Google Books, Google Blog Search, Google News and Visual Search.

Unfortunately, the sidebar is no longer available. Activity stats are still placed at the top of the page, above the list of searches.

Here's a screenshot from 2012 that shows the old sidebar. This article has a more recent screenshot.

Export Google Search History

I've mentioned last year that Google tested a download feature for search history. It looks like this feature is available for everyone. Just go to Google Web History, click the gear button and select "Download".

"You can download all of your saved search history to see a list of the terms you've searched for. This gives you access to your data when and where you want," informs Google. "When you download your past searches, a copy of your history will be saved securely to the Takeout folder in Google Drive. You can download the files to your computer if you want a copy on your computer."

Google will send you an email when your archive is ready to download.

The download dialog is pretty unusual. It includes a warning message: "Please read this carefully, it's not the usual yada yada." It suggests users to enable 2-step verification and it informs them that the archive includes sensitive data. "If you have decided to take your data elsewhere, please research the data export policies of your destination. Otherwise, if you ever want to leave the service, you may have to leave your data behind."

Here's the email message you'll receive when "your Google search history archive is ready".

You'll get a ZIP archive with a lot of JSON files: