Month: October 2015

Google to Merge Android With Chrome OS

Wall Street Journal reports that Google works on integrating Chrome OS into Android and will release a unified OS that runs on phones, tablets, laptops and more. “The company plans to unveil its new, single operating system in 2017, but expects to show off an early version next year.”

So why kill Chrome OS and switch to Android? Chrome OS has a small desktop market share, while Android is the dominant mobile OS. There are a lot more apps in the Google Play Store than in the Chrome Web Store and Google had a hard time convincing developers to build Chrome apps. Google even ported the Android runtime to Chrome, so that you can run Android apps in Chrome OS.

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, has recently said that “mobile as a computing paradigm is eventually going to blend with what we think of as desktop today”. Most likely, Google wants to bring Android to the desktop and provide a coherent experience. This solves some of the issues with Chrome OS (the lack of apps, low market share), but brings more challenges (Android is less secure than Chrome OS, it’s updated less often, has a more complicated interface, it doesn’t have a windowing system, apps aren’t optimized for desktop).

I like Chromebooks because they’re simple devices that require no maintenance. There are few things you can change, few things that can go wrong. It’s easy to share them with other people, you don’t have to worry about backups or saving your data.

Pixel C’s announcement makes more sense now. It’s an Android tablet developed by the Chromebook Pixel team. “We think the Pixel C’s tablet and keyboard experience really unlocks new ways to both play and be productive on one device,” mentioned Google.

Google has a lot of work to do. Android’s tablet interface is pretty poor, there’s no native multi-window support, Chrome for Android doesn’t support extensions, apps and themes.

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The Fastest Way to Find Blogs that Want Your Guest Post

Every guest posting guide recommends searching Google for blogs that accept guest posts. This works, but is slow and most blogs don’t have a specific “Submit your guest blogs here!” page. Other guides recommend looking at competitor’s backlinks to find posts, which is also slow and cluttered with many other links.

The key is to be extremely specific in your searches. Search by competitor, not a topic. This works great for B2B content marketing campaigns, where there may not be industry blogs to post on. For example, search for:

competitor “guest post” -site:competitor.com
[Name of competitor’s director of marketing] “guest post” -site:competitor.com

For non-business terms, the same principle applies. Be specific:

topicwebsite.com “guest post” (posts that talk about sites similar to yours)
[Name of topic thought leader] “guest post”

Create 20-30 of these searches and you’ll quickly put together a list of on-target websites that accept guest posts (it’s how I found DailyBlogTips). And when applying, remember to these tips for making sure your guest post is accepted.

The goal of this technique isn’t to find every place you could post, it’s to be much more efficient in your search so you have more time for writing. Every result of these searches should be a blog interested in what you have to say. Happy searching!

James Paden is a programmer and marketer for Instrumental, the application monitoring platform. His goal is to automate his entire life, and failing that (which he is), at least make life as efficient as possible.

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YouTube Red Launched

As promised, YouTube Red was launched today in the US. If you use the mobile apps for Android and iOS, you probably noticed that the title changed to “YouTube Red” and there’s a new “YouTube Red” section in the settings. YouTube didn’t even update the apps: the changes were probably triggered automatically.

The desktop site has a new logo:

“With a YouTube Red membership, you’ll experience YouTube without video ads, be able to save videos to watch offline, and play videos in the background on your mobile device, all for $9.99 a month. And just like with our advertising revenue, the majority of revenue we get from YouTube Red memberships will go to our creator community,” mentions YouTube’s blog.

YouTube Red is free for Google Play Music subscribers and there’s a free 30-day trial for US users.

New Google Calendar URL

Daniel Fletcher, a reader of this blog, noticed that Google Calendar’s URL changed from http://www.google.com/calendar to calendar.google.com. This seems to be a recent change, even though the Google Apps Blog announced it back in September.

“In an effort to further increase security, in the coming weeks we’ll be changing the main Google Calendar URL from ‘www.google.com/calendar’ to ‘calendar.google.com.’ Following the launch, the old Calendar url will simply redirect to the new one, so the overall impact of this change on Google Apps customers should be minimal,” informed Google.

Browsers like Chrome and Safari will ask you for permission again to show notifications. Greasemonkey scripts and extensions that use the old URLs will probably stop working, so developers will need to update them.

Daniel Fletcher wonders why “Maps is now google.com/maps, when it used to be maps.google.com and Calendar seems to have gone the other way”. Maybe Google Maps will go back to the old URL.

Android Auto Backup

One of the best features from Android Marshmallow is auto backup for apps. Android used to have a backup feature that only worked for system settings and a few apps that enabled it. Now Google saves the settings and data for all the apps and backs it up to Google Drive, so you can quickly restore it when needed.

I’ve checked the Android section from Google Dashboard and noticed the difference between Nexus 7 running Android 4.3 and Nexus 5 running Android 6.0. While Nexus 7 only backed up system settings, the wallpaper and some data for Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Keyboard, Nexus 5 backed up the data for almost all the apps: from QuickPic Gallery to MyFitnessPal, from Firefox to Opera Mini and Angry Birds 2. There are still some apps that don’t support auto backup, but at least the feature is now opt-out instead of opt-in.

The Android section from Google Dashboard shows a lot of useful information about your Android devices (IMEI number, registered date, last activity date, carrier) and it also lets you delete backup data. “Please note that new backup data will be created if backup is enabled on any of your Android devices,” informs Google.

The list of apps backed up to Google Drive is also available in the Settings section of the Google Drive app for Android. You can enable or disable the backup feature, automatic restore, reset network settings, add backup accounts. The nice thing is that all this data doesn’t use your Google Drive storage quota, but each app is limited to 25MB.

“Apps running on the new backup system aim to save their data every 24 hours, but there are a few requirements for the backup system to trigger automatically. The new backup system uses the JobScheduler API introduced in Lollipop and only triggers a backup if the device is connected to power, on Wi-Fi, and has been idle for at least an hour. The data then gets encrypted and uploaded to Google Drive,” reports Ars Technica.

The new backup service is powered by Google Play Services, so it can be improved without updating the operating system. Hopefully, Google will allow users to disable backup for certain apps, remove the 25MB limitation and backup even more data.

ASUS OnHub Router

For many people, routers are an afterthought. Stuck in a closet, out of sight and out of mind, regular users only think about their routers when something is wrong. Dealing with routers is frustrating: they usually have poor user interfaces, buggy firmware, annoying lights and most people don’t know how to change their settings, update firmware or improve their performance.

Google hopes to solve these issues with OnHub, a series of routers designed by Google and manufactured by third-party companies. After launching a TP-LINK router, Google announced a second router with similar specs, this time from ASUS. The new router is even more expensive ($219.99) and can only be preordered in the US.

OnHub routers are designed to be fast, secure, easy to use and to look good. “Like our first router, the ASUS OnHub comes with faster Wi-Fi, easy set-up, and simple management with the Google On app. With the ASUS OnHub, we’re also introducing Wave Control, which lets you boost the Wi-Fi speed for a particular device by simply waving your hand over the top of the ASUS OnHub – great for busy houses,” informs Google.

It’s worth pointing out that OnHub routers run Google’s software and they’re automatically updated, without having to be restarted. That’s an impressive achievement. No other router can be updated without disrupting your Internet connectivity for a few minutes and most users don’t bother updating their routers.

Both OnHub routers have powerful specs and they’re designed for the future. That’s why they only have a single LAN port, they support Bluetooth and Weave and have many other features borrowed from smartphones. They’re supposed to be smarter, just like all the other smart devices they enable.

7 Years of Google Chrome

A lot has changed since Google launched Chrome back in September 2008. Chrome’s popularity has been growing ever since then and all the other important browsers became more like Chrome. Google focused on the things that mattered and transformed the browser from a simple application into a “modern OS” for web apps.

While there are many services that claim to measure the market share for browsers, I tend to think that StatCounter is the most accurate. StatCounter’s stats for 2008-2015 show that Chrome’s market share grew from 0% to 53% in 7 years, while IE’s share declined from 67% to 15%. According to StatCounter, Chrome is now the dominant browser, while IE and Firefox are continually losing market share.

It’s clear that Google did a lot things right when it launched Chrome, but few people anticipated that Google’s browser will take over the world. Most people didn’t know what’s a browser and only knew that they were supposed to click on the blue E icon to go online. Google changed this by promoting a constantly evolving browser, which was faster and more secure.

RankBrain Helps Google Understand Queries

Google’s search engine hasn’t always been very smart. In its early years, Google only tried to find the pages that matched the words from your query and ranked them. It’s hard to answer a question without understanding it, but that’s what Google did.

Google constantly improved its algorithms, added personalization options, started to match synonyms and expand abbreviations, but Knowledge Graph and Hummingbird were the greatest leaps that put machine learning to work and made Google smarter. Google started to understand the meaning behind a question, to disambiguate words and to find answers, not just pages that include the words from the query.

Bloomberg reports that Google uses even more artificial intelligence to answer questions and rank results. RankBrain is a new AI system that has been used for the past few months to improve search results. “If RankBrain sees a word or phrase it isn’t familiar with, the machine can make a guess as to what words or phrases might have a similar meaning and filter the result accordingly, making it more effective at handling never-before-seen search queries.”

15% of the queries Google gets every day are new and RankBrain helps Google understand them. Here’s an example of complicated query: “What’s the title of the consumer at the highest level of a food chain?” RankBrain finds words and phrases that have a similar meaning and highlights them (for example: predators). “In the few months it has been deployed, RankBrain has become the third-most important signal contributing to the result of a search query.”

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, says that “machine learning is a core transformative way by which we are rethinking everything we are doing”. Machine learning has already helped Google improve image search, automatic translation, speech recognition and deep learning is already showing some promising results: smarter photo search with object recognition.

“In tandem with other researchers at Google, Andrew Ng is building one of the most ambitious artificial-intelligence systems to date, the so-called Google Brain. This movement seeks to meld computer science with neuroscience — something that never quite happened in the world of artificial intelligence,” reports Wired. “Deep Learning is a first step in this new direction. Basically, it involves building neural networks — networks that mimic the behavior of the human brain. Much like the brain, these multi-layered computer networks can gather information and react to it. They can build up an understanding of what objects look or sound like.”

Newer Is Not Always Better

With all this talk about Android and software updates, I realized that one of the biggest Android advantages is that you can install custom firmware or downgrade to an old Android version.

My old Nexus 7 tablet from 2012 doesn’t support the latest Android release. Instead of installing custom firmware from some independent developers, I decided to go back to the smoothest Android version I can find. Asus skimped on quality storage and Nexus 7 was pretty slow and laggy, especially when using Android 5.x.

Google has a page with factory images for Nexus devices and it’s pretty easy to install any Android version that’s officially available. You have to backup your data, enable USB debugging and run some scripts.

I’ve installed Android 4.4.4 and Nexus 7 was much smoother, but there was still room for improvement. Android 4.3 was even better and I decided to keep it. It’s like having a completely new device, even if it runs some outdated software released 2 years ago.

It’s difficult to optimize new software for old hardware, especially if manufacturers don’t care about quality, cut costs and ship poorly made devices with obvious design flaws. On there other hand, Google has its own issues with software optimization, memory leaks, battery draining software and other bugs. When properly optimised, Android runs well and users are happy, but this doesn’t happen often. With so many devices to update, manufacturers and even Google take shortcuts when it comes to old phones and tablets. Some stop updating them, others release unfinished software, hoping to encourage users to buy new hardware, while others spend more time improving the software for the latest flagships.

Thankfully, you can downgrade and go back to a software that actually works well. Apple devices rarely allow you to downgrade and usually for a limited time, so you’re stuck with phones and tablets that are suddenly slow, laggy and crashy.

This post was written on my Nexus 7 running Android 4.3.

Optimize Content Sharing On Social Media With WordPress Plugins

Whether you’re a business owner promoting your brand or an organization sharing information about an important social cause, it’s important to consistently get your message out there. These days, doing so is easier than ever thanks to the arrival of a social media plugin. Learn more about how this plugin can assist you in sharing content on social media and why doing so is important by reading the information found below:

The WordPress Social Media Plugin

One of the most recent and important developments in the WordPress plugin world is the arrival of the social media plugin. These plugins work by automatically publishing content from the user’s blog to their social media accounts. This can include Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, LiveJournal, Flickr, Delicious, YouTube, Plurk, and Stumbleupon. The entire process is automated. You simply compose a new piece of blog content and the post with backlink will be posted to all of your designated social media networks. Setting up facebook page is quite simple and using the plugin is also easy thanks to instructional web articles and blog posts that explain how to use your Facebook setup to enable auto posting on facebook page. (You can search the internet for instructional posts on how to use the plugin with other social media channels as well.)

Why Should You Share Your Blog Content On Social Media?

If you’re considering whether to download a WordPress plugin in order to share your blog content on social media, you should consider the benefits that can result from doing so. Some of them include:

1. Increased Virability.

As many marketing mavens know, sharing your blog content on social media channels is a wonderful way to increase the virability of the content. “Virability” is a term that references the potential of your content to be shared with numerous people in a specific social network. These individuals will then share the content with everyone in their social network, and the process replicates itself such that thousands and potentially millions of people see your content within a matter of minutes. When you use the WordPress plugin, you make this process possible.

2. Improved Brand Familiarity.

Another great benefit of the WordPress plugin is its ability to help build your company’s brand familiarity. When you use the auto share feature to post your blog content on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, the individuals who view the post are going to become increasingly familiar with the products and services you sell. Once this process is put in motion, you increase the likelihood of turning a prospective customer into a loyal client.

3. Quick Updating Capabilities.

One final benefit of the WordPress plugin is the ability to provide the public with quick updates. The auto share feature is immediate, meaning that your post is published via social media channels in the blink of an eye. This makes it easy for you to quickly publish important information about your business, such as the arrival of a new product or an upcoming sale, contest, newsletter, etc.

Summing It All Up

If you’re interested in taking your business to a new level of success, you should know that the use of WordPress social media plugins can assist you. By reviewing the short guide offered above, you can decide whether this marketing outlet would be appropriate and advantageous for your company. Good luck!

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