Is Google Voice finally getting the love it deserves?

Google Voice App Icon Google Voice, once a very promising voice over IP (VoIP) service with lots of potential and nowhere to go but up, has languished untapped and unmaintained for years. It seems that today — and apparently thanks to Google’s focus on the Google+ social network — Google Voice is finally being revisited and possibly even revived from its years in slumber as Google explores the integration of voice calls into its Google+ Hangouts feature.

Google Voice, originally known as GrandCentral, was first created in 2005 and existed as a standalone VoIP solution until 2009, when GrandCentral was purchased by Google. The takeover by Google was short and sad: GrandCentral was rebranded Google Voice and launched with much hoopla and fanfare, even debuting on NBC’s Today Show on June 25, 2009. From there, the only changes GrandCentral saw as it was turned into Google Voice was a name change and constant reduction in features, remaining yet another awkward step-child in the ever-growing portfolio of startups Google purchased and could not decide what to do with.

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Amazon now lets you start reading your books before they ship!

Book shoppers on Amazon (remember when Amazon used to be “just” an online bookstore?) will be happy to hear that Amazon.com has a pretty interesting offer: buy a book now, and start reading it instantly while you wait for it to arrive in the mail. Of course, Amazon recently announced the availability of Kindle MatchBook, its program to offer heavily-discounted Kindle editions of books Amazon customers have previously purchased.

Upon placing an order for (select) books on Amazon, on the Thank You page you’ll be informed that a free “sample copy” of the same book has been made available to you on your Kindle or your Kindle account, should you wish to claim it:

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Why Google’s announcement of fully encrypted search doesn’t matter for analytics

Google finally announced what we all knew was coming sooner or later: all search is now encrypted — and the kicker for those of us in the online business is that we’ll never again receive information about which keywords searchers used to land on our site (from Google, at any rate).

(Backstory: when you search on Google, the search terms are part of the URL of the results page. When clicking on search results, your browser normally sends the URL of the page you were on along with your request to the server of the page you’re visiting. Except for when browsing over HTTPS: here, the browser does not send this critical – and sometimes sensitive – information to the server of the page you’re about to see. This referrer information was the basis of keyword metrics to determine which keywords bring in the most visitors to individual pages on your site.)

But, honestly, despite the fact that the web is now full of people griping about this change, it actually doesn’t matter. Google’s announcement is nothing more than a formality. Have a look below to see why:

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How to downgrade Chrome from Beta or Dev to Stable on OS X without losing profile data

As the years go by, I find that I growingly have less and less patience for dealing with experimental or beta software, and have come to appreciate more and more the value of having stable, reliable, and consistent products that get their job done and keep out of the way. I find it hard to fathom that only a few short years ago, during the days of Longhorn beta, I would derive immense pleasure from formatting and reinstalling up to three or four times a day — these days, I find setting up a PC for use after a format to be a task I shy away from even once every two or three years.

When Chrome first came out, I was quick to switch to the beta channel and later, the dev/canary channels too. Now, I just want to go back to having a browser that I can actually expect to load pages correctly, keep my keyboard shortcuts intact, and not suddenly put my data at risk due to broken back button behavior.

Switching to a more unstable build with Chrome is ridiculously easy: just download the installer for either the beta, dev, or canary Chrome channel releases and it’ll automatically upgrade your profile to the latest version and pull updates on a more-frequent schedule, on Mac, Windows, and Linux alike.

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New Gmail Feature: Inline Action Popups

One of the few products at Google that doesn’t stagnate and is always seeing new features, improvements, and changes (sometimes so often that it gives the appearance of being change for the sake of change to the furor and anger of some extremely-vocal hard-core users) is Gmail.

Today, Google is apparently rolling out a new feature that we haven’t seen before, and are actually at a loss when it comes to giving it an appropriate name.

Gmail is now showing “inlined action popups” based on the content of the emails (esp. automated written-by-robot emails), not too unlike some of the context-derived links/summaries in the sidebar that have been around for years now, except you don’t have to open the emails to gain access to them, and they’re just a convenient mouse click away. Pictures after the jump.

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Apple finally locks down the USB port in iOS 7

One of the basic principles of computer security is that if someone has physical access to a machine, compromising it is simply a matter of time (yes, even technologies like whole-disk encryption via GPG/PGP, BitLocker, or TrueCrypt are often still susceptible to “Evil Maid” attacks). But while all devices are vulnerable to hands-on attacks, some devices are more vulnerable than others.

Innocuous-looking USB accessories for both PCs and smartphones have long been a preferred for attacks aiming to gain unauthorized access to a machine. Devices that look like USB sticks can easily direct a computer they’re plugged into to dump data to an external device or online file storage by mimicking a keyboard/mouse, an attack no antivirus or antimalware software can prevent. Smartphones have been susceptible to similar attacks, even from something as seemingly-innocent as a regular phone charger. These hardware-based attacks have been well-documented, and while a passcode on the device can mitigate such attempts, it’s no cure-all.

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FeedSnap: The FeedBurner Replacement

FeedSnap logo Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, you’ve certainly seen all the hullaballoo that took place when Google shut down Google Reader for good. Aside from being a damn good RSS web-based reader, it was very importantly, so popular that and backed by a company so huge that it basically killed off all its competitors without even trying. If you care about your blog, you’re probably looking for a FeedBurner replacement or a FeedBurner alternative just about now.

People have been panicking about the so-called “death of RSS” ever since. RSS has a special place in our hearts, we think the idea behind a simple, standardized, freely-accessible stream of updates for just any website is a confluence of awesomeness that only comes around once in a blue moon. In other words: if RSS dies today, it’s not because something equally awesome has replaced it. Anyone equating RSS with Twitter streams (where stuff is virtually designed to be lost in the madness) and Facebook “feeds” (accessible only to friends, at the mercy of Facebook Inc) has no clue what they are talking about.

The writing has been on the wall for months, and pretty much everyone has come to suspect the next shoe will soon drop and Google will kill FeedBurner (the equivalent of Google Reader for website publishers) in the next round of “spring cleaning.” Google purchased Chicago-based startup (yay Windy City!) FeedBurner from its founders back in 2007, and ever since has been disabling and dismembering it, one feature at a time. Today, FeedBurner is only a sorry reminder of it once was.

To that end, we are happy to introduce today FeedSnap.

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Google jokes about killing YouTube, but people aren’t laughing

A year ago, Google’s incredibly thorough April Fools’ 2013 prank would have easily won the title of awesomest April Fools’ prank ever. But today? Maybe not.

This year’s prank is a video talking about how today, 8 years from the launch of YouTube, YouTube will no longer be accepting videos:

Short and long of it:

  • It’s been 8 years with an average of 70 hours of video uploaded each minute (~560 years of footage in all, for those wondering)
  • YouTube is/was one big contest to find the best video ever
  • Tonight at midnight (April 1st, 2013) YouTube will accept videos no more
  • Site will be back online in 2023 showing only the one, winning video

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Happy Pi Day 2013!

As everyone knows, today’s the year’s most awesome holiday: Pi Day. Happy Pi Day 2013 to one and all, please don’t forget to enjoy yourself whilst engaging in the geekiest activities you can think of. And, above all, remember to to eat pie!

Happy Pi Day!

Download EFI and UEFI repair CDs for Windows

Welcome to the future. Ever since 2000, EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface) has struggled to replace the decades-old BIOS, and now, some 13 years later, it’s finally really here. More than ever before, new computers, laptops, notebooks, and other computing devices are being shipped that use an entirely new and very much different technology as the foundation that powers the actual hardware, sitting between your motherboard/CPU and the operating system.

EFI is pretty nifty and very powerful, and opens a lot of new and exciting possibilities for your computer. It lets Windows theoretically boot faster than ever before, and can protect your computer against malware and viruses thanks to enhanced security features like signed bootloaders. And for Windows users, EFI means GPT (GUID Partition Table) instead of MBR (Master Boot Record). Abbreviations got you confused? Don’t worry – it just means that your computer now supports hard disks that are bigger than ever before (more than 2TiB in size!).

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