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November 21, 2014

Using YouTube Music Key

Thanks to my Google Play Music All Access subscription, I've been able to try YouTube Music Key, the new feature that transforms YouTube into the music streaming service with the largest collection of music videos.

If you use All Access and you have the latest version of the Play Music app for Android, you should see this message in Play Music:


Open the YouTube app and the most obvious new feature is the download button that lets you save almost any music video.


The "add video to Offline" dialog lets you pick the video quality: normal (360p), HD (720p). You can click "remember my settings" to no longer see this dialog.



The Offline section shows all your offline videos and playlists.


You can download entire playlists. The music tab from the "what to watch" section features a lot of music playlists, including Songza playlists.



The "background & offline" section from the settings lets you customize background listening, video quality, offline storage and lets you disable downloading videos when you're not using Wi-Fi.


By default, YouTube continues to play music videos in the background, but you can disable this feature or only enable it when using headphones or external speakers.


Use the music controls from the notification bar or from the lock screen. Pause a song, play the ext song from the playlist or go back to the YouTube app.



When you're offline, you can only use the Offline section and play the music videos you've previously downloaded.



Another benefit: whether you're playing music videos online or offline, the YouTube app won't show ads. It's important to keep in mind that all the new features (offline playing, background listening, ad-free experience) are only available for music videos, not for any YouTube videos.

New UI in Google Maps for Mobile Browsers

The new interface from the Google Maps mobile apps is now also available in the mobile browser. Just go to maps.google.com in your favorite mobile browser for Android and iOS and you should see an interface that closely resembles the UI from the native mobile apps.


"Bold colors and textures are in — and Google Maps is on trend, with a slick new style to make traveling with Maps even easier. Over the next few days, when you open up Google Maps on your Android or iPhone, you'll be greeted by bright colors and a fresh new design. This new look is all about creating surfaces and shadows that echo the real world; with Google Maps' new material feel, layers and buttons come to life so you know just where to touch to get directions, recommendations and imagery," explained Google a few weeks ago, when the new versions of the mobile apps were launched.



The mobile web app even has a "hamburger" menu that lets you enable layers like traffic, transit, bicycling and satellite.

November 20, 2014

Google, No Longer the Default Search Engine in Firefox

"Choosing Firefox isn't just choosing a browser. It's a vote for personal freedom online." This is one of the messages from Firefox's start page. Here's another one: "Firefox is celebrating 10 years! Help us keep the passion for a free and open Internet burning forever bright."


10 years ago, Firefox was the main alternative to Internet Explorer, which was the dominant browser at that time. "Before July 2004, according to WebSideStory, Internet Explorer was used by about 95% of web surfers. That figure had remained static for years," reported BBC.

Ever since its launch, Google was the main source of revenue for Mozilla, thanks to a lucrative partnership that made Google the default search engine in Firefox. Now Mozilla partnered with Yahoo, which will be the default search engine in the US for the next 5 years.

"Google has been the Firefox global search default since 2004. Our agreement came up for renewal this year, and we took this as an opportunity to review our competitive strategy and explore our options. Today we are announcing a change to our strategy for Firefox search partnerships. We are ending our practice of having a single global default search provider. We are adopting a more local and flexible approach to increase choice and innovation on the Web, with new and expanded search partnerships by country," informs Mozilla. "Starting in December, Firefox users will be introduced to a new enhanced Yahoo Search experience that features a clean, modern interface that brings the best of the Web front and center. Under this partnership, Yahoo will also support Do Not Track (DNT) in Firefox."


Firefox will use different default search engines, depending on the country: Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China. Google will continue to be one of the preinstalled search engines and the Safe Browsing and Geolocation features will still use Google.

Why switch to a different search provider? Firefox's main competitor is no longer Internet Explorer, it's now Chrome. Mozilla wants to show how it differs from Google: it'a a non-profit organization, it focuses more on privacy and it has a different mission. "This is why our independence matters. Being non-profit lets us make different choices. Choices that keep the Web open, everywhere and independent. We think today is a big step in that direction," says Chris Beard, CEO of the Mozilla Corporation.

Update: According to ExtremeTech, "Google will remain the default search provider in Europe".

Google Advanced Search Brings Back the Black Bar

I checked Google's advanced search page and noticed something strange: after clicking the "advanced search" button at the bottom of the page, Google sent me to a search results page that included the old black bar navigation menu.

One of the culprits is the "as_qdr" parameter that somehow triggers the old interface. This URL sends you to the old Google interface: https://www.google.com/webhp?as_qdr=all. You can bookmark it if you miss the black bar.


Another way to bring back the black bar is to use the "noj" parameter like this: https://www.google.com/?noj=1.

Embed Street View and Photosphere Images

You can now embed Street View imagery and photospheres in the new Google Maps. Find the Google Maps imagery you want to embed, click the gear button at the bottom of the page, pick "share and embed image" and copy the code generated by Google. Google lets you change the size of the embedded image and preview it.



Here's an example from Googleplex:



Google also added support for Street View and photospheres to the Google Maps Embed API. "These embeds use the new imagery viewer technology that powers Street View in the new Google Maps. Embedding a Street View or Photo Sphere works similarly to the Street View Service in Google Maps JavaScript API v3 - specify a lat/lng or panorama ID to pick your location, plus heading and pitch to determine direction of the scene and angle of the camera," informs Google.

{ via +Google Maps }

November 19, 2014

Chrome Web Store Adds Support Tab

Chrome Web Store has a slightly different interface for apps and extensions. The overview and details tabs have been merged and there's a new support tab that lets you share your feedback without writing a review. You can ask questions, send suggestions and report bugs. The support feature already existed, but it didn't have its own tab.



If the support feature is not enabled, you'll see this message: "If you are experiencing any problems with this extension or have questions or suggestions for the developer, please check out the developer's support site."


OMG Chrome found some other changes. "The horizontal strip of ‘Related Apps‘ and ‘More from this developer‘ no longer appear beneath listings. In the Reviews section the entry form has been shunted from left of the page to the right."

{ Thanks, Stefan. }

New Footer in Mobile Google Search

Google's mobile search results pages have a new footer. Pagination elements are now centered and there's a Google logo at the bottom of the page.


Here's how it looked before:


When I first noticed the big logo at the bottom of the page, I assumed it was a bug. The logo doesn't link to the homepage and that's strange. What do you think: is it a bug or a feature?

{ Thanks, Sterling. }

Google Highlights Mobile-Friendly Results

Google announced that it will roll out the new mobile-friendly label in the coming weeks, but I've already noticed the new feature. The label is placed somewhere between the search result URL and the snippet.


Search results from the first pages of results are usually optimized for mobile devices, but there are also pages better suited for desktop. After the first 2-3 pages of results, you'll find more and more results that don't have the mobile-friendly label.


Google's footer links to a page that offers more information about mobile-friendly pages. "This message shows under search results when Google thinks the site works well on a phone (mobile-friendly). The site works well because it doesn't make you zoom to see parts of the page, or it doesn't use features like Flash that you don't usually have on your device," informs Google.

Google Maps Smart Search

One of the coolest Google Maps features is the integration with Google's Knowledge Graph. Besides providing useful information about different places, Knowledge Graph makes the search feature smarter.

You can search for [Canada capital], [Tom Cruise birthplace], [Amazon river where does it start], [largest city in India] and many other queries that return a location in Google Search.



It's much easier than using Google Search to find a place and then switching to Google Maps and searching for it.

This also works in the Google Maps mobile apps for Android and iOS:


It works in the classic desktop interface too:

November 18, 2014

Weather in Google Maps

Google Maps used to have a cool weather layer that displayed temperatures and weather conditions around the globe. This feature is no longer available, but Google Maps now shows weather information and local time when searching for cities, just like in Google's Knowledge Graph cards. For example: London, Mountain View.



To switch between Celsius and Fahrenheit degrees, click the icon that illustrates weather condition and click °C or °F in the weather card from Google Search. You can always click the icon to find temperatures, wind and rainfall forecasts for the next 7 days.