Posts Tagged ‘google’

$49 Dashbot Car Dashboard Assistant is Powered by C.H.I.P Pro Allwinner GR8 Module (Crowdfunding)

November 18th, 2016 2 comments

Most companies specializing in development boards may sell a few accessories for their boards, but usually leave product design to their customers. Next Thing Co. does that too, but the company also produces some products like PocketCHIP portable Linux computer & retro game console, and more recently Dashbot, a voice controller assistant for your car’s dashboard powered by CHIP Pro module.


Dashbot hardware specifications:

  • CPU Module – CHIP Pro with Allwinner GR8 ARM Cortex A8 processor @ 1.0 GHz, 512MB NAND flash, 256 DDR3 RAM, 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2
  • External Storage – micro SD slot
  • Display – Red LED display
  • Audio – 32-bit audio DSP for beamforming & noise suppression; fairfield audio pre-processor with 24-bit ADC; high fidelity MEMS microphone array (106 dB dynamic range)
  • USB – 1x USB host port
  • Power Supply – 5V via USB port or 12V via power port (aka cigarette lighter) + backup LiFePo4 battery
  • Dimensions – 84 x 60 x 28 mm

The bot runs mainline Linux, source code will be available, as well as hardware design files making open source hardware (likely minus CHIP Pro module itself). Once you’ve stuck the magnetic adhesive mount to the dashboard, and placed Dashbot on top, you can connect it to your car stereo via Bluetooth or your car’s auxiliary jack. Wait what?  My car does not have any of those two connection methods… But no problem as the company also offers a Retro Pack adding an FM transmitter and cassette adapter for older cars.

dashbot-connection-guideThe main goal of Dashbot is to keep your smartphone in your pocket, and control it with your voice in order to keep your eyes on the road. But you’ll still need your phone, and after installing Dashbot app on your Android 5.0+ or iOS 10+ smartphones, you’ll be able to tell Dashbot to start playing music from online services like Spotify, Soundcloud, Google Play Music, and others, or tell it to “go home” and it will show the directions from Google Maps on the red LED display, and of course you can also answer phone calls, and reply to SMS.

Dashbot “AI powered hands-free car kit” launched on Kickstarter a few hours ago, has already raised over $50,000, and I’m confident it will surpass its $100,000 funding target. A $49 pledge should get you Dashbot, a power port for your cigarette lighter and an AUX cable, but if you have a car with a stereo that does not come with Bluetooth nor an AUX IN jack, you can get the Retro Pack for $65 with an FM radio/cassette player adapter. They also have rewards with an OBD-II dongle, and bundles with multiple Dashbots. Shipping adds $9 or more depending on rewards and destination, and delivery is planned for July 2017.

Android 7.1 Developer Preview Coming Soon with Image Keyboard Support, App Shortcuts API, etc…

October 12th, 2016 No comments

Google will soon release Android 7.1 Developer Preview for Nexus 5X & Nexus 6P smartphone, as well as Pixel C tablet, listed some of the changes you can expect in the new dot release, and provided a timeline for other devices and the official launch.

android-7-1-featuresAndroid 7.1 developer and user visible changes will include:

  • App shortcuts API will allow developer to set up to 5 shortcuts accessibly from app icon directly in the launcher. For example, a messaging app could have shortcuts to your favorite users and/or open a new conversation.
  • Circular app icons support to create rounded icons similar to what is used in Pixel launcher.
  • Enhanced live wallpaper metadata so that developers can show existing metadata such as label, description, and author, as well as a new context URL and title to link to more information.
  • Image keyboard support will let user easily insert custom stickers, animated gifs, and more from the keyboard app.
  • Storage manager Intent can be used by app to direct the user to Settings screen to clear unused files and free up storage space.
  • New APIs to support multi-endpoint calling and new telephony configuration options.

If you want to receive the Developer Preview automatically, enroll your device on Android Beta. After the first preview, more devices will be supported in the final Android 7.1.x release scheduled for early December, including Nexus 6, 5X, 6P, 9, Player, Pixel C, supported Android One devices, as well as the new Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.

Categories: Android Tags: Android, google, nougat, sdk, smartphone, tablet

Two More Google Products: Google WiFi Mesh Router, and Google Home, an Amazon Echo Competitor

October 5th, 2016 3 comments

Google made a bunch a new product announcements with their Pixel phones, Daydream View VR headset, and Chromecast Ultra 4K dongle, but in this post I’ll write about two other new products: Google Home an Amazon Echo competitor powered by Google Assistant and supporting multi-room, as well as Google WiFi (Mesh) router aiming at providing WiFi all over the house by combining multiple WiFi routers.

Google WiFi Router

google-wifiMost households now use a single router to provide WiFi to the home, but inevitably this introduce some dead or “slow WiFi” zones within the house. One way to work around this is to use WiFi repeaters, but it’s not always easy to setup and may lead to lower bandwidth. Google WiFi router uses a technology called mesh WiFi, where each router work together to determine the best path for your data using Network Assist technology to automatically choose and update the best channel for your device in real-time.


The router(s) can also be managed with an Android or iOS app, for example to pause WiFi for your kids when it’s time to go to bed or dinner,  prioritize devices within your network, etc…

Google Wifi will be up for pre-order in the US in November for $129 for a single router, and $299 for a pack of three routers on Google Store, Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart. Visit the product page  for more details.

Google Home

Google Home is Google’s answer to Amazon Echo, a voice controlled system to play music locally or from services such as Google Music, Pandora, Spotify…, get answers to questions, manage home automation (IFTTT, Samsung SmartThings…), adjust the thermostat or lights (Nest, Philips Hue), etc… But instead of Alexa software, the device relies on Google Assistant.

Google did not provie many technical details about “Home”, but we do know it uses two omnidirectional microphones and neural beamforming in order to hear people from across the room, and “integrates a high-excursion driver with a dual passive radiator design that delivers crystal-clear highs and deep lows for Hi-Fi sound”.

Google Home supports multi-room features so you can have multuple Google Home devices or Chromecast Audio devices playing music all aroudn the house, while at the same time being smart enough to only answer questions within the room your are located.

Google Home can be pre-ordered today in the US for $129 from the Google Store, Best Buy, Target and Walmart including 6 months of YouTube Red (Youtube without ads).

Google Announces Pixel and Pixel XL Smartphones for $649 and Up

October 5th, 2016 No comments

Google used to collaborate with smartphone manufacturers for their Nexus devices, but the company is now promoting their own Pixel brand, and has just launched Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, and running Android 7.0 Nougat operating system.

pixel-phoneBoth smartphones share most of the same specifications, but XL has a larger screen, a bigger battery, and a higher price tag:

  • SoC – Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996 pro AB) Quad core Kryo processor with two cores at up to 2.15GHz, two cores at up to 1.6GHz, Adreno 530 GPU
  • System Memory – 4GB LPDDR4
  • Storage – 32 or 128 GB storage
  • Display
    • Pixel – 5.0″ FHD (1920×1080) AMOLED display; 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4
    • Pixel XL – 5.5″ QHD (2560×1440) AMOLED display; 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Camera
    • 12.3 MP rear camera (IMX378 sensor) with laser and phase detection auto focus (LDAF + PDAF), f/2.0 aperture
    • 8 MP front-facing camera (IMX179 sensor) with fixed focus, f/2.4 aperture
    • Video recording support – 720p @ 30/60/240fps, 1080p @ 30/60/120fps, 4K @ 30 fps
  • Cellular Connectivity
    • Single SIM
    • Supports up to CAT 11 (600Mbps DL / 75Mbps UL) depending upon carrier coverage and carrier rollouts:
      • Telstra – CAT11 (600Mbps DL / 75Mbps UL)
      • All others – CAT 9 (450Mbps DL / 50 Mbps)
    • Quad-band GSM, UMTS/WCDMA, CDMA, FDD LTE, and TDD LTE support
  • Connectivity – WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC
  • Audio – 3.5mm audio jack, single bottom-firing speaker, 3 microphones, noise suppression.
  • USB – 1x USB 3.0 type C port
  • Sensors – Proximity/ALS, accelerometer / gyrometer, magnetometer, pixel imprint (Back-mounted fingerprint sensor for fast unlocking), barometer, hall sensor, sensor hub: CHRE V2 with GPS/Wi-Fi/BT, advanced x-axis haptics for sharper/defined response
  • Battery
    • Pixel – 2,770 mAh battery good for up to 19 days standby (LTE), 26 hours talk time, and 13 hours Internet use
    • Pixel XL – 3,450 mAh battery good for up to 23 days standby (LTE), 32 hours talk time, and 14 hours Internet use
    • Fast charging: up to 7 hours of use from only 15 minutes of charging thanks to USB PD support
  • Dimensions & Weight
    • Pixel – 143.8 x 69.5 x 7.3 ~ 8.5 mm | TBD
    • Pixel XL – 154.7 x 75.7 x 7.3 ~ 8.5 mm | TBD

The phones will ship with a USB-C 18W adaptor with USB-PD, and A-C cable (USB 3.0), a C-C cable (USB 2.0), a SIM tool, a quick switch adapter, and in box promos and collateral. Pixel phones will run Android 7.0, are compatible with Google’s Daydream VR platform, and include the new improved Google Assistant, successor of “OK Google”.

Pixel is available for pre-order for $649 (32GB)  $749 (128GB) and Pixel XL for $769 (32GB)  $869 (128GB) in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and Australia with pre-orders in India to begin on October 13.  More details can be found on Made by Google phone page scheduled to launch in October & November in several countries.

Upcoming 4K HDMI Streaming Sticks – Chromecast Ultra and EZCast 4K

October 5th, 2016 5 comments

Google has been introducing several “MadebyGoogle” device including the latest Chromecast Ultra support 4K and HDR, but it’s not the only 4K HDMI dongle to stream videos from your phone that’s about to be release as EZCast sticks are also getting an upgrade with EZCast 4K dongle supporting 4K Miracast, DLNA, and EZCast own protocol.

Chromecast Ultra

chromecast-ultraChromecast Ultra specifications:

  • Connectivity – 802.11ac (2.4 GHz/5 GHz) WiFi, Ethernet port (on power adapter)
  • Video Output – HDMI 2.0 up to 4K resolution, HDR support
  • USB – 1x micro USB port for power and data
  • Dimensions – 58.20 ⌀ x 13.7 mm
  • Weight – 47 grams (device); 101 grams (power adapter)

Chromecast Ultra ships with a power cable (2m) and a power adapter with an Ethernet port. The device can be used with devices and/or computers running Android 4.1 and higher, iOS 8.0 and higher, Mac OS X 10.9 and higher, Windows 7 and higher.

It will start selling for $69 in November. More details can be found on Chromecast Ultra product page.

EZCast 4K

ezcast-4kEZCast 4K specifications:

  • SoC – Actions Semi AM8270 dual core processor @ 1.0+ GHz
  • System Memory – 512MB DDR3 RAM
  • Storage – 256 MB NAND flash for firmware
  • Connectivity – 802.11ac WiFi
  • Video output – HDMI up to 4K resolution @ 30 Hz with MHL support
  • Video Codec – 4K H.265 decoding
  • Wireless streaming/mirroring standards – Miracast, Airplay, EZCast, DLNA
  • USB – 1x micro USB port
  • Power Supply – MHL or USB (5V/1A) selectable through switch

EZCast 4K is said to work with platforms running Android 4.4+, Windows 7+, iPhone 4S+(iOS9+), Mac 10.10+, and Chrome OS 39+ with EZCast app. One advantage of the stick is that it can work without external power supply thanks to MHL support.

Price and availability information has not been released for far.  EZCast 4K can be bought for $49.99 with coupon EZCast4K81N03. Delivery is scheduled for November 1st. Some more information may be found on EZCast 4K page.

Large American Technology Companies Abusive Practices Against Bloggers

September 10th, 2016 53 comments

OK the title might be a little over of the top, but within the last month or so, I’ve been a “victim” of three American companies’ requests, via third parties, namely their customers or technology partners, never directly, to delete or amend the content of this blog. One which I believe is justified albeit not really necessary, and two are just ridiculous, with the latest one prompting me to write this post.


The first issue was about a post entitled “Allwinner A64 based Pine A64 and Banana Pi M64 Boards Can Now Run Windows 10 IoT Core“, where I shared .ffu firmware file links that I found directly via a page on Microsoft Azure github about Banana Pi board. There were accessible without any EULA, or agreement. So The Internet being the Internet, where you can freely share links that don’t break any sort of copyrights or promote hate, I added the links to my post, as well as a video showing the board with Windows IoT.

Two days later, I received an email from a company telling Microsoft had been asked them to ask me to “remove the ffu links from the article as MS are quite sensitive about publishing them” and “could you remove the video?”. I reluctantly did it, since I’ve received DMCA requests from Microsoft in the past for allegedly infringing on their copyrights in that post, but the way Google words them, it’s nearly impossible to find out why exactly. Google will normally comply with Microsoft request, so the page was removed from Google Search results, but funnily enough I can find it in Bing… On the bright side, there’s a lawsuit against DMCA by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in progress… Who knows, this might also help terminate YouTube’s “you’re guilty until proven innocent” policy regarding fair use of copyrighted audio and video…

The second US company asking me to modify my content this month was Intel, against by proxy, through their customer. The post was “Intel Atom C3000 Denverton Processor Targets Low Power Servers“, and a company contacted me to remove two pictures, and references to a specific company, as Intel had seen this was in conflict with an NDA. I got the picture and info from Anandtech, but I was explained that there’s been a misunderstanding with Anandtech when they published the pictures, and I could see they had themselves removed the pictures, so I did it too as I felt it was a fair request. However, I still have a hard time understanding how those two pictures can negatively impact Intel business, and IMHO they’d better focus their efforts on more important things. It also took them around 50 days to report the issue…

Netflix was the third company asking me to remove content or even delete a post by proxy. The interesting part is that I did not have any input from any company involved when I wrote “MINIX NEO U9-H 4K HDR Amlogic S912-H Android TV Box Coming in October“, as I got all my info from HDBlog Italia, except for one confirmation about the use of Amlogic S912-H processor. The post was written five days ago, and today I received an email by a third party asking me to remove the post. Wow, that’s quite a request without explanation… So I asked why and whether I could amend part of the post instead, and I was told that Neflix was quite unhappy about my post because of the text in bold below:

One interesting point is that Widewine Level 1 DRM is supported, so some premium video streaming app will support HD and maybe 4K UHD. It does not mean Netflix HD/4K will be supported however, as this requires an extra agreement with Netflix, but it’s still a step in the right direction.

It’s quite a well known fact that Netflix HD and 4K does not work on all devices, and Netflix even have a list of working devices. It’s quite hard to understand why this comment would become an issue, unless Netflix feels like it makes them look like the deliver a poorly supported service… Anyway, I changed the “inadequate” post by removing the text in bold, and wrote this post instead to make everybody happy 🙂

Coowell V4 Android TV Box Review – Part 2: Camera, Skype, Google Hangouts and Duo

September 4th, 2016 8 comments

Coowell V4 Android TV box is based on Rockchip RK3368 octa-core processor with 2GB RAM, and 16GB flash, and also includes a camera. In part 1 of Coowell V4 review, I have already taken photos of the device, and torn down the device to have a closer look at the board, and the camera which is based on a GC2145 2MP image sensor. Today, I’ll mostly test the camera and microphone, including firmware compatibility with Skype, Google Hangouts, and the latest Duo by Google app. Finally, it’s been a while since I’ve tested a RK3368 TV box, so I’ll run CPU-Z and Antutu again.

Coowell V4 Hardware Setup and Launcher

Coowell V4 hardware setup is pretty usual, and I connect an Ethernet port, and the USB RF dongle for MINIX NEO A2 Lite air mouse, as well as a USB keyboard to take screenshots. However, while normally I’d use my own HDMI cable, I had to use the provided cable since the device features a mini HDMI port.

Android_TV_Box_Camera_Coowell-V4Once you connect the power the power button LED on the unit turns red, and you need to press the button to boot it up, with the LED switching to blue color. A typical boot takes about 30 seconds. If you don’t use the camera, you can fold it down when you don’t use it if you have privacy concerns.

Click for Original Size

Click for Original Size

The launcher is optimized for TV use, and the user interface has a 1920×1080 resolution. It includes shortcuts to other “folders” like Online Video, My recommend, My Apps, Music, or Local, and a shortcut to Settings. It also features a customatizable row of shortcut right under the main buttons. The status bar is there. but can also be hidden. I went to the settings to check video output was set to 4K 60Hz, and it was the case.

Coowell V4 Camera

But let’s get to the main selling point of the TV box: its camera. I’ll start with the camera app.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

The quality is what you’d expect from a 2MP camera, and it will save 1600×1200 JPEG photos, and record 1280×720 MP4 videos.

Coowell V4 Video Conference

Most people who probably such TV box for video conference purpose, so I’ve tried what I consider the most popular video conference apps in Android: Skype, Google Hangouts, and the latest Duo by Google. I’ll describe my experience first, but you can also jump directly to the video demo further below if you want.


Skype is pre-installed, but I still tried to install the latest version with Google Play, and for some unknown reason type “skype” would make Google Play crash just went I typed the letter “e” with the air mouse. When I tried the pre-installed Skype, I could register an account and login, but calls would not work. So I searched in Google Play again using the USB keyboard, and it let me update the app.

I could use the Echo services to test audio calls successfully, and I also successfully called another laptop for a video call.

Google Hangouts

I had no problem install the app from Google Play, and the first time I tried I got both the caller and callee videos on the screen, but subsequently I lost video on the Android TV box, but both video feeds would still show on the laptop, and audio was still working. So there may have been a network issue in one direction…

Google Duo

Duo is the latest one to one video calling app by Google, which is supposed to be very easy to use compared to something like Hangouts. SO I was eager to test it, but it’s incompatible with the TV box. [Update: I’ve just tried Duo on my phone ,and it requires a phone number, so that’s probably why it won’t work on any TV boxes]


You can watch the device in action with the Camera app, Skype and Google Hangouts in the short video below.

Coowell V4 System Info and Antutu Benchmark

I think my latest RK3368 TV box review was with Zidoo X6 Pro in October 2015, so it’s probably a good idea to check if any have changed since then by running CPU-Z and Antutu 6.x.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

While all other devices with Rockchip RK3368 showed it clocked at up to 1.2 GHz, but RK3368 inside Coowell is instead clocked at up to 1.51 GHz, not that we should not always blindly trust CPU frequencies returned by the kernel. Other info shows 2GB RAM, 12.42 GB internal storage, 1920×1080 screen resolution, and Android 5.1.1 running on top of Linux 3.10.0.

So with that faster CPU clock, we should expect a higher Antutu score, right?


Nope. The score was just 23,445 points, while this type of device should have a score in the 3x,xxx. I repeated the test again in case something went wrong, but the device only achieved 22,870 points in my second try. I also noticed audio noise instead of music, during 3D graphics benchmarks for both tests.

GearBest kindly provided Coowell V4 review sample, and they are currently selling it for $72.30 shipped. You’ll also find the device on Aliexpress for $68 and up, as well as eBay and Amazon US.

Google QUIC is a Secure UDP Protocol Aiming to Replace TCP + TLS

August 10th, 2016 7 comments

A lot of traffic over the Internet goes through  secure https connections. Under the hood this requires a 3-way handshake to establish a TCP connection, followed by even more packets exchanged between the client and server to negotiate TLS in order to establish a secure connection.  Google is now working one the new experimental QUIC protocol that uses the “send and forget” UDP protocol, together with its own crypto, and its own way to making sure the connection is properly establish.

Software Architecture - TCP + TLS vs QUIC

Software Architecture – TCP + TLS vs QUIC

The whole idea about QUIC is to reduce the effect of latency (e.g. ping time) by exchanging less messages to achieve the same secure connectivity. For example, if there’s a 200ms latency between a server and a client, and if a TCP connection requires 4 packets, while a QUIC/UDP connection requires only 1 packet, you’ll save about 600ms.

One downside with UDP according to Jim Roskind, designer of QUIC, is that UDP ports are blocked by some enterprise customers, however he expects that to change overtime, as in the past they also blocked TCP port 80 (used to browse the web), and that eventually QUIC could displace TCP, potentially becoming “TCP/2”. This would require a lot of work, as it would have to supported in Windows, Linux, and other kernels/operating systems to really take of.

You can find a detailed technical write up on QUIC on Mattias Geniar blog. You may also want to check out QUIC Chromium page, as well as the code for proto-quic standalone library for QUIC, currently only working with Linux, and tested on Google’s Ubuntu clone.

Thanks to Nanik for the tip.

Categories: Linux, Programming Tags: google, internet, quic, security