Make sure your website doesn’t get downgraded by Google

In a blog post, Google has warned web site operators to make sure their sites are mobile friendly, lest they risk getting a lower Google search ranking from mobile searches, which could affect their ability to attract visitors.

To make it easy to know if a site is compliant, Google has created an online “mobile friendly test site.”

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Google’s mobile friendly test site

Some of the criteria used to determine whether a site will pass that tests includes:

  • Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Uses text that is readable without zooming
  • Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Places links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

This site, LarrysWorld.com, failed the test when I ran the analysis this morning so I hastily updated its WordPress theme, which made it immediately compliant.

 

 

Moore’s law turns 50: An encore of Larry Magid’s 2005 interview with Gordon Moore on the 40th anniversary

Listen to Larry Magid’s 2005 interview with Gordon Moore recorded on the 40th anniversary of Moore’s Law

This post is adapted from one that first appeared on CBSNews.com on April 18, 2005

On April 19, 1965 Fairchild Semiconductor Founder Gordon Moore, who went on to co-found Intel, wrote a magazine article in which he observed that the number of components on a microprocessor would double every year for the next ten years. Later he revised it to every two years and then every 18 months. That observation, that later came to be known as “Moore’s Law,” has stood the test of time. Moore’s Law turns 50 on Sunday, April 19th, 2015.

That same article also predicted the home computer, automatic controls for automobiles and “personal portable communications equipment,” (i.e. the cell phone). All of that and more have come to fruition, in no small part because of the efforts of Moore and his Fairchild colleagues Robert Noyce and Andy Grove who, in 1968, co-founded Intel.

“Integrated circuits will lead to such wonders as home computers or at least terminals connected to a central computer automatic controls for automobiles, and personal portable communications equipment. The electronic wrist-watch needs only a display to be feasible today.” — from Gordon Moore’s 1965 article

Credit Intel Museam

Credit Intel Museam

My interview with Gordon Moore

Intel’s PR department told me that Moore, 86, isn’t doing interviews for the 50th anniversary but I did get an exclusive interview with him 10 years ago  on the 40th anniversary of Moore’s law. (Scroll to top of this page to listen)

Moore said that his interest in science and technology began early in life. Moore, who grew up in Pescadero, California got hold of a chemistry set when he was 11.

Explosives

“In those days you could get some good chemicals, from a boy’s point of view. You could make explosives and such. I used to turn out small production quantities of nitroglycerin and make my own dynamite.” Kids doing that today would probably get a visit from Homeland Security. Moore parlayed his interest in tinkering with chemicals into a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Physics from Caltech.

In a highly technical 1965 article that appeared on page 114 of the now defunct Electronics magazine, Moore wrote “The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year. Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase. Over the longer term, the rate of increase is a bit more uncertain, although there is no reason to believe it will not remain nearly constant for at least 10 years.”

When he and I spoke 10 years ago, he recalled his observation: “As we made circuits more complex we were going to make electronics a lot cheaper. So I made a wild extrapolation that the complexity of integrated circuits over the following 10 years would grow from about 60 that we were hoping to do in 1965 to something like 60,000 in 1975 and it turned out to be much more accurate that it had any reason to be when I made the prediction.”

What’s interesting about his prediction is that it holds true even as technology evolves.”The factors really relate to the technology below the level of the kind of circuitry we use. It relates to the dimensions that we can print on the circuits and the size chips we can make … I guess that’s kind of a lucky break from my point of view,” he laughed.

Moore’s law is not just an observation. It also has predictive ability. Engineers and others responsible for the design of products are able to take the law into account as they start the design process. Since it often takes years to bring a product into the world, it’s useful to have a sense of the microprocessor evolution curve before you start. That way, you can guess where the target will have moved to by the time the product is ready to go into production.

“All the participants in the industry now realize that unless they move that fast they fall behind,” Moore observed. He further noted “the peculiar thing about the semi-conductor technology as you go to these next generations … everything gets better, it’s not really an engineering trade-off. The transistors get faster, systems get more reliable and the electronics get very much less expensive. As a result any company that doesn’t heed Moore’s law will “not only have a performance disadvantage (but) have a cost disadvantage.”

Saying that costs go down is very much of an understatement. In the early sixties, a transistor cost about $5. Today a transistor costs about a millionth of a penny. “When the first integrated circuits came out their cost was such that they were really only useful in military systems. That was the only sufficiently cost insensitive application we could find,” he said.

Moore hasn’t always been so sure of that is observations about technology evolution would continue to remain true. “In looking out a few generations there always seems to be an impenetrable wall that was going to stop the rate of progress,” but things always seem to work out. “Every time we’ve come to one of those, the engineers have found a way around it. That to me is amazing.”

A little speaker system that carries a big punch

I’ve been an audiophile for as long as I can remember and have owned my share of turntables, cassette players, CD players and digital music players, along with plenty of amplifiers, receivers and, of course, speakers.

When I was a kid, the rule of thumb was that you needed big speakers for big sound, which worked out well for me since my dad purchased a pair of massive JBL speakers for the home where I grew up. As a young adult, I didn’t have the money or the space for those big speakers, but I did spring for the best speakers I could afford.

Today’s technology has made everything smaller. These days, most of the music I listen to is from my phone and, sadly, it’s usually through some not-very-good earbuds. When I can, I enjoy listening to music through excellent speakers and, of course, have some pretty good ones connected to the receiver in my living room. But I don’t always hang out in the living room. Sometimes I want that music in my study, my library, my bedroom, my kitchen, my patio or perhaps a hotel room when I’m on the road.

And, of course, I don’t want the hassle of wires, which works out well now that I have a Riva Turbo X wireless Bluetooth speaker system.

The Riva speakers don’t put out the same sound as those giant JBL speakers I grew up with, but for the cost, convenience and size, they do an excellent job. As I write this article, I’m listening to a Spotify playlist of Haitian music and I’m enjoying every beat.

The single enclosure has three ADX 60 mm proprietary drivers, as well as four ADX custom dual piston bass radiators, with optional virtual surround sound and a turbo mode that boosts the audio significantly enough to fill a relatively large room.

An Android and iOS app allows you to control the speakers as you listen to music from the phone.

And, if the phone rings while you’re listening to music, the music fades and the Riva turns into a conference phone with a built-in microphone.

It comes with a power cord but it has a built-in rechargeable battery that runs for up to 26 hours, according to the company. There is also a USB charger for your phone or tablet, and both USB and wired 3.5 mm inputs if you don’t have or want to connect your audio via Bluetooth.

Like all Bluetooth speakers, it can also connect to computers. I used it with my MacBook Air laptop to watch a movie and enjoyed the sound that was far more robust than the Mac’s internal speakers.

What I like about these speakers is the reasonable compromise between size and weight (3.5 by 4 inches, and 3½ pounds), the quality of the sound and the fact that a power plug is optional. I tested them throughout my house and in my backyard and they even held up well outside.

My only complaint is the price. At $349.99, the Riva Turbo X is an expensive product, which puts it out of the range of many consumers. Still, if you’re looking for good sound in a small, albeit expensive package, they may be well worth the cost.

 

New, cheaper Chromebooks could build on Google’s success

Asus Chromebook aimed at education market

Acer Chromebook aimed at education market

by Larry Magid:

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

This post first appeared in the San Jose Mercury News

Some parents and officials worry about privacy but Google has pledged not to track, profile or advertise to students.

Chromebooks have been around for four years and are already gaining traction in schools, but Google’s newest — and cheapest — Chromebooks make them an increasingly attractive option for budget-minded consumers.

Chromebooks are laptops that use Google’s Chrome operating system. Unlike Macs and Windows machines, they don’t run off-the-shelf software, but web apps like Google’s Gmail and other Google apps that typically run inside a browser. The user interface for Chromebooks is the same as Google’s Chrome browser on a Windows PC or Mac.

Chromebooks are already popular in schools because of they are not only less expensive to buy than traditional laptops, but less expensive to maintain because they do not run traditional operating systems or desktop software. The Chrome OS operating system and its web-based apps are automatically kept up-to-date and, unlike Windows PCs, there is essentially no ongoing maintenance to keep them running smoothly.

At an event last October, Google senior vice president Sundar Pichai reportedly said that Chromebooks are approaching 50 percent share of the U.S. education market, and Google reported near the end of 2014 that Chromebooks “are the best-selling device in the U.S. this year.”

And with prices of releases announced this week from Asus, Acer, LG, HP, Hisense and Haier starting at $150, they’re actually less expensive than iPads and many other tablets.

One downside of Chromebooks is that they don’t run desktop applications like Microsoft Office or other PC or Mac programs. But Google and its partners have developed a large number of apps that do run on these devices. Anyone who needs Office-like software — Microsoft Word, Excel or PowerPoint, for example — can access online equivalents from Google as part of Google Drive. And, unlike Microsoft’s products, Google Drive is free. Some of these apps can be run even when the machine is offline, but they are optimized for online use.

Typically, Chromebooks have far less storage than traditional laptops but Google’s got that covered too with Web storage. The idea is to store your documents on Google’s “cloud” servers instead of locally on the machine itself.

In addition to the consumer and business apps, Google offers free apps for schools, including a special version of Gmail with the school’s domain name instead of Gmail.com, along with its word processing program, spreadsheet, slideshow program and a product called Classroom that teachers can use to create and mange assignments and communicate with their students.

Student privacy

Not surprisingly, some parents and public officials worry about the privacy and security implications of a private company like Google having access to all this student information. Google says that is does not subject students to advertising, tracking or profiling.

Along with Microsoft, Apple and numerous other companies, Google is among the signers of the Student Privacy Pledge with a promise not to sell student information or engage in “behaviorally target advertising.” Signers also pledge to use data for authorized education purposes only, not change privacy policies without notice and choice, enforce strict limits on data retention, support parental access to, and correction of errors in, their children’s information and provide comprehensive security standards. You can find the entire pledge and the list of signers at StudentPrivacyPledge.org.

I believe Google is sincere about its commitment to privacy, but the cynic in me wonders whether the company is looking at this as a long-term investment to rope in kids as lifelong customers.

If so, it’s pretty smart. One of the reasons for Apple’s early success was very aggressive pricing for education. As early as the 1980s, millions of students were raised on Apple products at school and a significant number of them stuck with Apple long after they graduated high school.

With Chromebooks starting at $150, it’s possible for schools to purchase more of these devices, and all of that free online software from Google makes these devices very inexpensive to use.

Ecosystem

Google has also created an ecosystem around its education apps and Chrome devices, including lots of web resources for educators, access to trainers and deployment tools and advice for school district IT departments. Google also makes it easy to find “thousands of teacher-approved apps, books and videos” in an effort to make the transition to its hardware and Chrome platform as teacher-friendly as possible.

In addition to being cheaper than any iPad and most Android tablets, they also have keyboards, which — for many educational purposes — makes them superior to tablets.

So far, it isn’t clear whether Apple plans to respond to the challenge. While the company does offer educational discounts, those discounts aren’t nearly enough to make its products cost-competitive with some Chromebooks. But the Windows world is responding. Microsoft is rumored to be working on a $149 Windows 10 PC aimed at education, price-conscious consumers and the developing world.

While Chromebooks are a reasonable alterative for many users, they’re not for everyone. I’m not about to give up access to Microsoft Office and several other programs that only run on PCs and Macs, and I like the ability to store massive amounts of data locally on my machine and to be able to have full use of the machine on an airplane and other places where I may have no or limited Internet access.

Tech made hospital stay a bit more tolerable

I wasn’t planning to write a column about Redwood City’s Sequoia Hospital (now owned by Dignity Health), but thanks to an intestinal blockage, I wound up there from the night of March 20 through March 23.

I can’t begin to comment on all the technology at this or any other hospital. Most medical devices are way outside my expertise. But there were some tech products that I could comprehend, like the computer in my room that the nurses used to check and update my chart, and the very high-tech intravenous machine that automatically notified the nursing staff when the fluids were running low or if there was air in the line. One reason I can’t forget that machine is because of the loud alarms it would emit from time to time.

As a patient, my own patience was improved because of the hospital’s guest Wi-Fi network that enabled me to use my laptop throughout the stay. Most of the time there was enough bandwidth to stream video, so my wife Patti — who slept on a cot in my room — and I could watch multiple episodes of Tina Fey’s new Netflix comedy series, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” I’m not saying that Wi-Fi made my hospital stay pleasant — there’s nothing pleasant about having an IV in your arm and a tube down your throat — but it made it a lot more tolerable.

And, unlike the last time I had to stay in a hospital, about a decade ago, there were no rules prohibiting the use of cellphones, so I was as connected with colleagues and friends as I wanted to be.

To aid in my recovery I did a lot of walking around the hospital and grounds — sometimes dragging the IV stand with me. On my last day, I spent some time outside but wanted to be “on call” in case my doctor showed up, so I just gave my cellphone number to the nurse. It’s common for hospitals to have ways to page medical staff, but now they can also “page” patients.

And speaking of paging, gone were those PA announcements you typically hear at hospitals. Instead of pages blaring through speakers that every patient and staffer have to hear, the staff wore Vocera Communication badges so they could communicate with other staff. As my nurse worked in my room, I would hear a chime followed by a natural-sounding, computer-generated voice asking her if she would accept a call.

To take the call all she had to do was accept it with her voice, and the device’s voice recognition system initiated a two-way call between her and the other staffer. There was no need to touch the device or press any keys. Staff can also initiate calls using SIRI-like voice commands and simply say the name of the person they wish to reach.

Vocera uses the hospital’s Wi-Fi network, so there’s no need for a separate radio system, and it works throughout the facility.

Vocera, a San Francisco-based company, also makes apps for smartphones and tablets that enable staff to communicate using off-the-shelf Android or iOS smartphones or tablets within a hospital or when out in the field. The apps allow for confidential texting that is compliant with federal (HIPPA) medical privacy laws. The suite of apps supports both shared and personal(BYOD — “bring your own device”) devices that provide secure texting and calling along with alert systems based on the user’s location.

Because I was connected while in the hospital, I was able to sign into Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s patient portal to bring up my lab work from their Urgent Care department, which referred me to the hospital. I could also find historical data about previous conditions and test results that the medical staff here needed to know about. Dignity Health also has an online patient portal, as I learned by email shortly after being admitted. Now that I’m out of the hospital, I can see the results of all the lab work during my stay.

I hope I never again have to spend three days at a hospital but — since I had to — it’s nice that the staff and I were well connected. That technology, along with a great doctors and a terrific nursing and support staff, helped get me through a very trying time.

A Third of Recently Married Couples Met Online and They’re More Satisfied and Less Likely To Split-Up

This post first appeared on June 13, 2013

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Source: Based on data from Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues (chart by Larry Magid)

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Listen to Larry’s CBS News/CNET interview with eHarmony.com CEO Neil Clark Warren

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 35% of couples married between 2005 and 2012 met online and that these couples were slightly more likely to stay together and “associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction among those respondents who remained married,” according to the report.

The study, which was led by John T. Cacioppo from the University of Chicago’s Department of Psychology, Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience was based a Harris Interactive survey completed by 19,131 married respondents. The study was commissioned by eHarmony but was vetted by independent statisticians who “oversaw and verified the statistical analyses based on a pre-specified plan for data analyses. Prior to the survey, an agreement with eHarmony was reached “to ensure that any results bearing on eHarmony.com would not affect the publication of the study. Having read the entire report (I have a doctorate in education with a survey research specialty), I can say that it looks very legitimate.

Longer and happier marriages

The survey also found that marriages that began online “were slightly less likely to result in a marital breakup (separation or divorce) and were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction among those respondents who remained married.” Just under 6% (5.96%) of those who met their spouse online had divorced or separated compared to 7.67% of those who met offline.

eHarmony CEO “shocked” by percentage of online introductions resulting in marriage

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eHarmony CEO Neil Clark Warren (Photo: eHarmony)

In an interview, eHarmony CEO and Founder, Neil Clark Warren, said that he commissioned the survey because he “wanted to see how eHarmony was doing and I also wanted to see generally how much people were using the Internet to explore the possibility of their getting married and getting matched to someone.” He said he and his colleagues were “shocked when we found 35% of all of those marriages involved people who had met on the Internet.” As per satisfaction rate (eHarmony scored highest), he claimed that “we do a better job of introducing people than people off the Internet.” He pointed out that “we make them go through five stages of communication before they even get the other person’s name. He also said that dating sites provide “a pool of possibilities to date and eventually marry that’s much much larger than you can assemble on your own.”

This post first appeared on Forbes.com

Internet Explorer had a long and important life, but it’s time to move on

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 7.48.33 PMAfter 20 years, it’s time to say goodbye to Internet Explorer. It’s been said that time is measured in dog years on the Internet, so based on that notion, Microsoft’s Web browser lived to a ripe old age.

The world has changed since Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer in 1995. Back then, the World Wide Web was in its infancy and browsers were — just as the name implied — mostly used to browse around. There were no web-based email apps, people didn’t use browsers for online banking, there was even a paucity of Web-based news sites.

Back then, most people who went online were still using dedicated services like Prodigy, CompuServe or AOL, and each of these services required their own proprietary software. AOL distributed millions of floppy disks with its software — so many, in fact, that I never had to buy floppies, I just reformatted the free ones from AOL.

And, of course, people weren’t using phones or tablets to surf the Web in 1995, though I was surprised to learn that a browser for the Apple Newton personal digital assistant, called PocketWeb, was launched in 1994.

IE was controversial from the day it was announced because, unlike its competition at the time, it was free. It was largely blamed for the demise of Netscape Navigator, the leading browser of its time, which led to concerns that Microsoft would forever dominate the browser market, especially when it bundled IE with Windows 95.

I remember having a conversation about this issue with Microsoft’s then-CEO, Bill Gates, at a trade show where he dismissed this notion. Gates was right — Just because Microsoft was giving away a browser for free didn’t mean that it would forever own that market.

Firefox, a free browser from the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, started eating into Microsoft’s market share shortly after it was introduced in 2005, and Google Chrome, which first appeared in 2008, is now very popular. There are conflicting studies on whether IE or Chrome is currently the leading browser, but, however you look at it, Microsoft’s market share is shrinking and it clearly no longer “owns” the browser market, even on Windows PCs.

Apple’s Safari, of course, dominates on iOS phones and tablets, while Google Chrome is the main browser for most Android devices. But browsers aren’t as important on mobile because many “sites” have their own app. Most news sites, for example, encourage readers to download their app even if it possible to view their content on a mobile browser. On my PC or Mac, I do my banking through my browser, but on my phone I use my bank’s app.

IE’s reputation as an insecure and sluggish browser lingers, even though it’s no longer true. Chrome’s success is largely because of its perceived speed and its minimalist design, but in a September 2014 roundup, PC Magazine crowned Firefox as the fastest and most memory-efficient browser. Even though IE came in third, the PC editors gave it a good review, saying “it’s so much faster, leaner, and more secure than previous versions that former users who left it behind may want to give it another try.”

But users rarely do go back and give maligned products another try. Like a lot of people, I was once an IE user, but after Firefox (and later Chrome) came along, I switched away and never switched back. As part of my research for this column, I did try the latest version of IE and have to agree that it’s a lot better than it once was, but I’m still not going back. I go back and forth between Mac, Windows, iOS and Android and want a browser (like Chrome and Firefox) that runs seamlessly on all those platforms.

So, if you can’t get people to take a second look at an improved product, another strategy is to kill off the name and replace it with something really new. And that’s what Microsoft is doing with a browser that’s been code-named Spartan.

As the name implies, Spartan promises to be lean and fast. It also will offer note taking and web page annotation and be optimized for reading content and getting out of the way, especially on smaller mobile devices. It will also be smarter with a personal-assistant feature, called Cortana, that will, for instance, automatically give you directions when you land on a restaurant’s webpage or bring up your flight reservation if you type in the airline name in the address bar.

Spartan is not yet in the technical preview of Windows 10 that I’ve been trying out, but it should be ready when Windows 10 is released, likely this summer. While Internet Explorer is being retired as a mainstream browser, it will still be available for large organizations that need it for continuity purposes for older websites, but most Windows users will be encouraged to use Spartan.

 

 

Android apps to get age rating and manual review

by Larry Magid

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Android developers today received an email from Google informing them that the company is “introducing a new age-based rating system for apps and games consistent with industry best practices.”

Developers will be required to complete a content rating questionnaire based on official ratings from the International Age Rating Coalition (IARC). The questionnaire provides them an immediate rating from various territories around the world so that parents can make content decisions based on familiar rating systems, depending on where they live. The rating systems include the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) for the U.S., the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI), Australian Classification Board and others.

The new rating system will replace the current Google Play rating scale with a local rating. Areas that aren’t covered by the IARC system will be “assigned an age-based generic rating,” according to Google.

Developers are required to complete the content rating questionnaire for new apps, existing apps and again after any app update with new content or features that could affect their rating.

Tim Lordan, executive director of the Internet Education Foundation called the rating system “a great development that is scalable and allows for International customization.”

Apple has its own rating system for iOS content based on age ratings of 4+, 9+, 12+ and 17+.

Manual review

Several months ago, Google started reviewing apps before they were allowed to be published in the Google Play store and, today, the company announced that it’s rolling out “improvements to the way we handle publishing status. Developers now have more insight into why apps are rejected or suspended, and they can easily fix and resubmit their apps for minor policy violations.”

Advice for parents

Rating systems can be a guide for parents but they’re not necessarily definitive. Parents should review any apps their kids are using to determine whether they are suitable for your child. Additional information may be available from Common Sense Media and other rating sources that provide reviews in addition to age-based ratings. It can also be helpful for parents to read the reviews in the Google Play and iTunes stores,  to use a search engine to see what others are saying and to discuss children’s apps with other parents and your kids themselves. Ratings, filters and parental control tools can be helpful, but they are never a substitute for people involved with your child’s digital life. Periodically talk with your kids about the apps, social media services and sites they use but make it a conversation, not a lecture. Ask your kids what they use and how they protect their privacy and security while evaluating whether you feel that the content in the app is suitable for your child.

Disclosure: Larry Magid is CEO of ConnectSafely.org, a non-profit Internet safety organization that receives contributions from Google and other companies.