Google Unveils New Products at Pixel Event 2022

During a press event in New York City, Google unveiled the new Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro devices, the brand-new Pixel Watch, and a teaser for a forthcoming 2023 Pixel Tablet. Although the devices are similar to those from last year, there seemed to be some welcomed improvements, like additional camera functions, a better screen and battery, and an upgraded Google Tensor processor.

Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro

With its 6.3-inch display, face recognition as an alternative unlocking method, and Google’s G2 Tensor processor, the Pixel 7 boasts enhanced AI-driven capabilities. These capabilities include the ability to see a menu while making a call, have emoji ideas suggested to you based on your voice, and have audio messages transcribed in Google’s Messages app.

The Pixel 7 new camera features include Cinematic Blur, Guided Frame via voice assistant for individuals who have limited vision, and a pretty neat feature called Photo Unblur, which effectively unblurs old photographs.

The Pixel 7 is available in three colors: obsidian, snow, and lemongrass. The device is available for preorder and has a starting price of $599.

The Pixel 7 Pro offers many of the same features included in the base model, with a few improvements over the display, weight, and battery life. Still, the camera is what significantly distinguishes the 7 Pro from the base model. The 30x telephoto lens on the Pixel 7 Pro works with cutting-edge software to provide clear images at all zoom levels. Additionally, the 7 Pro includes a Macro Focus feature that enables you to snap close-up pictures with HDR+ quality for detailed photos.

At its base price of $899, the Pixel 7 Pro is available in obsidian, snow, and hazel colors. Like the base Pixel 7, the Pixel 7 Pro is available for preorder.

Google Watch

The Google Pixel Watch comes with new health-tracking functions, such as a heart rate sensor, ECG monitoring, and sleep tracking, which keep with the current trend toward smartwatches and other wearable electronic devices.

The Pixel Watch starts at $349 for the WiFi-only device and $399 for the WiFi plus LTE model. Preorders for the watch are currently available.

Google Tablet

We didn’t receive much information on the Pixel Tablet because it won’t be available until 2023, but Google revealed some information.

The Pixel Tablet will function with a speaker dock that doubles as a charging station and will use the same G2 Tensor technology that drives the Pixel 7. Based on the fact that the Pixel Tablet is being marketed as a smart home manager and creative tool, we can probably expect some cool features to be announced before its release next year.

The Pixel 7, Pixel 7 Pro, and Pixel Watch’s improved AI-driven functionalities will certainly change the way we use our smart devices. Although the Google Pixel Tablet will not be available until 2023, there is no doubt that these new Google gadgets will cause a stir in the technological world.

Microsoft Edge Improves Performance

Engineers at Microsoft recently announced performance improvements for their Edge browser.  A blog post that the company published recently explained how.

A blog post from the company explained how:

“Beginning with Microsoft Edge 102 on Windows, Microsoft Edge automatically compresses disk caches on devices that meet eligibility checks, to ensure the compression will be beneficial without degrading performance.

This ensures compression of these caches largely improves performance and overall user experience.

One way we can maximize cache usage while minimizing disk usage is by leveraging compression to save disk space for the cached content.  Since the contents in these cache(s) are often highly compressible, compression results in increasing the likelihood that the requested resource can be fetched from the disk.”

In our view, this is a great move.  Many people set up their systems with a large disk cache, allowing their web browser to store vast amounts of information for faster recall later.

The problem is that disk space is not unlimited, and if it’s at a premium on your system, compression neatly solves the problem.  The system can still store vast amounts of web data so it can be recalled more quickly later but until that happens, it saves on space by compressing it.

This change comes on the heels of another that the company rolled out some months ago. That change introduced improvements to the way the Edge browser used memory and CPU power.  In that case, the company “put unused browser tabs to sleep” which resulted in an average reduction of CPU usage of 37 percent while simultaneously reducing memory usage by 32 percent.  Those are solid numbers.

Best of all, the company says they’re still not done.  On deck are improvements to the Edge browser’s security, which will include features that should help to minimize the risk of undiscovered zero-day vulnerabilities from being exploited.

Kudos to Microsoft.  These are excellent changes that greatly improve the browser.

DuckDuckGo Email Privacy Service Beta Released

DuckDuckGo has a reputation for protecting the privacy of its users far more than most other companies.  Last year, the tiny search engine announced that they were experimenting with a free service designed to dodge email trackers as a means of further protecting the privacy of its users.

The company’s Email Protection service works by stripping email trackers from messages.

Initially, DuckDuckGo’s Email Protection service was available via a waitlist only.  You had to sign up.  If/when a spot opened for you, you could test it out.  During this waitlist testing period, the company reports that it found trackers in some 85 percent of incoming messages.

Now, DuckDuckGo’s Email Protection service has moved to Open Beta, so literally anyone can get a email address. Per the company, you can create as many private email addresses as you like and they will be accessible from your desktop, iOS or Android devices.

Not only does the service promise to strip out unwanted email trackers, but it will also give you a report detailing exactly what trackers it found in your messages. It includes a new Link Tracking feature that helps prevent tracking across email links.

If that wasn’t enough, the service also includes Smart Encryption, which upgrades unencrypted HTTP links in emails to their secure HTTPS counterparts whenever possible. You can reply to messages with a email address in lieu of whatever address you normally use.

To make use of the service, you’ll need to install the DuckDuckGo Privacy Browser for iOS or Android.  Once installed, simply go to the Email Protection section of the Settings menu to try it out.

If you’re planning to use it on your desktop PC, you’ll need the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials extensions depending on the browser you use. It is available for Chrome, Edge, Brave, Firefox or the DuckDuckGo Mac browser.  Once you’ve got the extension installed, just pay a visit to the email section of the company’s website.

Windows 11 Gets New Taskbar Overflow Option

Are you the type of person who is in the habit of keeping all their apps open?  If so, you’re going to love a recent addition to Windows 11.

In a bid to make finding your open apps easier, once you’ve run out of room on the Windows Taskbar, they’ve introduced a new “taskbar overflow” feature.  It’s a three-dot menu that appears when there’s no more space on the taskbar that hides all the other apps you are running that don’t have room to be displayed there.

This is a vast improvement over the Windows 10 overflow, which only shows the most recent app that has been used or has been opened.

If you’re not a power user, you probably won’t even notice the change. If you are, once you give the new feature a try you’ll probably wonder how you ever got along without it.  In our view, it’s right up there with tabbed browsing.  It’s something that doesn’t seem at first glance like it would make much of a difference, but its impact is profound.

There has been quite a lot of that kind of thinking going into the design of Windows 11, and we have to say we’re impressed by the way the new OS is shaping up so far.  If this and other small but important innovations are any indication (and we absolutely believe that they are) then Windows 11 is going to be an absolute game changer when it’s released.

Kudos to Microsoft for really going the extra mile both in terms of updating and modernizing the overall Windows aesthetic and also for putting their collective thinking caps on and coming up with solutions to problems that really detract from the overall user experience.  Keep up the good work, and Windows 11 is going to be amazing.

RDP Brute Force Attacks Blocked By Windows 11

A small but important feature was recently incorporated by the Windows 11 design team.  A new Account Lockout Policy enabled by default has been added.  This policy automatically locks user accounts (including Admin accounts) after ten failed sign-in attempts.

The account remains in a locked state for ten minutes, requiring users to wait that amount of time before they can try again.

The addition was made in a bid to prevent or at least minimize the risk of brute force attacks being made against systems. This is used in instances where different passwords are tried in rapid succession until an attacker gets a hit and is given some level of access on a target system.

It’s an excellent change because many human operated ransomware attacks rely on simple, brute force methods. Statistics gathered on the subject by the FBI indicate that between 70 to 80 percent of network breaches are because of brute force attacks.

The above describes the default settings, but Admins will have a great degree of flexibility in terms of deciding the exact policy.  The number of unsuccessful attempts before lockout can be varied. The lockout duration can be varied. The option to disable Admin accounts can be toggled on or off. Of course, the entire policy can be disabled if an Admin so desires.

Interestingly, Windows 10 has a similar lockout policy but it is not enabled by default, which is the important change here.

We regard this as another of those small but important changes that the Windows 11 team is making designed to make the new OS better, safer, and more secure than anything that Microsoft has released previously.

Kudos to the Microsoft engineers who are working tirelessly to ensure Windows 11 is a smashing success.  If the preview we’ve gotten to this point is any indication, it certainly will be!