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John Skeats
Qi Healer and Writer
Qi Healer and Writer


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This Week's Update from +Peggy K

This was a sad week with Google's announcement that the consumer version of Google+ (which is what most of us use) will be shut down in August. Peggy does a great job of overviewing that announcement and some related announcements, so I won't try to even summarize what she said. Read on...
New this week: Google+ for consumers to shut down, new “smart” Pixel 3 phones and “Made by Google” devices, Google Photos “Live” albums and more

This was a sad week for us avid Plussers, as Google announced the consumer version of Google+ will be shut down. There was good news too with new Google hardware with integrated AI and Assistant, new Photos features and shiny new look and name for the Google Product Experts program. This week’s update is a bit of a monster, so I've divided it into sections.

The shutdown of Google+

I am still working on a detailed write-up up my thoughts on the demise of Google+, but here’s an overview of what’s happening: on Monday, Google announced they had discovered (and fixed) a bug that may have revealed some user Google+ profile information to developers. Oh, and because of low usage and the “significant challenges in creating and maintaining a successful Google+ product that meets consumers’ expectations” the consumer version of Google+ will shut down by August 2019. The official Google+ Page didn’t make even a minimal announcement until the next day.

There have been no details about what will happen to user accounts and the Google products that are still integrated with Google+. The initial response from the tech press mostly focused on the data-exposing bug.

Since then has been a lot of confusion and some understandable sorrow and bitterness from long-time and dedicated Plussers, who understandably feel poorly treated by the abrupt announcement and lack of information. In any case, I feel a bit that way. However, I think the folks on the Google+ team do care about us few who are active on Google+. On Friday the Google+ Page posted a more complete announcement, with comments open. And I’m hopeful we will get more details soon about how the shutdown process will work.

I plan to be on Google+ for a while yet:


Google+ in G Suite getting new features

Google+ isn't really dead, because Google announced new features for enterprise customers that will be available in the coming months. Admins will be able to review and moderate employee posts, there will be new ways to direct and discover content with tags, admins will be able to create custom streams for employees, post analytics and more.


About that privacy bug

But what about that bug in the Google+ People API that exposed user data to developers? Google says it only involved “static, optional Google+ Profile fields including name, email address, occupation, gender and age”, was limited to up to 500,000 Google+ accounts. They have no evidence that the data was misused or that developers even knew about it.

It sounds like the privacy implications may not be that significant. But what is bad is that the bug was discovered and fixed back in March, but not revealed at the time “because of fears that doing so would draw regulatory scrutiny and cause reputational damage”. That comes from internal Google memos obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which they published an article about - probably not-coincidentally - on Monday. It remains to be seen whether there are any repercussions for Google.

Other steps Google is taking to improve account security and privacy

As a result of Project Strobe, the aforementioned review of developer and app access to Google account and Android device data, Google is making some additional changes:

* On Android devices consumers will get more fine-grained control over what account data they choose to share with each app.
* Google is limiting the apps and services with access to Gmail data to those that enhance email functionality
* Only the Android app you have set as the app for calls or text messages will be able to receive call log and SMS permissions


Made by Google hardware, with AI and Assistant everywhere

What I thought I’d be focusing on this week was Google’s big hardware event on Tuesday. The new Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL were announced, with a mighty notch on the XL and deep integration with Google Assistant.

Put your Pixel 3 on its wireless charger and it becomes a smart home hub, it can screen potential calls for you and it will be the first phone where the Assistant make restaurant reservations for you and to get Smart Compose in the Gmail mobile app. And the camera has some cool features noted below.

Google also announced the Google Pixel Slate tablet with Chrome OS and the Home Hub smart hub-with-a-screen, along with an updated version of the Google Home app.

It may or may not be significant that Google apparently didn’t mention “Android” once during the event.


New Google Photos and smart Google Camera features

The Pixel 3 cameras have great hardware specs, and a bunch of cool software features, Motion Auto-Focus and video stabilization on front and back cameras, Group Selfie to include everyone, Photobooth Mode that uses AI to decide when to snap the picture, and Playground augmented reality mode with Playmoji that can react to you and with each other.

Google Photos also launched Live Albums, that automatically update with photos of specific people or pets. Live Albums can display on the Google Home Hub and the Pixel 3 on its wireless dock.

And Google Photos lets you select a different “Top Shot” in a series taken by the Pixel 3 and edit the background on Portrait mode photos.

More updates
* The Google Top Contributor Program is now the Google Product Experts Program.

* You can now have Google Slides add real-time captions during your presentation

* Google's newly expanded Safety Center is rolling out in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the U.K.

Plus there are more tips and updates for webmasters, AdSense Publishers, YouTubers, Plussers and more. Read on for details. Click the link below for details.

Get all this week’s tips and updates:

* 15-16 October: Adobe MAX: Creativity & Community

* 17 October: National Association of Broadcasters Show

* 19 October: Google Webmaster Central office hours hangout

Image: An Autumnal Sunset on the Russian River Evening Glow by William Keith, 1878 (Public Domain),_1878.jpg
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Cow Avoids the Slaughter House by Hiding Out as a Deer

Bonnie the Wonder Cow was to be sold along with the rest of the cows on her farm because the owner had died. The cows were being scheduled to be picked up by the new owner, but apparently Bonnie decided that taking that ride might not be in her best interest, so she took off into the woods.

Being alone in the woods in upstate New York can present serious risks for animals because of coyotes, hunters, and tough winters. Bonnie must have decided that safety in numbers would be a good policy. Since there were no cows to join up with, she joined a herd of deer. She stayed with the herd and survived through the winter (with some help from a friendly human named Becky Bartels who trekked through up to three feet of snow every day at 6:30 AM to deliver food to the herd.

Bonnie was still at risk come spring because several neighbors threatened to slaughter her if she wandered on their properties, so Becky contacted a farm sanctuary for assistance. They came, but Bonnie was very wary of everyone but Becky, so they had no luck on their first two trips to retrieve Bonnie. On the third trip, they were able to sedate her. Bonnie now resides at the Farm Sanctuary where she will be able to live out her life comfortably and safely.
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How a Prius Actually Works

I've been a very a happy owner of a Toyota Prius for a number of years now. The first time I test drove a Prius, I commented that I felt as if I was driving the first real 21-century car because it was obvious to me that it was on a whole different level than any other car I had ever driven. I love my Prius but have often wondered about how it achieves the seemingly incredible gas mileage that I routinely see (~50 MPG plus or minus a little.). The attached video does an excellent job of explaining the technology that makes a Prius a Prius.
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Is Your Router is Infected with VPNFilter? Check Now!

There's a really nasty threat to your security in the wild called VPNFilter. If your router is infected, VPNFilter can collect your confidential information, modify information sent to and from your devices through your router, and even make your router unusable.

The good news is that Symantec has provided a really easy way for you to check whether your router is infected. Just click the button on the webpage below (after indicating you read and accept the Terms of Use), and you will be told instantly whether your router is infected. If it is, you will also find instructions for what to do.
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Guinness World Record for Solving 3 Rubik's Cubes -- While Juggling!

A 13-year-old boy from China set a Guinness World Record for a feat I can barely comprehend. I taught myself to solve +Erno Rubik's wonderful invention many years ago but can't come close to the speed-cubing records. I understand, however, how people can reach that point with a combination of dexterity and knowledge of Rubik's Cubes and algorithms for solving them. Similarly, I can juggle but am not a great juggler by any stretch of the imagination. This young boy, however, combined those two activities in a way that boggles the mind.

He was given 15 seconds to examine three scrambled Cubes, and then the challenge began. He picked them up and solved them while juggling them! To do that, he had to keep track in his mind of the states of each of the cubes, catch them in an orientation that allowed him to make the moves he needed to make to solve the Cubes, make each move quickly enough toss the Cube in time to catch the next one, and -- of course -- not drop any of the Cubes along the way. He pulled that of in an astounding 5 minutes 6.61 seconds!

FYI, you can watch the video itself at, but I recommend reading the Guinness World Record article about it below.

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Do Plants Have Feelings?

The video in +Leanne Osborne's post below strongly suggests that plants -- or at least the two plants in the video -- are sensitive to positive and negative messages they hear about themselves. One can certainly argue that the demonstration does not have the controls needed to stand up to the requirements of the scientific method, but the results are compelling nonetheless. If confirmed, one could only imagine how the results are extensible to human beings and other animals. The video is only a couple of minutes long. I encourage you to take the time to watch it.
Interesting Experiment: Bullying a Plant

IKEA launched their own experiment to demonstrate how verbal bullying can affect plants, and thus rings true for people as well. Each plant was isolated in its own box, and had negative put-down recordings in one box, and positive compliments in the other. Over time, the bullied plant had shown signs of withering, while the other plant flourished.

If words can affect plants, they can surely affect people. Let's all do our best to be good to one another. Think twice before saying/typing something to someone.
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A Classic Bit of Comic Relief from Google Assistant

My daughter just departed on a trip. As she was getting settled into the vehicle and putting her phone in place (with Google Maps, of course), her cat got a little creative, so she said "I see you're going to be a little bit of a pain in the ass." She must have unintentionally hit the button for voice input at just the right moment, because the next thing we heard was the Google Assistant voice saying "I'm not sure how to help with I see you're going to be a little bit of a pain in the ass yet."
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Find the Perfect Hummus for You with Google's New Hummus API

Google is always working to solve the world's biggest problems. Today they are releasing the results of one of those project: the Hummus API. Everyone likes different kinds of hummus. Now, with the Hummus API and the accompanying testing stick, Google can find exactly the right hummus for your taste buds -- and it is available today, April 1!
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Free Up Space on Your Phone with Google's New Bad Joke Detector!

We all know people who flood us with bad jokes, which can take a considerable amount of space on our phones. Google's researchers have the answer: After a considerable amount of research, they developed a new tool which can detect bad jokes and automatically give you back that precious space. Today is the perfect day for releasing a tool like that.
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Google Docs/Keep Tip: See How Google Docs and Google Work Together

Google Docs and Google Keep are great tools themselves, but they become even more powerful when used together. In the attached video, you will see how to build a document from information collected in Keep notes, create a new document from a single note, bring images from Keep into documents, maintain a link from a note in Keep to a document, and more.
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