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Google has another video conference tool, but are they too late?

(TECH NEWS) Google is making their Google Meet, available for anyone with a gmail account, leaving us to wonder if it’s a little too little, too late.

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Google Is now making its business video meeting tool available for free to everyone with a Gmail account. Wait! What? We already have that, don’t we? We do, kind of. Google has long offered free Google Hangouts, a messaging function that includes chat and video chat features for groups of up to 25 people. Google Duo is a video meeting app that has been available for cell phones and tablets, previously available for up to 8 people, but now for up to 12 people.

Sooooo, why do we care about free Google Meet? Isn’t this taking us back to, say, 2009? The difference is that with Google Meet, you can include up to 100 participants. This service used to be available only to paid G-Suite customers. Video conferencing has never been more popular or necessary, with Zoom leading the pack. Google wants you to blow off the others and give Google Meet a shot.

Why should we care? If you are already using a video meeting tool that works for you, what’s the incentive to switch? If you’re using Skype, you can only have up to 50 participants, while you can have up to 100 participants on Google Meet. On Zoom, you can also include up to 100 people on a video meeting. With a free Zoom account, you can meet for up to 40 minutes, and Google Meet has expanded their free Meet calls to 60 minutes.

Zoom has had serious issues with security and privacy. While Zoom is scrambling to enhance the safety and privacy of users, including ways to prevent illegal Zoombombing. Yet, it will be harder to trust Zoom again, now that the damage has been done. Google Meet already has a robust security system, including end-to-end encryption of all video calls. All calls go through Gmail, which already lives behind a bunch of protections, which has to be a good thing.

Google Meet also offers easy live captioning through their own voice recognition service and other accessibility considerations such as screen readers and magnifiers. People who are already familiar with Google chat/meeting tools will likely try Google Meet right away to see how it compares to Zoom, Skype, and other video conferencing tools. Google is betting on it.

However, if you already have a tool you love, you might be like, “Meh.” If you are the type who loves researching all of the tools to find your perfect match, then this is likely exciting news for you. Options are always good, though. The strangest thing is that Google has had this capability all along. When schools started shuttering during the pandemic, Zoom immediately stepped up and offered educators its professional tools for free–a clutch move that garnered them loads of positive press and help propel them past competitors into the top spot.

Google Meet will have to prove to be at least as clear, fast, easy to use as Zoom. With Google’s collection of launched and abandoned video tools, though, we have to wonder if it will be. At least Meet is already starting out more secure, which is a superb start. With the launch of Zoom 5.0, though, will it be too little, too late for Google Meet to capture a good chunk of the video tool?

Joleen Jernigan is an ever-curious writer, grammar nerd, and social media strategist with a background in training, education, and educational publishing. A native Texan, Joleen has traveled extensively, worked in six countries, and holds an MA in Teaching English as a Second Language. She lives in Austin and constantly seeks out the best the city has to offer.

Tech News

Infinity Maps is the most mind-blowing visual workspace ever

(TECHNOLOGY) Infinity Maps is bringing together whiteboarding, diagramming, and real-time collaboration all in one neat tool.

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Digital tools should be effective and efficient. They should help you plan, create, and manage your projects so your team can build solutions to your overall goals. While many tools say they are the all-in-one tool solution, this is a pretty bold statement to make. Each company is different, and one size doesn’t necessarily fit all.

However, there comes a time when such a tool comes slightly close to filling that spot. Infinity Maps seeks to do this by marrying some of the best qualities of different tools and adding its spice to the mix.

What does Infinity Maps offer?

Whiteboarding
The web application is partially an online whiteboard tool. In your workspace, called Canvas, you create your content by using cards. In these cards, you can add text, images, and files. Cards can be nested indefinitely creating hierarchies while still maintaining a “clear and concise” structure. You can do this by simply dragging a card into another card.

Diagramming
To visualize how each card correlates to one another, you have the option to link cards with arrows. These arrows are further organized by changing the color of each one or changing the color of the card itself.

Real-time collaboration
Infinity Maps lets your team collaborate in real-time. To work together, you can invite users to your map. When you share your workspace, you assign people different roles so they have the correct permissions to read or write on your map. Like Google’s web tools, you can see who is using the map because each username will show up next to their cursor and be assigned a different color.

Zoomable interface
Navigating through Infinity Maps is easy and works just like Google Maps. By double-clicking, you are taken directly to the card you selected. You can also scroll up and down and use the trackpad to zoom in and out of your map. This feature is super helpful when you have hundreds of cards on your map.

Why Infinity Maps?
The company says Infinity Maps is a “revolutionary new product that allows you to organize vast amounts of information visually & spatially”. It is a combination of Miro, Notion, and Google Maps all into one.

“What are we doing differently?” asks Infinity Maps CEO & Co-Founder Johannes Grenzemann. “With Infinity Maps, we are building a knowledge management system that allows you to create vast, huge knowledge bases [that] depict high complexity and depth while staying mind friendly because it’s a visual approach,” Grenzemann said.

infinity maps templates

Overall, Infinity Maps is a neat knowledge tool. It can be used in several ways, from students trying to organize their thesis to startups managing their product launches.

If you’re interested in checking them out to see if they are indeed the all-in-one tool solution, you can sign up to start mapping. A free account gives you access to 3 maps, up to 150 cards per map, and 50MB of cloud space. If you need more space to map out your ideas, you can unlock additional cards by inviting a friend or purchasing cards. Pro, unlimited, and team subscriptions plans are also available for purchase.

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Tech News

China cracks down on user data collection, allegedly cares about privacy

(TECH) Either China’s government just grew a conscience, or they’re trying to compete on a global stage. Either way, they’re implementing new laws.

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china cares about privacy?

In an uncharacteristic looking move for end-user privacy and choice, China has passed sweeping new legislation entitled the Personal Information Protection Law. It’s set to take effect on November 1, 2021, and includes provisions governing consent in user data collection of tech applications and specifies how companies can use that data, especially if that data is to be transferred out of China.

This is the second of two pieces of legislation to emerge this year as China takes a hard look at their cyberspace and try their hand at oversight.

The Data Security law, which came into effect on Sept. 1, set classification frameworks for data based on “its economic value and relevance to China’s national security” as cited in Reuters.

According to experts, both laws will require companies to reevaluate how they collect and store data on a massive scale. As regulations continue to develop rapidly during China’s re-examination of their tech industry, companies are scrambling to meet the stringent new requirements and adjust their infrastructure for compliance at a break-neck pace.

Takeaways:

  • The Personal Information Protection Law similar in design to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation
  • China’s top cyberspace regulator, Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), issued an investigation into Didi Global Inc, their version of Uber, with accusations of user privacy violations
  • An extensive set of rules targeting business practices that undermine fair competition, such as cultivating reviews, were implemented by China’s State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR)
  • 43 apps were accused of illegally transferring user data and called out by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and required to make “rectifications”

Similar cyberspace scrutiny is happening in the US regarding monopolies held by some of the biggest players in tech like Google, Facebook, and Amazon but is moving very slowly through the legislative process.

In terms of how this impacts Americans, TikTok is currently one of the single most downloaded apps in the US and owned by Beijing-based company ByteDance. According to The Sun, ByteDance is now the most valuable startup in the world with an estimated value of 1 billion USD.

Many doubt that China actually cares about privacy, but some believe that keeping up the appearance of playing by modern corporate rules benefits their government as they seek global dominance.

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Tech News

Apparently, the chip shortage is NOT easing up this year…

(TECH NEWS) If you’re a tech person who has tried to buy anything with a chip in it, you know there’s been a shortage and therefore a buying frenzy. Which apparently isn’t ending soon.

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It appears that the chip shortage, a phenomenon that has plagued production for the last six or so months, is not easing up like people had initially predicted. The real-world effects of this shortage are varied, but impactful.

The Daily Brew’s Dan McCarthy reports that the average wait time for chip deliveries is up to over 20 weeks at this point, a number that (despite postulation that the second half of 2021 would see increased chip production) is higher than the wait times in both July and June of this year.

The chip shortage has a few different roots, but the primary one as of late is a slew of COVID-19 outbreaks in Southeast Asia – specifically near locations that produce large numbers of semiconductors for the rest of the world. It’s thought that the wait time will increase in the coming weeks, even as companies slash predictions and hunker down for a hit to their profits this season.

For context, manufacturers were having to wait for a little over 12 weeks for their semiconductors this time last year. It’s clear that we’re going in the wrong direction if we’re planning to keep up production going into this next year.

The implications of such a shortage range from baffling to sobering. Earlier this year, people struggled to find PS5s for reasonable prices; more importantly, though, is the effect this shortage is having on the automobile industry. A couple of weeks ago, Toyota announced a 40 percent cut in production plans for September.

With GM, Ford, Stellantis, and VW adding that they will most likely cut back on production as well, it looks like the 2022 vehicle market will be the latest casualty to lower-than-optimal supply in a time of moderate demand.

While the chips used in cars, appliances, and other common electronics are profoundly affected by the shortage, it appears that “power management” chips (the ones used in smaller devices, namely smartphones) have a decreased wait time from last month. This somewhat contradicts a shortage warning by Apple in late July, though we’re clearly not out of the woods regarding production efficiency yet.

It is extremely likely that this shortage will impact auto and appliance production in 2022.

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