Google

Is Bing Good Enough To Replace Google in Australia

Interesting times in Australia, with a standoff between Google and the Australian Government about news revenue. Google has given mixed messages around if they’d completely pull their search engine out of the Australian market – we’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

The idea that Microsoft can fill the void with Bing has very mixed responses out there, and without any real evidence I’d say there’s much more of a negative view of Bing than positive. Ausdroid have a good summary of what’s being said so far:

The last part of the article says

Personally, I am not sure Microsoft’s Bing search could fill the void. There is potential for it, but given how much Google and its services have been so entrenched into our society for decades, I think it will take time for Microsoft’s Bing to become the go-to search function Google is now, if it ever can.

https://ausdroid.net/2021/01/31/microsoft-to-scomo-we-can-fill-the-google-void-with-bing/

I agree that this is a fair take on the state of Bing. I’ve personally tried to use it a few times and had less than ideal results vs Google, but it’s been a while since I last tried. Let’s try again on some searches off the top of my head, and see what the results are (and honestly I don’t know what I’m searching for yet, none of this has been pre-planned trying to get to a particular outcome).

To be fair, I’ll use Microsoft Edge browser in InPrivate mode for Google searches, and Google Chrome in Incognito mode for Bing searches:

Search 1: ‘Adam Fowler’

Some different results on the main page, but scrolling down both have this website (yay). Google has more results on the first page that are actually me, but Google claims 53 million results, while Bing claims 4 million. That’s a huge difference – does it matter? I’m not sure…

Search 2: ‘windows search exited without properly closing your outlook data file’

I grabbed the last error I could find from a Windows PC and searched for it. Both engines came back with answers.microsoft.com then social.technet.microsoft.com as the first two hits, then the results are a bit mixed with both having reasonable results. I was expecting better results from Google based on my historical experience, so I’ll try another techie search next.

Search 3: ‘how to move user to skype for business online’

This is something I actually needed to do. The first result is the same again

Search3b: ‘move-csuser cannot find user in active directory with the following sip uri’

After following the instructions, I hit an error, so searched that on both options. The first result was different, both were correct, but the Bing result was a much clearer and better written article. Again, this wasn’t the outcome I had expected.

Search 4: ‘the good guys gepps cross

I remembered I needed a receipt for a Fridge I’d just bought – I’d normally search the store name and location in Google. The Google results nailed it, with the business info on the right hand side. Bing thought I was asking about the suburb and showed me where it was, but the first results are still useful – just not as useful as Google’s. This is the biggest area I’d like to see Bing do better in.

Search 4a: ‘mod pizzeria’

A local pizza shop that I like. Without defining anything but the name, Google again gives me all the details I want about the business. This time though, Bing did a better job. Below the irrelevant (for me based on my location) information on Mod Pizza (which is different to what I typed), the correct details were below about the business.

Search 5: ‘Google Chrome Download’

Let’s see if Google and Bing like each other. Both results fine, although the Bing ad I prefer with the actual ‘download’ button. Bing gave some encouragement to get Edge though which is a bit intrusive, but at least it’s clear it’s ‘Promoted by Microsoft’.

Search 5b: ‘Microsoft Edge Download’

Both engines giving the right link first up again which is good to see.

Search 6 – image search ‘Capybara’

This looks on par for both engines, both have the ability to filter by time/license/size etc.

Search 7 – Shopping ‘fridge’ and filtering to ‘Westinghouse

OK, here’s an area that Bing fails. All the results are from eBay AU and that’s it. Google however, shows a bunch of well known retailers in Australia. Google wins the Shopping section by a long way, and it doesn’t look like they’ve really focused on the Australian shopping market yet.

Search 8 – Videos: Lano and Woodley

An Australian comedy duo – how do the results look for a video search on them? Bing seems happy to give YouTube and Facebook results, while Google seems to prefer a few Australian websites with their clips on as well as YouTube. At a guess, Bing isn’t scraping Australian sites so well for video clips – but if you’re searching for Videos on a search engine, you’re probably wanting YouTube anyway. I think both engine results are fine here.

Overall, the results were a lot better than I expected. I’ll also still agree it’s not on par with Google yet, but with a focused effort it seems like an achievable goal.

Of course, I’ve only done a few tests, but personally I’m going to change my search engine to Bing and see if any frustrations come up – if they do, I’ll add it to this post.

Let’s see what happens!

Update 4th February 2021

Microsoft released a public statement which included this dot point:

We will invest further to ensure Bing is comparable to our competitors and we remind people that they can help, with every search Bing gets better at finding what you are looking for.

https://news.microsoft.com/en-au/2021/02/03/microsoft-supports-australian-government-proposal-addressing-news-media-and-digital-platforms/

Which to me sounds like they admit they might not be as good as Google in this space yet, but will put more effort into doing so. Let’s hope that happens.

Chromecast with Google TV Review

Google do some things well, and some other things not so well – those get abandoned reasonably quickly for the most part. One of the areas they’ve excelled at in recent times, is leveraging their Android platform to provide a decent Smart TV experience. So much so, that most TVs these days come with Google TV built into it, and a nice big Google Play button on the TV remote.

In a move that will probably frustrate most TV manufacturers, Google has added this same Google TV experience into their latest Chromecast devices. For $99AU, you can buy a Chromecast with Google TV device and plug it into a HDMI port of your TV, and plug the other end into the wall via USB charger to make any TV, smart.

To reiterate – this can now be a standalone device for streaming media, that doesn’t need your phone or anything else to kick it off.

Personally I’ve been plugging old laptops into TVs and using wireless keyboards to provide a similar experience. In some ways, it’s much nicer to have a full version of Windows available along with a keyboard to be able to alternate between media watching device and computer monitor, but using a keyboard is still a clunky experience for sitting on a couch and just wanting to watch some Netflix.

Coming in three colours (which have fancy names, but they’re white, pale blue and pale pink), I started with a pale blue. The device is still quite small and thin and has the hard wired HDMI cable at one end, and the USB-C port at the other – cable and power point plug were included.

If I buy more, I’ll get one of each colour, because the remote that comes with it is also coloured meaning you know which remote goes with which TV.

It’s a smaller remote that takes 2xAAA batteries (which also came with the device), but I wouldn’t say it’s too small or too light. The top part is a 4 way directional pad with selection button in the middle, with back, Google Assitant, home, mute, YouTube, Netflix, Power and Input toggle buttons available.

The side of the remote also has a volume up/down, and as part of the initial setup you choose your TV and press buttons to make sure it’s working as desinged. My TV brand wasn’t listed (FFalcon), but since it’s an updated name for TCL, I chose that and it worked.

One weird message I had when setting up was this: “This Chromecast was manufactured for a different country, and may not be compatible with your Wi-Fi network.” I bought this directly from Google, and others also had the same message. I’m guessing it was built for the USA which has different Wi-Fi requirements, but it hopefully won’t be an issue here (even though Google couldn’t get Wi-Fi right on their Nest Mini device).

Back on the remote, once I’d finished setting up and started to play around I found the throw distance of the remote for IR functions (such as volume) to the TV was quite poor. Within about 1.5m it worked perfectly, and beyond that it just didn’t work. Maybe it’s just my TV, but it was frustrating. For volume, you do have the choice of having the buttons control the TV volume or the Chromecast device volume, so if you were solely using the TV with that it would make sense to increase the TV’s volume and change to that – but if you have other devices you switch to, they’ll of course come out a lot louder. I ended up using the TV remote for volume instead.

The display looks as you’d expect, a list of apps, with TV show suggestions and access to the Google TV app store. You can add/install a bunch of other apps, including SteamLink which will let you stream games from your PC. Combine that with a bluetooth paired controller to the Chromecast device, and you’ve got an easy gaming setup straight out of your big TV.

I don’t need all the other fluff that Google provide, and surprisingly they’ve added an option where you can turn it off and just be in ‘app mode’. You still see a TV show suggestion (including Disney shows, despite uninstalling the app and restarting the unit), but it’s much cleaner:

I tried out Plex and it worked perfectly!

It’s cheap for what it provides, and it runs really fast. It supports 4K, HDR (which was the first time I saw my TV tell me it was running in HDR 10 mode) and Dolby Vision. It’s noticeably faster to use than the Google TV built into my 2017 Sony OLED TV, which also doesn’t seem to have HDR support for YouTube.


Should you buy this device?

If you want to have streaming apps on a TV that doesn’t have them, YES. If you have inbuilt apps but they’re slow and clunky to use, YES. For the price, it’s an easy investment into having a better viewing experience on any TV. If we start travelling around the world again, this would also be a great device to take with you to turn any hotel room TV with a HDMI port you can get to, into your personal streaming device. However, if your TV already has all the working apps you want for streaming content, this won’t give you anything new.

Google Nest Mini Won’t Connect to 5Ghz Network

Update 21st February 2020:
I’ve now had Google Nest support confirm that 5ghz Channel 149 and higher isn’t supported – which to me is baffling that a device can be released in this state.

Original Post:
I received a Google Nest Mini as part of Google’s promotion to subscribers of YouTube Premium. A nice gesture, and I hadn’t actually jumpted into having a smart speaker at home myself. Beyond wondering what use I could actually get from it – it was free, so I ordered.

A few weeks later it arrived, and setup should have been simple. Power it on, get the Google Home app on a mobile device, and follow the bouncing ball to set up. I’d done this before for a Chromecast I have, which I could see in the Home setup and have connected to the home 5Ghz network – no issues there at all.

However, when going through the same setup for the Google Nest Mini, I couldn’t even see my 5Ghz home Wi-Fi network listed on my phone. Weird, I tried several things including adding the details of the network in manually. Nothing I tried would work. I also couldn’t get it connected to my 2.4Ghz home network, unless I picked my guest network. I’d had the same issue on a printer that wouldn’t connect and only supported 2.4Ghz; the cuplrit was the AiMesh ASUS setup I had (side note – I personally would recommend to avoid ASUS AiMesh as there’s multiple problems I experienced, it’s not user friendly and solutions that are half done in it such as menu options that display but aren’t supported, as I eventually had confirmed by ASUS support. That’s not to say you should avoid all ASUS solutions.).

That really wasn’t where I wanted to end up though – the Nest Mini streaming data from my 2.4Ghz non-meshed guest network. After a bunch of Googling on the issue, I saw a comment somewhere that said to try band 36. As a refresher on this – 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi has bands or channels from 1 to 11 – but there’s overlap between the bands and they interfere with each other, so you really only wan to use 1, 6 or 11. 5Ghz however, has many more. My 5Ghz network at home was set to ‘Auto’ – which should pick the least noisiest band. That resulted in band 149.

I changed my band from 149 to 36 – the lowest option available, and went through the Google Nest Mini setup yet again. This time, I could see my network! It went through the entire setup process seamlessly. For my own sanity, I tried jumping up to a band 165, higher than 149, reset the Mini, and tried setting it up again but without success. Jumped to band 44 this time, and again it worked perfectly.

5Ghz Wi-Fi Band Options

It seemed the lower channels were fine – from 36 to 48, but the higher bands the device just couldn’t see. Again, weirdly the Chromecast would successfully set up on any of these and was a much older device than my brand new Nest Mini.

I also know it’s not just me that has this problem, as @AjTechs also confirmed he had the same experience – no 5Ghz network visible on band 149, but was visible when he used band 44.

I tweeted about it of course because that’s what I do. The first fail was the frustrating plug design, that wouldn’t fit with any other standard plug I had next to it. It’s also not a USB charger, but a round connector of some sort.

@GoogleNest swooped in to attempt to save the day. They couldn’t answer that question, and after 1 1/2 hours of back and forth over DM, they really didn’t know what was going on still. They still couldn’t answer my original question, and didn’t get me any closer to proving the problem was any different to what I’d found myself.

If I get any more details I’ll update this post – but otherwise, if you’re having the same problem as me, then try a different band, and when that works, have fun reconnecting everything in your house back to Wi-Fi again :)

Google Daydream View Review

Google released their Daydream View VR headset in late 2016, and I picked one up to go along with my Google Pixel XL for a bit of fun.

I’ll note that I’m still reasonably happy with the Pixel XL and my opinion hasn’t changed from that review. It’s still going pretty strong, and a good but expensive all-rounder.

Google says “Daydream takes you on incredible adventures in virtual reality. Get ready to immerse yourself in all the things you love.” I say “Don’t get your hopes up”. Going on from the general success of Google Cardboard, it seems they thought there was a market in VR, going along the media successes of Microsoft Hololens, HTC Vive and Sony Playstations VR. Don’t mistake this device on being in the same playing field, it’s a lot worse.

AU$119 for the Google Daydream View

If you’ve already tried Google Cardboard (I hadn’t) then you’ve got a reasonable idea already. Your phone slips into this headset, which instead of being folded cardboard, is now lovely breathable fabric with a head strap and cushions for your face. Inside the headset are two lenses that magnify the phone screen, and a front flap that has a NFC chip to tell the phone that it’s inserted.

The phone itself has the Daydream app, which is a wrapper to a Daydream App Store as well as giving you a platform to get to all VR things, along with a tutorial.

This is what the phone displays inside the Daydream

The real difference between Google Cardboard and Google Daydream, is that you’ll also get a remote. This is a very light and small remote. that charges via USB-C. There’s 3 buttons, with the top also being a trackpad. There’s also volume up/down buttons on the right hand side.

Google Daydream Remote

Think of it as a more basic Nintendo Wii remote, without as many sensors (it still seems to have gyro). This remote lets you control a cursor on screen, or a wand if you’re playing that Harry Potter game that doesn’t have Harry Potter in it.

I mentioned the Daydream demo – that was the most fun I had with the kit, and it wend downhill from there. The demo is fun and well designed; it teaches you how to use all the controls and look around in a 3D world. Anyone watching you do this however, will think you look silly – everyone looks silly doing this. Android Authority have a great clip on using Daydream:

Going beyond the demo, I started to realise the picture actually wasn’t that great. Unless the headset was in the absolute most perfect spot, I had blurryness around the edges of my vision. Watching YouTube through this sounds cool, but all you really get is a 3D room where you can zoom in, out and around a video. You also can’t use this lying down, orientation can be reset on an X axis, but not a Y if you’re thinking about lying in bed to watch a movie. The graphics a game will show are rather low end too, because you’re using a super thin device that’s never going to get close to what a PC or console can do.

Also, you can watch 360 degree videos on YouTube with this, or use Google Street View to pretend you’re walking down a street – but to me, moving your head around to see in a full 360 degrees gets tiring quickly.

Even more worrying, is the Google Pixel XL’s extreme heat generated by running this. We’ve got a top end, brand new phone that can barely run Daydream; and when I say barely run, on more than 1 occasion the device has given a warning that it’s too hot and has to stop operating. This was widely reported and doesn’t seem to be fixed yet.

There’s very few apps which I’ll assume is due to the limited customer base who have both a Pixel phone, and then a Daydream View. A few are free, enough to play around with different things. There’s a racer game that lets you use the remote like a steering wheel (again, think Nintendo Wii) but when are you really going to sit there with a headset on, closing yourself off to the world, to focus on playing a few low end games that require you to move your head instead of your eyes? Maybe that’s part of the problem where it feels unnatural, a glance changes to a more tedious head and neck movement with this device.

As you can probably tell, I don’t recommend buying one. It is a fun novelty for a short time, so try one if you can to see what VR is about, but the experience is just that average. This recent reddit thread asks “Those of you who have a daydream headset, what do you think of it after a few months?” and you can see the general consensus there.

I think VR/AR (Augmented Reality) itself is still taking off and will do well, but these lower end experiences won’t and it’ll be another abandoned Google idea. However, if they worked out how to do AR with the inbuilt camera, that’s a different story…

 

How To Launch A URL In Google Chrome

How To Launch A URL In Google Chrome

When your default browser isn’t Google Chrome, how do you force a particular link to always open in it?

We want to open a particular URL in Google Chrome, but the default browser is Internet Explorer. Most company apps either support or require Internet Explorer, so we don’t want to change the default browser – but one app works better in Chrome.
URI Schemes are required to make this work.

Applies To: Windows 10

Scenario:
We want to open a particular URL in Google Chrome, but the default browser is Internet Explorer. Most company apps either support or require Internet Explorer, so we don’t want to change the default browser – but one app works better in Chrome.

We could create a desktop shortcut using chrome.exe -url http://webpage.com, but the site is also linked from our Intranet – how do we get the link to always launch in the preferred browser?

 

Update 21st Dec 2016

Updates to Chrome seem to have broken this. Thanks to Chris Done for working with me on this fix:

1.Add the String Value of “URL Protocol” with a blank value to:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\] or [HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Chrome]
(they’re one and the same)
“URL Protocol”:””

2. Modify the value of

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command\Default]
“C:\Program Files (x86)\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe” — %1

3. Use a space in the URL after the // you’re using for your link:

ChromeHTML:// adamfowlerit.com

4. Create this key to remove the prompt on opening the link:
[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ProtocolExecute\ChromeHTML]
“WarnOnOpen”=dword:00000000

Here’s the registry settings you can copy and paste into a .reg file and import:

Copy from the next line

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML]
@=”Chrome HTML Document”
“URL Protocol”=””

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\DefaultIcon]
@=”C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Google\\Chrome\\Application\\chrome.exe,0″

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell\open]

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command]
@=”\”C:\\Program Files (x86)\\Google\\Chrome\\Application\\Chrome.exe\” — %1″

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ProtocolExecute\ChromeHTML]
“WarnOnOpen”=dword:00000000

Copy stops above this line

End of update 21st Dec 2016

Answer:
URI Schemes. Any program can be launched using a protocol (you can see which ones you already have in Windows under Control Panel > Default Programs > Associate a file type or protocol with a program > Scroll past all the extensions down to the protocols.

You may have something like ‘MAILTO’ which is used in the format “Mailto:”. Type that into your browser and it will either launch a new email from your default mail client, or ask you to set a default mail client.

Some apps automatically create their own protocol, but you can also create your own through registry entries. Details from MSDN are available here.

Luckily for Chrome, this is already done for you, using ChromeHTML. This means you should be able to call Chrome with “ChromeHTML:” and insert the URL you want after it to open – except it doesn’t work. Chrome will open, but no URL is passed over.

A user has logged this bug with Google several months ago, it hasn’t been fixed. There is a workaround though, that can easily be done via group policy to change a local registry setting.

As this user mentions, a quote needs to be taken out of the following registry key, so it looks like this:

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command]
@="\"C:\\Program Files\\Google\\Chrome\\Application\\chrome.exe\" -- %1"

The quote removed was before the % sign.

Once this is done, the ChromeHTML protocol can be used with a URL, as long as it’s in this format:

ChromeHTML:// google.com

Note the space after the slashes.

The next issue you will notice, is that Internet Explorer will most likely prompt when launching the URL, asking ‘Do you want to allow this website to open a program on your computer?’ – there is a tickbox you can remove to ‘Always ask before opening this type of address’ but this can also be suppressed via the registry.

Snapcomms have an article on how to do it with their product, but the same rules apply for Google Chrome, as long as you use the right key:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Wow6432Node\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\ProtocolExecute\ChromeHTML]
“WarnOnOpen”=dword:00000000

Once this key exists, the prompt will no longer show for that particular protocol.

That’s it, now you can use a URL link such as “ChromeHTML:// adamfowlerit.com” on your intranet page to launch the website of your choice in Chrome browser.

Update 22nd January 2018

This issue has been marked as ‘Wont fix’ by the Chromium team. This means potentially, they may ‘break this/remove this/anything could happen’ in the future. Please be aware that you’re now doing something unsupported by Google. In November they removed more of the functionality that made this work, for reasons I can’t quite understand!