There’s a reason your job wants you to use just your work email for employment-related items. It keeps your personal and career lives separate and lets your IT department lock down job-related correspondences. I’m sure the CIA has the same rules because, you know, national security. But that didn’t stop director John Brennan from using an Aol email account to conduct agency business. Because Brennan is such a high profile target, this should have been expected. The government has already had trouble with leaks of employee information including info on intelligence and military personnel. Now WikiLeaks has begun publishing attachments from the breach. Today it posted six documents and intends to add more to the list in the coming days.
The high school student that claims to have hacked Brennan’s accounts via social engineering of Verizon and Aol stated that he has roughly 40 documents from the breach. So expect more documents in the coming days.
What’s already been leaked is intriguing and helps frame how the head of the CIA works with other agencies, the senate and the president. Of course, Brennan and the government would rather none of this had been made public. Which is a good reminder why you should keep your personal and your work emails separate. Especially if you happen to run an intelligence agency.
Whether you’re a veteran World of Warcraft player, a Hearthstone newbie or someone who loves a great fantasy story, the trailer for Legendary Pictures’ Warcraft is captivating. Warcraft is due in theaters on June 10th. It’s Activision Blizzard’s first foray into movie-making — but it’s definitely not the last. The company today announced its own, in-house film and TV business, Activision Blizzard Studios. It’s already working on a Skylanders cartoon series and films based on the Call of Duty franchise. Warcraft doesn’t fall under this new studio’s umbrella.
Blizzard ended 2014 with a promise to release bigger, better expansions faster — and today at Gamescom it finally showed off the goods. The next World of Warcraft expansion is called Legion, and like its name, its additions to the game world are many. Legion will bump the max player level up to 110 (from 100) and introduce a new continent: the Broken Isles. Here players will search for the Tomb of Sargeras, and prepare for the invasion of an all-powerful demon army. How do you fight demons, you ask? With an all-new Demon Hunter Hero Class, of course.
Players that adopt the Demon Hunter class will be able to transform into powerful demonic forms that take on the guise of in-game enemies. Hunting not your thing? Don’t worry — Blizzard is adding a new “Class Orders” system that gives characters access to a new champions system (similar to the follow system from Warlords of Draenor).
Blizzard says it’s doubling down on dungeons as well, and promises better designed and more repayable dungeons and raids than previous expansions. The company hasn’t announced a release date for the expansion yet, but promises that you’ll be able to play a beta later this year. Check out the embedded videos above and below (or just click on the source link) to see the expansion for yourself.
If you’re aching for more variety in your Hearthstone cards, you don’t have too much longer to wait. Blizzard has revealed that the game’s latest expansion, The Grand Tournament, will arrive on August 24th for both desktop and mobile players. As mentioned earlier, how much it costs depends on both your in-game experience and how many of those 132 new, championship-themed cards you’re determined to own. You can buy packs using 100 gold if you’re willing to grind through enough matches, while you can spend between $3 to $50 to get two to 40 packs all at once. Just remember to act quickly if you want the pre-purchase set, which offers 50 packs for $50 — that disappears the moment The Grand Tournament is available.
Legendary Pictures today released a 16-second clip of the trailer for Duncan Jones’ upcoming World of Warcraft movie. The trailer itself will debut this Friday at Blizzard’s BlizzCon event while fans will have to wait until June 10th to see the movie in all of its CGI-dominated glory.
Activision Blizzard today launched a studio in charge of taking its franchises from the console to the silver screen, starting with a film franchise based on Call of Duty and an animated television series all about Skylanders. Under Activision Blizzard Studios, Skylanders Academy is in production now with showrunner Eric Rogers, who is best known as a writer for Futurama. It features the voices of Justin Long as Spryo, Ashley Tisdale as Stealth Elf, Jonathan Banks as Eruptor and Norm Macdonald as Glumshanks. Details are scarce for the Call of Duty film project, but in a press release Activision calls out Advanced Warfare and Black Ops 3 as examples of the series’ potential. Plus, it notes a possibility of television adaptations for the franchise.
Activision has been in the black for years now. With massive money-making franchises like World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Call of Duty, Destiny, Diablo and Hearthstone, the company regularly has some extra cash to report at the end of its earnings calls — like $4 billionextra. Now, we know what it’s doing with that stockpile: buying Candy Crush for $5.9 billion and starting a film studio.
Former Disney executive Nick van Dyk is co-president of Activision Blizzard Studios, and according to his LinkedIn profile, he’s been working on these projects since September 2014. Rumors of Activision starting an in-house film studio have been swirling since August 2014. During an investor conference today, Activision said its new film and TV arm will keep creative, publishing, marketing and financing powers in its own hands.
“Activision Blizzard Studios has the unique advantage of starting with a library of world-class intellectual property that includes some of the largest franchises which have not yet been developed in film and television,” van Dyk says in a prepared statement. “Our library spans more than 30 years of global entertainment culture.”
One franchise did make its way out of Activision’s library before it started the film studio — the Warcraft movie from Legendary Pictures is due in theaters on June 10th. The company also recently launched an eSports division headed by former ESPN CEO Steve Bornstein and Major League Gaming co-founder Mike Sepso.
Google’s latest version of Android, Marshmallow, only started rolling out last month. As such, it shouldn’t come as surprise to see that the current adoption numbers for it are extremely low. According to Android’s Platform Distribution rates for the month of November, Marshmallow is running on a mere 0.3 percent of “active” devices. The data is collected from signals sent to the Play Store, which helps identify what Android version is on handsets or tablets. Lollipop (5.0 and 5.1), on the other hand, accounts for nearly 26 percent, while Kit Kat (4.4) is the most popular version with about 38 percent of the total. The slow adoption rates for Marshmallow are by no means Google’s fault, however, since it is often carriers and manufacturers which fail to keep their phones up to date.
When Android 5.0 Lollipop started hitting devices last November, people could tell. Google’s new Material Design aesthetic made sure you wouldn’t mistake it for any prior version of the OS, which was great… especially when you consider how confusing parts of it could be. Now that Android’s look has been more or less firmed up, Google set about making its operating system smoother, smarter and more battery-friendly. The end result: Android 6.0 Marshmallow. So, how’d they do? Spoiler alert: pretty damned well.
Flex Storage blurs the line between internal, external storage
It’ll be a while before everyone gets it
Now on Tap sometimes swings and misses
Permissions can seem intrusive
Where did that dark mode go?
While this isn’t as a huge cosmetic overhaul as last year’s big update, Android 6.0 Marshmallow does a great job addressing Lollipop’s foibles. More importantly, Google is really flexing its contextual smarts with the addition of features like Now on Tap, and an improved version of permissions gives users a better understanding of what their apps are trying to do. Thanks to a nice dose of visual polish, too, we’re left with a must-install update — here’s hoping OEMs deliver it sooner than later.
Look and feel
Go ahead: Take a look around. Do it quickly enough and you might not notice anything different from the big Android update we got last year. Material Design was a huge, highly valuable step forward for Android; this year’s update polishes down some of the look’s rougher edges and makes a few things more prominent. Consider the lock screen’s font, for one — the time is a bit bolder than it was before, better for those discreet time checks. Then there’s the launcher, which some people have been getting a taste of without even updating to Marshmallow. The white background will seem awfully familiar, but that’s it as far as similarities go.
Remember the multiple pages of apps you had to swipe left and right through in Lollipop? They’re all gone, replaced by a single, vertically scrolling tray of icons capped off with four of your most used programs sitting atop the tray. Above that sits a handy search bar, which also (thankfully, finally) lives in the Settings menu so you don’t have to poke around aimlessly looking for an arcane option to change. I sort of preferred the paginated app view from days past, but the addition of a search feature is insanely helpful — where was this before?
Marshmallow’s actually slightly more customizable than previous versions if you know where to look. The System UI tuner we first spotted in the Android M preview is hidden by default; to access, you have to swipe down into your Quick Settings panel and press on the gear icon until it starts spinning. Once all that’s squared away, you can use it to rearrange your Quick Settings icons and add a few extra design flourishes, like tacking a battery-percentage readout to the vaguely helpful battery icon. Google warns that you probably shouldn’t muck around with this too much, and I’m inclined to agree (although not for system safety purposes) — it’s just that there’s only so much to be done here.
The same can’t be said about my favorite of Marshmallow’s minor UI enhancements: the much-improved copy-and-paste commands. It used to be that pressing and selecting text to share required you to decipher some arcane symbols at the top of the screen, but that’s been replaced by a simple pop-up menu with — wait for it — the words select all, copy, paste and web search. That latter option is on a separate “page” from the others; while that’s mildly annoying, it’s still worth actually having command buttons that make sense at a glance. Once the sharing mood sets in, you might also notice what Google calls Direct Share. When you try to share content from certain apps, you’ll get the option to send it directly to contacts instead of just opening that stuff in another app. Incredibly handy? You bet, but sadly, very few apps support it right now.
Now on Tap
Now on Tap, on the other hand, is Google at its most Google-y. Long-pressing the home button causes a white line to trace its way around the screen — once that’s done, Google tries to figure out what you’re looking at and gives you related information about it. After using it for a while, Now on Tap feels like one of those little touches that should’ve always been there. Let’s say you’re listening to something in Spotify, since Now on Tap plays nice with apps beyond ones Google has crafted. I’ve used the Hamilton example before, but let’s dive back into it. Listening to the track “My Shot” (which you should definitely do) and invoking Now on Tap brings up four results cards: three for the principal singers in the song, plus one for the title of the song itself.
It’s also, sadly, far from perfect. Spotify songs are easy to figure out — all that’s on-screen to interpret is the name of the song, the artist and the album title. Launching Now on Tap on a web page, for instance, can be far less rewarding as Google doesn’t always provide a results card for the things you want to see. Now in fairness, it’s early days for this feature and it’s pretty great in its current shape. Still, given how much of my own information I’ve willingly offered to Google — all my emails, all the birthdays and meetings in my calendars, the entirety of my search history — you’d think it would be able to get a better sense of what it is I’m actually trying to learn more about. Then again, that logic cuts both ways. For all that Google knows about us, it’s (thankfully) not a mind reader and can’t anticipate my desires on the fly. That Now on Tap will get better is a given; the question you’ll have to consider is whether you want to give even more insight into what you do on the web.
A better approach to permissions
As damned helpful as Now on Tap can be, chances are you’re going to experience Marshmallow’s revamped approach to app permissions far more frequently. Let’s flashback to last year: Before even downloading an app, users had to agree to a load of potential actions that software could perform at some point. With Marshmallow, Google very smartly decided not to front-load all that information and instead alerts you whenever an app you’ve installed tries to do something new for the first time, like when Twitter wants to figure out where you are or when Chrome wants access to your media. If an app mentions wanting to do something that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up, feel free to deny it the access it wants — in most cases, the rest of the program should still work.
Oh, and if you’re the kind of person who just taps “Accept” all the time anyway? Popping into the Settings reveals which apps have access to which parts of your device, from the camera to contacts to location, storage and even body sensors. Revoking access is just a tap away, so don’t be afraid to make some executive decisions. Yes, you’ll be dealing with these notifications pretty frequently, and yes, the whole thing feels a little more intrusive than before. Still, it forces users to understand what their apps are doing and when — making everyone more security-conscious is worth some tiny inconveniences.
Fingerprints for all
Speaking of security, Marshmallow is very much into the idea of using your fingerprints as authentication. Need proof? Just look at the two new Nexus handsets. Setup is dead-simple and familiar — you’ll be lifting and pressing down onto the sensor multiple times until you’re given the OK. Interestingly, Google doesn’t assume that you want to use your fingerprints for everything once you’ve got at least one on file. Buying apps from the Play Store defaults to using your password for authentication, for instance — you have to tick a box before you can sign off on purchases with a finger. Once that’s done, though, you’re all good, and thankfully both of the devices I’ve been testing Marshmallow with (the Nexus 6P and the HTC One A9) have excellent sensors that quickly and accurately pick up finger touches. That’s really no surprise, though: Google’s very picky about how good these sensors should be. Now we just need more developers to get on the fingerprint bandwagon.
Under the hood
Beyond some of those marquee features, Marshmallow also packs a few tricks to keep your device running for as long as possible. Doze is the more technically impressive of the batch since it determines when your device is just sitting around and shuts down nearly all background services and disables your network connection. If a priority message rolls in via Google Cloud Messaging, Marshmallow dutifully surfaces it, but otherwise you’ve basically got a device that automatically switches into airplane mode when you don’t need it. The results are obvious, and impressive. As I write this, a near-dead Nexus 6P has been clinging to life with 2 percent battery for nearly an hour.
Then there’s App Standby, which automatically flips programs into an inactive state if they haven’t been used in a while to further save your battery. If you’ve ever had to disable some carrier bloatware apps because they were just never used, well, that’s basically the same idea here. The only difference is App Standby works autonomically — Marshmallow disables apps that haven’t been launched lately, aren’t running a process or aren’t generating notifications. The only potential downside here is that Marshmallow could always deactivate an app you actually wanted to keep, but there are two quick fixes: Open it once in a while, or jump into the Settings to manually restore it (you can even flag it so that it never gets deactivated again).
Like it or not, the trusty microSD card slots of yore are disappearing from modern smartphones. If you’re lucky enough to have such a slot handy (and haven’t completely given yourself over to the cloud), Marshmallow allows you to format the card as internal storage so you can move apps and data that otherwise couldn’t have been routed to an external card. Word to the wise: If you do this, don’t panic at what you see. Marshmallow combines the storage counts into a single total (a feature called Flex Storage), but still offers a readout of how much room is available on both the internal and external memory.
Your phone will also warn you when the SD card you’re using is too slow to do much good –you’ll want the fastest microSD you can get your hands on, and even a 16GB microSD card with transfer speeds up to 48MB/s prompted a stern warning. The best-case scenario is that you won’t notice a difference between the two forms of storage when you start installing apps and moving data, but that’s going to hinge largely on the kind of card you’re working with. And if all of this sounds like too much effort, you could always just pop in a microSD card and treat it as portable storage — that way, you can move files between devices without a headache. The coming of Marshmallow also means we’ve finally got a robust way to backup app data without the need for physical cards. It’s called — what else — Auto Backup, which occasionally shuttles most of a user’s app data into a dedicated corner of Google Drive that can easily be drawn upon again if you’re reinstalling an app you’ve deleted. Oh, and in case you were worried, none of the space taken up by those backups count against your existing Google Drive quota.
Marshmallow might not be the sort of dramatic leap forward we’d expect from Android 6.0, but let’s not dwell on the number. What we’ve got here is an update that takes most of what was great about Lollipop, axed what didn’t work (here’s looking at you, convoluted volume controls) and added features we didn’t even know we wanted. Sure, not everything has been executed perfectly, but the net value of features like Now on Tap, improved permissions, Flex Storage and others more than make up for occasional bits of flakiness. Android has never felt more complete — now (if you’ll pardon the pun) it’s on manufacturers to make sure everyone gets a taste soon.
For years, people have wondered if Google would merge its Android and Chrome operating systems, and the company has steadfastly held to them important but distinct pieces of its strategy. That might be changing: The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Google has been working for two years to merge Chrome OS and Android. The results of that unified operating system is expected to be officially released to the public in 2017, but we may see an early version as soon as next year.
Update: While some have reported Google might “kill” ChromeOS, the company seems to still have some kind of dual-strategy in mind and has disputed that interpretation. As the Senior VP of Chrome OS, Chromecast and Android Hiroshi Lockheimer probably knows the the most about each project’s potential fate, and he tweeted tonight that “we are very committed to Chrome OS.”
There’s a ton of momentum for Chromebooks and we are very committed to Chrome OS. I just bought two for my kids for schoolwork!
The WSJ says that this new version of Android will also run on PCs, though it’s not clear if the company is talking about Windows and Mac computers or just a rebranded extension of the current Chromebook lineup. The former seems likely, as the Chrome browser contains most of the functionality of Chrome OS itself. Given that Google wants to get its Google Play store on as many devices as possible, it would make sense to see a version that works with the vast number of Windows and Mac machines out there. Chromebooks will end up being rebranded to an as-yet undetermined name.
Ever since current Google CEO Sundar Pichai became both the director of Android as well as Chrome OS in March of 2013, there’s been a lot of speculation about if the two operating systems would merge. While Pichai initially said they would stay separate, he appointed Hiroshi Lockheimer to manage both operating systems late last year — so there’s been a fairly long history of Google’s two operating systems having one clear lead for some time now.
When we might see this new, combined operating system is far from certain — but it seems like the next Google I/O event would be as natural a time as any for the company to show off such a major shift.
Google has started rolling out Android 6.0, aka Marshmallow, to a handful of Nexus devices. But, as great as that is, there are still millions of people who have to wait for third-party manufacturers or carriers to get the update. Thankfully, companies like HTC, Motorola, Samsung, Sony and T-Mobile are already outlining their plans to distribute the latest, tastiest version of Android. Not everyone will be happy, of course, but the list of smartphones set to receive Marshmallow isn’t bad — and chances are more will be added over the next few weeks. “So, am I getting it,” you ask? If so, when? Let’s find out.
2014 Moto X Pure Edition in the US (second-generation)
2014 Moto X in Latin America, Europe and Asia(second-generation)
2014 Moto G and Moto G with 4G LTE (second-generation)
2014 Moto MAXX
2014 Moto Turbo
The good news? Motorola’s taking care of a lot of devices. The bad news? There are no availability details.”We have high standards, so we’ll work fast but we won’t push the upgrades out until we know they’re ready,” the company said in a blog post.
Xperia Z5 Compact
Xperia Z5 Premium
Xperia Z4 Tablet
Xperia Z3 Compact
Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact
Xperia Z2 Tablet
Xperia M4 Aqua
Xperia C5 Ultra
Timing-wise, Sony says it’s working hard to deliver Marshmallow to you as quickly as it can, but it didn’t share any details beyond that.
HTC One M8
HTC One M9
LG G Stylo
Nexus 7 (2013)
Samsung Galaxy Note 4
Samsung Galaxy Note 5
Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
Samsung Galaxy S5
Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
Samsung Galaxy Tab S2
Unlike its rivals in the US, T-Mobile was thoughtful enough to put together a list of devices that will get Android 6.0. There’s also a tool on the carrier’s site that lets you see what stage of the update process each device in, which is going to be greatly appreciated by users.
As we said earlier, though, more details from other networks and manufacturers are due to pop up throughout the coming weeks — so stay tuned to this article, as we’ll be updating it with any further details.