Google bets on offline stores

Google bets on offline stores

Google Store.
Google Store.

Google is looking to venture into the area where Microsoft failed but Apple still does well, the brick-and-mortar retail store. The first of these will be opened in Chelsea, New York, allowing customers to find their devices like Pixel phones and Pixelbooks, Fitbits and Nest at a physical location. All subject to the latest Covid rules of course.

Customers will also be able to drop their broken devices off for repair and even talk to something other than a Chatbot for information. Google is hoping this first store will be a success spawning a brick-and-mortar empire akin to that of Apple. How well this turns out remains to be seen, especially as so many are now used to ordering everything online

- Qualcomm has a new CPU, the 778G, that while not as powerful as the 888 is apparently optimised for anything using the camera, AI image processing, gaming, 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity. It is based on 6nm system-on-chip technology and contains 8 CPUs of varying types. It includes the Snapdragon X53 Modem and radio parts to support mmWave and sub-6GHz 5G. This CPU will see its way into the mid-range offerings of the smartphone makers soon.

- Valve, the company that gave us the game Counter-Strike, is moving into brain-computer interface (BCI) technologies. Their aim is to provide a better experience than that provided by our eyes and ears. Imagine a device that detects your emotions and makes in-game adjustments to change your mood by, say, increasing the game's difficulty or reducing it.

- The technology will be initially based on "modified VR head straps" that should appear by next year for game developers to experiment with. You can see what one might look like at Valve is working with OpenBCI headsets as one possibility for the interface.

- The project is Open Source so that as the technology evolves everyone will be able to have access. The target is to monitor both physical and mental attributes such as excitement, surprise, boredom, sadness, fear or amusement and then tailor the game accordingly. The next step might be to send signals back to the person's mind to provide better visuals, a better experience or even to change feelings, such as from boredom to something else. At this point a warning flag should pop up in the reader's mind, especially those that have read enough books or watched enough movies.

- The creators expect the first application will be in the realm of sleep improvement. It gets potentially concerning as they plan to move onto a "reduction or complete removal of unwanted feelings or brain conditions". There is also mention of how BCI's could "cause people to experience physical pain, even pain beyond their physical body". We are reassured that "no one will be forced to do anything they don't want to do", but some may and will find ways around this idealised view. Malware is still a real thing.

- I have my new computer set up. The base is an Intel NUC 11 i7 box that I fitted out with 32GB of 3,400MHz SODIMM memory, a 1TB M.2 Samsung module for my C: drive and a Samsung 4TB SSD for storage. This all fits into a box I can all but cover with my hand. I also just received a BlitzWolf BW-TH12 14-in-1 Docking Station that can support additional monitors with HDMI and DisplayPort, along with additional USB ports. It is also quite small and you can never have too many useable USB ports. One of the USB-C ports will support my Audio Interface. This computer will host primarily music production software to allow me to record some songs. To this end I also just signed up to the Presonus Sphere yearly membership that gives me access to all their great range of products. After installing Windows 10 Pro the unit boots up very quickly and as long as I keep from adding too much software it should perform flawlessly.

- Not all that long ago I was a big fan of Mozilla's Firefox browser but after a couple of poor choices it lost its appeal and I moved to Chrome and Brave. Their latest version Firefox 89 is being touted as a "fresh new Firefox". Unlike most of the others, Firefox uses its own browser engine Quantum and their own JavaScript engine known as SpiderMonkey. The others mostly use Blink from Google while Apple uses a fork from Blink called WebKit. This diversity ensures there are web standards they all use. Chrome currently has about 65% of the market with Safari sitting just under 17%, IE down under 6% and Firefox a mere 4% market share. As for the new Firefox browser, there is a focus on tabs and usability around them. You can now mute sound at the tab level. Less notifications, better cookie handling and of course a new design are some of the new changes. Will it be enough to bump up those stats? Time will tell.

James Hein is an IT professional of over 30 years' standing. You can contact him at

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