Cute corners of the Google Maps world: fictitious towns & polar bears

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Search for Agloe, NY, in Google Maps and the small town will duly appear. Which is odd, as Agloe doesn’t exist, and never has.

BigThink reports that Agloe was one of a number of ‘paper towns,’ places that were invented by early map-makers back in the 1930s in order to catch out rival companies who stole their work.

How do you prove someone stole your map, if that map accurately reflects reality? The answer: add fantasy! Mapmakers had been able to take their competitors to court by pointing out fake places (a.k.a. paper towns) on their maps that were copied from their original work! For this reason, fictitious roads are often called trap streets: because they entrap the company copying them onto their own maps …  Read more

Google launches “Video Quality Report” to test ISP performance based on YouTube playback

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Google today announced a new project designed to test the quality and connection speeds of internet service providers. The service, known as Google’s Video Quality Report, will be available in Canada  first, though it should expand to more countries as time progresses.

To perform the test, Google uses data related to how well the ISP can handle playing back a high definition YouTube video. The ISPs are graded based on the performance of other providers in a given area. If the ISP is able to load 90% of 720p YouTube videos, then it will be branded as “YouTube HD Verified” for the area and be at the top of the verification scale.

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Is Amazon building a ChromeCast-type of TV product called the ‘Firetube’

We got a tip (Thanks Guy!) that Amazon had trademarked the name ‘Firetube’ in Canada and the US. With all of the news surrounding the Amazon Phone lately – I immediately thought that is a dumb name for a phone.

Seconds later it hit me. Tube=TV. Amazon needs a TV product to counter Apple and Google.

It makes a lot of sense.  Amazon has all of this content on the Fire and no way to put it on a TV yet. They have to release some type of Chromecast competitor and quick. There are, of course, rumors of an Amazon TV. Lots of rumors. Bloomberg thinks Fall 2013 is the planned launch window. That’s right now.

Quick thoughts: Will it play from the iOS app? Will it be cheap and cost ~$35 like the ChromeCast?  Bundled with Kindle? Will it work with older devices? I’ve reached out to Amazon for a comment.

With the name now public and the holidays approaching, it would be surprising not to see an announcement soon.

New Nexus 7 now available in Canada through Google Play

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Google announced today that its recently launched Nexus 7 is now available to purchase in Canada through Google Play. The availability comes as the device launches in Staples, Best Buy, Future Shop and other retailers today in both the US and Canada, while the device has already been available to customers in the US through Google Play.

The refreshed Nexus 7 is available for $229 for the 16GB WiFi model and $269 for the 32GB model with both models listed as shipping in 1-2 business days. An LTE version of the new Nexus 7 is expected in the weeks to come but Google hasn’t provided an official launch date.

Google also started selling a new Nexus 7 sleeve on the Google Play today for $29.99 in both the US and Canada.

Google brings voice back to Gmail w/ new group chat features, free calls to US & Canada from other countries

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When Google rolled out its new unified Hangouts messaging service, some users were disappointed that the new experience within Gmail removed the ability to place free calls within the US and Canada. Google previously confirmed that the feature would be returning and today it announced on its Gmail blog that it is rolling out the free calling feature to Gmail Hangouts and also adding some new features.

In addition to improvements to desktop calling, such as the ability to “add multiple phone numbers and video participants to the same call” and play sound effects, it is also making calls to the US and Canada free from any country with access to Hangouts. Read more