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Gmail Hangouts Updated With Tab That Puts Online Contacts At The Top, Lets Users Pin Favorites

Google is continuing to shine a brighter light on Hangouts users who are currently online. A few months ago the company brought back the green dot that used to mark online contacts in the days of Google Talk (which was replaced with a subtle green line in Hangouts). Going forward, the messenger in the web version of Gmail will contain a new tab that puts online contacts at the top. It's still possible to message friends who are offline, they're just tucked at the bottom where they're out of the way.

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Many of us have contacts we want to keep at the top of the list regardless of their online status (a significant other, a good friend, maybe even a parent), so Google has also added the ability to pin people there.

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Google's News & Weather App, AKA The 'Genie Widget' Gets A Massive 2.0 Update And A Full Play Store Release [APK Download]

Update: An update to the News & Weather app posted yesterday, September 8th, seems to have fixed some of the compatibility errors people have been seeing. At least here in the United States, the app is compatible with every Android 4.0+ device for all of our writers. There doesn't appear to be any other significant update just yet.

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Google's News & Weather app, AKA the "Genie" widget (after the APK name), has been more or less unchanged for years. The app comes with Nexus devices and some other relatively stock Android hardware, but aside from a few visual touches, the feed-based news and weather widget has been basically unchanged.

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Google Buys Gecko Product Design Firm To Work On X Projects

Gecko Design Inc. is the kind of company others look to when they have ideas that they want to turn into physical products. Google is the kind that has said ideas, and it started working with the folks at Gecko in 2013. The two hit it off so well that they started discussing the possibility of taking their relationship to the next level, and the rest, they say, is history. The tech giant will use its newly acquired talent to boost up its Google X research lab.

Google could use some help taking concepts and turning them into commercial products that consumers will be drawn to.

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Google's 'Knowledge Vault' Can Teach Itself The Answers To Your Questions, May Drastically Improve Google Now

When you perform a Google search and an answer appears alongside the list of results, this tidbit of goodness comes thanks to the company's Knowledge Graph. It provides much of the brainpower for Google Now, pulling down information from a variety of sources such as the CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia. The thing is, Google thinks it's still too dumb, so the search giant has already started working on something better. Unlike its predecessor, "Knowledge Vault," as this newer project is called, doesn't rely on humans to explicitly teach it answers. It is smart enough to search them out and find them on its own.

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Glass Update To XE20.1 Incoming With Better Contact Management, Head Nudge, More Voice Commands

One complaint many Glass users have voiced since the Explorer Program began is that Glass has very limited contact management capabilities. Users could add contacts in the MyGlass interface, but those manually added contacts were the only ones a user could correspond with using Google's eye-mounted computer.

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The Glass team is fixing that - and a number of other things - in an update to XE20.1, announced today. The update will allow Glass to see all a user's contacts, with starred contacts showing up for quick voice access. Other contacts will be just a quick swipe away.

The update also adds a "head nudge" card to the settings bundle.

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[Deal Alert] Refurbished Chromecast On Sale For $25 ($10 Off) Through Groupon

Maybe you held off buying a Chromecast, even though it's totally awesome, or perhaps you just need another one. Either way, you can pick one up right now on Groupon for $25. It's refurbished, but $10 off isn't bad.

2014-08-20 14_58_58-Google Chromecast (Refurbished) Deal of the Day _ Groupon

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[Update: Now Live] Google Play Music All Access Is Now Available In 9 New Countries In Latin America, Including Ecuador, Guatemala, And Venezuela

Update #1 (8/12/14): It looks like Google deleted the tweet embedded below. Between that and the lack of an update to this support page, someone might have pulled the trigger early. But if those countries don't have access yet, they probably will sometime soon.

Update #2 (8/19/14): After a false start last week, the Play Music expansion now seems to be live. The official Google Play country availability page has been updated to reflect this as well.

Update #3 (8/19/14): It seems like the previously announced Uruguay expansion didn't make it into this round, but Google decided to replace it with Venezuela.

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Exclusive: This Is YouTube Music Key, Google's Upcoming Subscription Service With Offline Support, Background Audio, No Ads, Free Play Music Key

Google has big plans for both YouTube and Google Play Music. We've heard a lot about YouTube's potential subscription music playback service, background audio, and offline playback, and there's been much speculation about what such an arrangement would mean for Play Music All Access. What we've got today gives those rumors and clues some clarity.

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Here's the basic rundown - YouTube is set to launch a service called YouTube Music Key, and Google is set to rebrand Google Play Music All Access to Google Play Music Key.

Specifically, it looks like YouTube Music Key will offer ad-free music, audio-only playback (for background or screen-off listening), and offline playback.

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Google Evidently Testing 'Ultra Violet,' A New Hangouts Experience For Chrome

According to Florian Kiersch (who has uncovered many in-progress Google projects including Google Stars), Google is testing a new Hangouts experience for now codenamed Ultra Violet.

Kiersch says (and shows) that Ultra Violet will present significant interface changes for Hangouts, including a new Chrome extension that would introduce a floating, Chat Heads-style icon on the desktop, which users could move around freely.

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Once the circle is clicked, Kiersch says, the Hangouts welcome screen would appear to introduce users to the new experience. We can also see from Kiersch's images that new ongoing Hangouts conversations would spawn new floating buttons with familiar profile images.

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[Deal Alert] Buy Two Chromecasts From Best Buy, Get $15 Off

You know what's better than being able to stream Netflix, Hulu, Play Movies, Play Music, and loads of other content to a TV in your house? Having the option to stream it to more than one TV in your house. Sometimes the living room just isn't he place to be, but you're out of luck without a Chromecast in the bedroom. That's a bummer. Thankfully Best Buy is ready to save the day.

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For a limited time, if you grab two Chromecasts from the double B, you'll get $15 off. So, that's two Chromecasts for $55, making them basically $27.50 each.

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