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Google’s Chromebook: What Are The Public Saying?

Google Chromebooks – the new netbook-style portable computers by Google that are designed to use the internet, and only the internet, to do everything and do it fast – have been in the news a lot this week, and naturally lots of people are expressing their opinions on how good it is, to the chance it has to disrupt the regular computer market, to whether it’s a competitor to the iPad. And as you'd expect, no-one can agree with anyone else, with reviews being mixed all around. This, despite the fact the computers have only just become available for pre-order and few even have one yet.
Well, I say, enough with the tech insiders and expert's opinions! There's only one group who can truly decide how good or how successful a product is going to be – and that's the people who Google want to buy it. So over the last few days, I've been collecting consumer opinions from various websites. Here's my selection of some of the best. Feel free to add your own in the comments, and form your own decisions about the product. Read the rest of this entry »

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    Google patches Chrome vulnerabilities

    Google on Tuesday patched several vulnerabilities in Chrome, improving the browser's security.

    The latest Chrome release, 11.0.696.71, patches two major bugs a French security company said could be used to bypass the browser's anti-exploit technology and get through the sandbox. The fixes were credited to Google's own security engineers. They bring the total amount of "critical" bugs – the category typically reserved for bugs that may let an attacker escape Chrome's "sandbox." – fixed so far this year to five.

    One of the remaining pair of flaws was ranked "high" — and got the researcher who reported it a $1,000 bug bounty — while the other was labelled "low" on Google's four-step threat scoring system.

    Tuesday's security update was the second for the Chrome "stable" build — the most polished version of the browser — this month.

    Chrome 11 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google's Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated automatically.


    Details for Chrome OS Devices Start Slipping Out

    Talk about Google's Chrome OS Project – you know, the Operating System that does everything online? – has been pretty quiet lately, even driving some to wonder if Google were even pursuing it further. This, despite Google's announcement last year that machines with the OS are planned to be released around mid-2011. With that date drawing ever closer, finally some information is coming to light, with leaked whispers about what these browser-based machines will entail.

    The latest leak, originating from a bug report on the Google Group, is Samsung's "Alex," reportedly a 10-inch netbook with a 1.5 GHz dual-core Atom N550 processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a SanDisk solid state drive (SSD) on board. The size of the SSD is unknown, but given Chrome OS's emphasis on cloud storage and Web apps, it's a moot point anyway.

    Alex is the third Chrome OS device to be revealed and have detailed leaked to the public.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Google native code browser plug-in gets tickled

    This story was originally posted by Cade Metz in San Francisco for The Register; and originally appeared on Full attribution rights have been given to the original author.

    The Tcl scripting language has been plugged into Google’s Native Client, allowing Tcl code to run inside the Google Chrome browser in much the same way that JavaScript does.

    Using Native Client – a Google-created plug-in for securely running native code inside the browser – Tcl now has direct access to the Chrome DOM. “The net effect for the Tcl developer is that now he can read and write to the DOM, and be notified of GUI or network events, just like any JavaScript programmer,” developer Alexandre Ferrieux tells The Register. “And like for JavaScript, this happens on the client side, which is a game-changer for us Tclers, who are accustomed to being trapped on the server side. [You get] interactive speed regardless of the connectivity.”

    Ferrieux, the man who moved the language to Native Client, provides a demonstration of Tcl directly accessing the HTML5 canvas element.

    Some have claimed that this is the first scripting language running on Native Client, but other languages have made the move as well, including OCaml and Lua. But this is the first language that fits so nicely with Google’s wonderfully geeky naming conventions. Some have called this NaTcl. From sodium chloride to, well, sodium tetrachloride.

    In February, Google released the first official version of the Native Client SDK. Native Client is designed to speed the performance of web applications, allowing apps coded in, say, C or C++ to be securely transferred over the web and executed inside the browser. The idea is to work around the speed limitations of JavaScript.

    “While the [Chrome] team has made JavaScript tremendously faster over the last two years, there’s a lot of applications out there that have existing audiences that are [written in native code, such as C and C++], and there are a few that are specialized applications that need every last bit of performance the hardware can offer,” Google engineering director Linus Upson told us in December. “Native Client is a way of addressing both those issues.”

    At one point, Google built a Native Client compiler for Go, its New Age programming language that provides extreme concurrency while running at speeds similar to C. But Go co-creator Rob Pike tells us that the Native Client Go work is now on hold, due to the rapid changes the Native Client team were making to the plug-in.

    Originally developed in the late ’80s at the University of California Berkeley as the Tool Command Language, Tcl is essentially a scrubbed and enhanced Unix shell. “It dwells in the same area as Lisp and Scheme, in that it has an extremely simple and regular syntax, with next to zero reserved keywords, very few special characters, and a very simple semantics based on a never-violated principle: ‘Everything Is a String’,” Ferrieux says. “That allows humans to reason about programs with certainty without any knowledge of the implementation details.”

    Now that Tcl – pronounced “tickle” – is up and running on Native Client, Ferrieux intends to move the accompanying Tk graphical user interface tool kit to the platform as well. “Another important thing from the standpoint of a Tcler with a Tk background, is that thanks to the exquisite flexibility of the language, there’s very little more to learn [to make the switch to Native Client],” he says. “Indeed, the complete emulation of Tk’s most useful idioms at a syntactic level is possible, and will be completed shortly.”

    Well, you do have to learn your HTML5.


    Google close to launching Social Network Service rumoured to be named Google +1

    Google is close to launching a social network site which new rumours suggest may be called Google +1. The concept of Google creating its own social network, previously thought to be called Google Me, has been a major topic of discussion on many internet portals for some time now, but it is only now that technical details are starting to emerge.

    Instead of a web site similar to Facebook, Google is planning to deliver their new service as an optional browser extension which may be exclusive to Chrome – which could force millions of consumers to switch from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Firefox if they want access to the Google social network. Reportedly, the extension will be called Loop, and has been designed to reflect social circles known as “loops” where most information would be shared.

    It’s considered near-certain that a version of Loop would exist for Android and might propagate to other mobile platforms as well – in fact, reports suggest there is already one under construction and being tested in-house. The service and the availability on Smart phones risks angering a number of companies, particularly Facebook.

    In previous weeks, Google chief Eric Schmidt has made clear several times in public statements, that Google is not and has not been looking to develop a Facebook clone. However, according to reports from insiders who have seen concepts of the app, many parts of it do in fact resemble Facebook’s own efforts – although it should be kept in mind that the Loop app is unfinished and should be significantly different by the time it’s launched.

    Google and Facebook have been in a fight over data exports that are widely believed to hinge on Facebook’s worries that Google would compete against it. Allowing two-way export for Facebook contacts would let users defect more easily to a rival service, although Facebook has tried to raise privacy worries by noting that many exports could have personal details exported without consent. (Anyone see any irony in Facebook pointing out privacy concerns?)

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    (Updated) Rumour: Are Google testing Chrome OS Devices? And will Google throw us a Chrome OS device before year’s end?

    Roughly eighteen months ago, Google Announced a project called “Google Chrome OS”, with a revolutionary idea – with Google Chrome’s browser forming the entire basis of the system, Google Chrome OS has been planned out to be a fully internet-connected, cloud-based system from the start, with everything stored on the internet and retrievable from any Google Chrome device simply by typing in your Username and Password. What’s more, the system would not use traditional software. Instead, Google Chrome users would use online tools for every function of their day-to-day lives – like Docs for Word Processing and other office tools, instead of Microsoft Office; Picasa for viewing Photos, instead of iPhoto; Gmail for e-mail and much more. Google even has full intentions to open a Chrome app store for software developers to dream up other Chrome tools.

    Flash forward to today, and Google is yet to announce any actual devices running the Google Chrome OS to the public. However, Google Chrome OS’s code has long been Open-Sourced, and those with a very technological mind can build it into a working OS for their computer. What’s more, Google has an official Group for people to report bugs they have discovered while using the Open Source Code. It is here that earlier this week, something was discovered that has piqued people’s interests.

    A large number of recent bug reports have made reference to running Google Chrome on brand-new systems, both of which have been referred to only by code names. Two devices have been identified, named “Mario” and “Andretti”. The new discoveries, coupled with mutterings from sources apparently close to Google, suggest the company might release Chrome OS devices before 2010 finishes. However, there is disagreement about whether such a device, if it did exist, would be merely a testing platform and not a definitive edition.

    The rumoured devices are said to be either netbook or tablet-based, with Google branding, but would be created by a third-party manufacturer Google is partnered with, much as Google has done with other hardware products such as the Google-branded Android phone, the Nexus One.

    For those users who up until now have been asking themselves how Android and Chrome OS will coexist, Eric Schmidt – CEO of Google – has lately given some kind of an answer:

    “We don’t want to call the question and say this one does one thing, this one does another. So far the model seems to be the Android solution is particularly optimized for things that involve touch in some form and Chrome OS appears to be for keyboard-based solutions.”

    There would be one advantage to having a Chrome OS netbook, however – with its brutal simplicity, Chrome OS would be blazingly fast – the system itself will load in seconds, rather than the minutes wasted by any other notebook, and then users will see a browser through which applications and data can be used. Indeed, the Mario and Andretti code-names definitely seem to support that Google has an emphasis on speed for the new systems – Mario Andretti is also the name of one of the most successful racing drivers, with wins in Formula One, IndyCar and Nascar.

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    Google Chrome 9 Released for Developers

    Google has officially released Chrome 9 version of its web browser in the Developer Channel for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux platforms. The new Google Chrome 9.0.570.0 build is specifically meant for developers to try out, as it contains significant behind-the-scenes changes that regular users may not notice, but could cause instability and so favours those with good knowledge of the way software code works. (If you’re one of these people, the list of changes can be found here.)  Basically, the changes include some security fixes and several minor changes to make it run faster. No new features are added at this moment though, so those looking for new toys will get nothing out of this.

    Google Chrome 9 "About" box.

    The "About Google Chrome" dialogue in the new 9.0 Developer release.

    Last month, Chrome 8.0.552.xx beta version was released in developer channel, but a stable Chrome 8 release has yet to emerge. With this new arrival though, we believe that a stable build of Chrome 8 may finally be released in the coming weeks – or days. Google has confirmed, however, that it is aiming to release Chrome 9 by November 29. You can download the Chrome 9 Dev version here.

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    Google quashes 12 Chrome bugs, gives users early Flash fix

    Google today patched 12 vulnerabilities in its Chrome browser, all of them rated as high-level threats by the company’s security team. The patched version of Chrome also includes an update to Adobe’s Flash Player, giving Google users an early fix for a critical flaw that hackers have been exploiting with rigged PDF documents. Adobe plans to release that Flash patch to users of other browsers later today.

    The dozen flaws fixed today in Chrome 7.0.517.44 include a pair related to SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), a collection of XML specifications for describing two-dimensional vector graphics; one in Chrome’s V8 JavaScript engine; and three involving aspects of the browser’s text handling.

    Google paid $7,500 in bounties to eight researchers who reported 11 of the 12 bugs, the most it’s awarded since mid-August when the company handed out $8,674.

    As usual, Google locked down its bug tracking database to bar outsiders from picking up technical details of the vulnerabilities. The company usually unlocks access to a flaw several weeks after a patch ships, to give users time to update before the information goes public. Other browser makers, including Mozilla, do the same.

    Today’s update to the “stable” build — Google maintains three separate “channels” for Chrome, ranging from stable to “beta” to “dev” — included a revamped version of Flash Player, the popular media playing plug-in.

    Seven months ago, Google and Adobe struck a deal that lets the former bundle Flash Player with Chrome and upgrade the plug-in using the browser’s own silent updater, This is the second time in six weeks that Chrome users received a patched Flash Player before people running rival browsers, such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Mozilla’s Firefox.

    Last week, Adobe confirmed that Flash contained a critical bug that attackers were exploiting in the wild, and promised to fix the flaw by Nov. 9. Earlier this week, however, Adobe bumped up the release of the Flash update to today, saying that it had wrapped up work faster than anticipated.

    Although the bug is in Flash, hackers are actually using malicious PDF documents; Adobe’s Reader includes code to render Flash from within a PDF, and that code is also flawed. Adobe is planning to issue a fix for Reader and the Acrobat PDF-creation software the week of Nov. 15.

    Thursday’s update was the second round of Chrome security fixes since the browser jumped to version 7 late last month.

    According to Web metrics company Net Applications, Google’s hands-off update technology — which automatically applies not only patches, but also new features — shifted the bulk of Chrome 6 users to the new Chrome 7 within days.

    A week after the Oct. 21 launch of Chrome 7, that version outnumbered its predecessor in usage share by more than 7-to-1.

    Chrome 7 can be downloaded for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Google’s Web site. Users already running the browser will be updated automatically.

    Also today, Google updated the “beta” channel of Chrome to version 8.0.552.28, which adds an integrated PDF viewer plug-in to the browser.

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    Bad news, XMarks Users – XMarks confirms service shutting down on January 10, 2011

    For the past four years now, over a million users – myself included – have been using XMarks, a brilliant free service that syncs bookmarks, passwords and other data between other computers – and browsers – automatically, only requiring that the XMarks add-on is installed on the computers and you log in to your XMarks account (which can be made automatic after the first time).

    Today, however, I am sorry to report that there is bad news regarding the service. In fact, probably the worst news you could hear if you’ve made heavy use of the service. If you, like me, have been a loyal XMarks user until now, you either already have, or will shortly be receiving the following email which explains what I’m talking about: Read the rest of this entry »

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