A group of Google workers have announced plans to unionize with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The Alphabet Workers Union will be open to all employees and contractors at Google’s parent company. Its goal will be to tackle ongoing issues like pay disparity, retaliation, and controversial government contracts. “This union builds upon years of courageous organizing by Google workers,” said Nicki Anselmo, a Google program manager. “From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively.” Good. There’s a lot of worker exploitation and other unfair labour practices in the technology sector – and in the US in general – and unions are a proven and effective way to combat this.
Neverware lets you turn old PCs and Macs into Chromebook-esque devices through its CloudReady OS. While primarily aimed at schools and enterprises, a free “Home” edition for everyone is available. Google has now acquired Neverware and CloudReady with plans to integrate it with Chrome OS. Seems like a reasonable acquisition. I’ve always found it odd that Google hasn’t tried to push Chrome OS as a downloadable, installable operating system for people to install. The only way to really experience Chrome OS is to buy a device that comes with it, which often simply doesn’t make any sense. I hope this acquisition means Google intends to offer a version of Chrome OS that we can freely download and install.
Google has finally – finally – truly and honestly confirmed Fuchsia is a thing. Fuchsia is a long-term project to create a general-purpose, open source operating system, and today we are expanding Fuchsia’s open source model to welcome contributions from the public. Starting today, we are expanding Fuchsia’s open source model to make it easier for the public to engage with the project. We have created new public mailing lists for project discussions, added a governance model to clarify how strategic decisions are made, and opened up the issue tracker for public contributors to see what’s being worked on. As an open source effort, we welcome high-quality, well-tested contributions from all. There is now a process to become a member to submit patches, or a committer with full write access. In addition, we are also publishing a technical roadmap for Fuchsia to provide better insights for project direction and priorities. Some of the highlights of the roadmap are working on a driver framework for updating the kernel independently of the drivers, improving file systems for performance, and expanding the input pipeline for accessibility. It has been a very, very long time since any of the major technology companies built a new operating system from the ground up. Windows 10 is Windows NT, a project started in 1989 and first released as Windows NT 3.1 in 1993. The Linux kernel was first released in 1991. macOS grew out of NeXTSTEP, development of which started in 1985, seeing its first release in 1989. These operating systems are old. Fuchsia is truly new, and developed by one of the biggest companies in the world, and while Google has a spotty track record when it comes to corporate attention span, I doubt they’d roll out the red carpet like this after four years of sort-of-but-not-really open development if they intend to kill the entire thing two years from now. And even if they do – the code’s out there anyway. There’s a guide on how to build Fuchsia and set up an emulator (for Linux and macOS), so you can start poking around today.
Back in June, Google announced that Windows apps are coming to Chrome OS through a third-party partnership — instead of an in-house solution. Parallels Desktop for Chromebook Enterprise is launching today to provide access to Windows apps that some businesses still need. This virtual machine sees a full version of Windows installed on your Chrome OS device that works offline. Google created a secure sandbox for Windows that can easily be wiped if needed. For now, it launches an entire virtual machine instance, desktop and all, but in the future, you’ll be able to launch specific applications without seeing the Windows desktop at all.
In Google Chrome’s “Cookies and site data” settings, accessible via the Preferences menu item or directly with chrome://settings/cookies in the address bar, you can enable the setting “Clear cookies and site data when you quit Chrome”. However, I’ve discovered that Chrome exempts Google’s own sites, such as Search and YouTube, from this setting. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but this really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Technology companies are particularly adept at being hostile towards users, and Google is no exception.
Before a device or software that uses Bluetooth can be made available to the public, it needs to be approved by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). Tonight, a portion of Google’s long-in-development Fuchsia OS has been listed with the Bluetooth SIG. Another tiny piece of this never-ending puzzle.
Google revealed earlier this year that it’s planning to support Windows applications on Chromebooks thanks to a partnership with Parallels. It’s a collaboration that will see a full version of Windows boot inside Chrome OS, providing businesses the option to run existing desktop apps on Google’s range of lightweight Chromebook devices. In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Google is now detailing how and why Windows apps are arriving on Chrome OS. Google wants to give you access to Windows apps when you really need them, as a hop in and out experience. “The analogy I give is that yes, the world is all state of the art and Dolby Atmos home theaters, but every once in a while you do have that old wedding video on a VHS that you need to get to,” says Cyrus Mistry, group product manager for Chrome OS. “We want to make sure you have that option as well… so that every once in a while you’ll be able to get that when you need it, but we don’t want that to be the world you’re living in.” This feels very much like a stopgap measure designed specifically for enterprises relying on old internal Win32 applications. For employees of such companies, Chromebooks – or anything that isn’t Windows – simply isn’t an option, but this might fix that. Still, I doubt this will perform great.
Through a fair bit of digging, we were able to obtain a copy of Borealis, which turned out to be another full Linux distribution. Unlike Crostini, which is based on Debian, Borealis is based on Ubuntu, another popular variety of Linux. Just like the existing Linux apps support, we believe Borealis will integrate itself with Chrome OS rather than being a full desktop experience. However, we found one key difference between Borealis and a normal installation of Ubuntu, as Borealis includes a pre-installed copy of Steam. This lines up with what we learned at CES 2020, when Kan Liu, Google’s director of product management for Chrome OS, shared that the upcoming Steam gaming support would be based on Linux. I am very curious to see how this will perform. My gut feeling is that they will position this more as an endpoint for Steam’s in-home streaming feature than as a way to play games locally on-device, since I don’t know of any ChromeBook with more graphical power than whatever integrated GPU Intel stuffs in their low-end processors.
Hidden deep in a blog post full of PR speak, Google has announced that it’s bringing Microsoft Office to Chrome OS through a partnership with Parallels. At Google, we recognize the modern way of working as being a cloud worker—on a browser and browser-based apps for the vast majority of the work day (you’re reading this in one, right?), untethered because the devices you use are mobile-friendly and cloud-native. We’ve long been saying that almost any business role can be a cloud worker, and COVID-19 has dramatically made this point. As a result, the Chrome OS team is working on new ways to make sure every company can benefit from the velocity created by supporting a cloud workforce. For example, our new partnership with Parallels brings legacy application support—which includes Microsoft Office desktop apps—to Chromebooks. More to come on this over the coming months. The Verge has more details on how, exactly, this is going to work, and the gist is that Parallels will be integrated with Chrome OS to allow Microsoft Office to run locally on the device. While Chrome OS has long supported Windows desktop apps that are streamed via the cloud through a Parallels Remote Application Server, this new partnership means the apps will run virtualized on Chromebooks instead. The new feature is set to be available this fall for Chrome Enterprise customers. Parallels Desktop will be integrated natively into Chrome OS, improving performance and enabling offline access for these applications on Chromebooks. It’s a surprising, but welcome move that will mean Chrome OS will be able to support both Android apps and Windows apps in the future. This is an interesting move, and I hope it will become available to regular, non-enterprise consumers, too.
Google has tried on and off for years to hide full URLs in Chrome’s address bar, because apparently long web addresses are scary and evil. Despite the public backlash that came after every previous attempt, Google is pressing on with new plans to hide all parts of web addresses except the domain name. A few new feature flags have appeared in Chrome’s Dev and Canary channels (V85), which modify the appearance and behavior of web addresses in the address bar. The main flag is called “Omnibox UI Hide Steady-State URL Path, Query, and Ref” which hides everything in the current web address except the domain name. For example, “https://www.androidpolice.com/2020/06/07/lenovo-ideapad-flex-5-chromebook-review/” is simply displayed as “androidpolice.com.” As I’ve said numerous times before, I like the idea of seeing if we can improve the way browsers how browsers display addresses – if we don’t try to improve because “that’s just how things are, we end up with garbage like the UNIX/Linux directory naming conventions. However, I don’t think Google doing this singlehandedly and one its own is a good idea; this should be a standards-based process, open to comments from everyone.
The state attorneys general investigating Google for potential antitrust violations are leaning toward pushing for a breakup of its ad technology business as part of an expected suit, people familiar with the situation told CNBC. Fifty attorneys general have been probing Google’s business practices for months, alongside a similar probe being led by the U.S. Department of Justice. Both the states and the DOJ are looking to file a suit against the internet giant as soon as within the next few months, the people told CNBC. Any corporate break up always depends on the details, but there’s no denying the large technology companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and others have amassed such immense amounts of wealth and influence that they should definitely be either leashed, or broken up entirely – something the US in particular has a lot of experience with.
It seems Google has opened up a little bit about its Fuchsia operating system. A (I think) new ‘Overview’ page details what Fuchsia is, what it’s not, and what it’s intended to be used for. Security is obviously a primary goal of the operating system: Security and privacy are woven deeply into the architecture of Fuchsia. The basic building blocks of Fuchsia, the kernel primitives, are exposed to applications as object-capabilities, which means that applications running on Fuchsia have no ambient authority: applications can interact only with the objects to which they have been granted access explicitly. Software is delivered in hermetic packages and everything is sandboxed, which means all software that runs on the system, including applications and system components, receives the least privilege it needs to perform its job and gains access only to the information it needs to know. Google seems to want to make really clear that Fuchsia is diametrically the opposite of Android when it comes to updates. They don’t mince words here, and it might as well read “everything Android is not”: Fuchsia works by combining components delivered in packages. Fuchsia packages are designed to be updated independently or even delivered ephemerally, which means packages are designed to come and go from the device as needed and the software is always up-to-date, like a Web page. Fuchsia aims to provide drivers with a binary-stable interface. In the future, drivers compiled for one version of Fuchsia will continue to work in future versions of Fuchsia without needing to be modified or even recompiled. This approach means that Fuchsia devices will be able to update to newer versions of Fuchsia seamlessly while keeping their existing drivers. There’s more information about Fuchsia on the page, but the final paragraph should finally shed some light on that Google is definitely serious about the new operating system, and is intending to actually, you know, use it for stuff. Fuchsia’s goal is to power production devices and products used for business-critical applications. As such, Fuchsia is not a playground for experimental operating system concepts. Instead, the platform roadmap is driven by practical use cases arising from partner and product needs.
YouTube is automatically deleting comments that contain certain Chinese-language phrases related to criticism of the country’s ruling Communist Party (CCP). The company confirmed to The Verge this was happening in error and that it was looking into the issue. “This appears to be an error in our enforcement systems and we are investigating,” said a YouTube spokesperson. The company did not elaborate on how or why this error came to be, but said it was not the result of any change in its moderation policy. But if the deletions are the result of a simple mistake, then it’s one that’s gone unnoticed for six months. The Verge found evidence that comments were being deleted as early as October 2019, when the issue was raised on YouTube’s official help pages and multiple users confirmed that they had experienced the same problem. Sure, an “error in our enforcement systems” that was reported six months ago. I just don’t believe very specific things like this – and the trigger words are very specific and require contextual knowledge – are implemented by error.
Following the recent rollout of the new Bedtime Reminders feature in YouTube for Android, Google has now started testing a new feature that will show search results from the web within the app. The feature was recently spotted by Reddit user u/TheMrIggs when he searched “open beer with knife” in the YouTube app. As you can see in the screenshots below, the results listed a couple of related videos, as usual, followed by a new “Results from the web” card featuring a recommended result from Google Search for the same query. There are already so many ads in YouTube, and now Google is clearly considering even adding web search results to YouTube. The next step Google is probably considering will be ads inside YouTube’s search suggestions. When I go to YouTube, I go there to watch videos – not to search the web. These attempts at “synergy” are common in the technology world, and they rarely seem to benefit the user.
There are two types of people in the world: tab minimalists who have just a few tabs open at a time and tab collectors who have…significantly more. For minimalists and collectors alike, we’re bringing a new way to organize your tabs to Chrome: tab groups. This feature is available now in Chrome Beta. It looks interesting, but since I keep strict tabs on my tabs, I rarely have more than 5-8 tabs open at once, so I don’t really need this feature. Any input from tab hoarders in the audience?
Google has made significant progress toward developing its own processor to power future versions of its Pixel smartphone as soon as next year — and eventually Chromebooks as well, Axios has learned. The chip, code-named Whitechapel, was designed in cooperation with Samsung, whose state-of-the-art 5-nanometer technology would be used to manufacture the chips, according to a source familiar with Google’s effort. Samsung has also manufactured Apple’s iPhone chips, as well as its own Exynos processors. Apparently, Google has received the first batch in recent weeks. This development process has been one of the worst-kept secrets in the industry, since Google pretty much admitted it was developing its own mobile SoC years ago.
Google is replacing some Android apps for Chromebooks with Progressive Web Apps (PWAs). A PWA is essentially a webpage that looks and feels like a traditional app. This will certainly be good news for many Chromebook owners. In some cases, PWAs are faster and more functional than their Android counterparts. PWAs also take up less storage and require less juice to run. When PWAs are a better option than Android applications, you know you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. I really don’t understand why Google doesn’t just turn Chrome OS into a more traditional desktop Linux distribution – they’ll get better applications, better tooling, and better performance than shoehorning Android applications into Chrome or pretending a website is an application.
Google has been ramping up the Linux environment on Chrome OS lately, with features like microphone support and USB connections. For those of you who spend a lot of time in the command-line Terminal, Chrome OS 83 (currently in the Dev channel) has updated the app with new themes and customization options. The Terminal app on Chrome OS has changed very little since the Linux container was originally released — it’s a single window with text. However, the new version shipping in Chrome OS 83 offers tabs, pre-made themes, customizable colors and fonts for text, and even cursor options. To be honest, I’d rather have a proper, traditional Linux distribution than Chrome OS, but I guess these are welcome additions for those among us using the terminal on Chrome OS.
Google announced its decision to drop support for the User-Agent string in its Chrome browser. Instead, Chrome will offer a new API called Client Hints that will give the user greater control over which information is shared with websites. We’ve talked about this earlier this year, but I want to highlight it again since it’s very important this initiative doesn’t devolve into Google and Chrome shoving this alternative down the web’s throat. Deprecating user agent strings is a good thing, but only if the replacement is a collective effort supported by everyone.
Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases. Our primary objectives are to ensure they continue to be stable, secure, and work reliably for anyone who depends on them. We’ll continue to prioritize any updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80. Basically, Google wants to ensure the stability of Chrome and Chrome OS now that a lot of people are working from home due to the pandemic. Good call.