Google Archive

Google’s answer to ChatGPT, Google Bard, is out

Google Bard is out—sort of. Google says you can now join the waitlist to try the company’s generative AI chatbot at the newly launched site. The company is going with “Bard” and not the “Google Assistant” chatbot branding it was previously using. Other than a sign-up link and an FAQ, there isn’t much there right now. Google’s blog post calls Bard “an early experiment,” and the project is covered in warning labels. The Bard site has a bright blue “Experiment” label right on the logo, and the blog post warns, “Large language models will not always get it right. Feedback from a wide range of experts and users will help Bard improve.” A disclaimer below the demo input box warns, “Bard may display inaccurate or offensive information that doesn’t represent Google’s views.” Google’s Android keyboard and spell checker still can’t get “it’s” vs. “its” right 80% of the time, so I’m not holding my breath.

What ails Google, and how it can turn things around

Google has 175,000+ capable and well-compensated employees who get very little done quarter over quarter, year over year. Like mice, they are trapped in a maze of approvals, launch processes, legal reviews, performance reviews, exec reviews, documents, meetings, bug reports, triage, OKRs, H1 plans followed by H2 plans, all-hands summits, and inevitable reorgs. The mice are regularly fed their “cheese” (promotions, bonuses, fancy food, fancier perks) and despite many wanting to experience personal satisfaction and impact from their work, the system trains them to quell these inappropriate desires and learn what it actually means to be “Googley” — just don’t rock the boat. As Deepak Malhotra put it in his excellent business fable, at some point the problem is no longer that the mouse is in a maze. The problem is that “the maze is in the mouse”. I have never worked at any company – other than the hardware store for 7-8 years when I was a teenager and during university – so I have no idea if this is uncommon, but this sounds like my personal version of hell. No wonder Google has such a massive graveyard.

US accuses Google of abusing monopoly in ad technology

The Justice Department and a group of eight states sued Google on Tuesday, accusing it of illegally abusing a monopoly over the technology that powers online advertising, in the agency’s first antitrust lawsuit against a tech giant under President Biden and an escalation in legal pressure on one of the world’s biggest internet companies. The lawsuit said Google had “corrupted legitimate competition in the ad tech industry by engaging in a systematic campaign to seize control of the wide swath of high-tech tools used by publishers, advertisers and brokers to facilitate digital advertising.” More of this, please.

Chrome ends support for Windows 7/8.1 in early 2023

With the release of Chrome 110 (tentatively scheduled for February 7th, 2023), we’ll officially end support for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. You’ll need to ensure your device is running Windows 10 or later to continue receiving future Chrome releases. This matches Microsoft’s end of support for Windows 7 ESU and Windows 8.1 extended support on January 10th, 2023. It’s time.

Google annunced KataOS, an open source operating system for machine learning

To begin collaborating with others, we’ve open sourced several components for our secure operating system, called KataOS, on GitHub, as well as partnered with Antmicro on their Renode simulator and related frameworks. As the foundation for this new operating system, we chose seL4 as the microkernel because it puts security front and center; it is mathematically proven secure, with guaranteed confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Through the seL4 CAmkES framework, we’re also able to provide statically-defined and analyzable system components. KataOS provides a verifiably-secure platform that protects the user’s privacy because it is logically impossible for applications to breach the kernel’s hardware security protections and the system components are verifiably secure. KataOS is also implemented almost entirely in Rust, which provides a strong starting point for software security, since it eliminates entire classes of bugs, such as off-by-one errors and buffer overflows. Another new open source operating system by Google. This time, it seems almost entirely focused on embedded machine learning applications, so it’s definitely a bit outside of my wheel house.

Google Stadia shutdown stuns indie developers

Swider wasn’t the only Stadia developer blindsided by Google’s late September announcement that the streaming gaming service would be shutting down next January. Game makers who talked to Ars (and some who shared their surprise on social media) all said they had no indication of Google’s shutdown plans before the public announcement. “During correspondence , we are exchanging emails—nothing showed us it could be the end of Stadia,” Swider said. What a shitshow.

Google gives adblockers in Chrome another year as it postpones Manifest V3

Last year, Google announced plans to phase out Manifest V2-based browser extensions in favor of new Manifest V3 policies. Although Manifest V3 promises increased safety and “peace of mind,” developers argue that the new rules hurt innovations, decrease performance, and cripple content blockers without giving much better security. Google initially wanted to disable Manifest V2 extensions in Chrome in January 2023 but has now decided to revise its plans. In a new Chrome Developers blog post, the company describes an updated timeframe for migrating from Manifest V2 to Manifest V3. Although Google remains on track to ditch old extensions, developers and customers gained one more year for using and supporting Manifest V2-based extensions. According to the revised schedule, Google will remove them from the Chrome Web Store on January 2024. Chrome is an advertising delivery platform first and foremost, and anyone with even a hint of foresight and a disdain for ads should’ve switched to Firefox years ago. At this point, using Chrome is self-inflicted.

Google shuts down Stadia

A few years ago, we also launched a consumer gaming service, Stadia. And while Stadia’s approach to streaming games for consumers was built on a strong technology foundation, it hasn’t gained the traction with users that we expected so we’ve made the difficult decision to begin winding down our Stadia streaming service. We’re grateful to the dedicated Stadia players that have been with us from the start. We will be refunding all Stadia hardware purchases made through the Google Store, and all game and add-on content purchases made through the Stadia store. Players will continue to have access to their games library and play through January 18, 2023 so they can complete final play sessions. We expect to have the majority of refunds completed by mid-January, 2023. Another Google product announced with much fanfare is shutting down, as many, many people expected it would be. It seems Google is at least handling the refunds properly, and I hope the Stadia controllers can still be used with other platforms so they don’t turn into e-waste. Another one for the graveyard.

Why YouTube decided to make its own video chip

Roughly seven years ago, Partha Ranganathan realized Moore’s law was dead. That was a pretty big problem for the Google engineering vice president: He had come to expect chip performance to double every 18 months without cost increases and had helped organize purchasing plans for the tens of billions of dollars Google spends on computing infrastructure each year around that idea. But now Ranganathan was getting a chip twice as good every four years, and it looked like that gap was going to stretch out even further in the not-too-distant future. So he and Google decided to do something about it. The company had already committed hundreds of millions of dollars to design its own custom chips for AI, called tensor processing units, or TPUs. Google has now launched more than four generations of the TPU, and the technology has given the company’s AI efforts a leg up over its rivals. Google uses all kinds of custom hardware throughout its operations, but you rarely hear about it. This article provides some insight into the custom hardware Google uses for YouTube transcoding.

US political campaign emails can bypass Google’s spam filters under a newly approved pilot project

Federal election regulators voted Thursday to allow Google to proceed with a plan to make it easier for campaign emails to bypass spam filters. Google’s proposal to run a pilot project changing the filters for political emails came after intense Republican criticism that spam filters were biased against conservatives, a charge the tech giant denies. In a sign of public disgust with spam, the Federal Election Commission received thousands of public comments urging it to deny the request. But a majority of the six-member commission decided that Google’s project did not constitute an improper in-kind political contribution that would violate federal campaign finance laws. This reminds me of Twitter admitting it won’t ban nazis because that would mean banning accounts of Republican politicians. I remember the days being biased against nazis was a good thing. Times sure do change.

The story behind Google’s in-house desktop Linux

If you look around Google’s Mountain View, CA offices, you’ll see Windows machines, Chromebooks, Macs — and gLinux desktops. G what, you ask? Well, in addition to  relying on Linux for its servers, Google has its very own Linux desktop distribution. You can’t get it — darn it! — but for more than a decade, Google has been baking and eating its own homemade Linux desktop distribution. The first version was Goobuntu. It’s not news that Google has it’s own in-house desktop Linux distribution, but this article provides some interesting insights into some of its unique aspects. The latest versions now use a rolling release model based on Debian, with a custom automated package building and testing tool on top, developed by Google. I’d love to see it in action and have it released to the public.

Gmail’s new look is now rolling out to everyone

We’ve been tracking the progress of Google’s interface refresh for Gmail since February, and as promised, the company says it’s now becoming available for all Gmail users. The rework pulls Meet, Chat, and Spaces closer together as part of the overall experience and includes elements from Google’s Material Design 3. It’s not stopping there and says that, later this year, we should see improvements to Gmail for tablet users, better emoji support, and more accessibility features, among other upgrades. I don’t like the Gmail web experience at all, and the changes over the recent years have done little to change my mind. I’m old-fashioned and prefer proper email applications that are fast, native, and integrate with my wider computing environments.

ChromeOS Flex officially released

Today, we’re excited to announce that ChromeOS Flex, the cloud-first, easy-to-manage, and fast operating system for PCs and Macs, is now ready for your fleet. Just like too much sun, software bloat, clunky hardware, and security vulnerabilities can cause unwanted damage. Thankfully, ChromeOS Flex is just the sunscreen your legacy devices need. And thanks to everyone who has participated in our early access program, we’ve been able to significantly improve the product in many areas while continuously certifying devices to run ChromeOS Flex. ChromeOS Flex is effectively ChromeOS for everyone who doesn’t want to buy ChromeOS hardware, based on Google’s acquisition of CloudReady. There are various community projects that offer the same, but having an official offering from Google is great for organisations and companies.

Google Chrome/Chromium experimenting with a Qt back-end

Public code reviews started this week on Qt platform support for Google’s Chromium open-source browser code. It looks like Google is at least evaluating the prospects of Qt toolkit support for the Chromium/Chrome UI. Chrome might get a Qt-based UI option before it even gets video decoding acceleration on Linux that doesn’t require custom builds or hacks. Possibly good news for KDE users.

Google casually announces Steam for Chrome OS is coming in alpha for select Chromebooks

The long-awaited availability of Steam on Chromebooks was just more or less announced (in alpha) at the 2022 Google for Games Developer Summit. That said, Google is light on availability details for the moment. Google specifically said that the “Steam Alpha just launched, making this longtime PC game store available on select Chromebooks for users to try.” That said, no other details appear to be live this morning, but we did reveal the device list last month. I’m sure many Chromebooks are more than powerful enough to play a meaningful number of games.

Google forces YouTube Vanced to shut down ‘due to legal reasons’

The popular Vanced YouTube app is being discontinued, after a legal threat from Google. The creators of Vanced have revealed the project will be shut down in the coming days, with download links set to be removed. While the app will continue to work for anyone who currently has it installed on Android, without any future updates it’s likely to stop working at some point soon. The Vanced owners say they’ve had to discontinue the project “due to legal reasons.” Google sent the Vanced owners a cease and desist letter recently, which has forced the developers to stop distributing and developing the app. “We were asked to remove all references to ‘YouTube’, change the logo, and remove all links related to YouTube products,” says an admin from the Vanced team in a Discord message to The Verge. The most surprising thing for me is not that Google shut Vanced down, but that it took them this long. YouTube with ads is a terrible user experience, so I pay for YouTube Premium to get rid of them, but obviously, not everyone has the means to do so, be it financially or because of some inane Google restriction. Vanced offered a great alternative for these people. With Google trying ever harder to monetise the hell out of YouTube views, it was only a matter of time before it would go after Vanced. In the past few months, I noticed a considerable uptick in mentions of and references to the application, and Google probably noticed too.

Here’s the full Google Chrome browser running on Fuchsia

Google’s homegrown Fuchsia operating system has taken another step closer to being broadly usable by gaining the full Google Chrome browser experience. It’s been possible to access the web in a very limited way on Fuchsia for quite some time now via the operating system’s “Simple Browser” app – which was powered by the Chromium engine under the hood. While usable, this “browser” didn’t offer the usual necessities like an address bar or tabs. Mid last year, we reported that Google had begun efforts to bring the full Chrome browser experience to Fuchsia. As first spotted by oldschool-51 of Fuchsia’s Reddit community, these efforts have come to fruition in recent days, with Simple Browser being replaced in Fuchsia’s app list with “Chromium.” It’s steps like these that show that Google is serious about Fuchsia. For whatever that’s worth.

Google unveils Chrome OS Flex: Chrome OS for any PC or Mac

Today, we’re excited to announce early access to a new version of Chrome OS bringing the benefits of Chrome OS to PCs and Macs. Chrome OS Flex is the cloud-first, fast, easy-to manage, and secure operating system for PCs and Macs. Learn more below, try it out, and share your feedback to help us shape this product. It’s basically Chrome OS for any PC or Mac you might have lying around. Other parties offered similar Chrome OS-based systems for non-Chromebook hardware, but this is the first time Google itself offers it as a first-class citizen of the Chrome OS ecosystem.

Google relents: Legacy G Suite users will be able to migrate to free accounts

Well, that didn’t take long. There is hope for users of Google’s “legacy” free G Suite accounts. Last week, Google announced a brutal policy change—it would shut down the Google Apps accounts of users who signed up during the first several years when the service was available for free. Users who had a free G Suite account were given two options: start paying the per-user monthly fee by July 2022 or lose your account. Naturally, this move led to a huge outcry outside (and apparently inside) Google, and now, the company seems to be backing down from most of the harsher terms of the initial announcement. First, Google is launching a survey of affected G Suite users—apparently, the company is surprised by how many people this change affected. Second, it’s promising a data-migration option (including your content purchases) to a consumer account before the shutdown hits. This migration option is all we’ve ever wanted, for years now. We’ve been asking Google over and over to give us this option, because those affected had seen the writing on the wall years ago. It highlights just how incompetent Google is at customer feedback that they were at all surprised by this in any way.

Google requiring all ‘G Suite legacy free edition’ users to start paying for Workspace this year

In 2020, G Suite became Google Workspace as part of a mass reorganization of the company’s apps for the “future of work.” Various plans were migrated over, and Google is now finally getting rid of the G Suite legacy free edition. “Google Apps” for businesses and schools were introduced 16 years ago and was discontinued in 2012. However, the company made no significant changes to those free accounts in the past decade, until today. In an email to administrators this morning, Google said it “will now transition all remaining users to an upgraded Google Workspace paid subscription based on your usage.” As such, Workspace’s only free plans are for Nonprofits and Education (Fundamentals). After getting free Gmail, Drive, Docs, and other apps for the past several years, companies/people will need to start paying for those Google services and the ability to use your own custom domain (instead of just OSNews happens to be an organisation that started out using the original Google Apps for Your Domain, and over the years, we’ve been migrated left, right, and centre through the various iterations and rebrandings of Google’s collection of services for organisations. We are one of the accounts that have been grandfathered into the current Google Workspace stuff, but we never had a choice – Google just migrated you. That doesn’t sound too bad, until you, as I have done over the past several years, find out that tons of Google services, and specific features of services, are not available to you. The reasoning here is that while Google Apps for Your Domain originally started out a service for individuals, families, and small organisations, it eventually grew into this massive corporate software suite where it perhaps makes sense to limit certain services and features. Because Google originally advertised this collection of services as much for personal accounts as it did for organisational accounts, many people, including myself, never could have anticipated our personal accounts would be forcibly turned into corporate accounts, which come with the aforementioned limitations. I can’t set calendar appointments through Google Assistant, for instance, which is annoying since we use Google Home devices. I cannot invite my fiancée to become a member of our household and control our lights and other Google Home devices through her account and phone. I cannot use Google Stadia (not that I’d want to, but still). And that’s just a small selection. Why don’t we just migrate to a regular Google account, you ask? Well, because it’s not possible. Google offers no way to either change an account from what is now Google Workspace into a personal account, nor does Google offer the ability to migrate all your accounts’ data, settings, emails, and so on from a Workspace account into a new personal account. Unless we throw everything out the window, or painstakingly move over every tiny bit of data for every single service manually, we’re going to be stuck. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of Google to ask that we old, grandfathered accounts pay for their services. That’s fine. What is not fine, however, is slowly locking us into stunted, limited accounts, after advertising it as a personal service for years.