Material Design UI Overhaul In Chrome OS Version 50

A few months ago, we got a sneak peek at how the Chrome web browser would look following a design overhaul to match Google’s Material Design aesthetic. Now, Chrome version 50 has begun to be deployed to a number of platforms, but for Chrome OS users, this milestone release will also see a complete Material Design makeover according to Sebastian Gabriel, a senior designer at Google.

Material Design is Google’s unifying company-wide style guidelines that started to be deployed to the company’s many products starting with Android 5.0 Lollipop. For Chrome users, the design changes are very minimal and the UI will function in mostly the same way, with many of the adjustments being purely visual. On the whole, the UI makes use of more flat colours, doing away with many of the shadows and gradients that used to feature in the UI.

Chrome OS users will be pleased to know the changes aren’t just skin deep, with the update also increasing performance behind the scenes. The Material Design UI is reportedly rendered fully programmatically, which allows a large number of image resource files to be unnecessary and the UI being based on vectors allows it to scale better to super widescreen and other unconventional screen resolutions.

The update to this new version will be automatic for Chrome OS users while users on Windows and Mac may have to wait a little longer for the final version of the Material UI for Chrome. For those willing to give it a try early using Chrome Canary and accessing “Chrome://flags”, where they will find the ability to enable Material Design. As before this is just a preview and users may run into bugs and the UI is still subject to change.

Microsoft Shows How Easily Chrome Extensions Can Be Added to Edge

Last month, Microsoft revealed that they had been working on the ability for their struggling Edge web browser to support the vast array of extensions that are available for Google’s Chrome. At an Edge developer summit earlier this week, Microsoft showed off just how far this technology had come already, with many popular Chrome add-ons being able to be made Edge-compatible with a simple change to one or two lines of code.

Edge’s support for extensions is already implemented, at least in the beta versions of the software that have been made available to Microsoft Insiders. Currently, Microsoft has around eight add-ons available for their browser, including the popular ad blockers, AdBlock and AdBlock Plus, which may be the ad blocking that Microsoft plans to implement in Edge. Currently, all Edge extensions must be manually side-loaded into the browser, but will be available through the Windows Store when fully released.

According to Rory Fairweather, a program manager working on Edge, extensions have been the most requested feature for Edge since its release alongside Windows 10, especially as they are a popular feature that many other browsers have had for many years. The amazing thing about Edge’s extensions is just how easy it is to port existing Chrome extensions to Edge instead of having to develop a version especially for Microsoft’s browser. Developers will be able to employ a tool from Microsoft to convert their extension, or, like Fairweather, change a couple of lines of code. This is possible due to Edge having equivalent addon APIs to its rival browsers, but will also have potentially powerful APIs that are exclusive to it including icon changing, cross-component messaging and networking.

Whether this will bolster Edge’s market share and pull lost users back to Microsoft’s browsers is hard to tell as many still see Edge as just the same as the often infamous Internet Explorer. At the very least, it is impressive to see how far Microsoft have gone to make it easy for extension developers to develop for their browser alongside others, as well as encourage the developers of existing apps to support Edge as well through an easy conversion process.

Gmail Says Use of Encrypted Emails Has Risen 25%

We use email every day, be it sending them for work or personal reasons or getting a thousand and one emails advertising everything from something you are interested in helping a foreign prince distribute their wealth. One way that you can be protected when sending emails is to send encrypted emails, something which has risen in use by 25% for Gmail users.

What caused this spur of encrypted emails? Google stated last year that they would start flagging up emails which were unencrypted, warning users which providers and emails were being sent from services that supported TLS encryption. This change came into effect in February this year, the end result of which was the 25% increase in encrypted emails that Gmail has reported in the last month.

Google isn’t acting alone on this, with Comcast, Microsoft, Yahoo and other companies in the industry looking to create SMTP, a new standard that could be used to help protect emails from man-in-the-middle attacks.

Combining all these with their recent push on security updates in Chrome and Android, including their use of two-factor authentication encryption and warning people about state-sponsored attacks on accounts, it’s becoming more and more clear that even in the digital world, companies want your private information to remain private.

Microsoft to Offer Tool for Porting Chrome Extensions to Edge

With the release of their new operating system, Windows 10, Microsoft has been keen on getting users to use their new software. Not just their operating system is new, though, with Edge replacing the demonised Internet explorer. One thing that has kept users from accepting and using the new browser is its lack of extensions, something that is set to change this year thanks to a tool Microsoft is currently working on.

It’s been clear for a while that rather than open another market for extension developers to create their tools in, Microsoft would look to bring Chrome’s extensions to Edge. In a tweet from Jacob Rossi, an engineer working on Edge, the picture becomes a little clearer on how they want to do this.

So it would appear that they are working on a tool that will enable you to port your favourite Chrome extensions over to the Edge browser. While a further response showed that they would still be working on creating a list of extensions directly for Edge.

Would you be willing to swap out your current browser for Edge? Are you an Edge user and if so how much would extensions change your everyday experience with the browser? Give us your thoughts below

Gaming in Your Browser is About to Get Interesting With WebAssembly

WebAssembly, it may be something that most of you have never really heard of, but it’s going to have a huge impact on the way we use or web browsers. WebAssembly is a compiling technology, which is capable of bringing browser output closer to that of native machine code; not even the best JavaScript compilers come anywhere near it in terms of performance.

Luke Wagner, a Mozilla developer, helped reveal the new additions as Mozilla Hacks this week, while also confirming the availability of WebAssembly ports of Unity’s Angry Bots. The game can now be played on a Chrome, Firefox, Edge and even Safari will be joining the party soon enough.

Below you’ll find a video released by Microsoft that shows the Angry Bots running in Edge using the Chakra engine via WebAssembly.

‘Despite being an early implementation, the demo starts-up significantly faster than just using asm.js as the WebAssembly binaries have a smaller file size and parse more quickly than plain JavaScript that needs to be parsed in the asm.js case.’ said Chakra Program Manager Limin Zhu.

The new format for native web applications supports all the functionality enabled by the asm.js JavaScript subset. Rather than replace Java, it’ll simply expand on what was already possible seamlessly, while allowing more direct access to processor instruction sets, and many other benefits.

‘Two upcoming changes will also significantly improve the developer experience. A standard textual representation of WebAssembly will enable developers to view the source of a WebAssembly binary like any other web script or resource. In addition, the current placeholder Wasm object will be redesigned to provide a more powerful, idiomatic set of methods and properties to instantiate and introspect WebAssembly modules from JavaScript.’ said V8 Java, while announcing their collaboration with WebAssembly.

So what does this mean for most users? Not much in technical terms, but it’s already leading to faster performance, more features and more functionality for or browsers and web applications, which is certainly no bad thing.

Chrome Extension Caught Stealing Bitcoin

The Bitcoin exchange portal Bitstamp warned users over the weekend that a Google Chrome browser extension had been caught stealing Bitcoin and users should avoid the BitscoinWisdom Ads Remover extension that at the time still was available in the Play store. The good news is that Google since banned the app from the store, but you’ll probably still need to remove it from your browser yourself if you were a user of this extension.

The Chrome extension was caught stealing Bitcoin when users made transfers. The extensions malicious code would redirect payments made to their own Bitcoin address instead of the intended target without the user noticing anything until it was too late. What Bitstamp discovered was later confirmed by Bitcoin app developer Devon Weller.

The method used to steal your Bitcoin is essentially very easy. Bitcoin addresses, sometimes referred to as wallets, use a very long string in order to identify themselves. That’s something that is both hard to remember and difficult to enter. After all, it’s about money and you wouldn’t want to send that to the wrong destination. QR codes can solve this with ease as you’ll just have to scan a code presented with your smartphone that contains a Bitcoin app and you’re good to go. This is what the malicious browser extension took advantage of by simply replacing displayed Bitcoin QR codes with their own in the displayed website.

On further investigation, Devon Weller discovered that the code only targeted users of the Bitstamp, BTC-E, and Hashnest Bitcoin services.

This isn’t the first time that the same extension has been caught doing so. Back in July last year, Reddit users reported similar issues with the same extension. We can only hope that it is gone for good now. This also shows that you should be very careful what browser extensions you install, they might do more harm than good.

Google Experimenting With Recommended Articles in Chrome

When people hear search engine there are a few that jump out at them, with many instantly going straight to Google. The popular search engine has helped create everything from the web browser Chrome to self-driving cars. One of their latest endeavours will be to recommend articles directly into your web browser.

Currently still in testing, the new feature is not available for public use or even beta but would see a list of articles recommended based on your most-visited sites. Recommended articles would appear on the new tab page for their Chrome browser, meaning that opening up a new tab could bring to a site you never even thought about visiting before.

Currently, the feature can only be uncovered by reading the tickets on Chromium Code reviews, something which VentureBeat has done with amazing detail. Amongst the discovered tickets the feature (currently known as “ChromeReader” or “Morning Reads”) uses a hard coded set of search parameters, meaning that everyone would see the same results no matter what they visit or see. This will obviously be changed before its release and would be required for the “snippets” to become something most people would use.

Snippets would include everything from a few words in the header to a brief description, with recommended features being changing how often they would fetch snippets and information based on how much power your device has or what time of the day it is.

There is no knowing what you might find on the internet, sometimes a quick ten minutes at your computer can turn into 20 minutes of YouTube videos of cats playing music before you realise what you were originally going to do.

Do you think that a new feature like this would help you? Would it just be a gimmick to give Chrome another feature on an already impressive arsenal?

Get a Sneak Peak at Chrome’s New Material Design Makeover

It is no secret that Google is planning to polish the UI of their popular web browser, to bring it in-line with the company’s material design aesthetic. As it turns out, the facelift could be here sooner than thought, with the latest stable version of Chrome featuring several optional features that allow some of the tweaks to be enabled early.

The changes aren’t drastic, with the majority of the browser’s minimalist UI being very similar. Overall, icon borders have been thinned down and the bookmark icons have been switched from their old yellow ‘folder’ look to plain gray icons. The old ‘hamburger’ button used to view the menu has also been switched to 3 vertically arranged dots with a more dynamic visual when opened and closed. The address bar has also seen a reduction in its font size, along with a darker, more obvious icon for sites being securely accessed via HTTPS.

Other parts of the browser have taken more significant changes, looking far more similar to the Material-style interface used in the Android operating system. The downloads menu separates each download as a card, with more obvious links for showing the download’s location and an ‘X’ button being present to remove the card. The settings menu’s overhaul brings in new fonts and colour to the page, with all of the settings being present on one page and links allowing the user to easily find the correct section. The toggle buttons and drop-down menus will also be instantly familiar to an Android user. Chrome’s PDF viewer has also been a part of the overhaul, with a new top bar and a set of circular buttons, both of which remain hidden until mouse movement towards them occurs.

To try out these changes for yourself, head to chrome://flags in the browser and set the following drop-down boxes to Material: “Material design in the browser’s top chrome,” “Enable material UI for PDF,” and “Enable Material Design downloads.” Meanwhile, the preview for the Material Design settings menu can be found at chrome://md-settings.

While these changes to Chrome are still in development and thus, still subject to change, it is nice to see Chrome home getting a facelift after so long. These aren’t the only changes planned for Chrome either, with a dark theme for incognito browsing, similar to that of the mobile version and a new video player interface. All of these changes and more could be ready to go live for as soon as Chrome 50, only two stable versions away.

Vivaldi Browser is the True Successor to Opera

Many internet users, myself included, were disappointed by the death of the Opera browser. It was my primary browser for nearly a decade, as it was for many other smart internet users, but it only ever held around 5% of the browser market share.

While, admittedly, I found the latter iterations of the browser to be bloated, sluggish, and prone to memory leaks, at its peak, Opera was the fastest, safest, and most customisable browser available. Sadly, in an effort to become more commercially viable, Opera dropped its innovative Presto engine, opting instead for Google’s Blink rendering engine, effectively making the browser a stripped-down version of Chrome. The Opera logo remained, yes, but the browser we knew was now dead.

Thankfully, Opera co-founder and former CEO Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner, in partnership with fellow former Opera employee Tatsuki Tomita, has picked up the baton his former company dropped to launch Vivaldi, a high-end browser designed to appeal to heavy internet users and former Opera fans and one which intends to form strong bonds with its community.

While Vivaldi, like modern Opera, utilises the Chromium engine rather than its own custom engine, it manages to have its cake and eat it, too: it is as though Vivaldi has taken the modern Opera and included the rich features of the old Presto version, effectively telling its predecessor, ‘this is how you do it.’

As Von Tetzchner told Ivan Minic last year, “When it comes to drafting a completely new engine, there is a very good reason why no one has done it in the last 15 years. It is an extremely difficult and complicated process, and it takes extreme amounts of work in order to be compatible with all other standards.”

While Vivaldi is desktop-only at present – “we started with a desktop version because it was a starting point from Opera,” Von Tetzchner said – there are plans afoot for a mobile version for tablets and smartphones.

Von Tetzchner sold his shares in Opera back in 2014 – three years after leaving the company over its new strategy – to launch Vivaldi, and the move looks to have paid off. I’ve been using the Beta 2 build of Vivaldi – which launched on 17th December, 2015 – for the last couple of weeks, and it is everything I could have hoped for, delivering the Opera I knew back in 2009 in the form of a decidedly modern, beautiful browser interface.

Vivaldi Beta 2 for Windows, Mac, and Linux can be downloaded from the Vivaldi website.

Google Isn’t Happy With AVG’s Chrome Plugin

AVG have a give and take relationship when it comes to their attitudes and approach with security and privacy, from their creation of glasses that could hide you from facial recognition software to going so far as to start selling your browsing activity to companies. AVG Chrome plugin has been found to bypass Chrome’s security features, something which Google are less than happy with.

The Web TuneUp tool is available for download from Chrome’s extension store, which sent the web addresses where they were compared against known malicious sites, in hopes that they could warn you before you land on one of those bad sites. The way the plugin was created though reportedly left the information open to exploits as reported by Google Security researcher Tavis Ormandy on December 15 in an issue report. In the report, he describes it by stating that it “exposes browsing history and other personal data to the internet”.

Ormandy was less than pleased about it, stating that he was unsure if he should contact AVG (an action that he did do) or if he should ask the extension abuse team to investigate it as a PuP (Potentially unwanted program, a term often used to describe pieces of software that could also be described as viruses or malware).

As of December, 28th AVG has completed a secure patch for the plugin while it has been reported by Ars Technica that the plugin was frozen while the plugin was investigated for policy violations.

Block Star Wars Spoilers With a Little Help

Star Wars the Force Awakens is set to be one of the largest films of the year and with generations of followers waiting for the big release this Thursday it was only a matter of time before people started posting spoilers or concepts that could ruin the film if you can’t make it to the cinema in time. The BBC posted an article explaining several ways to avoid spoilers (or the film altogether), ranging from moving country to retreating from the online world as a whole.

We at eTeknix understand that this may not always be possible (who can go without their memes these days?). One approach someone has taken is a similar one to something people use every day, an adblocker. Adblockers detect ad’s on a website and unless whitelisted, stop them from loading avoiding the onslaught of sounds and videos that loud on most web pages. Force Block, a chrome extension, aims to do the same but with spoilers for the highly anticipated film.

With a white list function you can add websites you think are being flagged incorrectly but otherwise upon loading a page you are met with a dimmed web page and a warning stating that you could be ruining the film in one of many different messages inspired by the films.

Mozilla Launches Firefox For iOS

Mozilla’s hesitance to offer their Firefox web browser on iOS devices stems from a bitter disagreement with Apple in 2013. During this period, Apple imposed hefty restrictions which prohibited Mozilla, and other browser makers to use their own rendering engine. As you might expect, Mozilla was outraged by these demands and believed they were completely unfair. However, with the soaring popularity of iOS, Mozilla has changed their approach and accepted Apple’s terms.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoAtBKmNUEY

Firefox is now available on iOS devices and incorporates a number of useful features including Intelligent Search, and Virtual Tabs. Firefox Accounts also allows you to easily sync passwords, internet history, and auto-complete forms on various systems. Private Browsing is another essential component which provides enhanced protection against data snooping. User privacy is such an important aspect of any modern browser and at the heart of Firefox’s ethos.

Unfortunately, I highly doubt the browser will make any serious impact on iOS as most people just use Safari. There are some exceptions who prefer Chrome, but I can see Firefox’s adoption being in the minority. Nevertheless, it’s a great piece of news if you prefer the Firefox desktop browser and want to continue that experience on an Apple device.

Which browser is your favourite and why?

Google Dropping Chrome Support for XP, Vista and OSX 10.8

Even when Microsoft dropped public support for Windows XP last year, many large organizations continued to pay for extended support. Not surprisingly, Google also continued to support Windows XP for their popular Chrome browser. That’s set to finally end though next year in April 2016; that marks the 2 year anniversary since Microsoft officially dropped XP support.

Originally set to end at the same time as Microsoft’s support, the cut-off date ended up getting extended twice. First, it was extended for 1 year till this April. When that deadline neared, Google ended up relenting and continued to support the aging OS till the end of the year. Now finally and for real this time, the support will end after an additional 5 months have been tacked on.

In other news, Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8 will all lose support in April as well. This is also long after Apple has given up on these systems. Ironically, Vista will also lose support the same day as XP will, despite being released a full 5 years later than the venerable OS. This also comes despite that fact that Windows Vista will be supported by Microsoft till April 2017. This speaks to the lack of popularity of the much-maligned OS that was eventually patched to near Windows 7 levels of usability.

Google Set to Meld Chrome OS into the Android OS

For years now, Google has maintained two separate operating systems. The widespread Android operating system used to power everything from phones to cars and the lesser known Chrome operating system, originally a super-thin OS designed to run web apps. But according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, two will soon become one, with Google set to meld Chrome OS into the Android OS.

This new Android OS version is also reported to be able to run on PCs. However, this leaves ambiguity as to whether this means that Chromebooks and similar machines that currently run Chrome OS will instead use Android, or whether the fact that the majority of Chrome OS capabilities can be utilized through the Chrome browser means that this Android would run as software on Windows and Mac PCs.

To many, this step for the two operating systems could be seen as a long time in the works. Since 2013, both OS’es have been under the control of the same person, Sundar Pichai, and while it has always been maintained that the two would remain distinct, over time there has been feature bleed between the two. The most notable of which being the adoption of the Google Play store into Chrome OS to allow offline apps and its ability to run Android apps. This merger of systems could be a chance to increase the platform coverage of the Play store even further.

Are you looking forward to potentially using your favourite Android features on a larger scale OS, or will this change matter little except to those who use Chromebooks? Only time will tell, and with a preview build to be demonstrated at the Google I/O in 2016 and a full release slated for 2017, it definitely will be sooner rather than later.

Chrome Canary Makes Safer Browsing Easier

In the modern age of fears over internet and browser security, it seems the only thing you can rely on is a little indication on your browser that the site you are connected to is who it says it is and that your connection is secure. But is this always enough? And do you feel that you know exactly how safe your browser and the personal details you may send through it are?

In the latest version of their Chrome Canary browser, the ‘nightly’ release channel for Chrome, Google has addressed this by adding a security panel to the browser. This security panel not just shows whether your data has been sent securely (eg HTTPS) or that the site you are connected to has a valid certificate, but it also allows you to verify the security of the many elements on the page. This means that a particularly security-conscious user will be able to check a whether a suspicious site they are on is secure, but additionally that the site does not hide hidden security flaws introduced by connected elements. It also has functions for developers, who can verify when making a secure site that it is in fact secure and any features relying on external resources do not compromise it.

As always with a nightly build, this feature is still in its early stages and there is still time before its implementation in the standard release channel for Chrome. If you don’t want to wait to check the security of sites you may visit, Chrome Canary can run alongside another install of Chrome, so it could be worth a download.

Chrome Will no Longer Include “OK Google” Extension

Have you ever actually used the “OK Google” extension in order to search for something? If the answer is “no”, then you’re among the majority of Chrome desktop users. Since nobody is really getting some good use out of this eavesdropping feature anyway, Google has decided to remove it from the browser altogether. “OK Google” was implemented for the first time along with Chrome 35 for Windows, Linux and OS X, and it enabled people to conduct searches with the help of their voice. All you had to do was visit Google-dot-com and start speaking to your computer, but according to ArsTechnica, the feature could also be triggered accidentally by doing things such as opening new tabs.

The beginning of the end for this pesky and somewhat useless extension started out in June 2015 when it was discovered that Chromium was downloading a similar binary package. As you can probably imagine, users were not very happy about this, which is why Google decided to remove the package from Chromium. Fast forward to Google 46 and the feature has disappeared completely from the standard browser. However, smartphones will still support the extension, and desktop users can still conduct searches using their voices on the Google homepage.

AdBlock Has a New Owner and No One Knows Who

Popular Chrome and Safari browser extension AdBlock has been quietly sold, and no one seems to know who the new owner is. Yesterday, users of AdBlock – rebranded from its former guise as AdBlock Plus – may have seen a pop-up announcing that, in contravention of the entire principle of the extension, that advertisers were now able to buy themselves on to the AdBlock whitelist, through EyeO’s acceptable advertising, allowing their adverts to circumvent the block. A footnote at the bottom of the post, though, revealed that AdBlock is under new ownership. The name of the new owner was not revealed.

https://twitter.com/aahaworth/status/649702548358701056

Requests submitted to AdBlock, asking for the name of the new owner, have been met with a flat refusal, with the company revealing that the buyer wishes to remain anonymous. All the company was willing to reveal is that former CEO Michael Gundlach was no longer with AdBlock, the tool he created.

Couple the lack of transparency with the new policy of allowing rich companies to pay for their adverts to be forced upon AdBlock users, and we have a company that, within the space of a day, has done everything it can to erode the trust of its users.

Thank you The Next Web for providing us with this information.

Google Announce Second Generation Chromecast And More

A few weeks ago we discussed the possibility of Google announcing and releasing their second generation of the popular streaming hardware Chromecast. It would seem like those rumours have been put to rest with the official announcement of several pieces of hardware today.

Google Chromecast allows you to stream your media to any TV as long as it has an HDMI port to plug the Chromecast into and a USB port to power it. It would seem they want to take its strengths and make it better with the Chromecast 2. Now available in black, orange or yellow the new Chromecast is circular in design and supports 5GHz WiFi for that even faster connection, allowing you to stream 1080p with greater ease. Atop the new design the USB is now at the end of a cable, where the previous Chromecast plugged directly into the HDMI port, sometimes making it difficult to use surrounding  ports or even plugging the Chromecast in. To help even more the new Chromecast will even feature 3 antenee which will be automatically selected and adapted to give you the best signal for streaming and recieving at any moment.

Alongside the Chromecast 2, Google have announced the Chromecast Audio, pictured above on the rights. A streaming device spercifically for your audio. Using the same principles that made the original Chromecast your favourite Google hope to catch your attention again with the Chromecast audio. With the ability to use either optical or standard headphone connections you can plug the Chromecast audio into almost anything with a sound input and have your phone stream your favourite songs from across the room.

Thank you Ars Technica and Tech Crunch for the information.

Image courtesy of Tech Crunch.

Second Generation of Chromecast Rumoured For Announcement Next Month

Google have announced several big products in the past, ranging from the high-end Google Glass to the low-end, as well as innovations such as the modular smartphone Ara. One of their more successful pieces of technology has been the Chromecast, and it is set for a new generation with rumours spreading stating that the next version could be announced as soon as next month.

Chromecast is a small dongle and from the looks of it, you would expect not much, but the small device packed a big punch and was in many was a forerunner to the generation of home media streaming. The original Chromecast supported features such as streaming Twitch and a whole host of apps, including Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. By turning any TV is a wireless streaming device for pictures, movies and online content the Chromecast quickly became popular.

The next generation looks to improve on this according to files found by 9to5Google. The documents indicate that not only will the next version contain improved Wifi and a slew of new features, of which “Fast Play” seems to be designed for streamlining connecting your devices in a quick and simple fashion.

The new Chromecast seems to also support something titled Chromecast Audio, a system where you can connect Chromecast to your speakers by auxiliary cord. With multi-room support and “high-quality” sound, the new Chromecast could see you streaming your party music all over your house.

With more and more features being added and upgrades like this, the Chromecast could quickly become my go to device for streaming any media content. What about you, do you stream media content in your home? Would you be looking at a Chromecast or do you avoid media streaming?

Thank you The Verge for the information. 

Image courtesy of Youtube user Marques Brownlee.

Google Chrome Starts Bypassing AdBlock Plus

Reports on Twitter suggest that Google Chrome has started to bypass the popular AdBlock Plus extension. AdBlock and its variants have long been the bane of commercial websites, with drops in revenue blamed directly on advert blocking software. Google in particular has been hit by use of the extension, which prevents pre-roll ads on YouTube, and now it seems the company has found a way to suppress AdBlock’s influence on its video streaming site.

Twitter is predictably abuzz, with multiple reports emerging from AdBlock Plus users that the extension is not working on Google sites while using Chrome:

https://twitter.com/r4rev2/status/640724992930500608

https://twitter.com/Kwebbelkop/status/640164616140681216

The bypass is not exclusive to AdBlock Plus, either, with similar extensions also affected.

The sneakiest aspect of the bypass is that AdBlock users are forced to watch the whole video advertisement, while users without ad-blocking software have the option to skip. It seems that AdBlock considers only the ‘Skip’ button to be an advert.

Google, however, has already been out-thought, with the following fix advised for affected users:

While ad-blocking is entirely legal, online commercial entities have been working hard to dismantle the practice over lost revenues. Google alone was reported to have lost $6.6 billion in advertising revenue thanks to ad-blocking software.

Thank you NeoWin for providing us with this information.

Microsoft Discouraging Users From Downloading Competing Browsers

Microsoft is aggressively pushing the Edge browser in Windows 10 and trying to prevent users from downloading an alternative such as Chrome, Firefox or Opera. By default, Windows 10 only includes Microsoft products such as Edge or Internet Explorer 11 and you have to use Bing to procure a different browser. If you search for any other leading browser, a message pops up and proclaims, “Microsoft recommends Microsoft Edge for Windows 10,” and contains a “Learn why” button next to that message which directs you to a website outlining Edge’s feature set. In lieu of these revelations, Microsoft issued a statement which reads:

“Microsoft Edge was designed exclusively for Windows 10 with features and functionality that enhance the browsing experience such as Cortana, Web Note and Quick answers,”  

“These notifications were created to provide people with quick, easy information that can help them get to know these experiences better. That said, with Windows 10 you can easily choose the default browser and search engine of your choice.”

This kind of advertising isn’t limited to Microsoft as Google often argues the benefits of using Chrome. Although, EU courts have come down quite strong on Microsoft for pushing their browser.  In 2013, Microsoft were fined £481 million by a European court for engaging in anti-competitive behaviour. Originally, Microsoft divulged information about other web browsers to stop Internet Explorer’s unfair monopoly. However, this feature magically disappeared after a Windows 7 update. Microsoft argued this was due to a technical error. Whatever the case, it seems Microsoft is once again pushing their own browser and could be misconstrued as being unfair to the competiton. On another note, I’m not entirely convinced the notification will make any user refrain from downloading a competing product.

Thank you Venturebeat for providing us with this information.

Latest Chrome Update Aims to Tackle Large RAM Usage

Google has decided to prioritize reducing the extremely large memory demands in Chrome, especially when using multiple tabs and various plugins. A blog post outlined the drafted improvements in Chrome version 45 and explained how tabs will be restored in a more sensible manner:

“Chrome has long had the option to “continue where you left off” by restoring tabs when you relaunch Chrome. Now, Chrome is smarter about restoring your tabs more efficiently. Tabs are restored from most to least recently viewed, so you get to see the most important tabs faster. And Chrome will now detect if your computer is running low on resources and stop restoring the rest of your tabs to save you precious memory. You can always click to restore them if you’d like to access them later.”

Chrome 45 can also detect when a webpage is inactive and use the opportune moment to refresh old, unused memory. According to Google’s engineering team, this resulted in an average 10% memory drop on standard HTML sites. The performance benefit became even more pronounced with complex web apps and almost reached a RAM reduction rate of 25%.

Recently, Google announced a new policy to pause flash adverts unrelated to a website’s content. Supposedly, this can increase the battery life of many devices up to 15%. Google hopes that combing all these efforts will finally tackle Chrome’s absurdly high RAM usage head-on and begin to restore the browser’s reputation as a clean, secure and dependable piece of software.

Chrome to Block Flash Ads from 1st September

Google has confirmed that from 1st September onwards, its Chrome internet browser will “begin pausing many Flash ads by default”. Though the announcement, made through the AdWord Google+ page, claims that the measure is being taken “to improve performance for users”, but it coincides with a raft of security concerns and zero-day vulnerabilities regularly reported within Adobe Flash.

The most recent Flash exploit, discovered in July, allowed hackers remote access to computers to execute malicious code. Soon after, Flash was blocked by Mozilla’s Firefox browser and by the beta version of Chrome. Google’s Tommi Li announced that the move was initiated to save laptop battery life, which seems farfetched.

YouTube has already transitioned from Flash to HTML5 to display its videos, with game streaming site Twitch following suit, while Amazon is also banning Flash ads on its domains from the start of next month. Apple has never allowed Flash on its mobile devices, citing its security holes as a rick to users, while Android removed Flash support three years ago for similar reasons.

Though the more advanced and secure HTML5 is slowly taking over – Google has even converted a number of its AdWords Flash ads into HTML5 – Flash ads still dominate the market. A report from Sizmek shows that advertisers delivered over 5.35 billion Flash ads during the first quarter of 2015, versus 4.25 billion HTML5 ads.

Thank you Ars Technica for providing us with this information.

Firefox Set to Become More Like Chrome

Mozilla is set to implement a number of changes to its Firefox internet browser that will make it more like Google Chrome. Though the revisions will make Firefox more secure and stable, as well as making Chrome apps, extensions, and add-ons available for the browser, it will strip away many of the customisable features and increase its memory demands, no doubt infuriating long-term Firefox users in the process.

According to a Mozilla blog post today, Firefox will adopt the WebExtensions API, which will make it easier for developers to create apps that are compatible with Firefox, Chrome, and Opera, while also integrating Electrolysis to handle background content processing and the Rust-coded Servo technology.

Regarding the scope of the changes, Mozilla writes:

The strategy announced here necessarily involves a lot of trade-offs. Developers who already support Chrome extensions will benefit since they will have one codebase to support instead of two. Developers of Firefox-only add-ons will have to make changes. Those changes may require considerable development effort up-front, but we feel the end result will be worth that effort for both Firefox’s users and developers.

Firefox isn’t the first browser to lose its identity. The Opera browser, though far from popular, was well-respected for its speed and advanced user features. In 2013, however, Opera ditched its Presto engine in favour of Chromium, becoming little more than a stripped-down Chrome clone in the process.

A preview release of WebExtensions is included with Firefox 42, with a full roll-out set to occur in the near future.

Thank you Mozilla for providing us with this information.

Amazon Bans Flash Adverts on Its Own Domains

Amazon has updated the terms of its Technical Guidelines to prohibit any advert on Amazon-branded sites using Adobe’s Flash protocol. The change will commence on the 1st September and Amazon explained their reasoning in an introductory post:

“Beginning September 1, 2015, Amazon no longer accepts Flash ads on Amazon.com, AAP, and various IAB standard placements across owned and operated domains.”

“This is driven by recent browser setting updates from Google Chrome, and existing browser settings from Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari, that limits Flash content displayed on web pages.”

“This change ensures customers continue to have a positive, consistent experience across Amazon and its affiliates, and that ads displayed across the site function properly for optimal performance.”

This is a clear message from one of the leading online giants to universally drop Flash support across web pages, browsers and other applications. Flash can cause a myriad of stability issues and HTML5 has proven to be a far superior replacement. Amazon clearly feels the conflict between browser settings and Flash content is creating a sub-par shopping experience and could deter users from purchasing on the Amazon store. Frustratingly, Chrome embeds Flash by default but you can download Chromium or Firefox as an alternative.

Thankfully, it seems the Flash is now on the target radar of influential web companies and could become obsolete in the near future.

Have you ever experienced any issues with Adobe Flash?

Dell Unveils 13-Inch Chromebook Featuring Full-HD Display

Dell has expanded its Chromebook line-up to include a 13-inch 1920×1080 model and signifies a significant step up from the Chromebook 11. The Chromebook 13 comes in a wide range of specifications and allows you to choose between a fifth-generation Celeron, Core i3-5005U or an extremely capable Core i5-5300U which turbo boosts to 2.9GHz. In terms of memory, this new device supports up to 8GBs and a 16 or 32GB Solid State Drive.

Connectivity wise, the Chromebook 13 utilizes 802.11AC Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, 1 USB 2.0 port, 1 USB 3.0 port, plus an HDMI socket to mirror the display on a monitor or Television. As previously mentioned, the display is 1920×1080 to suit the increased screen size and probably based on an IPS panel. Interestingly, Dell have coated the screen in Gorilla Glass to prevent scratches from occurring which adds an additional sense of rigidity. On another note, the island-style keyboard is backlit and the casing is constructed from high-quality aluminium.

Cosmetically, the carbon fiber finish is superb and evokes a luxury feel without being too overbearing for business use. The Chrome 13 is set for a September 17th release with a starting price of $399. However, specific details referring to component upgrades haven’t been confirmed.

Would you ever consider a Chromebook or do you find it overly limiting to completely rely on cloud storage?

Thank you Digital Trends for providing us with this information.

Google Tests Tab Suspension in Desktop Chrome

For those that are always up to a lot, having many browser tabs open is pretty common. Right now for instance, I have 61 open in Chrome right now, eating up about 6GB of my precious ram. Doubtless there are days where I have more those with less but even with my low of 40ish tabs, Chrome is my main memory hog. I’m not using all the tabs at once, but Chrome currently sees fit to have everything running at 100% whether or not I am on it or not. That is all set to change as the nightly builds of Chrome seem set on adding a feature known as Tab Discarding and Reloading.

Tab Discarding and Reloading will let Chrome unload what it deems less necessary and important tabs. Don’t worry about your tabs constantly reloading as you switch back and forth like on mobile as Chrome will only discard a tab when it is in a memory constraint scenario. The tabs are not moved to swap so each time you do reload a tab, you will require an internet connection. On the plus side, your position in the tab and any text you have does appear to be saved.

In order to try out the feature, you can get onto the nightly build of Chrome and enable the flag under chrome://flags/#enable-tab-discarding. To check out the order your tabs would drop, you can visit chrome://discards. If the Chrome feature is anything like the Chromium OS implementation, the drop order should be the same as below. What do you think about Chrome trying to use less memory by discarding tabs or do you think actually using less memory be a better solution?

  1. Internal pages like new tab page, bookmarks, etc.
  2. Tabs selected a long time ago
  3. Tabs selected recently
  4. Tabs playing audio
  5. Apps running in a window
  6. Pinned tabs
  7. The selected tab