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Oracle

Oracle Is Funding a New Anti-Google Group (fortune.com) 153

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Fortune: Oracle says it is funding a new non-profit called "Campaign for Accountability," which consists of a campaign called "The Google Transparency Project" that claims to expose criminal behavior carried out by Google. "Oracle is absolutely a contributor (one of many) to the Transparency Project. This is important information for the public to know. It is 100 percent public records and accurate," said Ken Glueck, Senior Vice President of Oracle. Fortune reports: "Oracle's hidden hand is not a huge surprise since the company has a history of sneaky PR tactics, and is still embroiled in a bitter intellectual property lawsuit with Google." One would think Microsoft may be another contributor, but the company said it is not. Daniel Stevens, the deputy director of the CfA, declined to name the group's other donors, or to explain why it does not disclose its funders. Why does this matter? "When wealthy companies or individuals pose as a grass-roots group like the so-called 'campaign for accountability' project, [it] can confuse news and public relations, and foster public cynicism," writes Jeff John Roberts via Fortune.
Chrome

Google Will Kill Chrome Apps For Windows, Mac, and Linux In Early 2018 (venturebeat.com) 102

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Google today announced plans to kill off Chrome apps for Windows, Mac, and Linux in early 2018. Chrome extensions and themes will not be affected, while Chrome apps will continue to live on in Chrome OS. Here's the deprecation timeline:

Late 2016: Newly published Chrome apps will not be available to Windows, Mac, and Linux users (when developers submit apps to the Chrome Web Store, they will only show up for Chrome OS). Existing Chrome apps will remain available as they are today and developers can continue to update them.
Second half of 2017: The Chrome Web Store will no longer show Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Early 2018: Chrome apps will not load on Windows, Mac, and Linux.
There appears to be two main reasons why Google is killing Chrome apps off now. First, as Google explains in a blog post: "For a while there were certain experiences the web couldn't provide, such as working offline, sending notifications, and connecting to hardware. We launched Chrome apps three years ago to bridge this gap. Since then, we've worked with the web standards community to enable an increasing number of these use cases on the web. Developers can use powerful new APIs such as service worker and web push to build robust Progressive Web Apps that work across multiple browsers." Secondly, Chrome apps aren't very popular: "Today, approximately 1 percent of users on Windows, Mac and Linux actively use Chrome packaged apps, and most hosted apps are already implemented as regular web apps. Chrome on Windows, Mac, and Linux will therefore be removing support for packaged and hosted apps over the next two years."
Chrome

Google Restores Backspace Functionality To Chrome With an Add-on (betanews.com) 140

In May, Google upset many users when it announced it was going to stop the backspace button from also functioning as the back button. If you're among the ones who felt let down by company's decision, there is something you can do about it now. Alan Buckingham, writing for BetaNews: If you don't want to go to the effort of moving your mouse pointer to the back arrow at the left of the address bar to go back to the previous site, you can now install the new Go Back With Backspace add-on. The official description reads, "Go back with the backspace button! This extension re-enables the backspace key as a back navigation button -- except if you're writing text". The reason given for all of this, according to Google, is "many people lost their progress while working online by accidentally pressing backspace and leaving a page -- so we removed the feature from Chrome, and created this extension for those who prefer the old behavior".
Microsoft

Microsoft Wants To Pay You To Use Its Windows 10 Browser Edge (theguardian.com) 256

An anonymous reader shares a report by The Guardian: Microsoft has a new browser. It launched with Windows 10 and it's called Edge. The company says it's faster, more battery efficient and all-round better than Chrome or Firefox. You can even draw on websites with a stylus. Trouble is, not very many people are using it. So now Microsoft's trying to bribe you to switch. The newly rebranded Microsoft Rewards -- formerly Bing Rewards, which paid people for using Bing as their search engine (another product Microsoft says is better than a Google product but that very few people actually use) -- will now pay you for using Edge, shopping at the Microsoft store, or using Bing. Users of Edge who sign up to Microsoft Rewards, which is currently US-only, are then awarded points simply for using the browser. Microsoft actively monitors whether you're using Edge for up to 30 hours a month. It tracks mouse movements and other signs that you're not trying to game the system, and you must also have Bing set as your default search engine. Points can then be traded in for vouchers or credit for places such as Starbucks, Skype, Amazon and ad-free Outlook.com -- remember, if you're not paying for something, you are the product.
Security

People Ignore Software Security Warnings Up To 90% of the Time, Says Study (phys.org) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A new study from BYU, in collaboration with Google Chrome engineers, finds the status quo of warning messages appearing haphazardly -- while people are typing, watching a video, uploading files, etc. -- results in up to 90 percent of users disregarding them. Researchers found these times are less effective because of "dual task interference," a neural limitation where even simple tasks can't be simultaneously performed without significant performance loss. Or, in human terms, multitasking. For example, 74 percent of people in the study ignored security messages that popped up while they were on the way to close a web page window. Another 79 percent ignored the messages if they were watching a video. And a whopping 87 percent disregarded the messages while they were transferring information, in this case, a confirmation code. For example, Jenkins, Vance and BYU colleagues Bonnie Anderson and Brock Kirwan found that people pay the most attention to security messages when they pop up in lower dual task times such as: after watching a video, waiting for a page to load, or after interacting with a website. For part of the study, researchers had participants complete computer tasks while an fMRI scanner measured their brain activity. The experiment showed neural activity was substantially reduced when security messages interrupted a task, as compared to when a user responded to the security message itself. The BYU researchers used the functional MRI data as they collaborated with a team of Google Chrome security engineers to identify better times to display security messages during the browsing experience.
Google

Oracle Says Trial Wasn't Fair, It Should Have Known About Google Play For Chrome (arstechnica.com) 181

Two and a half months after a federal jury concluded that Google's Android operating system does not infringe Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use," Oracle's attorney says her client missed a crucial detail in the trial, adding that this detail could change everything. ArsTechnica reports: Oracle lawyers argued in federal court today that their copyright trial loss against Google should be thrown out because they were denied key evidence in discovery. Oracle attorney Annette Hurst said that the launch of Google Play on Chrome OS, which happened in the middle of the trial, showed that Google was trying to break into the market for Java SE on desktops. In her view, that move dramatically changes the amount of market harm that Oracle experienced, and the evidence should have been shared with the jury. "This is a game-changer," Hurst told U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who oversaw the trial. "The whole foundation for their case is gone. [Android] isn't 'transformative'; it's on desktops and laptops." Google argued that its use of Java APIs was "fair use" for several reasons, including the fact that Android, which was built for smartphones, didn't compete with Java SE, which is used on desktops and laptops. During the post-trial hearing today, Hurst argued that it's clear that Google intends to use Android smartphones as a "leading wedge" and has plans to "suck in the entire Java SE market. [...] Android is doing this using Java code," said Hurst. "That's outrageous, under copyright law. This verdict is tainted by the jury's inability to hear this evidence. Viewing the smartphone in isolation is a Google-gerrymandered story."In the meanwhile, Google attorney said Oracle was aware of Google's intentions of porting Android to laptops and desktops, and that if Oracle wanted to use this piece of information, it could have.
Google

Google Working On New 'Fuchsia' OS (digitaltrends.com) 145

An anonymous reader writes: Google is working on a new operating system dubbed Fuchsia OS for smartphones, computers, and various other devices. The new operating system was spotted in the Git repository, where the description reads: "Pick + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System). Hacker News reports that Travis Geiselbrech, who worked on NewOS, BeOS, Danger, Palm's webOS and iOS, and Brian Swetland, who also worked on BeOS and Android will be involved in this project. Magenta and LK kernel will be powering the operating system. "LK is a kernel designed for small systems typically used in imbedded applications," reads the repository. "On the other hand, Magenta targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of RAM with arbitrary peripherals doing open-ended computation." It's too early to tell exactly what this OS is meant for. Whether it's for an Android and Chrome OS merger or something completely new, it's exciting nonetheless.
Chrome

Google: Chrome 53 Will 'De-Emphasize Flash In Favor of HTML5' Next Month (venturebeat.com) 68

Google announced in a blog post today that Chrome will officially start to "de-emphasize Flash in favor of HTML5." VentureBeat reports: "In September 2016, Chrome will block Flash content that loads behind the scenes, which the company estimates accounts for more than 90 percent of the Flash on the web. In December, Chrome will make HTML5 the default experience for central content, such as games and videos, except on sites that only support Flash." Google detailed next month's plan (design doc), when Chrome 53 will be released: "In September 2015, we made 'Detect and run important plugin content' the default plugin setting in Chrome, automatically pausing any cross-origin plugin content smaller than 400px in width or 300px in height. This behavior has an exception for any plugin content that is 5x5 or smaller or is an undefined size, because there was no canonical way of detecting viewability until Intersection Observer was standardized and implemented. We would now like to remove this exception and instead not load tiny, cross-origin content. If the user has their plugin setting set to the default of 'Detect and run important plugin content,' the browser will not instantiate cross-origin plugin content that is roughly 5x5 or smaller or has an undefined size. An icon will be displayed in the URL bar indicating that plugin content is not running, allowing the user to reload the page with plugin content running or open settings to add a site-wide exception. Other choices of the plugin content setting are unaffected by this launch."
Android

Chrome Is Nearly Ready To Talk To Your Bluetooth Devices (engadget.com) 151

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget: Don't look now, but your web browser is about to become aware of the devices around you. After months of testing, Google has switched on broader experimental support in Chrome and Chrome OS for Web Bluetooth, which lets websites interact with your nearby Bluetooth gear. You could use a web interface to control your smart home devices, for instance, or send data directly from your heart rate monitor to a fitness coach. At the moment, trying Web Bluetooth requires the stars to align in just the right way. You'll need a pre-release version of Chrome 53, and you'll naturally want to find (or create) a website that uses the tech in the first place.
Google

Google: Unwanted Software Is Worse Than Malware (thestack.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Stack: A year-long study between Google and New York University has determined that unwanted software unwittingly downloaded as part of a bundle is a larger problem for users than malware. Google Safe Browsing currently generates three times as many Unwanted Software (UwS) warnings than malware warnings -- over 60 million per week. Types of unwanted software fall into five categories: ad injectors, browser settings hijackers, system utilities, anti-virus, and major brands. While estimates of UwS installs are still emerging, studies suggest that ad injection affects 5% of browsers, and that deceptive extensions in the Chrome Web store affect over 50 million users. 59% of the bundles studied were flagged by at least one anti-virus engine as potentially unwanted.
Android

Chrome 52 for Android Arrives With Smoother Video Playback, Faster Load Times, and Better Battery Life (venturebeat.com) 28

An anonymous reader shares a VentureBeat report: Following the release of Chrome 52 for desktop two weeks ago, Google last week also launched Chrome 52 for Android. For whatever reason, the company didn't share what's new until today. You can download the new version from Google Play. Chrome 52 for Android makes video playback feel smoother, load faster, and consume less battery. More specifically, video playback has been improved for speed and power efficiency, meaning you should expect smoother playback and faster load times (so videos will start playing sooner, instead of pausing briefly before starting). Your Android device's battery should also last longer if you consume a lot of videos online. Last but not least, video in Chrome for Android also now works with Data Saver Mode. This means a lightweight version of the video will be downloaded and played if you have Data Saver Mode on, saving you as much as 50 percent in data downloads, by Google's estimation.
Firefox

Firefox 48 Released With Multi-Process Support, Mandatory Add-On Signing (softpedia.com) 236

Mozilla on Tuesday released Firefox v48, touted as one of the most important updates the browser has ever received. With the new version, Firefox starts migrating users to using mullti-process threads (e10s, Electrolysis), and it is also the first version to ship with Rust component. In addition, Firefox is now also making add-on signing mandatory. From a Softpedia article: Announced last year, Electrolysis, e10s, or multi-process support is Firefox's ability to process core browser operations separately from the content viewed on a Web page. Multi-process support allows a page to crash without bringing the entire browser down with it and improves the browser's overall performance. e10s rollout will take place in two phases, first in Firefox 48, and it will finish in Firefox 49, set for release on September 13, 2016. Mandatory add-on signing refers to Firefox preventing users from installing any add-ons that have not been approved by Mozilla's testers. This is something similar to what Chrome employs, but Firefox users have been spoiled all these years, always having the capability of installing any add-on they've desired. Rust is a programming language that's a revamped and improved version of C++ but that protects developers from accidentally including dangerous memory bugs in their code. It achieves this by how the language was constructed and by how developers write the code.
Firefox

Mozilla To Remove Hello In Firefox 49 (softpedia.com) 128

Firefox's voice and videoconferencing add-on was described as "the first global communications system built directly into a browser" -- but things change. An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: An entry on Mozilla's issue tracker opened on July 17 reveals ongoing efforts from Mozilla engineers to remove the Hello system add-on from default Firefox installations starting with version 49, set for public release on September 13, 2016. Mozilla added Hello to Firefox in version 34, released on December 1, 2014, and from the beginning, it was part of the browser's core code, but was moved in December 2015 into a separate add-on, one that came pre-installed with Firefox, making Hello its first ever system add-on.

Mozilla plans to remove Hello from the codebases of Firefox Beta 49, Firefox Developer Edition 50, and Firefox Nightly 51. Based on the currently available information, the deadline for the Hello code removal operations is for this Monday, August 1, after which the first Firefox builds with no Hello integration will be available for testing, and will ship out in the fall with the stable release.

The article suggests this may have been a space-saving measure, "since Mozilla is focused on rebuilding Firefox's code from scratch to keep up with speedier competitors like Chrome, Opera, and Vivaldi."
Security

Famed Security Researcher 'Mudge' Creates New Algorithm For Measuring Code Security (theintercept.com) 77

Peiter "Mudge" Zatko and his wife, Sarah, a former NSA mathematician, have started a nonprofit in the basement of their home "for testing and scoring the security of software... He says vendors are going to hate it." Slashdot reader mspohr shares an article from The Intercept: "Things like address space layout randomization [ASLR] and having a nonexecutable stack and heap and stuff like that, those are all determined by how you compiled [the source code]," says Sarah. "Those are the technologies that are really the equivalent of airbags or anti-lock brakes [in cars]..." The lab's initial research has found that Microsoft's Office suite for OS X, for example, is missing fundamental security settings because the company is using a decade-old development environment to build it, despite using a modern and secure one to build its own operating system, Mudge says. Industrial control system software, used in critical infrastructure environments like power plants and water treatment facilities, is also primarily compiled on "ancient compilers" that either don't have modern protective measures or don't have them turned on by default...

The process they use to evaluate software allows them to easily compare and contrast similar programs. Looking at three browsers, for example -- Chrome, Safari, and Firefox -- Chrome came out on top, with Firefox on the bottom. Google's Chrome developers not only used a modern build environment and enabled all the default security settings they could, Mudge says, they went "above and beyond in making things even more robust." Firefox, by contrast, "had turned off [ASLR], one of the fundamental safety features in their compilation."

The nonprofit was funded with $600,000 in funding from DARPA, the Ford Foundation, and Consumers Union, and also looks at the number of external libraries called, the number of branches in a program and the presence of high-complexity algorithms.
Chrome

Ask Slashdot: Best Browser Extensions -- 2016 Edition 195

Reader LichtSpektren writes: Almost eleven years ago, Slashdot featured an Ask titled "Favorite Firefox Extensions?". I thought it might be worthwhile to ask the question again (Editor's note: we couldn't agree more!), but expand the query to all web browsers now that there's more choices available.

Right now my main browser is Firefox, which I use with uBlock Origin, Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, Privacy Badger, NoScript, Self-Destructing Cookies, Decentraleyes, Privacy Settings, and Clean Links. (N.B. the first four of these are also available in Chromium-based browsers.) I use Chrome as a secondary browser, with the first four of the aforementioned extensions, plus also Clear Cache and occasionally Flashcontrol.

This one has nothing to do with security or privacy, but Reedy on Chromium is a really nice tool for speed reading.

What do you use?
Let's get this going.
Microsoft

Windows 10 Anniversary Update: the Best New Features (theverge.com) 375

A year after the release of Windows 10, Microsoft is gearing up for Anniversary Update, the first major update to the company's desktop operating system. Ahead of the public release of Anniversary Update on August 2, Microsoft provided media outlets with the Anniversary Update, and their first impressions and reviews are out. The Verge has listed the big changes Windows 10 Anniversary ships with. From the article: Windows Ink: Windows Ink is without a doubt the best part of the Anniversary Update. It's essentially a central location to find built-in or third-party apps that work with your stylus. You can use the new sticky notes to note down reminders, and they'll even transform into true reminders as Cortana understands what you write.
Microsoft Edge extensions: If you're a fan of Chrome extensions, then you'll be glad to hear that they're heading to Microsoft's Edge browser. The Anniversary Update brings support for extensions, and it's now up to third-party developers to fill the Windows Store with their add-ons.
Cortana improvements: Microsoft's digital assistant, Cortana, debuted on Windows 10 last year, and the software maker is bringing it to the lock screen with the Anniversary Update. You'll be able to ask it to make a note, play music, set a reminder, and lots more without ever logging in. Cortana is also getting a little more intelligent, with the ability to schedule appointments in Outlook or options to send friends a document you were working on a week ago.
Dark theme and UI tweaks: You can switch on what I call even darker mode in settings, and it will switch built-in apps that typically use a white background over to black.
Other improvements include things like Windows 10's ability to set your time zone automatically, and opening up of Windows Hello, the biometric feature to apps and websites. Additionally, the Xbox One is getting Windows apps. The Verge adds, "It feels like a promise that was made years ago, but it's finally coming true with the Anniversary Update. As Windows 10 now powers the Xbox One, Microsoft will start rolling out an update to its console to provide support for Cortana on Xbox One and the new universal apps." Microsoft is also adding Bash, the Linux command line to Windows with the new update. It's an optional feature and users will need to enable it to use it. Users will also be able to "project to PC," a feature that will allow one to easily find a PC to project to from a phone or another PC. There's also a new Skype app, and syncing of notifications between PC and phone is getting better.
Going by the reviews, it appears Windows 10 Anniversary Update is substantially more stable, and has interesting new features. You can read the first impressions of it on ZDNet, and review on PCWorld.
Chrome

Google Gets Rid Of App Launcher In Chrome 52, Browser's Mac Client Gets Material Design (9to5mac.com) 68

Google has finally removed App Launcher that it bundles with the Chrome browser for Windows and Mac with the release of Chrome v52. The Mac client, in addition, now embraces Google's Material Design approach, and comes with new icons and flatter and transparent interface. 9to5Mac documents more changes on Chrome for Mac and Windows: Besides a new flatter, sharper, and transparent design, Material is also a "huge engineering feat," especially for Chrome OS and Windows. Chrome is "now rendered fully programmatically including iconography, effectively removing the ~1200 png assets we were maintaining before," Google noted. "It also allows us to deliver a better rendering for a wide range of PPI configuration."
Chrome

Safari Browser May Soon Be Just As Fast As Chrome With WebP Integration (thenextweb.com) 105

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Next Web: The Safari browser included in Apple's iOS 10 and macOS Sierra software is testing WebP, technology from Google that allows developers to create smaller, richer images that make the web faster. Basically, it's a way for webpages to load more quickly. The Next Web reports: "WebP was built into Chrome back at build 32 (2013!), so it's not unproven. It's also used by Facebook due to its image compression underpinnings, and is in use across many Google properties, including YouTube." Microsoft is one of the only major players to not use WebP, according to CNET. It's not included in Internet Explorer and the company has "no plans" to integrate it into Edge. Even though iOS 10 and macOS Sierra are in beta, it's promising that we will see WebP make its debut in Safari latest this year. "It's hard to imagine Apple turning away tried and true technology that's found in a more popular browser -- one that's favored by many over Safari due to its speed, where WebP plays a huge part," reports The Next Web. "Safari is currently the second most popular browser to Chrome." What's also interesting is how WebP isn't mentioned at all in the logs for Apple's Safari Technology Preview.
Windows

Windows 10 Warns Chrome and Firefox Users About Battery Drain, Recommends Switching To Edge (venturebeat.com) 377

A month after Microsoft claimed that its Edge web browser is more power efficient than Google Chrome and Firefox, the company is now warning Windows 10 users about the same. VentureBeat reports: Microsoft has turned on a new set of Windows Tips that warn Windows 10 users that Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox is draining their laptop's battery. The solution, according to the notification, is to use Microsoft Edge.In a statement to the publication, the company said: "These Windows Tips notifications were created to provide people with quick, easy information that can help them enhance their Windows 10 experience, including information that can help users extend battery life. That said, with Windows 10 you can easily choose the default browser and search engine of your choice."
Chrome

Slashdot Asks: What's Your Computer Set-Up Look Like? 326

I thought it'd be fun to ask Slashdot readers one of the same questions we asked Larry Wall: What's your computer set-up look like? Slashdot reader LichtSpektren had asked: Can you give us a glimpse into what your main work computer looks like? What's the hardware and OS, your preferred editor and browser, and any crucial software you want to give a shout-out to?
Larry Wall is running Linux Mint (Cinnamon edition), and he surfs the web with Firefox (and Chrome on his phone) -- "but I'm not a browser wonk. Maybe I'll have more opinions on that after our JS backend is done for Perl 6..." And for a text editor, he's currently ensconced in the vi/vim camp, though "I've used lots of them, so I have no strong religious feelings."

So leave your answers in the comments. What's your OS, hardware, preferred editor, browser, "and any crucial software you want to give a shout-out to?" What does your computer set-up look like?

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