Chrome ‘OK Google’ hotwording extension sparks new privacy concerns, confusion (Update: Chromium team backpeddals)

Ok-Google-Voice-Search

Update: What’s that? Oh, just the smell of change. After initially standing firm on its implementation of the hotwording module and proprietary Google extension being automatically downloaded in new installations of the Chromium open source browser, a wave of criticism has led to the team pulling it out of Chromium 45 and onwards. The module that manages whether the hotword listening extension is enabled will be “disabled by default” and the proprietary technology that actually listens for “Ok Google” will not download. A member of the team says simply:

In light of this issue, we have decided to remove the hotwording component entirely from Chromium. As it is not open source, it does not belong in the open source browser.

The original story continues below.

It all started with a blinking LED light. Ofer Zelig wrote on his blog today about an odd case where the LED light on his computer, that turns on whenever the microphone or camera is activated, seemed to blink every few seconds or so while he was working on his PC. He investigated in the Windows Task Manager to look for any process that might be to blame – no dice. He shut down some suspicious processes that might have been causing it and says he didn’t have any malware installed, but still to no avail. Turns out, the culprit was none other than Google’s Chrome browser…

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Acer launches Chromebase with optional touch display for $329/$429 in US

Acer Chromebase Front Facing Left

First announced in April, Acer is today officially launching its Chromebase all-in-one (DC221HQ) for customers in the US. Two models are available, one with a touch display for $429 and another without the touch display for $329.   

Specs for both models include a 21.5-inch 1080p HD display, NVIDIA Tegra K1 quad-core processor, 4GB RAM, 16GB SSD, a built-in webcam, a stand that tilts 15 to 75 degrees and offers VESA mount compatibility, and, of course, Chrome OS. You’ll also find the usual USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports, Bluetooth, and WiFi offerings.

The non-touch screen version of the new Acer Chromebase is available through retailers this month for $329, while the multi-touch model will ship next months or $429.

More images and the full press release is below: Read more

Latest Chromium build tests prompting users to install web apps for sites they visit often

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If you’ve been following the latest with Chrome for Android, you probably know that Google has been making a big push with web apps. In Chrome for Android beta 42, Google added banners that recommend users install web apps to their home screens, and in beta version 43, the Chrome for Android app now has banners that push native apps on users as well. Now, in the latest build of the Chromium—the open source project that is the basis for Chrome—browser, Google is testing banners suggesting that users add sites to their app shelf. Read more

How-to: Make your own text-replacing Chrome extension like ‘Millennials to Snake People’

A couple weeks back you may have seen a lot of news coverage about a Chrome extension that, when installed, replaces all instances of the word ‘millennials’ on the webpages you visit with ‘snake people’. The media seems to have this non-stop desire to write think piece after think piece about how snake peoples are a smartphone-obsessed, basement dwelling generation who expect everything on a silver spoon. If these posts are driving you crazy, Millennials to Snake People will ease the pain! There’s also an older one called ‘Cloud to Butt Plus’ which, while pretty self-explanatory, cuts straight to a kind of taboo topic that makes us uneasy and/or nervous, the feelings which are oftentimes best dealt with through laughter.

But maybe there’s some other word or phrase driving you mad that these extensions haven’t addressed. Thankfully, I’m here to help. And you don’t even need to have any web development experience, as I’ve already gone ahead done all the elbow work! When you’re finished you’ll be able to run this extension in the Chrome browser on your computer absolutely free, or for $5 you’ll be able to pay Google for the right to publish it to the Chrome Web Store where anyone can download it. So, here’s how to make a Chrome extension that replaces any word or phrase with the one of your choosing: Read more

Chrome for Android 44 beta experimental New Tab page renders large icons instead of thumbnails

 

We learned back in March of an experimental feature the Chromium team was testing in its canary channel that replaces the thumbnails of your most frequently visited sites on the New Tab page with simpler large icons (the site’s respective favicon) for each site. The thinking goes that the screenshot Chrome takes of the sites you frequent don’t always look great, and sometimes the browser’s cache of screenshots doesn’t refresh for a while, so large icons prove to be a much cleaner solution.

Above you can see an example of the current desktop New Tab page on the left and the new suggested page on the right. Now, though, the change can be enabled in Chrome 44 beta for Android…

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Momentum extension keeps you on task with reminders & motivation on Chrome’s ‘New Tab’ page

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The Internet can be a double-edged sword – a window to the world’s knowledge at one end, and at the other a window to the world’s favorite cat pictures. And since on the web all sites are treated equally (save for the “deep” web, I guess) if we don’t have a strong, lasting motivation to get work done it can prove all too easy to get distracted browsing places that aren’t a valuable use of our time. While that lasting motivation must come from within, there are certain tricks and tools you can try that may just give you the boost you need to power through that next email or essay. The one I’d like to share with you today is an extension for Chrome called Momentum.

Momentum quite simply replaces the default New Tab page of Chrome with a “personal dashboard,” as the developer calls it, like the one you see above. For reference, here’s the New Tab page: Read more

Google Chrome aims to improve laptop battery life by intelligently pausing Flash content

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Google has been working with Adobe to improve battery life drain caused by Flash and today flipped the switch on a new Chrome feature that does exactly that. The new feature aims to detect Flash on a webpage that is actually important to the main content and “intelligently pause content” that isn’t as important. The result is to hopefully make the web experience with Flash more power efficient to improve battery life on your laptop. Here’s how it works: Read more

Chrome OS update brings credit card info autofill, physical keyboard autocorrect, more

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Google this evening has started rolling out an update to the stable channel of Chrome OS that bumps it to version 43.0.2357.81. The update brings a handful of new features that are certain to please Chrome OS users. First off, Chrome OS can now autofill credit card information from Google Wallet to browser fields that ask for such information. Other browsers, such as Safari on OS X, offer features similar to this.

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Pro tip: Chrome already has similar granular permission controls to Android M

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One of the big additions to Android with the unveiling of Android M last week is more granular permission controls, allowing developers to ask for access to things like the microphone or GPS only once they need them, and for users to be able to revoke one or all of these permissions when they’d like. What wasn’t discussed on the keynote stage, however, is that the Chrome browser already has these features. Here’s how to use them:

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Google Cast has received new APIs for second-screen functionality, autoplay, queuing, more

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Google’s Chromecast dongle for pushing digital content from ones phone, tablet, or laptop to a TV screen isn’t exactly a high-end device – the full retail price is $35, and it’s on sale constantly – but its unexpected to many been a huge success for the company. Over 17 million of the dongles have been sold, the Cast button has been pushed over 1.5 billion times, and Google says Chromecast users consume 66% more content per day than when the device launch in 2013. To push the network of Cast buttons and supported content even further, Google has released some new APIs for developers to build richer experiences.

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