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Google outlines plans for mainline Linux kernel support in Android

Filed under
Android
Linux
Google

This is an extremely long journey that results in every device shipping millions of lines of out-of-tree kernel code. Every shipping device kernel is different and device specific—basically no device kernel from one phone will work on another phone. The mainline kernel version for a device is locked in at the beginning of an SoC's initial development, so it's typical for a brand-new device to ship with a Linux kernel that is two years old. Even Google's latest and, uh, greatest device, the Pixel 4, shipped in October 2019 with Linux kernel 4.14, an LTS release from November 2017. It will be stuck on kernel 4.14 forever, too. Android devices do not get kernel updates, probably thanks to the incredible amount of work needed to produce just a single device kernel, and the chain of companies that would need to cooperate to do it. Thanks to kernel updates never happening, this means every new release of Android usually has to support the last three years of LTS kernel releases (the minimum for Android 10 is 4.9, a 2016 release). Google's commitments to support older versions of Android with security patches means the company is still supporting kernel 3.18, which is five years old now. Google's band-aid solution for this so far has been to team up with the Linux community and support mainline Linux LTS releases for longer, and they're now up to six years of support.

Last year, at Linux Plumbers Conference 2018, Google announced its initial investigation into bringing the Android kernel closer to mainline Linux. This year it shared a bit more detail on its progress so far, but it's definitely still a work in progress. "Today, we don't know what it takes to be added to the kernel to run on a [specific] Android device," Android Kernel Team lead Sandeep Patil told the group at LPC 2019. "We know what it takes to run Android but not necessarily on any given hardware. So our goal is to basically find all of that out, then upstream it and try to be as close to mainline as possible."

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Google and fwupd sitting in a tree

Filed under
GNU
Linux
Google
Hardware
GNOME

I’ve been told by several sources (but not by Google directly, heh) that from Christmas onwards the “Designed for ChromeBook” sticker requires hardware vendors to use fwupd rather than random non-free binaries. This does make a lot of sense for Google, as all the firmware flash tools I’ve seen the source for are often decades old, contain layer-on-layers of abstractions, have dubious input sanitisation and are quite horrible to use. Many are setuid, which doesn’t make me sleep well at night, and I suspect the security team at Google also. Most vendor binaries are built for the specific ODM hardware device, and all of them but one doesn’t use any kind of source control or formal review process.

The requirement from Google has caused mild panic among silicon suppliers and ODMs, as they’re having to actually interact with an open source upstream project and a slightly grumpy maintainer that wants to know lots of details about hardware that doesn’t implement one of the dozens of existing protocols that fwupd supports. These are companies that have never had to deal with working with “outside” people to develop software, and it probably comes as quite a shock to the system. To avoid repeating myself these are my basic rules when adding support for a device with a custom protocol in fwupd:

I can give you advice on how to write the plugin if you give me the specifications without signing an NDA, and/or the existing code under a LGPLv2+ license. From experience, we’ll probably not end up using any of your old code in fwupd but the error defines and function names might be similar, and I don’t anyone to get “tainted” from looking at non-free code, so it’s safest all round if we have some reference code marked with the right license that actually compiles on Fedora 31. Yes, I know asking the legal team about releasing previously-nonfree code with a GPLish licence is difficult.

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Stadia Smells Like Vapour(ware)

Filed under
Google
Gaming
  • Will Google's Stadia Game Streaming Platform Be A Dud?

    On November 19, Google is expected to finally launch the company's long awaited game streaming platform, Google Stadia. Stadia is being heralded as the vanguard of a new push to eliminate your local game console, and shift all of the computing and processing power to the cloud. The shift to game streaming is likely inevitable, the only problem is that Stadia may be a little ahead of its time. And, like so many Google projects (like Google Fiber), game developers are apparently worried that Google may waffle on its commitment to the project...

  • Google Stadia's Upcoming Launch Looking Increasingly Incomplete

    Google Stadia is set to debut on November 19. That launch already had several caveats, however, including the fact that not everyone who pre-ordered the Founder's Edition bundle will receive their hardware in time for the platform's debut. Now the company has said that many of Stadia's multiplayer-centric features won't be ready in time for the game streaming platform's launch either.

    The additional information about Stadia's launch arrived during an Ask Me Anything (AMA) session with Stadia product director Andrey Doronichev and Beri Lee, who "look[s] after the Publisher experience on Stadia," on Reddit. Doronichev and Lee revealed that many of Stadia's features aren't ready in time for launch and said that several won't make their debut until some time in 2020.

  • Stadia looks to be very limited at launch and not just the amount of games

    The official launch of Stadia is only days away, so Google recently hosted a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) and we have some more details to share about it.

Slow Connections Discriminated Against: Google Stadia and Google Chrome

Filed under
Google
  • Google reveal Stadia will only have 12 games available at launch, more later in the year

    With the Stadia streaming service from Google launching on November 19th for those with the Founder's Edition or Premiere Edition, they're finally revealing what will be available.

    It will only have 12, yes 12, titles at launch and a few of them are sequels. They are: Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Destiny 2, GYLT, Just Dance 2020, Kine, Mortal Kombat 11, Red Dead Redemption 2, Thumper, Tomb Raider + Rise + Shadow and lastly Samurai Showdown.

    The only title you will get included in the Stadia Pro subscription (three months free with the Founder/Premier Edition) is Destiny 2, all others you have to pay for. If you stop paying for Stadia Pro, you lose access to any free games claimed and only keep those you've paid for normally.

  • Google Chrome To Begin Marking Sites That Are Slow / Fast

    Chrome has successfully shamed web-sites not supporting HTTPS and now they are looking to call-out websites that do not typically load fast.

    Google announced today that they will begin marking websites that are often either loading slow or fast. Chrome developers are experimenting with ways to show whether a website typically loads fast or slow so the user is aware even before they navigate to a given web page or web app. The changes will be rolled out in future Chrome updates.

Google's Open Hardware Charm Offensive

Filed under
Google
Hardware

OpenTitan

Filed under
Google
Hardware
  • Daily Crunch: Google announces open-source chip project

    The aim of the new coalition is to build trustworthy chip designs for use in data centers, storage and computer peripherals.

    The project will allow anyone to inspect the hardware for security vulnerabilities and backdoors. It comes at a time where tech giants and governments alike are increasingly aware that hostile nation states are trying to infiltrate and compromise supply chains in an effort to carry out long-term surveillance or espionage.

  • Google Is Helping Design an Open Source, Ultra-Secure Chip

    There are some parts of the OpenTitan design that won't be public, at least for the foreseeable future. These are all related to the actual physical fabrication of chips in a factory, categories like "foundry intellectual property," "chip fabrication," and "Physical Design Kit," among others. They hint at the immense challenges that exist in creating open source hardware—fabrication of which requires massive, specialized factories and proprietary silicon manufacturing processes, not just a laptop and an internet connection. If you don't own a silicon plant or have the leverage to convince existing fabricators to make OpenTitan chips for you, you won't be able to get them. And though device-makers have an incentive to save money on licensing fees with something like OpenTitan, silicon manufacturers who impose these fees may resist dropping them.

  • Google launches OpenTitan, an open-source secure chip design project

Mozilla and Chromium Leftovers

Filed under
Google
Moz/FF
Web
  • The Lounge on Dokku

    Mozilla has hosted an enterprise instance of IRCCloud for several years now, and it’s been a great client to use with our IRC network. IRCCloud has deprecated their enterprise product and so Mozilla recently decommissioned our instance. I then saw several colleagues praising The Lounge as a good self-hosted alternative. I became even more interested when I saw that the project maintains a docker image distribution of their releases. I now have an instance running and I’m using irc.mozilla.org via this client and I agree with my colleagues: it’s a decent replacement.

  • Mozilla Addons Blog: Firefox to discontinue sideloaded extensions

    Sideloading is a method of installing an extension in Firefox by adding an extension file to a special location using an executable application installer. This installs the extension in all Firefox instances on a computer.

    Sideloaded extensions frequently cause issues for users since they did not explicitly choose to install them and are unable to remove them from the Add-ons Manager. This mechanism has also been employed in the past to install malware into Firefox. To give users more control over their extensions, support for sideloaded extensions will be discontinued.

    During the release cycle for Firefox version 73, which goes into pre-release channels on December 3, 2019 and into release on February 11, 2020, Firefox will continue to read sideloaded files, but they will be copied over to the user’s individual profile and installed as regular add-ons. Sideloading will stop being supported in Firefox version 74, which will be released on March 10, 2020. The transitional stage in Firefox 73 will ensure that no installed add-ons will be lost, and end users will gain the ability to remove them if they chose to.

  • Facebook Is Still Failing at Ad Transparency (No Matter What They Claim)

    Yesterday, Jack Dorsey made a bold statement: Twitter will cease all political advertising on the platform. “Internet political ads present entirely new challenges to civic discourse: machine learning-based optimization of messaging and micro-targeting, unchecked misleading information, and deep fakes. All at increasing velocity, sophistication, and overwhelming scale,” he tweeted.

    Later that day, Sheryl Sandberg responded: Facebook doesn’t have to cease political advertising… because the platform is “focused and leading on transparency.” Sandberg cited Facebook’s ad archive efforts, which ostensibly allow researchers to study the provenance and impact of political ads.

  • Chrome 79 Beta Adds The WebXR Device API For VR On The Web

    Following last week's release of Chrome 78, Google today promoted Chrome 79 to their beta channel.

    The Chrome 79 Beta most notably comes with WebXR Device API support for supporting VR head-mounted displays from the browser. The WebXR Device API will be the cross-browser standard for VR content on the web.

The 9 Best Google Analytics Plugins for WordPress

Filed under
Google
Software

Google Analytics is a website analytics service developed and maintained by Google for providing users with relevant statistics on how Internet surfers find and use their websites. The software offers features such as Return on investment (ROI) tracking, sifting and sorting website visitors with several dimensions, etc.

How does it work? To put things simply, it uses browser cookies to track user website workflow on websites and ultimately provide business owners with enough insight to make design and product decisions that will boost their portfolio. It is completely free of charge.

While Google Analytics is free, there are several plugins that make it a lot easier to work with even as a non-techie, and today, our focus is on the list of the best plugins you can use on your WordPress website.

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Google 'Kills' Flash and the Internet 'Turns' 50

Filed under
Google
Web
  • Goodbye, Flash

    Google Search will stop supporting Flash later this year. In Web pages that contain Flash content, Google Search will ignore the Flash content. Google Search will stop indexing standalone SWF files. Most users and websites won't see any impact from this change.

  • Google to stop indexing Flash for search

    Minus indexing, searches for Flash content will come up empty. If Google doesn't index it, in other words, does it exist? For the vast majority on the web - analytics vendor Net Applications said Google accounted for 75% of global search activity last month - that would be a no.

  • The Internet At 50: It Has Enabled Many Wonderful Things, But We Have To Fight To Keep It That Way

    Today has been declared the 50th anniversary of the internet, as on October 29th, 1969, a team at UCLA, lead by Leonard Kleinrock, sent a message to a team at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI), representing the very first transmission over the then ARPANET, which later became the internet. This seems like a good moment to think about all that the internet has enabled -- but also just how far we may have strayed from its early promise and how far we might still be able to go. On the historical side, Kleinrock himself has posts at both ICANN and the Internet Society, and both are worth reading. The ICANN post is all about that first message transmission...

  • 5 milestones that created the [Internet] 50 years after the first network message

    Much more traffic than that travels through the [Internet] these days, with billions of emails sent and searches conducted daily. As a scholar of how the [Internet] is governed, I know that today’s vast communications web is a result of governments and regulators making choices that collectively built the [Internet] as it is today.

    Here are five key moments in this journey.

  • Internet 50 years old today

    On 29 October 1969 the first message was transmitted over ARPANET, the forerunner to the Internet. UCLA student programmer Charlie Kline used the University’s SDS Sigma 7 computer to login to an SDS 940 computer at Stanford Research Institute at Stanford University in Silicon Valley.

Chrome 78 Arrives

Filed under
Google
Software
Web
  • Stable Channel Update for Desktop

    The Chrome team is delighted to announce the promotion of Chrome 78 to the stable channel for Windows, Mac and Linux. This will roll out over the coming days/weeks.
    Chrome 78.0.3904.70 contains a number of fixes and improvements -- a list of changes is available in the log. Watch out for upcoming Chrome and Chromium blog posts about new features and big efforts delivered in 78.

  • Chrome 78 Arrives With Dark Mode Enhancements, Native File System API, SMS Receiver API

    In addition to Mozilla Firefox 70 having been released on Tuesday, Google released Chrome 78 as the newest version of their web-browser.

    Chrome 78 brings a new File-System API for letting web app developers interact with files on a local device for use-cases like web-based programming IDEs, video editors, photo editing, word processing, and more. The Native File System API should be secure for ensuring web apps do not get unauthorized access to other files/folders on your system.

  • Google Chrome 78 for Windows, macOS and Linux is Now Available For Download

    Google has released a new update for the Chrome web browser for Windows, macOS and Linux. The Chrome 78 update is now Live and is available for download. The update will offer users customize options for the New Tab page, among other changes and additions. The update comes with several features and improvements as well.

    With the help of customize option, users can now select pictures from their media gallery and use is as background. On opening an new tab, users will be able to spot the cutomise option on the bottom-right corner. Furthermore, 'Shortcuts' are a set of icons, which are visible right beneath the search bar. These include the 'My Shortcuts' where shortcuts suggestions are provided to users on the basis of the websites they keep on visiting. 'Most visited sites', where shortcuts are segregated by the user and 'Hide shortcuts'.

  • Google Chrome 78 for Windows, Linux, and Mac Now Available for Download

    Google has just released Chrome 78 for all supported desktop platforms, namely Windows, Linux, and Mac.
    The new version of the browser comes with welcome improvements in key areas, including new customization options for the New Tab page.

    Google has been working on refining the New Tab page (NTP) for several versions already, and this latest release introduces new customization options, including more colors and themes to choose from.

    Another feature that Google has been working on for this release enhances the sync process between Chrome for PC and for Android.

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