Google is Removing the App Launcher from Non-Google Operating Systems

Google giveth and Google taketh away!

Google is removing Chrome app launcher from Windows, Mac, and Linux

NH Voice – By: John DiPietro – “In a blog post published early Wednesday, Google said that it is shutting down the Chrome app launcher program for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. The removal of the Chrome app launcher program will be implemented by Google in a few weeks.

The Chrome app launcher is one of the features of Google’s Chrome Web browser. The feature, which was launched by Google nearly three years back, basically enables users to launch their apps — be it email or calendar — from within the browser through a shortcut panel.

According to the announcement made by Google, the Chrome app launcher feature is being removed from Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems; but it will still remain on the company’s own Chrome operating systems because it is a core part of that platform.

Google’s decision to remove the Chrome app launcher feature from Windows, Mac, and Linux OSes is apparently rooted in the evident reluctance of people in launching their Chrome Web apps outside of the Chrome Web browser.

About the removal of the Chrome app launcher feature, Marc Pawliger — Director of Google Chrome Engineering — said in the blog post: ‘The app launcher makes Chrome apps easy to open outside the browser, but we’ve found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome.’

A report published in the ComputerWorld said, ‘Google today said it would retire its Chrome App Launcher on Windows, OS X and Linux in July, citing user indifference. ‘We’ve found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome,’ said Marc Pawliger, a Chrome engineering director, in a short post to a company blog Wednesday.’

‘Beginning in a few weeks, Chrome will no longer enable the launcher when users first install a Chrome app,’ Pawliger added. ‘Anyone who currently has the launcher will receive a notice informing them that the launcher will be going away. In July, existing instances of the launcher will be removed.’

‘Not a day goes by that I don’t completely neglect the existence of the Chrome app launcher. And yet, here we are, facing its extinction dead-on. After realizing that most people are reluctant to launch their Chrome Web apps outside of the Chrome Web browser, Google has decided to retire the Chrome app launcher program for Windows, Mac, and Linux, according to a blog post published earlier today. The Chrome OS version, however, will remain intact,’ according to a news report published by DigitalTrends.

‘The app launcher makes Chrome apps easy to open outside the browser,’ writes Google Chrome Engineering Director Marc Pawliger, ‘but we’ve found that users on Windows, Mac, and Linux prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome.’

In a report published by the Winbeta, ‘While Microsoft is currently working to bring extensions to its still barebones Edge browser on Windows 10, Google plans to streamline its Chrome browser in the coming months. The company announced yesterday that it will soon get rid of its Chrome app launcher on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux as it found that users ‘prefer to launch their apps from within Chrome’.’

If you’re not familiar with it, the Chrome app launcher automatically installs as soon as you install a Chrome app from the Chrome web store (Chrome apps are glorified web apps that try to deliver an experience comparable to a native app). The Chrome app launcher uses a Start menu-like UI, and while it perfectly makes sense on Chrome OS as these are the only kind of apps that the OS can run, the launcher never made a lot of sense on other desktop operating systems.”

An Ubuntu Linux Tablet!

Ubuntu Tablet
An Ubuntu tablet? Yes, please!

New Linux tablet aims to make Ubuntu desktop mobile

ZDNet – By: Liam Tung – “Technology, which is touting four models in a new crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

Jolla’s Sailfish OS tablet fundraiser on Indiegogo didn’t pan out too well for backers of the Android alternative, who ultimately weren’t left out of pocket but wasted time on a product that for many never arrived.

MJ Technology is hoping that anyone not turned off by that experience will take a punt on its Ubuntu-powered devices.

If MJ Technology reaches its $200,000 target, the company promises to deliver 10.1-inch Mini Tanto for $230 by August. The device is advertised as having a 1.92GHz Intel Atom processor, 2GB, 64GB storage, and HD display at 1,920 x 1,200 pixels.

The company says it has prototype tablets and is in final design testing phases but needs the extra cash to start production.

Needless to say, backers should exercise caution before gambling on a product that isn’t guaranteed to be delivered.

The campaign is capitalizing on enthusiasm for a new Ubuntu tablet following this week’s launch of pre-sales for BQ’s Ubuntu-powered Aquaris M10 from €260 ($290), the world’s first Ubuntu tablet.

As MJ Technology points out, its goal is to build a true x86/x64 tablet, so that the device can run Ubuntu desktop, as opposed to BQ’s ARM-based device, which can only run Ubuntu Touch.

The company says the tablets will be released with the latest stable version of Ubuntu Desktop 16.04 LTS, with a current version of the Unity interface.

MJ Technology is also offering a $300 version of the Tanto 10.1 tablet with the same specs as the cheaper model, except for the faster 2.56GHz processor.

Meanwhile, the $400 Mini Wakizashi 8.9-inch display tablet comes with 2.56GHz Intel Atom processor, 4G RAM, and 128GB internal storage. The $450 model comes with 256GB storage.

Also on offer are two variants of the Katana, a 10.1-inch display tablet featuring a 2.56GHz Intel Atom processor, 4G RAM, and either 128GB or 256GB storage, costing $460 and $500 respectively.

The one-month campaign has only been live for one day, however with $6 and three backers so far it remains to be seen whether there’s any demand for this particular set of Ubuntu tablets.”

Microsoft Apologizes for Naughty Twitter-Bot!

Microsoft issued public apology yesterday when it’s AI, “Tay,” went rogue:

Microsoft Blog Apology

“As many of you know by now, on Wednesday we launched a chatbot called Tay. We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for, nor how we designed Tay. Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values.

I want to share what we learned and how we’re taking these lessons forward.

For context, Tay was not the first artificial intelligence application we released into the online social world. In China, our XiaoIce chatbot is being used by some 40 million people, delighting with its stories and conversations. The great experience with XiaoIce led us to wonder: Would an AI like this be just as captivating in a radically different cultural environment? Tay – a chatbot created for 18- to 24- year-olds in the U.S. for entertainment purposes – is our first attempt to answer this question.

As we developed Tay, we planned and implemented a lot of filtering and conducted extensive user studies with diverse user groups. We stress-tested Tay under a variety of conditions, specifically to make interacting with Tay a positive experience. Once we got comfortable with how Tay was interacting with users, we wanted to invite a broader group of people to engage with her. It’s through increased interaction where we expected to learn more and for the AI to get better and better.

The logical place for us to engage with a massive group of users was Twitter. Unfortunately, in the first 24 hours of coming online, a coordinated attack by a subset of people exploited a vulnerability in Tay. Although we had prepared for many types of abuses of the system, we had made a critical oversight for this specific attack. As a result, Tay tweeted wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images. We take full responsibility for not seeing this possibility ahead of time. We will take this lesson forward as well as those from our experiences in China, Japan and the U.S. Right now, we are hard at work addressing the specific vulnerability that was exposed by the attack on Tay.

Looking ahead, we face some difficult – and yet exciting – research challenges in AI design. AI systems feed off of both positive and negative interactions with people. In that sense, the challenges are just as much social as they are technical. We will do everything possible to limit technical exploits but also know we cannot fully predict all possible human interactive misuses without learning from mistakes. To do AI right, one needs to iterate with many people and often in public forums. We must enter each one with great caution and ultimately learn and improve, step by step, and to do this without offending people in the process. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to learn from this and other experiences as we work toward contributing to an Internet that represents the best, not the worst, of humanity.”

This Year’s ‘Pi Day’ is Special!

I always remind you about “Pi Day”… so here it is! Celebrate TODAY!

Why ‘Pi Day’ 2016 Is Extra Special

ABCnews – “Math nerds likely had already circled today on the calendar, but it’s worth noting this year’s ‘Pi Day’ is a once-in-a-century occurrence.

March 14 — or 3/14 — celebrates the mathematical constant of pi. Pi represents the ratio of circumference of a circle divided by its diameter. While it is often abbreviated as 3.14, pi has an infinite number of digits beyond the decimal point, starting with 3.141592653.

Last year’s Pi Day was one to celebrate since it was 3/14/15, perfectly matching the first numbers past the decimal point of pi. Last year, hardcore math fans even started celebrating the day at exactly 9:26 a.m. and 53 seconds. There’s a big reason to celebrate this year too — math enthusiasts are calling today ‘Rounded Pi Day.’

When rounding pi to the ten-thousandth (that’s four numbers past the decimal point), it comes out to 3.1416, matching today’s date — March 14, 2016.

And if you need any more reason to geek out about March 14, here’s one: it’s Albert Einstein’s 137th birthday.”

SQL Server on Linux?

I tell you, the end is nigh! Microsoft announced that they have ported SQL Server to Linux! Whaaat?!?

Microsoft SQL Server for Linux is a brilliant and logical idea

The Register – By: StorageBod – “I imagine there was a sharp intake of breath as Microsoft announced SQL Server for Linux, quickly followed by a checking of dates.

Yet it makes perfect sense; it’s a very sensible strategic move for Microsoft.

My question, and I know I’m not the only person asking this, is: what is the future of Windows in the data centre?

If SQL Server runs well on Linux, there are a vanishingly small number of workloads that I would want to run on Windows Server in a data centre. Yes, there are a lot of third party applicatons that run on Windows, and this is going to continue for many years, but I do really wonder if Microsoft’s heart is really in the Windows Server business.

Microsoft appear to have decided that their future is in cloud, not the enterprise data centre. I mean, it’s always been questionable whether anyone sane would run Exchange and now you don’t have to; Office 365 takes care of that for you.

A lot of people like Azure and, sure, Microsoft would prefer you to run your cloud apps in Azure, but if you want to run them elsewhere, they would like to still make money out of you. SQL Server on Linux will remove some of the friction for deployment in the cloud.

SQL Server running on Linux also allows Microsoft to compete with Oracle in those data centres where Windows is grudgingly tolerated. There are certainly those who will have you believe that SQL Server is not an enterprise product, but many of those comments have been driven by the stigma of Windows. I work with DBAs who do both; for most workloads, SQL Server and Oracle are equally good.

So what’s left for Microsoft to do?

Well, if they announce AD Services running on Linux, you’ll know that their heart is no longer in the Windows data centre.”

Chromecast Owned 35% of the Streaming Device Market in 2015!

When I’m right, I’m right! Chromecast is vastly under-rated, and very handy!

Chromecast Owned 35% of the 2015 Set-Top Box Market, Says Report

Streaming Media – By: Troy Dreier – “The compact and inexpensive Google Chromecast dominated the connected living room in 2015, says a report from Strategy Analytics. The Chromecast took 35 percent of the global set-top box and stick market, followed by Apple TV, Roku devices, and Amazon Fire TV. Those four brands control the streaming living room. The Chromecast’s low price makes it an impulse purchase, notes report author David Watkins, who adds that many prefer its mobile-centric approach to content access and control. The company’s Q3 2015 report also found that Chromecast owned 35 percent of the market.

While Chromecast took the largest market share, Apple has shipped the most units. Apple shipped nearly 37 million Apple TVs since the box first launched in 2007. Google has shipped 27 million Chromecasts since it debuted two-and-a-half years ago. Roku has shipped 20 million box and stick devices, while Amazon has shipped under 10 million Fire TVs.

Those four companies are finding plenty of willing buyers, as global demand for living room streaming devices was up 32 percent in 2015. The total amount of streaming devices (including game consoles, connected TVs, and Blu-ray Players) totaled 220 million units in 2015, with 84 million shipped in the last quarter.

The report also looks at the connected TV space, finding that Samsung, LG, and Sony make up 50 percent of the market share. However, TCL and Hisense and gaining fast, and are expanding outside of China.”

Google is Retiring Picasa

Google is retiring Picasa… why didn’t they Open Source it?

Moving on from Picasa

Google Blog: Friday, February 12, 2016 10:00 AM

“Since the launch of Google Photos, we’ve had a lot of questions around what this means for the future of Picasa. After much thought and consideration, we’ve decided to retire Picasa over the coming months in order to focus entirely on a single photo service in Google Photos. We believe we can create a much better experience by focusing on one service that provides more functionality and works across mobile and desktop, rather than divide our efforts across two different products.

We know for many of you, a great deal of care has gone into managing your photos and videos using Picasa—including the hours you’ve invested and the most precious moments you’ve trusted us with. So we will take some time in order to do this right and provide you with options and easy ways to access your content. We’ve outlined below some of the changes you can expect.

Picasa Web Albums

If you have photos or videos in a Picasa Web Album today, the easiest way to still access, modify and share most of that content is to log in to Google Photos, and all your photos and videos will already be there. Using Google Photos, you can continue to upload and organize your memories, as well as enjoy other great benefits like better ways to search and share your images.

However, for those of you who don’t want to use Google Photos or who still want to be able to view specific content, such as tags, captions or comments, we will be creating a new place for you to access your Picasa Web Albums data. That way, you will still be able to view, download, or delete your Picasa Web Albums, you just won’t be able to create, organize or edit albums (you would now do this in Google Photos).

One thing to make clear is that none of this is happening today—if you have a Picasa Web Album you can keep using it as normal. We’ll start rolling out these changes on May 1, 2016.

Desktop application

As of March 15, 2016, we will no longer be supporting the Picasa desktop application. For those who have already downloaded this—or choose to do so before this date—it will continue to work as it does today, but we will not be developing it further, and there will be no future updates. If you choose to switch to Google Photos, you can continue to upload photos and videos using the desktop uploader at

Finally for developers, we will also be retiring some functions of the Picasa API. Developers can learn more here.

Again, none of these changes are happening today, and we’ll continue to update you along the way. We apologize for any inconvenience this transition causes, but we want to assure you that we are doing this with the aim of providing the best photos experience possible. Google Photos is a new and smarter product, that offers a better platform for us to build amazing experiences and features for you in the future.

Posted by Anil Sabharwal, Head of Google Photos”

Chinese Internet Firms to Buy Opera!

Wow, Opera being bought by Chinese Internet companies!

Opera gets $1.2 billion buyout offer from mix of Chinese firms, board recommends deal

ZDNet – By: Jake Smith – “Opera has received a $1.2 billion buyout offer from a consortium of Chinese Internet firms, the company announced on Wednesday.

The consortium includes Kunlun and Qihoo 360 and is backed by the investment funds Golden Brick and Yonglian.

Opera’s board recommends the deal.

The $1.2 billion offer is a 53 percent premium on Opera’s close as of February 4 on the Oslo stock exchange. Trading of the company has been suspended for two days following buyout rumors.

‘There is strong strategic and industrial logic to the acquisition of Opera by the Consortium,’ Opera CEO Lars Boilesen said on Wednesday. ‘The Consortium’s ownership will strengthen Opera’s position to serve our users and partners with even greater innovation, and to accelerate our plans of expansion and growth.’

Opera began looking for a buyer in August 2015, following slumping earnings after a steady loss of browser marketshare and slowing advertising sales. The company hired Morgan Stanley International and ABG Sundal Collier to help with the search.

‘Our Board has undertaken a careful review of the terms and conditions of the Offer and is unanimous in its recommendation. We commend the management team on the work they have done on behalf of the shareholders, employees and other Opera stakeholders,’ Sverre Munck, chairman of Opera’s board, said.

On behalf of the consortium, Yahui Zhou, CEO of Kunlun, said: ‘Opera is a well-recognized mobile internet company with great brand recognition and global impact. Under its excellent management team, Opera has made remarkable achievements in recent years in the fields of mobile browser and mobile advertising.'”

You Should Care That the Firefox Phone is Dead

I wasn’t too excited when Mozilla announced the Firefox phone, but competition IS good!

Why the death of the Firefox phone matters

c|net – By: Stephen Shankland – “Maybe you didn’t bat an eye when Mozilla killed off Firefox phones.

The nonprofit, after all, faced long odds in taking on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile software. And the Firefox OS software had been on a downward trajectory over the past year.

But you should care that Mozilla admitted defeat Thursday because it’s further evidence that we live in an Apple-and-Google-only mobile world. Both increasingly draw you into their universe of native apps, where they have more control over what you use. Mozilla, by contrast, offered a more open alternative. The nonprofit’s overall waning influence has made it harder to build a vibrant Web, extend its utility to phones, and keep Google and Apple power in check.

Not that Google or Apple are up to anything nefarious, but history is full of examples of big companies abusing their powers, including Microsoft, IBM and the old Ma Bell version of AT&T. You already see heavy-handed behavior with your phone. Don’t like Apple Maps on iOS? Tough luck. It’s the default.

When the first Firefox OS phones arrived two and a half years ago, Mozilla hoped to repeat its success from a decade earlier when the Firefox browser successfully challenged Microsoft’s dominant Internet Explorer and sparked a tremendous burst of innovation and competition. Instead, Firefox OS was bunched with mobile software also-rans like BlackBerry, Canonical’s Ubuntu and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

‘The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up,’ John Bernard, director of collaboration for connected devices, and George Roter, head of core contributor participation, said Thursday in a note.

Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla’s senior vice president of connected devices, said in a blog post that Mozilla will instead focus Firefox OS on the Internet of Things, shorthand for the spread of computing technology to countless devices in homes and businesses.

Firefox as a whole is losing clout, though. The Firefox browser’s market share plunged from 19 percent to 9 percent worldwide over the last three years, while Google’s Chrome rose from 32 percent to 48 percent, according to analytics firm StatCounter. On smartphones, you’re more likely to use Apple’s Safari browser on your iPhone or Chrome on your Android device. Increasingly, you’re also relying more on so-called native apps.

Not that the Web has disappeared. Who wants to laboriously search for, download and install an app when all you need is a museum’s hours or a flight check-in? Even if you do end up installing a company’s app, its website is often how you interact first.

Mountain View, California-based Mozilla used Firefox OS to advance Web technology on mobile devices during a time when Apple became more interested in supporting developers of native apps. Despite its focus on Android, Google remains interested in Web development. Yet for years, Mozilla has helped vet and validate Google’s plans even as it introduced new technologies like asm.js for faster Web apps and WebGL for hardware-accelerated graphics.

Mobile failures

Firefox OS struggled throughout its development. In May, Mozilla Chief Executive Chris Beard concluded that the company’s effort to find a Firefox OS foothold in low-end, low-cost phones had failed despite partnerships with major carriers like Deutsche Telekom and handset makers like Huawei. In December, Mozilla abandoned partnerships with companies like Verizon.

Plan B was to encourage enthusiasts to install Firefox OS on their own phones and turn them into evangelists, replaying the Firefox 1.0 playbook from 2004. But few phones are compatible, installing Firefox OS is harder than installing an app, and popular software like the WhatsApp messaging app is missing.

Tellingly, two high-ranking ex-Mozilla executives rely on Google’s Chrome technology. Former CTO Andreas Gal’s Internet of Things startup, Silk Labs, uses the Node.js project, which is based on a crucial part of Chrome called V8. Former CEO Brendan Eich’s new Brave browser is a variation of Chrome’s fundamentals, too.

‘We did a careful head-to-head comparison and by every measure’ Google’s technology won, Eich said in a January mailing list message. ‘We wish Mozilla well, but as a startup, we must use all sound leverage available to us.’

Firefox OS will live on in another form, H5OS, at Acadine Technologies, the startup of former Mozilla President Li Gong. Gong will release the first version of H5OS at the Mobile World Congress show this month and believes Mozilla’s withdrawal means more attention for Acadine.

‘We are the standard bearer in the open and Web-based mobile OS space,’ Gong said.

Mozilla itself will continue to push the Firefox browser for Android and iOS devices and for personal computers. Nick Nguyen, vice president of Firefox, promises better performance and new features over the next year.

‘Hundreds of millions of users worldwide depend on desktop Firefox,’ Nguyen said. ‘We will continue to dedicate the resources needed to build a great browser.'”

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