All posts in “Chrome”

Chrome extension also sends your tweets to Congress

ePluribus sends your Facebook posts or tweets to Congress too.
ePluribus sends your Facebook posts or tweets to Congress too.

Image: mashable screenshot

Firing off a political tweet and want your representative to see it too? There’s a Chrome extension for that. 

It’s called ePluribus, and with a click you can also send your supportive (or angry) message off to Congress without having to type it again.

Before you can send anything, the extension requires you to enter your address to find the right people, plus your phone number — if it’s required by your representative. 

Once you’re logged in, you’ll be presented a list of reps when you tweet or post to Facebook. The extension is also added on the end of U.S. news sites like CNN, the New York Times, among other sites.

“The idea is that people are already talking about politics on social media and news sites, but it doesn’t really matter right now because it’s in a bubble,” Liam McCarty, co-founder of ePluribus, told Fast Company.

“It doesn’t get to the decision-maker. And so we are effectively providing an extra layer over that. You can both tell your friends what you think, but also get back to your representatives so that they can act on it.”

[embedded content]

The company said it would look to verify constituents by mailing them a card with a verification code on it. 

Co-founder Aidan McCarty told Mashable via email the company expects to run a private beta of the verification system “later in mid March and to launch a public version by the end of April at the latest.” 

Mail will be the only option to verify, as it’s the “best, most robust way to verify address.” ePluribus is also looking to add other verification options, but it won’t be implementing those this year.

It’s also worth noting ePluribus is currently only a Chrome extension, but aims to be available on other browsers and have an app version at some point. 

As for how the company plans to make money over the long term, McCarty said it would look to monetize the identity component of the service.

“This does not involve selling user data, but rather gives our users complete control over their personal data and monetizes by providing secure sharing of this personal information to various service providers (e.g. government institutions) that will pay for these services,” he explained.

ePluribus captures the minimum information needed to fill out a representatives’ contact form (phone, email, name, address, and title), as well as some usage data.

Anyway, if you’re the kind of person who wishes your representative would pay attention to your tweets, you might just have your answer.

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Google will stop websites from blocking Incognito mode

Google is working on closing a loophole that allowed websites to detect if a user was browsing via Chrome's Incognito mode.
Google is working on closing a loophole that allowed websites to detect if a user was browsing via Chrome’s Incognito mode.

Image: Gokhan Balci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Google is about to close a loophole that many companies used to track how people were browsing their website in Chrome.

According to 9to5Google, Google is aware of a trick that web developers have been exploiting which enables them to detect if a user is visiting a website in Chrome’s Incognito mode. This loophole allows websites to block visitors from accessing the site’s content, forcing them to switch out of Incognito mode if they want to view the page. 

The workaround is fairly simple. Chrome disables the FileSystem API, which stores application files, when Incognito mode is being used. Websites looking to block private browsing in Chrome can just check for this API when a browser loads the page.

Google is working to fix this exploit by having Chrome create a virtual file system in RAM. By doing this, websites won’t notice the missing API. To ensure data is not saved, this virtual system will automatically delete when a user leaves Incognito mode. According to 9to5Google, the search giant is also looking to completely remove the FileSystem API from Chrome altogether. 

Incognito mode allows users to privately surf the internet without site data and browsing history being saved. It also prevents websites from tracking visitors with cookies. While in Incognito mode, users are basically blocking advertisements from targeting them based on their web history. It can also be used to get around article limits on subscription based websites.

One example of a website utilizing this Chrome loophole is The Boston Globe, which replaces articles viewed in Incognito mode with an on-screen prompt in an attempt to stop users from circumventing its paywall.

“You’re using a browser set to private or incognito mode,” says any article page on The Boston Globe’s website. “To continue reading articles in this mode, please log in to your Globe account.”

Google is set to close the loophole via an opt-in feature with Chrome 74, which The Verge point out is expected to arrive in April. The option is tentatively expected to be the default option by Chrome 76.

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Have your passwords been stolen by hackers? New Chrome extension will let you know

If you have multiple online accounts (you probably do), and you’ve been on the internet for more than a few years, chances are at least some of your passwords have ended up in the wrong hands. Proof: Huge databases of stolen email/password combinations that are making the rounds online.

There’s now a very easy and secure way to check whether your password is one of those databases, in the form of a new Chrome extension called Password Checkup. 

The extension was made by Google and is very easy to use. Once you install it, it will check whether your password’s safe to use every time you log into a website. If not, you’ll get a message that one ore more of your passwords are no longer safe due to a data breach, and you’ll be prompted to change them. 

This is the message you want to see after installing Google's Password Checkup tool.

This is the message you want to see after installing Google’s Password Checkup tool.

Image: Stan Schroeder/Mashable

Your passwords are never seen by Google (the company only stores a hashed, partial code for unsafe passwords in your Chrome browser), and Google claims the extension “never reports any identifying information about your accounts, passwords, or device.” 

While simple, the extension is an important tool that everyone who’s mindful about online security and privacy should use. Using passwords that have been compromised is a time bomb waiting to go off, and this is a pretty secure way to check whether you have any of those. And even though it’s not the first tool of its type — The HaveIBeenPwned site comes to mind — the Google credentials behind it do make it a little easier to recommend. 

You can install Password Checkup for free in Google’s Chrome Web Store.

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Google Chrome now has a handy drawing app for your silly sketches

Google Chrome has sneakily introduced an app for quick sketches.

Spotted by Chrome Unboxed, if you open up canvas.apps.chrome you’ll be taken to Canvas, which lets you draw stuff within the browser. 

It’s a very simple app, with four different pen/brush options, an eraser, a colour picker, and an ability to export your drawing as a PNG file to your computer. You can also import an existing image from your computer, and draw over it.

What’s more, drawings will automatically store on your Google Account, so if you ever need to remind yourself of that stupid hot dog sketch you put together, it’s a few clicks away. 

While the app seems to be directed at Chromebooks, you can use it across different browsers like Firefox and Safari, plus on mobile too.

There’s not really much more to say about Chrome Canvas, but it’s a handy way to draw something in a jiffy, and a demonstration of the possibilities with new web standard WebAssembly.

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Google’s Pixel Slate is an average and buggy tablet that’s not worth the money

Front-facing speakers play nice and loud • Hardware is well-built • Has two USB-C ports
Buggy software • Pricey for the Core i5 and i7 models • Official keyboard is expensive and sucks
Google’s Pixel Slate is a wannabe Surface Pro that doesn’t impress in hardware or software.

Mashable Score2.25

As a reviewer, I can tell which configuration of a new gadget a company expects to do well based on the model they send me to test out.

Spoiler alert: If there are multiple models with different specs, it’s almost never the cheapest version with the weakest performance.

For the Pixel Slate tablet, Google sent me the $999 model — the one with an 8th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, and 128GB of storage. That’s understandable; if I were Google, I wouldn’t want reviewers testing the $599 version either. Its puny Intel Celeron processor, 4GB of RAM, and paltry 32GB of storage sounds insufficient on every level.

The $699 and $799 versions, with Intel Celeron and 8th-gen Intel Core m3 chips and double the RAM and storage, are better, but having tried other Chromebooks and laptops with those specs, I doubt it’s much better on the Pixel Slate.

Which leaves the two upper-tier versions: the $999 model I tested and the top-of-the-line $1,599 model with an 8th-gen Intel Core i7 chip, 16GB of RAM and 256GB of storage.

Running Chrome OS and Android apps gives the Pixel Slate quite an edge over even Apple’s latest iPad Pros for laptop-type tasks. But it’s nowhere near as versatile as a Surface Pro 6 and Windows 10, which starts at $899 for the same specs. The Surface Pro’s Touch Keyboard also starts at $129 compared to the Slate’s $199 keyboard, and Microsoft’s keyboard is better in every possible way.

After using Google’s 2-in-1 for about a week, I’m sticking to my initial impressions: Last year’s Pixelbook is the still the better computer and gets you more for your money. For $999, you get a clamshell laptop with a built-in keyboard and a touchscreen that folds 360-degrees backwards into a tablet when you want one.

And at the time of this publishing, Google’s offering a $300 discount off all Pixelbook configurations, making the laptop an ever sweeter deal starting at $699.

Not quite an iPad Pro or Surface Pro

The screen's big, but it displays colors differently in certain apps versus the website. Like Netflix.

The screen’s big, but it displays colors differently in certain apps versus the website. Like Netflix.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Forgive me for me not being wowed by the Pixel Slate. I mean, it’s a tablet with a 12.3-inch “Molecular Display” wrapped in a thin and sturdy aluminum chassis.

Google’s made a very nice tablet, but that doesn’t surprise me because the company has been building its own hardware for several years now.

The Pixel Slate is still no iPad Pro, though. Apple’s latest iPad Pros are thinner (0.23 inches versus 0.27 inches) and have narrower bezels all around the display.

That’s not to say the Pixel Slate doesn’t have a leg up on the iPad Pros in some departments. The Slate has a responsive fingerprint reader embedded in the recessed power button. The stereo speakers are loud and front-facing. And there are two USB-C ports as opposed to the iPad Pro’s one.

There's a fingerprint reader in the power button.

There’s a fingerprint reader in the power button.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The stereo speakers are front-firing.

The stereo speakers are front-firing.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

These are great features that the iPad Pro doesn’t have, but none of them are features I can’t live without. I prefer Face ID over the fingerprint reader and it’s unfortunate the Pixel Slate has no face unlocking feature of any kind. The iPad Pro’s quad speakers fire out of the side and sound louder and clearer in my opinion. And while having two USB-C ports is nice, especially for charging and connecting an accessory like a memory card reader at the same time, I could live without the extra port on a tablet.

RIP headphone jack, though. Both the new iPad Pros and Pixel Slate ditch the connector — another blow for the formerly universal audio port after Apple’s now legendary “act of courage” to remove it from the iPhone back in 2016.

No doubt, the Pixel Slate is Google’s most beautiful and polished tablet hardware to date, but it doesn’t break any new ground. Both the iPad Pro and Surface Pro do the tablet form factor better. And the Surface Pro kicks everyone’s butt with its excellent built-in kickstand.

Average at every turn

The dock holds all your Chrome shortcuts and Android apps.

The dock holds all your Chrome shortcuts and Android apps.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Where the Pixel Slate stumbles the most is software polish. It doesn’t seem finished and I experienced quite a few bugs and crashes that brought Chrome OS and Android apps to their knees.

My review unit’s kitted out with a very capable Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM. But even so, little things like seeing jitters when scrolling on some of Mashable’s media-heavy reviews (like the iPhone XS and Pixel 3), or the slight lag when opening the recent apps window, or the inconsistencies of the colors of videos displayed in the Netflix Android app versus the Netflix website (colors looked way more faded in the app) were frustrating.

The Pixel Slate is also caught between trying to be an Android tablet and a Chromebook. Without a keyboard, Chrome OS resembles an Android tablet. The home screen is filled with a grid of your app icons, and you even get a dock at the bottom to pin apps to. 

Something changed and you can no longer have Instagram open in a window — it's only full-screen now.

Something changed and you can no longer have Instagram open in a window — it’s only full-screen now.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

The homescreen changes when it's in tablet-only mode and when a keyboard is connected.

The homescreen changes when it’s in tablet-only mode and when a keyboard is connected.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

However, if you connect the Slate to Google’s keyboard case, the grid-based home screen disappears, replaced with a clean desktop like on a Chromebook. 

This dynamic adjustment is clever, no doubt, but it confused me at first and similarly baffled a few of my friends when I showed the tablet to them over Thanksgiving.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like having the full capabilities of Chrome with all of my browser extensions because it lets me do all of my work. Android apps running in their own windows are fine and complementary to the browser. Both platforms work together better today than they did a year ago when I reviewed the Pixelbook. But Google still needs to add polish to the experience.

Who thought round keys were a good idea?

Who thought round keys were a good idea?

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Google’s official Slate keyboard is also flimsy. I tried my hardest to give the round keys a chance, but they remained difficult to adjust to. I wasn’t able to type as quickly or accurately on them compared to the Surface Pro’s Touch Keyboard. The trackpad, however, is good.

Similarly, the keyboard doesn’t do a good job propping the device up. I dig the ability to adjust the tablet to almost any angle you want, but unless the set is placed on a table or sizable flat surface, there’s some notable wobble. In other words: the Slate is terrible on your lap. Google should have copied the Surface Pro and made it so the keyboard can snap to Slate’s bottom bezel, which would better connect the two.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

Battery life is decent, but not as outstanding as Google says it is. Google rates the Pixel Slate’s battery life for up to 12 hours of “mixed use.” I never got near that figure. 

With Chrome being such a battery hog and my dozen extensions likely contributing to much of that power drain, I got between 7-8 hours of battery life per charge doing all of the things I typically do on my MacBook Air. My workload’s nothing out of the ordinary for a working professional: a dozen or so open Chrome tabs, Spotify streaming in the background via the Android app, Slack constantly going off all day, lots of Gmail, tons of Twitter, and some Netflix and YouTube.

Just get a Surface Pro

The Surface Pro 6 is the best 2-in-1 you can buy.

The Surface Pro 6 is the best 2-in-1 you can buy.

Image: RAYMOND WONG/MASHABLE

It must feel great to be Microsoft. Everyone’s bending over backwards trying to copy its Surface Pro, while it’s practically perfected the device.

The Surface Pro is the gold standard for a tablet that’s capable of replacing a laptop. The hardware and software have been honed over the years to work better together. Apple and Google are copying the tablet-keyboard combo and making the form factor their own, but neither of their devices, the iPad Pro or the Pixel Slate, is a proper laptop replacement the way the Surface Pro is.

For Apple, the iPad Pro is stunning and has monstrous power that smokes the competition, but iOS is its biggest crutch. The Pixel Slate seemed like the best chance to offer the best of both a mobile OS and a desktop-like browser experience, but poor optimization and expensive pricing make it a dud in my book.

Maybe Google will improve the Slate’s performance and fix the bugs in a software update, but at launch, the Surface Pro 6 is the better value on every level: hardware, software, and keyboard. Or just get a Pixelbook — it does everything the Pixel Slate does but better, and it’s cheaper.

Google is attacking smartphones hard with its latest Pixel 3, and it has a great player in smart home with the Home Hub. The Pixel Slate, however, falls short on the tablet front.

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