Chrome's Warning for Sites With Unwanted Software

Last year, Chrome started to block downloads for applications that "make unexpected changes to your computer — for instance, switching your homepage or other browser settings to ones you don't want". Now Chrome shows a warning when you visit a site that "encourages downloads of unwanted software".

Here's the warning page: "The site ahead contains harmful programs. Attackers on example.com might attempt to trick you into installing programs that harm your browsing experience (for example, by changing your homepage or showing extra ads on sites you visit)". This is a new SafeBrowsing feature, just like malware and phishing warnings, and you can disable it from the settings.


In addition to displaying Chrome warnings, Google will also downrank search results and disable Google ads that lead to sites with unwanted software.

There's a Google page that provides more details about unwanted software. According to Google, unwanted software has at least one of these characteristics: it's deceptive, it affects the user's system in unexpected ways, it's difficult to remove, it collects or transmits private information without the user’s knowledge, it's bundled with other software and its presence is not disclosed.

Google Inbox for Tablets and More Desktop Browsers

Google Inbox now supports more devices and more browsers. Mobile apps are now optimized for tablets (iPads and Android tablets) and you can use Google Inbox in Firefox and Safari for desktop computers. 

You can install the iOS app or the Android app to use Google Inbox on a mobile device. For now, Google Inbox doesn't support mobile browsers.


Inbox no longer requires Chrome for desktop. In addition to Chrome, Inbox now supports Firefox and Safari. For some reason, Internet Explorer is still not supported. Here's the error message displayed by Inbox: "Oops, your browser is not yet supported. Inbox works best on Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. More browsers coming soon."


There's also an error message for old versions of supported browsers: "It's been a while since your browser was last updated. Please upgrade to the latest version to continue using Inbox."


"If you aren't using Inbox yet, now's a perfect time to jump in. Emailinbox@google.com to request an invite and we'll email you as soon as more invites are available," informs Google.

Google Reading Level Bug

Google has an advanced search feature that lets you filter search results by reading level. Click "search tools", pick "reading level" and you can select one of the 3 options: basic, intermediate and advanced reading level.

For some reason, Google's feature no longer works well: the advanced reading level's percentage is 0% for all queries. When you click "advanced", Google doesn't return any search result. Here's an example for [science].


Google annotates search results and you can still find "advanced reading level" pages.


"The reading-level is based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a model of the intrinsic complexity of the text," explained Google's Daniel M. Russell. "Roughly speaking, 'Basic' is elementary level texts, while 'Intermediate' is anything above that level up to technical and scholarly articles, a la the articles you'd find in Scholar."

Standalone Mini Player for Google Play Music

Google has updated the Play Music app for Chrome and you can now use it without having to open the Play Music site in a new tab.

I sometimes forgot about the Play Music tab, closed the tab and music stopped playing. Now the mini player continues to work even after I close the Play Music tab.


You can click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" dice button and start a radio based on your listening history. Another option is to open the Play Music site, start a radio or pick a playlist. Then you can close the Play Music tab and use the controls from the mini player: pause music, play next song, play previous song, thumbs up/down.

The mini player also supports keyboard shortcuts:

* left arrow - previous song
* right arrow - next song
* down arrow - decrease volume
* up arrow - increase volume
* p / space bar - pause/play music
* r - toggle repeat between off, all, and one
* s - toggle shuffle on or off
* = - thumbs up

YouTube's Also Subscribed Section

When you go to a channel, YouTube's desktop site now shows a list of people who subscribed to that channel and they're also in your Google+ circles. For example, YouTube lists 3 people from my Google+ circles who subscribed to the TED channel.


If you haven't subscribed to the channel, YouTube shows a similar list with people who "already subscribed" (instead of "also subscribed").


If you click a thumbnail, YouTube sends you to the Google+ profile page.

Google Play Tests a Sidebar for Related Apps

Patryk Szczygłowski, a reader of this blog, noticed an experimental web interface for Google Play. The updated UI adds a sidebar that shows similar apps and other apps from the same developer. Right now, these lists of apps are placed at the bottom of the page, below the description, reviews, changelog and other information about the app.

"Please note, it doesn't fit my laptop screen 1366x768, but Google might enable this experiment for me, because I have been using an external Full HD screen for a week recently," says Patryk.


Gmail's Warning for Suspicious Email Addresses

A few days ago, I received a spam message in Gmail. Instead of flagging the message as spam, Gmail displayed this warning: "Be careful with this message. Someone might be trying to trick you by using similar-looking characters (such as Σ and E) in the email addresses contained in this message."

Last year, Gmail added support for non-Latin characters in email addresses. It also wanted to make sure that the new feature wasn't "abused by spammers or scammers trying to send misleading or harmful messages" and it started to reject messagesfrom email addresses which used "suspicious combinations of letters that could be misleading".

There's a help center article that explains more about this feature. "If you see a warning that someone might be trying to trick you by using similar-looking characters in the email addresses of a message, you should take a close look at the sender's email address and the addresses of anyone else the email has been sent to. The addresses might be different than they seem. Sometimes, the difference is easy to spot if you look carefully. For example, someone might use a Greek character ('Σ') for the Latin character 'E'. In other situations, it's impossible to detect the difference. For instance, the Greek character ('ο') looks exactly the same as the Latin character 'o'."

Personalized Google Suggestions

Google's search suggestions change depending on your previous searches. Just like search results, which are influences by your search history, suggestions related to the queries you've previously typed are more likely to be useful.

Here's an example: I typed "swiss" and got these suggestions: "swiss colony", "swiss army", "swiss army knife".


Then I searched for "kale".


Here are the suggestions displayed when typing "swiss" again: "swiss chard", "swiss colony", "swiss army", "swiss army knife". As you can see, there's a new suggestion and it's placed at the top of the list: swiss chard, a leafy green vegetable, just like kale.


I searched for "rolex" and typed "swiss" again. This time, suggestions include "swiss watches" and "switch army watches".

YouTube Tests New Logo

YouTube's site tests a new logo that looks just like YouTube's mobile app icon. It's smaller, instantly recognizable and more consistent.



For some reason, YouTube still shows the old logo at the bottom of the page:


Here's the regular YouTube interface:

Material Design Refresh for Google Help Panes

Most Google services use floating help panes, so you can find relevant articles from the help center and read them inside the web app. Google Flight Search uses a new interface for the help panes, powered by Material Design. New icons, bigger headings and search box, new color palette. 



You can check the new UI by visiting Google Flights and clicking Help. Google Maps, Gmail, Google Drive and other Google services still use the old interface.



The nice thing about Google's help panes is that they list contextually relevant articles. For example, if you go to Gmail's filters section from the settings page and click Help, you'll find articles about using filters, blocking unwanted emails and changing your Gmail settings.

Google Knowledge Cards Show More Health Information

A few days ago, Google announced that health-related Knowledge Graph cards now include a lot more information. "We'll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is — whether it's critical, if it's contagious, what ages it affects, and more. For some conditions you'll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators."

I've searched for [type 2 diabetes] and Google displayed a lot of information: organs affected by diabetes, symptoms, ages affected, treatments, specialists. "When you search for a medical condition, you'll see three tabs: About, Symptoms, and Treatments. Right now, we show this medical information for the most frequently searched for health conditions, and we will continue to increase the number of conditions we cover," informs Google.




Google "worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully compile, curate, and review this information. All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy."

For now, the upgraded cards are only available in the US if you use the English interface. They're displayed in both the desktop site snd the mobile site/apps.


Star Places in Google Mobile Search

Google's mobile site and mobile search apps show a star icon next to local search results. If you are logged in to your Google account, you can star places directly from Google Search and quickly find them in Google Maps. After clicking the star icon, Google confirms that the place has been "saved to your map" and links to Google Maps.



Back in November, Google's Android search app got a Material Design upgrade. In December, the iOS app was updated and many of the new features were gradually added to the mobile site.

Google Discontinues Helpouts

Helpouts started as a great way to use Hangouts to share expertise, but the service wasn't very popular and Google will soon shut it down.

"Since launching in 2013, Helpouts has been a home for people to connect with experts on topics they want to learn about or seek advice and solutions to everyday challenges. The Helpouts community includes some engaged and loyal contributors, but unfortunately, it hasn't grown at the pace we had expected. Sadly, we've made the tough decision to shut down the product. Starting April 20, you'll be able to download your Helpouts history using Google Takeout (available until November 1, 2015),"informs Google.


From talking with a doctor to getting fashion advice from companies like ASOS and Sephora, from learning a new language to home workouts and mobile phone support, Helpouts was useful in so many ways. Too bad that Google didn't promote Helpouts more aggressively and didn't use it extensively to provide customer service for its own services. Play Store's video chat assistance feature was a good start.



Download Blocked Gmail Attachments

I was checking some old Gmail messages and I noticed this warning: "Anti-virus warning - 1 attachment contains a virus or blocked file. Downloading this attachment is disabled." It turns out that the .rar archive was "blocked for security reasons" and I can't download it.

There are some file types that are blocked by Gmail, but .rar is not one of them.Here's the list: ".ade, .adp, .bat, .chm, .cmd, .com, .cpl, .exe, .hta, .ins, .isp, .jse, .lib, .lnk, .mde, .msc, .msp, .mst, .pif, .scr, .sct, .shb, .sys, .vb, .vbe, .vbs, .vxd, .wsc, .wsf, .wsh". It turns out that the archive included a few .bat files inside a .zip archive and "Gmail won't accept these file types even if they're sent in a zipped format".

Anti-virus warning in Gmail's web interface

How to download the blocked attachment? I couldn't find a way to do this from the web interface. Gmail disabled the download button and the "save to Drive" button. Not even the "basic HTML" Gmail interface lets you download the file and the "download all" link only lets you download all safe attachments.

Fortunately, you can use other mail clients: Outlook, Thunderbird, KMail, Apple Mail. Surprisingly, Gmail's Android app lets you download blocked files or save them to Google Drive. Gmail's iOS app doesn't let you download blocked attachments, but you can save them to Google Drive. I also checked the built-in mail clients from iOS and Mac OS X and it's easy to download all attachments. To open archives in iOS, install an app like iZip first.

Gmail's Android app

Google Finance Alerts

Google Alerts added a new option to the sources dropdown: finance. Now you can get stock updates using Google Alerts.


I'm not sure if the new option works independently or you need to select other sources like web, news, blogs, discussions. You can select multiple sources for the same alert or you can pick the "automatic" option.


I created a new alert for [goog], picked news and finance, enabled "as-it-happens" and I only received news results, so I don't know if finance alerts actually work.

Google Award Programs

Google Faculty Research Awards

Our Faculty Research Awards program provides unrestricted gifts to support fulltime faculty members at degree granting institutions around the world. The program is focused on funding world-class technical research in Computer Science, Engineering, and related fields. Please see the program page for upcoming application deadlines.

Google Focused Research Awards

We fund specific research in areas of study that are of key interest to Google as well as the research community, through our Google Focused Research Awards program. These awards are large, multi-year commitments to support research that will have a significant impact on the field. Participation in the program is by invitation only.


Visiting Faculty Program

The Google Visiting Faculty program aims to identify and support world-class, full-time faculty pursuing research in areas of mutual interest.


Google Earth Engine Research Awards

The Earth Engine Research Awards aim to develop advanced geospatial analysis techniques and tools, by supporting world-class, full-time faculty doing technical research in remote sensing, and related fields.

Google App Engine Education Awards

The goal of the Google App Engine Educations Awards program is to bring state of the art tools to the classroom. We believe that Google App Engine can be a training platform and learning format all in one. We offer $1,000 in App Engine credits to teachers at universities or community collegs for academic coursework and student projects.


Google App Engine Research Awards

The App Engine Research Awards provide an opportunity for university faculty to experiment with App Engine, which provides services for building and hosting web applications on the same systems that power Google’s products and services. App Engine offers fast development and deployment, simple administration and built-in scalability -- it’s designed to adapt to large-scale data storage needs and sudden traffic spikes.


Google Little Box Awards

In parallel with the Little Box Challenge, an open competition sponsored by Google and the IEEE Power Electronics Society, Google Research is soliciting proposals for groundbreaking research in the area of increasing the power density for DC-to-AC power conversion through the Google Little Box Awards program. It is envisioned that award recipients could use their grant funding to assist in building a device that could win the competition. The application deadline is September 30, 2014.

Get 2 GB of Free Google Drive Storage

Google promotes a security feature from the account settings page: security checklist. You can protect your Google Account by reviewing your recovery information (phone, email), your recent activity (a list of devices that have accessed your account in the last 28 days) and your account permissions (sites and applications to which you've granted permission to access your Google Account). There's also a setting that lets you disable access for less secure apps.


It only takes a few minutes to review this information and you'll get a reward: 2 GB of free Google Drive storage. The nice thing is that Google's bonus storage is not limited to 2 or 3 years like in other Google promotions: it's permanently added to your account. You need to complete the checkup by 17 February 2015 and you'll get the free storage at the end of the month.

"After you've gone through the checkup successfully, you'll see three green checkboxes (see below) that confirm you're eligible for the free storage and, more importantly, that you've taken steps to enhance your online safety. We'll be granting the storage automatically to everyone around 28 February 2015 and we'll send you an email when your adjustment is complete," explains Google. It's worth pointing out that "Google Apps for Work and Google Apps for Education users are not eligible for the bonus storage".

I got 4 green checkboxes for my account: recovery information checked, recent activity checked, access for less secure apps enabled, account permissions checked.

YouTube Radio

YouTube has a feature called YouTube Mix, which automatically creates a playlist with many videos related to the video that's currently playing. Now YouTube tests a new feature based on YouTube Mix: it's called YouTube Radio. "A non-stop radio station based on the current video. You can like, dislike and dismiss videos to tailor  your Radio Station to your taste."


Here are some screenshots that show the existing YouTube Mix feature:



New PDF Icon for Gmail and Google Drive



Gmail has recently updated the icon for PDF attachments: it no longer uses the Adobe Reader icon and it opted for a basic text icon.







Here's the PDF icon used by Gmail since its release back in 2004:




Google Drive also shows the new icon for PDF files:







Now that browsers like Chrome and Firefox have built-in support for opening PDF files, Gmail and Google Drive let you open PDF files, Adobe Reader is less important and fewer people install Adobe's PDF software. That's probably the reason why Google picked a different icon.