Gmail went down yesterday for a relatively short period of time — service was intermittent for about an hour (compare that to the extended outage of 2009). However, this outage had an unexpected complication: It also caused the Google Chrome browser to crash.
On the surface, that appears very odd: Gmail is a service, but Chrome is an app. Sure, they’re both Google products, but they do different things — why would a hiccup in one affect the other?
It has to do with sync. If you log into Chrome with your Gmail address (and if you want to sync bookmarks, tabs and extensions, you need to), the app on your computer is now tied directly to Google’s servers. And, of course, so is Gmail.
According to a post on a Chrome developer forum, when Gmail went down, it set off a chain reaction that ended with the servers sending all client apps (i.e. the Chrome browser on millions of devices) a command they couldn’t process. The result: one of the biggest mass app crashes in history.
It all started with a simple human error, which Chrome developer “Tim” characterizes as a “faulty load-balancing configuration change” in a core part of the infrastructure of Google’s back-end servers. Those servers maintain Chrome sync, among many other services — including Gmail.
The crashes in Chrome, however, weren’t because the sync servers were suddenly unavailable (if they were, Chrome wouldn’t sync, but it also wouldn’t crash). Chrome crashed because the servers — which act as traffic cops for all the data being synced from Chrome clients all over the world — suddenly believed syncing traffic was through the roof. It looked like, to Chrome, the syncing equivalent of everyone flushing their toilets at once.
As a result, the sync servers then reacted “too conservatively” in Tim’s words, telling all Chrome clients to throttle all data types. However, not all versions of Chrome support all data types. Millions of Chrome browsers suddenly attempted to throttle data they couldn’t process in the first place. The result: crash city.
Could it happen again? You can bet Chrome’s engineers are working to ensure that it doesn’t. It should be pretty easy to change how the sync servers react to traffic problems. But it’s also a sobering reminder about how vulnerable to problems cloud software can be. If a key link in the chain — which users don’t even control — falters, everybody loses.
Has this crashing issue affected your confidence in Chrome or cloud software? Let us know in the comments.
Photo by Mashable
BananaTag allows you to track the emails you send. This extension is great for job seekers or PR professionals who need to know when their emails have been received. When you send an email via BananaTag using the “track and send” button, an email alert is sent to you as soon as the recipient has opened the email. The extension also offers analytic tools to track opened links within an email, to view how many times an email has been viewed, and whether the viewer is a repeat or unique viewer. One issue with BananaTag is that if you track and send an email to multiple people, it doesn’t track specifically which recipients have opened the email because only one tracking code is used per email. BananaTag tracks up to five emails for free per day. For $5 a month you can have up to 100 emails tracked per day.
Rapportive is an extremely useful tool for those in sales, business development, public relations or other fields in which there is constant outreach to new people. When you enter an email address into Gmail, Rapportive draws from the email recipient’s LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts to display a sidebar of information including a photo, work history, recent tweets and any past email correspondence between you and the email recipient.
Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to be sent at a later time or date — even when you’re on vacation — and also allows users to save template responses or other email messages for quicker response when dealing with a large number of clients or customers. Other perks of the extension are the ability to track the status of emails and even schedule reminders, all within Gmail.
4. Chrome to Mobile
Chrome to Mobile allows you to send webpages on your computer to your Chrome browser on other devices like tablets or smartphones. It’s an easy way to take information from your desktop or laptop and instantly transfer it to a mobile device.
5. Explain and Send Screenshots
For those who are constantly iterating and sharing mockups via email, Explain and Send Screenshots allows a user to take a screenshot and mark it up with text, color, and other edits. You can save the image as a file, or upload the image to get a link to share via email or social media sites.
For multi-taskers who are juggling dozens of tabs during the workday — YouTube, Facebook, Monster, LinkedIn, Twitter — PanicButton is a great app to have when you need to quickly hide all of your tabs. With one single click, a user can hide all open tabs, and with another click, restore all tabs.
7. Email This Page
When you add the Email This Page extension to Chrome, a small envelope icon appears on your toolbar that allows you to quickly email any page. Clicking on the extension icon opens up a compose page in Gmail (or whatever your default mail service is), includes an automated subject line with the name of the site you’re sending from, and a direct link to the page you want to send.
The director of Intel’s mobile products division, Mike Bell, has leveled some interesting charges at the company’s ARM-using competitors in the Android smartphone market. Bell, an engineer who spent time at both Apple and Palm before moving to Intel, claims that the major smartphone players have done precious little work to optimize their software for multi-threaded environments.
According to Bell, Intel’s own investigation into the state of multi-processing support in Android turned up a number of deficiencies. Some of the problems can be traced back to manufacturing and the difficulty of controlling current leakage, but others point to poorly optimized thread schedulers and inefficient data structures.
“The way it’s implemented right now, Android does not make as effective use of multiple cores as it could,” Bell told The Inquirer. “I think — frankly — some of this work could be done by the vendors who create the SoCs, but they just haven’t bothered to do it.”
Intel is scarcely a neutral third party, but in this case, we’re inclined to take Bell at his word. His background is in engineering, rather than PR/product evangelism, and the comments themselves make sense. ARM and Android have become ubiquitous precisely because they allow Samsung, Qualcomm, TI, and Nvidia to reap the benefits of research and product development without being directly responsible for the implementation. Intel’s massive software development resources exemplify the opposite approach, and the company’s silicon is quite competitive with ARM devices.
Intel’s software advantage isn’t really x86 compatibility, at least not primarily. The company’s true ace card is the expertise of its software engineers and the scale of its development environment. The fact that its many forms of expertise revolve around the x86 instruction set is nearly incidental. Of its competitors, only Nvidia has much experience in low-level development.
The other reason we take Bell’s criticisms fairly seriously is that they make logical sense. It’s easy to forget that Android is a very young operating system. Dual-core phones are everywhere these days, but the first DC devices shipped less than two years ago. The kind of ultra-low-level optimizations Bell is discussing aren’t something Google can build for each and every device manufacturer — they depend on the specifics of the SoC and, in theory, would be custom built by the relevant OEM. Relying on Google may have worked to date, but it’s unlikely to be effective for much longer.
These type of optimizations become more important as core counts increase. It can be more power-efficient to use four slow cores rather than two fast ones, but only if the OS is efficient enough to leverage all four threads. If it isn’t, the consumer gets a slower device with worse battery life.
More than anything, Intel’s comments are a sign that the company is deadly serious about matching and exceeding its competitors. Medfield demonstrated Intel’s commitment on hardware, but discussions of low-level software optimizations are a different animal. To date, other OEMs have gotten away with limited software customization thanks to ARM and Google. Everything we’ve seen to date suggests that Cortex-A15 and 28nm are the last low-hanging fruit vendors will see for several years. With Intel planning dual-core Clover Trail tablets for later this year and a 22nm Silvermont refresh dropping in 2013, the various ARM vendors will need to look to such optimizations to continue competing effectively.
Another Android phone maker is set to unveil a UI overlay sitting atop Google’s mobile operating system. This time it’s Huawei. Its Sense/TouchWiz competitor will be called Emotion UI and is going to arrive in July.
Just a few days ago, ZTE (the other big Chinese manufacturer) announced its very own 3D skin for Android, powered by Rightware’s Kanzi UI. This skin will be used from now on for ZTE’s smartphones running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.
ICS is also presumably Huawei’s ‘target’ for its Emotion UI, although details are scarce at the moment. The grand unveiling is set for June 9, and the interface will become available sometime in July. Still a mystery is whether Huawei plans to issue updates to already shipping Android smartphones in order to add the Emotion UI. However, it seems almost certain that all Huawei Android devices that will ship in or after July will come bearing this new overlay. That obviously includes the Ascend D quad, the company’s flagship smartphone for this year, which may have been delayed until July specifically in order to get the Emotion UI baked in.
At this point we don’t really know what the Emotion UI will look like, or what functionality it will add to Android. Huawei uses words such as “emotional”, “simple”, and “smart” in describing it, and says that it has listened carefully to the needs of users. Then again, they all say this. HTC even dared say it was ‘listening to its customers’ when it decided that extra-slim phones were preferable to better battery life – and that’s quite absurd.
In the picture above which speaks about the big event in which the Emotion UI will first be showcased, we can see what looks like the stock Android ICS launcher with no modifications whatsoever. So maybe Huawei’s UI really is subtle. Or maybe the company wanted to keep it a secret until said event.
It’s not 100% clear if the Emotion UI will make it outside of China, but it probably will given Huawei’s new global ambitions. The company is undergoing a massive transition from a manufacturer most widely regarded for its low-end price-competitive offerings to one that can compete on the high-end as well (with its own in-house designed processor even).
Apparently Huawei thought that part of this transition had to be adding its own UI to Android. I would have liked it to try to differentiate itself by becoming the only Android device maker not to have its own custom UI slapped on top of the OS, and as such deliver updates quicker than its competitors. But Huawei obviously disagrees. Sure, by designing it own UI, Huawei gets to use the words “user experience” in PR materials, but maybe the world’s had enough of all this gimmickry. Or maybe Emotion UI will prove to be subtle enough to be brilliant. Let’s wait and find out, shall we?
The firm attributes the loss in Chrome market share to the penalty Google placed on it after the the whole paid post controversy last month. Google reduced the PageRank of the Chrome home page after it was found to be in violation of the company’s own webmaster guidelines, and as a result no longer appears on the first page in a variety of popular browser related searches.
Google punishes Chrome in its search results in response to a promo campaign on blog sites that seemed to encourage low-quality content. (Click to enlarge)
Google has demoted its Chrome home page in results for a search using the keyword “browser” following an effort to have bloggers promote the Google browser that backfired.
Now, there is no Chrome ad at the top of the results or link to the Chrome page anywhere on the first page of results on Google. It’s ranked in position 50, according to Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand, which first reported this news.
Google’s statement, according to SearchEngineLand, is:
“We’ve investigated and are taking manual action to demote www.google.com/chrome and lower the site’s PageRank for a period of at least 60 days.We strive to enforce Google’s webmaster guidelines consistently in order to provide better search results for users.
While Google did not authorize this campaign, and we can find no remaining violations of our webmaster guidelines, we believe Google should be held to a higher standard, so we have taken stricter action than we would against a typical site.”
The demotion is a response to a campaign in which bloggers were found posting low-quality content related to Google Chrome in an effort to promote a Google video about King Arthur Flour. At least one of the posts had a hyperlink to the Chrome download page, which can help a site rise in Google search results through Google’s PageRank algorithm. But paying people to include such links violates Google’s guidelines.
“So far, only one page in the sponsored post campaign has been spotted with a ‘straight’ link that passed credit to the Chrome page,” Sullivan writes. “It’s also unlikely that the campaign overall was designed to build links. But my impression is that Google’s deciding to penalize itself anyway with a PR reduction, to be safe.”