Almost two weeks behind schedule, ChromeOS 101 has finally started rolling out to Chromebook users around the world. It’s still unclear what caused the slowdown, but the latest version of ChromeOS includes quite a few bug fixes and security updates. More about that in a moment. First, let’s take a look at what’s new in ChromeOS 101.
New startup screen
If you’ve been using ChromeOS for a while, you’re probably pretty familiar with the solid white, dazzling boot screen that’s brighter than the sun itself. As we reported in March, this screen has now been replaced by a soothing black startup screen with an off-white Chrome icon and the ChromeOS logo. Speaking of the logo, Google also updated the name ChromeOS to reflect a recent discovery that the space between Chrome and OS would be removed. Subtle, yet satisfying.
Google is working hard behind the scenes to make your peripherals work as seamlessly as possible with your ChromeOS device. Soon we will have diagnostic tools at our disposal to help test first and third party hardware such as touchpads and keyboards. In ChromeOS 101, you’ll find a new option in the settings menu to check for firmware updates for your peripherals. This allows updates to be pushed independently of the operating system and keeps your hardware safe and functioning. You can find the Firmware Update feature in the About ChromeOS section of the settings.
Discovered last September, Google is working on a tool which allows you to perform a ChromeOS recovery without the need for a second device or external storage such as a flash drive. The Network Recovery option appears on eligible devices when the Chromebook boots to the recovery screen. I poked around the office and found that currently only unreleased 12th Gen Intel devices seem to have the feature. This may or may not apply to existing devices, but we’ll contact Google to confirm. This feature is a great addition to ChromeOS because you never know when to perform a recovery and have no other device readily available to create your recovery images.
Patches and Security Solutions
As I mentioned above, this ChromeOS update includes a handful of patches and security updates. While not as comprehensive as the thirty patches in Chrome’s recent update for Desktop, researchers received some hefty bounties for identifying these potentially dangerous vulnerabilities.
- [TBD] High: Heap Use-after-free in Window Manager
- [$7000] High: Then use for free in the Chrome OS shell. Reported by Nan Wang and Guang Gong of 360 Alpha Lab
- [$3000] Medium: heap buffer overflow in Window Manager.
- [$3000] Medium: Use-after-free in file selection dialog
- [$1000] Medium: Use-after-free in PPD file selection dialog Reported by Zhiyi Zhang of Codesafe Team of Legendsec at Qi’anxin Group
- [$5000] Medium: Use-after-free in file selection dialog
- [$2000] Medium: buffer overflow in shelf
All the rest
At first glance, that’s about all we’ve found to report from ChromeOS 101, but some new flags have landed in the Stable channel and you might be interested in giving them a try. The first of these is the new Screencast app for ChromeOS. Robby just posted a video of the tool in action and while it’s not quite ready for primetime yet, you can try out the presentation tool by going to chrome://flags and enabling the flags #enable-projector† #enable-projector-annotatorand #enable-projector-exclude-transcript† The Selfie Cam feature hasn’t made its way to Stable at this point, but I suspect it won’t be long before developers sign up for Screencast.
The redesigned productivity starter is also available behind a flag. In case you missed it, Google brings the Launcher to the right side of the screen, which is much more like old-school ChromeOS, but with some new tricks. You can enable the new Launcher by going to chrome://flags and enable the flag #productivity launcher† You get the new look along with some cool features like the ability to sort your apps by name or color. That’s about it for this update, but we’ll dig deeper to see if there’s anything else lurking under the hood. There’s a minor update in just two days, so we can share more soon. Stay tuned.