Nearly two weeks behind schedule, ChromeOS 101 has finally begun its rollout to Chromebook users around the globe. It is still unclear as to what caused the hold-up but the latest version of ChromeOS does contain a decent amount of bug fixes and security updates. More on those in a minute. First, let’s take a look at what’s new in ChromeOS 101.
New Boot Screen
If you’ve used ChromeOS for any amount of time, you’re likely quite familiar with the staunch white, eye-searing boot screen that is brighter than the sun itself. As we reported in March, this screen has now been replaced with a soothing black boot screen with an off-white Chrome icon and the ChromeOS logo. Speaking of the logo, Google has also updated the ChromeOS name to reflect a recent discovery that the space would be removed between Chrome and OS. 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 assist in testing first and third-party hardware such as touchpads and keyboards. In ChromeOS 101, you will find a new option in the settings menu to check for firmware updates for your peripherals. This will allow updates to be pushed independently of the OS and help keep your hardware safe and working properly. You can find the Firmware Update feature in the About ChromeOS section of the settings.
Discovered in September of last year, Google has been working on a tool that will allow you to run a ChromeOS recovery without the need for a second device or external storage such as a flash drive. The Network Recovery option will appear 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 appear to have the feature. This may or may not come to existing devices but we’ll reach out to Google for confirmation. This feature is a big addition to ChromeOS because you never know when you may have to perform a recovery and not have another device readily available to create your recovery images.
Patches and Security Fixes
As I mentioned above, this ChromeOS update features a handful of patches and security updates. While not as extensive as the thirty patches in the recent update to Chrome for Desktop, researchers landed some decent bounties for identifying these potentially hazardous vulnerabilities.
- [TBD] High: Heap Use-after-free in Window Manager
- [$7000] High: Use after free in 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 from Codesafe Team of Legendsec at Qi’anxin Group
- [$5000] Medium: Use-after-free in file selection dialog
- [$2000] Medium: Buffer overflow in Shelf
On the surface, that’s about all we’ve found to report from ChromeOS 101 but some new flags have landed in the Stable channel and you may be interested in giving them a try. The first of which is the new Screencast App for ChromeOS. Robby just posted a video of the tool in action and while it isn’t quite ready for primetime, you can try out the presentation tool by heading over to chrome://flags and enabling the flags #enable-projector, #enable-projector-annotator, and #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 devs sign off on Screencast.
The redesigned productivity launcher is also available behind a flag. In case you missed it, Google is taking the Launcher to the right side of the display which looks much more like old-school ChromeOS but with some new tricks. You can enable the new Launcher by heading to chrome://flags and enabling the flag #productivity-launcher. You will 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 be digging in to see if there’s anything else hiding under the hood. A minor update is due in just two days so we may have more to share sooner than later. Stay tuned.