Take your shot. Let Google give you the Assist(ant).

Your Google Assistant can help you follow all of the ups and downs of college hoops, from South Carolina’s surprise win to Villanova’s bracket-busting loss to this weekend’s nail-biting matchups.

bball

Here are some questions to ask your Assistant:

  • Tell me the latest sports news
  • How do you make queso dip?
  • What time’s the Wisconsin game tonight?
  • And when you’re with your friends, try: “Tell me a sports joke.”

Whether you’re cheering along with friends or already looking ahead to when you’ll definitely win the pool next year... the Google Assistant is on your team.

Reassuring our users about government-backed attack warnings



Since 2012, we’ve warned our users if we believe their Google accounts are being targeted by government-backed attackers.

We send these out of an abundance of caution — the notice does not necessarily mean that the account has been compromised or that there is a widespread attack. Rather, the notice reflects our assessment that a government-backed attacker has likely attempted to access the user’s account or computer through phishing or malware, for example. You can read more about these warnings here.
In order to secure some of the details of our detection, we often send a batch of warnings to groups of at-risk users at the same time, and not necessarily in real-time. Additionally, we never indicate which government-backed attackers we think are responsible for the attempts; different users may be targeted by different attackers.

Security has always been a top priority for us. Robust, automated protections help prevent scammers from signing into your Google account, GMail always uses an encrypted connection when you receive or send email, we filter more than 99.9% of spam — a common source of phishing messages — from GMail, and we show users when messages are from an unverified or unencrypted source.

An extremely small fraction of users will ever see one of these warnings, but if you receive this warning from us, it's important to take action on it. You can always take a two-minute Security Checkup, and for maximum protection from phishing, enable two-step verification with a Security Key.

The High Five: game time and morphin’ time

This week, we saw lots of high fives on the basketball court and among Power Rangers fans … but not on a particular episode of “Wheel of Fortune.” Here are a few of the top five trending Google searches from the week of March 20.

Tragedy in London

People turned to Google find out more information about the tragic attack in front of the U.K. Parliament in London, and developments in the days that followed. Many questions centered on the identity of the attacker, who killed four people in the deadliest terror attack in the U.K. in over a decade.

It’s searchin’ time

Children of the ‘90s, rejoice—and go, go to the movies. The Power Rangers are back, with a reboot hitting theaters today. Some people are nostalgic and searching about past Power Rangers, while others want to know who’s who in the new movie. One thing’s for sure, the graphics and costumes have improved over the last couple of decades.

Bracket racket

The NCAA Basketball Tournament is in full swing (oops, wrong sport). In addition to bracket updates and scores, people wanted to know: “What are the conference records for the NCAA tournament?” And “Gonzaga Men’s Basketball” is a trending search now that they’re one win away from their first-ever Final Four.

The other type of Court

Searches about Neil Gorsuch continued to rise this week, as the Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation hearing took place in Washington. So far, searchers seem to be in the “small talk at a dinner party” phase—they’re curious about his age, where he lives and his marital status.

wf

Not so fortunate

This week on “Wheel of Fortune,” Tennessee Williams fans groaned. And so did the contestant whose performance left something to be desired. With $600 on the line, Kevin was one letter away from solving a puzzle that read, “A Streetcar N-A-blank-E-D Desire.” He went with K (the correct letter was N). STELLLLAAAAAAA!!!!

Dispatches from the latest Mercurial sprints

On March 10th-12th, the Mercurial project held one of its twice-a-year sprints in the Google Mountain View office. Mercurial is a distributed version control system, used by Google, W3C, OpenJDK and Mozilla among others. We had 40 developers in attendance, some from companies with large Mercurial deployments and some individual contributors who volunteer in their spare time.

One of the major themes we discussed was user-friendliness. Mercurial developers work hard to keep the command-line interface backwards compatible, but at the same time, we would like to make progress by smoothing out some rough edges. We discussed how we can provide a better user interface for users to opt-in to without breaking the backwards compatibility constraint. We also talked about how to make Mercurial’s Changeset Evolution feature easier to use.

We considered moving Mercurial past SHA1 for revision identification, to enhance security and integrity of Mercurial repositories in light of recent SHA1 exploits. A rough consensus on a plan started to emerge, and design docs should start to circulate in the next month or so.

We also talked about performance, such as new storage layers that would scale more effectively and work better with clones that only contain a partial repository history, a key requirement for Mercurial adoption in enterprise environments with large repositories, like Google.

If you are interested in finding out more about Mercurial (or perhaps you’d like to contribute!) you can find our mailing list information here.

By Martin von Zweigbergk and Augie Fackler, Software Engineers

Updates in G Suite to streamline Hangouts and Gmail

If you were at Google Cloud Next this year, you may have heard that Gmail and Google Hangouts are getting several improvements designed for businesses, such as Gmail Add-ons and the evolution of Hangouts: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. To make the most of these opportunities, we’re announcing several updates to Hangouts, Gmail and Google+ that make things much simpler for both enterprise administrators and users.
  • Streamlining the messaging experience for Android: At Google Cloud Next, we announced that we’ve evolved Hangouts to focus on two new experiences that help bring teams together and keep work moving forward: Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat. We’ve been working hard to streamline the classic Hangouts product for enterprise users, and, as part of this effort, will be removing carrier SMS functionality in the classic Hangouts app for Android, starting on May 22. For administrators: If your domain is affected by this change, you can expect to receive an email notification with additional details in the coming days.
    • Upgrading SMS with Android Messages: We want to provide a consistent and easy-to-use SMS experience for Android users, right out of the box. So we’re focused on making Android Messages the primary place to access SMS and are working with carriers and device manufacturers to include Android Messages natively in Android devices. Over time, we’re working with partners to upgrade SMS to RCS—the next standard in carrier messaging that will bring features like read receipts, group chat, hi-res photo sharing and more.
    • Hangouts on Android users: In the next few weeks, you’ll see a notification in the classic Hangouts app to switch to another SMS app already on your phone for SMS, or to download Android Messages if one isn’t available. Choosing a new messaging app will not impact your SMS message history, and all your messages will be accessible in whichever new app you choose. Note: This change does not impact Google Voice users who may continue to use Hangouts for their Google Voice SMS.  Project Fi users who wish to use Hangouts as their SMS app will also not be impacted by this change, and can consult the Project Fi forum for more detail.


  • Fully transitioning Google Talk to Hangouts: Google Talk launched in 2005 as a simple chat experience between Gmail users. In 2013, we began replacing Google Talk with Hangouts, while still giving users the option to continue using Google Talk. Hangouts offers advanced improvements over Google Talk such as group video calling and integration with other Google products. With the introduction of Hangouts Meet and Hangouts Chat, which add further improvements in meetings and team collaboration, it is now time to say goodbye to Google Talk.
    • Talk users within Gmail will receive a prompt in the next few weeks, inviting them to switch to Hangouts. After June 26, users will be automatically transitioned to Hangouts, unless contractual commitments apply. For users that preferred the Google Talk look, there is a Dense Roster setting in Hangouts that provides a similar experience.
    • Third-party XMPP clients will continue to work with Hangouts for 1-on-1 chats. XMPP federation with third-party services providers will no longer be supported starting June 26.
    • The legacy Google Talk Android app was replaced in the Play Store in 2013 and will now stop functioning. Android users are encouraged to install Hangouts now.
    • For G Suite administrators: If your domain is affected by this change, you will have already received an email notification about this change.
  • Retiring several Gmail Labs: Gmail Labs serve as a great testing ground for experimental features. Successful labs graduate, and low usage labs often retire. With the announcement of Gmail Add-ons, enterprises will soon gain the ability to add modern integrations in Gmail, which in some cases will replace or improve the functionality provided by some labs. So in the coming weeks, we will retire the following Labs: Authentication Icon, Google Voice Player, Picasa previews, Pictures in chat, Quick Links, Quote Selected Text, Smartlabels, and Yelp previews. (Expected: No earlier than April 24, 2017)
  • Retiring Google+ functionality in Gmail: As part of our continued effort to focus Google+ around shared interests, we’re retiring two legacy Google+ features in Gmail: the ability to email Google+ profiles and the use of Google+ Circles. (Expected: No earlier than April 24, 2017)
    We realize these updates may be an inconvenience, so we aimed to minimize disruption and help you navigate the changes where possible. These updates will help us focus and prioritize features that will improve the entire G Suite user experience for everyone. To monitor the retirement dates for these features, subscribe to the G Suite What’s New Calendar.

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    Reliable releases and rollbacks – CRE life lessons



    Editor’s note: One of the most common causes of service outages is releasing a new version of the service binaries; no matter how good your testing and QA might be, some bugs only surface when the affected code is running in production. Over the years, Google Site Reliability Engineering has seen many outages caused by releases, and now assumes that every new release may contain one or more bugs.

    As software engineers, we all like to add new features to our services; but every release comes with the risk of something breaking. Even assuming that we are appropriately diligent in adding unit and functional tests to cover our changes, and undertaking load testing to determine if there are any material effects on system performance, live traffic has a way of surprising us. These are rarely pleasant surprises.

    The release of a new binary is a common source of outages. From the point of view of the engineers responsible for the system’s reliability, that translates to three basic tasks:
    1. Detecting when a new release is actually broken;
    2. Moving users safely from a bad release to a “hopefully” fixed release; and
    3. Preventing too many clients from suffering through a bad release in the first place (“canarying”).
    For the purpose of this analysis, we’ll assume that you are running many instances of your service on machines or VMs behind a load balancer such as nginx, and that upgrading your service to use a new binary will involve stopping and starting each service instance.

    We’ll also assume that you monitor your system with something like Stackdriver, measuring internal traffic and error rates. If you don’t have this kind of monitoring in place, then it’s difficult to meaningfully discuss reliability; per the Hierarchy of Reliability described in the SRE Book, monitoring is the most fundamental requirement for a reliable system).

    Detection

    The best case for a bad release is that when a service instance is restarted with the bad release, a major fraction of improperly handled requests generate errors such as HTTP 502, or much higher response latencies than normal. In this case, your overall service error rate rises quickly as the rollout progresses through your service instances, and you realize that your release has a problem.

    A more subtle case is when the new binary returns errors on a relatively small fraction of queries - say, a user setting change request, or only for users whose name contains an apostrophe for good or bad reasons. With this failure mode, the problem may only become manifest in your overall monitoring once the majority of your service instances are upgraded. For this reason, it can be useful to have error and latency summaries for your service instance broken down by binary release version.

    Rollbacks

    Before you plan to roll out a new binary or image to your service, you should ask yourself, “What will I do if I discover a catastrophic / debilitating / annoying bug in this release?” Not because it might happen, but because sooner or later it is going to happen and it is better to have a well-thought out plan in place instead of trying to make one up when your service is on fire.

    The temptation for many bugs, particularly if they are not show-stoppers, is to build a quick patch and then “roll forward,” i.e., make a new release that consists of the original release plus the minimal code change necessary to fix the bug (a “cherry-pick” of the fix). We don’t generally recommend this though, especially if the bug in question is user-visible or causing significant problems internally (e.g., doubling the resource cost of queries).

    What’s wrong with rolling forward? Put yourself in the shoes of the software developer: your manager is bouncing up and down next to your desk, blood pressure visibly climbing, demanding to know when your fix is going to be released because she has your company’s product director bending her ear about all the negative user feedback he’s getting. You’re coding the fix as fast as humanly possible, because for every minute it’s down another thousand users will see errors in the service. Under this kind of pressure, coding, testing or deployment mistakes are almost inevitable.

    We have seen this at Google any number of times, where a hastily deployed roll-forward fix either fails to fix the original problem, or indeed makes things worse. Even if it fixes the problem it may then uncover other latent bugs in the system; you’re taking yourself further from a known-good state, into the wilds of a release that hasn’t been subject to the regular strenuous QA testing.

    At Google, our philosophy is that “rollbacks are normal.” When an error is found or reasonably suspected in a new release, the releasing team rolls back first and investigates the problem second. A request for a rollback is not interpreted as an attack on the releasing team, or even the person who wrote the code containing the bug; rather, it is understood as The Right Thing To Do to make the system as reliable as possible for the user. No-one will ask “why did you roll back this change?” as long as the rollback changelist describes the problem that was seen.

    Thus, for rollbacks to work, the implicit assumption is that they are:

    1. easy to perform; and
    2. trusted to be low-risk.

    How do we make the latter true?

    Testing rollbacks

    If you haven’t rolled back in a few weeks, you should do a rollback “just because”; aim to find any traps with incompatible versions, broken automation/testing etc. If the rollback works, just roll forward again once you’ve checked out all your logs and monitoring. If it breaks, roll forward to remove the breakage and then focus all your efforts on diagnosing the cause of the rollback breakage. It is better by far to detect this when your new release is working well, rather than being forced off a release that is on fire and having to fight to get back to your known-good original release.

    Incompatible changes

    Inevitably, there are going to be times when a rollback is not straightforward. One example is when the new release requires a schema change to an in-app database (such as a new column). The danger is that you release the new binary, upgrade the database schema, and then find a problem with the binary that necessitates rollback. This leaves you with a binary that doesn’t expect the new schema, and hasn’t been tested with it.

    The approach we recommend here is a feature-free release; starting from version v of your binary, build a new version v+1 which is identical to v except that it can safely handle the new database schema. The new features that make use of the new schema are in version v+2. Your rollout plan is now:
    1. Release binary v+1
    2. Upgrade database schema
    3. Release binary v+2
    Now, if there are any problems with either of the new binaries then you can roll back to a previous version without having to also roll back the schema.

    This is a special case of a more general problem. When you build the dependency graph of your service and identify all its direct dependencies, you need to plan for the situation where any one of your dependencies is suddenly rolled back by its owners. If your launch is waiting for a dependency service S to move from release r to r+1, you have to be sure that S is going to “stick” at r+1. One approach here is to make an ecosystem assumption that any service could be rolled back by one version, in which case your service would wait for S to reach version r+2 before your service moved to a version depending on a feature in r+1.

    Summary

    We’ve learned that there’s no good rollout unless you have a corresponding rollback ready to do, but how can we know when to rollback without having our entire service burned to the ground by a bad release?

    In part 2 we’ll look at the strategy of “canarying” to detect real production problems without risking the bulk of your production traffic on a new release.

    Solution guide: backing up Windows files using CloudBerry Backup with Google Cloud Storage



    Modern businesses increasingly depend on their data as a foundation for their operation. The more critical the reliance is on that data, the more important it is to ensure that data is protected with backups. Unfortunately, even by taking regular backups, you're still susceptible to data loss from a local disaster or human error. Thus, many companies entrust their data to geographically distributed cloud storage providers like Google Cloud Platform (GCP). And when they do, they want convenient cloud backup automation tools that offer flexible backup options and quick on-demand restores.

    One such tool is CloudBerry Backup (CBB), and has the following capabilities:

    • Creating incremental data copies with low impact on production workloads
    • Data encryption on all transferring paths
    • Flexible retention policy, allowing you to balance the volume of data stored and storage space used
    • Ability to carry out hybrid restores with the use of local and cloud storage resources

    CBB includes a broad range of features out of the box, allowing you to address most of your cloud backup needs, and is designed to have low impact on production servers and applications.

    CBB has a low-footprint backup client that you install on the desired server. After you provision a Google Cloud Storage bucket, attach it to CBB and create a backup plan to immediately start protecting your files in the cloud.

    To simplify your cloud backup onboarding, check out the step-by-step tutorial on how to use CloudBerry Backup with Google Cloud Storage and easily restore any files.

    Stable Channel Updates for Chrome OS

    The Stable channel has been updated to 57.0.2987.123 (Platform version: 9202.56.1) for all Chrome OS devices except AOpen Chromebase Mini, AOpen Chromebox Mini, Google Chromebook Pixel (2015), ASUS Chromebook Flip C302, , ASUS Chromebook Flip C100PA, Samsung Chromebook Plus, Acer Chromebook R13 (CB5 - 312T). This build contains a number of bug fixes, security updates, and feature enhancements. Systems will be receiving updates over the next several days.

    Some highlights of these changes are:
    • Enable silent authentication
    • Updated default wallpaper
    • Updated boot animation
    • Media files from Android Applications available in Files Application
    • PIN unlock is available on all Chromebooks
    • Chrome Camera App Front/Rear Flip UI
    • Image copy/paste feature for Citrix Receiver on Chrome OS
    • Power button now turns off display on devices that support tablet-mode

    Security Fixes:
    Note: Access to bug details and links may be kept restricted until a majority of users are updated with a fix. We will also retain restrictions if the bug exists in a third party library that other projects similarly depend on, but haven’t yet fixed.

    If you find new issues, please let us know by visiting our forum or filing a bug. Interested in switching channels? Find out how. You can submit feedback using ‘Report an issue...’ in the Chrome menu (3 vertical dots in the upper right corner of the browser).

    Ketaki Deshpande

    Google Chrome

    Enjoy your personal concert with VR videos on YouTube

    Any music fan will tell you, there’s nothing better than seeing your favorite band live. But if you’re one of the millions of people who can’t make it to a show, YouTube is giving you the next best thing. We’re working with some amazing artists to bring you live performances and music videos in VR.

    And today Gorillaz – hailed by “The Guinness Book Of World Records” as the planet’s Most Successful Virtual Act – have announced their return with the release of a new video directed by Jamie Hewlett, featuring four tracks from their highly anticipated forthcoming album “Humanz.” The epic six-minute animated film - titled “Saturnz Barz (Spirit House)” - provides an extraordinary cutting-edge VR experience to include the track “Saturnz Barz” in full, plus highlights of “Ascension,” “Andromeda” and “We Got The Power.” You can check it out here fresh from the oven.


    With these new immersive experiences, you can transport yourself to top music festivals and killer concerts, without having to deal with the crowds. This weekend, you can check out Ultra Music Festival live, with a set from Hardwell live streaming in 360 degrees. And you can already experience highlights from Coachella on YouTube, without having to bear the heat of the desert.

    We've also been working with some of your favorite artists to experiment with new ways to tell the story behind their songs and allow you to be immersed in the video. Sit next to Sampha on the piano bench while he performs “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano.” Step into Hunter Hayes’ recording studio as he builds each musical component of his current single, “Yesterday’s Song.” Check out Young The Giant’s latest single, “Silvertongue,” as though you were in the audience. Watch The Naked & Famous official music video for “Higher” shot at the YouTube Space LA. And you can use VR to travel behind the scenes, too. Check out Florida Georgia Line as they shoot “May We All” at the Tennessee National Raceway in Hohenwald.


    You can watch these videos using the YouTube VR app available on Daydream or with Google Cardboard. If you don’t have a headset, don’t worry, you can still get the 360-degree video experience on your mobile phone or desktop. It’ll be like you’re virtually there with your favorite band.

    Vivien Lewit, Global Head Artist Relations, recently watched "The Range - Florida (Official 360° Video)."

    Source: YouTube Blog


    The She Word: Kawana T. King, lawyer and “force for good”

    In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating the powerful, dynamic and creative women of Google. Like generations before them, these women break down barriers and defy expectations at work and in their communities. Over the course of the month, we’ll help you get to know a few of these Google women, and share a bit about who they are and why they inspire us.

    In this installment of the She Word, we talked to Kawana T. King, a lawyer in our New York office. In addition to JD, she’s earned the title of “hostess with the mostess”—just ask anyone who’s attended her annual Christmas party.

    How do you explain your job at a dinner party?

    I usually don't ... I like leaving work at work. But if I need to explain, I say that I provide legal counsel for our advertising products.

    Why are you proud to be a woman at Google?

    In Google’s legal department, we have four female vice presidents. There’s a lot of talk in tech about needing more women in leadership positions, but I get to witness that everyday. It’s really inspiring.

    k

    Why did you decide to pursue law, and why practice it at Google?

    Growing up I was always told that I argued too much, so becoming a lawyer seemed to be a “natural fit.” Throughout my career, I’ve practiced law across various industries, like entertainment and financial services. Working at Google, I get to bring legal expertise to the development of groundbreaking products and services. And one of the best parts about Google is that I’m not just here to be a lawyer—there are opportunities to pursue personal interests, like our diversity efforts, as well.

    If you could ask one woman from history a question … who would it be and what would you ask?

    I would ask Harriet Tubman what gave her the strength to face her fears and take action. We are all faced with obstacles that we must overcome, but it’s hard to get past the intimidation. All tips help!

    What advice would you give to women starting out in their careers?

    Know your worth, display confidence and don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If you doubt yourself, you invite others to do the same.

    What do you hope to accomplish on behalf of women everywhere?

    Quite simply ... I’ll pay it forward. I’ve been lucky to have powerful and positive female influences in my life (hi Mom!). By exhibiting character, confidence, and a strong work ethic, I hope to be a force for good in another young girl’s life.

    How do you spend most of your time outside of work?

    I love traveling—Paris and Thailand are my all-time favorite spots. I’ve also gotten hooked on traveling for Carnival, which is an annual festival that occurs in various countries. So far, I’ve celebrated Carnival in  Trinidad, Barbados and Miami. My next trip is to Italy—I’m taking my mom for her 65th birthday!