Google releases Chrome 2.0 Alpha

Less than a month after announcing that version 1.0 of its Chrome Web browser is no longer a beta, Google has released an alpha version of Chrome 2.0. Available through Google’s Chrome Developer Channel, the updated browser brings many notable improvements over Chrome 1.0.

The alpha version of Chrome 2.0 shows that Google continues to play catch-up with its elder siblings, Internet Explorer and Firefox. Updates to the Chrome browser include the addition of form autocomplete (one of the features most obviously missing from the initial release), full-page zoom, spell checking improvements, and auto-scrolling–among other features.

One of the most interesting new features in the pre-beta 2.0 of Chrome is called Profiles. This lets users separate Chrome’s settings, including bookmarks, history and cookies, in different categories for different types of use. For example, you can have personal and work profiles, both with different home pages, bookmarks and history, together with separate desktop shortcuts.

The 2.0 Chrome pre-beta also uses a new version of the WebKit rendering engine, basically the same as the one in Apple’s Safari 3.1, which enables some CSS coding features such as gradients, canvas drawing, reflections, and masks. Also, Google implemented experimental support for Greasemonkey scripts.

For those with security in mind, along the SafeBrowsing implementation, Chrome 2.0 introduces a new HTTPS-only browsing mode that will only load HTTPS sites. The downside of this feature is that sites with SSL certificate errors will not load.

Other new features include:

– Importing bookmarks from Google Bookmarks;

– Docking dragged tabs (drag a tab to certain positions on the monitor and a docking icon will appear);

– Update of the V8 Javascript engine (to version 0.4.6.0 from 0.3.9.3);

– New network code (Google Chrome now has its own implementation of the HTTP network protocol);

– New window frames on Windows XP and Vista (supporting windows cascading and tiling).

new version of Chrome, you’ll need an earlier version of the browser installed on your computer. You’ll also need to subscribe to the Developer Preview Channel (it’s free); the new version will then download automatically.

AMD Launches Its Fastest Desktop Chips Ever

In an attempt to gain an advantage in the gaming PC market, Advanced Micro Devices on Thursday launched what it called its “highest-performing CPUs” to date.

Two new quad-core Phenom II processors, aimed at high-end desktop PCs, were announced by AMD at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The chips succeed the Phenom processor the company launched in 2007, and come two days after AMD announced the new Athlon Neo processor for small laptops.

The quad-core Phenom II chips run at speeds up to 3GHz and include 8MB of cache. The chips are capable of even faster clock speeds under certain circumstances. For example, AMD overclocked Phenom II processors to run at up to 4GHz on air-cooled systems, and up to 5GHz on liquid-nitrogen cooling late last year.

Dell is already offering the XPS 625 desktop based on the Phenom II, though pricing information was not immediately available. PC makers HP and Alienware will also offer Phenom II-based desktops later in the year, according to AMD.

AMD’s Phenom II X4 940 Black Edition processor, which runs at 3.0GHz, is priced at US$275, while the Phenom II X4 920 processor, which runs at 2.8GHz, is sold for $235.

The Phenom II CPUs are manufactured using a 45-nanometer process, which makes the chips more power efficient than earlier chips.

The new chips are part of AMD’s new Dragon platform for desktops, which includes graphics chips, chipsets and CPUs for gaming and media-intensive desktops. The platform includes the ATI Radeon 4800 series graphics cards in addition to the Phenom II.

An interesting feature of the platform is a set of customized controls to boost performance of gaming PCs. Called OverDrive, these controls allow users to ratchet up performance by overclocking the CPUs, which can then be easily returned to a normal speed at the touch of a button.

The platform also includes the ATI Video Converter software, which can convert videos to play on portable entertainment devices, according to AMD.

The platform will initially support DDR2 memory, but faster DDR3 memory support may come in a few months. Compared to DDR2 memory, DDR3 provides a larger bandwidth for quicker data transfers between the CPU and memory in PCs. To support DDR3 memory, AMD will introduce the new AM3 socket for motherboards in the next few months.

High-end chips for gaming systems are also offered by Intel, which launched its Core i7 processor in November.