Tag Archives: Google

Google Nexus

Google Nexus is running on the latest version of Google’s operating system, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The interface is basically the same as earlier versions of Jelly Bean, but it brings new features including settings shortcuts in the notifications bar, turn by turn GPS navigation, and various other tweaks.shafkatworkphoto

The most important change is to the camera software. Photo Sphere allows you to take full 360-degree images to either swipe around on your phone, Street View-style, or view as one wide panorama on your computer. Built-in editing software lets you turn this into a cool ‘tiny planet’ picture, as well as add numerous filters and effects tweaks to any of your pictures.

 The Nexus 4 outstrips the Galaxy S3 in power and screen resolution, and is less than half the price. Add on to that the great updates to Android Jelly Bean and the amazing photo features on board, the Nexus 4.

Design and build quality
The front of the Nexus 4 is made up of a single piece of glass stretching right up to the edges. It’s not interrupted by physical buttons or fancy company logos it’s an unusually minimal design.  The back panel has been given a shimmering effect. In the right light, it appears as though it’s made of tiny sequins. It’s very subtle, but it’s not at all unpleasant.

It measures 134mm long and 69mm wide a very similar size to the Galaxy S3. At 9.1mm thick though, it’s a tad chubbier than the S3 and considerably fatter than the iPhone 5′s 7.6mm. It’s chunky, but far from cumbersome.  It might look smart from a distance, but get it in your hand and it suffers in comparison to more expensive phones. The casing feels a little on the plasticky side and it doesn’t have the same solid feel as its plutocratic rivals.

• Android phones typically offer either dull specs and an affordable price, or high-performance components and a price tag suitable only for oil barons. With the Nexus 4, Google and LG have smashed that tradition to pieces.
• It packs in a ferocious quad-core processor, a whopping 2GB of RAM, a glorious 4.7-inch display and the latest Android 4.2 Jelly Bean software, which boasts some really cool new features.
• The Nexus 4 isn’t particularly remarkable to look at. It’s perfectly inoffensive, sure, but it’s hardly pushing any boundaries in terms of cutting-edge design. The front is dominated by a single piece of glass while the back, also glass, has a subtle sparkly effect. In between is curved matte plastic.
• Turn it on, though, and its screen jumps out at the user.  Measuring a spacious 4.7 inches, it’s wonderfully bright and bold. Images and videos look great on screen and fine text is kept sharp thanks to the high resolution.
• Inside the phone is a 1.5GHz quad-core processor along with 2GB of RAM. Those specs are more impressive than even the Samsung Galaxy S3 and are typically reserved for top of the range mobiles.

Good
• Bargain-basement price
• Superb performance
• Excellent high-definition screen
• Latest version of Android Jelly Bean
• Great new camera functions
Bad
• No expandable memory
• Battery isn’t removable
• No 4G

Google Builds Artificial Brain Which Can Recognize A Cat

The Google X laboratory has invented some pretty cool stuff: refrigerators that can order groceries when food runs low, elevators that can perhaps reach outer space, self-driving cars. So it’s no surprise that their most recent design is the most advanced, highest functioning, most awesome invention ever… a computer that likes watching YouTube cats?

Okay, it’s a bit more advanced than that. Several years ago, Google scientists began creating a neural network for machine learning. The technique Google X employed for this project is called the “deep learning,” a method defined by its massive scale. In layman’s terms, they connected 16,000 computer processors and let the network they created roam free on the Internet so as to simulate a human brain learning.  Stanford University computer scientist Andrew Y. Ng, led the Google team in feeding the neural network 10 million random digital images from YouTube videos. The machine was not “supervised,” i.e. it was not told what a cat is or what features a cat has; it simply looked at the data randomly fed to it. Ng found that there was a small part of the computer’s “brain” that taught itself to recognize felines. “It basically invented the concept of a cat,” Google fellow Jeff Dean told the New York Times.

So Google may have created a machine that can teach itself. But what Ng and his team have done is not as new as a user may think. Over the years, as the scale of software simulations has grown, machine learning systems have advanced; last year, Microsoft scientists suggested that the “deep learning” technique could be used to build computer systems to understand human speech. This Google X machine is the cream of the crop—twice as accurate as any other machine before it. However, “it is worth noting that our network is still tiny compared to the human visual cortex,” the researchers wrote, “which is a million times larger in terms of the number of neurons and synapses.”

After “viewing” random pictures from random YouTube videos, the neural network created a digital image of a cat based on its “memory” of the shapes it saw in the images. The cat the computer created is not any specific cat, but what the computer imagines to be a cat. Plato had his Forms, and now Google has its computer-generated cat image.

Google Makes First UK Acquisition

Google has historically maintained a steady pace of acquiring small, privately held companies and, after a brief lull due to the recession, now expects to be making about one acquisition per month, mainly in lieu of hiring.

In their first foray into the UK market Google has bought Plink, a small company which makes a mobile app that recognizes works of art. Plink was founded by Mark Cummins and James Philbin, both of whom have PhDs from Oxford, and launched publicly only four months ago. According to their blog post announcing the deal they will no longer be developing Plink but instead will be working on the Google Goggles visual search project. The visual search project is a Google Labs experiment that currently runs only on Android devices and lets users search for landmarks, books, documents and other objects by taking photos with their mobile device.

Plink’s app — which is called PlinkArt, and runs on iPhones and Android devices — allows users to get information about works of art. When a user takes a photo of a painting with their phone, the app recognizes it and pulls up information about it. The Plink founders apparently got Google’s attention when they won $100,000 in an Android developers challenge last year. Google Goggles was released last year, and the company has said it plans to support iPhones and other platforms soon as well as Android. According to gigaom, in February the company showed a prototype version of the app doing text recognition and translation of a German restaurant menu.

Cummins and Philbin sign off by saying “The visual search engines of today can do some pretty cool things, but they still have a long long way to go. We’re looking forward to helping the Goggles team build a visual search engine that works not just for paintings or book covers, but for everything you see around you. There are beautiful things to be done with computer vision – it’s going to be a lot of fun!”

PopeTube? The Vatican teams up with YouTube

The Pope is feeling a little left out as YouTube chugs on growing more and more popular, so the Vatican have decided to join in on all the fun.  The Vatican is expected to announce today that they have indeed made a deal with Google to create a channel on YouTube devoted to the Pope.

The move comes as the Vatican aims to appeal to the huge one billion Roman Catholic community around the world.  The channel will also be aimed at non-Catholics in an attempt to drum up some additional interest in the religion.

The Pope has even said to have specifically approved the move.  Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli has stated that Pope Benedict XVI is a “man of dialogue” and that he relished the chance to reach people and engage with them.  Celli also added that the Pope is “fond of new technologies” and the Vatican clearly see the potential of YouTube and the community that the site reaches on a daily basis.

The plans are to update the channel daily and will provide the service in Italian, German, English and Spanish.  The material for the channel will be made up from existing services such as radio and television that the Vatican already have in place.

A source at the Vatican said, “The faithful will be able to see the Pope and church events but we hope that those who are curious will also look.”

The director of the press room, television centre and Vatican Radio, Father Federico Lombardi, announced that the move was a  “real and tangible example of the Church’s commitment in the field of new technologies, to reach out to a global audience without regard for nationality or culture.” 

Other well known figures such as the Queen and President Obama use YouTube in a similar way and Google must be over the moon at the amount of attention that they will receive from such important backing.

The managing director of European sales and media solutions at YouTube, Henrique de Castro, highlighted how the website was a perfect way for the Vatican to reach the people that they wanted to.  “YouTube is a communications platform open to all, where users, institutions and content producers come together in a global meeting place.  We are honoured that the Vatican has chosen to use the site to communicate with people across the world, and delighted that our community will have access to the words of the Pope on some of the most important issues facing the world today,” said Castro.

This new development is truly an interesting move and should soon be adopted by many other important figures around the world.  It will be interesting to see what the next move will be after YouTube.  Perhaps PopeSpace or FacePope?  The Catholic News Service already has a presence on Facebook and runs regular news items and blogs and even has a message from the Pope dedicated to President Obama.

Picasa for Mac released with the hopes of squashing iPhoto

Why not start 2009 off with a brand new, helpful software to slap onto your Mac.  Well that’s what Google is hoping you will be doing today as they have launched a Mac version of their Picasa.  The software is a tool that allows its users to easily organise their pictures and share the pictures over the web-waves.

The launch comes four years after the original software was first launched for Windows based computers.  Now, Google hopes that the software will battle the likes of iPhoto that is currently found on Macs.  As Google says, they think the software will “help with nearly every aspect of owning and operating a digital camera.”

Google have said, “We’ve focused on making sure this first beta of Picasa for Mac matches the performance levels and most core features of Picasa on Windows – and we’ll be working on more refinements to the Mac interface and feature set as time goes on.”

Picasa also offers the chance for the user to touch up their photographs and although the software doesn’t boast the power of depth of other photography software’s such as Photoshop, the Picasa software has some interesting tools such as red-eye removal, cropping and a retouching brush.

Google went on in a statement to say, “People who already share photos on Picasa Web Albums will find that Picasa for Mac allows them to easily and quickly manage their online and local photo collections.”

Google have tried to hold a presence on Macs for a while although truthfully fairly unsuccessfully.  This new era for Google’s software pushes the company further into the eyes of the Mac users, and plans for further developments are in the works, with Google saying, “We’ll be working on more refinements to the Mac interface and feature set as time goes on.”

“While we’ve previously offered a Mac uploader and iPhoto plug-in for Picasa Web Albums, Picasa includes additional sharing features like automatic web sync.  Picasa for Mac “plays nice” with iPhoto, and takes a read-only approach to editing photos stored in the iPhoto library, duplicating files as needed, so that users’ iPhoto libraries are never affected when they use Picasa,” claimed Google.

However, Windows users still have one-up over Mac users as the Mac version is posted without helpful features such as Geotag, HTML export option, built-in webcam capture and automatic screen capture.  As Google have mentioned that developments will be carrying on for the software we can only hope that they start to introduce these features over time, after all the software is still in its Beta days.

If you are looking to run the new software on your Mac you have to have an Intel-based Mac and you must be running on a minimum of OSX 10.4.  I’m sure there won’t be many Mac users who will be crying because they don’t meet the requirements to run the software, but it’s always good to bring a little competition to software like iPhoto.

Gmail push Chrome & Firefox instead of IE

Google have jumped into attack mode as they have started pushing the likes of their home grown Chrome browser and the Mozilla made Firefox instead of the popular Internet Explorer as Google have slammed the browser for being just too darn slow.

If you are attempting to combine Internet Explorer with Gmail then you are in for a bit of a surprise message as “Get Faster Gmail” pops up in the menu bar.  And if you’re too enticed to ignore the message and give it a little click you will be redirected to a site that allows you to download one of the browsers that Google is promoting.  Google are even going as far to claim that Firefox and Chrome offer browsing that gives the user twice as fast surfing.

The stunt has been classed as an effort to save the ailing web browser that has performed somewhat below par compared to other browsers.  Chrome has been fairly unsuccessful since its launch and currently holds a pitiful 1 per cent share in the browser market.  Chrome recently jumped out of its Beta shell in early December, although critics slammed Google for bringing the software out of Beta prematurely.

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer last month held the majority of the web browsing market as 69 per cent of web users were happily surfing using Internet Explorer (mainly IE7).  It is quite understandable why Google is a little bit jealous.

Mozilla are holding on to 16 per cent of the browser market, however that seems to be enough for the company as they are turning quite a tidy profit and Mozilla raked in $75 million in 2007.

The Mozilla Foundation’s chairman, Mitchell Baker, claimed in a recent interview with ZD Net that Mozilla is not shaking in their boots around Chrome and don’t particularly see them as a threat.

When asked if Mozilla sees Chrome as a threat to both their hold on the market and their revenue, Baker stated, “We’re careful, and we watch. But are we particularly worried? No. We expect Chrome to have some amount of market share, but we don’t expect it to balloon. Our market share continues to grow, and we expect it to be healthy. The relationship between Google and Mozilla is good, in a business sense, for both organizations.”

Meanwhile, Baker addressed the competition between Internet Explorer and Firefox, claiming that Internet Explorer holds a massive share of the browser market yet Baker doesn’t see Internet Explorer winning in the innovative awards section any time soon.

“It still does not remotely approach Firefox as a product, and we don’t expect IE to challenge Firefox supremacy as the technical innovator in the near-term time frame. We do hope to see IE standards compliance and its modern features improved. The single biggest problem now in moving the Web forward is having to deal with people using back versions of IE,” claimed Baker.

Google employees decide what Google users see

Just when you thought it was safe to search in the Google fountain of websites, Google announces that they allow their employees to decide what they want to feature in the page’s search results.

This comes as quite interesting news as the company, not so long ago, outright claimed that the search engine relied on a computer algorithm to make such decisions.  Google came out and said, plain and simply, the Google algorithm “relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value.”

However, in the wake of the news that Google is in control of the search results, there has been quiet uproar as users of the site are starting to feel cheated.

Google have also featured in the headlines recently due to their connection with the possibility of cataloguing the United States’ Government websites in the future.

Eric Schmidt, Google chief executive, said, “The vast majority of information is still not searchable or findable either because it’s not published or it’s on Web sites which the government has put up which no one can index.”

Users of the Internet are arguing that there is still a huge array of information out there that is unavailable to them.  Both Microsoft and Yahoo agree that the public would benefit having the public information accessible through their sites.

Google’s manager of public-sector content partnerships, J.L. Needham, says, “Unfortunately, too much of the public information provided on government Web sites just doesn’t show up when the average American does a Google search.  As a result, information that is intended for the public’s use is effectively invisible.”

Needham went on to claim that the company’s interest in the new access was nothing to do with money, but to do with customer satisfaction, saying, “We don’t care because there is monetization value.  It’s because if we fail to answer a question, then our users are disappointed with us, not their government.”

However, many are turning against Google in this debate, such as Danny Sullivan, editor in chief of SearchEngineLand.com.  Sullivan claimed that, “The more information is available, the more people are likely to use Google.  It does help Google in the end.”

It is understandable why smaller search engine sites such as Sullivan’s do not want to see Google with such a wealth of knowledge at their binary finger tips as sites such as searchengineland will inevitable struggle in the wake of such an act.  More people will shy away from the smaller engines, knowing that they can get what they want and much more from the larger engines like Google.

The National Archives have claimed that they will probably be seeing their complete database on Google by January, however, the main problem Google faces is that they must wait for such Governmental organisations to make each of their pages into proper websites in order for them to then be catalogued, and that process takes a certain amount of time and a large amount of money.

Chrome is Beta no more – it’s only been 100 days…

Google have brought their browser, Chrome, out of Beta status.  But wait a minute, the browser was only launched 100 days ago…doesn’t that seem a little fast to be pulling the software out of Beta labelling?

Take a look at Gmail.  That is still a Beta project and it’s been with us for four years.  Picasa, the photo editing software, another Google endeavour, only got rid of its Beta label close to four years after the company purchased it.  It’s pretty clear that Google likes to take their time over their software testing to make sure everything is perfect.

So what has happened with Chrome?  Google is so hell-bent on testing their products to the max, yet Chrome has only been on public release for three months.  Google claim that they are “excited” about removing the Beta tag from Chrome.

But why?  The company are claiming that the time is right, although there is still more that can be done, saying, “We have removed the beta label as our goals for stability and performance have been met but our work is far from done.”

But, if it is not finished yet, then it still doesn’t make any sense to release the software from its Beta ties.  The company went on to claim that the Chrome browser was going to feature more utilities along the way, saying, “We are working to add some common browser features such as form autofill and RSS support in the near future. We are also developing an extensions platform along with support for Mac and Linux.”

Maybe the pressure has gotten too much for them over at Google.  With the success of Firefox and Internet Explorer, Chrome is still trying to win over browser users worldwide.  However, they claim that 10 million users have downloaded the software and are actively using it.

Critics are also slamming Google for lifting the Beta tag in an attempt to boost market shares.  According to Net Applications, the Chrome browser holds a mere 0.83 per cent of the browser market as of November, and it is not hard to believe when the competition is so fierce among browsers.  And not many people are eager to switch browsers when they are so comfortable with the ones they currently use.

However, Google are sure that by removing the Beta tag, more companies will be interested in installing the software on their computers and Google are even planning on paying PC makers to install the Chrome browser onto the computers before being shipped out.

Google are still, however, claiming that the browser is ready to be of non-Beta stature as they claim that the performance has significantly been improved since its launch three months ago.  The company claimed that, “since the first beta, the V8 JavaScript engine runs 1.4 times faster on the SunSpider benchmark and 1.5 times faster on the V8 benchmark – and there is more speed to come.”

Google has released a huge amount of updates for the browser – 14 in total.

Google Under Fire from Privacy Experts

A highly influential group of European privacy experts said last week that it will lead hearings with Google over claims that EU data protection laws do not apply to the search giant.

The independent EU advisory body on data protection and privacy, the Article 29 Working Party, said that Google is refusing to submit to Europe’s data protection regime and that “strong disagreements” remain.

The A29WP said in a statement that Google “considers that the European law on data protection is not applicable to itself, even though Google has servers and establishments in Europe.” It adds that Google “wishes to retain personal data of users beyond the six months period requested by the Article 29 Working Party, without any justification.”

The dispute is over the records of users search queries. Google keeps records of searches to use to improve the quality of search results, to fight against fraud and to improve data security.

The A29WP has called for this data to be deleted after six months. In a report published earlier this year, the Party said that companies keeping data for longer risked breaching data protection laws.

“If personal data are stored, the retention period should be no longer than necessary for the specific purposes of the processing,” said the Working Party’s April report.

“In view of the initial explanations given by search engine providers on the possible purposes for collecting personal data, the Working Party does not see a basis for a retention period beyond six months.”

The report also recommends that web users must be able to provide consent to the exploitation of their data, with particular reference to profiling purposes.

Google listened to the recommendations and on the 8th of September confirmed that it would reduce its retention period from 18 to nine months.

However, the Article 29 Working Party says that is not enough: “Google refuses for the moment to submit to the European data protection law.”

A29WP chairman, Alex Turk criticised Google for failing to improve its anonymisation mechanisms, which he labelled as “insufficient”. He said that Google considers that IP addresses are confidential data but not personal data, “which prevents granting certain rights to its users”.

Turk also accused Google of failing to “express the willingness to improve and clarify the methods that are used to gather the consent of its users.”

Google’s Peter Fleischer, from the company’s global privacy counsel, said that the company was committed to engaging in a constructive dialogue with the A29WP and other leading privacy stakeholders around the world.

Google also backtracked from one of its key arguments. Fleischer had previously claimed tat the EU’s Data Retention Directive forced it to keep the details for between six and 24 months. The Party said this was not the case because data retention laws only applied to telecoms companies.

“We agree with the Working Party that search logs are outside of the scope of the Data Retention Directive,” said Fleischer in Google’s response document.

In July Google caved in to pressure from privacy activists when it agreed to publish a direct link to its privacy policy from its front page after calls from regulators to do so.

The Working Party was happier with that, but still wants more. “In conclusion, despite some progress, significant work must still be carried out to guarantee the rights of internet users and to ensure the respect of their privacy,” they said. “In this perspective, the Article 29 Working Party will lead hearings with Google to discuss the points of dissension.”

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Is your filing cabinet is bursting at the seams?Google’s here to help

If you happen to run a massive business that needs to store millions of documents, then the version 5 of Google Search Appliance is the answer. Five times faster than its predecessor and three times the capacity, this bright yellow server remarkably remains the same size as before, and offers a bunch of new features for end users.

Obviously the main challenge for the designers was to jump up from the previous models storage capacity of 3 million documents to ten million without changing the dimensions of the device.

“A typical enterprise search deployment would require dozens of servers if you have a scale of 10 million documents – with multiple back-end databases, Web servers, content servers, and all that stuff,” Google Enterprise Project Manager Nitin Mangtani said.

“We have done some really core architectural changes to simplify the entire search … so the administrators and IT departments just need to manage one server to scale the 10 million documents,” he explained.

To achieve this, both the hardware and software were given a serious overhaul. Google?s engineers tweaked the crawling system to improve speed and installed an improved central processing unit and more memory. Google has essentially built a “brand new hardware and software platform,” Mangtani said

Although the speed and memory were improved, Google?s main focus was to improve the Search Appliance?s ? powered as before by Dell – features that make it easier to use.

One of the major changes is improved search for different types of content, including enterprise systems such as Microsoft Sharepoint, IBM File net, and OpenText LiveLink. Another improved feature is the ability to ad different user groups to define individual search parameters for specific sub-sets.

Other new features include the option for e-mail alerts of specific topics or documents, advanced search analytics, and improved encryption. The Search Appliance also supports Kerberos, as well as UK spelling, as well as international support for Portuguese, Turkish and Vietnamese.

“The idea of the hardware is really simplicity,” Mangtani commented. “You plug and play and you’re up and running.”

Google already says that they have 20,000 Search Application clients includeing Adobe, and NASA.

“[With] any organization or business entity which has a lot of digital content … the main problem for them is they have done some massive investments in content depositories and tools all for the digital content. But all that investment is not fruitful until you can find the right document you are looking for,” Mangtani pointed out.

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-It, commented on the need for Google?s Search Application: “The effective search is obviously critical in the world of the Internet. There’s really astounding growth in the sheer amount of information and documents that companies are storing and attempting to manage successfully,” he said.

“The more than tripling of capacity on the new appliance … isn’t simply a matter of bigger, better or best. It’s really, I think, a response to a very serious issue that more and more companies are facing – and that’s how to efficiently work with and effectively leverage the information that they continue to collect and store,” he noted.

Google?s Search Appliance doesn?t come cheap though. The entry-level model comes in at a bank breaking US$30,000. But if you have a need for a lot more capacity, Google can custom build you one that will handle up to 30 million documents ? but if you have to ask the price?you cant afford it.