- Ten Rules of the Internet (Anil Dash) — they’re all candidates for becoming “Dash’s Law”. I like this one the most: When a company or industry is facing changes to its business due to technology, it will argue against the need for change based on the moral importance of its work, rather than trying to understand the social underpinnings.
- Data Storage by Vertical (Quartz) — The US alone is home to 898 exabytes (1 EB = 1 billion gigabytes)—nearly a third of the global total. By contrast, Western Europe has 19% and China has 13%. Legally, much of that data itself is property of the consumers or companies who generate it, and licensed to companies that are responsible for it. And in the US—a digital universe of 898 exabytes (1 EB = 1 billion gigabytes)—companies have some kind of liability or responsibility for 77% of all that data.
- x-OSC — a wireless I/O board that provides just about any software with access to 32 high-performance analogue/digital channels via OSC messages over WiFi. There is no user programmable firmware and no software or drivers to install making x-OSC immediately compatible with any WiFi-enabled platform. All internal settings can be adjusted using any web browser.
- Google Experimenting with Encrypting Google Drive (CNet) — If that’s the case, a government agency serving a search warrant or subpoena on Google would be unable to obtain the unencrypted plain text of customer files. But the government might be able to convince a judge to grant a wiretap order, forcing Google to intercept and divulge the user’s login information the next time the user types it in. Advertising depends on the service provider being able to read your data. Either your Drive’s contents aren’t valuable to Google advertising, or it won’t be a host-resistant encryption process.
ENTRIES TAGGED "Google"
The App Store model has increased the uncertainty of the software release process
The recent unavailability of the Apple Developer’s Portal just underscores how increasingly dependent developers have become on third parties during the software lifecycle. For those who are not following the fun and games, the developer.apple.com sites, which include much of the functionality needed to develop Mac and iOS applications, has been unavailable for more than a week as of this writing. Although iTunes Connect, the portal used to actually deploy apps to the App Stores, has remained available, the remainder of the site territory has been off-limits. This is all thanks to a security intrusion (evidently by an over-zealous researcher.)
The App Store model has fundamentally changed how software is distributed, mostly for the better (IMHO), but it has also removed some of the control of the release process from the hands of the developers and companies they work for. As I have spelled out previously in my book on iOS enterprise development, the fact that Apple has the final say on if and when software goes into the store has required more conservative release timelines. If you want to release on the first of September, you need to count back at least two weeks for “gold master”, because you need to upload the app, potentially go through a round of rejection from Apple, and then upload a fixed version.
Android apps don’t suffer from this lag, because most of the Android stores don’t do any significant checking of the applications uploaded to them. The Devil’s Deal that Apple developers have made with Apple is that in return for the longer wait time to get apps in the store (and having to follow Apple’s rules), they get a de facto seal of approval from Apple. In other words, it is assumed that apps in the iTunes store are more stringently policed and less likely to crash or do harm (deliberately or else-wise.)
The current downtime has brought that deal into question, however. Suddenly, developers who need new provisioning certificates, passbook certificates, or push notification certificates find themselves with nowhere to go. Even if iTunes Connect is available, it doesn’t do you any good if you can’t get a distribution certificate to sign your app for the store. I’m sure that there are developers at this moment who have had their finely tuned release strategies thrown into disarray by the in-availability of the developer portal.
Being essentially at the mercy of Apple’s whims (or Google’s, for that matter) can’t be a pleasant sensation for a company or individual trying to get a new piece of software out the door. The question that the developer community will have to answer is if the benefits of the App Store model make it worth the hassles, in the long run.
Rules of the Internet, Bigness of the Data, Wifi ADCs, and Google Flirts with Client-Side Encryption
Microvideos for MIcrohelp, Organic Search, Probabilistic Programming, and Cluster Management
- How to Make Help Microvideos For Your Site (Alex Holovaty) — Instead of one monolithic video, we decided to make dozens of tiny, five-second videos separately demonstrating features.
- How Google is Killing Organic Search — 13% of the real estate is organic results in a search for “auto mechanic”, 7% for “italian restaurant”, 0% if searching on an iPhone where organic results are four page scrolls away. SEO Book did an extensive analysis of just how important the top left of the page, previously occupied by organic results actually is to visitors. That portion of the page is now all Google. (via Alex Dong)
- Church — probabilistic programming language from MIT, with tutorials. (via Edd Dumbill)
- mesos — a cluster manager that provides efficient resource isolation and sharing across distributed applications, or frameworks. It can run Hadoop, MPI, Hypertable, Spark (a new framework for low-latency interactive and iterative jobs), and other applications. Mesos is open source in the Apache Incubator. (via Ben Lorica)
OSCON 2013 Speaker Series
Note: Amy Unruh, Google Cloud Platform Developer Relations, is just one of the many fantastic speakers we have at OSCON this year. If you are interested in attending to check out Amy’s talk or the many other cool sessions, click over to the OSCON website where you can use the discount code OS13PROG to get 20% off your registration fee.
At this year’s Google I/O, we launched the PHP runtime for Google App Engine, part of the Google Cloud Platform. App Engine is a service that lets you build web apps using the same scalable infrastructure that powers many of Google’s own applications. With App Engine, there are no servers to maintain; you just upload your application, and it’s ready to go.
App Engine’s services support and simplify many aspects of app development. One of those services is Task Queues, which lets you easily add asynchronous background processing to your PHP app, and allows you to simultaneously make your applications more responsive, more reliable, and more scalable.
The App Engine Task Queue service allows your application to define tasks, add them to a queue, and then use the queue to process them asynchronously, in the background. App Engine automatically scales processing capacity to match your queue configuration and processing volume. You define a Task by specifying the application-specific URL of a handler for the task, along with (optionally) parameters or a payload for the task, and other settings, then add it to a Task Queue.
Thread Problems, Better Image Search, Open Standards, and GitHub Maps
- Multithreading is Hard — The compiler and the processor both conspire to defeat your threads by moving your code around! Be warned and wary! You will have to do battle with both. Sample code and explanation of WTF the eieio barrier is (hint: nothing to do with Old McDonald’s server farm). (via Erik Michaels-Ober)
- Improving Photo Search (Google Research) — volume of training images, number of CPU cores, and Freebase entities. (via Alex Dong)
- Is Google Dumping Open Standards for Open Wallets? (Matt Asay) — it’s easier to ship than standardise, to innovate than integrate, but the ux of a citizen in the real world is pants. Like blog posts? Log into Facebook to read your friends! (or Google+) Chat is great, but you’d better have one client per corporation your friends hang out on. Nobody woke up this morning asking for features to make web pages only work on one browser. The user experience of isolationism is ugly.
- GitHub Renders GeoJSON — Under the hood we use Leaflet.js to render the geoJSON data, and overlay it on a custom version of MapBox’s street view baselayer — simplified so that your data can really shine. Best of all, the base map uses OpenStreetMap data, so if you find an area to improve, edit away.
Could technology be bringing people closer together?
I had quite an experience at Maker Faire this weekend. So instead of a follow up on Google I/O today I’m going talk about how wearables, specifically Google Glass, seem to be bringing people closer together rather than farther apart. So, more on Google I/O later in the week.
A Tale of Two Events
I first broke out my Google Glass at Google I/O where Glass Explorers and Googlers filled the Moscone West sporting the device. Glass Explorers are those that pre-ordered the I/O last year and winners of the #IfIHadGlass contest. The mood towards Glass at I/O was, generally, split into the have’s and have not’s. Those with them proudly showed them off while others fell into the following camps: carefully measured excitement, cool intrigue, and those who were over it. I think for the most part the subdued reaction was a reflection of attendees wanting to be able to get into the action immediately. It was a shame that Glass wasn’t available for purchase to those at I/O this year.
In stark contrast to that reaction was the response I received from attendees of this past weekend’s Maker Faire. My first inkling of what was ahead were the whispers. I would hear excitedly, “Is that the Google Glass?” which made me smile. However, when I met up with my 11:30 a.m. appointment at his booth and started talking about and sharing the Glass with him and his colleagues a mob quickly formed. Frankly, I got scared for a moment as a mass of people forced inward towards me, and then thought what if someone just takes off with these? But, no one did. These mini-mobs happened to me twice, both times in the Electronics area (not surprisingly). The outcome of these Glass flash mobs, however, was quite simply lovely. Individuals were polite, asked me questions, wanted to take pictures of themselves with it and that was it. Throughout the day people would comment on them, stop me to talk, but it was always a pleasure with people smiling ear to ear when I had them play with the device.
What will wearables really mean to society?
The quick answer for now—who knows? I have to say I was a bit overwhelmed by all of this social engagement. I had anticipated some notice, but this? Now, granted, the attendees of a Maker Faire might skew towards being interested in new gadgets and devices but my experience was unexpected—and wonderful. I talked to more random, happy people at this event than I have in a long while. It has given me a new perspective on recent issues that have come up regarding the Glass, such as invasion of privacy and the idea that we are disconnecting with the world more and more via personal devices, when in fact I was finding just the opposite. Maybe in time everyone will have a Glass or have seen one and it won’t be a big deal. But for now, it is generating interaction and discussion about technology with young and old alike.
Oh, and here you can see what it is like to be attacked by a T-Rex from my POV via the Glass, scary stuff. Click here to see the T-Rex Attack.
This will be the first post in a series on my journey through the world with Glass.
Two views on new Google Maps; a look at predictive, intelligent apps; and Aaron Swartz's and Kevin Poulsen's anonymous inbox launches.
Google aims for a new level of map customization
Google introduced a new version of Google maps at Google I/O this week that learns from each use to customize itself to individual users, adapting based on user clicks and searches. A post on the Google blog outlines the updates, which include recommendations for places you might enjoy (based upon your map activity), ratings and reviews, integrated Google Earth, and tours generated from user photos, to name a few.
I just read a Forbes article about Glass, talking about the split between those who are “sure that it is the future of technology, and others who think society will push back against the technology.”
I don’t see this as a dichotomy (and, to be fair, I’m not sure that the author does either). I expect to see both, and I’d like to think a bit more about what these two apparently opposing sides mean.
Push back is inevitable. I hope there’s a significant push back, and that it has some results. Not because I’m a Glass naysayer, but because we, as technology users, are abused so often, and push back so weakly, that it’s not funny. Facebook does something outrageous; a few technorati whine; they add option 1023 to their current highly intertwined 1022 privacy options that have been designed so they can’t be understood or used effectively; and sooner or later, it all dies down. A hundred fifty users have left Facebook, and half a million more have joined. When Apple puts another brick in their walled garden, a few dozen users (myself included) bitch and moan, but does anyone leave? Personally, I’m tired of getting warnings whenever I install software that doesn’t come from the Apple Store (I’ve used the Store exactly twice), and I absolutely expect that a not-too-distant version of OS X won’t allow me to install software from “untrusted” sources, including software I’ve written. Will there be push back? Probably. Will it be effective? I don’t know; if things go as they are now, I doubt it.
There will be push back against Glass; and that’s a good thing. I think Google, of all the companies out there, is most likely to listen and respond positively. I say that partly because of efforts like the Data Liberation Front, and partly because Eric Schmidt has acknowledged that he finds many aspects of Glass creepy. But going beyond Glass: As a community of users, we need to empower ourselves to push back. We need to be able to push back effectively against Google, but more so against Apple, Facebook, and many other abusers of our data, rather than passively accept the latest intrusion as an inevitability. If Glass does nothing more than teach users that they can push back, and teach large corporations how to respond constructively, it will have accomplished much.
Is Glass the future? Yes; at least, something like Glass is part of the future. As a species, we’re not very good at putting our inventions back into the box. About three years ago, there was a big uptick in interest in augmented reality. You probably remember: Wikitude, Layar, and the rest. You installed those apps on your phone. They’re still there. You never use them (at least, I don’t). The problem with consumer-grade AR up until now has been that it was sort of awkward walking around looking at things through your phone’s screen. (Commercial AR–heads-up displays and the like–is a completely different ball game.) Glass is the first attempt at broadly useful platform for consumer AR; it’s a game changer.
Could Glass fail? Sure; I know more failed startups than I can count where the engineers did something really cool, and when they released it, the public said “what is that, and why do you think we’d want it?” Google certainly isn’t immune from that disease, which is endemic to an engineering-driven culture; just think back to Wave. I won’t deny that Google might shelve Glass if they consider unproductive, as they’ve shelved many popular applications. But I believe that Google is playing long-ball here, and thinking far beyond 2014 or 2015. In a conversation about Bitcoin last week, I said that I doubt it will be around in 20 years. But I’m certain we will have some kind of distributed digital currency, and that currency will probably look a lot like Bitcoin. Glass is the same. I have no doubt that something like Glass is part of our future. It’s a first, tentative, and very necessary step into a new generation of user interfaces, a new way of interacting with computing systems and integrating them into our world. We probably won’t wear devices around on our glasses; it may well be surgically implanted. But the future doesn’t happen if you only talk about hypothetical possibilities. Building the future requires concrete innovation, building inconvenient and “creepy” devices that nevertheless point to the next step. And it requires people pushing back against that innovation, to help developers figure out what they really need to build.
Glass will be part of our future, though probably not in its current form. And push back from users will play an essential role in defining the form it will eventually take.
Big data aids HR, DataKind heads to the U.K., and German regulators fine Google a "paltry" 145,000 euros.
Big data replaces gut instinct in HR management
In a post at the New York Times, Steve Lohr took a look this week at a new data discipline: work-force science. The field pairs big data with human resources to help remove subjectivity and gut instinct from the hiring process and HR management. Lohr notes that in the past, studies conducted to understand worker behavior included a few hundred test subjects at most. Today, they can include thousands of subjects and far more data points. Lohr writes:
“Today, every e-mail, instant message, phone call, line of written code and mouse-click leaves a digital signal. These patterns can now be inexpensively collected and mined for insights into how people work and communicate, potentially opening doors to more efficiency and innovation within companies. Digital technology also makes it possible to conduct and aggregate personality-based assessments, often using online quizzes or games, in far greater detail and numbers than ever before.”
Lohr looks at several companies applying data-driven decision making to HR management. Read more…
Wal-Mart and Google pursue speedy delivery. Elsewhere, more reasons for retailers to fear smartphones, and mobile may be eBay's best bet.
Wal-Mart wants to crowdsource delivery, while Google chases same-day
On the heels of launching its in-store delivery locker program to compete with Amazon Locker, Wal-Mart has announced it’s toying with the idea of having in-store customers deliver online orders to speed delivery times. Reporting on the news at Reuters, Alistair Barr and Jessica Wohl note that, in essence, Wal-Mart would be experimenting with the growing crowdsourcing trend that works well in so many other areas, so why not for Wal-Mart delivery? They write:
“A plethora of start-ups now help people make money by renting out a spare room, a car, or even a cocktail dress, and Wal-Mart would in effect be inviting people to rent out space in their vehicle and their willingness to deliver packages to others.”
Barr and Wohl mention a few of the “why nots” — numerous legal, regulatory and privacy obstacles — but report that Joel Anderson, chief executive of Walmart.com, believes it to be a viable plan. “This is at the brain-storming stage,” he says, “but it’s possible in a year or two.”
At Bloomberg’s Businessweek, Susan Berfield points to the bigger picture: “Even if the idea never moves past the hypothetical, the fact that Anderson is even talking about it signals how serious a threat Walmart considers Amazon.” Wired’s Laura Heller agrees, noting that though there are “far too many unattractive variables” for this program to become a reality, “it shows the retailer is thinking outside of the box when it comes to competing with its online competition, Amazon.”