What could go wrong? Rooting Google's Nest

Subject: General Tech | June 25, 2014 - 10:07 AM |
Tagged: google, nest

If you have been holding off on purchasing Google's Nest thermostat because you didn't like the app that controls it or just were not overly interested in a thermostat that trys to learn your schedule; would you be more interested if you could root it?  All it takes is physical access to the thermostat and a minute with it plugged into a USB port on a computer.  Not only will this give you complete control over the hardware inside, you can also install an SSH server with a reverse SSH connection to bypass firewalls.  It will be interesting to see how these rooted Nest's can interact with other pieces of hardware released by Google with the "Works with Nest" branding.  Check out how to do this for yourself at Hack a Day.

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"A few months ago, Google bought a $3.2 billion dollar thermostat in the hopes it would pave the way for smart devices in every home. The Nest thermostat itself is actually pretty cool – it’s running Linux with a reasonably capable CPU, and adds WiFi to the mix for some potentially cool applications. It can also be rooted in under a minute."

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Source: Hack a Day

Docker is headed for the big time

Subject: General Tech | June 11, 2014 - 09:33 AM |
Tagged: google, virtualization, linux, container, Linux Containerization, docker, Red Hat, ubuntu

Docker has put the libcontainer execution engine of their Linux Containerization onto Github, making it much easier to adopt their alternative virtualization technology and modify it for specific usage scenarios.  So far Google, Red Hat and Parallels have started adding their own improvements to the Go based libcontainer; adding to the Ubuntu dev team already at work. This collaboration should help containerization become a viable alternative to virtual machines and hopefully be included as a feature in future Linux distros.  Read more over at The Register.

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"Docker has spun off a key open source component of its Linux Containerization tech, making it possible for Google, Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Parallels to collaborate on its development and make Linux Containerization the successor to traditional hypervisor-based virtualization."

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Source: The Register

Google's Project Tango Announced, Uses NVIDIA Tegra K1

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 5, 2014 - 11:51 AM |
Tagged: tegra k1, tegra, project tango, nvidia, google, Android

Today, Google announced their "Project Tango" developer kit for tablets with spatial awareness. With a price tag of $1,024 USD, it is definitely aimed at developers. In fact, the form to be notified about the development kit has a required check box that is labeled, "I am a developer". Slightly above the form is another statement, "These development kits are not a consumer device and will be available in limited quantities".

So yes, you can only buy these if you are a developer.

The technology is the unique part. Project Tango is aimed at developers to make apps which understand the 3D world around the tablet. Two examples categories they have already experimented with are robotics and computer vision. Of course, this could also translate to alternate reality games and mapping.

While Google has not been too friendly with OpenCL in its Android platform, it makes sense that they would choose a flexible GPU with a wide (and deep) range of API support. While other SoCs are probably capable enough, the Kepler architecture in the Tegra K1 is about as feature-complete as you can get in a mobile chip, because it is basically a desktop chip.

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Google's Project Tango is available to developers, exclusively, for $1,024 and ships later this month.

Also, that price is clearly a pun.

Source: Google

Google's containerific alternative to virtualization

Subject: General Tech | May 26, 2014 - 12:48 PM |
Tagged: google, virtualization, linux, container, Linux Containerization

Google creates two billion Linux containers a week which astute readers will realize implies that they can be created much more quickly than a VM.  That is indeed the case, these Linux containers are very similar to Solaris Zones, BSD Jails and other similar ways of sharing parts of an OS across multiple isolated applications as opposed to VMs in which each machine has it's own OS.  Even with prebuilt images it is orders of magnitude slower to create a VM than to simply create a new container.  With the involvement of a startup called Docker, Google has really changed how they handle their systems; read about the impacts at The Register.

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"That tech is called Linux Containerization, and is the latest in a long line of innovations meant to make it easier to package up applications and sling them around data centers. It's not a new approach – see Solaris Zones, BSD Jails, Parallels, and so on – but Google has managed to popularize it enough that a small cottage industry is forming around it."

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Source: The Register

Apple and Google-Motorola Stop Suing Each Other

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 17, 2014 - 01:07 AM |
Tagged: Lawsuit, google, apple

If we all could just get along and get back to work...

On Friday, May 16th, Apple and Google (including the remains of its Motorola Mobility division) released a joint statement marking the end of all patent litigation between the two companies. The two companies have been in legal warfare for three-and-a-half years, now. The two companies will also "work together in some areas of patent reform". It is unclear what that actually means.

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This decision does not seem to affect Apple's ongoing litigation with Samsung. Those two companies are still in a famous and fierce skirmish over mankind's greatest UX innovations, like slide-to-unlock and the little bounce that happens when you scroll to the end of a list too fast. Those are, honestly, the issues that we are facing. I have a suggestion for an area to reform...

... but that has been beaten to death for years, now. It, at least, shows a willingness to cooperate going forward. It also shows a slight bit more promise for products like Ubuntu on phones, Firefox OS, and even smaller initiatives. You can say what you like about the current litigation, but closing the road for independent developers with great and innovative ideas is terrible and bad for society. Unique smartphones could be made, each with slide-to-unlock, just like unique OSes can use icons and web browsers can use tabs.

Source: Reuters

Google has an offer you might not refuse

Subject: General Tech | April 9, 2014 - 10:56 AM |
Tagged: google, winxp, Chromebook

Google has an offer for businesses that it hopes will be attractive enough to get them to abandon Windows complete instead of upgrading from WinXP to a new version of a Microsoft OS.  They are offering businesses $100 off any managed Chromebook or other ChromeOS device and $200 if it will be running VMWare Desktop as a Service.  For those who have to go through major upgrades and software re-writes this might be a reasonable alternative since these companies are less than pleased at the EOL of WinXP and now have an opportunity to try or at least test an alternative OS.  It is unlikely that Windows will go the way of "tamagotchis and parachute pants" Google's Amit Singh is quoted as saying by The Inquirer but the demise of WinXP offers a unique opportunity for change to many businesses which has previously been economically unfeasable.

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"GOOGLE HAS BEEN QUICK to jump on the demise of Windows XP, and is looking to persuade businesses still running the operating system to buy Google Chromebooks instead."

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Source: The Inquirer

Google & VMware Partner for Windows Apps in Chrome OS

Subject: General Tech, Systems | February 13, 2014 - 07:18 PM |
Tagged: Chromebook, google, vmware

Google has just announced a partnership with VMware for "cloud access" to virtualized Windows desktops through Chrome OS. The Verge takes the narrative that Google is looking to hurt Microsoft via their enterprise market. Honestly, I think it just makes sense as a business.

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As time passes, the list of tasks which require native applications is diminishing. Legacy applications, which cannot be reprogrammed for copyright or development reasons, are still on a leash to their intended platform, however. Google knows that their customers want access to those programs and utilities. Virtualization is one of the easiest ways, especially since it is already happening.

Some will prefer native apps on a dedicated machine (and that is okay).

Google also notes that Windows XP is nearing its end of life. They claim that Chromebooks and virtualized Windows instances nullifies security vulnerabilities and compatibility woes. Of course, you are never perfectly secure but at least Google puts their money where their mouth is.

VMware Horizon View 5.3 is currently available "as an on-premise service".

Source: Google

You Got Something? Lenovo's Buying. Google Sells Motorola.

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 1, 2014 - 06:01 AM |
Tagged: motorola, Lenovo, google

Lenovo has a few billion dollars to throw around, apparently. The company, typically known for consumer and enterprise PCs, just finished buying more food off of IBM's plate with the acquisition of their x86 server and mainframe business. That business was not as profitable for IBM compared to their rest of their portfolio. $2.3 billion, mostly in cash, was the better choice for them (albeit a reluctant one).

Another $2.9 billion yields them a lean subset of Motorola.

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Not Google, either.

Lenovo has been wanting a bigger share of the phone and tablet market. Unlike when Google purchased Motorola, Lenovo was not as concerned with owning the patent portfolio. $2.9 billion is a small fraction of $12.5 billion sum that Google valued Motorola at, but Lenovo only wanted about a tenth of the patents. That said, a tenth of the patents is still a couple thousand of them.

For the longest time, I have been thinking that Google was going the wrong route with Motorola. It seemed like any attempt to use the company as a cellphone manufacturer would either bleed money in failure or aggravate your biggest partners. I figured it would be best for Google to pivot Motorola into a research company which would create technologies to license to handset developers. This could be a significant stream of revenue and a love letter to their OEMs while retaining the patents they desired.

I did not think to spin off or sell the rest.

Ironically, that is very close to what we have today. Google, eventually, got rid of the cellphone division except for their licensed "Nexus" trademark. Google kept their patents and they kept the Motorola research team ("Motorola Advanced Technology and Patents Group").

It does not quite line up with my expectation, however; at least not yet. The Motorola research team would need to produce technology to license to partners and maybe other handset manufacturers; also, the time they spent with their toe in handset development bathwater could have already harmed their relationships, irreparably.

As for Lenovo, it seems like a clear win for the company. Motorola still has significant brand power and an open dialog with carriers worldwide at a cost of just a few billion. I do have questions how Lenovo will integrate the brand into their portfolio. Specifically, which company's name will be on each product? I expect it would have to be "Lenovo" but I also believe they have to put the Motorola trademark somewhere, right?

Anyway, who do you predict Lenovo to purchase next? Has the insanity ended?

Source: The Verge

Chrome might be less polite than you think

Subject: General Tech | January 24, 2014 - 10:37 AM |
Tagged: google, chrome, snooping, mic

If you have never heard the phrase "Those who eavesdrop hear nothing good about themselves" you are in good company as Google Chrome has not either.  A developer by the name of Tal Ater has discovered that Chrome can enable your microphone when you view certain malicious websites without your knowledge.  According to Google's online documentation, when Chrome enables your microphone you should see both a blinking red light appear in the tab you are viewing and a persistent icon in the system tray.  Unfortunately when The Register saw a test, the site created a pop-under window which displayed the red light and was not visible until the other browsing session was closed or moved, nor was there a system tray icon.  Even more worrying, the initial specification called for recording to be disabled when the tab with access to the mic was not active but was never implemented.

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"A design flaw in the Chrome browser allows malicious websites to use your computer's microphone to eavesdrop on you, one developer has claimed, although Google denies this is the case."

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Source: The Register

Google to Develop CPUs (For Themselves)?

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 15, 2013 - 01:27 AM |
Tagged: Intel, google, arm

Amazon, Facebook, and Google are three members of a fairly exclusive club. These three companies order custom server processors from Intel (and other companies). Jason Waxman of Intel was quoted by Wired, "Sometimes OEMs and end customers ask us to put a feature into the silicon and it sort of depends upon how big a deal it is and whether it has to be invisible or proprietary to a customer. We're always happy to, if we can find a way to get it into the silicon".

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Now, it would seem, that Google is interested in developing their own server processors based on architecture licensed from ARM. This could be a big deal for Intel as Bloomberg believes Google accounts for a whole 4.3% of the chip giant's revenue.

Ouch.

Of course this probably does not mean Google will spring up a fabrication lab somewhere. That would just be nutty. It is still unclear whether they will cut in ARM design houses, such as AMD or Qualcomm, or whether they will take ARM's design and run straight to TSMC, GlobalFoundries, or IBM with it.

I am sure there would be many takers for some sizable fraction of 4.3% of Intel's revenue.

Source: Bloomberg