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

Google's Omega may some day prioritize you

Subject: General Tech | November 5, 2013 - 09:55 AM |
Tagged: google, borg, omega, emergent

An interesting story over at The Register talks about Google's new Omega cluster management software which will replace the current Borg software in the near future.  The topic is one that many are likely familiar with from Science Fiction and biology; emergent behaviour in complex systems.  It seems that 10,000 servers Omega controls are displaying even more than Borg did, with opportunistic usage of resources for tasks based on priority, run time and the processing power required to complete the tasks.  This behaviour was not specifically programmed, it has come about thanks to some overarching rules which has lead to unexpected benefits.  There are links to Google papers in the article if you wish to dig deeper into this topic.

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""Emergent" behaviors have been appearing in prototypes of Google's Omega cluster management and application scheduling technology since its inception, and similar behaviors are regularly glimpsed in its "Borg" predecessor, sources familiar with the matter confirmed to The Register."

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Source: The Register

IDF 2013: Intel and Google Announce New Haswell-Powered Chromebooks

Subject: Mobile | September 13, 2013 - 03:32 PM |
Tagged: Intel, haswell, google, Chromebook

At IDF this week Intel and Google announced new Chromebooks running Google's cloud friendly operating system. The new machines will be built by a number of PC laptop manufacturers and will be available later this year.

Notably, the new Chromebooks will feature Intel Haswell processors, which Google claims will result in increased performance along with up to 2-times the battery life of previous generation Chromebooks. In fact, several manufacturers are rating the battery life between 8 and 9.5 hours, which would be quite the feat if the number hold up to actual usage!

New Haswell-Powered Google Chromebooks.png

Acer, HP, and Toshiba will be releasing updated Chromebooks with Haswell CPUs and new laptop designs "over the coming months" for as-yet-unannounced prices. ASUS is also joining the Chromebook fray with a mini desktop PC running Chrome OS and requiring a monitor or TV for video output. Specifically, Acer will be putting out an 11.6" laptop that is 0.75" thick and weighs 2.76 pounds. HP is offering a larger display and more battery lfie with its 14" Chromebook measuing 0.81" thick and 4.08 pounds. You trade a bit of portability, but you get a larger display, keyboard, and battery. Toshiba will be unveiling a laptop form factor Chromebook as well, but specs on that particular system have not been revealed yet. As mentioned above, pricing has not been released, but expect the systems to be under $300.

Interestingly, Google claims that six of the leading PC laptop manufacturers are now offering their own spin on Google's Chromebook. Further, the Chromebooks account for around 20-percent of the sub-$300 PC market, according to Google. It seems that Chromebooks are slowly gaining traction though it remains to be seen if they will continue to be successful as Windows and Android budget ultraportable competition heats up and consumers become wary of "the cloud" and Internet applications in light of the various leaks concerning the NSA spying programs. (As Darren Kitchen of Hak5 would say, "encrypt all the things!")

Will you be picking up a Haswell-powered Chromebook?

Source: Google