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Salespeople are evil, even at Google

If you use a Google product or service to call someone instead of sending them some GMail, that conversation isn’t relevant to Google, at least not yet.

I can just picture the sales team at Google are sitting around thinking about how knowing their users, via analysis of email/search/etc.., drives their product, and how people using their services via video/audio are escaping that analysis.

And yet, doesn’t Google own the most sophisticated voice analysis system on the planet? Wouldn’t it be really easy to compress audio/video data, upload it to a Google server, and process it for relevance?
Let’s say you kept the NKOTB concert a complete secret because it’s your anniversary gift to your wife, and Google realizes you’re at the concert by the audio in the background of a phone call + your general location? If that means that Google now includes ‘Download NKOTB live at xyz concert’ adverts in your ad stream for a few days following, wouldn’t that be great?

Well those salespeople managed to convince someone at Google it’d be wise to at the very least patent such a method so that in the coming years they aren’t licensing it from their competition. Seems smart right?

Not with all the FUD – (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) that is lingering on-line, no sir, this is war with the tin-foil beanie brigade.

Even Google Trends shows us how trust is at an all time low:
trust
trust - Google Trends

I love the regional breakdown on that search…

First of all, patenting a technology doesn’t guarantee it will happen; How long have we had flying car patents and still nothing feasible?

Secondly, what are the odds Google is going to force nervous users to flee to competing products by snooping on conversations without consent?

And finally, in several key locations around the planet, it’s technically illegal to record someone without their consent. Since a cell phone could pick-up a background conversation, it would be legal suicide to try and implement ‘eavesdropping’ technology without a boatload of safeguards, warnings, and disclaimers.

Nerds are Still Cool However..

We’ll need to talk about this more ‘in depth’ at a later stage in it’s development, but Google’s Knowledge Graph is very exciting.

Have a look at the Knowledge Graph video released yesterday by Google:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmQl6VGvX-c

I’m sure Bing and competing search engines will just claim Google is evil and trying to keep you on their pages by giving you the answers you need instantly, but if that’s their idea of evil then slap on the horns and poke me with a trident. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 10:45 am on May 17, 2012


 

Finnish them! (Google Glasses and WiFi Liabillity)

WiFi Pirate Party

In a piracy case that’s been sitting around since 2010, a Finnish Court(*Ylivieskan käräjäoikeus) has officially sided with the defendant, stating that she is not liable for her open WiFi connection.

The details of this particular case were very unique in that the timing of the infringement, a 12-minute period of piracy, occurred shortly after the woman in question hosted a public play with an audience of over 100 people in her home, which used to be a school until she purchased it.

Since there’s clearly no way to prove the home owner committed the act of piracy the court moved on to deliberate if the woman could be liable for ‘copyright infringement’ simply for not applying password protection to her WiFi connection.

After some deliberation the court concluded that an owner of open WiFi cannot be held responsible for the acts of third parties. Had this not been the final decision the legal status of all other open WiFi units, and wireless devices in general would have suddenly become questionable.

Personally, when I consider the frightening implications of assigning blame to someone who is partially a victim in a crime is horrible.

Lets put this in another context:

How would you feel if someone used a sophisticated cordless phone to attach themselves to your mom’s old cordless base station, ran some credit card fraud with her phone line, and she went to jail/was fined because she didn’t have enough security on her cordless phone?

It’d be like charging someone with a robbery because the suspects eluded the police by driving through someone’s property. You can’t say someone’s guilty of a crime because they didn’t lock their driveway gate.

While these examples aren’t exactly the same thing, this case opens the door to all sorts of concerns where we can’t hold people accountable for unwittingly providing an avenue for crime.

Google Glass Design is Patented

Not only does this show some further commitment to ‘finishing’ the Google Glass project, it also gives us a ‘sneak peak’ at a bit more of the design of the hardware.

Google Glass - Patent Schematic

Patent Links:USPTO #1, USPTO #2, USPTO #3

 
In particular I found the ‘behind the ear’ data module really interesting and it answers a few questions I had about how expensive it would be to get the needed circuitry down to a compact enough scale to fit into this product design.

I’m guessing that the top area near the ‘eyebrow’ with the ‘hashing’ marks is touch sensitive, allowing you to trigger things like photo capture or toggle an option that you need to be triggered explicitly.

I don’t need to tell readers that I’m personally excited about wearing my cell phone ‘inside’ the glasses I already wear every day. People who worry about the weight clearly don’t know much about eye-wear and balance.

The only thing I can see in this design that worries me is that it might have a tendency to be ‘right side heavy’ and I’m sure they could resolve that by moving something like the battery over to the other side and wire it via the frame.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:09 pm on May 15, 2012


 

No Browser Bans on Windows 8 ARM Edition

We could have ‘spun’ the information that it’s very unlikely we’ll see competing browsers in ARM edition of Windows 8, explaining that the difficulties make it the same as a ‘ban’…

…But we respect the fact that all (3?) of our readers come here for the truth on these topics, and only dirty laundry needs a spin cycle.

Where else is FireFox ‘banned’?

ChromeOS ? Yep!

iOS ? Yessir!

So why would Firefox/Mozilla come out today and only complain there’s a ‘ban’ on Firefox for Windows 8 ARM Edition?

Well from what I can tell, they never did, and the ‘b-word’ was all ‘spin’ by a very annoying technology news site that keeps amazing us with bad headlines and horribly inaccurate publications.

The TRUTH is that it will be VERY hard for any company to get approval for a browser running in Windows 8 ARM Edition because it’s not just ‘another version’ of Windows, it’s a Mobile OS with very clear goals that make it unique.

First of all is memory handling and battery use. By now we should all understand that you can’t deploy programs coded for x86 operating systems and expect them to sip carefully on resources like batteries and memory without some major changes.

Since ARM is aimed at ‘portable’ we can also expect people to seek more privacy and security on these devices. Allowing any-old-app onto the OS won’t happen. You’ve had to have a certificate to publish your apps on Microsoft’s mobile operating systems since the very first days of Windows Mobile, and that will not change any time soon.

If Microsoft wants to protect the quality and end user experience of their mobile products, locking down risky third party software clearly is one of the best ways for them to do it.

This is in no way a ‘ban’ on applications, and Microsoft admits that they are willing to help developers reach a quality standard that will permit them to publish to this new mobile platform.

On the plus side, I was tossing out some rather negative feelings about Microsoft’s investments in technical news sites, and this latest fumble leaves me with some doubts as to who’s invested in whom. Either that or this oft mentioned news source is chock full of people who not only don’t know what’s going on but they don’t even know the hand that feeds them? Crazy.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:10 am on May 10, 2012


 

One Little Victory – for Online Privacy

Recently there have many claims by job seekers that they have been asked to provide their personal login credentials for their Facebook accounts. After much public outcry from potential employees and several complaints that were filed, it initially seemed that Facebook was threatening legal action to protect its 845 million users by either getting politicians to pass a law stopping this practice, or by suing employers outright who are shown to have asked persons to divulge their information.

freddie mercury victory

Facebook then decided not to pursue this course of action. Following this disappointing decision by Facebook, House Republicans also voted down a bill that would have prevented employers from doing asking for login credentials.

While some Maryland took steps to protect individuals from being asked for private, sensitive information, the ACLU seemed to be the only group willing to deem these practices as a blatant invasion of privacy. They even went so far as to produce a video called "Want a Job? Password, please!"

According to thehill.com, it seems now that a bill titled: "The Social Networking Online Protection Act" introduced by Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) would prohibit current or potential employers from demanding a username or password to a social networking account.

They bill was summarized with the following statment:

"We must draw the line somewhere and define what is private," Engel said in a statement. "No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers. They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world."

Ars adds, "The bill would apply the same prohibitions to colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. … Facebook has already threatened legal action against organizations who require employees to reveal their Facebook passwords as policy."

It would appear that many states are getting on board with the new laws to protect their citizens. Many feel that the bill will be successfully passed this time as it is a bill of its own and not an amendment to an existing bill that would have attempted to reform FCC procedures. Certainly we have not heard the end of this and if this bill fails, then a large public outcry will surely be inevitable. But if it passes it will certainly be more than One Little Victory!

(On a side note I have been looking for a way to incorporate a tune from Rush into my blog post for sometime…but I also get to mix Queen meme with Rush :-)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:30 am on May 2, 2012


 

Week One with Google Drive

Well Google Drive has been making a lot of headlines about ownership of files, depth of file privacy, virus scanning, archive support, etc.. etc..

One item I have not seen anyone mention is the installer/login system that Google Drive is using.

As an SEO who has to be able to test a multitude of browser versions, I’ve managed to work myself into a neat situation where each time IE is called upon to render something I get a warning message about the version I have installed.

The warning message is great because it lets me know when an application is cheating and using IE for displaying information vs. using default system calls built into windows. The most common application I see doing this is VMWare’s ESX console which has a very graphical summary of the virtual devices.

So imagine my amusement yesterday when installing Google Drive and seeing this:

Google Drive using IE
“O RLY?”

Ownership of Files

A certain technical news source (rhymes with SEENET) that’s famous for publishing outright false information, misleading articles, and brainless technical pieces, one-up’d itself yesterday by trying to scare people away from Google Drive by publishing a hard hitting new post about Google Drive an it’s terms of service.

Picard Face Palm

In order to make the story work however, they had to omit the first sentence of the section they were complaining about. Anything less wouldn’t make the post seem worth writing, much-less reading. After considerable hate from readers they actually had the nerve to ‘tack on’ the honest truth, at the very bottom of the post, instead of removing it entirely due to it being completely worthless.

The bottom line with Google and privacy is that NOBODY would use them if they abused your trust so you can rest assured that Google is doing everything they can to keep your files safe. The clauses in the TOS that state Google has rights to your files is clearly there so they can more accurately provide services that interest you.

If you take a lot of high resolution photos of animals, Google knows you work with animals. If you upload videos of cars on a race track, Google can guess you like race cars. Etc..

I’d much rather have my screen space wasted with info about the next WRC event than see a bunch of adverts for a local dog grooming outfit (I don’t hate animals, but I also don’t have pets).

File Privacy

Lots of folks are wondering how private the files are in a Google Drive.

The truth is that unless you’ve changed something from the defaults, every file uploaded is private to you. You can share files and folders with a few clicks, and there’s multiple options for how files are shared (read-only, contribute, full control), but it’s up to you to manually allow sharing.

One fellow even claimed that Google Drive was modifying the JPG files uploaded from his digital camera!?

I tested this on my own this morning with a 5.8MB .JPG @ 3968 x 2976 resolution. Yes, indeed, if I choose to view or preview the image Google isn’t going to waste my time viewing a 6MB .JPG, and instead it renders a much smaller preview to get the image on my screen quickly.

However if I choose to download the image I get the exact same file I uploaded with no changes whatsoever, EXIF data included!

Archive Support

So far I’ve had no problems with .RAR and .ZIP archives in Google Drive, and I have the option of opening the archives which means downloading individual files inside an archive is very easy. I’ve only tested Google Drive with Windows and Ubuntu so far, but as expected it’s making things very easy to share between the machines and the OSes.

.7z (7ZIP) support is not enabled yet, but at the moment the format isn’t very widely used so I doubt many users will mind the fact that you have to download the whole archive vs. opening it on-line. Obviously anti-virus scanning isn’t available on archives that aren’t supported.

Protected archives are also supported in that you can browse the unencrypted contents, but Google Drive doesn’t make any attempts to get passwords out of you, which should help with all the tin-foil-beanie types.

Limitations of Use

This one is yet to be determined. Google clearly won’t allow you to upload a 4.7GB DVD and then share it public with no limits, that would be amazingly poor insight from a company that takes great efforts to plan each move.

How much ‘sharing’ you can get away with seems to be an unanswered question at the moment, but given the lazy pirates around the globe I’m sure someone’s going to put this to the test immediately.

Another rumour floating around is that the largest single file you can store on Google Drive is 10GB. While that’s a MASSIVE file allowance for a single file, it still seems odd that such a cap would exist since you would have to be a paid user at that point. Since the cost of trying the commercial version is very low I’m going to give it a whirl and see what I find.

More to come!

Beanstalk Minecraft Map Contest!

I haven’t been flogging this very much, which is bad form given my profession, but we still have a glorious brand new Android tablet with Minecraft PE installed to give away!

How do you win this approx ~$300 prize? You play a video game, and you have fun creating a map that will be displayed and recognized by fellow gamers on our website. Yeah, life is rough eh?

Our initial contest winner of the $50 prize, Faragilus from the Ukraine, got his prize this week and we will be featuring his work with the rest of the winners at the end of the contest.

For more information please look at the original post here: Beanstalk Minecraft 1.2 Contest

PPS: I know this is a REALLY long post today but I had to toss in a Google Chrome video that really is neat. While Microsoft is spending time and money trying mock it’s competition, Google’s having fun with demonstrating it’s products and how they help people on-line connect in real life.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:06 pm on April 26, 2012


 

Bursting Personalization Filter Bubbles

filter bubble

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the Google filter bubbles. The premise is that due to personalization features becoming an important part of how we interact on the web as well as the content that is displayed to us. Links that we tend to click more readily given a higher priority in our search results, whereas those that don’t get click on fade into the ether. The inherent danger with this process is that we do not readily gain access to or are shown all the other websites that the internet has to offer.

The personalization of the modern web removes this diversification and creates a self-based bias (usually unbeknownst to the user), putting is in a narrow loop of information known as the "filter bubble."

MS patent

Microsoft’s Facebook partnership along with the Bing search engine has already allowed for the incorporation of the preferences of users friends into the returned search results. A new patent application from Microsoft describes a "user-following engine" that would not only analyze a users posts on Facebook, Twitter and other connected social networks to deduce a users mood, interests, education level and comprehension of specific topics. The new system would automatically adjust the users search experience and results based on this information to better align with these social signals.

Although the patent was filed in 2010, the details have just been made public. At this point there is no indication that Microsoft plans to move ahead with the patent, but if personalization results are where the net is taking us, I just hope that browsers will allow a user to disable the personalization filters with the click of a button. I think the biggest concern over personalization is where is it taking us? It seems to me that there is a fine line between an enhanced user experience and a decidedly Orwellian future.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:00 am on April 23, 2012


 

Google Drive is going nowhere but is still moving

I swear there’s Google staffers who are so devoted to the projects they are working on that they don’t know what the rest of the company is developing.
One hand does not know what the other is doing.
If I was working on self driving car technology I think that the last thing I’d do is call my on-line storage solution ‘Google Drive’, but that’s exactly what they are doing and it’s coming out next week.

For old-school nerds, this might seem boring. GMailFS came out years ago an it allowed GMail users to add a ‘GMail’ drive as a file system in your PC. Anything you drag over to the GMail drive would be uploaded to your GMail account as hidden email messages with attachments. Browsing the GMail drive on any internet connected PC would show you all your files and you could copy/delete/upload from any location. It was actually pretty handy.

Sadly GMail’s technical staff saw the potential nightmare that would arise if something changed with these ‘special hidden messages’ and quickly moved to block the GMailFS tool from working before it became too popular.

Everyone using GMailFS knew it was a hack, against the EULA for GMail, and so the move to block it wasn’t a big stink, more of a ‘bummer’ moment like when they realize they forgot to increase the price of your favourite soda in the school’s vending machine and then fix it.

Also, while Gmail offers almost 8GB of storage, using it for files could cause mail interruptions if you were to max it out trying to copy some files between machines. Plus all your mail eats up your storage, and in my case, that means only 3486MB of storage not 5GB.

While prices aren’t available, we know all Google storage limits are expandable for paid accounts. It would only make sense, given the processing needs of email, that Google Drive will allow you to add more space to your drive for less money than you’d pay for the same storage in GMail.

Speculation is that Google Drive will have desktop integration on Windows, Android, and Mac meaning it should be as easy to use as a USB drive yet you only need to pack around your username and password.

Other operating systems will obviously have web access to the drive, that’s a “no brainer“, so even obscure versions of Linux and potentially even appliances like WebTVs will have limited access to your shared files.

Why not sign up a few friends using a DropBox referral ID and get 15GB of free space? Well if you want to use your friend’s info like that, you either hate your friends or they are really understanding. Plus DropBox doesn’t have the best track record of privacy and security; in fact it seems like the hackers lay off DropBox just long enough for it to become a ripe target and then they hack it again.

Even without the historical issues surrounding the competition, this is going to be just like G+ vs. Facebook, Skype vs. Google Voice:

  • If you use GMail you already trust Google with your most private assets, using them for files is no extra risk.
  • Google is a hardware and software solutions provider. Anything they deliver will be more advanced than the competition.
  • Google has a much larger exposure base than the competition yet a much better track record on security and data integrity.

Personally, to me this is a no-brainer, and the only questions I have are how awesome the integration will be with other services?

  • If I upload a music folder with a playlist so I can put my music onto my car-pc, can I open the playlist and stream my tunes from Google Music on my work PC?
  • If someone emails me a file and I wanted to share it with my co-workers, will GMail let me save the file to a shared folder in Google Drive?
  • If I put a huge RAW image from my DSLR camera on my Google Drive, can I open it in Picasa and share a thumbnail on G+ without making 5 copies of the same picture?
  • If something crazy happens while I’m in a Google self-driving car, can I save the last 5 minutes of exterior video to my Google Drive and then later share the pertinent time-segment of that clip on YouTube without having to upload/download?

;)

SEO news blog post by @ 12:13 pm on April 17, 2012


 

April Hacktivists & Conspiracies

There seems to be a lot of stories involving hacking and privacy in the headlines, so I thought I would touch base on a few that are making news.

conspiracy theory

  • With the advent of smart meter installations over the last few years, an FBI cyber intelligence briefing reveals that has stated that a series of hacks perpetrated has cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The FBI reports that this is the first known official report of criminals compromising the high-tech meters and that they expect this type of fraud it increase and to spread across the country as more utilities implement smart grid technology.
  • The Utah Department of Health has reported that on March 30th, 2012, that 181, 604 Medicaid and CHIP recipients had their personal information stolen and that 25,096 had their SSNs compromised. The hackers that perpetrated the attack appear to be located in Eastern Europe. The hackers were able to obtain client names, addresses, birthdates, doctor’s names, tax information and other sensitive client data.
  • The well known hacktivist group Anonymous has hacked several U.K. government websites over what they claim to be "draconian surveillance proposals" and the "derogation of human rights." Several sites were brought down due to the attack including the Home Office, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Justice. The group is employing a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack with multiple targets. Rather than stealing data, the Anonymous group floods servers with more incoming connection than can be accommodated, causing the website and/or server to crash. Hacktivists can also leave a backdoor open to facilitate future attacks.

…and from the conspiracy room:

conspiracy theory

  • Broadcom has just released a new microchip called the Broadcom 4752 for smartphones that will allow for ultra-accurate location determination to within a few centimeters, both vertically and horizontally, indoors and out. The chip pulls data in from a variety of sources including global navigation satellites, cell towers and Wi-Fi hot spots and incorporate data from gyroscopes, accelerometers, step counters and altimeters. The developer hopes that this "ubiquitous navigation" will be used to target offer location based advertising for prospective customers who may be shopping or passing by.
  • The U.S. government recently posted a project asking for the "Development of Tools for Extracting Information from Video Game Systems." The U.S. Navy will be paying a company a six figure salary to hack into used video game consoles in an effort of extract sensitive information for both online and offline data. They state that will only be targeting consoles belonging to oversea nations since United States law dictates that they cannot perform these actions against any U.S. persons.

Surely we live in a unique time when technology in capable of enriching our lives in so many ways; but just like any technology it can be exploited and used against us (aka 1984 by George Orwell).

I think the lesson here is not to be so frightened of technology running amuck, but rather to be selective in where you release your personal information. Tragically, the only way to truly protect ourselves is to stay completely offline which is an ironic impossibility if the age we live in.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:34 am on April 11, 2012


 

Much ado about Nothing – HTTPS and Ion Cannons

Technology news was a real mixed bag this morning. Google’s official move to HTTPS forced searches was front page for the last few days, but is it news?

Chrome Plated Ion Cannon
I can’t mention Ion Cannons without including this pic. Sorry.

No. Not really. We mentioned the Google HTTPS move with a heap of sarcasm back in October 2011 when the HTTPS only work began. Back then it wasn’t very exciting news either, all it means is that services ‘spying’ on Google searches can no longer do that with such ease.

Technically it’s also paving the way for some innovation down the road but that’s a wait and see spin off from the move. In all honesty I’d rather spend 8 mins watching the team handle search quality issues and see what sorts of discussions go on behind the scenes:
[jwplayer mediaid="3559"]

How’s that for transparency?

Ion Cannons?

I’m shooting this news piece down but it’s not really that bad of a headline.

Twin Creeks Technologies has successfully built a particle accelerator so powerful (100mA at 1 MeV) that it can produce solar panel medium at 200 micrometer thickness at very low costs. Here’s an image of the ‘Hyperion Particle Accelerator’:
Hyperion Particle Accelerator

The result is an estimated cost of $0.40 per watt for domestically manufactured solar panels. This is currently almost half the price of solar panels which are built in Chinese factories and shipped across the ocean in diesel burning ships.

So I will grant this headline some reprieve, it’s far more interesting than Google’s announced HTTPs only for search queries, but is it just an attempt by solar panels to get back into the spotlight (oh man) after the recent news about heat-conversion LEDs? It certainly would be nice to have a cheap solar panel solution if we are able to abundantly produce light from free heat energy? :)

SEO news blog post by @ 11:06 am on March 13, 2012


 

Successful Google Hack-a-thon

For years now Chrome has been staring down it’s nose at the other browsers when it comes to security. In fact for the last 4 years, Chrome has been entered into HP’s Pwn2Own security competition, and nobody has successfully hacked it, unlike competing browsers.
Chrome finally hacked
This year Google’s Pwnium competition, which offers $1 million for successfully demonstrated exploits, has managed to finally uncover 2 vulnerabilities in the browser’s ‘sandbox’.

The successful hacker, Sergey Glazunov, has earned himself $60,000 for demonstrating his exploit, and a heap of recognition that will no doubt ensure Mr.Glazunov of a promising future in the IT industry.

Sergey’s exploits were patched in just under 24hrs, and now the browser is even more secure than it was previously. Obviously even at $60,000.00 this was a great win for both Google and it’s users. Finding/fixing exploits before they can be used in the wild makes me all warm and fuzzy.

This leaves $940,000.00 of unclaimed cash rewards to anyone else who can find a way to exploit Chrome’s many layers of security.

Happy Sun Spot Day!

Today is also a special day for technology around the planet as we are just getting hit by one of the largest solar flares in 5 years, part of a slightly early 11 year sun-cycle that last ended in 2002.

At the moment the flare activity is a diminished threat based on expectations, or in laymen’s terms it’s currently looking like a dud.

This could change at any moment however and tomorrow is expected to be the peak of flare activity coming from sun spot AR1429. This sun spot has been growing since March 2nd and at this point it’s 7 times the size of planet Earth. It is so large that amature observers are able to photograph the sun spot without a telescope. Here’s an image of sun spot AR1429 that David Tremblay of Alto, New Mexico, took earlier today during a dust storm:

Sun Spot AR1429

While there’s no immediate health risks associated with these flares, our technology isn’t immune to the interference, and sensitive transmissions, such as GPS and flight navigations systems could be compromised at any moment during this event. There is even some concerns about power failures and large outages in the power grid.

NASA as always is the best spot to nerd out and view the event, they even have a 2048×2048 resolution MP4 you can watch if your computer can handle it. Just click the image below to get to the current NASA news page.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:44 am on March 8, 2012


 

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