What’s a Chromebook good for? How about running PHOTOSHOP? • The Register

Netscape Communicator
Netscape Communicator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Photoshop is the only application from Adobe’s suite that’s getting the streaming treatment so far, but the company says it plans to offer other applications via the same tech soon. That doesn’t mean it’s planning to phase out its on-premise applications, though.

via What’s a Chromebook good for? How about running PHOTOSHOP? • The Register.

Back in 1997 and 1998 I spent a lot of time experimenting and playing with Netscape Communicator “Gold”. It had a built in web page editor that more or less gave you WYSIWYG rendering of the html elements live as you edited. It also had a Email client and news reader built into it. I spent also a lot of time reading Netscape white papers on their Netscape Communications server and LDAP server and this whole universe of Netscape trying to re-engineer desktop computing in such a way that the Web Browser was the THING. Instead of a desktop with apps, you had some app-like behavior resident in the web browser. And from there you would develop your Javascript/ECMAscript web applications that did other useful things. Web pages with links in them could take the place of Powerpoint. Netscape Communicator Gold would take the place of Word, Outlook. This is the triumvirate that Google would assail some 10 years later with its own Google Apps and the benefit of AJAX based web app interfaces and programming.

Turn now to this announcement by Adobe and Google in a joint effort to “stream” Photoshop through a web browser. A long time stalwart of desktop computing, Adobe Photoshop (prior to being bundled with EVERYTHING else) required a real computer in the early days (ahem, meaning a Macintosh) and has continued to do so even more (as the article points out) when CS4 attempted to use the GPU as an accelerator for the application. I note each passing year I used to keep up with new releases of the software. But around 1998 I feel like I stopped learning new features and my “experience” more or less cemented itself in the pre-CS era (let’s call that Photoshop 7.0) Since then I do 3-5 things at most in Photoshop ever. I scan. I layer things with text. I color balance things or adjust exposures. I apply a filter (usually unsharp mask). I save to a multitude of file formats. That’s it!

Given that there’s even a possibility to stream Photoshop on a Google Chromebook based device, I think we’ve now hit that which Netscape had discovered long ago. The web-browser is the desktop, pure and simple. It was bound to happen especially now with the erosion into different form factors and mobile OSes. iOS and Android have shown what we are willing to call an “app” most times is nothing more than a glorified link to a web page, really. So if they can manage to wire-up enough of the codebase of Photoshop to make it work in realtime through a web browser without tons and tons of plug-ins and client-side Javascript, I say all the better. Because this means architecturally speaking good old Outlook Web Access (OWA) can only get better and become more like it’s desktop cousin Outlook 2013. Microsoft too is eroding the distinction between Desktop and Mobile. It’s all just a matter of more time passing.

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Testing, Testing: How Google And Amazon Can Help Make Websites Rock Solid – ReadWrite

English: Diagram showing overview of cloud com...

It’s not unprecedented: Google already offers a testing suite for Android apps, though that’s focused on making sure they run well on smartphones and tablets, not testing the cloud-based services they connect to. If Google added testing services for the websites and services those apps connect to, it would have an end-to-end lock on developing for both the Web and mobile.

via Testing, Testing: How Google And Amazon Can Help Make Websites Rock Solid – ReadWrite.

Load testing websites and web-apps is a market whose time has come. I know where I work we have Project group who has a guy who manages an installation of Silk as a load tester. Behind that is a little farm of old Latitude E6400s that he manages from the Silk console to point at whichever app is in development/QA/testing before it goes into production. Knowing there’s potential for a cloud-based tool for this makes me very, very interested.

As outsourcing goes, the Software as a Service (SaaS) or Platform as a Service (PaaS) or even Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) categories are great as raw materials. But if there was just an app that I could login to, spin up some VMs install my load-test tool of choice and then manage them from my desktop, I would feel like I had accomplished something. Or failing that even just a toolkit for load testing with whatever tool du jour is already available (nothing is perfect that way) would be cool too. And better yet, if I could do that with an updated tool whenever I  needed to conduct a round of testing, the tool would take into account things like the Heart Bleed bug in a timely fashion. That’s the kind of benefit a cloud-based, centrally managed, centrally updated Load Test service could provide.

And now as Microsoft has just announced a partnership with Salesforce on their Azure cloud platform, things get even more interesting. Not only could you develop using an existing toolkit like Salesforce.com, but host it on more than one cloud platform (AWS or Azure) as your needs change. And I would hope this would include unit test, load test and the whole sweet suite of security auditing one would expect for a webapp (thereby helping prevent vulnerabilities like HeartBleed OpenSSL).

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Google X founder Thrun demonstrates Project Glass on TV show | Electronista

Sebastian Thrun, Associate Professor of Comput...
Sebastian Thrun, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google X formerly Labs founder Sebastian Thrun debuted a real-world use of his latest endeavor Project Glass during an interview on the syndicated Charlie Rose show which aired yesterday, taking a picture of the host and then posting it to Google+, the companys social network. Thrun appeared to be able to take the picture through tapping the unit, and posting it online via a pair of nods, though the project is still at the prototype stage at this point.

via Google X founder Thrun demonstrates Project Glass on TV show | Electronista.

You may remember Sebastian Thrun the way I do. He was spotlighted a few times on the PBS TV series NOVA in their coverage of the DARPA Grand Challenge competition follow-up in 2005. That was the year that Carnegie Mellon University battled Stanford University to win in a race of driverless vehicles in the desert. The previous year CMU was the favorite to win, but their vehicle didn’t finish the race. By the following years competition, the stakes were much higher. Stanford started it’s effort that Summer 2004 just months after the March Grand Challenge race. By October 2005 the second race was held with CMU and Stanford battling it out. Sebastian Thrun was the head of the Stanford team, and had previously been at CMU and a colleague of the Carnegie race team head, Red Whittaker. In 2001 Thrun took a sabbatical year from CMU and spent it at Stanfrod. Eventually Thrun left Carnegie-Mellon altogether and moved to Stanford in July 2003.

Thrun also took a graduate student of his and Red Whittaker’s with him to Stanford, Michael Montemerlo. That combo of experience at CMU and a grad student to boot help accelerate the pace at which Stanley, the driverless vehicle was able to be developed and compete in October of 2005. Now move forward to another academic sabbatical this time from Stanford to Google Inc. Thrun took a group of students with him to work on Google Street View. Eventually this lead to another driverless car funded completely internally by Google. Thrun’s accomplishments have continued to accrue at regular intervals so much so that now Thrun has given up his tenure at Stanford to join Google as a kind of entrepreneurial research scientist helping head up the Google X Labs. The X Labs is a kind of internal skunkworks that Google funds to work on various and sundry technologies including the Google Driverless Car. Add to this Sebastian Thrun’s other big announcement this year of an open education initiative that’s titled Udacity (attempting to ‘change’ the paradigm of college education). The list as you see goes on and on.

So where does that put the Google Project Glass experiment. Sergey Brin attempted to show off a prototype of the system at a party very recently. Now Sebastian Thrun has shown it off as well. Google Project Glass is a prototype as most online websites have reported. Sebastian Thrun’s interview on Charlie Rose attempted to demo what the prototype is able to do today. It appears according to this article quoted at the top of my blogpost that Google Glass can respond to gestures, and voice (though that was not demonstrated). Questions still remain as to what is included in this package to make it all work. Yes, the glasses do appear ‘self-contained’ but then a wireless connection (as pointed out by Mashable.com) would not be visible to anyone not specifically shown all the components that make it go. That little bit of visual indirection (like a magician) would lead one to believe that everything resides in the glasses themselves. Well, so much the better then for Google to let everyone draw their own conclusions. As to the concept video of Google Glass, I’m still not convinced it’s the best way to interact with a device:

Project Glass: One day. . .

As the video shows it’s more centered on voice interaction very much like Apple’s own Siri technology. And that as you know requires two things:

1. A specific iPhone that has a noise cancelling microphone array

2. A broadband cellphone connection back to the Apple mothership data center in North Carolina to do the Speech-t0-Text recognition and responses

So it’s guaranteed that the glasses are self-contained to an untrained observer, but to do the required heavy lifting as it appears in the concept video is going to require the Google Glasses and two additional items:

1. A specific Android phone with the Google Glass spec’d microphone array and ARM chip inside

2. A broadband cellphone connection back to the Google motherships wherever they may be to do some amount of off-phone processing and obviously data retrievals for the all the Google Apps included.

It would be interesting to know what passes over that personal area network between the Google Glasses and the cellphone data uplink a real set of glasses is going to require. The devil is in those details and will be the limiting factor on how inexpensively this product could be manufactured and sold.

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glasses
Thomas Hawk’s photo of Sergey Brin wearing Google Glasses

Google shows off Project Glass augmented reality specs • The Register

Thomas Hawk's picture of Sergey Brin wearing the prototype of Project Glass

But it is early days yet. Google has made it clear that this is only the initial stages of Project Glass and it is seeking feedback from the general public on what they want from these spectacles. While these kinds of heads-up displays are popular in films and fiction and dearly wanted by this hack, the poor sales of existing eye-level screens suggests a certain reluctance on the part of buyers.

via Google shows off Project Glass augmented reality specs • The Register.

The video of the Google Glass interface is kind of interesting and problematic at the same time. Stuff floats in and out of few kind of like the organism that live in the mucous of your eye. And the the latency delays of when you see something and issue a command give it a kind of halting staccato cadence when interacting with it. It looks and feels like old style voice recognition that needed discrete pauses added to know when things ended. As a demo it’s interesting, but they should issue releases very quickly and get this thing up to speed as fast as they possibly can. And I don’t mean having the CEO Sergey Brin show up at a party wearing the thing. According to reports the ‘back pack’ that the glasses are tethered to is not small. Based on the description I think Google has a long way to go yet.

http://my20percent.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/baseball-cap-head-up-displa/

And on the smaller scale tinkerer front, this WordPress blogger fashioned an older style ‘periscope’ using a cellphone, mirror and half-mirrored sunglasses to get a cheaper Augmented Reality experience. The cellphone is an HTC unit strapped onto the rim of a baseball hat. The display is than reflected downwards through a hold cut in the rim and then is reflected off a pair of sunglasses mounted at roughly a 45 degree angle. It’s cheap, it works, but I don’t know how good the voice activation is. Makes me wonder how well it might work with an iPhone Siri interface. The author even mentions that HTC is a little heavy and an iPhone might work a little better. I wonder if it wouldn’t work better still if the ‘periscope’ mirror arrangement was scrapped altogether. Instead just mount the phone flat onto the bill of the hat, let the screen face downward. The screen would then reflect off the sunglasses surface. The number of reflecting surfaces would be reduced, the image would be brighter, etc. I noticed a lot of people also commented on this fellow’s blog and might get some discussion brewing about longer term the value-add benefits to Augmented Reality. There is a killer app yet to be found and even Google hasn’t captured the flag yet.

This picture shows the Wikitude World Browser ...
This picture shows the Wikitude World Browser on the iPhone looking at the Old Town of Salzburg. Computer-generated information is drawn on top of the screen. This is an example for location-based Augmented Reality. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Google Spawned The 384-Chip Server | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com

SeaMicro’s latest server includes 384 Intel Atom chips, and each chip has two “cores,” which are essentially processors unto themselves. This means the machine can handle 768 tasks at once, and if you’re running software suited to this massively parallel setup, you can indeed save power and space.

via How Google Spawned The 384-Chip Server | Wired Enterprise | Wired.com.

Image representing Wired Magazine as depicted ...
Image via CrunchBase

Great article from Wired.com on SeaMicro and the two principle minds behind its formation. Both of these fellows were quite impressed with Google’s data center infrastructure at the points in time when they both got to visit a Google Data Center. But rather than just sit back and gawk, they decided to take action and borrow, nay steal some of those interesting ideas the Google Engineers adopted early on. However, the typical naysayers pull a page out of the Google white paper arguing against SeaMicro and the large number of smaller, lower-powered cores they use in the SM-10000 product.

SeaMicro SM10000
Image by blogeee.net via Flickr

But nothing speaks of success more than product sales and SeaMicro is selling it’s product into data centers. While they may not achieve the level of commerce reached by Apple Inc., it’s a good start. What still needs to be done is more benchmarks and real world comparisons that reproduce or negate the results of Google’s whitepaper promoting their choice of off the shelf commodity Intel chips. Google is adamant that higher clock speed ‘server’ chips attached to single motherboards connected to one another in large quantity is the best way to go. However, the two guys who started SeaMicro insist that while Google’s choice for itself makes perfect sense, NO ONE else is quite like Google in their compute infrastructure requirements. Nobody has such a large enterprise or the scale Google requires (except for maybe Facebook, and possibly Amazon). So maybe there is a market at the middle and lower end of the data center owner’s market? Every data center’s needs will be different especially when it comes to available space, available power and cooling restrictions for a given application. And SeaMicro might be the secret weapon for shops constrained by all three: power/cooling/space.

*UPDATE: Just saw this flash through my Google Reader blogroll this past Wednesday, Seamicro is now selling an Intel Xeon based server. I guess the market for larger numbers of lower power chips just isn’t strong enough to sustain a business. Sadly this makes all the wonder and speculation surrounding the SM10000 seem kinda moot now. But hopefully there’s enough intellectual property rights and patents in the original design to keep the idea going for a while. Seamicro does have quite a headstart over competitors like Tilera, Calxeda and Applied Micro. And if they can help finance further developments of Atom based servers by selling a few Xeons along the way, all the better.

U.S. Requests for Google User Data Spike 29 Percent in Six Months | Threat Level | Wired.com

In a fight between Superman and Spiderman who would win? That’s a game we used to play as kids. Nowadays the question is more like in a fight between your personal data and a Government request to Google to access that data who would win? All evidence points to you being the loser. Read On:

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

The number of U.S. government requests for data on Google users for use in criminal investigations rose 29 percent in the last six months, according to data released by the search giant Monday.

via U.S. Requests for Google User Data Spike 29 Percent in Six Months | Threat Level | Wired.com.

Not good news in imho. The reason being is the mission creep and abuses that come with absolute power in the form of a National Security Letter. The other part of the equation is Google’s business model runs opposite to the idea of protecting people’s information. If you disagree, I ask that you read this blog post from Christopher Soghoian, where he details just what exactly it is Google does when it keeps all your data unencrypted in its data centers. In order to sell AdWords and serve advertisements to you, Google needs to keep everything open and unencrypted. At the same time they aren’t too casual in their stewardship of your data, but they do respond to law enforcement requests for customer data. To quote Seghoian at the end of his blog entry:

The end result is that law enforcement agencies can, and regularly do request user data from the company — requests that would lead to nothing if the company put user security and privacy first.”

And that indeed is the moral of the story. Which leaves everyone asking what’s the alternative? Earlier in the same story the blame is placed square on the end-user for not protecting themselves. Encryption tools for email and personal documents have been around for a long time. And often there are commercial products available to help accomplish some level of privacy even for so-called Cloud hosted data. But the friction point is always going to be the level of familiarity, ease of use and cost of the product before it is as widely used and adopted as Webmail has been since the advent of desktop email clients like Eudora.

So if you really have concerns, take action, don’t wait for Google to act to defend your rights. Encrypt your email, your documents and make Google one bit less culpable for any law enforcement requests that may or may not include your personal data.

Google confirms Maps with local map downloads as iOS lags | Electronista

Downloading local maps is becoming an absolute necessity in this day and age of not so unlimited downloading. Especially if you suffer the fate worse than death known as Roaming Data Charges! Can you say $1,000.00 Cell Phone Bill?? So do yourself a favor and download some maps before traveling overseas with your smartphone, yo.

A common message shown on TomTom OS when there...
Image via Wikipedia

Google Maps gets map downloads in Labs betaAfter a brief unofficial discovery, Google on Thursday confirmed that Google Maps 5.7 has the first experimental support for local maps downloads.

via Google confirms Maps with local map downloads as iOS lags | Electronista.

Google Maps for Android is starting to show a level of maturity only seen on dedicated GPS units. True, there still is no routing feature (you need access to Google’s servers for that functionality) But you at least a downloaded map that you can zoom out and in on to get a view without incurring heavy data charges. Yes, overseas you may rack up some big charges as you navigate live maps via the Google Maps app on Android. This is now solved partially by downloading in advance the immediate area you will be visiting (within a few miles radius). It’s an incremental improvement to be sure and makes Android phones a little more self sufficient without making you regret the data charges.

Apple on the other hand is behind. Hands down they are kind of letting the 3rd party gps development go to folks like Navigon and TomTom who both require somewhat hefty fees to license their downloaded content. Apple’s Maps doesn’t compare to Navigon, TomTom, much less Google for actual usefulness in a wide range of situations. And Apple isn’t currently using the downloadable vector based maps introduced with this revision of Google Maps for Android vers. 5.7. So it will struggle with large jpeg images as you pan and scan around the map to find your location.