Showing posts with label Google. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Google. Show all posts

Monday, January 16, 2017

Google delivery : Drones versus balloons?

In this issue, Google seems to have adopted its preferred side. After several years of exhaustive tests, Google appears to have abandoned the idea of using drones to deliver Internet services. Google's Alphabet division has been studying the possibility of using drones powered by solar panels. In 2014, Google purchased the company Titan Aerospace to start looking for solutions to their challenge. They've finally decided to replace drones by hot-air balloons, known in French as montgolfières.

The revised project is named Loon. Balloons will travel at an altitude of some 20 km, and each one will cover a territory of about 40 km.

For the moment, Google doesn't appear to have answered satisfactorily the question of avoiding collisions with other aircraft. A commercial airliner would look so silly if it reached its destination covered in Google packages. The situation would be far worse than silly if if the jet's engines were clogged up with torn strips of a hot-air balloon.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monstre du Loch Internet

Depuis la naissance du web il réapparait régulièrement, chaque fois qu’un créateur de nouveau site souhaite faire quelque chose de magique dans l'espoir que Google indique son adresse aux Internautes de France et de Navarre. Ce monstre des profondeurs s’appelle SEO : Search Engine Optimization. Le principe : Pour une somme d’argent modique, des spécialistes peuvent « optimizer » votre beau site pour que n’importe quel visiteur potentiel le découvre automatiquement grâce à Google. C’est une belle idée. Le seul problème, c’est que ça ne peut pas marcher. L’idée qu’un bonhomme puisse insérer des termes magiques dans votre site web pour le rendre attirant est aussi stupide que de donner de l’argent à un charlatan pour qu’il vous transforme en quelqu’un de beau et intelligent.

Curieusement, c’est Google lui-même qui fait sortir ce mythe. Voici une démo magique. Je vais taper les termes “daily exami”. Admirez ce que Google me donne :

Cliquez pour agrandir

Après 0,36 secondes, Google a trouvé environ 434.000 résultats qui correspondent à “daily exami”. Magiquement, il a affiché enfin le nom du journal Grafton Daily Examiner, qui n’est autre que la canard de ma ville natale en Australie ! Je n’ai pas besoin de vous dire que, sur votre ordinateur personnel, vous n’allez certainement pas obtenir le même résultat, car vous n’êtes pas un lecteur régulier de ce journal australien. Autrement dit, il n’y a pas de magie. Google emmagasine tout bêtement les opérations que vous avez l’habitude d’effectuer sur votre ordinateur. Compris ? Ou préfériez-vous imaginer naïvement que vous seriez aussi connu que le monstre du Loch Ness ?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Google software improves its own translation process

                                                                           [photo Manuel Burgos/Getty]

Click here to read a New Scientist article about an improved approach to automatic translation... invented spontaneously by the AI system itself [artificial intelligence] that had been handling this activity. That’s a fascinating idea. An AI designs its own approach enabling it to do a better job.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

As they say in French, the carrots are cooked

That nice old-fashioned French saying designates a situation in which failure is just around the corner. And that's the current situation of the Korean Go player Lee Sedol in his match against an AI (artificial intelligence) known as AlphaGo. In the following photo, Lee is on the right, whereas the fellow in front of him has the job of carrying out the moves requested by the AI opponent.

Well, after two matches, the AI has defeated Lee Sedol in both games. So, the AI only needs to clinch one more game to win the tournament.

Needless to say (although I insist upon making this point, without attempting to go into details), this man/machine competition is more exciting and intellectually meaningful than the recent competitions involving a question-answering AI from IBM known as Watson.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap year

Click here to see today's Google doodle, presenting a bunny leaping into the final day of February 2016.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Gamone has been Google-mapped

I’ve just discovered, by chance, that Google Maps apparently carried out a street-view operation at Gamone in May 2013. Here’s the road leading up to my house:

Click to enlarge

Here’s a panoramic view of my house:

The Google vehicle carried on up the road to my neighbors’ house. There’s a nice view of the Cournouze seen from a point just below Jackie’s house:

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Google-based review of major events in 2011

For me personally, this short video has the merit of evoking one of the ways in which I find out what's happening out in the wide world.

But I have to admit that I'm not a typical Google user, otherwise I would have discovered—all on my own and months ago—the following specimen of US youth:

Apparently, throughout the world, more Google users looked up pea-brained Rebecca Black and her stupid ditty than any other individual, happening or phenomenon on the planet Earth. As they say in the classics, it makes you think.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Never realized I was so pretty

I learned that it was Father's Day when my daughter phoned me this morning. Then Google's banner confirmed that this was the case:

A little later on, I discovered that Google has made an amazing announcement, at the level of their image search device.

You can actually initiate a search by dropping an image into the search box. I tested this new gadget with one of my avatars:

Sure enough, it had no trouble in locating half-a-dozen places on the web where I've used this avatar. Then I noticed that Google dares to propose a set of similar faces to mine:

[Click to enlarge]

God only knows how they obtained this assortment of male and female faces. In any case, I'm rather flattered to learn that Google finds me as pretty as those doll-faced females with pouting lips!

Meanwhile, I tried another tiny self-portrait that I also use as an avatar. Once again, Google found a few web references where this image appears. But the set of similar faces was much less flattering, and contained mug shots of a few criminals. And, funnily enough, Google didn't seem to want to link my two different portraits.

This is an amazing tool when you happen to have an image that you wish to identify. For example, I recently saved this image of a stray sheep, but I had lost the link to the story behind the photo:

Initially, Google was led astray by the red rug, and couldn't quite make out what the image represented. I gave it a one-word hint: "sheep". And Google immediately located the news article in question. Very spectacular!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Centenary of a computing giant

These days, we hear a lot about the achievements of Apple. I'm unlikely to complain about that, of course, because I've always been totally addicted to the products of Cupertino, from back at the time I wrote my first book about the Mac, in 1984, and even before then, at the pioneering epoch of the Apple II computer.

In the midst of all the talk about the marvelous creations of Steve Jobs, we must never forget, however, that the Big Daddy of computing has always remained a celebrated US corporation that made a name for itself by selling so-called "business machines" on an international scale.

In 2011, the company will be turning 100, which means that it was born in the same year as Tennessee Williams, Ronald Reagan and France's Georges Pompidou. I joined IBM in Sydney towards the end of 1957, and worked as a computer programmer using the Fortran language on a vacuum-tube machine called the IBM 650, whose central memory was housed on a revolving magnetically-coated drum.

The new IBM website designed to celebrate the centenary includes an interesting video on the second-generation transistorized computer that came next: the IBM 1401, seen here in an old marketing photo:

This was the machine I was programming (in a macro-assembler language called Autocoder) at the time I arrived in Paris, in 1962, and started to work at the European headquarters of IBM. Click the above photo to see the video concerning this machine, which shows various former IBMers of my generation.

These days, IBM has embarked upon a colossal computer challenge in the domain of artificial intelligence. Known as Watson (the name of the founder of IBM), this project aims to get a computer to perform better than human beings in the American TV game called Jeopardy! The system, based upon so-called massively-parallel probabilistic evidence-based architecture, incorporates a vast array of big boxes that have much the same external aspect as the units of an archaic IBM 1401… but you can be sure they do more things!

Click the photo to visit IBM's website on their fabulous Watson project.

AFTERTHOUGHT: It's good, in a way, that IBM has been somewhat out of the limelight for many years, compared to companies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google. That has enabled IBM to move ahead quietly and constantly in a field such as artificial intelligence without too much media interference. But this situation is likely to change in a spectacular fashion as soon as Watson starts to bare its teeth… which is exactly what's happening at this very moment. Personally, I would not hesitate for a moment in declaring that a project such as Watson represents one of the greatest human challenges of all time: the invention of a deus ex machina that seems to be approaching the spirit of the famous IBM slogan.

I used to dream about that challenge back in the early '70s, when I was making a series of documentaries on this subject in the USA, for French TV, and writing my book on artificial intelligence.

And I still do, today, more than ever… particularly since scholars such as and Richard Dawkins and Steven Pinker have convinced me that we human beings are "merely" a special kind of machine, imbued with a strange property (not yet understood, of course) referred to as consciousness.

ANECDOTE: You might wonder why software engineers at Google and elsewhere have been scanning vast libraries of books of all kinds, and making them freely available to researchers. Are the corporations and engineers doing this because they want to offer more and more reading material, philanthropically, to old-timers such as you and me? Don't be naive! They're building those vast digital libraries for readers of a new kind: future generations of intelligent computers.

BREAKING NEWS: Stephen Wolfram, in his blog [display], seems to believe that IBM's Watson will win the forthcoming Jeopardy TV event. Moreover, he is encouraging IBM… even though their Watson is a competitor of his own approach: the so-called Wolfram-Alpha system.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Google variant of Twitter

Many people persist in believing wrongly that Twitter is strictly for the birds. Often, this merely means that they've misunderstood what it's all about, or that they haven't yet got around to trying it out in a hands-on fashion.

Google has just announced its own variant of this kind of communications device. It's called Google buzz. Click the banner to access an article that describes the tool, or watch the following video:

Personally, I haven't yet got around to trying to use it. I'll keep you informed, through my blog, of my buzz experience.

BREAKING NEWS: I've just received an invitation from Google to get started as a buzzer. So, I've sent my first buzz... about feeding the birds in the snow. My buzz name (I believe) is William Skyvington. So, if you happen to be a buzzer, please let me know if you can find me, and please tell me your buzz name. For the moment, I'm not too sure what it's all about.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Google video during the Superbowl

The title of the video is Parisian Love, and it suggests that Google can help a Superbowl spectator to find his French true love in Paris.

I managed to do that a long time ago... with no help from Google. As a non-American, I left out the bit about finding a church in Paris. As for Emmanuelle's lovely crib, I seem to recall that it was a gift from Christine's parents. There too, we were able to get by without Google. Thank goodness for that. In those days, Google didn't even exist!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Newton's birthday

In my article of 21 September 2009 entitled Apple hit me on the head [display], I evoked the possibility that Isaac Newton might have been a close relative—maybe even a first cousin—of my 17th-century Lincolnshire ancestor Mary Ayscough.

Yesterday, Google displayed a birthday banner for Newton, born at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth (Lincolnshire) on 4 January 1643.

In this delightful banner, an animated apple (the one on the left) actually dropped from the tree, just a few seconds after its display. Consequently, I had to make several attempts to be quick enough to obtain an acceptable screen capture of the banner... before the falling apple hit the "ground" below Google's argument box.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Intrusive views of my street

The Google Maps squad arrived in town. Apparently in the first week of April 2009. They've worked through my street—that's to say, the D531 road—from Choranche down through Pont-en-Royans, and the results are spectacular and surprising. Google's street-view approach produces a shock when you see it applied in a sparsely-populated rural zone, and I have the impression that certain local residents are likely to be somewhat scandalized by this invasion of privacy. Indeed, I find it hard to believe that the French authorities would have given Google the green light to carry out such an operation, of an intimate village nature.

[CORRECTION: As explained in a comment, Google's visit actually took place on Friday, 13 March 2009.]

To see the images on your computer, start up Google maps and type Choranche, France. Here are some specimens of what you'll find, with my comments:

I start out with the image that shocked me most of all: the patio of the Jorjane hotel-restaurant in the village of Choranche. The photo gives the impression that the place is in a sad state of abandon. Now, it's a fact that my friend George Pontvianne often puts his business into hibernation for short periods. Besides, he has been trying to sell the Jorjane for some time. But it's quite unfair that Google should display this particularly dismal image for anybody and everybody, in the future, who might happen to look up the Jorjane for one reason or another. It's the static and permanent nature of the fallout of Google's intervention that shocks me. What I'm trying to say is that, a few days later, a photo taken at the same spot would have shown a patio thronged with joyful bikers. So, the Google photo is wrong, in that it's not at all a typical vision of the Jorjane. In any case, I've just phoned up George and suggested that he should ask Google to delete their images of the Jorjane.

About a kilometer to the east of the village (a few clicks on Google maps), this is a view of the house of my great friends Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier, who are clearly recognizable in this Google image. Their two visitors are probably recognizable, too, for professional viewers. Here again, it's unacceptable that the entire planet should be offered the image of Serge and Tineke accompanied by X and Y. And, for reasons of security (Tineke is a famous sculptor), it's equally unacceptable that roadside views should indicate precisely the fenced edges of their Rochemuse domain. Clearly, Google is going too far. And I wouldn't be surprised if Serge and Tineke were to raise their voices at this level...

Much further to the west, Google lets you explore the roadside house of my neighbors Dédé and Madeleine. As for my place, Gamone, up on the slopes, you can't see too much. Google has not yet provided me with justifications for updating my existing old-fashioned resources in the way of self-defensive firearms. (I'm joking!)

I'll let you follow Google Map down along the D531 into Pont-en-Royans... where there are other surprises. I've just been sitting in on an Internet session on this subject in the home of neighbors in Chatelus. Their kids were thrilled to find perfectly-recognizable images of themselves on a sporting arena in the village. Is this good? Sure, the kids in question are going to astound their school friends with the revelation: "We're all on the Internet!" But that raises an obvious delicate question: Is it right that a giant US corporation should be able to move into our French villages and then display recognizable images of school kids at play? The answer, I think, is a resounding no.

I conclude by a quiz question: How have my neighbors and I been able to determine the exact date at which these images were obtained?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Google Wave address

I've just received my invitation to use Google Wave, which might be described as a new kind of shared email tool. It's particularly interesting when a group of several individuals wish to communicate with one another on a common subject.

For those who have this tool, and might like to communicate with me about one thing or another (maybe themes from my Antipodes blog), my Wave address is
[That looks like an ordinary email address, but it isn't!]

For those who haven't yet received an invitation to join Google Wave, I still have 4 or 5 invitations left. If you're interested, contact me at
[That's an ordinary email address.]

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Google gadget

There's a new Google gadget called sidewiki. To be able to use it, you need to equip your browser with the latest version of the Google Toolbar. Click the banner on the left to visit a website that invites you to obtain and install this Google Toolbar.

For the moment, I'm playing around with this new gadget, to get a feeling for its behavior. My first impression leads me to see this new Google thing as an extremely potent device, since you can apparently attach your humble "side stuff" to any website you visit. But I haven't yet figured out how they plan to control the risk of pollution, spam, etc. We'll see. Normally, you should be able to test this gadget upon the present blog. So, go at it!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gmail window

In the course of countless encounters with Google's dull Gmail window, I've never fallen asleep through boredom, or suffered otherwise. I guess you could say that, when I open an email reader, I'm not exactly looking for exciting computer graphics. This afternoon, when Gmail suggested that I can henceforth choose a more attractive screen display, I said to myself: Why not? I chose their so-called mountain presentation. I was impressed when Google reacted: For the mountain presentation, we would like to know where you live. That surprised me a little, for I was convinced that Google has known for ages where I live, with whom, in what kind of a dwelling, etc. In other words, I have the impression that Big Brother Google was momentarily forgetful, or maybe simply polite in an old-fashioned way, in asking me where I lived. In any case, here's the result:

Unfortunately, my screen capture is not big enough to do justice to the rsult. So, let me explain that I was thrilled to discover that Google has in fact incorporated into my Gmail window a photographic fragment of a local limestone mountain. In their list of choices, I didn't notice a farm-house presentation. If ever it became available and I chose this option, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find Google offering me a background display of Gamone. For that matter, I wonder why they haven't thought of proposing me a William presentation, with photos of me in the background. That'll come...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Unexpected medical practitioner

Google has constant access to a vast corpus of data concerning the informational demands of the citizens of the planet, and the organization has become powerful in that it uses imagination to invent ways of exploiting such information. Consider, for example, the following unexpected banner:

[Click the banner to see what it's all about.]

What does Google have to do with flue trends? Well, Google is aware of the geographical zone from which such-and-such a request for information emanates. And, when a lot Internet users in Texas, say, are asking for information about influenza, that could well mean that symptoms of an impending outbreak are arising in that area. And field data has proven that this kind of correlation corresponds to reality. In other words, Google has discovered an ingenious technique for predicting flu outbreaks.

It has often been said that various birds and animals seem to be capable of detecting advanced signs of an impending natural catastrophe such as a tsunami. But no serious observers have ever dared to claim (as far as I know) that humans have this kind of mysterious talent. Personally, I'm not superstitious, and I like to imagine that I reason objectively. But, if I were living in San Francisco, say, and I learned that Google happened to be receiving an exceptionally large number of requests from local people for information about earthquakes, I reckon I would prefer to get to hell out of the place as quickly as possible.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

New gadget in side column

In the right-hand side column of this blog, just below my profile block, I've inserted a new gadget labeled LATEST COMMENTS. This helps to solve a common problem. From time to time, readers browsing through my archives decide to comment upon a relatively old blog post. In such cases, the comment is likely to go unnoticed. This new gadget indicates the three most recently-received comments, even though they might refer to old posts. For example, Ken de Russy has just attached a comment to my New Icarus article of 28 September 2008 [display].

Incidentally, I must apologize for my laziness in indexing my posts within the context of my Accessor tool. It takes a lot of time and energy to perform this task, and I simply haven't got around to it. In this domain, I wouldn't be surprised to find that Google, one of these days, will propose a magic tool capable of transforming an entire blog into a PDF file that can be browsed through like a book. The existence of such a feature would render my Accessor more or less obsolete. In general, I'm awed by Google, as I've often said. But, for somebody like me, it can be frustrating at times to develop a tool such as Accessor while knowing full well that, one day, Google will do it better. Hey, that would be a great slogan for this ubiquitous corporation:

One day, Google will do it better!

They can pay me for this brilliant idea by sending a check to my Gamone address.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Revolution in the world of books?

I've put a question mark at the end of my title, because I really don't know with certainty what's likely to happen in the near future. Meanwhile, I urge you to take a look at the present state of the Google Book Search service. To do so, pull down the Google menu labeled more and choose the Books item.

[Alternatively, you can simply click the above banner.]

It's a surprising service. Google seems to be aware of the existence of a vast quantity of published books, both ancient and modern. But don't expect to be able to download many of them, because either they're under copyright, or maybe they haven't been fully scanned yet, or there's some other reason preventing their downloading. I have the impression that what we see today provides us with no more than a taste of what's to come. It's all rather complicated, because Google is obliged to come to terms with the two great poles of the book industry: publishers and authors.

The current state of this confrontation is well described in the celebrated TidBITS website, which provides Macintosh-oriented news. Click the banner to display an excellent in-depth article on this subject by Glenn Fleishman. The article is so full of pertinent information that you might decide to print it out, as I've just done.

I have the feeling that Google might be about to revolutionize many aspects of the conventional book world. Then there's all the current talk about electronic books...

Open Google Book Search and type in "william skyvington". You'll discover that Google is convinced that I've written a book about contemporary Iran. This is really quite hilarious, because I know almost nothing about Iran. I've never been there, and I've certainly never written a book about Iran. As I've already pointed out, I've known for some time that the true author of this book on Iran happens to be the fellow who once published my book on Great Britain. For reasons I ignore, something got short-circuited when Google was examining the books published by the French Jeune Afrique company, and they decided that I was the author of two books, not just one. So, even Google can make mistakes, but the gigantic company is such a behemoth that I have no idea how to go about correcting this silly error.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Identity issues

The firm that wants to sell generic Viagra to my alter-ego Bruno, mentioned in my recent article entitled Unsaintly stuff [display], is trying to invent a correct and friendly opening line for their spam. Their latest email to saintly Bruno starts as follows: Monsieur Saint.

When they get around to flogging their stuff to superior customers, they'll surely start their spam with, say, Monsieur Christ. In France, there are ordinary folk whose family name is Dieu [God]. Long ago, when Christine and I were living in Houdan, to the west of Paris, our local garage-owner was a Monsieur Dieu. If you got your brakes adjusted or your old tires changed, you could always be assured of receiving service and spare parts of divine quality.

In a quite different domain, that of my blog, I decided to authorize the insertion of Google ads. Who knows, maybe the new revenue will finally enable me to purchase, say, a tiny Mediterranean island. Apparently, a Google expert [maybe a human being, but not necessarily so] had to spend a short time visiting my Antipodes blog and deciding what kind of Google ads they should insert into such a website.

It's fun to examine the nature of various Google ads that have been displayed on my blog. They're a reflection, I suppose, of the underlying theme or profound nature of Antipodes as seen by Google. As somebody might have said: "Show me the Google ads displayed on your blog, and I'll tell you what kind of a blogger you are." It's not unlikely that, even for Google [androids and humans], it might be a little difficult to put the contents of my Antipodes blog into a nicely-labeled category. Consequently, some of the Google ads are likely to be a little unexpected... which makes this whole thing fun, if not funny. It goes without saying that I'm not allowed, personally, to click on any of these ads, because Google might interpret that as an illicit attempt to persuade them that genuine customers are clicking ads displayed on my Antipodes website. But nothing prevents me from noting down the details of the links, and then looking into their identity.

For example [I hope your browser displayed an orange dot at the start of this paragraph. If not, please let me know, and I'll stop trying to insert orange dots into my blog articles.], this morning, I noticed that there's an ad in my blog concerning the online services of the University of Liverpool [display].

I'm pleased that Google reckons that Antipodes readers might like to sign up for studies at an Internet university located in Beatles Land. The Fabulous Four came to fame at exactly the moment I met up with Christine at the Cité Universitaire in Paris, in the middle of the '60s. I've always sensed an ethereal link with John Lennon in that the poor guy, born a fortnight after me, got hit with the Winston name that I had succeeded narrowly in avoiding... thanks to a last-minute intervention of my dear mother against an aging aunt.

Things start to get a little weirder when I find an ad [display] concerning a UK firm, Anthony Island, whose specialties are listed as "executive security, close protection, incident crisis/management and surveillance/intelligence reports". I'm honored, but a little amazed, to think that readers of Antipodes [that's to say: you!] are preoccupied by those kinds of activities and affairs. I had always imagined you, naively, as nice simple folk interested either in my birthplace, Australia, or my adopted homeplace, France. I can't imagine why the hell you might wish to drop in on such a strange organization. But that's your problem, not mine.

Things get more disturbing still when my displayed Google ads refer to US organizations. Is it a fact that readers of my Antipodes blog might be interested in the services of Ahura Scientific [display], "for all your specialized security needs"? Their link, as it appears on my blog, speaks of "chemical detectors" that enable you to "immediately identfy explosives and chemicals used in terrorist attacks". To put it bluntly, Google would appear to believe that readers of my Antipodes blog are anguished by terrorist attacks. Frankly, I ignored this.

Things don't stop there. On the contrary, the latest Google ad on my Antipodes blog evokes the celebrated Pinkerton organization in New Jersey [display]. This is astounding news. I had no idea that you're all obsessed by security to this extent! Why the hell didn't you drop me a comment to tell me about your anguishes?

Things get back to normal with the most-recent Google ad: a link to the business administration department of the University of Geneva. Thank God, I think, that's more me! After all, I once taught computing in the business school of the Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia. But how did Google learn that?

Finally, I'm obliged to admit that I'm not at all sure who I really am, and what I write about.

Am I really writing this blog for anguished citizens who might be tempted to call upon Ahura or Pinkerton to save themselves from being annihilated by international terrorists? Or are my readers rather intelligent citizens who might like to study with academic sources located in delightful places such as Liverpool or Geneva? That's an interesting interrogation. Fortunately, I'm surrounded by wise friends. Besides my constantly-celebrated dog Sophia, there's a donkey and a billy goat. I'll let you know, as soon as possible, what they think about this whole identity crisis.