2009年11月27日 星期五

I’m fond of Google

Google’s Earth

Illustration by Joon Mo Kang

Published: November 27, 2009

I’m fond of Google, I have to say. I like Larry Page, who seems, at least in the YouTube videos I’ve watched, shy and smart, with salt-and-pepper bangs; and Sergey Brin, who seems less shy and jokier and also smart. Ken Auletta, the author of this absorbing, shaggy, name-droppy book, doesn’t seem to like either of them much — he says that Page has a “Kermit the Frog” voice, which isn’t nice, while Brin comes off as a swaggering, efficiency-obsessed overachiever who, at Stanford, aced tests, picked locks, “borrowed” computer equipment from the loading dock and once renumbered all the rooms in the computer science building. “Google’s leaders are not cold businessmen; they are cold engineers,” Auletta writes — but “cold” seems oddly wrong. Auletta’s own chilliness may be traceable in part to Brin’s and Page’s reluctance to be interviewed. “After months of my kicking at the door, they opened it,” he writes in the acknowledgments. “Google’s founders and many of its executives share a zeal to digitize books,” he observes, “but don’t have much interest in reading them.”

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The End of the World as We Know It

By Ken Auletta

384 pp. The Penguin Press. $27.95


Up Front: Nicholson Baker (November 29, 2009)

Times Topics: Google Inc.

Paul Sakuma/Associated Press

Sergey Brin, left, and Larry Page at Google Inc. headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. in Sept. 2008

They’ll probably give more than a glance at “Googled.” I read the book in three huge gulps and learned a lot — about Google’s “cold war” with Facebook, about Google’s tussles with Viacom, about Google’s role in the “Yahoo-Microsoft melee” and about Google’s gradual estrangement from its former ally, Apple. Auletta is given to martial similes and parallels, from Prince Metternich in 19th-century Europe to Afghanistan now: “Privacy questions will continue to hover like a Predator drone,” he writes, “capable of firing a missile that can destroy the trust companies require to serve as trustees for personal data.” And he includes some revealing human moments: Larry Page, on the day of Google’s hugely successful stock offering, pulls out his cellphone and says, “I’m going to call my mom!”

But what Auletta mainly does is talk shop with C.E.O.’s, and that is the great strength of the book. Auletta seems to have interviewed every media chief in North America, and most of them are unhappy, one way or another, with what Google has become. Google is voracious, they say, it has gargantuan ambitions, it’s too rich, it’s too smug, it makes big money off of O.P.C. — other people’s content. One unnamed “prominent media executive” leaned toward Auletta at the 2007 Google Zeitgeist Conference and whispered a rhetorical question in his ear: What real value, he wanted to know, was Google producing for society?

Wait. What real value? Come now, my prominent executive friend. Have you not glanced at Street View in Google Maps? Have you not relied on the humble aid of the search-box calculator, or checked out Google’s movie showtimes, or marveled at the quick-and-dirtiness of Google Translate? Have you not made interesting recherché 19th-century discoveries in Google Books? Or played with the amazing expando-charts in Google Finance? Have you not designed a strange tall house in Google SketchUp, and did you not make a sudden cry of awed delight the first time you saw the planet begin to turn and loom closer in Google Earth? Are you not signed up for automatic Google News alerts on several topics? I would be very surprised if you are not signed up for a Google alert or two.

Surely no other software company has built a cluster of products that are anywhere near as cleverly engineered, as quick-loading and as fun to fiddle with, as Google has, all for free. Have you not searched?

Because, let me tell you, I remember the old days, the antegoogluvian era. It was O.K. — it wasn’t horrible by any means. There were cordless telephones, and people wore comfortable sweaters. There was AltaVista, and Ask Jeeves, and HotBot, and Excite, and Infoseek, and Northern Light — with its deep results and its elegant floating schooner logo — and if you wanted to drag through several oceans at once, there was MetaCrawler. But the haul was haphazard, and it came in slow. You chewed your peanut-butter cracker, waiting for the screen to fill.

Then Google arrived in 1998, sponged clean, impossibly fast. Google was like a sunlit white Formica countertop with a single vine-ripened tomato on it. No ads in sight — Google was anti-ad back then. It was weirdly smart, too; you almost never had a false hit. You didn’t have to know anything about the two graduate students who had aligned and tuned their secret algorithms — the inseparable Page and Brin — to sense that they were brilliant young software dudes, with all the sneakered sure-footedness of innocence: the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button in that broad blank expanse of screen space made that clear. Google would make us all lucky; that was the promise. And in fact, it did.

So why are the prominent media executives unhappy? Because Google is making lots of ad money, and there’s only so much ad money to go around. Last year almost all of Google’s revenue came from the one truly annoying thing that the company is responsible for: tiny, cheesy, three-line text advertisements. These AdWords or AdSense ads load fast, and they’re supposedly “polite,” in that they don’t flicker or have pop-ups, and they’re almost everywhere now — on high-traffic destinations like The Washington Post or MySpace or Discovery.com, and on hundreds of thousands of little Web sites and blogs as well. “It’s all of our revenue,” Larry Page said in a meeting that Auletta attended in 2007.

The headlines say things like “Laser Hair Removal,” “Christian Singles,” “Turn Traffic Into Money,” “Have You Been Injured?” “Belly Fat Diet Recipe,” “If U Can Blog U Can Earn,” “Are You Writing a Book?” and so on. Countless M.F.A., or Made for AdSense, Web sites have appeared; they use articles stolen or “scraped” or mashed together from sites like Wikipedia, and their edges are framed with Google’s text ads. The ads work on a cost-per-click scheme: the advertiser pays Google only if you actually click on the ad. If you do, he’s billed a quarter, or a dollar, or (for some sought-after keywords like “personal injury” or “mesothelioma lawyers”) $10 or more.

But think — when was the last time you clicked on a three-line text ad? Almost never? Me neither. And yet, in 2008, Google had $21.8 billion in revenue, about 95 percent of which flowed from AdWords/AdSense. (A trickle came from banner and video ads sold by Google’s new subsidiary, DoubleClick, and from other products and services.) These unartful, hard-sell irritants — which have none of the beauty or the humor of TV, magazine, radio or newspaper advertising — are the foundation of Google’s financial empire, if you can believe it. It’s an empire built on tiny grains of keyword-searchable sand.

The advertising revenue keeps Google’s stock high, and that allows the company to do whatever it feels like doing. In 2006, when Google’s stock was worth $132 billion, the company absorbed YouTube for $1.65 billion, almost with a shrug. “They can buy anything they want or lose money on anything they choose to,” Irwin Gotlieb, the chief of GroupM, one of Google’s biggest competitors in the media market, told Auletta. If Microsoft is courting DoubleClick, Google can swoop in and buy DoubleClick for $3.1 billion. If the business of “cloud” computing seems to hold great promise, Google can build 20 or 50 or 70 massive data centers in undisclosed locations around the world, each drawing enough power to light a small city. Earlier this month, Google announced it would pay $750 million in stock for a company called AdMob, to sell banner ads on cellphones. “Once you get to a certain size, you have to figure out new ways of growing,” Ivan Seidenberg, the chief executive of Verizon, said to Auletta. “And then you start leaking on everyone else’s industry.” That’s why Auletta’s C.E.O.’s are resentful.

True, the miracles keep coming: Google Voice, which can e-mail you a transcript of your voice mail messages; and Chrome, a quick, clever Web browser; and Android, the new operating system for mobile devices. One of the latest is an agreement to print books on an A.T.M.-style on-demand printer, the Espresso Book Machine. But perhaps there are too many miracles emanating from one campus now; perhaps brand fatigue is setting in. Google’s famous slogan, “Don’t be evil,” now sounds a little bell-tollingly dystopian.

When they were at Stanford, Page and Brin criticized search engines that had become too “advertising oriented.” “These guys were opposed to advertising,” Auletta quotes Ram Shriram, one of Google’s first investors, as saying. “They had a purist view of the world.” They aren’t opposed now. Now they must be forever finding forage for a hungry, $180 billion ad-maddened beast. Auletta describes an unusual job-interview test that Sergey Brin once gave to a prospective in-house lawyer: “I need you to draw me a contract,” Brin said to her. “I need the contract to be for me to sell my soul to the Devil.” That was in 2002, the year Google began work internally on what would become AdSense.

Now Page and Brin fly around in a customized Boeing 767 and talk sincerely about green computing, even as the free streamings of everyone’s home video clips on YouTube burn through mountaintops of coal. They haven’t figured out a way to “monetize” — that is, make a profit from — their money maelstrom, YouTube, although I notice that Coffee-mate and Samsung banners appear nowadays in Philip DeFranco’s popular video monologues. “The benefit of free is that you get 100 percent of the market,” Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, explained to Auletta. “Free is the right answer.” For a while, perhaps — but maybe free is unsustainable. For news­papers, Auletta writes, “free may be a death certificate.” Maybe in the end, even on the Internet, you get what you pay for.

Nicholson Baker’s most recent novel is “The Anthologist.”

2009年11月19日 星期四

Chrome OS

導語:谷歌在北京時間11月20日凌晨2點于美國總部ul開Chrome OS特別會議,首次公開演示了這款備受關注的作業系統。而谷歌官方博客也于當天發表文章,解釋了提前公布這一開源專案的初衷。


  谷歌Chromium OS開源專案發布

  發表者:谷歌產品經理凱撒‧桑古塔(Caesar Sengupta),工程總監馬修‧帕巴基波斯(Matt Papakipos)

  今年七月,我們宣布正在研發谷歌Chrome OS作業系統,這是一個專為深度使用網路的用戶而設的開源作業系統。

   今天我們發布的這個開源專案叫做Chromium OS。我們之所以在谷歌Chrome作業系統正式對用戶開放之前提前幾乎一年這樣做,是因為渴望與技術伙伴、開源社區和第三方開發者通力合作。從現在起, 基於谷歌Chrome瀏覽器,開發人員就可以自由參與開發過程。這意味這些免費的代碼將面向所有人開放,也歡迎公眾為其添磚加瓦。現有的Chromium OS專案包括了我們當前的代碼庫、早期的用戶界面體驗成果和一些設計開發人員可以以此為基礎進行進一步的完善。此次發布的只是雛型,在接下來的一年時間z 翩A我們會不斷地對它進行完善。


  首先,Chrome OS的一切皆基於網路。所有的應用程式都是網路應用程式。所有體驗都在瀏覽器內進行,不再需要傳統的桌面應用程式。這就意味著再也不用管理任何程式,再也不用為更新軟件而煩心,再也沒有複雜的安裝過程。

  其次,由於所有應用程式都存在於瀏覽器內,這對於提高安全性 能大有裨益。不同於傳統的作業系統,Chrome作業系統不完全信賴你所運行的應用,所以每一個應用程式都在一個安全沙盒中運行,這就限制了程式入侵您的 電腦的能力。此外,Chrome作業系統也不完全相信自己,所以每當您重啟電腦,Chrome作業系統便會確認其代碼的完整性,如果您的系統存在風險,它就會自動修複並重啟。誠然,沒有一台電腦是絕對安全的,我們只是盡量讓惡意的人更難得手(也更加無利可圖)。如果您想了解安全問題,請閱讀Chrome作業系統安全綜述。


  我們仍有許多工作需要完成,我們熱切盼望能與開源社區合作。以往,我們從GNU、Lin颱 Kernel、Moblin、Ubuntu和WebKit及其他專案的合作中獲益匪淺。我們將上傳代碼,並且與開源社區密切合作。

  谷歌Chrome作業系統即將於明年此時正式發布。敬請註冊Google Chrome OS,了解最新動態。如果您想開發自己的作業系統,可通過Chromium.org加入我們。

Google Offers Peek at Operating System, a Potential Challenge to Windows

Published: November 19, 2009

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Google began lifting the veil on its planned Chrome operating system on Thursday, but it said that computers powered by the software would not be available for a year.

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Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

In September, Sundar Pichai of Google discussed the Chrome operating system, which will not be on computers for a year.


Times Topics: Google Inc.

The new operating system, which is closely tied to Google’s Web browser, also named Chrome, is seen as a potential challenge to Microsoft, whose Windows software powers the vast majority of personal computers.

But with the Chrome operating system, Google is not trying to build a better version of Windows. Instead, it is aiming to shift users toward its vision of “cloud computing,” a model in which programs are not installed on a PC but rather are used over the Internet and accessed through a Web browser. In Google’s approach, a user’s data will also reside on servers across the Internet, rather than on their PC.

Most PC users already rely on cloud computing, using their Internet browsers to access things like e-mail, photo albums and digital maps.

“Hundreds of millions of users are living on the cloud,” said Sundar Pichai, a vice president for product management at Google in charge of Chrome. Every program that users enjoy on their PCs today, Mr. Pichai said, will soon be available as a Web application. “The trend is very, very clear,” he said.

While Microsoft and others say they believe that cloud-based programs will coexist with traditional PC software, Google has often said that Web applications will replace all desktop software, another area that Microsoft dominates. Machines running the Chrome operating system, which initially will be limited to lightweight, portable computers known as netbooks, will not run any desktop applications other than the Chrome browser.

But even Mr. Pichai said that devices on the Chrome operating system were likely to be used, at least at first, as a complement to users’ more powerful computers at home.

Analysts said that the Chrome operating system could pose a challenge to Microsoft over the long term but said that Microsoft was not sitting still.

“Chrome OS moves the playing field to the cloud,” said Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner. “But Microsoft is a multifaceted company. They have a systematic effort to put a lot of their technology portfolio in the cloud as well.”

In a statement, Microsoft said that the Chrome operating system was in “early stages of development” and that “customers are already voicing their approval of the way Windows 7 just works — across the Web and on the desktop, and on all sizes and types of PCs.” Speaking to investors at Microsoft’s headquarters, Steven A. Ballmer, the chief executive, said that Windows 7 was outselling any previous version of Microsoft’s operating system.

On Thursday, Google demonstrated an early version of the Chrome operating system on a netbook during a news conference at its Mountain View headquarters. Google also announced that it was releasing the underlying programming code for the operating system to anyone who wants to tinker with it under an open-source license.

Not surprisingly, the Chrome desktop looked similar to the Chrome browser. It included a handful of smaller tabs that Google calls application tabs, which are meant to run the programs people use most often, like e-mail or calendar software.

The netbook using the operating system booted in seven seconds, and Google said it was working to make the start-up time even faster. Google declined to say which hardware makers were planning to build machines that used the operating system, but said it would work closely with manufacturers. It said it had been pushing them to make netbooks that were slightly larger than today’s models and included full-size keyboards.

2009年11月5日 星期四





随着谷歌向人们提供的服务越来越多——从搜索到云计算(cloud computing)——相关机构对其隐私权惯例的审查也日渐加强。

今 年,一个主要隐私权团体呼吁美国联邦贸易委员会(Federal Trade Commission)关闭谷歌的网络服务,直至它能够确保对个人数据提供更好的保护。人们越来越担心,技术问题使得Google Docs、Google Desktop以及Gmail上的个人信息能为其他用户所见。

隐私权运动者对这个在马德里数据保护专员会议上新推出的dashboard工具表示欢迎。Privacy International的西蒙•戴维斯(Simon Davies)表示:“如果其它互联网公司也采取这种做法,将有助于我们开始解决关于隐私权的一些问题。”



2009年11月4日 星期三

free turn-by-turn navigation software

The Great Disruption
Wall Street Journal
By JEREMY PHILIPS Google's announcement last week that it would offer free turn-by-turn navigation software prompted a nosedive in the stocks of Garmin and ...