Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Official google.org Blog: Will genomics help prevent the next pandemic?

Official google.org Blog: Will genomics help prevent the next pandemic?

The first outbreak of the new "swine flu" strain, now known as H1N1, earlier this year in Mexico caught the world by surprise. Public health officials around the world tried to stop the virus at the borders but were largely helpless. Shortly after, on the other side of the world from Mexico, I saw the health check posts in Cambodia at the airport and at a borderpost with Vietnam, right when the country found its first H1N1 cases which were flown in by US exchange students. The weapons used by the health officials to combat the spread of the virus were primarily paper survey forms and thermometers; the virus won, very quickly. Genomics is rapidly changing both the way diseases are diagnosed and the way medications and vaccines are developed - but will it give us the tools to prevent the next pandemic?

  • What if countries where emerging infections originate, from Cameroon to Cambodia, could rapidly sequence suspect samples and discover new pathogens when only a few people have become sick?
  • What if all such sequence data were immediately shared in a single global open access database?
  • What if you could search for a string of sequence data and all associated data, annotations or publications as easily and effectively as a Google search?
  • What if markers discovered for a new disease would quickly be incorporated into affordable hand held multi-pathogen diagnostic tests widely available at the point of care?
  • What if the results of those tests were uploaded to a database where surveillance tools like Google Flu Trends could discover outbreaks?

Google Testing Blog: The FedEx Tour

Google Testing Blog: The FedEx Tour

I appreciate James' offer to talk about how I have used the FedEx tour in Mobile Ads. Good timing too as I just found two more priority 0 bugs with the automation that the FedEx tour inspired! It was fun presenting this at STAR and I am pleased so many people attended.

Mobile has been a hard problem space for testing: a humongous browser, phone, capability combination which is changing fast as the underlying technology evolves. Add to this poor tool support for the mobile platform and the rapid evolution of the device and you'll understand why I am so interested in advice on how to do better test design. We've literally tried everything, from checking screen shots of Google's properties on mobile phones to treating the phone like a collection of client apps and automating them in the UI button-clicking traditional way.

Soon after James joined Google in May 2009, he started introducing the concept of tours, essentially making a point of "structured" exploratory testing. Tours presented a way for me to look at the testing problem in a radical new way. Traditionally, the strategy is simple, focus on the end user interaction, and verify the expected outputs from the system under test. Tours (at least for me) change this formula. They force the tester to focus on what the software does, isolating the different moving parts of software in execution, and isolating the different parts of the software at the component (and composition) level. Tours tell me to focus on testing the parts that drive the car, rather than on whether or not the car drives. This is somewhat counter intuitive I admit, that's why it is so important. The real value add of the tours comes from the fact that they guide me in testing those different parts and help me analyze how different capabilities inter-operate. Cars will always drive you off the lot, which part will break first is the real question.

Google Student Blog: Fast, simple and stylish: Not your typical web browser

Google Student Blog: Fast, simple and stylish: Not your typical web browser

Google Chrome is a web browser designed to load web pages and web applications at lightning speed. Whether it's searching directly and quickly from the browser's address bar when you need to do some intensive research, or getting to the websites you rely on quickly at the click of the mouse, Google Chrome is just fast. Google Chrome celebrated its first birthday just over a month ago with a brand new stable release, which means even more speed improvements, as well as a fresh redesign of some of its most loved features.

More recently, we introduced Artist Themes for Google Chrome. We invited leading artists, architects, musicians, illustrators, filmmakers and fashion and interior designers from across the globe to create artwork for an unusual canvas: the modern web browser. Since then, we've enjoyed hearing thoughts from our users on these designs and how they've used them to personalize the browser. We've also been intrigued by the ways in which these themes have had interesting and unusual cultural resonance with people around the world.

To continue celebrating this collaboration of engineering and art, we've collaborated with our friends at YouTube to launch a new video (with a surprise ending) that we hope showcases the full beauty of these themes. Check it out at youtube.com/googlechromethemes or click the image below. And if you haven't tried Google Chrome recently, download the latest version and give it a whirl.

Official Google Research Blog: 51 Languages in Google Translate

Official Google Research Blog: 51 Languages in Google Translate

Are you using Google Translate to access the world's information? It can help you find and translate local restaurant and hotel reviews into your language when planning a vacation abroad, allow you to read the Spanish or French Editions of Google News, communicate with people who speak different languages using Google Translate chat bots, and more. We're constantly working to improve translation quality, so if you haven't tried it recently, you may be pleasantly surprised with what it can do now.

We're especially excited to announce that we've added 9 new languages to Google Translate: Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh, and Yiddish, bringing the number of languages we support from 42 to 51. Since we can translate between any two of these languages, we offer translation for 2550 language pairs!

How do we decide which languages to add to Google Translate? Our goal is to provide automatic translation for as many languages as possible. So internally we've been collecting data and building systems for more than 100 languages. Whenever a set of languages meets our quality bar we consider it for our next language launch. We've found that one of the most important factors in adding new languages to our system is the ability to find large amounts of translated documents from which our system automatically learns how to translate. As a result, the set of languages that we've been able to develop is more closely tied to the size of the web presence of a language and less to the number of speakers of the language.

We're very happy that our technology allows us to produce machine translation systems for languages that often don't get the attention they deserve. For many of the newly supported languages ours is the only mature and freely available translation system. While translation quality in these languages will be noticeably rougher than for languages we've supported for a longer time like French or Spanish, it is most often good enough to give a basic understanding of the text, and you can be sure that the quality will get better over time.

Remember, you can also use Google Translate from inside other Google products. For example you can translate e-mails within GMail, translate web pages using Google Toolbar, translate RSS news feeds from around the world in Google Reader, and translate documents in Google Docs. (The new languages aren't available in these products yet but will be soon!) And, if you're translating content into other languages, you can use our technology within Google Translator Toolkit to help you translate faster and better. In the future, expect to find our translation technology in more places, making it increasingly simple to get access to information no matter what language it is written in.

Google Online Security Blog: Best Practices for Verifying and Cleaning up a Compromised Site

Google Online Security Blog: Best Practices for Verifying and Cleaning up a Compromised Site:

As part of Cyber Security Awareness Month, Google's Anti-Malware Team is publishing a series of educational blog posts inspired by questions we've received from users. October is a great time to brush up on cyber security tips and ensure you're taking the necessary steps to protect your computer, website, and personal information. For general cyber security tips, check out our online security educational series or visit http://www.staysafeonline.org/. To learn more about malware detection and site cleanup, visit the Webmaster Tools Help Center and Forum.

In our last post in this series, we explained Google's malware scanning process and how malware warning reviews work. It's not always clear to webmasters how to go about cleaning up their sites once they've been compromised, so this time we thought we'd share some best practices.

1) Verify Your Site with Google Webmaster Tools

If you have added and verified your site's ownership with Google Webmaster Tools, you can view a partial list of URLs where our system has detected suspicious content on your site, as well as samples of the malicious code. Once you've thoroughly cleaned up your site and addressed the vulnerability that allowed it to be compromised, it's easy to request a review through Webmaster Tools. We recognize that some site owners may want to use these tools even if they haven't already signed up with Webmaster Tools. For that reason, we enable you to verify ownership of your sites at any time, even if our systems have listed them as potentially dangerous.

2) If Your Site Has Been Compromised, Perform a Comprehensive Cleanup

If any part of your site has been compromised, thoroughly check all pages on the site for harmful code or content — not just the example pages listed in Webmaster Tools. Be sure to identify and address the underlying vulnerability that led to the compromise, or else reinfection is likely to occur.

Remember to Check Your Web Server Configuration

In addition to checking the contents of your site's pages and web server source code, remember to check that your web server configuration has not been modified by any intruders. If your web server has been compromised, your site's error pages can be modified to include custom HTML that actually redirects visitors to malicious sites.

Deleted & Error Pages: Dark Corners of Your Website Where Malware May Be Lurking

When a page is deleted from a site, the web server returns an error code (usually 404: Not Found) when requests to the "deleted" URLs are made. In addition to the error code in the HTTP header, the web server may send a custom error page or "Not Found" page, usually intended to help users find what they are looking for. If your site is infected, its error page can contain arbitrary HTML that exposes your visitors to malware. You can search our Webmaster Forum for information about how others are dealing with similar problems. The recently-launched malware samples feature in Google Webmaster Tools could also come in handy.

3) If You Switch Hosting Providers, Disable Access to the Old Version of Your Site

When a site is moved to a different hosting provider, the DNS records are updated such that the domain name points to a new IP address. In some cases, DNS caching can cause your domain name to continue resolving to the old IP address for some visitors even after the site has moved. For this reason, we recommend instructing your former hosting provider to stop serving any content for your site. This may cause some visitors to experience server errors for a few hours, but can protect them from visiting a potentially dangerous web server.

Official Google Mac Blog: New face-tagging, iPhoto compatibility, & more Mac-friendly features in Picasa 3.5

Official Google Mac Blog: New face-tagging, iPhoto compatibility, & more Mac-friendly features in Picasa 3.5

Today, I'm happy to announce that we're releasing Picasa 3.5, a new version of our free photo editing software. Since we launched it as a beta Labs product 9 months ago, we've been steadily improving Picasa for Mac. Now that it has almost all the same features as the PC version, we've decided it's time to remove the beta label once and for all.

If you haven't tried Picasa for Mac, the new version gives you the ability to add name tags to your photos so that you organize them by what matters most: people. Picasa groups similar faces and lets you easily add a name tag to dozens of photos at once. After you've tagged some photos with names, you can do creative things with your tagged photos, like quickly finding all the photos with the same two people in them, making a face collage for a friend, or simply uploading and sharing people albums.

In addition to name tags, Picasa 3.5 has integrated Google Maps so you can more easily geotag your photos. And using our redesigned import process, you can now import photos from your camera and upload selected photos to Picasa Web Albums in one easy step.

European Public Policy Blog: Celebrating free expression 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall

European Public Policy Blog: Celebrating free expression 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall

In 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall became a striking symbol for free expression far beyond the borders of Germany. Just 20 years later, Iranian citizens used online tools like YouTube and Twitter to share firsthand accounts of the brutal government crackdown waged against protesters disputing the country's election results. Many Iranians risked their lives to document the violence, despite the government's attempts to expel journalists and stifle any voices of dissent.

The democratizing power of the Internet has enabled individuals to share their stories with a global audience in ways never before possible, and given a voice to those who wouldn't otherwise be heard.

To commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, we're launching a YouTube channel — youtube.com/GoogleFreeExpression — to highlight and celebrate free expression around the world, and we want to hear from you.

Google Public Policy Blog: Helping Virginians vote

Google Public Policy Blog: Helping Virginians vote

Last year we worked with partners to launch tools that made it easier to find basic voting information like when to register, where to vote, and how to contact your local election office.

We're back at it this year, helping Virginians vote in the upcoming 2009 general election with the Virginia Voting Info Map and gadget, which uses a data feed built by the Virginia State Board of Elections.

If you vote in Virginia, you can enter the home address where you're registered and receive the following information:
  • Your polling place address and directions to get there
  • Candidates on your ballot, along with a link to their websites (when available)
  • Absentee voting information
  • Your local election office address and phone number
Here's a working version for you to try out:

2009 Virginia Voter Info

Gadgets powered by Google

You can easily add the gadget to your site, as the Bob McDonnell campaign has done.

Official Google Blog: Liberate your Google Docs with Convert, Zip and Download

Liberate your Google Docs with Convert, Zip and Download
This past September, you may have heard about the launch of our Data Liberation site, a central place on the web detailing how you can easily move your data into or away from Google's cloud. Today, we're adding another product to our growing list of liberations: the "Convert, Zip and Download" feature in Google Docs, which allows you to download a bunch — or all — of your Docs simultaneously.

This new feature comes out of a collaboration between the Google Docs engineering team and Google's Data Liberation Front, a small team of engineers that aims to make it easy for you to transfer your personal data in and out of Google's services by building simple import and export functions.

"Convert, Zip and Download" now joins dozens of other liberation features across our product offerings, ranging from Blogger's full blog downloads to email export from Gmail using IMAP and POP3. The feature lets you bundle your Google Docs in a format of your choice (MS Office, Open Office, PDF, etc.) and download them as a zip file. No longer do you have to download each document individually, which can take a lot of time if you have hundreds of documents like I do! All you need to do is select the relevant Docs, click on "Export" from the "More Actions" menu and download them in one go. (Check out the Google Docs Blog for more details.)

Official Google Blog: Contextual search within Wikipedia

Contextual search within Wikipedia:
We are excited to announce that we've built a Custom Search Wikipedia skin that makes it easier for you to complete your research on Wikipedia. Wikipedia allows users to register and personalize their Wikipedia environment via the configuration of options and the use of styles or skins. Just log in to Wikipedia, enable the Custom Search skin and you'll have quick access to relevant Google Custom Search results from Wikipedia. With the Custom Search skin, your search results are conveniently placed inline on the page. After you've reviewed the results, you can dismiss them and return to the current article of interest without having to switch to a different tab on your browser; you can access the relevant Wikipedia articles right within the Wikipedia interface.

The Custom Search skin also features contextual search — searching across different sets of pages as you navigate Wikipedia. For Wikipedia pages with a lot of information and links, contextual search lets you limit your search to only those Wikipedia pages that are linked from the current article, focusing the results on the topic of the article. So, in addition to getting all matching Wikipedia articles, you can quickly drill down to contextually relevant results using the Linked Wikipedia Pages tab.

Official Google Blog: Energy Secretary Chu visits Googleplex

Energy Secretary Chu visits Googleplex:
Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu joined us at the Google campus today to talk about how the U.S. can build a prosperous economy powered by clean energy.

During a fireside chat with Googlers and our CEO Eric Schmidt, Secretary Chu talked about what it will take to create a clean energy revolution. When it comes to clean tech investments, he said, the Department of Energy is trying to "hit home runs, not base hits." He noted that there are many proposed solutions to climate change out there, and we need to pursue all of them. "The scale of what we need to do is enormous," said Secretary Chu, and "putting the world on a carbon diet" and dramatically bringing down the cost of clean energy and should be top priorities. If we succeed, it will "drive a new industrial revolution."

Use Google Voice with your existing number

Use Google Voice with your existing number:

Up until now, if you wanted to use Google Voice, you needed to choose a new number (a "Google number"). Taking calls through your Google number allows us to offer features like call recording, call screening and getting text messages via email. But we know not everyone wants to switch to a new phone number, so it made sense for us to create a lighter version of Google Voice for people who are willing to trade some features for the ability to use their existing numbers.

We're excited to announce that you now have the choice to get Google Voice with your existing mobile number OR with a Google number.