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Spanner and Cockroach

June 30, 2016

I read “Google Tools Up with Its Spanner Database, Looks for a Fight with AWS.” Interesting. Google continues to innovate in data management systems. Its MapReduce tool helped “spark” the Hadoopers. Now Spanner is moving into a cloud war fighting machine. The write up reports:

Google has gone on the record to talk about Spanner in the past, saying its an SQL-like database that can run across multiple data centers, and is capable of scaling up to millions of machines in hundreds of data centers and trillions of database rows. It is “the first system to distribute data at global scale and support externally-consistent distributed transactions,” Google has said. Spanner’s most appealing feature is that it supports synchronous replication, which means that any changes made to the database will automatically be replicated across every data center in real-time, so the data stays consistent regardless of where it’s accessed from.

But what is interesting to me is the headline: “A fight with AWS.” Let’s see how the Amazon fight is progressing. Amazon has a big cloud business. Amazon has a number of options to expand its enterprise services. Amazon has a big ecommerce business the costs of which are partially offset by the Amazon cloud business. Amazon has a search system which in my opinion is a work in progress.

Google has a fight with the EU and the challenge of those Facebookers’ surging ad business. Google also has the task of solving death and getting the Loon balloons aloft and generating revenue. Now the company, according to the write up, wants to fight with Amazon.

Fascinating. Oh, and details of the new data management system and its application to folks with real world problems? Not much info. I love to sit on the sidelines when companies allegedly engage in a multi-front war.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2016

Wanna Be Like Larry, the Alphabet Google Founder?

June 30, 2016

Here are the five secrets so you too can be like Larry Page. If you want to solve death and do the flying cars, follow the steps in “5 Secrets of Google As Revealed by Larry Page.” And what are the secrets one may ask? I summarized them in the table below and provided an example of the do as I say, not do as I do insights. Enjoy.

Larry Secret Example in Action
Keep reaching for perfection Google search. It just gets more and more advertising like and less and less about precision and recall
Too few is better than too many Yep focus. Alphabet Google is solving death and most recently developing super powers for mass transportation. And there are the Google products. Lots and lots of products.
Work for fun and a cause, not for money. As one of the richest people in the world, who worries about clean water, paying rent, and feeding one’s family. Party time.
Pay attention to trends. There is that social networking trend which Facebook dominates. Google’s social initiative? Well, it is aware of the Facebook ad thing.
Do good for the world. Apparently the fragile European Union does not see much good in some of the Google actions, hence the contentious anti trust allegations.

You now have the secret to success minus the contribution of certain Almaden research scientists, former AltaVista wizards, the Yahoo, GoTo, Overture ad thing, and a few other minor ingredients. Have at it.

Stephen E Arnold, June 30, 2016

Alphabet Google and Its EU Strategy

June 29, 2016

Short honk: Read the original article “Eric Schmidt Gave Us a Glimpse of the Strategy He’s Using to Persuade the EU to Not Declare Google a Monopoly.”

Here’s the quote to note which I circled in true blue:

“Our strategy, and my personal strategy, is to get to know the regulators very, very well.” Schmidt [Alphabet Google big dog] does that, he said, because “people don’t know how we work.”

Right. No one really knows how Alphabet Google works. Perhaps one might ask someone disenchanted with Mother Google. Perhaps a person at Foundem has some thoughts.

To know the Alphabet Google thing is to love the Alphabet Google thing. Knowledge makes the monopoly idea fade it seems.

Stephen E Arnold, June 29, 2016

Google Search: Retrievers Lose. Smart Software Wins

June 28, 2016

I scanned a number of write ups about Google’s embrace of machine learning and smart software. I supplement my Google queries with the results of other systems. Some of these have their own index; for example, and Exalead. Others are metasearch engines will suck in results and do some post processing to help answer the users’ questions. Others are disappointing and I check them out when I have a client who is willing to pay for stone flipping; for example, DuckDuckGo, iSeek, or the estimable Qwant. (I love quirky spelling too.)

I read “RankBrain Third Most Important Factor Determining Google Search Results.” Here’s the quote I noted:

Google is characteristically fuzzy on exactly how it improves search (something to do with the long tail? Better interpretation of ambiguous requests?) but Jeff Dean [former AltaVista wizard] says that RankBrain is “involved in every query,” and affects the actual rankings “probably not in every query but in a lot of queries.” What’s more, it’s hugely effective. Of the hundreds of “signals” Google search uses when it calculates its rankings (a signal might be the user’s geographical location, or whether the headline on a page matches the text in the query), RankBrain is now rated as the third most useful. “It was significant to the company that we were successful in making search better with machine learning,” says John Giannandrea. “That caused a lot of people to pay attention.”Pedro Domingos, the University of Washington professor who wrote The Master Algorithm, puts it a different way: “There was always this battle between the retrievers and the machine learning people,” he says. “The machine learners have finally won the battle.”

I have noticed in the last year, that I am unable to locate certain documents when I use the words and phrases which had served me well before smart software became the cat’s pajamas.

One recent example was my need to locate a case example about a German policeman’s trials and tribulations with the Dark Web. When I first located this document, I was trying to verify an anecdote shared with me after one of my intelligence community lectures.

I had the document in my file and I pulled it up on my monitor. The document in question is the work of an outfit and person labeled “Lars Hilse.” The title of the write up is “Dark Web & Bitcoin: Global Terrorism “Threat Assessment. The document was published in April 2013 with an update issued in November 2013. (That document was the source or maybe confirmed the anecdote about the German policeman and his Dark Web research.)

For my amusement, I wondered if I could use the new and improved Google Web search to locate the document. I display section 4.8 on my screen. The heading of the section is “Extortion (of Law Enforcement Personnel).

I entered the phrase into Google without quotes. Here’s the first page of results:


None of the hits points to the document with the five word phrase.

Read more

CloudFlare Claims Most Activity from Tor Is Malicious

June 28, 2016

Different sources suggest varying levels of malicious activity on Tor. Tech Insider shared an article responding to recent claims about Tor made by CloudFlare. The article, entitled, Google Search has a secret feature that shouts animal noises at you, offers information about CloudFlare’s perspective and that of the Tor Project. CloudFlare reports most requests from Tor, 94 percent, are “malicious” and the Tor Project has responded by requesting evidence to justify the claim. Those involved in the Tor Project have a hunch the 94 percent figure stems from CloudFlare attributing the label of “malicious” to any IP address that has ever sent spam. The article continues,

“We’re interested in hearing CloudFlare’s explanation of how they arrived at the 94% figure and why they choose to block so much legitimate Tor traffic. While we wait to hear from CloudFlare, here’s what we know: 1) CloudFlare uses an IP reputation system to assign scores to IP addresses that generate malicious traffic. In their blog post, they mentioned obtaining data from Project Honey Pot, in addition to their own systems. Project Honey Pot has an IP reputation system that causes IP addresses to be labeled as “malicious” if they ever send spam to a select set of diagnostic machines that are not normally in use. CloudFlare has not described the nature of the IP reputation systems they use in any detail.”

This article raises some interesting points, but also alludes to more universal problems with making sense of any information published online. An epistemology about technology, and many areas of study, is like chasing a moving target. Knowledge about technology is complicated by the relationship between technology and information dissemination. The important questions are what does one know about Tor and how does one know about it?


Megan Feil, June 28, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Does It Matter Who Writes an Article? Probably Not

June 27, 2016

I read “Google Has Stopped Using Authorship Completely, Even for In-Depth Articles.” The write up points out that “authorship is officially and completely dead.” What an outstanding development, assuming, of course, that the article is spot on.

Google seems to be able to figure out who wrote something from the text alone. The innovation should put to rest the question about Shakespeare’s plays. Also, when anonymous information appears on a pastesite, the Alphabet Google thing will “know” who wrote the upload, right?

As wonderful as the world’s largest derivative of GoTo / Overture technology is, I am not 100 percent confident in the authorship function. I am reasonably certain that the Googler making the pronouncement was speaking to the search engine optimization crowd which believes many things in my experience.

For those in the law enforcement and intelligence business, perhaps the best way to determine Google’s capability in authorship is to probe the pastesite content. Wouldn’t that make clear what Google can and cannot do with “authorship.”

My best guess is that Google’s technology might fall short of the mark for some real world applications. For now, knowing who wrote what remains a semi useful factoid. By the way, who writes those Google patents? The named individuals or a flock of legal eagles? If authorship is irrelevant, why do some Google patent applications present the names of numerous Alphabet Google wizards?

Oh, right, I forgot that authorship only applies to marketing type content for the purpose of objective, on point results for the purpose of selling ads. Got it. Students will have to know who wrote “Foresight and Understanding: An Inquiry into the Aims of Science” or “Go Add Value Someplace Else: A Dilbert Book.”

Stephen E Arnold, June 27, 2016

Google Results Now Include Animal Noise Audio

June 27, 2016

Ever wonder about the difference in the noise a bowhead whale makes versus a humpback whale? This is yet another query Google can answer. Tech Insider informed us that Google Search has a secret feature that shouts animal noises at you. This feature allows users to listen to 20 different animal sounds, but according to the article, it is not a well-known service yet. Available on mobile devices as well, this feature appears with a simply query of “what noise does an elephant make?” The post tells us,

“Ever wondered what noise a cow makes? Or a sheep? Or an elephant? No, of course you haven’t because you’re a normal adult with some grasp of reality. You know what noise a sheep makes. But let’s assume for a minute that you don’t. Well, not to worry: Google has got your back. That’s because as well as being a calculator, a tool for researching coworkers, and a portal for all the world’s information, Google has another, little-known feature … It’s capable of making animal noises. Lots of them.”

I don’t know if we would call 20 animal noises “a lot” considering the entirety of the animal kingdom, but it’s definitely a good start. As the article alludes to, the usefulness of this feature is questionable for adults, but perhaps it could be educational for kids or of some novelty interest to animal lovers of all ages. Search is always searching to deliver more.


Megan Feil, June 27, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Forbes, News Coverage, and Google Love

June 24, 2016

Short honk: US news coverage has “faves.” I assume that the capitalist tool avoids bias in its admirable reporting about business.

Navigate to “Television As Data: Mapping 6 Years of American Television News.” The write up uses Big Data from television news to reveal what gets air time. When I read the article, I must admit I thought about the phrase “If it bleeds, it leads.”

The bottom line is not that countries and cities are used to characterize an event. For me the most interesting comment was the thanks bestowed on Google for assisting with the analysis.

I circled twice in honest blue this statement:

In the end, these maps suggest that the bigger story that is being missed in all the conversation about media fragmentation and bias is that media has always been biased geographically, culturally and linguistically.

Note the “all” and the “always.” Nifty generalizations from an analysis of six years of data.

Biased coverage? I cannot conceive of biased coverage. Film at 11.

Stephen E Arnold, June 24, 2016

Self Driving Bicycle Prank Points to Wider Arena

June 24, 2016

Technology companies are no stranger to making April Fools’ pranks in the form of media releases. This year, The Inspiration Room shared an article highlighting the Google Self Driving Bicycle, which was of course developed by the Dutch and launched in the Netherlands. The aspect of this story that is not fiction is how often the Dutch cycle. This short post briefs us on the media release,

“Google is introducing the Google Self Driving Bicycle in Amsterdam, the world’s premier cycling city. The Dutch cycle more than any other nation in the world, almost 900 kilometres per year per person, amounting to over 15 billion kilometres annually. The self-driving bicycle enables safe navigation through the city for Amsterdam residents, and furthers Google’s ambition to improve urban mobility with technology. Google Netherlands takes enormous pride in the fact that a Dutch team worked on this innovation that will have great impact in their home country.”

If there’s one truth this article points to, it’s that the field of search seems to be encompassing nearly everything. It is humorous how Google continues to grow new tentacles tackling more and more arenas that have seemingly little to do with search. Despite the fact this self-driving bicycle does not exist yet, it’s clearly no stretch of the imagination — if a company were to make such a product, would there be any other contenders for who would make it?


Megan Feil, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Stepes: Human Translation at Your Fingertips

June 24, 2016

Though today’s machine translation is a convenient way to quickly get the gist of a foreign-language passage, it has its limitations; professionals still turn to human translation services when it counts. A new platform, Stepes Translate, can bridge the gap (at least until algorithms catch up). Its chat-based format makes it as convenient as machine translation, but there is an actual, multi-lingual human at the other end. BusinessWire reports, “Stepes Extends Google Translate Model to Live Human Translation.” The press release explains:

“Stepes Translate uses the familiar side by side interface of machine translation platforms like Google Translate. Anyone requesting translation simply enters their text into the source field. Next, Stepes immediately identifies an appropriate translator from its network of more than 60,000 in-country translators through mobile notification. The translator begins to translate immediately on his/her smartphone while the requesting user can see their progress live. For most requests, the translation is completed within minutes and appears in the target field for the requesting user to see. … Whereas traditional translation software is overly technical and thus not easily accessible to many translators, Stepes’ mobile technology makes translation tools intuitive.”

Stepes can translate more than 100 languages, and offers a 3-tiered pricing based on quality. If you don’t mind a few awkward passages and humorous phrasings, there is the Basic, 10-cents/word plan. If you need to make a good impression, or the document has legal implications, you’ll want to spring for the Premium, 16-cents/word option.

A project of localization firm CSOFT, Stepes Translate is also known as the Social Translation Experiment Project and Eco System. The acronym is also a nod to the European steppes, the region from which sprung hundreds of the world’s major languages. Headquartered in Beijing, CSOFT (or Communications Solutions Of Foreign Trade) was established in 2003. The company attributes their global success to a strong emphasis on customer service.

Cynthia Murrell, June 24, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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