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Google Fiber UK plans dismissed by solid statement

21 Jul 2014

While the US is benefitting from Google's 1Gbps fibre service, called Fiber, UK citizens will sadly be left behind as the search giant confirms that it has no serious plans to bring its Fiber service to British shores.

Last week, a (clearly unreliable) source informed The Telegraph that Google was in talks with British fibre specialist CityFibre, with the intention of extending the Google Fiber project beyond the US and over to Blighty.

Unfortunately, this discussion broke down as concerns were voiced that CityFibre's existing partnership with BSkyB would be threatened. Despite this curveball, optimistic fibre fans held out hope that Google would lavish the UK with its full-fibre network.

Rumours remained in circulation until a Google spokesperson shot them down telling Engadget: "We have informal conversations with other telecom companies all the time. But we've never had any serious planning discussions about bringing Google Fiber to Britain."

This is a shame as Google Fiber, currently operating in four US cities and with plans to extended it to cover another 34, is a service that could well appeal to those stuck with slow broadband.

What makes the Google Fiber networks so coveted is that they use fibre-optic cabling for the entire network to deliver speeds of 1000Mbps. Comparatively, most of BT's fibre network delivers a 'mere' 76Mbps and rely on old copper wires to connect homes to the street-based cabinets.

Nevertheless there are some fibre projects in the works. In a bid to reduce their dependency on BT Openreach networks, a joint venture between BSkyB, TalkTalk and CityFibre aims to establish a 1Gbps city-wide fibre networking in York.

While the three companies have a vision to roll out the service to other UK cities, for the immediate future Britain has no alternative except to mourn the lack of Google Fiber.

 

EU Right to be Forgotten mess sees Google censoring BBC, Guardian

03 Jul 2014

gavel-keyboard

The moment the European Court of Justice ruled that the people of Europe do have a right to be forgotten, the warning bells sounded. What on earth would such a woolly, hard-to-define ruling actually mean in the digital age?

It turns out, as many warned, it’s effectively creating a strange, quasi-censorship system that is forcing Google to remove links to news articles that almost certainly deserve to be in the public domain.

Google protested hard against the ruling but ultimately it must comply with the law. So it has chosen to start removing articles from its indexes, and letting the firms involved know. So far the BBC and The Guardian have reported that pieces have been removed from Google, such as a column by Robert Peston commenting on  bankers' woes during the 2007 financial crisis.

It is not clear who made the requests, or why, but Google has decided that it must remove them. It could have possibly deferred the decisions to a legal authority, but instead has chosen to become the judge and jury of the requests it receives.

In many ways this isn’t Google’s fault. With over 50,000 requests piling up, it probably felt compelled to start making some decisions. However, the precedent is worrying.

Like it or loathe it, Google’s reach is huge, and removing a result from the index is a very good way of ensuring bad news is hidden away. While for some there may well be a legitimate reason to want a result removed, for most cases the motives could well be more questionable.

It's already been reported that some have asked for links regarding stories of tax dodgers, paedophiles and dodgy doctors to be removed from the Google search index. Again, the motives for this could come from an honest, understandable stance, but the outcome is worrying.

In effect, the European courts seem to have ended up creating a system of censorship, but rather than being the state that controls it, it is the people that have the right to try and hide themselves, with Google seemingly happy to process requests without question.

There are two points to consider though: firstly, the pressure this situation is creating for the EU could force it to amend its ruling. Secondly, with so many online outlets writing about the articles that are taken down, we could well see the Streisand effect come into play.

Perhaps Google is hoping for both outcomes, in order to show the EU courts how absurd the decision is proving.

Google adds top UK tourist spots to Street View

27 May 2014

Byland Abbey on Google Street View

Given that skies full of dark, forbidding rain clouds make up the majority of British summers, finding the weather to go out and visit some of the country’s cultural and historical sites can be pretty rare.

But with the announcement that popular tourist destinations will be added to Street View in Google Maps, sightseers will not need to wait for the sun to make an appearance before they can glimpse the majestic ruins of Byland Abbey (pictured above), for example. 

Google has added famous destinations ranging from grand historical structures such as Alnwick Castle and Gardens, through to renowned racecourses including Epson Downs and Newmarket (below).

Newmarket race course

In order to fill Google Maps with 3D views of these tourist hotspots, the search giant needed to look beyond using its traditional Street Views cars as it had to get up close to some of the UK’s most popular attractions without damaging treasured parts of British heritage or alarming bemused onlookers.

So, working with partners, Google used a combination of trekker backpacks and trollies to capture many of the various sights and vistas of Britain, making them viewable on the screens of PCs, tablets and smartphones through its same Street View interface.

Now Google maps users can effectively tour the sights of Britain without even leaving the comfort of their own homes.

Plus, with virtual reality technology becoming more of a reality, thanks to the Oculus Rift and Sony Project Morpheus headset hardware, perhaps this could this be the end of real-world tourism?

Google pens "Glasshole" guide for awkward Glass Explorers

19 Feb 2014

Google Glass is not the most subtle wearable tech

Some technology has the power to change society for the better. Smartphones, for example, have given awkward types something to stare at whenever a real-life interaction is proving uncomfortable: an astounding feat of technical engineering.

Google Glass might be the next piece of tech to drive social change, but with great power comes great responsibility. And that responsibility includes telling us to not "be creepy" while wearing them, which is exactly what Google has done.

Realising that people who pay $1,500 to be early adopters for an unproven, ungainly and unsightly new technology may quite possibly have some underlying social quirks, Google has published a guide to prevent users from becoming "Glassholes".

Google told early adopters, known as Explorers, to not "Glass out". "If you find yourself staring off into the prism for long periods of time you're probably looking pretty weird to the people around you. So don't read War and Peace on Glass. Things like that are better done on bigger screens."

Sports are also outlawed: "Glass is a piece of technology, so use common sense. Water skiing, bull riding or cage fighting with Glass are probably not good ideas."

If you're on a hot date, it's advisable to conceal Glass, too: "If you're worried about someone interrupting that romantic dinner at a nice restaurant with a question about Glass, just take it off and put it around the back of your neck or in your bag."

We'd advise hiding it pre-date, just so you don't make a strange first impression.

This final statement of the completely obvious pretty much sums up the whole post: "Don't be creepy or rude (aka, a 'Glasshole'). Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don't get snappy. Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren't allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass.

"If you're asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers."

The future is here, and it's rude and disrespectful.

By V3's Michael Passingham, who's constantly making a glass of himself

Google Glass driving case thrown out of court as legal questions remain

17 Jan 2014

Just when we thought we might get some legal precedent on how wearable tech might affect driving laws, a landmark case on the topic has been thrown out of court.

Although the case in question only relates to driving in California, other law enforcement bodies and government departments were likely watching the proceedings of Glass early adopter Cecilia Abadie, who was stopped by police for speeding last October. The officer then apparently noticed her $1,500 headwear and decided to add the felony of using a television monitor while driving to her list of alleged crimes.

The case has been thrown out of court, simply because there's no proof whether Abadie's glasses were turned on at the time. She denies it, and that's all the court has to go on.

The interesting thing here is the Californian law in question, which essentially states that no screens can be used while driving, other than those which provide "information about the state of vehicle, to assist the driver to see the road ahead or adjacent to him/her or to navigate to his/her destination."

As The Frontline wrote last week, it's looking ever more likely that car manufacturers are going to embrace Glass-like tech for their own customers, providing information such as navigation information about speed and fuel.

So, in this case, there's no closure. And future cases won't be helped at all, but it may be a warning shot for Google and other would-be driving glasses manufacturers to build in mechanisms to prevent devices from being used in ways which may be considered illegal – such as watching a movie or conducting a video conference call.

It's going to be an interesting few years for wearable technology.

By V3's Michael Passingham, who wears his heart on his sleeve – also a traffic offence

Google Glass in-car use looks more realistic as DfT softens stance

08 Jan 2014

driving

"Turn around where possible," your satnav says when you're doing something silly. The Department for Transport (DfT) looks to be under similar instruction with its stance on Google Glass.

In August, the DfT said that it would be "in discussion with the police to ensure that individuals do not use this technology while driving" before anyone from the department had even had the chance to try out the tech for themselves. Now, according to Sunday Times Driving supplement, they may be having a change of heart, and the possibilities are exciting.

"We have met with Google to discuss the implications of the current law for Google Glass," it is reported as saying. "Google are anxious their products do not pose a road safety risk and are currently considering options to allow the technology to be used in accordance with the law."

That's a pretty big change of heart, although it remains to be seen whether it will be legal in the UK, more importantly, the rest of the world. The state of California is currently debating the legality of Glass, for example, and we hear there are a lot of cars in that neck of the woods. Meanwhile, Nissan is developing its own '3E' glasses for in-car use.

So, assuming Glass is actually legal, what can we hope to do with it? Well, Mercedes has a few ideas. In-eye and in-ear satnav is a given, and is already in the very early stages of development. Another, less obvious use for the hardware is the displaying of a car's rear-facing parking camera to allow people with neck pain not to have to turn their heads.

At the moment, more in-depth info about your car such as fuel, mileage and speed doesn't work with Glass, but with Google having announced a partnership with firms such as Audi, Honda and General Motors, we can't imagine Android and Glass compatible cars being far away.

Sunday Times Driving reports that manufacturers are justifying the legality of Glass by saying the superimposed images displayed don't require drivers to look away from the road, similar to a windscreen-mounted satnav.

Road safety organisations want to make sure users are given ample choice as to the level of interference posed by their headwear, asking for what would in effect be a "driving mode" for headwear that connects to a smartphone.

There's certainly a line to be drawn between apps that are suitable for driving and those which are not. Playing Angry Birds on your Glass using eye and head movements, for example, would be utterly inappropriate.

We still don't know how much Google Glass is going to cost, and its uses while walking around town are questionable. In-car headwear looks like a much more exciting proposition, although whether it's anything more than a gimmick remains to be seen.

By V3's Michael Passingham, who will drive you round the bend

Nelson Mandela tops Google searches for 2013, iPhone 5S and Galaxy S4 not far behind

17 Dec 2013

As we approach the end of the year Google has once against listed its annual zeitgeist list of the most searched terms over the past 12 months to show what most people around the world wanted to know during the year.

Despite only passing on a few weeks ago, the topic that has dominated the list is the death of Nelson Mandela, as those around the world searched for more information on the great leader. This was just ahead of the death of Paul Walker, the star of the Fast and Furious franchise of movies.

Elsewhere, though, technology was well represented on the list, with searches for the iPhone 5S and the Samsung Galaxy S4 both appearing, with Apple scoring more hits than Samsung, as it chalks up another, admittedly minor, victory over its nemesis.

The PlayStation 4 (PS4) also featured, unlike the Xbox One, as Microsoft’s console fails to quite match Sony for hype and interest in the games market.

The top 10 list is below:

1.    Nelson Mandela
2.    Paul Walker
3.    iPhone 5S
4.    Cory Monteith
5.    Harlem Shake
6.    Boston Marathon
7.    Royal Baby
8.    Samsung Galaxy S4
9.    PS4
10.  North Korea

Google has also made an interactive globe that shows the most popular search terms from different locations around the word, with London showing a weird demand for sport with both BBC Sport and BBC Football both scoring highly. Other UK cities such as Manchester and Bristol also show an enjoyment for sports information.

By V3's Dan Worth, who searches high and low

Google’s latest hubris: we’ll design our own chips

13 Dec 2013

Google is said to be looking at designing its own chips rather than using processors from chip giant Intel, according to reports from Bloomberg.

At first this might be considered as more wackiness from the search giant, following such gems this year as its Google Glass cyber-spectacles and notions about balloons floating above Africa to carry WiFi signals.

However, a closer look at the Bloomberg report shows that Google is considering building server chips based on the ARM architecture, which is a long way from designing your own processor technology from the ground up. In fact, ARM's entire business model lies in creating processor designs for other companies to manufacture.

ARM Cortex A15 chip

ARM has spent the past two decades refining its architecture to operate using as little power as possible, chiefly in battery-powered mobile devices such as smartphones. However, with the explosive growth in data and cloud-based services, many big internet firms and telcos are said to be eyeing ARM-based servers as a way of cutting their energy bills.

In theory, it could be relatively simple to produce your own ARM chip – you can just license one of ARM's designs and contract a semiconductor foundry company such as TSMC to manufacture it for you.

However, designing your own custom chip is somewhat more complicated, and the ARM architecture also has little track record so far in the server market. Startups such as Calxeda – which was founded by ex-Intel engineers – have been working on ARM server chips for several years now, with the first production systems only appearing relatively recently.

Of course, Google has enormous resources at its disposal, but if it is serious about making its own ARM-based server chips, we would expect that acquiring a firm with expertise in this area, such as Calxeda, would be a much better plan than trying to start from scratch. Alternatively, Google would be best advised to work with established chipmakers such as AMD, which is building its own ARM server processors.

Creating your own processor, making it work properly and tweaking it for optimum performance and efficiency, and then building an entire server around it, are processes that take time and a great deal of specialist expertise – expertise that Google almost certainly lacks at the moment.

Tellingly, Bloomberg's source is quoted as saying that Google "has made no decision and plans could change".

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