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Preview: The Official Google Blog

The Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our products, technology, and the Google culture.

Last Build Date: Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:00:00 +0000


Eight things you need to know about Hash Code 2018Eight things you need to know about Hash Code 2018

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:00:00 +0000

Are you up for a coding challenge? Team up to solve an engineering problem from Google—registration for Hash Code 2018 is now open.  Hash Code is Google’s flagship team programming competition for students and professionals in  Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. You pick your team and programming language, we pick a Google engineering problem for you to solve. Thinking about competing in Hash Code? Here’s what you need to know before you sign up:1. This is the fifth edition of Hash Code. Hash Code started in 2014 with just 200 participants. We’ve grown a bit since the early days—last year more than 26,000 developers teamed up to compete from 100+ countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.2. Problems are modeled after Google engineering challenges. We want participants to experience what software engineering is like at Google, so we model Hash Code problems after challenges faced by Google engineering teams. Past problems have included optimizing video serving on YouTube, routing Street View cars through a busy city, and optimizing the layout of a Google data center.  3. You compete in a small team (just like engineers at Google!). To compete in Hash Code, you need to form a team of two to four people. This means it’s not just about what you know individually, but about how you and your team can work together to tackle the problem.4. Hash Code kicks off with an Online Qualification Round on Thursday, March 1. It all starts with a YouTube livestream at 18:30 CET sharp, after which the problem is released and teams have four hours to code. 5. Hubs add extra excitement to the Online Qualification Round. Hubs are meetups where teams in the same area can come together to compete in the Online Qualification Round. They’re also a great opportunity for you to connect with other developers in your community. More than 300 hubs have been registered so far, and it’s not too late to organize a hub if there isn’t one near you already. Some competitors having fun at a few of the hubs during the 2017 Hash Code Online Qualification Round. 6. The Final Round will be held at Google Dublin. Top teams from the Online Qualification Round will be invited to our European Headquarters in April to vie for the title of Hash Code 2018 Champion.7. It's a competition—but it's also about having fun! As Ingrid von Glehn, a software engineer at Google London who is part of the Hash Code organizing team, puts it: “We design the problems to be challenging, but not intimidating. It’s important to us that everyone has fun while taking part.” Join in on all the fun online through our Facebook event and G+ community, using the #hashcode tag. These channels are also great spaces to connect with other engineers and find team members. 8. You can register today. Ready to accept the challenge? Be sure to sign up before registration closes on February 26.*Featured image: Teams hard at work tackling our wireless router placement problem during 2017’s Final Round in Paris. [...]Are you up for a coding challenge? Team up to solve an engineering problem from Google. Registration for Hash Code 2018 is now open at

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#teampixel community member Austin Cameron is living for the city#teampixel community member Austin Cameron is living for the cityTeam Pixel

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 19:45:00 +0000

Happy New Year, Team Pixel! There are so many picture-worthy moments ahead. Helping us get started on 2018 photography is Pixel enthusiast and photographer @ustincameron. He’s a regular #teampixel contributor who’s working through a personal goal of shooting a photo a day for 1,000 days—with more than 700 already under his belt!   He has a talent for shooting in low light, so we reached out to get some tips and find out more about his approach to shooting the nation's most popular cities.“Cityscapes are a fun challenge,” Austin says. “For most people, the skyline is already iconic, so I like to try and make them do a double take by showcasing it from an entirely different perspective than previously recognized.” teampixel112 (1).jpg New York, NY; Los Angeles, CA teampixel112.jpg Louisville, KY; Chicago, IL teampixel112 (2).jpg Chicago, IL; New York, NY 4.jpg San Francisco, CA @ustincameron’s tips for shooting in low light situations:Do your best to prevent light pollution from entering your frame.Make sure to set the focus on dark areas with details you want to bring out.Don’t be scared to lay on the ground for the perfect shot!Keep tagging your photos with #teampixel and you might be featured next.[...]This city slicker’s Pixel photography is making us swoon over popular U.S. cities.

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The High Five: you get a search, you get a search, everybody gets a search!The High Five: you get a search, you get a search, everybody gets a search!Managing Editor

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 18:40:00 +0000

Oprah’s speech had people buzzing, while Jimmy Ma spun to internet fame at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Here are some of the most-searched trends of the week (with data from the Google News Lab).

A brighter morning, even during our darkest nights

“Is Oprah going to run for president?” was a top searched question this week, after the icon’s rousing speech at the Golden Globes. Searches for “Oprah for President” were up more than 5,000 percent, and search interest in “Oprah 2020” was 1,200 percent higher than “Trump 2020.” And the region with the most searches for “Oprah 2020”? Home of the White House, Washington, D.C.

Making waves

The recent raw water trend has people wondering whether drinking untreated water is actually good for you, and search queries poured in: “How is well water different from raw water?” “Who endorses raw water?” and “How much does raw water cost?” This week, searches in “raw water” were 800 percent higher than “raw milk” and 300 percent higher than “raw food.”

Roll tide

Alabama Crimson Tide freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa had his moment in the search spotlight this week. After leading his team to an overtime victory in the College Football Playoff National Championship, searches for his name increased nearly 7,000 percent, and searches are interested in his names, his stats, and his hands (which are reportedly quite large, and were searched 450 percent more than famously large-handed NFL quarterback Russell Wilson).

Ice skating turns up

Search interest in figure skater Jimmy Ma jumped 1,300 percent this week after he brought hip hop to the ice skating rink. His routine at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships featured Lil Jon’s hit song “Turn Down for What,” prompting these top searches: “Jimmy Ma freestyle,” “Jimmy Ma goes viral,” and “Jimmy Ma hiphop ice skating routine.”

What happens in Vegas …

Will stay in tech news. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which showcases future tech products, took place in Las Vegas this week. Some technical difficulties meant that “CES power outage” was searched 150 percent more than “CES news.” Other top searches about the event were “When is CES 2018?” “What does CES stand for?” and “How to go to CES.”

(image) Check out what’s trending on Google with a look at a few of the top searches from this week.

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A doodle celebrating Zhou Youguang and the ABCs of learning MandarinA doodle celebrating Zhou Youguang and the ABCs of learning MandarinDoodle Team Lead

Fri, 12 Jan 2018 11:15:00 +0000

Mandarin Chinese is a tremendously rich logographic language, meaning every word is represented by a unique character or combination of characters. And there are a lot—the largest Chinese dictionaries contain more than 60,000 different ones.   

The sheer volume makes it challenging for non-native speakers to master Mandarin. As anyone who has studied the language knows, it’s difficult remembering the pronunciations of thousands of characters!

Thanks to Zhou Youguang’s work, it’s now a lot easier to learn Mandarin. An economist by training, in the 1950s, he was tasked by the Chinese government to turn Chinese characters into words with Roman letters. Over three years, Zhou developed pinyin, a phonetic alphabet for Mandarin. With the help of just 26 letters of the Roman alphabet and four tonal marks, pinyin allows for the accurate pronunciation of any of Mandarin’s 60,000 or so characters, no matter how obscure. It’s thanks to Zhou that we can learn “拼音” is pronounced “pīn yīn” by reading its phonetic spelling, instead of listening to someone else pronounce it first.

So today’s doodle in countries including Argentina, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and the U.S. celebrates Zhou’s 112th birthday. Zhou passed away at the ripe old age of 111 last year. He lived long enough to see people using pinyin to type Mandarin characters on computers and mobile phones. By inventing pinyin, Zhou didn’t just help generations of students learn Mandarin. He also paved the way for a new generation of Mandarin speakers to communicate online.

(image) A doodle celebrating the 112th birthday of Zhou Youguang. By inventing the Pinyin system, Zhou made learning Mandarin easier for generations of students.

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Stick to your New Year’s resolutions with a little help from Google HomeStick to your New Year’s resolutions with a little help from Google HomeProduct Manager, Google Home

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 18:30:00 +0000

In 2018, I’m committed to getting in better shape. As with all New Year’s resolutions, the hard part will be actually sticking to it. But this year, I’ll have help from my Google Assistant. No matter what your resolution is, here are a few ways your Google Home, Mini or Max can keep you on track:

  • Meet your fitness goals: Use your Google Home to play your workout playlist,, set alarms for working out, or cast workout videos from YouTube to your TV with Google Home and Chromecast. 
  • Get better sleep: Tune out noises from the apartment next door or help get your kids to bed by saying, “Hey Google, play white noise.” You can also set reminders to help you stick to a consistent bedtime. 
  • Explore new places: Try asking, “Hey Google, how much are flights to Rio de Janeiro in June?” or ask “Hey Google, what currency is used in Brazil?”
  • Find time to relax: Set an alarm for a 20-minute power nap or even do a short meditation by saying, “Hey Google, talk to Headspace.”
  • Stay in touch with family and friends: Never forget to call by setting a reminder, just say, “Hey Google, remind me to call Aunt Mary every Sunday.” You can even check in with loved ones by making hands-free calls while you’re multitasking. If you’re in the U.S. or Canada (911 calls not supported), just say “Hey Google, call Mom.”
  • Limit screen time: With more than 50 games and activities for families, the Assistant on Google Home can provide more fun for the family without TV, tablets or phones. And when it’s game time, you can broadcast the message to all Google Home devices in your house.
Thanks to my Assistant on Google Home, 2018 is the year I’m actually sticking to my resolution.

(image) Your Google Assistant on Google Home is on call to help you stick to your goals in 2018.

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Protecting our Google Cloud customers from new vulnerabilities without impacting performanceProtecting our Google Cloud customers from new vulnerabilities without impacting performanceVP, 24x7

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000

If you’ve been keeping up on the latest tech news, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the CPU security flaw that Google’s Project Zero disclosed last Wednesday. On Friday, we answered some of your questions and detailed how we are protecting Cloud customers. Today, we’d like to go into even more detail on how we’ve protected Google Cloud products against these speculative execution vulnerabilities, and what we did to make sure our Google Cloud customers saw minimal performance impact from these mitigations.Modern CPUs and operating systems protect programs and users by putting a “wall" around them so that one application, or user, can’t read what’s stored in another application’s memory. These boundaries are enforced by the CPU.But as we disclosed last week, Project Zero discovered techniques that can circumvent these protections in some cases, allowing one application to read the private memory of another, potentially exposing sensitive information.The vulnerabilities come in three variants, each of which must be protected against individually. Variant 1 and Variant 2 have also been referred to as “Spectre.” Variant 3 has been referred to as “Meltdown.” Project Zero described these in technical detail, the Google Security blog described how we’re protecting users across all Google products, and we explained how we’re protecting Google Cloud customers and provided guidance on security best practices for customers who use their own operating systems with Google Cloud services.Surprisingly, these vulnerabilities have been present in most computers for nearly 20 years. Because the vulnerabilities exploit features that are foundational to most modern CPUs—and were previously believed to be secure—they weren’t just hard to find, they were even harder to fix. For months, hundreds of engineers across Google and other companies worked continuously to understand these new vulnerabilities and find mitigations for them.In September, we began deploying solutions for both Variants 1 and 3 to the production infrastructure that underpins all Google products—from Cloud services to Gmail, Search and Drive—and more-refined solutions in October. Thanks to extensive performance tuning work, these protections caused no perceptible impact in our cloud and required no customer downtime in part due to Google Cloud Platform’s Live Migration technology. No GCP customer or internal team has reported any performance degradation.While those solutions addressed Variants 1 and 3, it was clear from the outset that Variant 2 was going to be much harder to mitigate. For several months, it appeared that disabling the vulnerable CPU features would be the only option for protecting all our workloads against Variant 2. While that was certain to work, it would also disable key performance-boosting CPU features, thus slowing down applications considerably.Not only did we see considerable slowdowns for many applications, we also noticed inconsistent performance, since the speed of one application could be impacted by the behavior of other applications running on the same core. Rolling out these mitigations would have negatively impacted many customers.With the performance characteristics uncertain, we started looking for a “moonshot”—a way to mitigate Variant 2 without hardware support. Finally, inspiration struck in the form of “Retpoline”—a novel software binary modification technique that prevents branch-target-injection, created by Paul Turner, a software engineer who is part of our Technical Infrastructure group. With Retpoline, we didn't need to disable speculative execution or other hardware features. Instead, this solution modifies programs to ensure that execution cannot be influenced by an attacker.With Retpoline, we could protect our infrastructure at compile-time, with no source-code modifications. Furthermore, testing this feature, particularly when combined with o[...]

Seven kinds of Local Guides you might spot on Google MapsSeven kinds of Local Guides you might spot on Google Maps

Wed, 10 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000

What kind are you?Satellites are famously effective for mapping, but they don’t take photos of must-have breakfast sandwiches, update hours of operation or tell families when places are wheelchair accessible. That’s Local Guides territory. Local Guides are people who share information on Google Maps to help others discover where to go—and there are more than 60 million of them in our global community, with the most prolific contributors hailing from the United States, India and Brazil. They guide worldwide users each day, rack up millions of views, support small businesses and literally put important, sometimes vital, information on the map for others to use. Anyone can become a Local Guide—and once you do, you'll become part of a dynamic community. Each contributor is different, with specific passions and ways of sharing. Here are seven inspiring specialists we’ve spotted, with tips on how to do what they do. 1. The visualist Local Guides love taking photos—in fact, they shared more than 300 million of them on Google Maps last year. If you’re a visualist, it’s your favorite way to contribute. Loves: Seeking photogenic spots, finding the beauty in everyday places, making the most of golden hour.Tip: You can share your shots of places right from Google Photos. Just tap the share icon on Android and select Add to Maps. Then select or update the location before you post it. 2. The fact hunterIn many parts of the world, essential information like where to find an ATM or a clinic may be hard to come by. Fact hunters uncover these details to share with others on Google Maps. Loves: Accurate listings on Google Maps, adding missing info for small businesses, moving location pins so people can find places.Tip: On Google Maps for mobile, go to Your contributions in the menu and tap Uncover missing info to see which places need your expertise. 3. The trailblazer If a friend has ever asked you for the hottest new restaurant in town, you might be a trailblazer. These Local Guides have the pulse of their cities and love being the first to try a new place.Loves: Adding the first review or photo to a place, putting unlisted places on the map.Tip: Check out restaurants and local shops opening this year so you can add their first photos and get those views. 4. The sageIf a review has ever helped you choose whether to stay by the sea or by the bay, you can thank a sage. No matter where they go, these Local Guides write about all the inside tips, from the best exhibits to visit to the best instructors to take at a fitness studio. Loves: Dropping knowledge and tips in reviews, answering yes/no questions about places that pop up on your screen, responding to others via the new Questions & answers feature that shows up on Google Maps for Android.Tip: Turn on your Location History to easily review all the places you’ve been, and make lists of your favorites. 5. The multimedia guru Equipped with plenty of battery packs, this Local Guide helps you see a place from every angle with 360 photos and video contributions like visual tours and on-camera reviews. Loves: Adding 360 photos and videos of places, going to great lengths for the perfect shot.Tip: If you take a video on your phone, you can add up to 30 seconds of it to a place the same way you’d add a photo to a place on Google Maps. 6. The[...]

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Our 17 favorite education moments from 2017The making of "A Ride to Remember," a film about BikeAround

Wed, 03 Jan 2018 16:00:00 +0000

Editor’s Note: Happy New Year from all of us on the Google for Education team! We know you count on Google for Education in your classrooms, and we take that responsibility seriously. We remain deeply committed to bringing the best of Google to education, and to expanding learning for everyone. As we look to the year ahead, we’re looking back on our 17 favorite moments from 2017. In 2017, we... 1. Did an hour of code with Chance the Rapper for Computer Science Education Week, surprising a Chicago classroom and announcing a $1.5 million grant to provide CS for students across Chicago Public Schools. We also released the first-ever programmable Google Doodle and invited students to code their own Google logos. 2. Announced a new initiative called Grow with Google which provides access to digital tools and training for students, teachers, job-seekers and lifelong learners. As part of the announcement, our CEO Sundar Pichai visited one of the Pittsburgh classrooms participating in our new Dynamic Learning Project, a pilot that empowers educators to use technology in meaningful ways. As part of Grow with Google, our CEO Sundar visited a school in Pittsburgh to learn about their experience participating in the Dynamic Learning Project 3. Introduced a new generation of Chromebooks that let you use a stylus and flip from laptop to tablet mode. These Chromebooks have cameras on two sides and USB-C charging. New devices from Acer, Asus, HP, Dell and Lenovo come in all shapes, sizes, and price points to meet the needs of different teachers, students, schools and districts. A next generation Chromebook with dual camera flipped into tablet mode. 4. Went back to school with a new resource hub for teachers. On #FirstDayOfClassroom, there’s helpful Google for Education tips and tricks from the people who know our tools the best—educators. Thanks to input from our dedicated community, we were also able to introduce the most-requested features in Google Classroom and Forms. 5. Met the Internaut, a digital citizenship guru and mascot of Be Internet Awesome, a program to help students make smart decisions online. With resources for students (including the online game Interland), educators, and families, everyone has the tools to learn and participate in digital safety and citizenship. Bonus: we also launched a Digital Citizenship and Safety course. 6. Celebrated International Literacy Day by creating and translating more than 1,000 children’s books for StoryWeaver, a grantee, with the #1000books campaign. Our support of Storyweaver is part of our 2016-2017 $50 million philanthropic commitment to nonprofit organizations working to close global learning gaps. 7. Were inspired by more than 11,000 girls from 103 countries during the Technovation Challenge. Finalists came to Google’s Mountain View headquarters to pitch their projects, which address issues in categories including peace, poverty, environment, equality, education, and health. Our CEO Sundar Pichai takes a selfie with members of the winning team behind QamCare 8. Used technology to amplify student stories. Working with the non-profit 826 Valencia, Googlers helped under-resourced students create A Planet Ruled by Love using Tilt Brush. The result was a virtual reality movie that helped kids express themselves through storytelling and technology. [...]

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