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Archive for September, 2010

Google takes Spotlight online

September 9, 2010 Leave a comment

Spotlight is a feature I first saw in MacOS X, a couple of years ago, a Mac fanboy friend of mine, showed it off to me on his macbook and his father’s iMac. At the time I found it to be the most impressive feature in MacOS. Back then when you wanted to do a search in WinXP you had to bring up a special ‘search window’, type in the name of the item you wanted to find, specify whether it was file or a picture or a video you wanted to search for and then you hit ‘search’ and sat there waiting until the search result list got populated.

By contrast Spotlight made the whole search process appear easy and incredibly responsive; ¬†results would start to appear while you were still typing and they changed ‘on the fly’ as you backspaced and retyped. Later on MS copied this feature in Vista and later it became the default search in Win7. Now finally Google has brought it to online search. You have to be logged in to your google account to use it though, and you have to be on the google website, but if both these conditions are met the search results appear as you type in your query, just like in Spotlight, kudos to Google.

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Prompt is evil

September 7, 2010 Leave a comment

These guys here http://www.promt.com/ have the gall to sell ‘machine translation’ tools.

I recently had the great misfortune to have to edit a piece of text on biology of all things that had been translated by Prompt.

It was perhaps the most horrible experience of my life to date.

I personally don’t have anything against machine translation as a branch of computer language processing research but what totally kills me is that the folks at prompt actually have the cheek to charge money for a ‘software product’ that takes a perfectly readable text in one language and then spews out unintelligible garbage in another. With that particular text I had to grapple with, I had the Russian original and I speak Russian so I was able to look at the original to figure out what the thing was all about and it was a genuine stroke of luck because if I hadn’t had the original to hand I would never in a million years have been able to understand the English gibberish produced by Prompt. This is total insanity.

My verdict is – never buy machine translation software, you won’t be able to get the gist after their translations as they promise you, unless it’s a very simple and short text (like email, but there’s free tools like google translate for those) you’ll just be sitting there, scratching your head and the only thing going through your head won’t be the ‘gist’ of the copy you’re staring at, it will be the phrase ‘ what the fuck is this shit?’

Categories: IT

Does Android have a future?

September 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Android, as perhaps most people know today, is Google’s very cool operating system for mobile devices. It’s based on a linux kernel, but when it comes to writing applications for Android, you use Java, however your Java code runs not on the standard SUN/Oracle ME JVM but on Google’s proprietary JVM called Dalvik.

It all seemed like a good idea until Oracle sued Google claiming they infringed some patents ( I don’t know all the gory legal details) by developing their own version of JVM instead of using the original micro edition.

From what I’ve read on the Internet so far, it appears that originally Java Micro Edition, back when Sun hadn’t yet been purchased by Oracle, was released under different licensing terms than Java SE and Java EE, meaning, essentially that from a purely legal viewpoint Oracle is entitled to determine what can be done with Java ME and what cannot be done with it. In other words they have a good chancing of winning the litigation against Google, in which case Goodle, in any scenario, will be made to pay substantial damages, and will also have to do something unpleasant about Dalvik. Here several things are possible, they may be ordered to discontinue Dalvik and use Java ME instead, paying royalties to Oracle, or they may be forced to hand over Dalvik to Oracle. There are some other possibilities too, none of which, however, are very good for Google or Android. Most ‘blogging’ lawyers seem to agree that there is a very high probability that Google may end up losing control over the Android development platform and that could mean major suckage for the whole Android community in the worst case scenario, if, for instance, Oracle decides to simply pull the plug on the whole thing.

What should Google do?

I’m no legal expert, but if I were Google, I would try and turn this setback into an opportunity; I would bin Java, venerable but basically outdated language, and would migrate to Scala. Far as I can tell there can be no licensing problems there and from a technical perspective, Scala was designed from the very start to run on JVM, so I would imagine it shouldn’t be too difficult to develop a version that will run on Dalvik. Then Google could just tell Oracle to shove their Java ME up their fat corporate ass (one fat corporate ass telling another fat corporate ass to shove things up its fat corporate ass, isn’t it ironic), they’ll still probably have to pay damages to Oracle but they’d get their very own development platform for Android that nobody would be able to sue away from them.

It has to be mentioned here, though, that at this point I have no idea whether developing a version of Scala for Dalvik would be technically viable (I expect it should) or whether it would make sense as a business proposition for Google. Scala, though rather obscure, is fast gaining in popularity as an ‘improved Java’, it’s free and it has a vibrant, though small, community of developers. ¬†Perhaps there might even be a chance that if Google played their cards right they might get a Dalvik Scala for free, if the Scala community shows enough interest in developing for Android.

Anyway, just food for thought.

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