Posted:
Author Photo
By Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

Computer Science for High School (CS4HS) is a Google-sponsored program to enable professional development for high school and middle school students around the world interested in computer science. CS4HS holds workshops for teachers and provides funding to develop the workshops, along with help from local Googlers.


woman pointing at map on large monitor

Earlier this week, we announced the recipients of this year’s grants, which will be the fifth year of the program (and you can see a list of previous years’ programs here). Computer science education isn’t just for university students any more.

Education leads to the scientific method, which is how researchers discovered that mysterious circles in the Namib Desert are probably not fairy circles or the work of an underground dragon, but are actually caused by termites in the sand. Norbert J├╝rgens of the University of Hamburg learned that sand termites eat the roots of grasses, creating the circles in the sand. That’s not nearly as cool as an underground dragon, but it seems more plausible.

Finally, you probably remember that astonishing meteor that lit up the sky over Russia last month, and you might have seen some of the many videos that recorded the event. So did Swedish blogger Stefan Geens, who figured out that he could learn more about the meteor from the videos in non-obvious ways. Geens used a video showing shadows cast by the meteor, along with Google Earth and Photoshop, to roughly calculate the meteor’s trajectory and landing place. From there, scientists figured out more about the meteor, including its size, track, and point of explosion. So this weekend, if you get inspired, you too can use YouTube to figure out something new.


Yes, meteor videos and sand termites are just part of the usual fun here on Fridaygram, where we eschew our usual developer fare and present just cool stuff instead, even if it doesn’t involve coding.

Posted:
Author PhotoBy Andrea Held, Google University Relations

Cross-posted from the Google Research Blog

Last year we invited proposals for innovative projects built on Google’s infrastructure. Today we are pleased to announce the 11 recipients of a Google App Engine Education Award. Professors and their students are using the award in cloud computing courses to study databases, distributed systems, web mashups and to build educational applications. Each selected project received $1000 in Google App Engine credits.

Awarding computational resources to classroom projects is always gratifying. It is impressive to see the creative ideas students and educators bring to these programs.
Below is a brief introduction to each project. Congratulations to the recipients!

John David N. Dionisio, Loyola Marymount University
Project description: The objective of this undergraduate database systems course is for students to implement one database application in two technology stacks, a traditional relational database and on Google App Engine. Students are asked to study both models and provide concrete comparison points.

Xiaohui (Helen) Gu, North Carolina State University
Project description: Advanced Distributed Systems Class
The goal of the project is to allow the students to learn distributed system concepts by developing real distributed system management systems and testing them on real world cloud computing infrastructures such as Google App Engine.

Shriram Krishnamurthi, Brown University
Project description: WeScheme is a programming environment that runs in the Web browser and supports interactive development. WeScheme uses App Engine to handle user accounts, serverside compilation, and file management.

Feifei Li, University of Utah
Project description: A graduate-level course that will be offered in Fall 2013 on the design and implementation of large data management system kernels. The objective is to integrate features from a relational database engine with some of the new features from NoSQL systems to enable efficient and scalable data management over a cluster of commodity machines.

Mark Liffiton, Illinois Wesleyan University
Project description: TeacherTap is a free, simple classroom-response system built on Google App Engine. It lets students give instant, anonymous feedback to teachers about a lecture or discussion from any computer or mobile device with a web browser, facilitating more adaptive class sessions.

Eni Mustafaraj, Wellesley College
Project description: Topics in Computer Science: Web Mashups. A CS2 course that combines Google App Engine and MIT App Inventor. Students will learn to build apps with App Inventor to collect data about their life on campus. They will use Google App Engine to build web services and apps to host the data and remix it to create web mashups. Offered in the 2013 Spring semester.

Manish Parashar, Rutgers University
Project description: Cloud Computing for Scientific Applications -- Autonomic Cloud Computing teaches students how a hybrid HPC/Grid + Cloud cyber infrastructure can be effectively used to support real-world science and engineering applications. The goal of our efforts is to explore application formulations, Cloud and hybrid HPC/Grid + Cloud infrastructure usage modes that are meaningful for various classes of science and engineering application workflows.

Orit Shaer, Wellesley College
Project description: GreenTouch
GreenTouch is a collaborative environment that enables novice users to engage in authentic scientific inquiry. It consists of a mobile user interface for capturing data in the field, a web application for data curation in the cloud, and a tabletop user interface for exploratory analysis of heterogeneous data.

Elliot Soloway, University of Michigan
Project description: WeLearn Mobile Platform: Making Mobile Devices Effective Tools for K-12. The platform makes mobile devices (Android, iOS, WP8) effective, essential tools for all-the-time, everywhere learning. WeLearn’s suite of productivity and communication apps enable learners to work collaboratively; WeLearn’s portal, hosted on Google App Engine, enables teachers to send assignments, review, and grade student artifacts. WeLearn is available to educators at no charge.


Jonathan White, Harding University
Project description: Teaching Cloud Computing in an Introduction to Engineering class for freshmen. We explore how well-designed systems are built to withstand unpredictable stresses, whether that system is a building, a piece of software or even the human body. The grant from Google is allowing us to add an overview of cloud computing as a platform that is robust under diverse loads.



Dr. Jiaofei Zhong, University of Central Missouri
Project description: By building an online Course Management System, students will be able to work on their team projects in the cloud. The system allows instructors and students to manage the course materials, including course syllabus, slides, assignments and tests in the cloud; the tool can be shared with educational institutions worldwide.


Andrea Held is a Program Manager on the University Relations team at Google. She grew up in Germany and has lived in California for almost 30 years.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

Posted:
Author PhotoBy Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

We posted once before about the Google Art Project, a very cool endeavor to make museum art available online to people around the world. We’re writing about it again today because the project has just expanded to include a bunch of great new stuff, including ancient works, contemporary art, and even urban art.



Highlights of the newly added works include hundreds of photos from highly regarded photographers, centuries-old maps, and historical documents. You can spend hours exploring museums from more than 40 countries while you sit in the park with your laptop.

Speaking of traveling without actually moving, a researcher has used public Twitter data to study the use of human languages in various places around the world. Researcher Delia Mocanu and her team studied languages from tweets sent in New York City and used the data to map neighborhoods by language use. In some cases, the secondary language used in a neighborhood matched the language spoken by original residents decades or even hundreds of years earlier. That’s even before Twitter existed.

Finally, when you’re done looking at art and learning about world language use, you can spend some time this weekend with Chrome’s new Peanut Gallery. This project uses Chrome’s voice recognition technology to let you add title cards to old silent films. It’s completely for fun – enjoy!


Get your API info and meaty technical details earlier in the week, because on Friday it’s all for fun: science, the humanities, and just general nerdiness.

Posted:
Author PhotoBy Ilya Grigorik, Developer Advocate and Web Performance Engineer

At Google we want the whole web to be faster, and there is no better way to achieve this goal than through helping our partners, both commercial and open-source, to deliver web optimization products to their users and clients. The PageSpeed Optimization Libraries, which are developed as part of our Make the Web Faster initiative, are a cornerstone of this strategy, enabling a growing list of products and integrations, developed both inside and outside Google.

SiteGround, a popular web hosting provider, announced mod_pagespeed support to their customers: "SuperCacher plugin is the first and only plugin that fully integrates Google’s mod_pagespeed with cPanel. Simply put, mod_pagespeed speeds up your site and reduces page load time automatically, with no additional knowledge required on the users’ side. It also optimizes your website for mobile view and for better browser rendering."

SiteGround PageSpeed control panel

With SiteGround, you can enable PageSpeed optimizations on your site with one click. Then, you can hand-tune and configure your site to match your specific needs through advanced customizations provided by mod_pagespeed.

However, that’s not all. The portfolio of PageSpeed integrations continues to expand:
  • The We-AMP team has announced a beta release of IISpeed, which enables PageSpeed web content optimization within the Microsoft IIS web server. "IIS and ASP.NET are very popular technologies on the web, powering millions of websites, and we are excited to bring the full power of PageSpeed optimization to the Windows platform," said Otto van der Schaaf and Kees Spoelstra.
  • Thanks to open-source contributions, mod_pagespeed is now integrated with CPanel and WHM, an easy-to-use server control and management panel for web hosts and website owners.
  • Google Chrome has adapted PageSpeed to power the recently announced Chrome data compression proxy, which significantly reduces data usage and speeds up page load times on cellular networks.
To find out how to leverage PageSpeed on your site or service, or how to integrate the open source PageSpeed Optimization Libraries into your own product, visit the PageSpeed site.


Ilya Grigorik is a Developer Advocate and Web Performance Engineer at Make the Web Faster.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

Posted:
Author PhotoBy Brian Cairns, Software Engineer

Google Drive lets users create Docs, Sheets, and Slides, collaborate on them in real time, and have their changes saved automatically. With the new Google Drive Realtime API, you can now easily add some of the same real-time collaboration that powers Google Drive to your own apps. This new API handles network communication, storage, presence, conflict resolution, and other collaborative details so you can focus on building great apps.

Developing for the Drive Realtime API is almost as simple as working with local objects. The API provides collaborative versions of familiar data objects such as maps, lists, strings, and JSON values and automatically synchronizes and stores modifications to these objects. Your application reads from and writes to these objects like any other local object. Change event handlers can be added to collaborative objects so that your app can react to changes from other collaborators.

Because the Drive Realtime API is based on operational transformation (OT), local changes are reflected instantly, even on high-latency networks. The Drive Realtime API automatically transforms changes to the data model so that every collaborator stays in sync.

If basic collections aren't enough for your application, the Drive Realtime API supports custom objects and references, including trees and arbitrary graph structures. As with other collaborative objects, the Drive Realtime API automatically synchronizes these objects with other collaborators and stores them in Drive.

Because presence is important in collaborative applications, the Drive Realtime API also keeps track of who is connected to your application and provides your app with events for when collaborators join, leave, or make changes.

UI showing 3 collaborators
Widget using the Drive Realtime API and showing the collaborators on a document

Neutron Drive, Gantter and draw.io have enabled realtime collaboration in their apps using the Google Drive Realtime API. Check out these apps to see the Drive Realtime API in action.


Collaborative code editing with Neutron Drive

Neutron Drive is an online editor for text and source code files stored in Google Drive. You can now collaboratively edit any text or source code files stored in Drive and get a realtime collaboration experience—shared typing, a view of active collaborators, cursor positioning, and selected text. This all comes in addition to the syntax highlighting and other advanced features offered by Neutron Drive. To learn more, watch the video:




Collaborative project scheduling with Gantter

Gantter is a free online project scheduling tool and Gantt diagram editor. It now allows you to collaboratively—and in real time— work on your project schedules. It even features an embedded chat powered by the Drive Realtime API. Watch the video below to see Gantter’s new realtime collaboration features in action.




Collaborative diagraming with draw.io

draw.io is a diagraming application that enables you to draw a wide variety of diagrams such as flowcharts, UML diagrams and even electronic circuits. You can now see updates from other collaborators instantaneously, with colored visual cues indicating who has changed the diagram and where that change occurred. Try the new draw.io collaborative beta at rt.draw.io and watch the video below.




Learn more about the Drive Realtime API

We built a collaborative colored cube puzzle so you can have some fun while trying out the Drive Realtime API and a Drive Realtime API Playground to take you through the API step-by-step. Both apps are open source so check out our Github repos.

Have a look at the Google Drive Realtime API technical documentation and start making your app realtime-enabled!


Brian Cairns joined the Google Drive team in 2011 and lives in Boulder, Colorado. He is the lead software engineer for the Drive Realtime API.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

Posted:
Author Photo
By Doug Fritz, Creative Lab

Today we’re sharing a small open source project called Tailbone that lets developers read and write to the Google App Engine Datastore using JavaScript. We’re hoping that it makes App Engine a bit more accessible to developers who aren’t familiar with Python, Java or Go, or prefer not to use them.

I share an office with three creative programmers who work almost entirely in HTML5 and JavaScript. An important part of our work is writing server-side code for new projects that read or write data to to the App Engine Datastore or use Google accounts to store authenticated user-specific information. To make that process easier for my JavaScript-fluent colleagues, I created Tailbone to act as a RESTful API for an app’s Datastore.

tailbone tutorial screenshot

To get started, you still have to install App Engine’s SDK and Python, but after that you’re all set. We’ve written a detailed tutorial that guides you through the installation and an example app for creating an authenticated profile page with an editable name and photo.

It’s my hope that Tailbone makes App Engine a little bit less intimidating for people who don’t have much experience with server-side coding. I know there are a few in my office. If there are any others out there, this is for you.


Doug Fritz is a programmer with the Creative Lab’s Data Arts Team. He thinks large amounts of data taste slightly purple and strongly wishes the government used bugzilla.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

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By Michael Manoochehri, Developer Programs Engineer, Cloud Platform

Google BigQuery is designed to make it easy to analyze large amounts of data quickly. Overwhelmingly, developers have asked us for features to help simplify their work even further. Today we are launching a collection of updates that gives BigQuery a greater range of query and data types, more flexibility with table structure, and better tools for collaborative analysis.

Big JOIN and Big Group Aggregations

Extracting insights from multiple datasets can be challenging and time-consuming. This is especially true when datasets become too large to query with a traditional database system. With traditional databases, SQL functions like joining and grouping are typically used to bring together data for analysis. What happens when your data is too large to fit into a conventional database? Working with multi-terabyte datasets often requires developing complicated MapReduce workflows, investing in expensive infrastructure, and great deal of time. Very often, it's a combination of all three.

In response to developer feedback, we're launching new features that enable analysts and developers to run fast SQL-like join and aggregate queries on datasets without the need for batch-based processing. Our new Big JOIN feature gives users the ability to produce a result set by merging data from two large tables by a common key. Big JOIN simplifies data analysis that would otherwise require a data transformation step, by allowing users to specify JOIN operations using SQL.

Popular web applications produce user activity logs that can grow by billions of rows each week. Dividing users into smaller groups is a key step for analysis. However, each group of users can number in the millions. To handle this for such large volumes, we've enabled Big Group Aggregations, which significantly increases the number of distinct values that can be grouped in a result set.

To use these new features, simply add the EACH modifier to JOIN or GROUP BY clauses.


/* JOIN EACH example
* Selects the top 10 most edited Wikipedia pages
* of words that appear in works of Shakespeare.
*/

SELECT
 TOP(wiki.title, 10), COUNT(*)
FROM
 [publicdata:samples.wikipedia] AS wiki
JOIN EACH
 [publicdata:samples.shakespeare] AS shakespeare
ON
 shakespeare.word = wiki.title;


For more information, including best practices, when using JOIN EACH and GROUP EACH BY, visit the BigQuery query reference.

Native support for TIMESTAMP data type

We are also adding a new TIMESTAMP data type, in response to one of our most frequent requests from developers. This new data type lets you import date and time values in formats familiar to users of databases such as MySQL, while preserving timezone offset information.

Along with the new data type come new functions for converting TIMESTAMP fields into other formats, calculating intervals, and extracting components such as the hour, day of week, and quarter.


/* TIMESTAMP example
* Which hours in the day are the most popular for GitHub actions?
* This query converts github_timeline "created_at" date time   
* strings to BigQuery TIMESTAMP, and extracts the hour from each.
*/

SELECT
 HOUR(TIMESTAMP(created_at)) AS event_create_hour,
 COUNT(*) AS event_count
FROM
 [publicdata:samples.github_timeline]
GROUP BY
 event_create_hour
ORDER BY
 event_count DESC;


Read more about the available TIMESTAMP functions in our query reference guide.

Add columns to existing BigQuery tables

When working with large amounts of fast moving data, it's not uncommon to find out that you need to add additional fields to your tables. In response to developer feedback, we have added the ability to add new columns to existing BigQuery tables.

To take advantage of this feature, simply provide a new schema with additional columns using either the "Tables: update" or "Tables: patch" BigQuery API methods.

For more information on this feature, visit the BigQuery API reference.

BigQuery Web UI: Dataset links and dataset sharing notifications

BigQuery has always provided project owners with very fine-grained control of how their datasets are shared. To make it easier for teams to work on collaborative data analysis, we've added direct links to individual datasets in the BigQuery Web UI. This provides a convenient way for authorized users to quickly access a dataset, and allows for bookmarking and sharing.

In addition, we've also added email notifications to inform users when they've been given dataset access privileges. When a dataset has been shared with another user via the sharing control panel, BigQuery sends a notification email containing a direct link to the dataset.


The BigQuery UI features a collection of public datasets for you to use when trying out these new features. To get started, visit our sign up page and Quick Start guide. You should take a look at our API docs, and ask questions about BigQuery development on Stack Overflow. Finally, don't forget to give us feedback and join the discussion on our Cloud Platform Developers Google+ page.


Michael Manoochehri is a Developer Programs Engineer supporting the Google Cloud Platform. His goal is to help make cloud computing and data analysis universally accessible and useful.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

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By Maile Ohye, Developer Programs Tech Lead

If you've ever helped a friend recover their hacked site, you know it can get fairly complicated – beyond just the technical issues. First, recovery might involve answering your friend’s general questions like "Why would someone do this to my site?" Second, you might wonder “What’s the process to have the ‘This site may harm your computer’ warning label removed from search results?” Our new Help for hacked sites series includes articles and 80+ minutes of video to help you, and to help you help others. In the overview video, these common questions are addressed:
  • Why would someone ever want to hack my site? (often asked by our trusting friends :) )
  • How was someone able to hack my site?
  • What's the process for fixing it and how long will it take?


Overview video: How and why sites are hacked

Help for hacked sites also provides more detailed information on specific issues, such as background on the malware infection type Error template or Server configuration if your site was hacked to distribute malware.

To avoid ever needing this resource yourself, please implement a security and maintenance plan for your site if you haven't already.
  • Be vigilant about keeping software updated.
  • Understand the security practices of all applications, plug-ins, third-party software, and so on, before you install them on your server. A security vulnerability in one software application can affect the safety of your entire site.
  • Remove unnecessary or unused software.
  • Enforce creation of strong passwords.
  • Keep all devices used to log in to your servers secure (updated operating system and browser).
  • Make regular, automated site backups.
We’d like to thank the developer community for sharing tips on site recovery as well as replying to forum questions to assist others with hacked sites. Special thanks to Redleg and Denis Sinegubko for their amazing contributions.


Maile Ohye is a Developer Advocate on Google's Webmaster Central Team. She very much enjoys chatting with friends and helping companies build a strategic online presence.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

Posted:
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By Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

Today is International Women’s Day, and one of the ways we’re celebrating is by being part of the Voices Global Conference. The conference includes sessions focused on women in technology, including new Women Techmakers episodes. You can watch live streams and archived videos, all available on the conference site.



Sometimes people ask the purpose of events like this. Beryl Nelson, writing in the Official Google Blog says it nicely: “A diverse workforce is critical in helping us build products that can help people change the world. That includes diversity of all life experiences, including gender.”

Now let’s turn to the uncommon combination of insects and coffee. Researchers in England were able to use caffeine found in some plants to help train the long-term memory of bees. The bees that got a hit of caffeine were far more likely to remember a particular plant than bees that received just sugar water. Coffee drinkers are probably nodding their heads knowingly at this news.

Finally, be sure to read Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling, which has been making the Internet rounds again lately. And try to take the time to enjoy a great story yourself this weekend.


Fridaygram: it’s not the usual yada yada. Sure, you figured out all the hidden codes on the new Google I/O site earlier this week, but think about this: why were those particular numbers chosen? See what you can come up with, then leave a comment on our +Google Developers page.

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By Katie Miller, Developer Marketing

With Google I/O 2013 registration only days away, on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7:00 AM PDT (GMT-7), we want to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the process.

First, we’re pleased to share that we’ve just added a lot of information to the Google I/O 2013 site, including information on the registration process, travel planning resources, key event details, FAQs, and (new this year) child care.
I/O 13 logo
Second, we’d like to share answers to some of the most commonly asked questions we’ve received in the last few days on +Google Developers. Complete FAQs are available on the Help page of the event site.

Optimizing your registration experience

We anticipate high demand once again, but there are steps you can take to be prepared for the process.

Before registration opens:
  • Make sure you have set up both a Google+ account and a Google Wallet account. If you’ve ever bought anything on Google Play, you already have Google Wallet.
  • Check your Google Wallet settings to make sure your postal address is complete and accurate, and your payment method is correct and up to date.
  • If this will be the first time you're making a large payment with Google Wallet, you may want to notify your bank or credit card company in advance that you plan to make a $900 (general ticket) or $300 (academic ticket) charge that will appear as GOOGLE*IORegistration. This will help ensure your payment is processed.
  • Be on the site before registration opens on Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 7:00 AM PDT (GMT-7) so you can sign in to your Google+ account.
Once registration opens on March 13, 2013 at 7:00 AM PDT (GMT-7):
  • When you’re placed on the waiting page, don’t refresh your browser or your ticket search will restart.
  • Please don’t open multiple tabs or use multiple browsers. Each time you open a new connection, your ticket search will restart.
Details for academic attendees

To qualify as an academic attendee (and receive the $300 ticket price) you need to be an active full-time student, professor, faculty or staff at a high school or higher education institution. The academic rate is also available to anyone who graduated in 2013 prior to the event.

To verify that you are qualified to receive the special rate, we will require a current school ID, transcripts, credentials, or other forms of documentation when you check in at the conference. A couple of other important things to note:
  • Once purchased, general admission tickets can't be converted to academic tickets, and vice versa.
  • If you buy an academic ticket and can't provide academic documentation when you arrive at Google I/O, you won't be admitted or offered a refund, nor will you be able to convert your ticket to general admission.
Information on participating from afar

You can be part of Google I/O from wherever you are. You can watch live streams of the keynotes and many other sessions on Google Developers Live. Even better, be part of Google I/O by attending an I/O Extended event in your area. More details on these programs will be available soon. If you can't watch live, you can see YouTube recordings of all sessions on Google Developers Live after the conference.

We greatly appreciate your interest in coming to Google I/O, and we hope to see you there. Good luck!


Katie Miller leads marketing for Google I/O and other developer marketing initiatives at Google. Outside of work, Katie spends her time running (both road races and after a very active toddler) and memorizing Dr. Seuss rhymes.

Posted by Scott Knaster, Editor

Posted:
Author PhotoBy Scott Knaster, Google Developers Blog Editor

Each year Reporters Without Borders presents the Netizen of the Year Award to someone who makes a notable contribution in defense of online freedom of expression. This sort of activism is vital, and can be hazardous: bloggers and others are sometimes jailed for what they write online. This year, Internet users (that’s us) get to vote for the winner of the award. There are nine nominees. You can learn their compelling stories and vote for your choice at youtube.com/netizen2013.

Netizen of the Year logo

The winner will be announced on March 7th and will be invited to receive the award in person at Google’s office in Paris on March 12th, which is World Day Against Cyber Censorship.

Moving from strong online voices to strong insects, researchers have found that Asian weaver ants have an incredibly strong grip, enabling them to hold 100 times their weight with their foot pads. These creatures can even rapidly expand their foot pads if they need more holding power, as when the wind causes the surface they’re standing on to move a bit. This will probably make us feel even worse about dropping our mobile phones.

Finally, spend some quiet time this weekend gazing at these animated Mathematica-based images. They prove that math is beautiful.


Another Friday is here, and we’re back with our Fridaygram, news that's both/either interesting and/or fun. Hold on tight, and enjoy your weekend!