Blog Archives

To “Google Scholar” or not…

The reality is simple, even if you do not want it, as a researcher you are something of a public figure. You are probably using public funds to do your research, you most probably train peoples (from undergrads to research assistants) and, sometimes, more than you think actually, you will be googled.

For all kinds of reasons you might not want to tell the world openly what kind of research you are doing (which is actually a shame) or even keep people for knowing your “at bat” scores (e.g. is your work actually being cited at all). Let me tell you a secret, unless you have never published anything, Google Scholar will find you… even if you do not want to.

So do not be shy and make your Google Scholar page public!

Taking a clear stance on digital privacy…

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.

Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.

– Tim Cook (View the whole text: Apple – Privacy.)

 

Only a company that make that much money selling hardware could take this stands: Google, Amazon, Facebook and the others simply cannot afford such commitment… and it is not their business model. You are their business model, you are their product!

Privacy, convenience, freedom and security or Android as the biggest trojan horse of all time

There was a very nice article recently following the first year after the revelations of Edward Snowden on how it become really easy even for regular citizens to “track” someone online. While all of this NSA business is often link to a debate of freedom vs. security, the biggest concerns should maybe not be NSA but the new Kings and Monarchies of our time aka (some) mega corporations.

Theprocessionofthetrojanhorseintroybygiovannidomenicotiepolo

We have hear and seen repeated for a long time the quote of Benjamin Franklin on freedom vs. security. However a more pervasive attitude is at play, and I must say that I am playing it like many others to some extent: giving away (some of) my privacy for convenience. One can ask how far would it go?

 

Things were looking to go better when Apple announce iOS8 and OSX 10 in which extra layer of security was added, going all the way to even hide your critical data from Apple itself (so employees or external agencies could not get their hands on it!).  Apple will also add MAC address randomization so you cannot be tracked without your consent as you get into various Wi-Fi zones.

 

Since then three announcements, each at 180 degrees from Apple, appears to decrease privacy significantly for, in principal, added convenience:

 

Each of the above announcements means that these companies will collect more information on you and in the end will know more about your general and detail behavior that even you can recalled from memory. The quote from Google Android Chief is quite explicit about this; they want to know where you are and what you do in real-time, all the time…

 

It turns out that the Android is becoming the biggest Trojan Horse virus of all time. First it is “free”, second it is adopted willingly and third Google is at the receiving end of all that information. It is the free part that is the central issue. The truth is than Android is not free. it pays itself by collecting your personal information…and that information by itself and aggregated by categories is extremely valuable to Google and to any one it see fits to share it with or sell to. Google business model is to sell advertising i.e. to sell the best “picture” you at any given point in time to others.

 

In fact, one might contend that receiving these so-called “free” software and hardware is probably not a strong enough retribution for the worth of your personal information: you are really worth more then you think and are probably being exploited without realizing it.

 

The scary part is to understand how wide is the gap between total lost of privacy and that of freedom? The next few years will be interesting.

Google announced Classroom!

Google Classroom is a mix between Google Drive, Facebook and DropBox in one package for your classroom. Is this enough to make you want to use it?

 

For the scientist and geek in me, many thanks to Google today!

306 years ago today, the great mathematician Euler was born. Google had this great composite image displayed on its main search page in celebration. Cool!

 

Google-Euler

 

Have a look at Euler ‘s entry on Wikipedia!

 

[Note added: it seems that many blogs and other sites have pick-up Google front-page today. This article  by The Guardian is a good example]

Google PageRank algorithm, Markov chains, and cancer.

Discovered through Twitter (thanks @Psbasran), a very interesting read combining numerous topics of interest to me: cancer research, computer algorithms, …:  Google PageRank algorithm, Markov chains, and cancer..

Google, Apple and you: intellectual properties

This got to be the most twisted line of thought in all of this smartphone patent war I have seen up to now in order to get to use some else inventions for free:

Google Says Some Apple Inventions Are So Great They Ought to Be Shared – John Paczkowski – News – AllThingsD.

Who gets to define what is “great” or when something is too “popular”? This is not like a 100m race with precise time measurements. History teaches us that once you set one of these “soft” standard, the standard tends to be lowered with time until it becomes meaningless.

OK, enough of Google and Apple. Every one, researchers and graduate students alike have the potential to come by a worthwhile invention. Protecting it is supposed to provide incentive to the inventors to benefit from their work and the time spawn is usually limited (contrary to the copyright which can now, in certain countries, last for decades even for works that heavily borrow from the public domain – another debate).

Invention protection through patents can be a good approach in certain situations e.g. you’ve developed something new, useful, that can be actually implemented or made, has a market large enough to potentially make money, … I also strongly believe that graduate students should get expose to intellectual property themes early during their graduate studies.

What do you think?

Wikipedia and scientific research

Your a physicist and sitting at a conference for which the speaker is a talking about a specialize biology topic. This person is going on and on using words that are clearly no part of a standard dictionary and mostly ending by “ase”. Suddenly two new words: “flippase” and “floppase” (no kidding!). This is where the combination iPhone and Wikipedia is useful. 30 seconds later your up to speed and following again…Sometimes you’ve got to love technology. Wikipedia is great for a first look at a subject. It provides basic definition, secondary links and most of the time numerous references.

But, because there is one, Wikipedia does not replace a proper literature search. Google and Wikipedia are taking a lot of place among the high school students, my children included. Internet is replacing the standard, printed encyclopedia. The point is, sometimes ago I was a judge at a high school scientific competition and we first had to review the written documents related to projects we will have presentations on in the following step. To my complete surprise, the majority of those documents had references only to Wikipedia entries!

At that point, I did not know if this is a wide spread habit since I was reviewing only a limited sample of all the projects involved. Talking with a few colleagues, it seems that I was not the only one noticing. While some kids are doing these kinds of projects for the first time, the diversity of sources should be part of the standard teaching in science classes. One certainly cannot fault Wikipedia, who provide further references…if you scroll down to the end. Furthermore, high school libraries have more than enough materials to cover most basic topics for that level.

Wikipedia should not be the only source of scientific literatures for high school kids. It is in large part the responsibility of the teachers to bring this message home. Not all parents have a scientific background.

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