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Decade of Google Summer of Code @ University of Moratuwa

The 10th anniversary of GSoC ‘Decade of GSoC’ was celebrated at the University of Moratuwa on the 23rd of January 2014 with the participation of Chris DiBona, Director Open Source and Out Reach at Google, Program Managers Stephany Tailor and Mary Radmiol. Ananda Jayawardhana, Vice Chancellor of University of Moratuwa and many Sri Lankan distinguish guests also participated.

Chris DiBona said that he was offered to go to europe to celebrate GSoCs’ 10th year but he chose to come to Sri Lanka. Chris recalled where things have begun 10 years ago. He came up with the idea of Google Summer of Code Program in 2004. Out of 6000 applications for the 1st ever GSoC and around 600 were shortlisted to participate. “If you have open source, it helps to make better computer systems. You should be so proud, and it is from the Google and the world” He concluded.

If you can remember “Chris DiBona” from his interview to Linux Format who made positive remark about Sri Lanka and University of Moratuwa, here is what he said there:

“Every year that goes by we see more people from outside of the US take part. The US still has a healthy proportion – 250 or something – but it’s amazing to see where people pop up – like Sri Lanka. Even during the civil war we still had Tamil and other Sri Lankan students taking part in the Summer of Code; it’s like, how did it transcend borders in that way in that country? And so, Sri Lanka has always been really interesting to us in ways that even India and China are not.

Here’s basically a very small nation, and if you look at it, there’s a couple of universities that really glommed onto Summer of Code as a way of expanding their curriculum. Think about that. 79 Computer Science students in a small university in a small country in the midst of a civil war, all doing remarkable work. This is the promise of the internet and computer science made flesh.”

Full article is available here.

Stephanie Taylor explained how does GSoC work and how they choose organizations and students for the competition. Process is such that first, Google chooses organizations and students can research organizations through their idea pages and submit project proposals to the organization. Then organizations catch students with their mentors for a bonding period of a month and there will be coding during the whole summer (40 hour a week, for 3 months) to execute the proposals. 5500$ for the student and 500$ are up for the winner and the winning organization will be given in cash!

She also explained the ‘Google Code-in’ program, which is a GSoC for younger students aged between 13 and 17. It’s a new program which applies classroom skills to real life projects. More details are available here.

Dr Sanjiva, probably the top open source figure in Sri Lanka told that he is contributing to Apcahe projects and to Open Source since last 25 years. “If not for Open Source, I could not get to meet these wonderful people and wouldn’t have been here” he continued.

Students who took over GSoC projects and succeeded presented their success stories as well. There was a panel discussion with Sanjiva, Chrish, Mary, Stephanie and Rohan moderated that session.

Image credits : Akila Panditha and Vipula Disanayake

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UN Women Ad campaign uses Google Search to send a powerful message

UN Women recently launched an Ad campaign using Google Search to show the extent of gender inequality which exists today. The posters shows a predictive search to the prefixes Women Shouldn’t, Women cannot, Women need to and Women Should.  The predicted searches show just how bad the situation is. For example the top predictions for Women Shouldn’t are  “Women shouldn’t have rights”, “Women shouldn’t vote”, “Women shouldn’t work”. Take a look at the posters below.

 
UN-Womens-Rights-2

UN-Womens-Rights-3

 

UN-Womens-Rights-4

 

UN-Womens-Rights-1

So Techwire checked the same predictive text on local google.lk while also comparing the results between women and men. Women had only one positive search prediction while Men got only one negative prediction. Thus showing the inequality issue existence at a local level as well.

Women shouldn’t work

Men shouldn’t wear flip flops

Out of the lot, there were few amusing ones as well. Seriously who searches for “Men should wear Sarees”. Check out the entire google.lk predictive searches below. Kudos to UN Women for the creative Ad campaign. (Image Credits – unwomen.org)

Sri Lanka predictive Search

Google Translate to add Sinhala translations soon

Google Translate, another one of Google’s nifty creations, lets users translate text or web between languages. It currently supports translation of over 50 languages. And according to  Rohan Jayaweera the Country Consultant for Google Sri Lanka, support for Sinhala on Google Translate will be added very soon.

Getting a new language on board is a long and hard process which comprises of creating required algorithms as well as gathering a large enough databases to tune it. It would have been particularly difficult to collect the data set for Sinhala, as the availability of the exact literature in both Sinhala and English  being limited. However seems that the Google team have almost cracked it and would be releasing Sinhala support in the near future.

The addition of Sinhala would be a great boost to the Sinhala community for using the vast amount of information on the web with the ability to read it in their own native language. Their would be some accuracy issues involved as it is hard to obtain an optimum translation algorithm at the beginning.(As seen with few other languages on Google translate.) However those can be improved with further data input and tuning.

We will keep you updated on the addition of Sinhala Google Translation, which will definitely be a major step in the Sri Lankan web space!

15 Years of Google

Happy B’day Google!!! The tech giant, who has changed our way of living, and who will continue to change it, turned 15 last week. From search to Youtube to Gmail, Google has touched every part of our tech ecosytem. We got two infographics lined up on Google, one which shows the dominance of Google in 7 key markets. The second one displays some key facts and stats on Google and also its various apps such as Google analytics and Youtube. Enjoy the read below. (Infographic credits to Mashable and wishpond)

Google Domination

Google Stats and Facts

Google the Split Second Search

With an instant search preview loading in 1/10th of a second, an index well over 100 billion gigabytes large built over 1 Million computing hours, Google is truly jaw dropping. The below infographic shows how a google search works and some useful stats behind it.

google_search

The first Google Doodle for Sri Lanka

In celebration of the 65th Independence day of Sri Lanka, Google has rolled out a Doodle for Google.lk . The Doodle contains the Sri Lankan lion holding the kastane sword with the Google letters in the colours of the Sri Lankan flag. To our knowledge this is the first Doodle relating to Sri Lanka. The Doodle is only visible in Google.lk and for Google.com viewed through a Sri Lankan IP.

Google brings new Image search

This week Google rolled out a neat feature for its image search, making it more convenient and less time consuming on image searches. Earlier when you clicked on a  image from a Google image search it redirects you to a different page showing the picture while loading its source web page in the background.

With the new version its a lot more easier. Clicking on a search result image pops up a grey bar in the same page with a larger version of the image, its resolution, source webpage, and option to view the image only. Although these options existed in the earlier version it was another page load away. What more, with the new feature you can scroll through the image results using the arrow keys. For people who do a lot of image searches this is a small but valuable feature. Click here and try it out.

Google Image Search

Google “Good to Know” : Informative Trilingual website on how to keep you and your data safe online

It is a known fact that the recent advancement in the internet industry has allowed Sri Lankans to unleash their potential in many ways. The internet has helped us to stay connected with each other, grow our businesses, learn on new areas and much more. However the internet, just like other technologies is a doubled edged sword; we have its benefits but it can hurt us as well. Therefore it is vital that we are aware of its pitfalls and how to stay safe from them.

To create that awareness, Google together with ICTA and the ministry of child development & women’s affairs recently launched(29th Nov) an informative trilingual website “Good to Know” for Sri Lanka. This site aims to provide information to keep you as well as your data safe online.You can visit the site here. I guess the recent privacy concerns raised on Google is also a reason for this initiative.

The site provides information in four main categories

Stay safe online – Best practices on browsing and sharing your data online

Your data on the web – How the web collects information about you and and how it makes websites more useful to you

Your data on google – Understand the data google collects on you, and how they use it to give you better service

Manage your data – How to control what you share with other web sites and Google.

The site does have some useful information, and I recommend you dive in and check out the information which are good to know.