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pterjan's diary



First, this post is about my current employer, Google, but this is my personal blog and the views expressed here are mine alone and not those of my employer.

I got quite upset this week while reading news about Google Street View and passwords recording, and few days before, about the tax issue. It is very frustrating that most of them are wrong (including major IT magazines) and very few talk about the real problems. Maybe this is generally true of all current media...

Reading Newspaper

First, about the tax question and the Slashdot news "How Google Avoided Paying $60 Billion In Taxes" that was the basis of various other articles.

It seems no one has read the link, starting with the news author. In brief, the original article states that most (88%) of Google non US sales are handled by Google Ireland, employing 2000 people in Dublin, and not paying taxes in the US because it is an Irish company, while the Google technology was mostly developped in the US. Then it says that because many US company do that, US loses $60 billion per year, in total, not just for Google.

Then there is a second part, about how taxes paid in Ireland are low by using some structure in Bermuda, which is more disappointing in my opinion but strangely people don't focus on that and many articles don't event mention it.

Why do no one read the original article before propagating the news everywhere?

Then the Street View issue. For those who did not follow, here is a summary.

Google Street View cars list WiFi AP and cellular networks while taking photos of the world. This is used by the geolocation service to tell you where you are based on the cells and AP that your phone sees.

Last Spring it was found that some code from an engineer's 20% project had been included in production code without checking what this code was doing. This code was sampling data from open WiFi networks to make statistics on the kind of data, and storing the data. When this was noticed, all the cars were stopped and Google made a public announcement (how many companies would have just erased it silently?).

The total amount of data is 600GB. This week it was announced that after some more analysis by one of the public entities (Google did not analyse or use the data, and waits to be able to delete it after everyone worked on it), some passwords have been found in some of the data fragments. Everyone is shocked that Google stole their password. Who can expect that in 600GB of random data from Internet their would be no password?

Why don't people worry that their neighbor has their passwords and can read their email and access their facebook private videos? They call an accidental collection of the broadcasted data an awful abuse, while I am sure many people already collect that data for doing bad things, just they don't announce it publicly.

Yes, Google should prevent unwanted storage of data, and is working on improving internal process about that, but the real problem is that the confidential data is there and anyone can access it. Why don't journalists use this event to explain people that they should secure their networks?

I feel that everyone is paranoid about Google and is very happy to publish anything, without even trying to check or understand the information.

Being worried about a company knowing that much about you is normal (and good), but that should not prevent journalists to address real concerns on that topics.

Between the time I wrote this and the time I published it, I found a tweet that can explain how many articles are written.

Today's TSUKKOMI(Total: 19) [Add a TSUKKOMI]


  Fri13 [I read the Google Tax thing from news paper and it was clearly written that Google does the typical job as most compan..]

  Fri13 [@Dean, If people talks about now Google's tax avoidance, it does not mean that people would not blame other companies ..]

  xurfa [Google is used all around the world. I think it would be VERY bad if Google was paying taxes in the US only.]


  Update on my new life

It has now been one month (and two days) since I started working at Google.

So far this has been a great experience! Working on a really impressive infrastructure, with a lot of great people and in a very friendly environment. I can not describe anything about how great are some internal processes or technologies, but if you have the opportunity, I definitely encourage you to come working with us and see by yourself.

After two weeks in Kirkland, I will fly to Mountain View tomorrow for a week, don't hesitate to contact me if you are around. (Update It seems I'm staying about 2 minutes walk from Mozilla address, don't know if there are many people there)

IMG_8378IMG_8314_Shell StationSmoking

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  MandrivaMageia Mandriva Linux forked by its developers: Mageia

The news is starting to spread, the Mandriva developers who recently lost their jobs announced today a fork of Mandriva Linux named Mageia. They have been followed by most Mandriva contributors and got positive feedback on various mailing lists and websites.

Nothing seems to be setup yet but many people are joining the irc server to offer their help! The main channel on freenode (#mageia) was already over 100 people today, few hours after announcement, and the development one (#mageia-dev) had almost 50 people.

I am not sure yet if I will be able to help them much, but I wish them best of luck and will anyway switch my Mandriva machines as soon as something is available.

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Before... [Fasmz.. Keen :)]

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  The most unusable branch locator I have seen so far

Today I wanted to locate an HSBC branch in London, close to either the office or my home. Thanks to HSBC I got upset before 8.

That starts fine, they have an "interactive map" or allow you to enter your postcode. Unfortunately they use only the beginning of the postcode (SW in my case) and then list you many towns in this area. Using the map stops at the same level. Then you click one of them (I should do all of them as I don't know some which may be close) and get No branch exists in ...

Is it so hard to list the closest ones from the given postcode or place them on a map? And what about just removing from the list the places without a branch?

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  Google Geolocation API

I found today the API documentation to use in order to get a location from the seen wifi APs or GSM/CDMA cells.

It is very easy to use:

$ curl -X POST -d '{
  "version": "1.1.0",
  "host": "",
  "request_address": true,
  "address_language": "en_GB",
  "wifi_towers": [
      "mac_address": "56:7a:e8:68:15:4B"
"city":"Paris","street":"Rue Sainte-Apolline","street_number":"2","postal_code":"75003"

I guess this is what was used for this attack, and this seems to be used by Firefox and Chrome geolocation features.

Update: I found on the following note: "Note that the JSON protocol described here and at is published to allow developers to provide their own network location server for use through the Gears API. Google's network location server is only to be used through the Gears API", so this is nice but you can't use it.

Today's TSUKKOMI(Total: 2) [Add a TSUKKOMI]

  Adrien Bustany [It'd be interesting to write a GeoClue source using this API...]

  Pascal [Yes I thought about it but I am still searching and can not find anything saying that we are allowed to use it]


  Supermarkets in London

As I now know my future address in London, I was looking for supermarkets around and found no easy way to find all the available ones. After looking on each supermarket website I decided to gather the information.

So, I collected positions of ASDA, Tesco, Morrison, Sainsbury's, Poundland and Waitrose (with opening times for some) and pushed them into a Google map.

I actually have info for all UK but if Google map paginates it becomes unusable as you need to go through all pages to know the supermarkets in your area. If someones knows a way to restrict the list to current view on "static" maps, I am interested.

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  Alex [I don't live in the UK, but I'm fairly sure OpenStreetMap has all this data already. Try using the map as rendered by..]

  Pascal [Just around my future flat I would say it is missing two thirds of them... I may try to import some of the data there]

  benji []


  GNOME Small post from GUADEC

GUADEC 2010 in Den Haag is going very well so far even if so many people are missing this year. I hope you did not miss the best talk so far! If you don't want to miss other talks, live streams are available on GUADEC website.

The major GNOME announce yesterday was GNOME 3.0 being postpone to the next release, in March 2011.

People seem mostly happy with it and as you can see on the following photo, they still love release team!

GNOME Release Team Supporter


  Broadband in UK

The relocation company will help me for finding a place to live, bank account, etc. However I need help for some more technical questions, like which broadband provider (and mobile but this can wait) should I subscribe.

Orange is out of question because of their fair use policy stating that if I use too much my connection (for example by listening to Orange's own Liveradio or downloading large files) they may either reduce the speed or suspend your service and/or possibly close your account.

What a lovely definition of unlimited, and they don't even tell anything about a warning before closing the account...

Currently the shortlist is TalkTalk and O2 (even if it seems some O2 modems need to be rebooted very often to get WiFi back since they updated their firmware to fix a big security issue), but I did not yet check all offers (like Virgin or Sky in case I am eligible).

And what about smaller ones like Andrews & Arnold Ltd which offers static IP, IPv6, ... but has traffic limit and would imply I don't do big checkouts or download iso at daytime (which should be fine except during vacations).

Any opinion on this ?

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  Jaime [o2 / bethere (same company) are excellent. They give a discount if you get mobile and adsl together (see remco's comme..]

  TGM [I'm on Be Broadband ( and I'd recommend them. From what I gather O2 and Be share the same Infrastruc..]

  Peter [I would recommend BeThere (used them for 3 years) as they offer good servicem speed, option of a static IP etc. A&A ar..]


  Mandriva Mandriva 2010 Spring is finally out

Yes, it finally happened!

For this release, codenames of pre versions were aviation pioneers. Final one is Henry Farman and by reading his wikipedia page, I found an interesting detail: In 1908 he was the first to fly a complete circuit of 1 kilometre, in a plane powered by Gnome engine!

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  Mandriva About Mandriva Linux future distribution

Today a PR was issued which states At the heart of this strategy, Mandriva Linux will be distributed exclusively by a sales and integrated IT network, as well through OEM partnerships (Original Equipment Manufacturer) in the EMEA (European and Middle East) and BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) zones..

Don't worry, this exclusivity of distribution does not apply to the downloadable editions, only to retail. The new 2010.1 is already available to early seeders and will be available to everyone tomorrow as usual.

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  Pascal [No I have no problems with your words, only with the PR...]

  Basilio Rosa [I want Mandriva 2010.1 Power Pack. How I get it?]

  GregM [You can purchase the Power Pack through the store, and download other versions at this official Mandriva link: http://..]