Families of Googlers who pass away receive 5 years of salary spread over 10 years

In a recent interview with Forbes regarding benefits for Google employees, Google Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock explained the company has recently announced death benefits for Googlers.

“This might sound ridiculous,” Bock told me recently in a conversation on the ever-evolving benefits at Google, “But we’ve announced death benefits at Google.”

According to Bock, spouses of Googlers whom pass away while employed at the company will continue to receive 50 percent of the employee’s annual salary for 10 years following. Children will also receive $1,000 monthly until they reach 19 (or 23 if they are a full-time student):
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Google uncloaks the future of search: New Knowledge Graph worldwide rollout, Gmail universal search trial, Voice-based search in iOS

Google is currently giving a presentation at its San Francisco office to discuss the future of search.

The search engine first revealed the Web is home to 30 trillion URLs and it crawls 20 billion of those pages every day, according to TheNextWeb, while also answering 100 billion queries every month.

Googler Amit Singhal then reminded folks about the Knowledge Graph, according to SearchEngineLand, which now contains 5 million things and 3.5 billion connections between them. Singhal called the Knowledge Graph just a “baby step” in the future of search, and he noted the future ideally involves speech recognition.

Read more about the Knowledge Graph at the Official Google Blog.

Another Googler, Shashi Takur, came on stage to announce a worldwide Knowledge Graph rollout tomorrow for English-speaking countries. From there, Knowledge Graph Director of Product Management Jack Menzel demoed a redesign featuring a top carousel-like bar that helps users swipe through items more quickly when searching. The new look also provides search results with collections and lists instead of just the traditional blue links, according to Engadget.

More Googlers take the stage: Universal Search Director of Product Management Sagar Kamdar explained Gmail is now a part of universal search in a now-live “field trial.” He gave an example by searching for an item to purchase through Amazon, and then he highlighted a shipping confirmation in Gmail that immediately surfaced on the right-hand side of the Google results page. He also showed a similar example with a flight confirmation email.

Those who want to give the trial a spin can do so here.

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Google expanding live traffic coverage to 130 small cities in the US, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Panama

Google announced on the Official Lat Long Blog today that it is expanding the Google Maps live traffic feature first launched in 2008 to cover 130 smaller U.S. cities and the capitals of Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia. On top of travel time estimates and real-time traffic conditions for the new cities, Google also improved its traffic coverage in a list of other locations including parts of Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. A tutorial of the feature is presented in the demo video below, and Google has a full overview of supported cities here.

Now the streets of Bogotá, San José, and Panama City and the arterial roads in Kalamazoo (Michigan), Portland (Maine), Tuscaloosa (Alabama) and many more cities will include real-time current traffic conditions as well as estimated travel times. Whether you’re online on your home computer ensuring no unexpected snarls await your drive to the airport or you’ve been stuck behind a line of cars for a few minutes and can ask your friend in the passenger seat to check whether it’ll clear up just around the bend, we hope these updates save you time and stress when getting to your destination. Read more

Judge orders Google, Oracle to disclose payments made to bloggers

A judge ruled today that Google and Oracle must disclose any payments made to Internet authors, journalists, or bloggers for published commentary related to the Google vs. Oracle lawsuit involving Android software.

The trial is just now ending, but Judge William Alsup issued a court order (PDF) today that calls for both companies to divulge which Internet-based journalists were compensated. The judge is apparently concerned that evidence in the case includes analysis from influenced bloggers.

FOSS Patents‘ Florian Mueller revealed in April that Oracle and Microsoft pay for posts on his blog, where he regularly discusses the Google vs. Oracle case.

The full court order is below: 

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Google self-driving cars log 300K miles accident free, adds Lexus SUV to fleet

We always had a deep interest in Google’s self-driving car project. It develops technology to make driverless cars, and Google engineer Sebastian Thrun leads the charge. The Google team has operated the driverless cars daily on the roadway with as many as 12 cars going at any time. In an announcement made today, Google said its self-driving cars logged a whopping 300,000 miles accident free (but there was one time when it was the drivers fault). The company added that while a ton of progress has been made, the self-driving project still has a long way to go. For example, the cars still need to master snowy conditions.

Google also revealed that it added the Lexus RX450h to its fleet of self-driving vehicles to “fine our systems in different environments and on different terrain.” How stylish.

The self-driving project has come a long way over the past year. In June 2011, Nevada passed a law concerning self-driving cars on the roadway and granted the first license for a driverless car in May 2012. With over 300,000 miles logged, next comes self-driving cars used for the daily commute.

“As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work,” said Google in a blog post. “This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter.” [Google]

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NASA’s official Mars landing video got taken off YouTube after fictitious copyright claim from Scripps

NASA achieved a huge milestone very early this morning, as it landed the first rover on Mars after years of failed attempts. It was an awesome moment fueled by months of hard work and dedication. NASA posted the landing on YouTube. It showed engineers gleefully cheering and celebrating years of hard work. Of course, NASA wanted to share the event on YouTube in a 13-minute excerpt of the livestream that could have been viewed on Ustream, but not to be stopped by a fictitious copyright claim.

An unknown network (in my eyes), Scripps Local News filed for a DMCA takedown. No one is exactly sure why the claim was filed or on what ground it would have the right to earn a takedown. The video uploaded was NASA’s content by all means, and even NASA does not copyright most of its content.

It was definitely a weird situation, but the video has thankfully been re-uploaded for your viewing pleasure. We reached out to Scripps Local News in an attempt to learn more about the situation. Oh, and you can check out the Mars landing video below. It is now 9 minutes rather than the original 13 minutes: [Motherboard.tv via Gizmodo]

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Review: Cheapest Smartphone in the US: Virgin’s $80 prepaid PCD Chaser running Android 2.3

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Sometimes it is fun to take a break from reviewing the newest high-end Android phones out there to see what the other end of the spectrum has to offer. Virgin announced its new low-end phone, the PCD Chaser, which is just $79.99 without signing up for a plan.

Virgin offers unlimited data 3G plans starting at $35 a month. So, you are looking at just under $500 for a year of this phone with unlimited data. That is an incredible deal for an Android 2.3 device that does not totally suck. The Chaser comes with many of the same specs as the previous Virgin-base model, the Optimus V, including a 3-megapixel camera, 800MHz processor, 3.2-inch display, and hardware buttons. The Chaser adds the new, lower $80 price tag and Android 2.3, which the low-cost folks will welcome. However, those who want to see Ice Cream Sandwich or Jelly Bean on their devices will lament (Virgin never updated the Optimus V, so do not expect this one to get an upgrade either).

It is still a remarkable little device that once retailed for $149 (but lately it is often on-sale for much less). The Optimus included a 2GB Micro-USB card, but the Chaser does not, which frankly is pretty petty. Although the phone has a low-end camera, you cannot take videos or still images until you buy a Micro-SD card. Lame. I was able to take some borderline decent pictures and movies once I popped in an SD Card. Therefore, this might actually be a step down from the Optimus V.

Otherwise, this fine Android device will be a good step up for feature phone users. Some notes:

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Google SVP explains lack of Google+ API: ‘I’m not interested in screwing over developers.’

Oh, Web drama.

Third-party developers often cry about the lack of an open write API from Google+. The absence notably means no tools, products, or services can add data to Google’s social network. Well, a few companies, such as Hootsuite, currently have permission to publish, but many more can only read.

With that said, entrepreneur Dalton Caldwell wants to launch ad-less social platform App.net to replace all the bogged-down, ad-supported social networks of the Internet. He even posted an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg yesterday about Facebook’s “bad-faith negotiations” with App.net and “the very real risk of 3rd party development on an ad-supported platform.”

Google Vice President of Engineering Vic Gundotra noticed Caldwell’s contentious blog post late last night, so he promptly explained in a status update why a public, read-and-write Google+ API is missing in action. His answer is simple: “I’m not interested in screwing over developers.”

Yeah…and this is his full status update:

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Google Wallet gets Web App, updated with all major credit cards and remote wipe

Google Wallet is now cloud-based, supports any type of credit or debit card, and it is safer than ever before thanks to secure storage and remote disabling.

U.S. carriers are extremely stingy about letting Google put the Wallet app on its own operating system. While Sprint and its Virgin subsidiary have Google Wallet enabled on most of their new Android phones, Verizon has outright banned it—even on the Galaxy Nexus. AT&T and T-Mobile, which, with Verizon, are part of the competing ISIS Wallet standard. Both refuse to carry phones that use Google Wallet, but you can buy an unsubsidized GSM Galaxy Nexus that works on both networks just fine.

Google seems to have found another way around the ban, according to the the official Google Commerce blog:

“Today we’re releasing a new, cloud-based version of the Google Wallet app that supports all credit and debit cards from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Now, you can use any card when you shop in-store or online with Google Wallet. With the new version, you can also remotely disable your mobile wallet app from your Google Wallet account on the web.”

Google Wallet is simple: Card information is entered on the app, or on its new online wallet and Google Play, and manageable transaction records for in-store and online purchases appear on the phone (and now the Web!) immediately after payment use.

Google also instantly charges the selected credit or debit card. Well, when a user pays, the virtual card is transmitted to the merchant, but then the back-end charges the selected card. Note: It does not directly charge the card, because it is a proxy card.

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