What’s taking so long on the SR 9 widening project?

By guest blogger Kris Olsen

Looking north on SR 9

Widening more than two miles of State Route 9 near Clearview in Snohomish County is a large, complex project.  We began the project to widen the highway from two lanes to four in the summer of 2011. Naturally everyone who uses the highway or lives nearby is anxious to have the project complete and the orange construction barrels gone.  Regularly, we receive emails asking “what’s taking so long?” and “are you going to be done soon?”

To widen the highway we:
  • Cleared dozens of trees
  • Built retaining walls
  • Filled in huge sections for new lanes
  • Installed new 84” and 96” diameter culverts
  • Rebuilt the 180th Street Southeast intersection
  • Installed new highway drainage systems
  • Built new ditches
  • Repaired a stream
  • Wired electrical systems for new highway lighting
  • Strung fiber optics
  • Built new storm water retention ponds
  • Paved, paved and then paved some more to build up the two sides of the highway
What’s the current status of the highway?
We’ll hit a milestone the weekend of Nov. 2-3. That’s when crews will install a massive structure known as a signal bridge at 180th Street Southeast. The signal bridge will eventually hold all the new traffic signals and signs. The work requires a full closure of the intersection. You can get all the information about the closure on the project website.

The final layer of pavement has been placed, except a four-block section between 180th Street Southeast and 176th Street Southeast. Although we’ll try to get it done this year, weather may prevent it from occurring until spring 2014.
Striping crew on SR 9

Crews are currently restriping the highway section by section. Two lanes in both directions are now open between 212th Street Southeast/SR 524 and 201st Street Southeast. Next up is the section from 201st Street Southeast to 188th Street Southeast, followed by 188th Street Southeast to 180th Street Southeast and then 180th Street Southeast to 176th Street Southeast. Specific striping dates depend on weather and the availability of a striping crew. Our construction update report will keep you informed about work plans that will affect traffic.

Construction doesn’t come without challenges
Heavy duty roller compacts newly installed
asphalt during a break in the weather
Road construction work always has challenges. In coordination with our contractors, we plan schedules weeks, even months in advance to ensure the crews, equipment and resources are available. On SR 9 the contractor was all set to begin the final paving in early September which is traditionally one of the prime months to perform this work. What happened? The skies opened and September ended up as the wettest on record. We can’t pave highways in the rain. Projects throughout the region were rained out. Suddenly everyone’s carefully planned and coordinated schedules are being compressed into mere weeks, putting enormous pressure on private sector pavers and the striping companies. They’re now scrambling to reschedule everything into a much shorter time period. SR 9 is one of many WSDOT projects jockeying with local agencies and private companies for their time and attention. We’ll continue working on striping the project and the contractor is working hard to bring in additional resources.  Over the next couple months, drivers should be prepared for lane closures as crews begin building the raised center median and U-turn locations.

We hoped to have the entire project completed this fall, but some work will have to wait until next spring. We appreciate the patience and understanding of people who use SR 9 through the area. WSDOT remains committed to delivering a well-constructed highway that will serve the area for many years to come.

Android for all and the new Nexus 5

Just in time for Halloween, we have two new treats for Android fans. First, we're excited to unwrap our latest platform release, KitKat, which delivers a smarter, more immersive Android experience to even more people. And second, we're introducing Nexus 5—a new Nexus phone developed with LG.

The first thing you’ll notice about KitKat is we’ve made the experience much more engaging: the book you're reading, the game you're playing, or the movie you're watching—now all of these take center stage with the new immersive mode, which automatically hides everything except what you really want to see.

Bringing more Google smarts to Android
Behind the polish on the screen is the power under the hood. Take the Phone app, which for most people hasn’t really changed since the days of flip phones. Now, we’re making calling easier than ever, by helping you search across your contacts, nearby places, or even Google Apps accounts (like your company’s directory), directly from within the app. And with the new Hangouts app, all of your SMS and MMS messages are together in the same place, alongside your other conversations and video calls, so you’ll never miss a message no matter how your friends send it. This is just a small taste of KitKat—learn more on our site.

Google has always focused on helping users get immediate access to the information they need, and we want to bring this same convenience and power to users on Android. With the new Nexus 5 launcher, Google smarts are deeply integrated into the phone you carry around with you, so getting to the information you need is simple, easy and fast. Swipe once from the home screen to get Google Now literally at your fingertips. Put Google to work for you by saying “OK, Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song you want to hear. And in the coming weeks, we’re enhancing Now with important new card types that bring you information about contextual topics that interest you such as updates from a favorite website or blog.

Reaching the next 1 billion users
Building a platform that makes mobile phones accessible for everyone has always been at the heart of Android. Until now, some lower-end Android phones couldn't benefit from more recent Android releases due to memory constraints. With KitKat, we've slimmed down Android’s memory footprint by doing things like removing unnecessary background services and reducing the memory consumption of features that you use all the time. We did this not only within Android but across Google services like Chrome and YouTube. RAM (or memory) is one of the most expensive parts of a phone, and now Android can run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices that are popular in much of the world, bringing the latest goodies in Android 4.4 within reach for the next billion smartphone users.

Introducing Nexus 5
Along with our sweet naming tradition, we also introduce a new device with each platform release to showcase the latest Android innovations. For KitKat, we partnered with LG to develop Nexus 5 -- the slimmest and fastest Nexus phone ever made. Its design is simple and refined to showcase the 5” Full HD display. Nexus 5 also keeps you connected at blazing speeds with 4G/LTE and ultra fast wifi. The advanced new lens on Nexus 5 captures more light for brighter night and sharper action shots. And with optical image stabilization, you no longer have to worry about shaky hands and blurry pictures. A new HDR+ mode automatically snaps a rapid burst of photos and combines them to give you the best possible single shot. Learn more on our site.

Nexus 5 is available today, unlocked and without a contract, on Google Play in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea (and coming soon to India), starting at $349. Just in the time for the holidays, Nexus 5 will be available soon at the following retailers: Sprint, T-Mobile, Amazon, Best Buy and RadioShack.

Android 4.4, KitKat, which comes on Nexus 5, will also soon be available on Nexus 4, 7, 10, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play edition devices in the coming weeks.

How’s that for a treat?

How not to get tricked: Your favorite online safety tips

Whether it’s defending yourself from identity thieves or removing bad software from your family’s computer, it’s important to know how to stay safe online. Over the course of the past few months, we’ve explored the simple steps you can take to help keep yourself, your family and the web safer. And in celebration of October's National Cyber Security Awareness Month, for the past 30 days we’ve posted a daily tip on how to #staysafe online.

Even though our favorite month of the year is about to end, it’s good to know how to stay safe all year round. Here are the top five most popular tips from the month:

Security and privacy are important and Google provides tools to help you protect yourself and your information. For example, 2-Step Verification adds another layer of security to your Google Account. Google+ Circles and YouTube settings help you control what you share and keep your information private if you want to keep it to yourself. Verify Apps helps protect your phone from malware, and Android Device Manager will ring your phone and locate it on a map to help you find your device if you lose it (and remotely delete your information from the device if you can’t get it back).

For more information on how to stay safe and improve your online security and privacy, visit our Good to Know site, which has more information and details about Google’s tools and helpful advice on staying safe.

Openet: NFV based PCC Deployment by NA Tier1 (AT&T?)

Openet announced that a ".. Tier 1 North American wireless operator successfully deployed Openet Policy Manager in a virtualized environment to support 2G, 3G and 4G LTE networks. The deployment supports more than one million transactions per second and aligns with the operator’s goal to adopt architecture consistent with network functions virtualization (NFV). Openet has incorporated

Be alert for wildlife as temperatures drop

By guest blogger Mike Allende

It’s the time of year we typically find a rise in deer sightings near our state highways and, unfortunately, more collisions with vehicles and wildlife.

Deer crossing

But why? Well, a couple reasons. Colder temperatures in the mountains send more deer and elk wandering down to the lowlands looking for food. It’s harvest season and the animals naturally go where the food is. It also happens to be both mating and hunting season for big game, which means even more movement.

Every year we receive reports of more than 1,100 vehicle collisions involving wildlife, and many others go unreported. A few of these collisions result in human fatalities. Many more leave animals dead; our crews remove an average of 3,500 deer and elk carcasses from our highways every year.
Wildlife fence

When driving, it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for wildlife near the highway. When you see an animal, especially something as large as a deer or elk, slow down and prepare to react. Wildlife behavior or sudden movement is tough to predict and impossible to control. While some parts of Washington see more wildlife movement than others, the reality is animals can appear virtually anywhere in the state, which is why drivers are wise to be alert always.

Taking wildlife into account is a regular step in highway planning at WSDOT. Our Habitat Connectivity policy directs our approach to balancing the state’s transportation needs with its renowned natural habitats. While we can’t completely prevent wildlife from entering the highway, we take steps that reduce collisions and keep highways safe for people and animals alike.

  • We’ve installed 8-foot-tall wildlife fencing in key areas, such as along I-90 in Cle Elum. Fences are effective at separating large animals from the highway, but it’s an expensive option that doesn’t work everywhere.
  • We’ve built several wildlife crossings over and under highways, such as SR 240 near the McNary National Wildlife Refuge, and U.S. 12 at Casey Pond southeast of Pasco. Other crossing structures are under construction on I-90. Here’s a pretty cool short video of some animals using our crossings.
  • This year we’ve built a new bridge on US 97 over Butler Creek about nine miles north of Goldendale. We installed 8-foot-tall wildlife fences to help guide animals to cross underneath the highway rather than across it.
  • We use deer-crossing signs in areas prone to deer and elk collisions. It’s a heads-up for drivers to be on the lookout ready to react accordingly. Some signs have beacons or messages attached for added visibility.
Wildlife Sign
Obviously, we can’t make animals use the structures we build for them, but combining fences with crossings reduces the tendency for animals to go around fences as they learn to use the crossings.

Just as we all need to move around to get to work, school and the store, wildlife need to move to find food, security and adapt to seasonal changes. Sometimes it creates hazards on our roads, but driver awareness of wildlife and cross locations reduces the hazards and makes the road safer for travel on four wheels or four legs.

Allot: Record $12M Order will be Recognized in Q4 and 2014; DDoS a big Part of VAS

Allot Communications published its Q3 results (revenues of $24.1M - here) and announced a record order of $12M from an APAC-based Fixed tier1 operator (here).

Some quotes from the company's earning call, made by the CEO, Rami Hadar [pictured]:

This is an interesting quarter where we're kind of seeing some of the comeback on the fixed side. I can't say it's a trend. So too early to look at

Google+ Hangouts and Photos: save some time, share your story

We could all use more time for ourselves, and less time figuring out technology. So today's improvements to Google+ Hangouts and Photos aim to take a lot of the work out of messaging, video calling and photo editing.


Hangouts enable conversations among close friends, as well as broadcasts with the entire world. Today we're improving both:

  • Hangouts for Android now supports location sharing and SMS. This way you can send a map of your current location (vs. finding and typing an address), and you can send and receive SMS (vs. switching between apps). Animated GIFs also play inline.
  • Broadcasters can now schedule Hangouts On Air, then promote them with a dedicated watch page. Once you're live, Control Room lets you moderate the conversation with eject and remote mute.
  • In both cases, the video calling experience is significantly improved. It's now full screen across mobile and desktop, and it fixes and enhances webcam lighting automatically.

From left to right: location sharing; SMS support; and animated GIFs

From left to right: schedule your Hangout On Air; promote it with a dedicated watch page; and moderate the conversation with Control Room

From left to right: video call before lighting fixes; video call after lighting fixes

The Android app and video calling features will be available in a few days, while the On Air improvements will roll out over the next few weeks.

Photos and videos

Photos and videos capture life's most precious moments, but it’s way too hard to save, organize, edit and share your stuff. Google+ can make things easier, automatically.
  • For starters, full size backups and background sync are coming soon to Google+ for iOS. This way you can backup your photos as you take them.
  • In addition, finding your photos is actually fun. We now recognize over a thousand different objects—from sunsets to snowmen—so you can just type what you’re looking for, and find matching items in your library.
  • Auto Enhance improves each photo you add to Google+, and now you can now dial the enhancements up or down. If you’re already processing your images elsewhere, you can choose to exempt an album entirely.
  • If you like to edit on the go, then you’ll enjoy Snapseed and its new HDR Scape filter. While high dynamic range (HDR) imaging requires multiple photos to create its effect, HDR Scape can deliver similar results with a single tap.
  • We’re also adding Analog Efex Pro to the Nik Collection (still just $149). With it you can reimagine your images using classic cameras and processing methods—from toy and medium format to wet plate and vintage.

From left to right: photo searches for "beach", "sunset" and "snow"

From left to right: original image; Auto Enhance at "normal"; Auto Enhance at "high"

From left to right: original image; image enhanced with Snapseed HDR Scape

Auto Awesome can help bring your story to life in creative ways. Today we’re adding three new techniques:
  • Action. Maybe it’s your child’s first gymnastic meet, or you’re skateboarding with a friend. Action can take their tumble or half pipe trick, and create a strobe-effect photograph.
  • Eraser. When you’re taking pictures of landmarks, people and cars often get in the way. Eraser can take a sequence of these photos, and erase whatever’s moving to give you a “cleaner” image.
  • Movie. Movie produces highlight reels from your photos and videos—complete with effects, transitions and a soundtrack—automatically. You can share the movie as is, or dive into the editing process to customize even further.
From left to right: sequence of action shots; Auto Awesome Action

From left to right: sequence of images with people in the way; Auto Awesome Eraser

All of today’s photo and video improvements will be available this week. Auto Awesome Movie works on certain devices with Android 4.3+, but all the other app features are widely supported.

With 540 million people active across Google each month, 300 million people active in just the stream and more than 1.5 billion photos uploaded every week, the Google+ community is growing faster than we ever could have imagined. Today’s updates are our way of saying “thank you”—we hope they save you time, and help you share your story.

Telefonica and Oracle Expand PCRF to Fixed Broadband

Oracle announced that "Telefónica I+D, the research and development company of the Telefónica Group, and Oracle have completed a process of definition, developing and testing to allow Oracle’s Tekelec Policy Server (PCRF) to extend mobile policy management to fixed broadband networks. This will allow the use of Policy Server and Oracle’s Tekelec Subscriber Profile Repository (SPR), or subscriber

[Guest post]: How Mobile Operators Can Address the War on Porn?

By Michael Rodgers*, Senior Strategist of Products, Openwave Mobility

UK Prime Minster David Cameron recently raised the stakes in his “war against porn” by asking Internet providers to apply stricter filters on adult content.

Child safety has been cited by many political insiders as one of the reasons behind the UK’s push towards stricter content laws. Cameron’s vision which also includes

PCC Deployments [269]: CTM [Macau] Selected Comverse


Comverse announces that "CTM Macau has selected Comverse .. and Tata Consultancy Services .. as partners for a business transformation that will redefine the user experience, facilitate monetization and reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) ..  The Comverse ONE® Converged Billing and Active Customer Management solution, including Policy Management and enhanced with long-term Operational,

Bell Canada will Use Network Usage Information for "select purposes"

Bell Canada is going to use its customers (starting with mobile subscribers) data usage information for a number of purposes, including the controversial behavioral advertising. The way it is done (with opt-out option only, see below) brings back past incidents in the UK (Phorm) and US (Nebuad) - all  ended up with lawsuits (see "Paper: The Use of DPI for Behavioral Advertising (Case Study:

F5: We are Starting to See Policy Enforcement Wins; Tremendous Progress with Traffix Diameter

Quotes from F5's CEO, John McAdam [pictured], and Manuel F. Rivelo, EVP of Strategic Solutions, made during its Q4, 2013 earning call (revenues were $370M, +9% Y/Y - see "F5 Networks Announces Fourth Quarter and Fiscal 2013 Results" - here):

We are starting to see wins in the service provider market with our new policy enforcement [see "F5 Announces DPI; 320Gbps/Chassis" - here] and

Ericsson Enhances SSR 8000 with Multi-application Card

Ericsson announced the "release of a new multiple-application card that will support various services concurrently without compromising performance. This board in the SSR 8000 family [see "Ericsson Adds DPI and Wi-Fi to SSR 8000"- here and "Ericsson: 22 Contracts for the SSR 8000" - here] is powered by SNP 4000 [see "Ericsson's New Network Processor - for Internal Use Only" - here], a

Monday's Guest Post: What Operators Can Introduce to Effectively Protect Children?

A new guest post will be published on Monday. In his article, "How mobile operators can address the war on porn?" my 30th guest, Michael Rodgers, will discuss the recent initiatives made by the UK government to introduce "porn filters" to protect children from indecent images and their affects of mobile operators.

"It is only a matter of time before the public and media spotlight falls on

New free expression tools from Google Ideas

As long as people have expressed ideas, others have tried to silence them. Today one out of every three people lives in a society that is severely censored. Online barriers can include everything from filters that block content to targeted attacks designed to take down websites. For many people, these obstacles are more than an inconvenience—they represent full-scale repression.

This week, in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations and the Gen Next Foundation, Google Ideas—our “think/do tank”—is hosting a summit in New York entitled “Conflict in a Connected World.”

The summit brings together “hacktivists,” security experts, entrepreneurs, dissidents and others to explore the changing nature of conflict and how online tools and can both harm and protect. We’re also assessing what might be done to better protect people confronting online censorship. With our partners, we will launch several new products and initiatives designed to help:

  • Project Shield is an initiative that enables people to use Google’s technology to better protect websites that might otherwise have been taken offline by “distributed denial of service” (DDoS) attacks. We’re currently inviting webmasters serving independent news, human rights, and elections-related content to apply to join our next round of trusted testers.
  • The Digital Attack Map is a live data visualization, built through a collaboration between Arbor Networks and Google Ideas, that maps DDoS attacks designed to take down websites—and their content—around the globe. This tool shows real-time anonymous traffic data related to these attacks on free speech, and also lets people explore historic trends and see related news reports of outages happening on a given day.
  • uProxy is a new browser extension under development that lets friends provide each other with a trusted pathway to the web, helping protect an Internet connection from filtering, surveillance or misdirection. The University of Washington and Brave New Software developed the tool, which was seeded by Google Ideas. To learn more about the challenges uProxy aims to address, watch our video.
Information technologies have transformed conflict in our connected world, and access to the free flow of information is increasingly critical. This week’s summit—as well as Shield, the Digital Attack Map and uProxy—are all steps we’re taking to help those fighting for free expression around the globe.

Google Media Tools: a new intersection for newsgathering

The New York Times used Google+ Hangouts to interview U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about Syria’s chemical weapons. The Weather Channel used Google Earth to illustrate the damage of Superstorm Sandy through dramatic before and after satellite images and live YouTube video. And Svenska Dagbladet used the Google Maps API and crowdsourced information from readers to plot disparities in neighborhood mortgage rates, generating a meaningful debate in Sweden.

These are just a handful of ways journalists around the world are already using the Internet and Google tools to report the news, visualize data and improve their storytelling capabilities. To continue helping journalists report the news in new and compelling ways, we’ve launched Google Media Tools, a centralized hub aimed at empowering journalists of all skill levels with more ways to connect with their audiences and communities.

The site—which we unveiled last week at Online News Association ‘13 (ONA), a premier digital journalism conference—features a variety of ways to do everything from research to developing to publishing. There are many tips and tricks to make technology do some of the heavy lifting in the daily lives of journalists. The site also showcases the power of the Internet overall in reaching new audiences and giving journalists more ways to make an impact.
We’ll add more resources including case studies, tutorials and expanded content in the coming months, and will soon launch the site in other languages as well.

Popular Products Discounted for Nat'l Teen Driver Safety Week

Next week (October 20-26) marks the 2013 observance of National Teen Driver Safety Week (NTDSW), held the third week of October each year since 2007. A legislative effort by Congressional members from Pennsylvania following several teen crashes and fatalities in that state, NTDSW is an opportunity to re-focus national attention on the devastating effects of motor vehicle crashes among teen drivers (the most collision-prone of any motorists), as well as on promising and proven strategies for saving lives.

During NTDSW 2013, we will be offering a 50 percent discount on one of our most popular educational product bundles: Driver-ZED and Teaching Your Teens to Drive.

Driver-ZED (Stock #114) is an interactive risk-management computer program that uses live-action footage to put teens in the driver's seat as they confront 100 scenarios and learn to properly respond to the hazards in each (such as work zone construction, an aggressive tailgater, etc.) Teaching Your Teens to Drive (Stock #351) uses a lesson handbook and DVD to guide families (parents/guardians and their teens) through the complicated process of learning to drive.

From today (October 18) through October 26, customers may purchase Driver-ZED and Teaching Your Teens to Drive together for $19.95 (ordinarily bundled at $39.95). The bundle stock number for obtaining both products is 119. Use promo code "TeenBundle" when ordering online, or when calling our fulfillment center, at 800.305.7233.

Each product can also be ordered separately at a discount: to get Driver-ZED for $7, use promo code "TeenZED." For a copy of Teaching Your Teens to Drive, use promo code "TeenTeaching" to get the special $12.95 price. Each product is ordinarily priced at $29.95.

This year's NTDSW theme is "It Takes Two," referring to the crucial roles played by both parents AND teens in the learning-to-drive process. Parental involvement during this period in their sons' and daughters' lives is something we've explored several times, most recently in our series of naturalistic studies of novice driving. Parents and guardians have a wealth of safe driving wisdom that they can share with the young drivers in their families, and they can play an active role in managing their teens' driving. To learn more about our work in this area, please visit www.traffic-payout.org.

Leaving a lasting legacy with help from Google

Last year Andrew Willis used Search and Maps to turn his love for skateboarding into something that could bring a community together: his skatepark, Frontside Gardens. Here is his story. -Ed.

Andrew (“Andy” to his friends) has been a passionate skateboarder for as long as he can remember. To make his dream of building a skatepark for his community come true, in 2012 Andy entered a competition to lease a piece of land in Hackney Wick, in East London. He won—then realized he had no budget to build his dream.

Using Search and Maps, Andrew found a wealth of reclaimed materials in the area. From screws to planks of wood to sheets of ply, he sourced his skatepark materials from local suppliers and businesses. An engineering graduate, he also used YouTube to learn how to use new materials, like marble. The result: an empty building site turned into a thriving community skatepark—Frontside Gardens.

For Hackney Wick families and kids, Frontside Gardens is more than a skatepark. Built by hand from scratch, it’s a place to enjoy a sunny day, learn new skills and make the most of what they've got together. For Andrew, it’s a place to pass down the things he's learned over the years and in doing so, creating a legacy all his own.

Supporting entrepreneurs worldwide with UP Global

Startups and entrepreneurs lead the way in creating innovative products that improve lives and drive significant economic and social impact. A robust community of entrepreneurs—paired with resources, mentorship and technology—can thrive. That’s why one year ago we launched Google for Entrepreneurs, which today supports more than 70 organizations that are champions for entrepreneurship in more than 115 countries around the world.

Today we’re announcing a new partnership with UP Global which will double their impact over the next three years. UP is currently active in 500 cities globally and with our partnership aims to be in 1,000 cities by 2016. We’ll expand our existing work together to grow Startup Weekend, now powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, activating entrepreneurial communities and helping them launch companies. We’re also teaming up to power Startup Digest and NEXT to connect entrepreneurs with training and event resources—all through UP Global.

A tidal wave of startups is sweeping the globe. Connect with us on Google+ and join the movement. Here’s to the entrepreneurs!

A long way home with help from Google Earth

In 1986, a five-year-old boy named Saroo Munshi Khan accidentally fell asleep on a stationary train in India. He woke up hours later, alone and in an unfamiliar place. This fateful train ride ripped Saroo away from his home and family. For more than a quarter century, he searched for them before finding his way back home with the help of Google Earth.

This incredible true story spans decades, miles and continents. If it weren’t for hope, determination and technology, Saroo would have remained forever lost.

On that day 27 years ago, Saroo and his 14-year-old brother, Guddu, were searching a train station for change to help support their family. Guddu wandered beyond the station and Saroo fell asleep on a stationary train waiting for his brother’s return. When he woke up, the train had left the station, separating Saroo from his home and family.

The train Saroo boarded was in Berhanpur, India, and he ended up 1,500 kilometers away, in Calcutta. For weeks, he survived on the streets. Eventually, he was taken into an orphanage, where he was adopted by the Brierleys, an Australian family. He moved across an ocean to the town of Hobart in Tasmania. At six years old, Saroo had a new family, home, country and name. Though Saroo Munshi Khan couldn’t find his home, Saroo Brierley never gave up the search.

In 2011, using vague memories and Google Earth imagery, Saroo identified his home town. Using the ruler feature in Google Earth, he mapped out a search radius by making an educated guess about how far he traveled by train. After countless hours of scouring this area of Google Earth imagery, he came upon a proverbial needle in a haystack. Saroo spotted one vague landmark that led him to the next, helping him unlock a five-year-old child’s memories. He eventually spotted a neighborhood, street and tin roof that looked familiar.

In Saroo's words, "It was just like being Superman. You are able to go over and take a photo mentally and ask, 'Does this match?' And when you say, 'No,' you keep on going and going and going."

In 2012, Saroo embarked on a trip from Australia back to Khandwa, India. Once he arrived, he shared his story with locals, who helped him find his way back home to his mother and surviving brother and sister. Twenty-six years after accidentally leaving home, he finally found his way back.
The Google Earth imagery that brought Saroo home.

Maps can affect our lives in many ways, big and small—but hopefully they always help us find our way. You can now read Saroo’s book, “A Long Way Home,” for a detailed account of his journey of survival and triumph against incredible odds. It celebrates the importance of never letting go of what drives the human spirit—hope.

I-90 tolling proposal: Your feedback helps shape alternatives and tolling options

By guest blogger Emily Pace

I-90 Floating Bridge
As you may recall, earlier this year we conducted outreach on the proposal to toll I-90 between I-5 in Seattle and I-405 in Bellevue, including public meetings in Bellevue, Mercer Island and in Seattle, and a public comment period. We had a great turnout at the meetings, and in the end, received thousands of comments from the public and state and local agencies.

It’s important to remember why the Legislature asked us to study tolling I-90. The Cross-Lake Washington corridor – made up of the I-90 and SR 520 bridges – provides as a vital connection between our region’s major employment and population centers. We’re facing two key challenges with this corridor: funding the SR 520 - I-5 to Medina Bridge Replacement Project to complete the SR 520 Program and relieving congestion on I-90.  To address these challenges, the Legislature asked us to evaluate tolling I-90 and complete an environmental impact statement to examine other possible project alternatives.

Craig Stone, Assistant Secretary for the WSDOT Toll Division,
and Tolled Corridors Director John White discuss the I-90
EIS with members of the public attending the Bellevue
scoping meeting held October 10th.
How did we use the feedback we received from outreach earlier this year?
Many people suggested potential alternatives to tolling I-90 that may help meet the purpose of the project, which is to alleviate congestion on I-90 and fund SR 520 between I-5 and Medina. We used the suggestions to develop a list of potential solutions that fit into categories such as state or regional taxes, mileage fees, federal funding and adding new highway capacity. 

Many suggestions came from folks who live or work on Mercer Island.  When we discuss tolling I-90, we realize Mercer Island is in a very unique situation—fully reliant on I-90 to leave the Island in either direction.  As we continue with the environmental process and evaluate the variable tolling alternative, we’re only considering potential tolling options (pdf 404 kb) that would offer Mercer Island a free or discounted way off the island.

More input needed Oct. 6 through Nov. 7 on proposal and alternatives
We’re having another 30-day comment period and we need your feedback again – this time on the potential alternatives and proposal to toll I-90. You can provide your comments online, by mail or in person at a public meeting in Bellevue, Mercer Island and Seattle. Last time, many folks wanted a chance to give verbal comment at the public meetings, so this time around we’re offering the chance to speak at each meeting.

What are the next steps?
Ultimately, the Legislature decides whether or not to toll I-90. After the comment period ends on Nov. 6, we will compile all the comments and summarize key themes into a summary report. Your feedback will help determine which alternatives are studied in the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) analysis. In mid-2014, we will publish the DEIS findings and allow the public another opportunity to comment. We plan to deliver the final report to the Legislature in early 2015.

Have more questions?
Check out our common questions on I-90 tolling to find an answer.

Check it off the list, 3 miles of I-90 east of Snoqualmie Pass done

By guest blogger Meagan McFadden

It’s done - the first 3 miles on Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. In 520 days the contractor removed 1 million cubic yards of material, blasted 400,000 pounds of explosives during 177 hours of lane closures and poured 68,000 cubic yards of concrete to finish a brand new stretch of six lanes.

We celebrated the major milestone with project partners, elected officials and local business leaders on October 10. The completion of this 3-mile stretch is part of a $551 million project, funded by the 2005 gas tax, to improve reliability and safety between Hyak and Keechelus Dam.

However, with a major milestone complete on the project, we still have a couple more miles to go, scheduled to be finished in 2018. This stretch will reduce road closures caused by avalanches with the construction of two new bridges, add a lot more room for vehicles with a new lane in each direction and improve safety by getting the rock slopes stabilized. We will also improve movement of people, fish and wildlife with new bridges and culverts.

The improvements to the I-90 corridor don’t stop at Keechelus Dam. The Legislature allocated funding in the 2013 Transportation Budget to continue expanding I-90 to the Cabin Creek interchange. This stretch includes the first wildlife overcrossing to be constructed in the state. Construction is scheduled to begin 2015 and finish in 2019.

Although 3 miles of the project is complete, we still have a little more construction to do before we can call it quits for the season. The contractor is cleaning up the construction site in preparation for winter. Closures for rock blasting are scheduled to be complete by mid-October, but you will experience minor delays due to single-lane closures and rolling slowdowns through November.

Saying thank you to our Google Top Contributors

Every day, Google Top Contributors from around the world share their product expertise with people in Google’s official forums, from sharing helpful tips to answering burning user questions. Top Contributors not only help users directly, they champion user feedback, which gives our teams valuable insight on opportunities for improvement across various products. They contribute to 250 product communities in 26 different languages, and their expertise touches hundreds of millions of users each year. These Top Contributors are a critical part of the Google family and we brought many of them together at this year's Top Contributor Summit to say thank you.

Building on our first summit in 2011, we kicked off the second Top Contributor Summit last week near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Over three days, Top Contributors came together to discuss their favorite Google products, meet with our engineers and product managers, see demos of new products and collaborate with fellow Top Contributors.

Sebastian Miśniakiewicz, Top Contributor in the Webmasters Polish forum, talks with Program Manager Oahn Nguyen and Map Maker Program Manager Nicole Drobeck

Top Contributors met with product managers and community managers to learn the latest about some of Google’s products, and had the unique opportunity to give their feedback directly to the product team. They also sat down with designers and support team members to discuss the long and short-term vision for various products. Multi-product Top Contributor Manny Barwin (known as “The C Man” in our forums) said, “what impressed me most was the interest taken in our feedback.”

Yogi Anand, Docs Top Contributor from Michigan, tries Google Glass

Top Contributors also got a sneak peek at recently released Google products. After hearing a presentation directly from the Google Glass team, each Top Contributor was given the opportunity to try Glass for themselves. AdWords Top Contributor Adam Briggs said, “I found the best part was being able to try out Glass; it's such an awesome product and I'm really looking forward to it becoming public."

We also put on several social events where the group was able to meet Googlers, chat with their fellow Top Contributors, and have a little fun!

Top Contributors play air hockey during a social event at the San Jose Convention Center
Photograph by Paciano Triunfo

We had a great time at the summit saying thanks to our Top Contributors for all they do for our users. If you’re interested in becoming a Top Contributor, get started by becoming active in your favorite Google product’s forum or learn more about the Top Contributor Program.

Top Contributors and Googlers show their excitement on campus
Photograph by Paciano Triunfo

Posted by Sarah Claxton Deming, Top Contributor Summit Organizer

The web is working for part-time businesses

Part-time businesses play an important role in our lives and in our economy. From the gardening mom who sells her plants, to the hobbyist antiques dealer, to the weekend wedding photographer, people everywhere are earning extra money while doing what they love.

Research released yesterday by The Internet Association shows that the web is powering American part-time businesses. Nine out of 10 part-time business owners rely on the Internet to conduct their business, and the impact is significant. Internet enabled part-time businesses employ 6.6 million people and contribute $141 billion to the U.S. GDP.

We're proud to play our part to support these business owners as they grow their businesses online. Technology is at its best when it makes lives easier—and every day, our products help businesses find new customers and publishers earn money from their content while running more efficiently. With the power of the web, businesses can build better lives for their families and strengthen our economy while doing what they love.

50 million lines of code and counting: supporting students in open source

Back in 2005, we had an idea to get university students interested in open source software during their summer breaks. That year, we launched the Google Summer of Code. This annual program brings student developers from all over the world together with open source software organizations to mentor them through a summer project.

To date, the program has produced 50 million lines of open source code from more than 8,500 student developers—and in 2014, we'll mark the 10th anniversary of Google Summer of Code.

To celebrate the previous nine years of student contributions and set the stage for the best Google Summer of Code yet, we’re launching 10 things to make the program better than ever. Here’s a peek at what we’ll be up to, stay tuned to the Open Source blog for updates:

  • We’re planning 10 visits to countries with the highest participation throughout the year to promote the program and celebrate local students and mentors.
  • A 10 percent increase in the student stipend, bringing the amount to $5,500.
  • We’re also accepting 10 percent more students than ever before—more than 1,300 students will spend their summer coding as part of the program next year
  • A 10-year reunion mentor summit held at Google’s Mountain View campus for our Google Summer of Code organization alumni.

We’re excited to be running a program that touches a lot of lives around the world every year, and we want to celebrate all of the accomplishments we’ve seen from our participants.

We’re also committed to getting younger students involved in open source software. For the fourth consecutive year, in November we’ll run Google Code-in, an international contest designed to introduce 13-17 year old students to the world of open source development. You don’t have to be a coder to get involved in this contest; there are a variety of ways students can contribute to open source projects.

Each year, open source software is becoming more important to governments and industries such as healthcare, gaming and technology. We believe that investing in youth and open source will improve both technology and society. Applications for Google Summer of Code open in March and students interested in Google Code-in can apply starting November 18. See our Open Source blog post for more details on both programs. Here’s to the next year in open source!

The new HP Chromebook, made with Google

We need our computers to be as fast and mobile as we are. We want to work across multiple screens—often at the same time. We want the latest and greatest software and we want to be able to get to our stuff from wherever we are. Chromebooks offer all of that, making computers that are simpler, more secure and more affordable, for everyone.

Earlier today, HP introduced the HP Chromebook 11. Designed and built in partnership with our friends at HP, it has all of the speed, simplicity and security benefits you'd expect from a Chromebook, and some unique design elements that address many of the challenges people face with computers today.

First, a laptop should be light and mobile. So the new Chromebook is really thin with no extra fluff. It weighs in at just over two pounds—one of the lightest laptops on the market. There are also no sharp edges so nothing digs into your wrists while you type. And when you’re traveling, you don’t need to throw an extra charger into your bag. The HP Chromebook 11 is powered by a micro-USB charger, which can also be used to juice up your Android phone or tablet.

Second, a computer should look good—something you’re proud to take out at a coffee shop. So the new Chromebook has a sleek, distinctive and super simple look. The fanless design means it doesn’t need any grills for venting. And it comes in a variety of colors to match your mood (or your wardrobe).

And there are a bunch of other things that we hope will make your computing experience even more awesome:
  • Brilliant display. Often when folks gather around a screen, everyone tries to gently nudge the computer in their own direction so they can see better. No more nudging. The new Chromebook's screen has a 176-degree viewing angles so you can see even when looking at it almost completely sideways. And the super bright display brings all of your favorite photos, shows and videos to life.
  • Light but sturdy. We wanted the Chromebook to hold up well against everyday bumps and bruises. So it has a magnesium frame that makes it incredibly sturdy. You can hold it from a single corner without it bending or flexing.
  • Finely-tuned speakers. Many computers have speakers on the bottom, which is great if you have ears in your lap. Instead, the speakers on the new Chromebook are under the keyboard, which means the sound is crisp, clear and pointed up towards your ears.
  • Goodies built-in. And, of course, many Google apps come built-in, including 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage (free for two years) and a 60-day free trial of Google Play Music All Access.

This Chromebook is crafted with the same obsessive attention to detail as the Chromebook Pixel. But we worked hard with HP to keep the price low: the new HP Chromebook 11 is available for just $279.

Look for it starting today at Best Buy, Amazon, Google Play and HP Shopping in the U.S., as well as at Currys, PC World and many other retailers in the U.K. It will be available in other countries that sell Chromebooks in time for the holidays.

So if you’ve been looking for a computer that makes it easier to get stuff done (and look good doing it), we hope you give the new HP Chromebook 11 a try—or add it to your gift list this holiday season. We designed it to make computing faster, simpler and more secure, for everyone.

Posted by Caesar Sengupta, VP, Product Management

The cultural catwalk: 5000+ new works in the Cultural Institute

The past few weeks, Fashion Week in New York, London, Paris and Milan have given us a feast for the eyes with parades of creativity, color and design. At the Cultural Institute (follow us on G+ here), we're putting on a fashion show of a different kind with new content from 36 partners. Many of these cultural treasures, from China, Hungary, Mexico and 16 other countries, have a strong link to fashion and design through the ages.

Fabrics are the starting point of many designs. You can see this in the wonderful costumes added by the Textile Museum of Canada to the Google Art Project. Highlights include a kimono from Japan, a cape from Polynesia and an 1800s jacket with beautiful detail from Greece. The creation of these fabrics is highly skilled work; in an online exhibition, The Craft Revival Trust gives us an insight into the 5,000-year-old Indian textile tradition which creates the prints, motifs and colors that are still used today, while the The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg exhibits quilts of delicate beauty.

If regalia and royal jewels are more your thing, then then be sure to see new exhibits from La Venaria Reale in Italy and the Palace of Versailles in France. Zoom in at brushstroke level to the gigapixel painting of Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia to appreciate the jewellery, metallics, fabrics and lace of the King’s royal mantle, scepter and crown. And accessories were as important in the 17th century as they are today: an online exhibition entitled “Louis XIV: the construction of a political image” curated by experts in Versailles features an amazing wax portrait moulded from the monarch’s face, complete with a real wig.
The fashion world has long taken inspiration from tribal traditions. In a new photographic archive named "African ceremonies,” the diversity and beauty of 100+ unique African cultures is on full display—the work of two world-class artists who spent 30 years criss-crossing the continent. From the painted Karo Dancers of Ethiopia to The Hands of the Ashanti King, you'd be hard-pressed to find more elaborate body art and ceremonial dress.
You can also browse the interiors of the first two museums in China to open their doors to Street View; enjoy our first collection of children’s art from Norway; learn about Sumatra’s Pustaha book of spells reflecting the wisdom of nine generations of magicians; or simply sit back and let yourself be taken on a tour by a museum director through one of the 12 new galleries they’ve created. With 5,400 new items to explore, there’s some style inspiration for all of us!

US 12 over White Pass to reopen this weekend

by guest blogger Meagan McFadden

It’s been a long couple of days on US 12 near White Pass after a 500-foot section of the roadway that washed out and closed a 45 mile stretch from Naches to Packwood. We're now happy to report that a single lane will open at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4.

Drivers will notice a signal light that will direct alternating single-lane traffic through a quarter-mile area just east of White Pass. If you plan a trip, expect some minor delays through the single-lane detour. Unfortunately, the roadway will remain closed to those driving oversized loads - just can’t have you driving through there, yet. 

Aerial view of the slide

Governor Inslee signed an emergency proclamation on Thursday, Oct. 3 which give us and local agencies the green light to pursue federal emergency relief funds for the fix. 

We already have an emergency contractor on board, DBM Inc., of Federal Way, who is working with us to develop a temporary fix so we can get this section back open to two before winter.

Last week’s rain storms are to blame for the severe erosion that closed the roadway Tuesday, Oct. 1.

Currently, US 12 remains closed to from just west of Naches at milepost 183, to just east of Packwood at milepost 138. Truckers and other commercial vehicles are not allowed past these closure points. Locals going west can get to recreational areas  and businesses along US 12 up to the west end near of Rimrock Lake and those going east can get up  to the summit of White Pass.

Until we get a single-lane open, you will need to use SR 410 andSR 123 as an alternate route. Remember these routes don’t allow oversized loads, and it's already had a dusting of snow earlier this week, so please be prepared for winter driving.

Hulu Plus now works with Chromecast

Hulu has added Chromecast support to their Hulu Plus app—just in time for the fall television season. Now you can easily enjoy your favorite shows, such as “Modern Family,” “New Girl” and “Parks and Recreation,” on your big-screen TV by casting from Hulu Plus on your mobile phone or tablet. It’s the same intuitive, remote-free experience you’ve come to enjoy with the other Chromecast-supported apps, and is as simple as pressing the Cast button which will now appear in the app.

Chromecast, which we launched in July, is designed to be small, affordable ($35) and the simplest way to watch online video on your TV. It’s been exciting to receive such positive feedback from many of you (thank you!)—and to see Chromecast currently listed as the #1 best seller on Amazon in Electronics.

To start casting your favorite Hulu Plus content from your Android phone, tablet or iPad (support for iPhone coming very soon), just check that you have the latest version of the Hulu Plus app for Android or iOS that’s rolling out today. And if you don't already own a Chromecast device, they’re in stock and available on Google Play, Amazon, BestBuy.com or at your local Best Buy store.

An Austrian star of European computing

Google started as a graduate school project. So it’s apt that the next film in our computing heritage series pays homage to the work of another student team, nearly 60 years ago in Austria.

In the mid 1950’s, computer design was in the midst of a major transition, going from vacuum tubes to transistors. Transistors performed a similar function electronically, but generated less heat and were a fraction of the size, allowing machines to be made that were both smaller and more powerful.

Heinz Zemanek, then an assistant professor at the Vienna University of Technology, had long been interested in computers. In 1956, he enlisted a team of students to build one based on this new transistor technology.

Zemanek’s project didn’t have university backing, so the team relied on donations. One student’s work was sponsored by Konrad Zuse, the German computer pioneer, on the understanding he would join Zuse’s company after completing his doctorate. Additional money came from an Austrian bankers association, thanks to connections Zemanek had made through his role leading Austria’s Boy Scouts. Overall more than 35 companies contributed materials, in particular Philips, who donated all the transistors and diodes. The only drawback was the transistors were relatively slow, originally designed for hearing aids.

At the time, leading U.S. machines were named after types of wind, such as MIT’s Whirlwind and RCA Laboratory’s Typhoon. In a gentle nod to this, Zemanek nicknamed his computer Mailüfterl, meaning “May Breeze.” As he joked (PDF): "We are not going to produce… any of those big American storms, but we will have a very nice little Viennese spring breeze!”

On May 27, 1958 the Mailüfterl ran its first calculation and became mainland Europe’s first fully transistorized computer—and one of the earliest in the world. It remained at the university for its first few years, financed in part by the European Research Office of the American Army. In 1960 Zemanek signed a contract with IBM, and in September 1961 the Mailüfterl was moved to a new research laboratory in Vienna that IBM created for Zemanek and his team.

Today the Mailüfterl is on display at the Technical Museum in Vienna—a fitting reminder of Austria’s time at the vanguard of European computing.