Tenth annual Code Jam competition wraps in London

Scientists at Google Labs have discovered it's not easy to be a great rock drummer. Your task is to devise an algorithm to audition drummers based on the imperfections of their rhythms.

This is the type of challenge that was posed to the finalists of our 10th annual Code Jam last week. Twenty-four of the world’s best coders were flown to London to compete for the title of Code Jam Champion 2013 and the accompanying $15,000.

Belarus's Ivan Miatselski, a.k.a. “mystic,” was crowned Champion, besting more than 45,000 other registrants and making it through four online qualifying rounds before winning the in-person finals. The final round was a four-hour, five-problem tour de code. Throughout Code Jam, contestants are allowed to use any programming language and any development environment they like, ranging from C++ to Taxi. And while the finalists are among the among the most talented, we’ve yet to see anyone earn a perfect score during the final round.

Successfully solving the problems involves more than just writing code: contestants in this year's finals needed mastery of computational geometry, dynamic programming, numerical algorithms and more. Though the competition is fierce, Code Jam is also a growing community of skilled problem-solvers, engineers and friends from all over the world. Code Jam will be back in 2014—join our community on Google+ and look for more news to come.

Live from Google I/O: Mo’ screens, mo’ goodness

This morning, we kicked off the 6th annual Google I/O developer conference with over 6,000 developers at Moscone Center in San Francisco, 460 I/O Extended sites in 90 countries, and millions of you around the world who tuned in via our livestream. Over the next three days, we’ll be hosting technical sessions, hands-on code labs, and demonstrations of Google's products and partners' technology.

We believe computing is going through one of the most exciting moments in its history: people are increasingly adopting phones, tablets and newer type of devices. And this spread of technology has the potential to make a positive impact in the lives of people around the world—whether it's simply helping you in your daily commute, or connecting you to information that was previously inaccessible.

This is why we focus so much on our two open platforms: Android and Chrome. They enable developers to innovate and reach as many people as possible with their apps and services across multiple devices. Android started as a simple idea to advance open standards on mobile; today it is the world’s leading mobile platform and growing rapidly. Similarly, Chrome launched less than five years ago from an open source project; today it’s the world’s most popular browser.

In line with that vision, we made several announcements today designed to give developers even more tools to build great apps on Android and Chrome. We also shared new innovations from across Google meant to help make life just a little easier for you, including improvements in search, communications, photos, and maps.

Here’s a quick look at some of the announcements we made at I/O:

  • Android & Google Play: In addition to new developer tools, we unveiled Google Play Music All Access, a monthly music subscription service with access to millions of songs that joins our music store and locker; and the Google Play game services with real-time multiplayer and leaderboards. Also, coming next month to Google Play is a special Samsung Galaxy S4, which brings together cutting edge hardware from Samsung with Google’s latest software and services—including the user experience that ships with our popular Nexus devices.
  • Chrome: With over 750 million active users on Chrome, we’re now focused on bringing to mobile the speed, simplicity and security improvements that we’ve seen on the desktop. To that end, today we previewed next-generation video codec VP9 for faster video-streaming performance; the requestAutocomplete API for faster payments; and Chrome Experiments such as "A Journey Through Middle Earth" and Racer to demonstrate the ability to create immersive mobile experiences not possible in years past.
  • Google+: We unveiled the newly designed Google+, which helps you easily explore content as well dramatically improve your online photo experience to give you crisp, beautiful photos—without the work! We also upgraded Google+ Hangouts—our popular group video application—to help bring all of your real-life conversations online, across any device or platform, and with groups of up to 10 friends.
  • Search: Search has evolved considerably in recent years: it can now have a real conversation with you, and even make your day a bit smoother by predicting information you might need. Today we added the ability to set reminders by voice and we previewed “spoken answers” on laptops and desktops in Chrome—meaning you can ask Google a question and it will speak the answer back to you.
  • Maps: Today we previewed the next generation of Google Maps, which gets rid of any clutter in order to put your individual experience and exploration front and center. Each time you click or search, our technology draws you a tailored map that highlights the information you need. From design to directions, the new Google Maps is smarter and more useful.

Technology can have a profound, positive impact on the daily lives of billions of people. But we can’t do this alone—developers play a crucial role. I/O is our chance to come together and thank you for everything you do.

We’re going live from Google I/O

Developers today have the power to introduce powerful, breakthrough technologies to the world through their code. That’s why we look forward to bringing Google developers together year after year at Google I/O, our annual developer conference. In one week, we’ll welcome more than 6,000 developers to I/O through the doors of Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco, Calif.—and many more via our event’s live streams. If you’re looking for inspiration and want to learn more about the future of our products, we hope you’ll tune in to our live keynote and technical sessions.

Starting on May 15 at 9 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC), join us as Google Developers Live (GDL) powers multiple channels of live streamed content from Google I/O on developers.google.com/io. On this page, you can:

  • Stream the keynote on your computer, tablet or phone. Get in on the action, and listen to product and technology announcements straight from our teams. Live streaming will run on developers.google.com/io from 9 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC) to 7 p.m. PT (2:00 UTC) on May 15 and 16.
  • Watch exclusive interviews with the Googlers behind the latest product announcements. This year, GDL will broadcast one-on-one product deep dives, executive interviews and Developer Sandbox walkthroughs from our onsite stage.
  • Get the latest news in real time. We’ll post official announcements during I/O. You’ll be able to see the feed on the Google I/O homepage, in the I/O mobile app (coming soon), and on +Google Developers.
  • Never miss a session. The keynote and all sessions will be recorded and made rapidly available on GDL and the Google Developers YouTube channel.

Whether you’re joining us from the comfort of home for Google Developers Live at I/O or at an I/O Extended event, tune into developers.google.com/io at 9 a.m. PT (16:00 UTC) on May 15 for the latest from Google product teams. Add +Google Developers to your circles and follow #io13 to stay updated on official conference announcements and connect with the community.

A new kind of summer job: open source coding with Google Summer of Code

If you’re a university student with CS chops looking to earn real-world experience this summer, consider writing code for a cool open source project with the Google Summer of Code program.

Over the past eight years more than 6,000 students have “graduated” from this global program, working with almost 400 different open source projects. Students who are accepted into the program will put the skills they have learned in university to good use by working on an actual software project over the summer. Students are paired with mentors to help address technical questions and concerns throughout the course of the project. With the knowledge and hands-on experience students gain during the summer they strengthen their future employment opportunities in fields related to their academic pursuits. Best of all, more source code is created and released for the use and benefit of all.

Interested students can submit proposals on the website starting now through Friday, May 3 at 12:00pm PDT. Get started by reviewing the ideas pages of the 177 open source projects in this year’s program, and decide which projects you’re interested in. Because Google Summer of Code has a limited number of spots for students, writing a great project proposal is essential to being selected to the program—be sure to check out the Student Manual for advice.

For ongoing information throughout the application period and beyond, see the Google Open Source blog, join our Summer of Code mailing lists or join us on Internet relay chat at #gsoc on Freenode.

Good luck to all the open source coders out there, and remember to submit your proposals early—you only have until May 3 to apply!

Cloud computing enabling entrepreneurship in Africa

In 2007, 33-year-old Vuyile moved to Cape Town from rural South Africa in search of work. Unable to complete high school, he worked as a night shift security guard earning $500/month to support his family. During the rush hour commute from his home in Khayelitsha, Vuyile realized that he could earn extra income by selling prepaid mobile airtime vouchers to other commuters on the train.

In rural areas, it’s common to use prepaid vouchers to pay for basic services such as electricity, insurance and airtime for mobile phones. But it’s often difficult to distribute physical vouchers because of the risk of theft and fraud.

Nomanini, a startup based in South Africa, built a device that enables local entrepreneurs like Vuyile to sell prepaid mobile services in their communities. The Lula (which means “easy” in colloquial Zulu), is a portable voucher sales terminal that is used on-the-go by people ranging from taxi drivers to street vendors. It generates and prints codes which people purchase to add minutes to their mobile phones.

Today, Vuyile sells vouchers on the train for cash payment, and earns a commission weekly. Since he started using the Lula, he’s seen his monthly income increase by 20 percent.

Vuyile prints a voucher from his Lula

Nomanini founders Vahid and Ali Monadjem wanted to make mobile services widely available in areas where they had been inaccessible, or where—in a region where the average person makes less than $200/month—people simply couldn’t afford them. By creating a low-cost and easy-to-use product, Nomanini could enable entrepreneurs in Africa to go to deep rural areas and create businesses for themselves.

In order to build a scalable and reliable backend system to keep the Lula running, Nomanini chose to run on Google App Engine. Their development team doesn’t have to spend time setting up their own servers and can instead run on the same infrastructure that powers Google’s own applications. They can focus on building their backend systems and easily deploy code to Google’s data centers. When Vuyile makes a sale, he presses a few buttons, App Engine processes the request, and the voucher prints in seconds.

Last month, 40,000 people bought airtime through the Lula, and Nomanini hopes to grow this number to 1 million per month next year. While platforms like App Engine are typically used to build web or smartphone apps, entrepreneurs like Vahid and Ali are finding innovative ways to leverage this technology by building their own devices and connecting them to App Engine. Vahid tells us: “We’re a uniquely born and bred African solution, and we have great potential to take this to the rest of Africa and wider emerging markets. We could not easily scale this fast without running on Google App Engine.”

To learn more about the technical implementation used by Nomanini, read their guest post on the Google App Engine blog.

Discover the world of open source with Google Code-in 2012

Every time you send a text, check a webpage or post a status update, you’re using open source software. The Internet is made of open source. But have you ever created any yourself? With the Google Code-in contest, pre-university students (13-17 years old) can learn more and create open source software that people all over the world can use—and win cool prizes along the way.

Starting Monday, November 26 and for the following 50 days, contest participants will work on fun online tasks for 10 different open source organizations. Possible challenges include documentation, marketing outreach, software coding, user experience research and more.

Participants earn points for each task they successfully complete and can earn prizes like T-shirts and certificates of completion. This year we’re doubling the number of grand prize winners to 20 talented students, who will win a trip to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. They’ll spend a day getting a tour of the “Googleplex,” meeting and talking with Google engineers, plus enjoy another full day exploring San Francisco and other surprises.

Some of the 2011 Google Code-in Grand Prize Winners by the Golden Gate Bridge

Last year, 542 students from 56 countries and 360 schools completed 3,054 tasks during the eight-week contest. This year we want to encourage even more students to participate in the contest and learn about open source development. If you’d like to sign up, please review our Frequently Asked Questions and the contest rules on our program site. You can also watch our screencast, check out some sample tasks from last year’s contest and join our discussion list for any other questions. For details on important dates for the contest, see the timeline. You can register for your account on the program site when the contest opens on Monday, November 26 at 9:00am PST.

Finally, our Open Source Programs team will be hosting a Hangout on Air on the Google in Education page November 26 at 2:00pm PST to discuss the details of the Google Code-in contest and answer any questions.

We hope you’ll spend your winter (or summer, for our friends in the southern hemisphere) learning about the ins and outs of open source development through hands-on experience. Ready...set...

Tune in to I/O Live at 9:30 a.m. PDT on June 27

Google I/O, our annual developer conference, begins in just two days, and this year, we’re bringing you more than 130 technical sessions, 20 code labs and 155 Sandbox partners. If you’re not here in San Francisco, you can still sign up for one of our 350+ I/O Extended events around the world or tune in to I/O Live to watch the live stream from wherever you are. This year’s conference kicks off on June 27 with the first day’s keynote at 9:30 a.m. and the second day’s keynote on June 28 at 10:00 a.m. PDT, so tune in early at developers.google.com/io to avoid missing the action!

Bookmark developers.google.com/io to watch I/O Live from your desktop, or download the Google I/O mobile app to access the live stream from your phone or tablet. For the truly entrepreneurial, check our liveblogging gadget, which lets you add your commentary and the live video feed from the Google I/O keynotes to your blog.

More than 40 sessions on Android, Chrome, Google+ and your favorite APIs will be streamed live, and all remaining session videos will be recorded and available shortly after the conference on Google Developers Live and the conference website. Between sessions, we’ll bring you behind-the-scenes footage featuring interviews with Googlers and attendees, tours of the Sandbox and more. The stream will also continue through our After Hours party (June 27 starting at 7:00 p.m. PDT), where we've teamed up with top entertainers, inventors, artists, educators and visionaries from all over the world for an amazing evening.

Google Code Jam 2012 registration is open

Today, we're opening up registration for Google Code Jam 2012. This year thousands of students, professional programmers and freelance code wizards will pit their ingenuity against a new set of algorithmic challenges concocted by our tireless team of red-eyed, LED-illuminated problem writers.

Last year’s champion, Makoto Soejima, was asked to build a house for kittens, serve food to hungry mathematicians, escape from a shady casino and help Goro control his anger. Who knows what our problem writers have on their minds this year?

Code Jam is a world-wide programming competition in which contestants may use any programming language to solve algorithmic problems. The qualification round takes place April 13, followed by three online rounds in the following months. At the end of it all, the top 25 contestants will be invited to Google’s New York office on July 27 for a final match up and a chance to win $10,000. If you are up for the challenge, throw your hat into the ring now.

From acquisition to in-app payments in less than one year

(Cross-posted on the Commerce Blog)

This is the latest post in our series profiling entrepreneurial Googlers working on products across the company and around the world. In this post, you’ll read why one team decided to sell their company to Google, and how they went from acquisition to product launch in less than a year. - Ed.

The decision to sell your company is one of the hardest an entrepreneur can make, and as the CEO of Jambool, I thought long and hard about Google’s offer to acquire us when they came calling in August 2010. Ultimately, we decided to join Google for two reasons: one, we shared the goal of offering consumers and merchants unified online payment solutions, and two, we realized that Google was serious about helping us integrate our technology into their digital tools by providing us with infrastructure and other support. Less than a year later, we’ve already taken a major step to help Google deliver on this vision with Google In-App Payments, which we announced last month at Google I/O. In-App Payments enable web application developers to receive payments for digital and virtual goods without the user ever leaving the application.

Me on stage at Google I/O introducing Google In-App Payments

When we first joined, we expected to spend a lot of time ramping up, meeting people and learning Google’s technology. In reality, our shared vision for the product enabled us to quickly partner with teams across the company to build out our product at scale. As a startup, you spend the majority of your time building teams from scratch to focus on functions like product, sales, marketing, operations and legal. At Jambool, I’d divide my time across operations, raising funds and meeting with outside developers. But at Google, we were able to combine our efforts with teams already in place who could manage those areas while we focused on the core product.

We set an ambitious goal of launching in-app payments nine months later at Google I/O, which motivated us to work quickly. We worked with Google’s established teams—especially Chrome, Android and Google Checkout—to build a simple API and intuitive user interface. During the last few weeks before Google I/O—when we were still working around the clock just to finish the product—we were invited to announce our launch as part of the day two keynote. That gave us even more drive to finish on time. And, thanks to the Chrome team, we found partners like Angry Birds and Graphic.ly, which really demonstrated the product’s usefulness and got developers excited about our broader vision of seamless digital payments.

As a startup, we never imagined we’d stand on a stage like the one at I/O and instantly reach consumers, businesses and developers around the world. In the first 24 hours after the announcement, thousands of developers signed up to use the API. This is something we wouldn’t have been able to do so quickly on our own, and it’s a testament to the big things a startup can accomplish by joining Google. We’re already looking forward to what the next year brings as developers around the world start to build great businesses on our platform.

If you’re interested in integrating your apps into Google’s In-App Payments API, we invite you to sign up and send us feedback.

Hacking for humanity in Silicon Valley and around the globe

(Cross-posted on the Code Blog and Google.org Blog)

Two years ago representatives from Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, Hewlett-Packard, NASA and the World Bank came together to form the Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) program. The idea was simple: technology can and should be used for good. RHoK brings together subject matter experts, volunteer software developers and designers to create open source and technology agnostic software solutions that address challenges facing humanity. On June 4-5, 2011 we’ll hold the third Random Hacks of Kindness global event at five U.S. locations and 13 international sites, giving local developer communities the opportunity to collaborate on problems in person.

The RHoK community has already developed some applications focused on crisis response such as I’mOK, a mobile messaging application for disaster response that was used on the ground in Haiti and Chile; and CHASM, a visual tool to map landslide risk currently being piloted by the World Bank in landslide affected areas in the Caribbean. Person Finder, a tool created by Google’s crisis response team to help people find friends and loved ones after a natural disaster, was also refined at RHoK events and effectively deployed in Haiti, Chile and Japan.

We’re inviting all developers, designers and anyone else who wants to help “hack for humanity,” to attend one of the local events on June 4-5. There, you’ll meet other open source developers, work with experts in disaster and climate issues and contribute code to exciting projects that make a difference. If you’re in Northern California, come join us at the Silicon Valley RHoK event at Google headquarters.

And if you’re part of an organization that works in the fields of crisis response or climate change, you can submit a problem definition online, so that developers and volunteers can work on developing technology to address the challenge.

Visit http://www.rhok.org/ for more information and to sign up for your local event, and get set to put your hacking skills to good use.