My initial Google Pixel XL review

Keep on building that narrative. Build it one string of words at a time. Bring it all together to form a decent read. The smartphone saga just keeps going. New smartphones come out all the time. Producing videos reviewing and unboxing them is a cottage online industry. It is a nearly endless cycle of innovation and different hardware configurations. Every smartphone review is fleeting. The words ring new in the moment with a certain level of excitement and start fading almost instantly into obscurity as the new wave of phones arrives. That is the nature of the technology hardware industry. Everything is about the now. Every moment from the past seems perpetually overshadowed. Some of those moments might bubble up to the forefront of the public mind, but most of them will be forgotten.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my new Google Pixel XL phone. Fresh out of the box the phone feels like a pretty decent device. It is markedly smaller than I expected. Compared to the Motorola Nexus 6 the XL almost seems small. I used the phone to record some 4K video and a couple VR photos. Reviewing the Google Daydream VR headset will have to wait until later in the week. I have used it a couple of times. Each one of those times was for about 10 minutes. That is not enough time to formulate a strong opinion about the device. The photos I have taken so far seem to be sharp. I will probably spend some time reviewing the photos in about 30 days.

Reading about adversarial neural cryptography

First, I just wanted to thank the folks at Cornell University Library for hosting and supporting open access to ArXiv. I have read a ton of articles from that repository. The good folks over at Google chose this open access repository to publish a new paper. That means that reading the paper is free and incredibly easy to access. 

I read the recently published October 21, 2016 Martin Abadi and David G. Anderson article, “Learning to protect communication with adversarial neural cryptography”. It was a surprisingly easy read. The language is reasonably presented with large sections being written without being overly technical. The paper is only 15 pages long. The abstract opens with, “We ask whether neural networks can learn to use secret keys to protect information from other neural networks. Specifically, we focus on ensuring confidentiality properties in a multiagent system, and we specify those properties in terms of an Adversary.” I ran into a lot of coverage of this paper on various tech news sites. That prompted me to go out and read it myself. It is an academic style and moderator accepted paper that really did receive a lot mainstream coverage. We have to appreciate when highly technical prose can break through to receive news coverage.

The premise is very interesting. The team at Google Brain appear to have actually set up 3 neural networks. The first two networks were named Bob and Alice. Both of those networks were designed to communicate with each other securely. The third network Eve was designed to intercept communications from Bob and Alice. All the networks were aware of each other, but only Bob and Alice were working toward a common goal to secure communications. The most interesting part of the paper is the conclusion that neural networks can protect communications. That means Bob and Alice were successful. The Eve neural network did not succeed at intercepting the secured communications. The experiment was done in TensorFlow. I’m hopeful the code really does get dropped publicly for replication. The paper noted, “We plan to release the source code for the experiments”. I would like to set this up on my computer running Ubuntu Studio and TensorFlow for fun.

My new Pixel phone is on the way

Today does not appear to be an “A Game” day. That happens sometimes. Today seemed to start off very slowly. It could be the recent chill to the weather in Colorado. Last week was very interesting at work. Earlier this week, I did take the plunge and order the new Google Pixel XL phone. That was an epic moment of online ordering. The phone should arrive sometimes in November. Some time ago I acquired a Motorola Nexus 6 phone and made the switch over to Google’s Project Fi. It worked out ok. I have been reasonably happy with the phone and the service. My home computer is powerful enough to support a virtual reality (VR) headset. Nothing in the VR space has been compelling enough to trigger a purchase on my part. I’m very curious to learn more about the Google Daydream VR headset.