Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jimmy Wales early Christmas present: A "Search Wikia" Alpha Launch?

Search Wikia, The open-source, community search engine effort backed by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales could go live as an early test version as soon as next week. according to New Scientist.

Jeremie Miller, the project's technology chief, hopes an "alpha" version of the engine will be running by Christmas. As well as search, it will offer "wiki-style tools to improve search and basic social networking"

"Unlike Google, Search Wikia will not share search data with advertisers, nor invade privacy by storing users' search terms...The effort's architecture is similar in fashion to the SETI@Home project...500 volunteers are running web-crawlers to compile Search Wikia's web index, which so far totals 100 million pages"

Wikia's Search is smartly boot-strapping off of the established open source distributed web crawler software/project that it purchased in July, Grub. An introduction from Grub's site:

Search is part of the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. And, it is currently broken.

Why is it broken? It is broken for the same reason that proprietary software is always broken: lack of freedom, lack of community, lack of accountability, lack of transparency. Here, we will start to change all that.

Grub started back in 2000 with a simple concept of distributing part of the search process pipeline: crawling. In a way, we were a bit ahead of our time, but our intention then was what it is now. We want to help fix search.

Now, with the help of Wikia, community members, contibuters, and Open Source developers our time has come again. Come be part of something greater. Come help us change the World.

This is a very interesting project with altruistic motives. Google and Yahoo do good job at search, but as pointed out here previously, having an open source, and non-commercial democratic search index/application would be a welcome addition to the proprietary ones offered by the web giants. Time will tell if the Search Wikia can deliver the same kind of quality, relevant results.

digg the New Scientist story here

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Google's "My Location" Makes your Phone a Real Beacon...GPS Not Required

Google's "Maps for Mobile" makes it so you can automatically send your phone's location to their maps application without GPS!

After this light-weight maps application is downloaded and installed on your phone, you just type the "0" key to activate the new, "My Location" Beta service.

It doesn't work on all phones, but if yours is one that does, It will then get your phones location data from the cell tower serving it, and it will plot your location on the map (within 1000 meters or better). You can then search for a destination, get directions, and more.

The MIT Technology Review has an excellent article about the underlying technology, and other developments in this kind of non-GPS related mobile tracking. Interestingly, Google does use some GPS data on the back-end of this "My Location" application:

"Google also uses data from cell phones in the area that do have GPS to help estimate the locations of the devices without it. In this way, Google adds geographic information to the cell-phone tower's identifiers that the company stores in a database."

So instead of "triangulating" your location by pinpointing you relative to two other towers, Google is just using the single tower that is serving your phone, and then using other people's Maps enabled GPS devices to help fill in the gaps! It sounds like quite an amazing mashup & cross reference of geo-location data. Integrating all of it with the maps application making it work with relative accuracy is a remarkable feat.

Not surprisingly for Google, they expect the service to improve and more "intelligent" with time.

"As the database grows, says Lee, the service will become more accurate. It will never be as accurate as GPS, but he expects that it could eventually find a person within a couple hundred meters"

Here's a wild thought: Since Google is the Authority on "Search" (and privacy issues notwithstanding) wouldn't it be something if you could search for another person by dialing their cell phone number and then find their current location on the map ?!?!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cellphones as an Airline Boarding Pass

Continental Airlines & Transportation Security Administration are doing a 3 month test in Houston that lets passengers board the plane with their cell phones or PDAs!

The way it works is that a bar code image is sent to the device (presumably from the airlines website or from a check-in kiosk at the airport) The image that's displayed on the device gets scanned at the baording gate just as the bar code on a paper pass does.

While the test doesn't allow for multiple passengers to board from one bar code, Continental is working on upgrading their system to allow for that.

While this is the first use of this kind of technology in the US, it's not the first ever implementation. Air Canada has been offering it since September of this year. USA Today reports that other US Airlines such as Delta and US Airways hope to offer this kind of paperless technology in the future too.

read more | digg story

Friday, November 16, 2007

How can I use spreadsheets to answer some of my many questions about the world?

The following was produced by Google and the original can be found here. For some reason, the URL is unacceptable to several social bookmarking sites. I've reposting it here so it could be shared, which I'm assuming Google is OK with ;-D. The video demo below is also an offical Google one, but I found it from the Googlesystem Blog.

This is some pretty powerful stuff You can basically create dynamic spreadsheets with data snarfed from all over the web!!

You can get answers to many common questions by using the GoogleLookup function. Please note that this function is only available in English at this time.

The GoogleLookup function attempts to answer your question using the web, with information about people, places and things, like the population of Japan, the mass of Jupiter, or the place of birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Keep in mind that, while the GoogleLookup function knows quite a bit, it doesn't know everything. Not all of the formulas that you might try will work, but we encourage you to experiment with the function and see what does work.

Using the GoogleLookup function

To use the GoogleLookup function, enter the following formula in the desired spreadsheet cell:

Syntax: =GoogleLookup("entity"; "attribute")
where "entity" represents the name of the entity that you want to access, like Kuala Lumpur, Audrey Hepburn, or oxygen, and "attribute" is the type of information that you want to retrieve.

Different attributes apply to different objects. For example:

  • Boston has a population.
  • Kofi Annan has a place of birth.
  • The Mississippi River has an origin.

Here are a couple examples using the formula:

  • To insert the number of Internet users in Paraguay:
    =GoogleLookup("Paraguay"; "internet users")
  • To insert the Earned Run Average of Roger Clemens:
    =GoogleLookup("Roger Clemens";"earned run average")

Note: In order for the formula to compute properly, quotation marks must be used around both the "entity" and the "attribute."

Some of the entities and attributes you can use

Here are some of the types of entities you can access using GoogleLookup, and a few popular attribute names (some entities won't have all these attributes, and some will have more, so feel free to experiment):

  • Countries and Territories (like "Burkina Faso"): population, capital, largest city, gdp
  • U.S. States (like "Tennessee"): area, governor, nickname, flower
  • Rivers (like "Amazon River"): origin, length
  • Cities and Towns (like "Chicago"): state, mayor, elevation
  • Musicians (like "John Lennon"): date of birth, place of birth, nationality
  • Actors (like "Audrey Hepburn"): date of birth, place of birth, nationality
  • Politicians (like "Anwar Al-Sadat"): date of birth, place of birth, nationality
  • U.S. Presidents (like "Zachary Taylor"): date of birth, place of birth, political party
  • Baseball Players (like "Wade Boggs"): games, at bats, earned run average, position
  • Chemical Elements (like "Helium"): atomic number, discovered by, atomic weight
  • Chemical Compounds (like "Isopropyl Alcohol"): chemical formula, melting point, boiling point, density
  • Stars (like "Betelgeuse"): constellation, distance, mass, temperature
  • Planets (like "Saturn"): number of moons, length of day, distance from sun, atmosphere
  • Dinosaurs (like "Velociraptor"): height, weight, when it lived
  • Ships (like "USS Chesapeake"): length, displacement, complement, commissioned
  • Companies (like "Hewlett-Packard"): employees, ceo, ticker

  • Note: You're allowed 250 GoogleLookup calls in a single spreadsheet.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Twitter, Social Web 2.0 Apps Breaking California Fire News

"Parislemon" MG Siegler has a excellent post on how Twitters power lies in breaking events in times of big news or crisis. MG is out in the San Diego area and he points out how the NPR radio station out there, KBPS, had thier web site go down go down temporarily, but advised listeners to check the station's twitter page for news updates in the interim. At the time of this writing, I see from it that evacuation orders have been issued for areas of Del Mar & Solana Beach, Califronia. My thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in SoCal affected by this. I hope you remain safe.

More broadly across the web is more firsthand coverage and information on the fires. Center Networks has a good roundup of all the fire coverage on social media sites.

The LA Times has created a google maps mash-up of where the fires are:

View Larger Map

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Free Point-to-Point Mobile Phone Service !?!

Imagine a mobile phone system where any two phones form their own "network" as soon as they are switched-on and within range of one another. Such a system would eliminate the need for a carrier and large mobile network; Replacing it with a shared grass-roots public network that allowed for private phone calls.

As reported on the BBC News, such a system has already been developed out of Sweden by a company called TerraNet AB!

The technology is designed for remote areas where wireless base stations are not practical. It is being used in Lund, Sweden where it was developed and projects are underway in Ecuador and Tanzania.

How it works

Each wireless unit instantly communicates with other units within a range of up to 2000 metres - without the need for a base station. Calling and texting are free between the units, with all units acting as nodes and carrying traffic between other units in the cluster. A call hops from one unit to the next until it reaches the destination, up to seven units away. The cluster of TerraNet wireless units creates an organic communication mesh that spans a large area, be it a university campus, a rural village, a company site or a disaster zone.

A TerraNet access point can be established wherever a computer with Internet access is available. Simply insert a TerraNet USB dongle. At least one TerraNet unit must be within a range of up to 2000 metres. The unit communicates with the access point and with other TerraNet units in the cluster. This way, any user in the cluster can set up free VoIP calls via the Internet to users in other TerraNet clusters, and via low cost VoIP dial-out services to fixed line phones and mobile phones anywhere in the world.

CEO Anders Carlius seems to enjoy the implications of disrupting the mobile telephony business model. From the company's site is the following:

Traditional operators are charging for landline and mobile phone calls like a taxicab - by the minute and by distance. With the arrival of flat rate or zero-rate communication solutions, including VoIP initiatives like Skype, the taxicab business model is no more. To eliminate the cost between the endpoints, you need to minimise the network infrastructure, the base stations, the antenna installations and the telephony servers. With the TerraNet Wireless Technology, the users deploy their own network.

If the calls sound good, it Sounds real good to me!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wikipedia, 2 Million English User Generated Articles and Counting.

Wikipedia passed 2 million English language articles today. This free, user-generated encyclopedia has been around since 2001.

I've got to hand it to Wikipedia, despite it's politics and the hole Jimbo Wales's a cool site and often helpful. Sometimes, it's surprisingly thorough and I like how it lets you know when it's not. (e.g. "this article is a stub", when it lacks references, citations, etc)

All in all, Wikipedia is a solid representation of what Web 2.0 is about. Good and Bad. High Five's Wikipedia!

A Social Bookmarker's Convention?

DigiDave Cohn is proposing a Social Bookmaker's Convention. I say "Hell Yeah!" Stumble on out and Digg some Vines. They're delicious. We'll upload it, post it & host it (u reddit) - The nation's biggest LAN party -- watch out!

We'll see how "wise" this crowd gets ;-)

What are your thoughts?

Monday, September 10, 2007

The UNIX Wizard

The classic UNIX magic poster by Overacre was distributed at past USENIX conferences and featured a white bearded wizard with UNIX related things around him:

Apologies, Coding Horror. I had to digg it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

Are YOU ready for Linux?

It seems everyday there's a new article about Linux and it's readiness to replace Windows. The fact is, it already does. It's an operating system. By default it can replace Windows. The question is: are users ready to switch?

When I switched to using OS X on a Mac, I wasn't looking for the start menu or trying to find the control panel. I was learning how to do things the "Mac" way. Sure, it took a few days to get the hang of but what could I expect, it's a different OS made by different people with different goals. However, I don't see countless articles about OS X's "readiness" to replace Windows.

Linux is ready to be used by anyone willing to learn a different way of doing things. I will admit that it's not as intuitive (initially) as either Windows or OS X but that does not negate it's usefulness. It took me much longer to get used to using Linux than any other system but I wanted to learn to harness the power it has to offer.

The command line is scary at first, I admit. Though once I got used to it, It became quite a productivity tool for me (it also makes me feel like a hacker of some sort). Installing programs was confusing at first but now I browse through thousands of software titles and install with a simple mouse click. You can even install multiple programs at once. If I know the name of the program I want to install, I type a short command in the terminal and off it goes finding the program, resolving dependencies and installing the program for me. Once installed, it's automatically categorized in my application menu, ready to use. To top it off, the system automatically keeps EVERY single program on my computer up to date. It seems to have paid off to have spent a little time getting to know the system. I argue that this is the easiest and most dynamic way of dealing with the installation of programs there is. It just requires me to learn a new method.

Most people don't understand the concept of a desktop environment because they're not given a choice so it's not worth mentioning. In OS X, the desktop environment is called Aqua, I believe Windows XP's is called Redmond and I'm not exactly sure what Vista uses (is it Aero, or is that just the name for the fancy effects, not sure but it's a moot point). Linux offers a choice of several different desktops. Gnome and KDE being the most popular. The specifics of the desktop environment is beyond the scope of this article but basically, a desktop environment can be described as the OS's GUI. This new choice being offered is hard to understand at first but once you do, it gives you freedom to choose.

Windows has always tried to be an operating system for the non-techie (one might argue that the skills required just to keep the thing running without viruses or spyware defeats this goal). Linux is for people who want something more powerful, customizeable and just plain different. I'm not going to tell you that system A is better than system B. I have my opinion and I'm sure you have yours. Please stop arguing about Linux's readiness to be used by the general public.

If you don't want to learn how to use Linux, you're not ready to use that particular IT, not the other way around.

You already know the downsides of using Windows. Are they enough to cause you to switch, or is the fear of change too great to overcome? Either way, Linux is ready and has been. Are you?

Other articles of interest on this subject:

Wisdom vs. Crowds

In this new era of the web (web 2.0 for the trend whores), we've come to adopt the ideology of the wisdom of crowd. The democracy of information brings excitement to tired old models of media like couples making love in public, being aroused by the fear of being caught. Akin to the love movement of the sixties, the social outcry seems to be damn the man and power to the people. The truth is, social wisdom is only an echo of innovation and not it's source. A crowd is the distribution system of wisdom. The idea that information wants to be free is to say that ignorance seeks enlightenment. For example, the concept of electricity is commonly understood and taken for granted in the modern age; but not so long ago it was only a theory in the minds of a few brave lunatics willing to ignore the crowds of people informing them of it's impossibilities. In fact, historically crowds are the last thing accused of being wise. If crowds were wise, the holocaust may never have happened and elections would be unanimous. The thing is, we all like to think that great ideas were our own. Common sense is a way of saying "I could of thought of that". Crowds seem wise because when an individual thinks outside the box and discovers new avenues of thought, the crowd quickly latches on resounding the notion as if it were their own. The crowd takes credit, not willing to admit their ignorance. But make no mistake, there is always an individual at the heart of the movement. The very nature of a crowd is to repeat mantras and subscribe whole heartedly to prepackaged doctrines, shunning outsiders for not agreeing with the majority. I don't mean to tear down the idea of social awareness. I would just like to point out that giving too much credit to what the majority says brings with it the damnation of innovation. Popular opinion is always something to be considered, but wholesale adoption of public belief will keep you from truly finding your own path and possibly from sharing a lesson learned to your fellow man. The only wisdom to be found in the crowd is in the debate, and in finding your own voice within it.

A Warning to Web Developers about "Premature Ajax-ulation"

Interest in Ajax is sky-high and only continues to grow. Unfortunately, far too many people rush into Ajax development without giving proper consideration to security issues. These unfortunate individuals suffer from the most embarrassing of security issues: "Premature Ajax-ulation."

More: Ars Tech, Black Hat USA 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Texting Google.

Google makes itself pretty darn accessible from a mobile phone! You can interact with many of their services via SMS or "short messaging service"

What's really cool is that you can query their search engine and more without ever needing to fire-up a mobile web-browser. I like to think of SMS as the command line of your mobile computing experience. There's a certain elegance in it's simplicity.

Text your Search to "466453"

(spells "Google" on most devices)

A couple of tips & cool search commands/shortcuts:

  • To perform a local search, text the keyword of what you want to find (e.g. Bars, Night Clubs, Pizza, etc) followed by the location (name of city, or more specifically, zip code) You can separate business and location by using a period, space, or comma, but google recommends a period for accuracy (Ginos Pizza.Chicago -vs- Gino's Pizza Chicago)
  • "D" before a word is the "Define" operator - (Easier then searching from a mobile browser)
  • "W" before a location (city, town, ZIP) is the "Weather" query operator -(A fast forecast)
  • Calculator also works. This is probably moot since most Cell phones worth their salt have a calculator in them, but if you don't and you're in need, just "text" your equation to Google and you'll get the answer right back. Works for Currency / Metric Conversions as well (e.g. 1 US pint in liters, 8 USD in Yen) Pretty slick!

There's a list of more commands + a really cool "demo" of how it works with a little onscreen cell phone interface here.

There's also been some really good stuff in Lifehacker on checking & updating your Google Calendar via SMS too.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

SMS/Text Messages on the Mirror.

For the creepy rich dude whose wife tells him the ringer is off, all the time:

Interested in getting Text Messages on your mirror? Well for a limited time and quantity you can. The low, low price of $10,000.

100 Bloggers' Portaits in ASCII Art.

This is cool. 100 Bloggers Portraits in ASCII art. Go here to see. Click on the individual to see large image of in ASII.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Can't find the remote?

The remote gets lost quite a bit in my house so this set up would be a nice Wii-like fall back:

Don't thank me, thank the team of Aussie scientists that came up with it. There's actually seven gestures including the ability to control volume, turn on a DVD player and more.

I'll forgo the urge to make some jokes about the types of gestures and actions you could use and let anyone who want's to do so by leaving a comment below ;-)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Simplify sharing iTunes Libraries over the web using Simplify

There's an effortless new way to share iTunes libraries over the web. It's called Simplify.

The name is perfect because it's so easy. You only have to download a 4MB software package that takes less than a minute (available for either Mac or PC's of course) and it seems to really work like a charm. You send an invitation and/or accept one and 2-3 people can share the libraries simultaneously. Or you could could listen to your home music library at work. The whole thing has the Mac simple and elegant look, feel, and implementation!

I am using it as I'm posting this. My musician friend has a much more extensive library than I do, and it's just like Im listening to my own locally right inside of my own iTunes.

The service appears to relatively new, but there is another very favorable review of it here at the "StartupSquad" blog. You can't burn or download anything, just stream it, so it's totally legal. That means you can share DRM protected stuff too. Like pownce, this is another hot "trusted friend" kind of social web-app.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

iPhone dust and the lighter side of blogging.

Considering the need for personal branding and the advice of Jakob Nielsen on putting out well-written, comprehensive articles vs. short-form, quick and dirty "blog posts," I logged into to blogger today with every intention of drafting a thoughtful and detailed analysis of eventcasting and why it's really more of an evolutionary application of technology - opposed to "revolutionary" one.

Instead, internet-ADD took over and I found this which is probably far more entertaining anyway:

yes, it is on ebay. the current bid is for as much as functional iPhone...but get a blender. Very Nice.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Google gets sue happy against Microsoft.

Google raises Microsoft antitrust concern (say what?)

The Search giant has filed a confidential complaint with the Department of Justice, asking that Microsoft be forced to alter Vista's desktop search behavior on anti-trust grounds.

Google spokesperson Ricardo Reyes said Microsoft's "current approach with Vista desktop search violates the consent decree and and limits consumer choice." He added, "The search boxes built throughout Vista are hard-wired to Microsoft's own desktop search product, with no way for users to choose an alternate provider from these visible search access points. Likewise, Vista makes it impractical to turn off Microsoft's search index."

Here's the irony:
The DOJ under Bush is generally a friend to Microsoft. At the Federal level, they do NOT want to pursue this. The States' AGs may want to though...

Monday, May 28, 2007

Japanese Government Promoting Easier Distrbution of Video Content

In a move to bolster the promotion of TV and Video content to the web, a Japanese government panel is recommending that regulations be changed to allow webmasters to upload video content without first having to get permission from all rights holders.

The government is not advocating the theft -or- unauthorized use of content as their proposed regulations call for webmasters to ensure that the rights holder's receive royalty payments for their webcast content.

Current regulations surrounding content / intellectual property are quite cumbersome in Japan and this rule change is part of a broader efforts to reform all Intellectual property laws there while maintaining fairness for rights holder's. The effort is being led by Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

All I can say is "Way to go, Japan!!" The US Government and their ridiculously laughable efforts at legislating Digital Rights Management / Intellectual Property Reform could learn a great deal from this kind of open, yet fair approach!!!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Afterthoughts on the takeover and response

(this is a cross post from my other blog - - something I normally don't do, but wanted to share here also)

I had told myself that I was not going to write about the temporary takeover and subsequent capitulation (since nearly THE ENTIRE BLOGESPHERE has pretty much already beaten it to death), but after having a nice phone conversation with a good friend of mine last night, I thought I would summarize some of my thoughts about it here.

Clearly, I'm all about the whole "wisdom of crowds" (even though it's often NOT wise) & this grand social experiment in news gathering, relevancy, and more. Furthermore, I am a big fan of the FSF, the GNU project, and the "creative disruption" that comes with technological advance and free information. You might think that I would've been one participating & cheering the whole thing on, or decrying Digg's initial actions, and finally as some are, criticizing them for "caving" only after their site had been overrun by its users. But I honestly don't feel that way at all and here's why:

Democracy =| Anarchy. is an awesome site that lets users generate, moderate, and determine what's on it's site - within their Terms of Service. (Ahhh, those pesky rules.) Now, You may not agree with them or their implementation - and that's fair game, but it is a *company* with employees, costs, and much more. It's their right to have a T.O.S -or- some rules in place for how they run their site and thus business.

That being said, here is my only constructive criticism /feedback: I don't think can or should be held -or try to hold themselves- legally responsible for user-submitted links to any "Intellectual Property" - so long as it's not in the story description or headline. This is the distinction between them and say YouTube. YouTube is in trouble & being sued because they are hosting and serving copyrighted material. is a site that displays links and descriptions to other sites - BIG DISTINCTION. The perception (and/or reality depending on your viewpoint) was that Digg was going a little too far in trying to "censor" what users were submitting -- when they could've handled it in a different way.

No court or judge could reasonably expect them to know and monitor all the content displayed on sites that their's links too!! They could be expected to make "reasonable best efforts" to prevent piracy, but basically that would just mean "No direct display of copyrighted material/ intellectual property" DIRECTLY on their site. They could've even explained this on their blog. Something like, "We can't control what you guys digg (link too), but don't be stupid and blatantly infringe copyrights in your headlines & descriptions, because it could get us shut down - so we'll ban you if you do!"

It's all a moot point now, since Kevin went ahead and posted the key to the Digg blog. Like Dr. Tiki, I think they deserve some credit for listening to their users. They could have easily pulled the plug on the site for a few hours, or day or two and posted and explanation that they were in risk of being shut down. The kids and pranksters who were just rebelling and joining the mob would have lost interest and moved on. The hardcore diggers and users of the site would've stayed - and there still would've been plenty of publicity that would've brought new users to the site. (In fact, I'm sure since this whole "mess" a lot of new people have been attracted to the site and registered)

It's more than easy for me and everyone else to armchair quarterback & hindsight is always 20/20, but I do think these guys really need to think through some of these thorny 21st century issues from both the corporate AND hacker perspective, so that when something like this happens again, (and it will) they a legally defensible compromise that their intelligent user base will be able to understand with a ;-) and most importantly- prevent the site from being sued or taken down.

That way too, they won't have to stumble through a PR morass or appear to "cave", or much worse -put themselves at a real legal risk to prove they "get it". I know they do, and did, and that's why I'm now digging on...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Periodicals That Aren't (Quite) Dead Yet...To Me

So Print Media is Dead, right? Well maybe it's withering away to online media, but still... nothing beats actually holding a magazine or newspaper in your hands, especially when you're stuck at the Dr's Office or Airport, etc.

Having been tagged by Perkonis on this, here are list of the fine periodicals I still read:

Wired Mag
Wall Street Journal (Print Edition)
The Economist
Cat Fancy

(Hey, I needed a forth and it's always fun to have one that's thrown in just as a gag....I mean what Blogger reads...Wired??)

I've been away so long it appears everyone has already rode this train, but here goes:


Jason Calacanis

Tag, You're It.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Our Internet Overlords...

Google is clamping down on paid Text-link ads (while they consolidate control over 85% of the online ad market through the DoubleClick acquisition)

Comcast is banning and kicking off "bandwidth hogs" (e.g. Joost & Video users) While they continue to very profitably grow HD & OnDemand video service AND take telephone phone subscribers from the Bell phone companies)

Why is it that 2 Net-Centric forward thinking and "creative disrupters" like Comcast and Google are staring to act, "evil" ?

Business x.0 is always just Business, I guess.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

More on the Net, Neutrality, and it's finality.

The internet has been around since Sept. 2, 1969. That's when Leonard Kleinrock supervised the first exchange of data over ARPANET

Almost 40 years later, the Internet is carrying and supporting mindboggling amounts of information, and it is only increasing as more people get connected.

Some that have been there since the beginning, think it's crazy that it even works as well as it does (!)

It's not surprising that engineers want to re-tool the underlying infrastructure of the web, but increasingly researchers are calling for scrapping the entire thing! Many believe a "clean slate" approach is the only way to deal with the issues of mobility, security, and other challenges that have cropped up since Moore's Law started rolling down the global tack.

What is interesting to this blogger are some comments in the Yahoo/AP piece that were made by Google's "Colin Powell" of Net Public Relations, Mr. Vint Cerf. He wasn't quoted directly so his words may be tailored somewhat to make the authors point, but the inference is well...I'll just copy the quote and let you decide:

Even Vinton Cerf, one of the Internet's founding fathers as co-developer of the key communications techniques, said the exercise was "generally healthy" because the current technology "does not satisfy all needs."

I'm not saying TCP/IP ain't great because it is (I don't think anyone thinks it should be scrapped), but here's my question...

...on a philosophical level, the expectation to treat each packet equally is strained when it's acknowledged that the network doesn't satisfy all needs, isn't it?

Just sayin'....

Digg the Story.

Friday, April 13, 2007

On why Net Neutrality is stillborn and there will be no funeral.

I've come to the conclusion that the impassioned "Net Neutrality" topic is not only mutual hubris (from both sides of the issue) but a dead horse.

My gut feeling was validated last night when Robert X Cringely dropped his latest column, "We Don't Need No Stinking Best Effort: Net neutrality may have been just a fantasy all along."

In a nutshell, ISP's already give priority to certain packets (DNS for example, as they should -- we all want our pages to load faster), the cable company has already configured their network to give priority to VoIP (as they should -- you don't have to buy VoIP from them to get Net access, or television.) Beside that, the ISP's have a number of other tricks up their sleeves to throttle bandwidth either way- even in a ways that might seem to enforce Net Neutrality, but in reality might make the web slower!

Before you think I've lost my mind and turned trust over to the telco's & ISPs let me back up and put the whole "argument" in perspective: There is NO Neutral Ground in this battle. The players aren't even speaking to the same issues half the time. At the end of the day...It's all about who pays. The Content Providers or the Users. The content providers don't want to pay. By wrapping the issue up in emotion (and even legislation) safeguards are added against efforts to make them pay. My question, since this has become an emotional & misunderstood issue for the public at large is, how concerned are they about us paying more?

Google and it's faithful got spooked to shit, when they heard that Ed Whitacre, the CEO of AT&T, wanted to make Google pay him for generating traffic that passed over his wires. This comment was pure success (revenue) envy - it's a big stretch for AT&T to try and extract money from Google just for being a destination of their customers! If Google or any other content providers are cause for network congestion on a carriers network, it stands to reason that the carriers customers (you know, the ones already paying for the service) are the ones generating that traffic - regardless of what kind of traffic it is!

Packet Prioritization will find a way be neutral enough for the corporate proponents of Net Neutrality as long as they don't have to pay for it. We will, and we always do.

That's just the way it goes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Finding Prescience amidst old links

So I've installed and begun using my stumble-upon and WOW, what a cool surf toy. I could loose HOURS to it.

Sometimes though, I find the best stuff searching for exact phrases. Running with my "information wants to be free" thread I found the following story in Wired Magazine's online archives.

This article was written in 1994. There were no MP3's yet, let alone Internet Explorer, let alone widespread Internet adoption (Think 28K dial-up modems & like Prodigy or CompuServe with no images, baby) and he is essentially foretelling file sharing and DRM.

What's amazing about this piece is how on point John's vision was back then. It's mind blowing that this was 13 years ago already .

Its 16 pages long, but worth every word. Print it out and enjoy!
It's called: The Economy of Ideas

Information Wants To Be Free

The second law of thermodynamics (as phrased by Rudolf Cluasius) states that:

The Entropy of the Universe tends to a maximum

This applies to information science in the following way:

once information has passed to a new location outside of the source's control there is no way of ensuring it is not propagated further and therefore will naturally tend towards a state where that information is widely distributed.

Therefore, on "the command line of the Internet," Information really doesn't need an "address" it only needs a name.

There's an interesting video of a lecture by the former Chief Scientist of Cisco Systems that you can watch and/or download to your desktop or ipod here. After giving an extremely informative overview of the history of the telephone network and internet, he connects the dots cleverly to conclude with aforementioned concept.

I'll go a step further and add my own piece: Public Information is free information. Let it breath - Let it move around. Art is meant to be enjoyed, It should be on display for the world to see. Music is meant to be heard, It should be played and shared freely. Things that make humanity better should be free. This doesn't mean people can't maintain ownership, or credit, or get paid, or that there can't be a price for someone's goods or services, but generally speaking...information should be "free"

"When information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving".

Indeed As Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, likes to point out, When they (and I too, in this regard) mean "Free," it is meant:

"Free as in 'Free Speech' not (necessarily), Free as in 'Free Beer' "

Friday, April 06, 2007

The World Needs Open Source Mega-Search

Open Source, Mega - Search.

Proprietary Search Engines are just that, Proprietary. Calacanis highlights the issue with regard to Metasearch, asking if it's even legal or not. (it appears by many Big Search TOS's that MetaSearch is NOT legal, btw)

The famous Page Rank (tm) Algorithm is proprietary and still largely secret. Remembering that fact helps to put in perspective that the emphasis in, "Google's Index of All the World's Information" in reality is, "Google's Index of all the World's Information."

This comment goes even further:

"Why is it then that our current most modern Meaning Economy is a text box dictatorship? Why in such an advanced civilization have we become Knowledge Peasants whom are so easily placated by the black magic of our Goovernor? Am I the only one wondering why these commercial boxes own such an important social function: what everything means?"

Is anyone completely comfortable with closed & proprietary systems determining how information is accessed and what it means to us?

As the Network and the Computer converge, the concept of Open Source should scale to Search. The idea of "Open Source + Search" is a broad one. It's about Networks of Information & Content Aggregation sharing their Indexes and literally "what runs under the hood" with each other.

Powerful shared and distributed computing systems like Amazon's Elastic Cloud can be leveraged to deploy deep spidering applications, or Mega Crawlers, to instantaneously tease-out very tailored & specific information from the vastness of the entire web (by the web, for the web)

Further out, with the acceleration of Moore's Law combined with the adoption of "consumer information trapping" technologies, this distributed search index could integrate smaller nodes, end users, much like a P2P -or- BitTorrent Network.

Thus, in this hybrid network of networks and eventually peer-able grid, nodes will share & mine each others databases, normalize the collective results, and deliver massive amounts of relevant content to the public by way of an algorithmically open source search architecture under the GPL.

(and of course, the costs of this not-for-profit endeavor could be defrayed by monetizing the search engine results contextually with Adsense account? ;-)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Bringing together to best of YOUR web with RSS

"Yes, Virginia...your content does blend!"

Despite the lack of mainstream adoption, developers and web programmers continue to push the enevelope with feed-related technologies. (most widely on display with Yahoo's Pipes effort)

So what happens when you can aggregate your various favorite feeds in new and different ways? You can essentially make your own personal self-updating "information portal." My personal favorite tool for this is FeedBlendr. Combine it with Feedburner and you can come up with some pretty cool, and personalized "Blended Rivers of Information"

For example, Here's a little blend I made...It's a "Blend of Blends" actually, -- I call it the RSSpectMeme

If you are a regular or semi-regular visitor you may have noticed it's addition as a widget on the right-side...(pardon the meta reference)

It's comprised of's Front Page Stories (-minus the votes & with direct links to the FA's), Front Page Stories (+the descriptions), and's homepage feed. Those are my three favorite sites and combining them into a single feed gives me (and anyone else who wants to view/subscribe to it) a single source for 3 barometers for what's "hot" right now.

Hold tight for blends that contain mixed media...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

dropping the .blogspot

Well, fresh on the news from that something like 75% of all blogspot domains are "spam-blogs" my better judgement forced me to head over to where I was lucky enough to pick up the shiny new domain, ~ so you can drop the .blogspot ;-) A tip 'o the hat to parislemon for that advice.

Friday, March 23, 2007

and now for something less heady...

Ripping YouTube Movies to Your IPod - A howto*

I've been doing a bit a digging around on the subject of ripping YouTube clips to my hard drive/ipod, and I have found an AWESOME resource on the topic that covers it not only for the Windows platform, but for OS X and Open Source platforms as well. This is really cool. And a perfect indicator of why Goo-Tube, is probably now Sue-Tube, so only rip authorized & legal content, ya hear??

Yours Truly,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Why Cisco really paid 3.2 Billion Dollars for WebEx

Moving a lot of video packets (which WebEx does) is good for the router business!!!

The Amazing Cringely, anecdotally drops this nugget in his $7 TV Network installment.

Cisco is ponying up $3.2 Billion for Web-Ex not only because they want to compete with Microsoft in the Enterprise Software arena...but because Web-Ex can sell a heck of a lot of packet intensive video services to corporations and beyond...most recently partnering with CNBC to bring live, interactive, viewer webcam feeds into their television programing.

Who knew it was a Technological Convergence play in addition to being an Enterprise Software deal?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Is Google pulling a Net Neutrality Head fake?

Drew Clark has a great piece today on GigaOm entitled: Is Google Changing Its Position on Net Neutrality?

Basically, Google's
Senior Policy Counsel, Andrew McLaughlin, made some comments that he thought the FCC should be "cut out" of enforcing Net Neutrality regarding the Cable providers vs. the Telcos, and that it should be the domain of the FTC (!) This is a big deal, because both pieces of pending Net Neutrality legislation squarely place the FCC in charge of enforcing the issue. Evidentially, some at Google feel that it's OK to differentiate between charging for various different "services" (which could ultimately all be IP packets) as long as its charged to the end user and not to them.

These comments come from a Tech Summit held in San Jose and came on the heels of those made by Google's TV chief to cable operators in Europe about how the web and Google's infrastructure couldn't scale to support IPTV. Both comments are still reverberating across the web.

I must admit it's refreshing to see that I'm not the only one who sees a connection (or in this case, a dis-connection) between Google's Net Neutrality lobbying efforts and their new overtures to partner with Cable/Satellite television. The concern stems form the idea that in a converged, digital, world all data is ultimately the same ... already we've seen the erosion of distinction between a "TV service provider" and a "Phone service provider" - both are merely bringing "bit streams" and/or "packets" into your home. It's just the pipes, or delivery mechanisms, that differ

Perhaps there's no conspiracy or "head fake" fake here at all, but the perception lingers. Forgivably, Google is a big "for profit" institution with a lot smart & talented people driving it. Perhaps we're seeing an internal struggle play-out as their growth motives intersect and perhaps conflict with their idealistic, yet official Company position on the matter.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Moving Montage of Video -- "Perpetual Art Machine"

There is something very interesting going on over at PAM
Take your computer and digital video camera (or video-phone perhaps) , capture some art, edit it up a little and send it to them. It all goes into the pool of collected work from other artists. The installation interactively displaying this video-montage travels around the Globe while the video is fed to it through PAM's website/infrastructure ala her collective user base & community. It's all free. They're calling for more video for an upcoming project called "Video as Urban Condition"
Get Filming - or just capturing.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What would Einstein bookmark?

If the internet was around in Einstein's time, you could probably learn a lot from his web-surfing habits and what he thought was interesting and cool.

That's the premise of this blog piece titled (cleverly enough):
How To Use To Take Over The World

Even if you already or previously have used before, read this guys little "how-to" on setting up an account. It's a very interesting and instructive use of this great social-bookmarking tool, that I, for one, don't utilize enough. The aforementioned blog has inspired me to use it more.

You can digg this story here too, if you're into that sort of bookmarking ;-)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Strange Intersection of Surveillance & DRM Technology

There was fascinating article in the NY Times about video/content recognition software - a utility typically used for video surveillance systems.

This article showcased an interesting twist on its use...Cracking Down on, and preventing Online Video Piracy (DRM) !

Essentially, this California company demonstrated its software running while viewing YouTube. One clip of an illegal movie upload, even while distorted, in black-and-white, and overdubbed from a video pirate, was immediately and correctly identified - by its exact scene.

Hearkening back to the Sony Root-Kit debacle, I shudder to think what a big media company wouldn't give to be able to distribute a root-level application to users that "watches and listens" to content to make sure it's been validated. If Vista checks up on your drivers a gazillion times a minute, it's certainly not too much to imagine it checking up on your media too.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Google + Your Cable Company = advanced services for your TV

Whether or not the 'Net can currently withstand multi-cast IPTV delivery (and Google has changed it's tune and says that it CAN, despite what we heard earlier), the thought of the marriage of Google's indexing & targeted advertising with Cable/Satellite Television could be revolutionary not for TV over the Internet, but for TV over the TV Set

It could also be to the detriment of the Internet by not supporting IPTV though! IPTV is more "net-neutral" than CATV because the cable franchises differentiate between & charge seperately for the video and data services they deliver over the same pipe. In our idealized, digital world, isn't it all the same? What if in 3-5 years (or sooner), it's not necessary to pay twice?

I know that with the depth of engineering talent in the telecosm, on Google's engineering bench, with it's world class cloud-network, and technological innovation, amazing things are possible. Before you say, "the internet wasn't designed for multi-cast TV" Remember, it wasn't designed for Streaming, VoIP, or Music downloading either. A lot of people lost a lot of money because there once was a bandwidth "glut"

Google may someday soon seek to index & monetize CATV, but the Cable companies can meter for these new advanced services as much as telecoms can for theirs. The $ is the real fear from the "Telecom Hegemony" by the Net Neutrality lobby on behalf of the end user, isn't it? They are looking out for "our" best interests, aren't they?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Google throws a Hail Mary pass to the Cable companies!

As reported in Reuters, Vincent Dureau, Google's head of TV technology, spoke at the Cable Europe Congress. Some net-neutrality die-hards will undoubtedly feel betrayed by this Machiavellian business move, but it's smart business politics for Google.

According to Google's Dureau:
"The Web infrastructure, and even Google's (infrastructure) doesn't scale. It's not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect,"

You read that right -- A Google Exec telling the world their infrastructure can't "scale" to the bandwidth needs of "TV over the Internet" (!)The Reuters story goes on:

Google instead offered to work together with cable operators to combine its technology for searching for video and TV footage and its tailored advertising with the cable networks' high-quality delivery of shows...One cable chief executive, Duco Sickinghe from Belgian operator Telenet, said it was "the best news of the day" to hear that Google could not scale for video.

Google is bluffing, folks. They have more fiber rights than some telcos. They don't want to become a telco and there's a big difference between net neutrality in principle and in application. Network operators should be able to tweak their networks for optimum delivery and QoS (Quality of Service) (without screwing the customer for it preferably)

It's puzzling that Google is speaking for themselves and Joost...According to the CTO of Joost, its delivery system is designed to accommodate relatively lower bandwidth & bit streams. In fact he's pretty bold about the advantages of Joost's delivery mechanism vs. YouTube and Google's:

He's very clear about the economic folly of using big servers to mainline video to millions of desktops. "You can try to cut costs by allowing only crappy little images. You can limit the run times or make money selling hardware. But eventually the bandwidth bills will eat you alive. YouTube, iTunes, and the rest of them haven't got a chance. We just hope they take their time realizing it."

It's ironic that Google throwing themselves under the bus, actively seeking the partnership of the Cable Companies as an internet "white knight." Could it be more of a desperate attempt to build an alliance with them? (preemptively against Joost) It has the added benefit giving them better leverage against the traditional network operators too.(e.g. AT&T, Verizon, BT, etc)

Business is Business...but, Don't be E***, Google


Thursday, February 01, 2007

Snap your Screen Shots Now

Well, Kevin said it, and it will be done...The "Top User" list at will be no more as of tomorrow! Capture your screen shots and caches now!

Digg Top Users

oh well, I made it to #216. Part of the fun & motivation for submitting stories over time was that as you got the occasional homepage story, your rank would move up a little.

It's a popularity contest of news, but what incentive will digg give its community of volunteer users who provide that news/content?? What's the new social currency or editorial standard, by which to judge a link/FA, etc?