Friday, December 30, 2005

Hard to Find 800 Numbers

Some companies that you do business with don't publish their 800 numbers publicly or they make them hard to find by burying them deep in the bowels of their web site. Well stop pulling your hair out trying to find these numbers, and check out a site called 'Hard to Find 800 Numbers'.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Ipod My Baby

I recently came across a site called 'Ipod My Baby', were parents dress their children up as their favorite MP3 player. This is taking people's obsession with technology too far. The pictures are adorable and disturbing at the same time.

Would you dress your own child in one of these getups?

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Simon Sez Santa

I like to post something fun for Christmas each year, and here is my submission for this year. Check out 'Simon Sez Santa'. Give Santa instructions like (jump, sit down, etc.), and watch what will happens.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Computers Then and Now...

Anyone who has used a computer for a little while can tell you how much these devices have changed over the last several years. If you have been using computers for a long time, and you sit back and think about the first computer you touch verses today's modern personal computer there is an amazing quantum leap forward in several orders of magnitude in processing power.

The first computer I ever used was an Apple ][+, with 48K of RAM (with a maximum memory size of 64K), a color monitor (basically a TV without a tuner), and two floppy drives. This machine had a 1Mhz 6502 CPU (8-bit), and cost about US$1000 at the time.

The first home computer that I could afford (it cost about US$100) was the Timex Sinclair 1000, I think it also had a 1Mhz 6502 CPU, 16KB RAM (with the expansion pack), and tape drive for storage (which never work). To be honest, I don't even think my 16KB RAM expansion pack worked. But I was still happy to have my own home computer.

Then in the early 80's IBM changed the personal computer market by introducing the IBM PC (specs: Intel 8086 4.7Mhz 16-bit CPU, 640KB RAM [max.], 2 floppy drives, keyboard, CGA graphics video). This was an okay machine for its time, but because IBM created it this gave it a market advantage over the competition.

A little while after the IBM PC was released, the clone makers started producing copies of it because IBM used off the shelf technologies. Soon the clone makers surpassed IBM in innovation of the technology that they created.

Then in 1984, Apple release the Macintosh (specs: Motorola 68000 8Mhz 16/32-bit CPU, 128KB RAM, keyboard, mouse, built-in monochrome monitor) and the world changed again. For the first time consumers were introduced to a functional Graphics User Interface (GUI).

Now let's fast forward to the modern day, today's computers are much different from the days of yore. For example, recently I found a site that allows you to run Apple ][ software from inside your browser (this site has been taken down). It’s really amazing to think that the state of the art home computer 20+ years ago can now be emulated in a browser (although, at the same time technically its not that amazing).

Let’s consider today's hardware; we will start out with the basics and work deeper into the computer:

  • Computer cases: As far as the PC industry goes, the biggest advance in cases was made when the tower case was invented. Otherwise, they're relatively the same style as about 15+ years ago. If you want avant-garde case designs, buy a Mac. Note: There has been some innovations in computer form factor designs recently, but none of them have really gone mainstream.
  • Power supplies: These devices have steadily increased in power output over the years. I think the original IBM PC power supply provided under 100W of power. Modern PC power supplies can now output 1000W of power.
  • Motherboards: The basic look of a motherboard has not changed radically in base appearance, but looks can fool you. Modern motherboards are light years ahead of their predecessors; they're faster and more advanced.
  • CPUs: have radically evolved over the last few decades. The modern CPU now has the ability to process 64-bits of data at time (along with the ability to address terabytes of RAM), and as have the ability to run multiple cores on the same chip. These chips also have multi-megabyte level 2 caches of fast RAM. Although, since these devices now run so fast (almost 4Ghz), they also run much hotter then they ever did. So we have had to resort to air, and in some cases liquid cooling to keep them running as fast as we do.
  • Video Cards: Like CPUs have evolved radically over time, and are continuing to advance at a breakneck pace. Video cards can process more graphics information then previous generations, and create semi photo-realistic 3D virtual environments in real-time. These cards now have their own dedicated GPU (Graphic Processing Units), memory (up to 512MB of fast RAM), cooling and power requirements. These cards also have the ability to drive multiple monitors at high resolutions.
  • Hard Drives: When the IBM XT came out there was an 20MB hard drive option for it (about 20,000,000 bytes, 1 byte = 1 character of information). Over the years, these devices have gotten smaller, cheaper, faster, and higher capacity. Modern hard drives are now approaching a 1 terabyte of storage capacity (about 1,000,000,000,000 bytes/characters of storage).
    • Hard Drive Interfaces: This is the technology that connects the computer to the hard drive. There have been many significant advances over the last few decades in this technology sector. The original IBM PC-XTs used an MFM technology to talk to the hard drive. So after that there was SCSI (and its variants), ATA (and its variants), and now there is SATA (Serial-ATA). External hard drives can be connected to the computer through its USB and Firewire ports.
  • RAM: The IBM PC used to DIPP chips, these were individual memory chips that looked like bugs with metal legs. Every time you put these chips into the computer, you ran the risk of bending the legs. Today, we have SIMM style high-speed DDR2 memory, with storage capacities in the multi-gigabytes. This was undreamed of in the early days.
  • Audio: Back in the early days if we heard a few high pitch beeps we were happy. Now computer audio cards support: 7.1 channel surround sound and incredibly realistic audio fidelity. Modern audio cards like video cards are always trying to push themselves to the next level.
  • Optical Disks: All the early PCs supported tape or floppy drives for storage, optical drives (such CD and DVD drives) were not even an option until several years later. In fact in the early 90's the early sound cards and CD-ROM drives started the multimedia revolution. Currently there are double-layer read/writable DVD optical drive can hold over 8.5GB of data. Next generation DVD drives (such as Blu-Ray or HD-DVD) will hold 30GB-50GB.
  • Expansion Cards: When the IBM PC was available, all you had were 8-Bit ISA slots, later it was expanded to 16-bit. The next PC bus technology to take hold was PCI, which supported a 32-bit data path. The next generation of PCI, is the PCI-X standard which supports a 64-bit data path.
  • Ports: When the IBM PC came on the market, all it had was keyboard and cassette ports. Serial and parallel ports were optional, and required an expansion card. Now, all those ports are obsolete, and have been replaced by USB 2.0 and IEEE-1394 (AKA Firewire) ports. The USB 2.0 ports can support data transfer rates of up to 480Mbps.
    • Wireless Ports: These ports have been available for sometime (i.e.: Infrared, and RF), but have not really taken off with the exception of maybe Bluetooth (and it's success is limited).
  • Monitors: Early monitors were little more then glorified television screens. Which eventually evolved into large CRTs. Now a single computer can have two or more large LCD screens. This was just unimaginable at the time.
  • Media Cards: Now that the floppy has gone the way of the dodo, we have media cards and USB drive that come in all shapes and capacities. These media cards allow you to move data quickly from your electronics (such as cameras, MP3 players, etc.) to your computer. The biggest problem with this type of storage is that there are so many standards.
  • Networking: Networking personal computers it the early days was very complex. The nightmare was getting the network cards to work properly. Today, its becoming more common for home computers to support Gigabit Ethernet, and brand new homes are now network ready. Let us not forget our friend Wi-Fi (which now support transfer rates at 100Mbps+). Without this technology we would all be at the mercy of some Ethernet jack somewhere.
    • Modems: I want to give an honorable mention to our friend the analog Modem. Long before DSL and Cable digital modems existed there was this analog device. The first modem I ever used was a 300Bps on the Apple ][, the last one I ever used was a 56Kbs.
  • BIOS: One of the few leftovers from the original PC is your computer BIOS. The BIOS (which stands for Basic Input/Output System) is loaded right after you turn your computer on. The information in the BIOS is used to get your computer to load the operating system from the hard drive (or whatever device has your OS). The amazing thing about this technology is how little it has advanced from the early days. The latest innovation in this technology is EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface).
  • OS: When the IBM PC first came out, the only real choice of an operating system you had was IBM-DOS (based on MS-DOS). Which was a 16-Bit text based OS that could support 640K, and allow only one program to run at a time. Today, Windows supports 32 or 64-bit applications (depending on which OS you're using), using a graphical user interface, and runs multiple applications and CPUs at the same time. Windows can now also address gigabytes of RAM.
  • Keyboards and Mice: These devices like the BIOS have not advanced significantly over the years. There have been some innovations like wireless and optical variants for mice. They have also added some new buttons, wheels, and more ergonomic form factors to these devices.
  • Media Centers: Inspired by the Tivo DVR (Digital Video Recorder), these computers are targeted to be center of your living room entertainment experience. They will play your music, movies and video, record your TV shows, and more.
  • Printers: These devices have gone through many evolutionary advances over the years. The original printers were just glorified typewriters, then came dot-matrix, inkjet, then laser printers. The dot-matrix printer was a major evolutionary advancement over the original text printers, because they allowed you to mix graphics with your text. Then inkjet and laser printers, allowed you to do this faster and better. Color has been a fairly recent innovation for these devices. The latest advancements with these devices have been in the multi-function device market, which combines a printer, scanner, and fax functionality into one device.
  • Cost: Besides advancements in technology, one of the major considerations for buying any of these devices has been the cost of it. I remember when the PCs first dropped under $1000, then a few years later there was the sub-$500 PC market. There was a huge surge in demand for buying these devices. Its now possible to buy a sub-$200 PC from Wal-Mart.
    • Apple vs. Microsoft: Until fairly recently the Macintosh was always considerably more expensive then the WinTel (Windows/Intel) PC equivalent. Apple has some great technology and software, but it has always had problems competing with Microsoft as far as market share and the amount of available software for the two different platforms.

Why Do They Want My Phone Number?

Have you noticed that a lot more businesses are asking you to give up your phone number when you make a purchase. I never really thought about what type of privacy rights I am giving up by doing this until I read this article.

It's kind of scary the information that we are giving businesses about ourselves without realizing what we are doing. Here is an except from the article: "...Hoofnagle said there might be another drawback to providing a phone number at checkout: It could open a person up to telemarketing -- even if they are on the federal "do not call" registry. According to Hoofnagle, giving a phone number while making a purchase may establish a business relationship, and companies can call individuals on the "do not call" list with whom they have prior business relationships. ..."

Ajax Site and Applications Examples

Are you a web developer or just curious about Ajax, what it is, and why it matters? Well you might want to read this article first. Then if you're like me, you will want to see some real examples of this technology in action.

Below is a list of sites that link to other sites that use Ajax technology.
  • Example 1 ( Contains code snippets and proof of concepts - the links on this page should help get you started on building your own functions with XMLHttpRequest.
  • Example 2 (Emily Chang - eHub) A constantly updated list of web applications, services, resources, blogs or sites with a focus on next generation web (web 2.0), social software, blogging, Ajax, Ruby on Rails, location mapping, open source, folksonomy, design and digital media sharing.
  • Example 3 (AJAX Matters) See how others have used AJAX in their web sites.
  • Example 4 (Web 2.0 Explorer) Article: The Web-based Office will have its day.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Google Music Search

With all the amazing things that you can search on Google, you can now add music to that list. You don't have to do anything special to access this feature. All you have to do is enter your favorite album, group, or artist; then if Google recognize it the request will appear in the search results.

For example, you can try searching for the Beatles, or Sting. The Google search results will generally show some information about that artist, like cover art, reviews, and links to stores where you can purchase the CD or download the music.

Most of the music information is from the U.S. right now, but in the future Google plans on including artist from different countries. Google also plans on expanding how you can download and purchase the music.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Das Blinken Christmas Lights

By now you have probably seen video of the person who synchronized his christmas lights to a musical score. I know personally I have been sent links to this video several times, and I have seen several different copyies of it posted all over the Net.

When you watch the video, you might think it was done with time lapse photography or was digitally edited. Although according to Snopes, the video is real. The background of the this video is pretty interesting and worth the read if you enjoy finding out this type of information.

Well if you like the first choreographed light show, here is a second video that I just came across. This video is like the first video you have seen, but with different music.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Google's Transit Trip Planner

Google recently debuted a service called 'Google Transit' that maps out the quickest route for users of the public transit system. Currently the service is limited to Portland, Oregon, but may eventually be launched on a larger scale according to the web site.

When you use the trip planner you will be asked to enter your preferred itinerary, such as your departure location and arrival destination, plus the date and time you want to travel. The service will then search all available public-transportation schedules to produce a trip planner.

The trip planner provides estimated:
  • Walking time to the nearest form of transportation for the desired route.
  • Which transit line to catch, and estimated traveling time.
  • Estimated cost for using public transportation.
To see an example

Sunday, December 04, 2005

If Hackers Ruled... asks 'Remember when computer hackers were the big scare?' So they started a Photoshop contest, and challenged people to create images to show what the world would look like if the hackers ruled.

SNARF from Microsoft Research (the Social Network and Relationship Finder)

SNARF is Microsoft's new 'social network and relationship finder'. SNARF is based around the idea that messages might have different levels of importance based on whom they’re from. For example a message from your manager will have a difference level of importance then from someone whom you don't know. Microsoft calls this 'email triage', which handling the flow of messages when time is short and mail is long.

The SNARF UI is designed to provide a quick overview of all your unread mail, while organizing by the level of its importance. The UI shows a series of different panes with unread mail in them; each pane shows a list of authors of messages. Clicking on the name will show all messages involving that person.

System Requirements
SNARF requires Microsoft Outlook (2003, 2002) as a MAPI source. It has been tested with Exchange and MAPI servers, Hotmail, POP, IMAP, and the OL Connector for Lotus Notes.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Cheaper Veggie Diesel May Change the Way We Drive (Article)

Did you know that "55 billion gallons [208 billion liters] of petroleum diesel consumed in the U.S. last year." That's a lot of fuel. Everyone knows that petroleum drives the U.S. economy more then any one single product.

This fact was made evident by Katrina, and fuel shortages that were created soon afterwards. Several news sources are reporting that we have already hit the 'peak oil' production, and its all down hill from here.

Truth is that no matter how you look at it, we need to start cutting back on our consumption, soon rather then later before its too late. If we don't start converting from a petroleum based economy, as they say there will be 'hell to pay'.

I am a big fan of Biodiesel fuels, for a lot of reasons. Its made from renewable resources, it runs cleaner then regular petroleum fuels, and it can run in diesel engines with little or no modifications.

The following article from National Geographic talks about how they're finding cheaper ways to produce Biodiesel fuels, and the advantages of it.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Shoppers Robbed for Xbox 360

When the XBox was released on Monday, they were soon being auctioned off on eBay for few thousand dollars. Now I am running across stories, where people are getting robbed for their Xbox 360s. This was not an isolated incident, there are stories from all over the country. For example:
  • Minot, North Dakota - A 17-boy was assaulted and robbed of his Xbox.
  • Tallahassee, FL - A man was robbed at gunpoint of his Xbox.
  • Stafford, VA - Electronics Boutique was robbed of two Xbox 360.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Google-Mart (Dark Fiber and Google) (Article)

A few weeks ago I briefly mention that Google is buying up 'dark fiber'. Well Robert X. Cringely sheds some light what Google may be up to: "The probable answer lies in one of Google's underground parking garages in Mountain View. There, in a secret area off-limits even to regular GoogleFolk, is a shipping container. But it isn't just any shipping container. This shipping container is a prototype data center. Google hired a pair of very bright industrial designers to figure out how to cram the greatest number of CPUs, the most storage, memory and power support into a 20- or 40-foot box. We're talking about 5000 Opteron processors and 3.5 petabytes of disk storage that can be dropped-off overnight by a tractor-trailer rig. The idea is to plant one of these puppies anywhere Google owns access to fiber, basically turning the entire Internet into a giant processing and storage grid."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

IN2TV (Vintage TV on the Internet for Free)

About thirty old series (such as: Babylon 5, Beetlejuice, Lois & Clark, La Femme Nikita, etc.) that you may have grown up watching on the boob tube will soon be available through the 'AOL Video on Demand' service. This new service will be called 'In2TV', and will be launched sometime in early 2006 by AOL and Warner Bros.

The series will be grouped into channels by genre, including comedy, drama, animation, sci-fi and horror, action-adventure and "vintage TV." In2TV plans to offer more than 100 TV series and at least 300 episodes per month in the first year.

Right now the only system requirement that I can find is that it will require a broadband connection. I am not sure what computing platforms will be supported, or types of DRM that will be used. All the shows will be supported by commercials that you can't fast-forward through, but there are suppose to be fewer then what's on regular TV.

Don't grip about about the fact that there commercials, this is a FREE service and they have to make money to pay the bills. IMHO I think this is a great idea, I am glad to see AOL finally starting to do some stuff right.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

All Your 'Google Base' Belong to Us

Google Base is now available to the public. This service from Google allows you to post or find information on a variety of subjects, from parties, to events, to selling cars, and lots more.

The biggest problem with this site is that you can't classify it, like you can other sites (such as Amazon, eBay, TV Guide, etc.). It seems to incorporate a lot of features of a lot different sites into one big mishmash of a site.

Before this site was available people were speculating it was going to compete directly with eBay. Although, the more you dig into it the more you find that its not specifically true. Maybe one day it will, right now its not.

IMHO is more like a big electronic bulletin board that people can post or sell anything that they want. If you want to post, it does require that you to have a Google account.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Unsecured Wi-Fi would be outlawed by N.Y. county (Article)

CNET "According to a new proposal being considered by a suburb of New York City, any business or home office with an open wireless connection but no separate server to fend off Internet attacks would be violating the law."

IMHO this is a bad law, because you're punishing people for not having the technical savy to lockdown their own networks. You should not use a law to force people to secure their wireless networks, you should use education. This is like creating a law to send people to jail for not locking their doors.

I am not sure, but how does this law address 'HotSpots'. For example, coffee shops that offer free unsecurce WIFI to their customers. They would be now breaking that law if it passed, because these businesses generally don't enable encryption.

Enabling WEP/WAP encryption is not very difficult on a SOHO broadband wireless router with built-in WAP (Wireless Access Point). Although, most people have a 'plug it in go' mentality, and thats how these broadband routers are designed.

The Jet vs. the Bird

This is an interesting video of a jet crashing because a bird gets sucked into it's engine. These jets cost several million dollars each and can protect themselves against fast flying missiles and planes, but yet a bird can take one out.

To see the bird you need to watch the beginning of the video very carefully, then a few seconds later all heck breaks loose. The amazing thing to me about this video is that they were able to recover it, because you actually see the plane crash into the ground from the pilot's prospective.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Official Google Blogs

Below is a list of the official Google blogs that are available for you to read at anytime you want:

Archimedes Death Ray: Idea Feasibility Testing

From the MIT site: "Ancient Greek and Roman historians recorded that during the siege of Syracuse in 212 BC, Archimedes (a notably smart person) constructed a burning glass to set the Roman warships, anchored within bow and arrow range, afire."

Archimedes Death Ray is one of those stories that has been hotly debated over the years, with many attempts to recreate it. I first saw MythBuster trying to recreate this story with limited results. Now, MIT is taking their turn trying to recreate it.

IMHO, in the end the results of both experiments proved that in order for this device to work that there would have to be a lot of ideal conditions. For example, the ship would have to stay perfectly still long enough while the death ray focused the sun's energy on it.

Personally, I would think it would be a much better use of this device to try to focus the sun's light to temporarily blind the crews of the ships or the archers.

Watch the video here.

NASA has a plan for asteroid deflection

The Register reports: "NASA has outlined plans for dealing with an asteroid a quarter of a mile wide that astronomers believe is on a near-collision course with Earth. The agency says there is no need at present to dispatch a radio transponder to the asteroid, but adds that it will be keeping a close eye on the rock's progress through the solar system."

This doesn't appear to be a joke. They believe by 2036 an asteroid about quarter mile long can hit the Earth.

I am going to put my faith in God, and not NASA.

Friday, November 04, 2005

If you been listening to the radio, watched TV, or read any news source recently you have been hearing them rant about the possibility of a pandemic flu (or avian influenza). The idea of a pandemic flu sounds like the plot of a modern movie or book.

To help keep everyone inform the government has created the following web site to address this subject. This site calls itself the "The official U.S. government Web site for information on pandemic flu and avian influenza".

The site is broken down into several sections: General Information, Health & Safety, Monitoring Outbreaks, Planning & Response Activities, Travel & Transportation, and Research Activities. Then each section is broken down into sub-sections.

This site has a lot of great information, so check it out.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Mazda Sassou (video review)

CNET does a video review of the Mazda Sassou. This is a small high-tech concept car from Mazda. Its really has some neat features and gadgets, like a USB key, and cool air induction system just name a few. Watch the video for more information.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

GeoNews = GNews + GMaps

This is a cool site, it combines Google Maps with Google News. The cool thing about this site is that it shows where the news is happening in the world as you move through.

'Its the way news should be presented...'

Friday, October 28, 2005

Google Flight Search

Try out Google's new flight search service. Type in two airports (i.e.: sfo lax, nyc sfo, etc.), or two destinations (ex: 'san diego to las vegas') in the field and press the search button. It doesn't show you any prices or flight information, but it can redirect you to a travel site which will. I am sure that these travel sites will pay a premium for this service.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Google Base

First Google announced its Wallet service, which would put it in competition with PayPal (note: Paypal is part of eBay). Now it looks like they have set their sights directly on eBay. Google is working on a new service is called "Google Base".

Here are screen shots of the service. In order to access this service it looks like you have to be invited. There is really not too much information available about the service right now, so it looks like we will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Purdue Sensor and Printer Forensics

I don't like to admit this, but on the way home today I was listening to NPR. Personally I don't care for the station, but sometimes its the only station that has talk radio. I can rant about why I don't like NPR for hours, but I want to get to the subject at hand.

Once in a while, the program 'All Things Considered' covers an interesting story. This time they had a story about ink watermarks embedded into a document when you print it. This watermark is used identify the printer or copier that it came from.

Synopsis: "Robert Siegel talks with Purdue University Professor Edward Delp, one of a team who devised a way to watermark pages from copiers and printers. This technology allows for the tracing of documents to specific printers or to a certain model of printer."

This technology is designed to stop counterfeiters which is good, but this still doesn't take away from the privacy implications it has.

"Ultimately, as technology increases, privacy decreases." - me.

More Resources:

Monday, October 17, 2005

EU says internet could fall apart

Guardian Unlimited reports, "A battle has erupted over who governs the Internet, with America demanding to maintain a key role in the network it helped create and other countries demanding more control."

I am personally very critical of anything that I think is wrong, and the idea of any other country controlling the Internet is a scary idea! Personally I believe that the US has done a great job of managing the Internet over the last three decades.

For this reason, I personally am opposed to any country other then the US from controlling the Internet. The EU or the United Nations, I believe could endanger the Internet. My reason for this opinion is that there are countries that have power in these organizations that don't share the US's same belief in the freedom of speech.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

What is Google Up To... (continued)

In a previous article I covered all the services that Google is offering to hopeful decipher where it may be going in the future. Although recently some new announcements have been made by and about Google, about new services and alliances that they have been making:
  • Google Reader: Browser-based RSS reader. This is one of the best RSS readers of its type that I have seen.
  • Google Wallet: Google's answer to Paypal. Google will need to do something really special if it wants to compete against Paypal's dominance. (Note: This service is not released yet.)
  • Google and Comcast are talking to Time Warner about buying parts of AOL. This will be interesting to see what parts of AOL that Google really wants.
  • Sun and Google forge tactical alliance. I am not sure what will really come out of this.
All I can say is knowing Google, whatever their future is it should be cool...

Monday, September 26, 2005

make your own "PowerSquid Outlet Multiplier" (How To)

Make Blog reports: "A few days ago I saw the "PowerSquid" on ThinkGeek a very cool 5 outlet power strip that allows you to plug in those bulky square adaptors. I was going to order one, but they were out of stock and I also realized I could make my own, with a total of 8 outlets for almost half the price of the PowerSquid, here's the simple cheap version..."

Do you have several devices hooked into your computer, and a few of them have large tranformers that can take up to two to three plugs on a standard surge suppressor? Some inventor created a device called the 'Power Squid' to overcome this problem. Instead of using a set of fixed plugs on a standard power bar, the device uses danling wires. The people of Make magazine show you how to order the parts you need to create your own power squid.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Quotes Of The Week

  • "The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom." -- Isaac Asimov
  • "It is said that power corrupts, but actually it's more true that power attracts the corruptible. The sane are usually attracted by other things than power." -- David Brin

Friday, September 23, 2005

What Google's Up To...

Several years ago (back in the late 90s, early part of 2000) when Google was still young, it was easy to figure out what it was up to. Google did search, and it did it very well. Then about 2001 Google started to expand and change, but its core business, web search technology stayed its primary focus.

One of its earliest explorations out of search technology was AdWords. Google needed a revenue generation model and this was it. Adwords allows advertisers to buy ads on Google, and on other web sites. Advertisers bid on keywords, and then if they get a click on their ad Google charges a fee. I really believe if it wasn't for the AdWords network, Google's stock would not be worth 300+ dollars a share.

Then in 2000, Google wanted to increase its market share, and created the Google Toolbar. I am not sure who created the first Search engine toolbar (Google, MSN, or Yahoo), but soon every search engine started to create their own search toolbar.

In 2001, Google acquired's Usenet Archive which it now calls Groups. Groups lets you search the Usenet posting dating back several decades (before the World Wide Web, there was the Usenet). Recently Google has added announcement lists, mailing lists and public discussions as part of this service.

Other things that happened in 2001 were:
  • Zeitgeist: Shows the hottest topics that people are searching on Google.
  • Image Search: Allows you to find specific images based on your search request.
  • Catalog Search: Allows you to search through printed catalogs. It seems like this application has been left to die on the vine, and never really took off.
  • Google Translate: Provides text and web page machine translation services.
Then in 2002 Google released its Search Appliance (This was really nothing more then a 1U WinTel class server running Google's software). Then opened up its Labs to let people preview new technologies that their engineers were playing with. Note: New and interesting technologies are always showing up on this site.

Other things that happened in 2002 were:
  • Google Programming Contest: A competition that Google sponsored for the best programmer. Google's Local technology could have been conceived from this contest. The winner Daniel Egnor, created a program that searches web pages within a specified geographic area.
  • Google API: API stands for Application Programming Interface, which allows developers to incorporate Google search into their applications.
  • Google Compute: This was Google's experiment into distributed computing. It seems that Google recently abandoned this technology (see the following post).
  • Google News: A great resource for up-to-date news. [Still in Beta]
  • Froogle: A product/price search engine. [Still in Beta]
  • Google Answers: An extension of its conventional search, where humans provide answers to visitor questions for a fee.

In 2003, Google acquired Blogger and created the Google Deskbar. The Blogger acquisition was a logical expansion of its core business, and considering how Blogs are still maturing it will be really interesting where Google goes with this technology. The Deskbar in my humble opinion was a toy when they first released it, but in its recent carnation its now one of my favorite pieces of must have software (I will explain why later).

Google also enhanced its News service by adding the Google Alerts feature. This features sends you an email when new news articles that matched your search criteria are found. This feature was later upgraded to also monitor other Google content areas.

In 2004 Google began to add a lot of new features and made some very aggressive moves into new territory. For example: Google introduced it's Local Search, GMail, and filed for its IPO with SEC (more on this later). I have to admit I am a big fan of GMail, I have using almost since they released it. GMail was so radical for its time by offering a gigabyte of email storage that they forced a huge changed the free email world. Currently, GMail is on track to offering 3GB of storage by 2006.

Other things that happened in 2004 for Google were:

  • Google Scholar: This service indexes and searches academic literature. [Still in Beta]
  • Google acquired Picasa (this is an awesome program for managing digital images on your hard drive.) Part of the acquisition was the Hello service (a strange little program for posting images to Blogger, and offered some IM services), but I have never seen this technology take off.
  • On August 19 Google's IPO hits the market, its symbol is 'GOOG' on the NASDAQ exchange. In typical Google style, it uses a little-known Dutch auction process to attract a broader range of investors.
  • Google Desktop Search was released. Like GMail, this technology started a desktop search war between the other major search Engines. All of them were competing for the customer mind share, to drive more traffic to their site.
  • Google SMS (part of Google Mobile services): If your cellphone supports SMS, you can search Google by sending and receiving SMS messages. This is a great idea with a lot of short comings, but its better then not having it.
  • Google acquired Keyhole Corp., a digital satellite image mapping company. When Google first acquired this company, I was trying to figure out what they were going to do with this technology. We had to wait a little while to see what they were up to.
  • The Google Print program is announced, with agreements to digitally scan books from the private collections of large libraries (such as: Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, the New York Public Library, and the University of Michigan).
  • Google created Orkut: Google's experiment into the Social Networking fad. What is interesting is that you will find very little information about this service on Google's site.

Then in 2005 Google's future expansion continues to grow. Google improves some of it's search technologies like announcing the new Google Mini (search appliance) and Desktop Search. It also introduces two new services called Google Video (searches closed caption text from TV broadcasts), and Google Maps (similar to MapQuest only better) [Utilizes satellite images from Keyhole].

Other things that happened in 2005 for Google were:

  • Desktop Search for the Enterprise: Allows companies to search across it's networks.
  • My Search History: Saves a history of everything that you searched.
  • Personalized Homepage: Allows you to personalize Google's home page with content.
  • Google Sitemaps: Allows site owners to specify which pages on their web site they want crawled more often by the Google index spider.
  • Google Earth: Allows you to zoom in on just about any part of the Earth. [Utilizes satellite images from Keyhole]
  • Google Deskbar (updated): This is the most significant update to this program, adds a new plug-in technology (that allows you to receive news, photos, weather, RSS feeds, and more), and incorporate the Google Desktop Search functionality.
  • Google Blog Search: Allows you to exclusively search blog content. Google wants to pull blog content out of it's main search engine to avoid 'link spaming'. Link spaming is where people put hyperlinks in into a blogs content (generally in the comments sections) to drive up the page rank of another site.
  • Google Secure Access: Free VPN software for communicating in public hotspots.
  • Google Talk Allows you to voice chat or send instant messages to other people.
  • Google Web Accelerator: Serves up cached web pages over a broadband connection.
Eating Yahoo's Lunch
Google has always been out to eat Yahoo's lunch since it first started. Its first volley into this arena was the inclusion of the Google Directory to compete with Yahoo's directory. The data for this site is from the Open Directory Project (ODP), which publishes a parsed version of its database for other sites to use.

As I stated earlier, Google created services like: Google News, Gmail, a Personalized Home Page, Local and Image searching. They have also released products like the Toolbar, Desktop search, and more. All of these services are designed to establish Google as more then a search engine, but an Internet portal site.

Google is also not resting on its plurals, there are rumors that it wants to become an nationwide wireless ISP, and its building it's own network. Here is some of the proof that Google is thinking about building this network:
Here is the scary part for privacy advocates. The reason Google is doing this, it wants to precisely target advertising at a user’s location. Plus, they will have a huge amount of user traffic data that they can parse and use anyway they want.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

The rock group R.E.M has a song called "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." I think this song title captures the current state of the world. I don't literally believe the world is coming to an end yet, but what I am trying to say is that a new paradigm shift is happening.

The word 'paradigm' has been over used these days, but it does a great job of describing what I see is happening in the world. One of the definitions of this word from The American Heritage Dictionary, defines a paradigm as: "A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline."

Consider this, when many of us were growing up one of our greatest fears was an all out world Nuclear war. Russia was considered an evil empire, and we had to stop the growing spread of communism. Terrorism was something that happened in other countries. America was the police force of the world, and petroleum was plentiful and cheap.

Now fast forward to today. The threat of Russia and the spread of communism is no longer considered a threat, but has been replaced by the threat of terrorism. America is still the police of the world, but our ability to fight this new threat is limited. Then there's the subject of petroleum, it doesn't seem plentiful anymore and I don't think anyone thinks it is cheap.

The Treat of Terrorism
When Russia was one of our greatest threats, we somewhat knew how to deal with it. We (the world) spend decades planning and preparing for what to do just in case they attacked us, so we kind of knew how to deal with the problem.

The greatest threat that terrorism poses is a psychological threat. We allow it to play on our fears, and let it incapacitate us. We have every right to be concerned, but if we let our irrational fears rule us then the terrorists have already won.

If we beat communism, I know we can overcome this threat. The only issues are what will it cost us in lives, human rights, and finances to stop it. The loss of one human life is too great. The loss of one human right is too much. The only problem is that there could be several casualties before this war is over.

Some of the greatest damage a terrorist can cause, is not the physical damage to buildings or transportation systems. But, the liberties and rights we relinquish in the name of fighting this threat. To quote Benjamin Franklin "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We should not allow anyone to take away our rights, in exchange for a perceived sense of safety. By this I am advocating that we need to let our government representatives know what we want, and we need to vote the right people in to office that can, and will make a difference.

America's war on terrorism, is kind of like a war on drugs. These are wars that you have to fight, but doesn't always mean that you will be able to win them. Currently all we have been able to do is make it difficult for the drug suppliers to deliver their products, but we have not been able to stop them. Personally, I believe the best that we will ever be able to do, is make it difficult for terrorist to cause harm. Although, I am not sure if we will ever be able to stop them all together.
If terrorists were large armies coming to attack us, I know we could stop them. Although, terrorist don't use conventional means to fight. They will use conventional and unconventional weapons to make their point (whatever that might be).

So you may ask the question how do we stop them, the answer is not very easily. Our options are limited, maybe at best we can stop the larger more organized groups. The main problem with this stragey, is that is very easy to overcome. So, the best answer that I can provide right now is that you don't let them win the psychological war.

Everyday we face some threat of harm or death, be it from sickness, accidents, criminals, etc... We don't allow this to prevent us from living out our everyday lives. We are all taught that if we take some basic precautions, that we have a very good chance of living a long and healthy life.

The reality is that for right now, we are going to face new threats of terrorism. We don't have a magic weapon that is going to stop every terrorist who wants to cause some sort of harm from succeeding. All we can do is make it difficult for them to succeed, and not give them the psychological victory that they want.

The Cost of Petroleum
The second part of the paradigm shift that we are encountering, is the world petroleum supply. Petroleum is one product that can affect the cost of just about everything that is manufactured or shipped. If these prices go up, then there is a domino effect that causes the cost of just about every other product to rise as well.

In the 70's we had the first major petroleum shortage, this was our first wake up call. For a short time we started to explore alternative forms of fuel and energy, but we quickly lost interests in these technologies once petroleum was in regular supply again.

In my humble opinion, we should have never stopped putting energy into these alternative forms of power. We have been relying on petroleum for too long, and now we need to find something different before we totally run out.

Old Habits are Hard to Break
As the cost of energy goes up, whether we like it or not we will all somehow be incorporating more environmentally correct habits. Such as taking public transportation, driving less, buying smaller more fuel-efficient cars or ones that use some type of alternative form of energy.

I don't see incorporating these new habits as a bad thing, I just hate the fact we are forced to heed the rhetoric of the tree hugging hippies that have been preaching this for years. The whole American attitude for the last several decades has been that 'excess is better'. This is going to have to change to 'less is better'. Although I am not holding my breath.

Friday, September 16, 2005

59 and Pregnant (Joke)

A woman went to the doctor's office. Where she was seen by a young, new doctor. After about 4 minutes in the examination room, the doctor told her she was pregnant. She burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall.

An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him her story. After listening, he had her sit down and relax in another room.

The doctor marched down the hallway to the back where the first doctor was and demanded, "What's the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 59 years old, she has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was pregnant?"

The new doctor continued to write on his clipboard and without looking up said, "Does she still have the hiccups?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Google now allow you to search blogs...

Do you read a lot of blogs, or RSS feeds? Well, Google has recently released a new blog search feature that allows you to search just about any blog and their associated site feeds (i.e.: RSS or Atom).

It’s Google so it has be good...

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Technologies That Changed the World

Below is a brief list of technologies that I believe changed the world. This list is in no way complete. Although, it makes me think about things that can start with simple ideas in design, and that can be evolved into other things.

Take for instance the Wright brothers, without their first flight we would not have air travel like we have it today. Then there is James Watt and his steam engine, with out that invention modern boats, trains, and other inventions that we take for granted would not exist.
  • 868 The first printed book is published in China, known as the Diamond Sutra.
  • 1765 James Watt (England) invents the steam engine.
  • 1783 The First hot-air balloon is developed in France.
  • 1804 The steam power locomotive is created.
  • 1876 The first Telephone was invented.
  • 1888 Nikola Tesla designed the first practical system of generating and transmitting alternating current (AC) for electric power.
  • 1894 Guglielmo Marconi develops a prototype of the wireless telegraph in Italy.
  • 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright from Ohio at the site, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., realized true flight for 12 seconds.
  • 1908 Car maker Henry Ford introduces his "Model-T" automobile for $850.00.
  • 1925 John Baird in United Kingdom transmits the first moving television image.
  • 1943 ENIAC was world's first electronic digital computer was developed by Army Ordnance to compute World War II ballistic firing tables.
  • 1945 The U.S. Army conducted its first atomic bomb test at the Trinity site in the New Mexico desert.
  • 1948 The first public demonstration of the transistor by Bell Telephone Laboratories.
  • 1969 ARPANET commissioned by DoD for research into networking (Beginning of the Internet).
  • 1970 Intel introduces the first microprocessor, the Intel 4004.
  • 1971 Ray Tomlinson invents the first email program to send messages across a distributed network.
  • 1978 VisiCalc for the Apple II, becomes the first compelling business program for a personal computer.
  • 1981 IBM enters the personal computer race, they releases their IBM PC.
  • 1990 Tim Berners-Lee developed the first web server
  • 1993 The Mosaic browsers takes off.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Machinima (New Form of Animation)

Have you ever heard of Machinima (muh-sheen-eh-mah)? I only recently discovered it, but Machinima is film making using real-time 3D video-game technology.

It's really kind of interesting to see creative uses of the video game engine technologies to create animated videos. One Machinima animated series that I found I like was one called 'Red Vs Blue'. Its very funny, but it contains a lot of profanity. If this bothers you then I would not recommend watching it.

The Machinima animation quality is good but low end. Although, I can really see this film technique taking off, and the animation quality increasing very quickly. I look forward to see where it goes.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Free Credit Report (This is not a scam...)

Under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), which became effective December, 2004. The big three credit reporting agencies (EquiFax, Experian, and TransUnion), are required to make your credit reports available to you free once a year.

The program was not rollouted all at once, it was broken up into four phases. If you lived in the Western part of the US, you were first (December, 2004) to get your free credit report. Then the central Northern and Southern parts of the were second and third (March and June, 2005). The east coast just came online as of September 1, 2005...

The reason for the free credit reports, is to allow consumers to discover errors or other problems in their credit reports (such as identity theft). If problems are found, consumers can place alerts on their credit files, to notify potential lenders, that their identity has been compromised and to proceed with caution when granting lines of credit.

Other resources:

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Interview With The Heliodisplay Inventor (Article)

OhGizmo has an exclusive with Chad Dyner the inventor of the Heliodisplay. This device allows you to project an image from any video source in mid-air, without use of a special screen. If you want to know about the Heliodisplay, here is an article that talks about this device in more detail and provides links to other resources.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Ten Easy Ways to Improve Your Resume

If you already have a job and are looking for a new one or you're just looking for employment, the one thing that everyone needs is a great resume. Creating a good resume is difficult, and you can't underestimate the importance of this document. It can make a difference between you getting your foot in the door or not.

This article will help you refine an existing resume, it won't help you create one. Also the rules provided in this article are not the only ones that you need to consider. There are several great articles on the Internet about how to create a good resume. I don't have a complete list, but if you do a search in Google I am really sure you can find them

I am also going to shamelessly promote an article that I wrote called, "Best Tips For Finding a Job on the Internet".

Friday, August 26, 2005

This is a great quote...

"The ultimate determinant in the struggle now going on for theworld will not be bombs and rockets but a test of wills and ideas-a trial of spiritual resolve: the values we hold, the beliefs wecherish and the ideals to which we are dedicated." -- Ronald Reagan

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Top Security Suites for Your New PC (Article)

PC Magazine reports: "We know the scenario: You just bought a shiny new computer, and the adrenalin builds as you break it out of the box and hook it up. The first thing you'll want to do is plug it in and surf the Web, but resist this temptation, at least for a little bit. Your number one priority should be installing security software. Think about it: That new PC is completely gunk free, and your only chance of keeping it clean is to protect it right from the start."

Security suites have been around for several years now. I have not been a big fan of these bloatware application suites, but unfortunately they're becoming more and more important.

The integrated software security suites do have certain advantages. The biggest being that all the tools compliment each other rather then a mishmash of tools.

Before you buy any of these security software packages, I would recommend reading the following article. It gives a good overview of the Pro and Cons of the different suites.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Open Source for All, or Open Source 101 (article)

Personal Note: Work is requiring more and more of my time, so sometimes it is harder for me to post. I still plan on posting often, but it might be a little less then I want over the next few weeks. Plus, I am also looking for interesting stuff to comment on. Take care... Jason

Do you know what the open source movement is, or how it works? For most people the answer is yes, and this article would be a waste of your time. For those who would like more information about this subject, or just a better understanding of it. Check out this article, it provides an introduction to the open source movement.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Helio Display Projectors (Next Generation Computer Display)

IO2 Technology has created what could possibly be the next generation computer display. The device is called 'Heliodisplay', and it can project 3D images in mid-air. The device is designed to display images from any video source in high-resolution without the need for a screen.

The computer images can also be controlled by the user's finger and hand movements without the need for special gloves. The Heliodisplays are available with diagonal projecting image sizes from 22" to 42" inches.

For more information check out the company's web site.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Aeon Flux Movie

I just watched the trailer for the new Aeon Flux Movie, it looks awesome. I can only hope the movie is going to be as good as the trailer makes it out to be.

Here is the 'Official Site' Aeon Flux web site.

Global gas prices (Article)

CNN/Money reports – Gasoline prices in the United States, which have recently hit record highs, are actually much lower than in many countries. Drivers in some European cities, like Amsterdam and Oslo, are paying nearly 3 times more than those in the U.S.

Gas prices have really skyrocketed these days. Yesterday when I had to fill up my truck, I paid the highest price I have ever paid for tank of gas. I know this is not news to anyone who drives.

Check out this article; to see how much gas prices are around the world (make sure to look at the bottom of the list, which is the most interesting part).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cheap laptops provoke Mac mayhem (Article)

Richmond Times Dispatch reports: "Mayhem ruled at the Richmond Raceway Complex this morning. Henrico County sold 1,000 used laptop computers for $50 each on a first-come, first-served basis, and demand far exceeded supply. Thousands pushed through the raceway gates, a baby stroller was trampled, and many who managed to buy an Apple iBook had cut in line."

It is amazing what people will almost kill others over in order to acquire something. I can understand food riots, but these 4-year old Mac laptops for $50 isn't worth it. Read the story to get a better idea of what really happened. Check out this slideshow, and see chaos firsthand.

Antibiotics From Crocodile Blood? (Article)

Wired News reports: "Scientists in Australia's tropical north are collecting blood from crocodiles in the hope of developing a powerful antibiotic for humans, after tests showed that the reptile's immune system kills the HIV virus."

It was recently discovered that the crocodile's immune system has an amazing ability to destroy bacteria. The researchers described the process as 'tearing it (bacteria) apart and it exploding'. They believe that the crocodile's immune system could key in fighting the war against HIV.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Optical Storage, the Next Generation

Everyone should be familiar with the most common forms of optical storage, such as CDs and DVDs. CDs can hold 650-700MB of data, while DVDs can hold up to about 8.5GB of data (on dual-layer disks, single-layer disk only hold about half that amount of storage).

Although, have you thought about the next generation of optical storage? You probably have heard about the high-definition (HD) format wars between Blu-Ray (supported by Sony, Matsushita and others), and HD-DVD (supported by Toshiba and NEC). The way that these new HD drives work is by using short-wavelength blue-violet lasers to increase data density on the medium. Blu-Ray disks can hold about 50GB of data, and HD-DVD disk can hold about 30GB (and up to 45GB on triple layer disk)

If that isn't enough storage for you, have you heard about Holographic storage which stores data as a 3D image? These new Holographic drives promise huge amounts of storage and very fast access times. InPhase Technologies announced they will ship a holographic drive next year that will store 300GB of data on a disc about the size of a CD, with access times of less than 200 milliseconds. By 2009, InPhase wants to ship a drive that can store 1.6TB of capacity per disk. The major problem with this technology is finding material sensitive and stable enough to store a holographic image.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Just Say No Psychiatric Drugs

Shirley Goodnest and Marcy (Story)

I thought this was a cute story that I though I would share. I am not sure who wrote it, so I don't know who to give the credit too.

Shirley Goodnest and Marcy
A mom was concerned about her kindergarten son walking to school. He didn't want his mother to walk with him. She wanted to give him the feeling that he had some independence but yet know that he was safe. So she had an idea of how to handle it. She asked a neighbor, Mrs. Goodnest, if she would please follow him to school in the mornings, staying at a distance, so he probably wouldn't notice her.

Mrs. Goodnest said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed. The next school day, Mrs. Goodnest and her little girl, Marcy, set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor boy he knew. She did this for the whole week. As the boys walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, Timmy's little friend noticed the same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally he said to Timmy, "Have you noticed that lady following us to school all week? Do you know her?" Timmy nonchalantly replied, "Yeah, I know who she is." The friend said, "Well, who is she?" "That's just Shirley Goodnest," Timmy replied, "and her daughter Marcy" "Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us?" "Well," Timmy explained, "every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers, 'cuz she worries about me so much. And in the Psalm, it says, 'Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life', so I guess I'll just have to get used to it!"

May "Shirley Goodnest" and "Marcy" be with you today, and always.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Daylight-saving change could confuse gadgets (Article)

CNET reports: "On Monday, President Bush signed a sweeping energy bill that will lengthen daylight-saving time by four weeks starting in 2007--raising the possibility of a smaller-scale repeat of Y2K-like problems. "

For newer computers and other electronic devices this issue will hopefully be easy to patch. Older devices generally include the ability to enable or disable Daylight Saving Time (DST). So all you have to do to correct this problem is disable the DST feature, and manually set the time on that device.

It will be interesting to hear some of the stories that come out of this event. I wonder if we will hear about people heading for the hills thinking its going to be Y2K all over again.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Gumstix Computers (Linux Computing)

Gumstix are computer motherboards that are 3.1 x 0.8 x 0.3 inches (20 x 80 x 8mm), and are suppose to weigh "less than a tablespoon of water," according to Gumstix. They're powered by XScale (ARM-based) Intel PXA255 SoC (System-on-Chip) running at 200MHz or 400MHz. They include 64 MB of SDRAM, 4 MB of Flash, and a complement of peripherals and I/O that includes an LCD controller, two RS232 serial ports, a USB 1.1 device port, I2C, two NSSP PWMs, AC97, and a JTAG port.

These are very impressive little computers. They run a Linux OS, and are designed for specialized applications. For example they can be used for controlling different types of robotics.

See the web site for more information

Lockheed CEV Proposed Shuttle Replacement (Article)

Popular Mechanics reports: "When NASA requested designs for a Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), two major teams--one headed by Lockheed Martin and one by Northrop Grumman and Boeing--took on the challenge. The winning concept will be chosen in 2008, and the manned vehicle flown in 2014."

Its about time that NASA is replacing the space shuttle. It has been a great space vehicle, but now its time to see what is next. What I really want to see is warp drive engines, and phasers on the next shuttle. :-)

The new safety systems for the new proposed design are pretty cool. Althought they probably add a lot of extra wieght to the shuttle. I believe the final design of the shuttle will problably not include all the proposed safety systems to save on weight and money.

But this is just my humble opinion...

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Gadget of the Week: The Get Off The Phone Excuse Machine

Real Tech News's - Gadget of the Week: "We’ve all been there. Miles from home, trapped in an endless cell phone conversation with no way out. Luckily there’s a handy little gadget called the “Get Off the Phone Excuse Machine” that with the press of a button will send an array of interruptions to your call. Six sample sounds include: doorbell chime, crying baby, static interference, dinner call, siren, and crashing car. Price: About $18."

This is a new use for a really old technology as far as gadgets go, but its a pretty funny device. It includes some useful sounds (like a doorbell, baby crying, and some others) and useless sounds (like: 'Can’t let the chop suey go cold can you?'). I don't know how real the device sounds on the other end of the phone, but I can imagine it might work.

Whistleblower Faces FBI Probe (Article)

Wired News reports: "The FBI is investigating a computer security researcher for criminal conduct after he revealed that critical routers supporting the Internet and many networks have a serious software flaw that could allow someone to crash or take control of them."

This is a real interesting article. It doesn't reveal any technical exploits about Cisco router, but it discusses how Cisco and ISS tried to stop Mike Lynn from speaking at DefCon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Track the Space Shuttle and International Space Station

Want to know where the Space Shuttle or International Space Station is in orbit. Check out the following site, it allows you to do live tracking of these crafts in orbit with Google Maps. The map is updated every minute with new data from NASA.

When you go to the site, you will see two markers on the map. The white marker and line represent Shuttle Discovery, and the red marker and line represent the International Space Station.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Yahoo! Buys Konfabulator, and Gives It Away for Free...

Yahoo! recently bought a great little company called Pixoria. They make a wonderful utility called the Konfabulator. This application allows you to add special little applets called Widgets to your desktop. Widgets are cool little desktop programs that can perform a specialized function, such as displaying the weather, allowing you to search the internet, and there are literally hundreds more.

This program use to cost about $20-$30 to buy. Anyone who owned this software would probably tell you it is well worth the price. Apple was so impressed with this technology that they included the functionality in their newest version of the Mac OS. This program has been available on the Macintosh for years, and only recently made it to the Windows world.

Well here is the good news, Yahoo recently bought this company and is giving away the software for free. So for that I want to say, "Thank you, Yahoo..." My hope is that Yahoo will continue to enhance the application so that we can all enjoy it.

So, if you have not already downloaded it, the question is what are you waiting for...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Firefox 1.1 Scrapped, 1.5 Due in Sept

BetaNews reports that the Mozilla Foundation will scrap the Firefox 1.1 label, and release Firefox v1.5 sometime in September. They felt the feature set of the v1.1 title didn't do the new browser justice, so they decided to hold off and release the v1.5 browser later in the year.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Going Totally Retro Today

I was surfing the web today, and I noticed a came across a lot of sites that had to deal with the past. So today I decided to theme today's post with links to sites that having something to do with the past:

Friday, July 22, 2005

Congress to add 2 months to Daylight Savings Time

Did you know Congress is proposing to extent the U.S daylight savings time (DST) by two months (from March to November). The Chicago Sun-Times reports the PROs and CONs of this proposal, and why different groups are for and against it.

One thing that isn't mention in the article impact this change could have on modern and older computers, OSs and their applications. There still are lots of older computers running older OSs, and applications that just won't be updated.

No computer is immune to this change. It could be another Y2K scare all over again. It is hard to predict all the problems a change like this can cause for different software applications. So we will have to just wait and see what happens...

Riot control ray gun worries scientists (Article)

CNET reports: "Scientists are questioning the safety of a Star Wars-style riot control ray gun due to be deployed in Iraq next year.

The Active Denial System weapon, classified as 'less lethal' by the Pentagon, fires a 95GHz microwave beam at rioters to cause heating and intolerable pain in less than five seconds."

I always find it interesting to see what people will think of next when it comes to developing energy based weapons. Make sure to check out the slideshow its pretty interesting, because it shows some of the different devices and vehicles that are equipped with this technology.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Google Moon (New)

In honor of the first manned Moon landing (on July 20, 1969), Google has released Google Moon. Its a new web application that uses NASA imagery, and the Google Maps interface.

It allows you to pan and zoom over an image of the moon surface to view all the Apollo landing sites. If you really want to have a quick laugh, set the zoom magnification to its maximum setting.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Dual Everything System

I generally don't talk about motherboards, but this system was just too cool not to talk about.

ExtremeTech: "Builds a system that multiplies everything by two. They take a dual-core CPU, dual graphics cards, dual two-drive RAID arrays, dual channel memory, and dual-layer DVD burning to the max."

System Administrator Appreciation Day

Have you hugged your system administrator today? Coming Friday, July 29th, 2005 is the 6th annual System Administrator Appreciation Day. I guess this day was created by some I.T. people who were feeling unappreciated.

I have worked in I.T. for more then a decade, and it really can be a thankless job a lot of times. Although, at the same time I don't care to have some day of the year set aside trying to point out that it is thankless. In my humble opinion, we are all just doing our jobs and generally being paid to do it, we don't need some day to remind us that we need to thank someone for doing what they're paid to do.

The only people I think that we need to be thanking is our troops in Iraq. I don't believe that most of them want to be there, but they're doing their job. So, all I can say is God Bless them and keep them safe... Amen

Monday, July 18, 2005

In the Beginning There Were Weblogs

Wired has published an interesting article about a man Jorn Barger, as they introduced him in the article as 'another homeless blogger'. Jorn has a semi-famous web site, which still exists called His site is an eclectic collection of interesting links.

For a real brief history of Jorn, he is currently homeless, and living on the streets in America somewhere. His claims to 'fame' are he was an avid Usenet poster who maintained the James Joyce FAQ. But the reason why I am mentioning him here, is that he was the person who coined the term and concept of the modern Weblog (aka Blog).

For more information read the Wired article.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Favorite Geek Quotes...

Below are some of my favorite geek related quotes, if you're not a geek you might not understand them. Although there is a chance that you might...

Binary People
There are 10 types of people in the world: Those who understand binary, and those who don't...

Geek Love Poem
roses are #FF0000
violets are #0000FF
all my base
are belong to you

SQL query
SELECT * FROM users WHERE clue > 0.
There's no place like

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Odeo: Listen, Sync, Create Podcasts

Odeo allows you to listen, synchronize, or create Podcasts for your iPod or MP3 player. If you're into podcasting, you need to check out this site. It is a portal of popular Podcasts. One of the great features of the site, is that you can play the podcast you want to listen to without having to leaving your browser.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Military's Energy-Beam Weapons Delayed (Article)

Associated Press reports: "For years, the U.S. military has explored a new kind of firepower that is instantaneous, precise and virtually inexhaustible: beams of electromagnetic energy. 'Directed-energy' pulses can be throttled up or down depending on the situation, much like the phasers on 'Star Trek' could be set to kill or merely stun."

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Drive Me Insane! (Internet Classic Site)

'Drive Me Insane!' is a web site that has been around for a number of years, it should become an Internet classic. The basic story behind it is some guy setup this site to allow people over the Internet to turn lights on and off in his house for fun.

When you first go to the site, you will see a view from the web cam (you will even occassional see people walk by). There are also links off to the side of the page that say on and off. These links will allow you to turn the lights on and off in the view of the web cam.

The FAQ on site says that it is real, but if it is fake it is a pretty elaborate hoax. I hope you enjoy it...

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Happy Birthday Amazon, Your 10 Years Old... is now almost 10 years old. It started its humble beginning in Jeff Bezo's garage selling just books. Ten years later, it had $7 billion in sales last year, and sells just about everything you could ever want.

I have always respected as a company, and they're one of the few online retailers that have a pretty good reputation for being reputable and reliable. I know in my personal dealing with them we have been pretty happy with the service that we have recieved.

So to and its employee, may you have many happy years of retailing, and keep up the good work.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Europe rejects patent proposal (Article)

CNET reports: "The European Parliament has rejected a controversial measure that would have legalized software patents in the European Union.

A government representative said that 648 out of 729 members of the European Parliament voted Wednesday to reject the proposal, called the Computer Implemented Inventions Directive, which would have widened the extent to which software could be patented ."

This is awesome news! This new patent law would have created a nightmare patent system in the E.U. The U.S. is already having a problem with its system because people are already patenting very general ideas, then suing people over them. I believe in patent law, but they have to stop giving patents for stupid stuff.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Thorium Fuels Safer Reactor Hopes (Article)

Wired News reports: "Fueling nuclear reactors with the element thorium instead of uranium could produce half as much radioactive waste and reduce the availability of weapons-grade plutonium by as much as 80 percent. But the nuclear power industry needs more incentives to make the switch, experts say."

I think the summary says it all, but now all we have to do is convince the people who pay for the reactors to switch to thorium instead of uranium. The retooling costs seems to be one of the big obstacles here in the US.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Regular Showers May be Health Risk (Article)

DailyMail in the UK reports: "Taking regular showers could pose a health risk and even result in permanent brain damage, it has been claimed."

Why post such a weird article, because it makes an excellent point about everything we do for ourselves because we think it is healthy. It seems that everyday science is telling us to do something someway because its suppose to be good for us (such as: drinking lots of water). Then a few years later they find out by doing what they originally told us could be really bad for us (for example: water intoxication from drinking too much water).

My point is not about drinking water, or taking showers being bad for us. My point is we have to be really careful about what we read and do. Just because one day we read that scientist have now discovered the dangers of something, or that this or that is more healthy. Don't fall into the trap of believing everything you read, you might find out one day that it was really wrong.

My only real point is we need to live our lifes with the philosphy of 'all things in moderation' (such as: eating, drinking, loving, etc...) So just enjoy your life, you will live longer and be happier. We are all going to die someday, so enjoy every moment of everyday that you have.

For more reading, see: 'We should never have survived!'

"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself." (Matthew 6:34)

Monday, July 04, 2005

A lesson to be learned from typing the wrong e-mail address! (Humor)

For all my U.S. readers, I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July...

I am going to try something new, every so often I will publish a clean, and humorous story or joke. I will use the following guidelines for publishing this content, it must be appropriate to be viewed or repeated in just about any office environment.

A couple from Minneapolis decided to go to Florida to thaw out during one particularly icy winter. They planned to stay at the very same hotel where they spent their honeymoon 20 years earlier.

Because of hectic schedules, it was difficult to coordinate their travel schedules. So, the husband left Minnesota and flew to Florida on Thursday, with his wife flying down the following day.

The husband checked into the hotel. There was a computer in his room, so he decided to send an e-mail to his wife. However, he accidentally left out one letter in her email address, and without realizing his error, he sent the e-mail.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Houston, a widow had just returned Home from her husband's funeral. He was a minister of many years who Was called home to glory following a sudden heart attack. The widow decided to check her e-mail expecting messages of condolence from relatives and friends. After reading the first message, she fainted. The widow's son rushed into the room, found his mother on the floor, and saw the computer screen which read:

To: My Loving Wife
Subject: I've Arrived
Date: 16 January 2004

I know you're surprised to hear from me. They have
computers here now and you are allowed to send e-
mails to your loved ones. I've just arrived and have
been checked in. I see that everything has been
prepared for your arrival tomorrow. Looking forward
to seeing you then! Hope your journey is as
uneventful as mine was.

P.S. Sure is hot down here.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Pig Manure Converted to Crude Oil

National Geographic reports: "Crude oil and gasoline prices are near an all-time high. But don't despair. One scientist has found an alternative source of energy: pig manure."

It seems that we can make alternative fuels from corn (Ethanol), vegetable oil (Biodiesel), and now pig manure. It is absolutely amazing what they're making fuels out of these day. One day we will be able to run our cars on just s (wait, that has already been invented too).

National Budget Simulation

This is an interesting site, it allows you to simulate what would happen if you were in control of the national budget. Try to see if you can do better then the elected officials.

To use the site: use the pop-up menus to increase or decrease as many of the budget items as you'd like. When you're finished, press the button at the end of the web page.

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Space Elevator (12 minute video)

I have been a big fan of space elevators for years. I believe it will be one of the best ways of moving people and cargo into space economically.

The idea of space elevators has been around for a long time. Although it has only been within the last few years that the scientist believe that with advancements in material technologies like carbon nanotubes, the elevator concept is made possible.

If you don't understand the advantages of a space elevator over conventional rockets. Think of this way, right now it costs about US$10,000 a pound to move cargo into space via the space shuttle. With the space elevator the cost would be reduced to a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars a pound.

The space elevator would also allow an economical platform for inhabiting other planets such as the moon, Mars, and beyond.

For more information on the space elevator, watch the following video.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

New email address registries for "do not contact" (Utah and Michigan) News reports: "Utah and Michigan are the first two states to have both passed the legislation which is aimed at minors having access to otherwise unwanted, sexually explicit or violent electronic communications."

A 'do not contact e-mail and instant messenger address' list, makes as much sense as creating a 'do not rob list' to tell thieves not to rob your homes or businesses. The original 'do not call list' made a great deal of sense because most telemarketers are legitimate businesses that have to obey the law. I believe that 99% of spammers are probably not a legitimate business, so they don't have to answer to the law unless they're caught.

If you read the article the law looks like it has holes in it big enough to drive a large truck through. This law is a good idea, but bad in execution. I really believe this law can create more problems then it can correct. Its not that Utah and Michigan did a bad job in writing the law, just the problem its trying to address is very difficult legislate, prosecute and enforce.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Free and Legal Movies, TV Shows and More... (Bittorrent Not Required)

Are you looking for a free and legal alternative to Bittorrent for downloading video content (such as: movies, TV show, etc.) off the Internet? Your prayers have been answered.

Below are two sites that allow you to access different types of video content, from old cartoons and movies to documentaries and more.
  • Open Media Network: OMN is a free public service designed to help you enjoy a broad selection of movies, public TV and radio, video blogs and podcasts while protecting producer's copyrights. (Note: requires you to download a special application to view the content.)
  • Internet Archive: Feature Films: This collection houses a number of classic public domain feature films and shorts.
New Video Search Site
Google has launched a new video search service, called 'Google Video Search'. The Google Video search service enables you to search a growing archive of televised content – everything from sports to dinosaur documentaries to news shows. (Note: requires you to download a special application to view the content.)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Google Earth - A 3D interface to the planet

I just downloaded Google Earth, and I have been using it for a little while this morning. It has been an absolute blast playing with it. If you're into maps, geography, or just playing with very cool applications, this is worth the download.

The bigger and more popular areas have more detailed pictures available. Although, if you live on rural farmland somewhere out in the middle of nowhere, then the high level detailed pictures of that area could be limited.

To download it, go to the following site. Note: this application does require a high speed Internet connection, fast computer, and a good video card.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Warning: In Five Seconds, This PC Will Self-Destruct (Article)

The Wall Street Journal reports: "Companies looking to protect sensitive data on stolen gadgets are taking a page from Hollywood, with hard drives that destroy themselves when picked up by a thief, software that remotely zaps documents from a desktop computer and technology that scrubs clean handheld devices when the wrong password is entered too many times."

It sad that technology has to come to this point, but it is the next generation of data security (physical data destruction). Hopefully this will prevent personal and private data from being stolen, when people lose or forget about their laptops. I think they're going to need to incorporate this technology into desktop hard drives as well.

The author of this article also points out a major problem with this technology, and that is its dependence on passwords. If the user forgets their password, they can accidentally activate the self-destruct technology. I believe this problem can be overcome with the use of biometric technology.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Lifestyle Drugs, Who Needs Them...

New Scientist recently published and article called 'This pill will make you smarter.' It talks about a new category of drugs called 'lifestyle drugs.' This is medication that is used to enhance your physical or mental performance.

Personally the idea of these types of drugs scares me, because of the long term social and biological effects that they can have on the body. I personally believe that as a society we need to learn that all things that come in pill form are not always good for us. How many miracle drugs have been pulled from the market, because they're too harmful.

What is Ajax, and Does it Matter?

For the last few months, I have been seeing a lot of different articles on the Internet about a technology called 'Ajax'. No, its not the stuff you use for cleaning your toilets. Ajax is a set of technologies that are being used together. The word Ajax is an acronym for 'Advanced Javascript And XML' or 'Asynchronous JavaScripting and XML'.

Ajax is composed of the following web technologies:
  • HTML + CSS: displays the information in the browser.
  • JavaScript: dynamically displays content, and allows the user to interact with it.
  • XML + XSLT: Using the browsers XMLHttpRequest function data can be requested, sent, or changed on the Web server.
If you're not a Web application developer, most of these words and acronyms may not mean anything to you. Although, if you're like me, to understand a complex technology you need to see a good working example of it to really understand its full potential. Check out Google Maps. Search for a location, zoom-in on it, then click-and-drag on the map to see other parts of the map that are off the screen. The technology behind this marvel, is Ajax.

Now the question, does Ajax really matter? If you're a web developer, the answer is yes it does. If you're just a web surfer, the answer is still yes.

Ajax allows for the creation of interactive web applications that were not possible before without the use of some external plug-in technology like Flash, Java, etc. If you're just a web surfer, it means that you will be able to use feature rich applications without the use of external browser plug-ins.

To learn more about Ajax, check out a site called 'Ajax Matters'. This web site is one of the primary reference places for this technology.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Spectacular Mammatus Clouds (Hastings, Nebraska)

You have to check out these pictures (I hope this is real). These are Mammatus Clouds over Hastings, Nebraska. They're the weirdest clouds I have ever seen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Miscellaneous Links

  • Want to do some budget rocketeering? (WMV)
  • Do those cement vehicle barriers really work? (WMV)
  • Funny Aussie TV ad called MetalOldies. (WMV)
Weird Stuff

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Introduction to Perpendicular Recording

Everyday I see more and more new hard drives being introduced that use 'Perpendicular Recording' to store data on the disk (for example see this article). Perpendicular Recording is a new method of storing more data on the disk then ever before.

If you want to know how this technology works, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has released a great flash video that does a great job of explaining it. This video is designed for people who are not technical, it also makes the subject matter fun and easy to understand.

Star Wars - Revelations

If you like the fan film 'IMPS - The Relentless', then you might want to check out this film from Panic Struck Productions called Star Wars - Revelations.

Revelations is a independent film created by Star Wars fans on a low budget. The film is about 47-minutes, and it took three years to complete.

There are several ways to get and view the film, go to this page to see the download options.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

AMD Details Early Quad-Core Plans

ExtremeTech reports: "Executives confirmed that the company plans to enhance its Opteron enterprise processor line to four cores in 2007, adding focused optimizations to manage power and improve throughput."

Wow, Quad-Core CPUs. I bet after this there will probably be eight-core CPUs, then sixteen core, and so on... This could start a whole new CPU revolution. Also check out the slide show that is included with the story, it contains a cornucopia of new buzzwords.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Classic Video Game Commercials

This site contains a huge collection of classic video game commercials, including ones from: Atari, Nintendo, Sega, and more. I personally have an interest in computer history, and this is a great trip back into the video game part of that history.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Build your own MythTV box

Kevin Rose and Dan Huard former members of the 'The Screen Savers', have started a new site/show called 'Systm'. So far the theme of the show has been hardware hacking. Its not the criminal activity type of hacking, but modifying hardware devices to do something more or different from what it was originally designed to perform.

In episode #2 of their show Systm, they demonstrate how to build a MythTV box. I have been wanting to put one of these to together for a few weeks now, I just have to make the time. Now that I have seen their show, I am sure that they have saved me several hours of time trying to customize my configuration.

Note: You will need BitTorrent to download the show.