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: