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Archive for November, 2007

Google Experiments With Users Voting On Search Results

Friday, November 30th, 2007

I read at John Chow's site how Google plans to take a few weeks to allow users to vote on search results. With this system, you as an individual could add, vote up, vote down, and remove individual Google results for various search queries. Unlike other voting systems like DIGG, however, your votes will only impact the results you see.

It's been said that were Google to allow your votes to impact the search results everybody sees, there'd be some way to abuse the system, and a whole new form of BlackHat SEO would emerge. Originally, I doubted Google would allow votes to impact the system as a whole. After all, if you clean up your own search results, who cares how other people's look, right?

But what if Google took all your votes, and began using them to tabulate Page Rank? A site aware of this could probably find large groups of people willing to vote on its behalf, artificially boosting its ratings. So even if the masses all vote on mostly helpful sites, there will still be groups of abusers out there manipulating things to their own end.

But there are deterrents to such tactics. DIGG has a system where users can bury stories that don't belong. I'm thinking if Google's experiment goes far enough, it will eventually reach a point where results that are impacted by everyone include a failsafe whereby normal users can act against malicious users. Click here to vote this site up, click here to vote it down, click here to report it as a repeat offender.

That might work.

Cell Phone Battery Explosions Can Be Fatal

Thursday, November 29th, 2007

I saw on CNN today that a man's LG cell phone was in his shirt pocket when the battery exploded, killing him. According to the company that makes that device, that scenario is extremely rare. But still, the fact that such an event can occur, even if remotely, is very scary.

I'd heard about laptop batteries blowing up, and how this was made fun of on "The Simpsons." At that point, I figured that explosive devices were rare, to such an extent as to be comical. But now hearing that a phone has killed a man outright, I'm not so sure.

If a phone battery can become explosive under certain circumstances, we are all in danger. Can you imagine what would have happened if he and a friend had been using that phone when it blew up, maybe both leaning in to hear someone on speaker? Or what if he had given it to a child? "Here, kiddo, say hi!"

Even if something is rare, it is still dangerous. There are so many people on earth that rare events tend to happen more than a few times. So how can we save ourselves from Death By Cell Phone?

Open Networks: Verizon, Google, The iPhone

Wednesday, November 28th, 2007

Can you believe it?! I just read on Yahoo that Verizon is going to open its network in preparation to compete with Google's open Android software platform and with the iPhone's opening to the development of 3rd-party software. This could change everything.

The Verizon Wireless network will soon be open to non-Verizon phones and programs. Perhaps this is the first step toward a world in which the web is truly worldwide.

I envision a future in which the internet is so ubiquitous that it can be accessed by virtually any device. Online access will become standard, built-in as a perfunctory feature in most gadgets, and perhaps in non-gadget items like furniture. People won't have to pay for it. It will be free, open, and omnipresent. Access points will be a thing of the past, as every inch of the world will act as such.

I'll bet computer terminals will exist as more technical alternatives to other, newer forms of surfing. Perhaps in a few years, PCs will be relegated to use by "Net Operators," people whose jobs encompass updating and changing the net from a central location. Meanwhile, most citizens will share knowledge and experiences remotely, free to move to any area without risking being cut off.

Perhaps we could even extend internet access to the moon, and Mars. And Alpha Centauri!

Free Wallpapers From Mozart's Ghost

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

Yesterday I was surfing bored, so I thought I'd look to see if the "Mozart's Ghost" page from "The Net" had become real yet. To my surprise, there does exist a Mozart's Ghost Online site, although it doesn't really resemble what was shown in the movie.

I perused it a little, and found some pretty awesome downloadable wallpapers.

I know that there are other sites with far more wallpapers to sift through, but I wasn't expecting to find any souvenirs at MGO. I thought it was great.

I picked one I thought was neat, set it up, turned my computer off, turned the TV on, and was amused to see "The Net" randomly being aired! How's that for coincidence?

Black Friday And Sweet Deals (Well, Just One)

Monday, November 26th, 2007

I don't usually go shopping on Black Friday. It just seems like way too much of a hassle to me. So seeing as how I haven't been participating in the event for a while, I've apparently lost sight of the incredible savings one can achieve through a 12-hour wait in line. I recently read in the paper that some people were able to get their hands on whole computer systems for just $200. That includes tower, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and maybe even printer.

To me, that is unbelievable. Way better than the best deals I've ever seen. Of course, I'm assuming the stuff is relatively new. It goes without saying that similar deals can be found with obsolete models.

As soon as I read about that one deal, it all began to make sense. Waiting in line to shop is like waiting in line for concert tickets, or waiting to sign up for that really great course taught by that really attractive professor. It isn't just mob shopping. There are deals to be had!

So now I've got next year's Black Friday all mapped out. I'll skip Thanksgiving dinner so I can get in line early…

A Commercial I Hate: "Watch Me Move, Got My Juke!"

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

When this commercial was first aired a few weeks ago, I thought it was stupid. It's like, "Hey, look at these dancers! Aren't they cool? Our product must be good! In fact, it's lame. But don't pay attention to that, look at the dancers!" "Watch me move, not my Juke (cause it's stupid), Watch me move!"

That's the vibe I got. Then I noticed something. The first dancer makes a somewhat odd face while dancing, but it's no big deal. The second dancer makes a horrific face. It's not very appealing. Here's a link to the commercial so you can see. It happens at 0:10.

Weird, huh? I find myself shielding my eyes every time I hear that familiar jingle. If you didn't get a good enough look, just wait until it comes on TV again. I think you'll be unpleasantly surprised. And there's still one more reason this commercial bothers me!

Juke… Juke… I know it's like Jukebox, but the word seems dirty. It sounds kind of like dookie, another word for fecal matter. So the phrase "Got my juke," seems to evoke an image of someone dancing around holding a piece of excrement. Fresh out of the oven, and as moist as can be!

If it wasn't for this one commercial, I might not feel so negatively about the Juke. After all, it looks pretty neat. But it's too late. "Juke" — eew!

When Worlds Collide: Peter Petrelli and Scrubs

Saturday, November 24th, 2007

I don't usually watch the show, "Scrubs," but today I made an exception and tuned in for a little bit. During one episode, a woman was remarking on a rooftop beach how death had been a motivator in her life. She said, "It forced me in the 8th grade to ask Peter Petrelli to the sock hop."

"Heroes" has become one of my favorite shows, if not #1. And whenever I hear the name of a character I like, which is pretty much all of them, I think, "Awesome!" It's like randomly hearing the sound of an electric guitar and being blindsided by the sudden and brilliant Force of Cool!

Almost as soon as I heard the woman say "Peter Petrelli," I thought, "Did I hear her correctly?" I had to check the net. Surely there must have been other reports from people who made the same connection.

After a little while, I came upon a search query that gave me what I was looking for. Yes, other people caught the quote, and they were just as surprised as I.

In all honesty, one of the first places my mind went upon hearing his name on "Scrubs" was to a theory about his time travel ability coinciding with the power to phase from one dimension to the next. That way, he could move from the "Heroes" universe, to the "Scrubs" universe… to our universe! Save the Cheerleader, Pete!!

Dignified Reader's Digest Cracks Dirty Joke

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Recently, while perusing an old issue of Reader's Digest, I came across something so unexpected, so shocking, so bizarre that I decided it was up to me to tell the world.

The March 2002 edition of Reader's Digest features a front cover on the upper right-hand corner of which is the face of Bruce Willis. At the very top of the same cover is a red bar featuring a message in white text which reads "Reverse Your Memory Loss." Goody! Let's do that.

Turning to page 101, we can see the headline, which reads, "Total Recall," and beneath, "How to get it — well, most of it — at any age. By Anne Underwood and Russell Watson." Here's something important on the next line. It says, "From Newsweek." So, the story was originally featured in Newsweek, and Reader's Digest decided that it was worthy of making it into their exclusive, clean, and inoffensive pages.

Reading the article, there's nothing majorly out of the ordinary. In fact, there's some good information on the ins and outs of age-related memory loss. On page 102, there's even help with, "mnemonic devices — mental formulas for encoding names, faces and facts."

Ooh! Please let there be an example.

"(For instance,…"

Yes!

"…when you meet someone named Mike Hawk, visualize a hawk speaking into a microphone.)"

…??!!

Mike Hawk

I think it goes without saying that some of us can think up a mnemonic device for the name "Mike Hawk" that doesn't revolve around birds and technology!

Things I Am Thankful For

Thursday, November 22nd, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of this, the day of Thanks, I'm going to share a few things of which I'm deeply appreciative.

In no particular order, I'm thankful for:

  • clean water
  • fresh air
  • television
  • digital music
  • the internet
  • the power of open source
  • free speech
  • pumpkin pie
  • apple pie
  • pretty much any kind of pie
  • technology's vast horizons
  • my health, family and friends
  • life in the year Double-O Seven [cue Bond Theme]

Are You A Net Addict? It's A Serious Affliction.

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

A little while ago I made a post about how I felt I was "Getting Absorbed Into The Net." Then today I read an article on nytimes.com about how Korea takes "web obsession" seriously to the point that there is a boot camp to cure it.

I couldn't believe it. Really? There are people who have lost their lives to the net? Even if that were true, big deal, right? Then I remembered stories about people sucked into MMORPGs. Apparently (and this probably has happened more than once) a young guy killed himself after losing his character in the game. It was like the game was his whole life, and he couldn't imagine going on living after it was over.

So this is serious.

I'm a fan of the "Ghost In The Shell" anime. I'm more familiar with the show than the films. The setting is a futuristic world in which the net has become a true virtual reality, brain-to-net interfacing has been achieved, and prosthetic bodies are in apparent widespread use. If you had such a body, you'd look and act like any normal person, but you could also multitask and surf the net in your mind — even while driving. I believe artificial intelligence exists in the show as well.

In one episode, it was explained and depicted how many youngsters can become so absorbed into the net that they need professional treatment. It's like they withdraw almost completely from the real world. One of the solutions put into use was to allow the kids to surf the net, but only so they could write security programs. The programs the wrote, I believe, were highly effective.

It was shocking to read how South Korea, already mega-networked, has been encountering similar problems in the real world. One kid at the boot camp said how he felt that 17 hours a day online was no big deal. It became such an issue that he and others would skip school, not to surf, but to sleep, as they'd been up all night online. Apparently some people have even died from staying online playing games for days at a time. It's that crazy.

I personally don't think I have a problem with the net, but you never know. They say first your tolerance levels rise for sitting at the computer for extended periods. (Check.) After that you surf more and more, and if anything comes between you and your computer, you can become quite agitated. Thankfully I'm not there yet, nor do I plan to be.

I had just assumed that as the internet comes to play a bigger role in all of our lives, we'd naturally use it more often. But not nonstop. That same kid at the boot camp found that real-life success in physical endeavors was much more fun than playing games online. He said his new perspective might even cause him to reduce his time online from 17 hours a day to just 5. Yes, it sounds ironic, but at the same time 5 hours a day online is probably normal for a lot of people.

What a wild world we live in.