Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Mon, 11 Jul 2005

Free Skype minutes today

Skype are offering free credit on their SkypeOut service today. It's only a few minutes worth, but as I didn't have any before it's useful for me to test it. There are supposed to be some other offer days this month, but I don't know when. I don't have that much personal need for international calls generally, but I use Skype to talk to some family and at work.
[13:35] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 09 Jul 2005

Whoosh!

Many months after I first heard that ntl would be revising their broardband tiers to give 2Mb for the price I was paying for 700kb, it looks looks like I have been upgraded. I had considered calling them to get it done sooner, but I didn't have that desperate a need for the extra speed. I just download 100MB of updates for Ubuntu and noticed that it was doing over 240KB/s.

My first experience of being on-line was with a Teletype (an ancient device that was more mechanical than electronic and just printed everything on a roll of paper) and an acoustic coupler (a bit like a modem except that you put the telephone handset into a pair of rubber cups and the data was sent as audible noise). That probably managed a few bytes per second at best. Later I owned various modems starting at 14.4kb and working up to the heady heights of 56kb. So now I'm getting over 30 times that speed. The upload speed is a fraction of the download. So it's still going to take a while to send large emails. I wonder if this is just a tactic to stop people sharing large files.

[21:07] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 20 May 2005

Google becomes a portal

Google is the internet as far as a lot of people are concerned. It's where you start any session to find what you want. I've been very impressed by their progress. I used other search engines in the past, but now I just Google it.

They've acquired a few products by buying them in, e.g. Blogger, but have also created many of their own innovations. The best known example is GMail. I signed up for that to see what it was like. It's pretty good, but I'm just using my 2GB for extra storage just now.

The have also added Search History, which may have more privacy implications, and Desktop Search, which I find very useful at work.

Today I read that they have added the facility to personalise your Google page with news headlines etc. This is quite neat as it integrates GMail more. For many years I have had a home page at Yahoo! that did something similar. If Google could add some cartoon strips I may have to change my browser home page.

[07:50] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 19 Apr 2005

Google maps the UK

I've been playing with Google's map feature when it just did the USA, but today I found out they are covering the UK too. You can see where I live here.

The coolness factor over other sites like Multimap is the way you can just drag the map around to see other areas. They also have local search, but that seems limited for now. Maybe they will start using GeoURL tags. Locations are indicated by '3D' labels. Multimap still wins on photo coverage of the UK, for now.

I like Google, but I also like Multimap because of their semantic web features and other cool features. I hope there's room for them both. My first experience of on-line maps was Streetmap, but they seem to have fallen behind.

[20:56] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 08 Apr 2005

Building a semantic website

You may have noticed from a few things about my site that I'm interested in the so-called Semantic Web. This is basically about embedding computer-readable information in web pages. Normal web pages using html are really just formatted text. Computers are not great at understanding text, which is why search results can be so wrong e.g. 'bass' can be a fish or a musical instrument or a fat singer or that thing that makes your windows rattle when you turn the stereo up.

I've added a few things to this site that give it more 'meaning':

Location - my geographical location is embedded in the site header as a latitude/longitude. This allows sites such as GeoURL to show where I am relative to other sites with that information. Maybe, one day, search engines will use this to allow searches for local services. Just using names, e.g. Bedford, is not so reliable as there can be multiple places with that name.

FOAF - the FOAF Project proposes a standard file format to give others information about yourself. The actual file is in a form of XML called RDF and is not that readable, but it can be extracted to nicer formats as you can see by clicking on my name at the top of the page. My file has information about who I know, what I do, where I've been and more. I intend to add more information. The 'who I know' bit has more potential if those people also have FOAF files so that our social network can be extracted.

XFN - this is a way to add meaning to links. By adding some extra parameters to the html you can indicate if the owner of a page is a friend, colleague, relative etc. This has similar implications to FOAF for building social networks.

There are more potential options including those that add more categorisation to articles. See my semantic links. There's a few reasons why this has not really taken off. Ignorance (many have never heard of it), apathy (why should I need that?) etc. Some have written about why they think it is not going to work. There are the usual internet risks of fraud to get visitors to sites. But there are many sites using semantic data. Simon has built a wiki that includes the locations.

One of these days I will get around to writing some applications to make use of this data. Python has tools for the job. I have some ideas for practical applications. Instead of using Multiply to link to friends I could use the information in my FOAF file. Users in there could request a password to allow them access to certain parts of the site. This could include thing like my DVD library that is hosted at DVD Lender. The idea is that I could take back control of my own data instead of relying on other sites to look after it and having the risk of losing it if they disappear. The other thing I want to do is to generate the details that appear on the right hand side of this page from my FOAF, so the FOAF would act as my information store. Other people seem to be working towards the opposite effect and generating FOAF from web pages, but I'm not so sure about that. I still have a lot to learn about this and the subject is still in flux generally.

[16:31] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 09 Nov 2004

Time to dump Internet Explorer

Microsoft's browser accounts for about 95% of internet usage, but it has lots of bugs and lacks many features. There is an alternative. For some time I've been using browsers from Mozilla. You may know them better as Netscape, but this is the open source version that is being very actively worked on. I have happily used their internet suite (browser, email and web design), but more recently have switched to their newer browser, Firefox. Today Firefox reached version 1.0. It's a wonderful tool with features such as pop-up blocking, tabs and an ever-expanding selection of extensions to add even more goodness. Go to their site for more details.
[13:37] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 30 Sep 2004

Gmail invites available

Google have been nice enough to grant me some Gmail invites. If you want 1GB of free webmail then drop me a line.
[13:24] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 15 Sep 2004

Got Gmail?

A few months ago there was lots of fuss about Google introducing an email service with 1GB of storage. This was a lot more than anyone else was giving for free, but has since been matched by others. The idea is that you don't delete anything and can easily search it. It's still in beta testing and accounts are only available by invitation from existing user. I don't have many friends using it, but this week I heard about a site that was passing on spare invitations. It's here. Currently only 3 going spare, but there were several hundred this morning. I grabbed one there and have had a little play. Need to direct some mail there to try it out properly.

In other news today Amazon have formally announced their search service A9, It's based on Google, but adds a few features, like showing multiple results for text, images, books, films etc at the same time. Can also remember your searches if you want and store bookmarks. Another site that warrants some playing. I use Google anyway, so this should give the same results.

Finally, Firefox has almost reached version 1.0 and is available for preview. I've been using the earlier versions for a while and it just gets better. I rarely touch IE these days. I love having tabs, gestures and some of the other features that either come as standard or as easily added extensions. It's supposed to be safer than IE, so what are you waiting for?

[20:51] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 10 Aug 2004

Got a Googlenym?

I read somewhere about people having a word or phrase that, when searched for on Google returns links that relate to them. Mine would be steevc due to me using it for many years on various sites. For some people it could just be their name, but mine is far too common. It can be handy to see what that person is up to or their history on-line.
[21:33] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 10 Jul 2004

Other methods of blogging

I've been trying to make my surfing more focused in an effort to save time. For a while I was using News If Free to keep up with various news sources. Then I recently discovered Bloglines which offers more versatility. Recently they overhauled the site and added the ability to compile your own blog, either from news items or manually. You can see mine here.

Via Bloglines I discovered Multiply. This combines blogging with social networking. You have 1GB of storage to store photos and articles that can be viewed either by everyone or by your circle of friends, colleagues etc. I've put a few bits up there and am waiting for someone to join my contacts. My page is here.

I like having this site to play with stuff like semantic web, but the other options allow quicker posting. I shall try to bring them together somehow. Bloglines has an RSS feed that I should be able to add to this site. Just need to work out how.

[21:44] | [] | Comments | G

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