Twitter & Search

Despite my affection for Google and its plethora of products that I use frequently, this morning I read two very interesting articles on Twitter Search and the future of Google.  They have slightly different takes on why Twitter Search will be successful but they both reach the same conclusion: Twitter Search will be big.  I’m always wary of something being declared the ‘next big thing’, but this one will be an interesting watch.

The two links are here and here.  While I’ve not used Twitter search much thus far, it is now an add-on to my list of search tools. If anyone else is interested in adding Twitter Search to FireFox, it can be done from here.

What Google Services do you use?

Thinking about this on the drive in to work this morning, I was astounded by the number of Google Services, Tools or Software I use regularly.  [For the purpose of this post, I define regularly as “several times a month”].  In no particular order, here they are:

  • Google Search & its various avatars (Images, Mobile, Local, Package tracking, Area code, Flight Status, Movie Show timings, stock quotes, Music, etc)
  • GMail
  • Google Talk/GChat
  • Google Reader
  • You Tube
  • Google Alerts
  • Google Chrome
  • Google Toolbar
  • Google Finance
  • Goog-411
  • iGoogle
  • Google Maps & Mobile Maps
  • Google News
  • Google Reader
  • Google Docs
  • Blogger (Passive user, i.e. reader of contect)

Some others that I use less frequently or have used in the past are:

  • Google Checkout
  • Google Product Search
  • Google Earth
  • Orkut
  • Google Translate
  • Picasa
  • Knol
  • Blogger
  • Google Scholar
  • Google Desktop
  • Google Groups
  • Google Calculator & Unit Conversion, Book Search, etc.

Phew, quite a list of prodcuts, right? I dont think I’ve forgotten any, but let me know if I have.  And I dont pay for a single one…impressive!

Mint

I changed banks for this website – www.mint.com.  I think everybody should use it.

I’ve always been rather careful about how much money I have and how much I’ve spent.  I would usually check my bank and credit accounts every few days and I knew my networth within a few hundered dollars at any given moment.  I got my need for close money management from my mum, I suppose.  As a kid, I used to watch her write down her expenses in a notebook that she kept in her cuppboard.  Her’s was nothing fancy, just a list of how much was spent and what the expense was on.  When I moved to the US in September 2001, and was for the first time responsible for my own money, I started to do the same.  Every dollar I spent was documented in a little diary. It slowly evolved into calculating my weekly expenditures and bank balance, but for nearly two years it was all hand-written.  I experimented with various Excel spreadsheets with complicated forumals in cells, but that never quite satisfied what I was looking for.  I was suggested Quicken and MS Money, but then never quite appealed to me (I think amount of manual work required for software that was supposed to automate something, irked me.) Some years ago, I stopped keeping track of money manually and resorted to checking bank and credit card accounts almost daily.  When I was a student and didn’t have much income, or resources, this was easy enough.  As I moved out into the professional world, this became somewhat harder with regular income and tons of expenses.  Adding to this was the complication of several credit accounts.  Nonetheless, at any given moment, I could reasonably estimate what I had in which account.

To someone like me, Mint is a boon.  I’m sorely dissapointed that it is a US-only tool at this time.  For now, I’m here and I’m enjoying it.

Internet records = Phone records?

Should ISPs be mandated to keep internet records of their customers? It is a question that I’ve debated with others for a while now without any real resolutions. Phone companies, I believe, are required to keep records of their customers for 3 years. It does make sense on occasion, if the information is required for a criminal investigation. The issues with doing something similar for internet records are three-fold, as I see it:

  1. The hard disk space/processing power required to keep such records are much more intensive than for a phone company. ISPs don’t want to have to invest in such technologies.
  2. People are used to a free (not as in beer) and somewhat anonymous internet. It will take an entire generation of users to come and go before such legislations will be accepted.
  3. The potential for misuse of a persons web-surfing habits is much higher than with a persons phone record. If keeping reocords is mandated, then there need to be strict safeguards against its misuse.

Internet crime is on the rise and as more of the worlds economy and infrastructure moves online, so will crime. While some form of record keeping is necessary and perhaps inevitable, such a legislation needs to be carefully considered before it is implemented. The New York Times has an article that reports that the US is asking companies to now do this.

The article is reproduced below with all credit going to the author and the NY Times.

U.S. Wants Companies to Keep Web Usage Records

The Justice Department is asking Internet companies to keep records on the Web-surfing activities of their customers to aid law enforcement, and may propose legislation to force them to do so.

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales held a meeting in Washington last Friday where they offered a general proposal on record-keeping to a group of senior executives from Internet companies, said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the department. The meeting included representatives from America Online, Microsoft, Google, Verizon and Comcast.

The attorney general has appointed a task force of department officials to explore the issue, and that group is holding another meeting with a broader group of Internet executives today, Mr. Roehrkasse said. The department also met yesterday with a group of privacy experts.

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Cyber-Terrorism – Reality or Bust?

Scott Borg, the director of the US Cyber Consequences Unit (CCU), a Department of Homeland Security advisory group claims that cyber-terrorism is the new 9/11. In an article in The Independant, he talks of all kinds of scenarios, some plausible, others downright silly, in my humble opinion. Anyway, this is the article, all credits go to them:

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According to cyber-security experts, the terror attacks of 11 September and 7 July could be seen as mere staging posts compared to the havoc and devastation that might be unleashed if terrorists turn their focus from the physical to the digital world.

Scott Borg, the director and chief economist of the US Cyber Consequences Unit (CCU), a Department of Homeland Security advisory group, believes that attacks on computer networks are poised to escalate to full-scale disasters that could bring down companies and kill people. He warns that intelligence “chatter” increasingly points to possible criminal or terrorist plans to destroy physical infrastructure, such as power grids. Al-Qa’ida, he stresses, is becoming capable of carrying out such attacks.

Most companies and organisations seem oblivious to the threat. Usually, they worry about e-mail viruses and low-grade hacker attacks. But Borg sees these as the least of their worries. “Up to now, executives and network professionals have worried about what adolescents and petty criminals have been doing,” he says. “In most cases, these kinds of cyber attacks aren’t very destructive. The reason is that businesses generally have enough inventory and extra capacity to make up for any short-term interruptions.”

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