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:

———–

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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Podcasts

I’ve been listening to podcasts lately. The term has been floating around the media, web and other, quite a bit. So I thought it was time for me to dabble. I usually use my Zen Touch to listen to music while walking to campus and back. The walk can take upto 20 minutes depending on which part of campus I’m headed towards. But listening to the same few 100 songs over and over was getting monotonous. So that was another reason to start listening to podcasts.

Juice is the podcast reciever that use currently and it seems to do the job fairly well. However, I have to use a different application to synch my MP3 player with my music. Thanks to Microsofts PlayForSure, I can use WMP10 to do this. It’d be nice if I could do it in the same app, but tight coupling has generally been a hallmark of portable devices. iPod and iTunes is the best example of a this horrendous design. Sure, it works well for Apple, but for the increasingly tech-concious consumer it is an unfair expectation.

The podcasts that I currently subscribe and listen to are:
1) Engadget
2) Prison Planet
3) The World’s Technology Podcast
4) The Weekly Rundown

In my podcast travails so far, I’ve come across some absolutely terrible ones. That, I guess, is the disadvantage of having a free flow of information and media on an unregulated web. All of a sudden, the Chinese censorship doesn’t look at that bad 😀

What is a podcast anyway? Wikipedia does a good job of explaining it all. Podcast.net is also a useful, if a little confusing resource, for locating new podcasts. If anyone has knowledge of better software and new/more interesting audio-feeds, be sure to let me know!

Enough *** Already

Google never fails to make the headlines. Be it the release of the Google Pack, or setting a court date with the federal government. Last week it was their decision to enter the Chinese market with an official .cn website. This decision has been criticized by everyone and their uncles. Today, I heard perhaps the worst argument for why they should not have done this.

For the uninitiated, China, with its communist ruling party, does not have the same freedom of speech that we enjoy in what can be termed western influenced democracies. They required that if Google was launching an official Chinese version of their search engine, they censor results that the government was opposed to. China is dealing with the flack of such decisions in their own way, thought various human rights watchdog organizations.

I was listening to a newly downloaded podcast today and I was treated to some horrendous commentary. “Google is an American company, hiring American workers, making American dollars. I can not understand their reasoning for doing something so preposterous.” Thankfully, I have deleted this podcast from my players and have unsubscribe to its feed. It is pretty amazing the crap that people are allowed to put out on the net. All of a sudden I’m all for censorship! 😉

To refute: Google is owned by its share holders. One of its founders is Russian by birth. It stock is traded on the NASDAQ. It makes money in all kinds of currencies and they have employees all over the world.

All that is unimportant. The point of contention here is whether Google did the right thing by acceding to the demands of the Communist rule in China. I believe that they have done the right thing. By providing the Chinese with some results in their own language, in their own way, they are providing the basis of what might becomes the a movement for more freedom of speech and expression. Google, I am told, tells the user when their search has been censored. MSN and Yahoo, companies with a longer presence in China, do not do the same.

Yes, I am a Google aficionado. It may seem to readers, that in my eyes, Google can do nothing wrong. Not true. I have criticized some of their actions in the past. In this case, I believe they are doing the right thing. Here is a link to a well written article that I closely mirrors my own feelings.

P.S. The *** in the post title is meant to censorship. Get it? Har! Har!

Love affair with with Google

As my love affair with Google continues, I bring you two pieces of news that just makes they even more lovable. The first is that Google has proclaimed their IM platform, Google Talk to be an open federation. Quoting straight from the Google Blog, “Open federation is technical jargon for when people on different services can talk to each other.” Email is a federated system. As is the phone service. Can you imagine a world where one is only able to call or e-mail another who subscribes to the same service? I’d have to have a million different e-mail addresses (as opposed to my current 20!) and 10 different phones. Why should IM (and VoIP) be any different? Hooray for Google. As of now, Talk is only compatible with a few smaller players, most of whom proclaimed to be open source anyway. But hopefully the bigger players (Yahoo!, MSN, AIM, and Skype will all follow suite).

The second reason for my extolling the virtues of Google today? This blog entry. Phone companies have been threatening to create a “2-tiered” internet system for a while now. In simple terms, traffic from their own ISP, websites and customers will be given preference on pipes that they own. Unless the big websites (read Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc) pay them a fee. Google has gone ahead and called their bluff. I expect that Yahoo! will soon follow suite.

Now for what may even be termed a rant against Google. Surprised? I recently installed Google Desktop v2. In the 2 days that I’ve had it installed, I didn’t use it all that much. And it seemed to slow down my system a fair bit. I also noticed that my Google searches were taking upwards of half a second now. This is a big change, when I’m used to a response in under one-tenth of a second. By my own admission, I’m a fairly organised person. And this shows on my computer too. I can find almost any file on my PC within a few seconds. However, I can see the use of the software to a person with less technical competencies and a more disorganised lifestyle. If I can find a compelling reason to stay with the Desktop, I may continue with it. Otherwise, it is possible the first piece of Google software that I am disappointed with.