Saturday, March 29, 2008

A more interesting Google gadget

Here is a more interesting example of a Google Gadget in a blog post emailed from Outlook Express that is a mashup that reads and formats an RSS feed.

You should see a MyST Technology Blogsite feed:


-- Jack Krupansky

Google gadgets

I just wanted to check out the ability to insert a Google Gadget in a blog post emailed from Outlook Express.

Your should see an animated aquarium below:

Did you see it?

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

What is the sound of canon fire?

Most spelling errors are simply annoying, but some are quite amusing or even intellectually interesting. I ran across this one today in The New York Times of all places:

... machine gun and canon fire reverberated through the streets.

I am sure they meant cannon fire since canon refers to religious doctrine. Although, I suppose, a very heated discussion of religious doctine, especially in Iraq, could "reverberate" through the streets. Protesters were allegedly burning tires, so I suppose that could have been burning religious books as well to create "canon fires", but fires don't usually "reverberate."

Incidentally, even Google does not offer a spelling suggestion when searching for "canon fire", possibly since there are 18,500 hits for "canon fire" and it is so common a mispelling. But, Yahoo does offer the suggested correction!

More interesting is that a minority of the media that picked up the story from The Times actually corrected it. For example, from International Herald Tribune we read:

... machine-gun and cannon fire reverberated through the streets.

And, IHT even properly hypenated machine-gun.

Well, I guess even editors at The New York Times can sometimes have a bad day.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, March 24, 2008

Crossover between media articles and blog posts

It is not uncommon these days to run across media articles on web sites with comment sections that are awfully similar to the comment sections on blog posts. For example, here is a an article on MarketWatch by Kate Gibson entitled "Fed not in talks on buying mortgage securities" that has inspired 225 comments in just over an hour. On the one hand this suggests that "blogging" has gone mainstream, but on the other hand the articles themselves do not tend to be organized in a "log" form the way blog posts are. Nonetheless, we may in fact be witnessing the coevolution of blogging and media.

Another distinction is that the comment sections on these articles tend to be more of a discussion formum among the commenters rather than a conversation with the author of the article. That makes the article less like a blog post.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is Mozilla into vaporware now (Firefox 3)??!!

I saw the Reuters headline "Mozilla says Firefox 3 ready for prime-time" and immediately started up my copy of Firefox (I have IE as my main browser and have Safari as well), expecting it to automatically download the new version the same way Firefox always does with updates. I waited, but nothing happened. I waited some more and nothing happened. I directly visited the Mozilla/Firefox web site, but all I see is the download button for Firefox 2. So, I go back and read the article a little more carefully and it turns out that Firefox 3 is only available for pre-release. We may get a true release of Firefox 3 in June. In short, Firefox 3 is clearly not ready for prime-time.

Reading the article:

The program's creators told Reuters on Thursday that the privately-held company's trial version of Firefox 3 browser is ready for the masses to use after months of development.


Engineers at Mozilla are still putting the finishing touches on the software and hope to release the final version of Firefox 3 by the end of June...

In the old days they had a word for this: vaporware. Sure, the software does actually exist in some form, but a false claim is being made about what is available for general use right now.

Now to be fair, it is possible that the Firefox team gave Reuters the absolute straight facts and that it was journalistic "license" that lead to the misleading title and lead paragraph:

A new version of Mozilla's popular Firefox Web browser is ready for download with improved security and memory use as the tiny company takes a stab at Microsoft Corp's dominant Internet Explorer.

To be clear, there is no Firefox 3 release ready for prime-time available at this point.

To be fair to Reuters, they are a mainstream media news wire with little traditional expertise in the nuances of the software industry, so it was up to the Firefox team to have been more clear about what was really available today.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 16, 2008

90 minutes to be seen in Google Blog Search and get a Google Alert after email posting

Results will of course vary, but I thought I would give people a point of reference for how quickly a blog post might become available in Google Blog Search and Google Alerts. It took two minutes for Blogger to send me an email message indicating that Blogger had received my emailed blog post. It then took about 90 minutes before I received an email message from Google Alerts alerting me to a new blog post which happened to be mine. Now, it might be that Google Blog Search saw my new blog post somewhat quicker and that a larger chunk of the full 90 minutes simply included the latency for processing of the alert.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Entering Greek letters in a blog post

In my previous blog post I needed to refer to a word in Greek ("qumsz"), but there does not appear to be any easy way to enter Greek letters in Blogger. I composed my post in Outlook Express and submitted it via email. I was surprised that it came out as well as it did.

I used Microsoft Word and selected the Symbol font to compose the Greek word in a dummy document and then copy and pasted the Greek word into me email post text. Word has an Insert Symbol feature that allows you to see the graphics for the symbol codes in a map and then you can click on the symbol to insert it rather than figure out what special keys might be needed. Alas, neither Outlook Express nor the Blogger post editor have such a feature, so I had to resort to using Microsoft Word.

I don't think the Symbol font has any of the accented Greek letters, such as the accented "o" that I needed.

Maybe some kind reader has mastered the tricks for entering full Greek text on a normal PC keyboard and without any fancy software.

-- Jack Krupansky

Google Search alert for DVPDS is not very useful

I wrote a vision proposal for something I called Distributed Virtual Personal Data Storage (DVPDS) and I signed up for a Google Alert for "DVPDS" so that I could track any references. Alas, the alert is essentially useless, likely due to one or more bugs in the Google search/alert software.

Almost every single day I get an email from Google Alerts that looks like this:

Google Web Alert for: DVPDS

Plato's Cosmology: The Timaeus of Plato
If, then, ^ is not the dvpds or " breath-soul" proper but represents something else in the living man, we are left with something gaseous and so liable to ...

There are three problems with this alert:

  1. It occurs almost every single day even though I am sure that the source, a scanned book (Google Books), is not being updated every single day.
  2. The referenced document, a scanned book, does not in fact contain the text "DVPDS" or "dvpds". In fact, the text contains the Greek text "qumsz" (as close as I can tell.) Actually the fourth character appears to be an accented "o". My guess is that Google is actually scanning the Greek letter graphics and matching them to the closest Latin letters. They do look like a vague visual match.
  3. My intended alert was for only the acronym, "DVPDS", not the lower-case "dvpds."

Does anybody have any contacts at Google to pass these two bugs and a usability concern along to? Thanks!

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, March 07, 2008

Fatcow is back on her feet!

I went out for some errands and now I see that Fatcow is back up on her feet and mooing contentedly. My email inbox is chock full of new messages and my web sites are accessible. Moooooo!!!

-- Jack Krupansky

Update on Fatcow outage

I rooted around some more in some old email messages and found a billing inquiry from two years ago that had a toll-free phone number for Fatcow: 888-278-9780.

I called the number, it picked up right away, I selected tech support, and I instantly got a recorded message informing me that they did in fact have an outage that was affecting email and "some" web sites and that their technicians were working on it. I could have held and talked to someone, but I didn't want to bug them and I have some errands to run anyway.

Hmmm... maybe I caused the outage... shortly before I noticed loss of email connectivity I had added an email address to the whitelist for one of my web sites. Nah, that couldn't have triggered the outage, could it??!

-- Jack Krupansky

Fatcow is down

Yikes! I can't even receive or send email or visit my web sites that are all hosted by Fatcow. Their service is usually fairly rock solid and I rarely notice any outage, but today they have been down for about three hours.

I can't find a support phone number for them. That may be a tribute to how reliable they usually are.


Maybe I'll have to switch back to using Gmail. :)

-- Jack Krupansky

Google Blog Search has finally noticed my new blog!

Just when I was about to give up all hope of ever seeing my new blog, The Semantic Abyss - Plumbing the Semantic Web, show up in Google Blog Search, finally tonight I see it show up in the search results for "Semantic Abyss."

The blog posts for my new blog are still not showing up in Google Web Search though. Sigh.

This is clear progress, but why does it have to take so long??!! It took a full 10 days from the time of my first post.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Google Blog Search has still not found my new blog

It has been well over a week and there is still no sign of my new blog, The Semantic Abyss - Plumbing the Semantic Web, in either Google Blog Search or Google proper. I am seeing references to the new blog from my other blogs (including this one) and my web site show up in both, so this is very strange. I am still suspecting that this is due to some anti-splogging filter, but even my email to Blogger Support has not elicited a response, yet.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Tuning the Blogger template for my new blog

I'll be the first to admit that the graphic design and layout of my new blog, The Semantic Abyss - Plumbing the Semantic Web, leaves a lot to be desired, but I am depending on Blogger's built-in template library to give me something that will be at least marginally acceptable.

I wasn't happy with the Minima template, so I picked one of the other Blogger templates. My blog title no longer gets word-wrapped.

To be honest, I am clueless as to the quality of the template design and appearance of my blog. If someone can suggest another template, I'd be glad to try it.

More to the point, I would really like to know what design element changes would really result in more people reading my blog. I really do not care what people think about the appearance, as long as they are willing to come and stay and read (and comment on) what I have to say in my posts.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuning the title and description for my new blog

I was creating an anchor page for my new blog, The Semantic Abyss, on my Software Agent Technology web site and I realized that I wished the blog title actually had the term Semantic Web in it so that searches for "Semantic Web" would be more likely to find it. Also, link anchor text specifying the blog title would also have "Semantic Web" and be more likely to increase the relevance of my blog in Web searches.

So, I tuned the title from "Plumbing the Semantic Abyss" to "The Semantic Abyss - Plumbing the Semantic Web." The new title refers to both the object of my efforts and my own twist on it. Both are relevant in a title. The object is more relevant for access from a search engine. My own twist gives me some sense of a brand and provides a handle that people can use to find me easily from a search engine.

My original description already referred to the Semantic Web: "Exploring the depths of the semantic gap between the Semantic Web and the real world," but I wanted to add some nuances to it: "Exploring and bridging the depths of the semantic gap between the Semantic Web and the real world of real users and real consumers." In particular I wanted to emphasize an interest in trying to do something about the gap as well as simply describing it. I also wanted to emphasize the needs of users and consumers in particular as being my true, ultimate interest.

I also realized after the fact that plumbing is a play on words that is particularly relevant to my task. As a verb it refers to measuring depth, which is my first task. Computer professionals refer to software infrastructure as plumbing, so plumbing here is also a verb alluding to supplying and enhancing the infrastructure of the Semantic Web.

Still no sign of my blog in Google Blog Search!

-- Jack Krupansky