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Archive for June, 2005

Remote Data

Server room
Will you trust these for storing your mail?

Much information is migrating from our hard-drives to on-line servers: files (e.g. FTP), bookmarks ( or portals), (Web-based) mail, feeds (analysis and statistics by Feedburner), photos (notably Flickr) and newsgroups (e.g. Google Groups) are merely a few more major examples.

Storage of personal data remotely has its powers:

  • Data can be accessed from anywhere regardless of the computer used
  • Backup is often handled by the service providers
  • Liability shifts to service providers
  • Inferences, e.g. spam filtering in GMail that adapts in accordance to users’ purging behaviour, social bookmarks, tagging…

Some people, myself included, have learned the hard way why the dependency upon third parties is risky. Hard-core users have their todo lists on-line, their mail on third-party servers and often files or address books stored remotely. The dangers:

  • On-line servers may disappear due to bankruptcy, takeovers or corruption
  • Import (and especially export) facilities are intentionally limited to suppress user mobility
  • Servers fail or periodically go down; timescale for recovery is unknown
  • Limited space and ‘premium’ packages that later emerge
  • Pricing and policies which change, e.g. Yahoo stopped free POP3 support around 2001 (I too was a victim)

It is easier to blame somebody else but yourself as in the case of third-party dependencies. Yet, things are different when you control your own — shall we say — destiny. Ownership of your own domain is the first step towards an easier life in which the system administrator is yourself.


I have searched Google for NORSOC — a society in Manchester for Norwegian students. Surpisingly, there were no proper results.

That society seemed to have vanished or diminished significantly. As I had close Norwegian friends, I was a member of that society for 2 years and slowly accumulated over 200 photos from events. Those photos are no longer available on-line because the site is inexistent. I thought I’d post one (taken by Christian Brox) for memories from wonderful, more social undergraduate days.

I am the guy in the centre

Internet Plagiarism

Sky scrapers
Scrapers: which is the original and which is the fake?

There has recently been a rise in the number of scrapers across the Internet. Such sites ‘scrape’ content off other existing, content-rich sites and put it along with ads on the Internet. They can make a ‘quick buck’ by attracting errant users who use search engines. In the process, genuine sites lose visitors and potentially get penalised for duplicate content.

Apart from illegal scrapers and spam, there are marginal cases of plagiarism. Imported content must always be:

  • Contained within quotes
  • Quoted in part so that it contains enough text to serve as a ‘teaser’ for the original information source
  • Include at least one prominent link to the source

My new Project: MARS

MARS logo
“That MR brain image in the background is mine… but don’t tell anybody…”

I am taking on a new project these days. Its name comprises the words Models of Appearance, Registration and Segementation. It may prevent me from posting items in the Web log and in the newsgroups. If you wish to have a look at research work that I currently do towards my Ph.D., have a look at the new site, which I have arranged using the almighty PHP-Nuke.

Pacing Up Podcasts

SndStretchThere is a true advantage to having audio stored locally, as in the case of off-line podcasting. There is full control, in general, over the audio data in question. This means that podcasts can be sped up to fit the preferences of the listener. There is an XMMS plug-in called SndStretch (shown to the left) which I absolutely adore. It can speed up audio to be up to twice as fast, without change in pitch. No more squeaky voice due to change in pace. An half-hour show can be listened to it in only 15 minutes. This also works for music, which makes it more entertaining and variable.

Corrupting Formats

TV X-FilesVideo formats are among the most complicated formats to handle. Decoding and encoding of a frame sequence is an intricate process that different manufacturers take a different approach to solving. One solution is to settle down for no compression, the other being imposition of standards. There is one body, namely Microsoft among a few more, that embeds elements which are never agreed upon in the IT community. This corruption of inter-operable formats includes documents, spreadsheets, mail and even Web pages. Norway has had enough of that.

I would argue that there is no reason to get bitter. No open format, no view. I was never a huge TV/video anyway. When Microsoft change the encoding of text or textual formats, that descends to an entire new level though.

Google Earth

Google Earth
Click to enlarge the image

Google Earth is a project which strongly impresses me. I got hold of a Windows machine where Google Earth had been installed and grabbed a few screenshots of streets around Manchester, UK.

Given the satellite data, this technology is not overly innovative. All that is required are mappings of existing satellite images onto a sphere, then relying on OpenGL acceleration. The real issues to be faced are bandwidth and Google’s progress on 3-D geographical data acquisition.

What screenshots cannot show is the excellent real-time interaction with the scene. Roads, street names and other details can be toggled on/off. There is also some highly continuous motion when hovering from one place to another. To get a better impression, you may wish to view this gallery with more sample images.

Retrieval statistics: 18 queries taking a total of 0.196 seconds • Please report low bandwidth using the feedback form
Original styles created by Ian Main (all acknowledgements) • PHP scripts and styles later modified by Roy Schestowitz • Help yourself to a GPL'd copy
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