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Archive for November, 2005

KDE to Reach Africa

Children in Africa

LARGE quantities of Red Hat-based terminals are expected to reach the African people. This comes a month or two after Microsoft refused to give Africa cheaper software, arguing that skills were needed rather than more software.

South African news site Tectonic is reporting how KDE terminals are Giving South African Farmers a Leg-up.

[...]

The government’s IT manager said “People’s perception of open source is that everything is command-based, text-based. Our pilot projects are meant to address that perception.”

On the same topic: 100 Dollar Open Source Laptop

US Army and its Relationship with Games

Plastic troop

IT is no secret that violent video games lead to crime. It is also a commonly-known fact that war games motivate people to join the army, thereby making their computer-born fantasies become real. More unusually, however, the BBC confirms that war games became an army initiative and are used as a training tool.

America’s Army is one of the most popular computer games on the planet and like many games, it is a shoot-em-up, get-the-bad guys kind of affair.

But unlike other games, America’s Army is truly a product of the US military. The Army first released the game a few years ago as a recruiting tool.

When one comes to think of it, this is a form of brainwash. The association with ‘war culture’ is a worrying factor as this is no longer flight simulator, whose aim differs.

Related item: RPG Fantasy World

Syndicating News

Eye of the News

FOR the past 4 months I have been syndicating 7 distinct news feeds. The feeds contain search results for keywords of interest, which pertain to computer vision. I syndicate from a couple of sources, which makes the scope even broader; the total number of feeds is 14 at present.

I needed to keep myself regularly informed about developments in computer vision. That field is not only important to my research. It it also serves some required content, which enables me to extend The Computer Vision Digest. For the task of news ‘digestion’, I have been using RSS feeds from Google News and Yahoo! News. Both merely serve as aggregators, encapsulating and centralising news from agencies from all around the world, niches included.

As much as I respect and even fancy Google, I am disappointed with their news service. I am almost reluctant to say that their news aggregation is filled with (if not plagued by) commercial sites that attempt to sell stuff rather than provide news items. It is not only implied by the .com suffix, but also by content, which is glaringly promotional. This is of course a real deterrent, which becomes appalling at times. Others have noticed similar issues, so it is not a matter of coincidence, but a recurring pattern. I have come to take every link that spot in Google News with a grain of salt. Rather often it leads me to what can only be described as news spam — an attempt at sales that is shrewdly disguised as a news item.

To syndicate news, import any of the following templates into your feeds reader. Replace KEYWORD1 and KEYWORD2 with keywords of interest and isolate keywords using a plus (the + symbol).

RSS2

http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&q=KEYWORD1+KEYWORD2&ie=UTF-8&output=rss

RSS2

http://news.search.yahoo.com/news/rss?p=KEYWORD1+KEYWORD2&ei=UTF-8&fl=0&x=wrt

This time, for a change, my warm recommendation goes to Yahoo. They simple manage to isolate real news from the ‘noise’.

Related items on feed-based services:

Ubuntu Named Winner Among Linux Distributions

Season of the playful penguins
Season of the playful penguins from Oyonale

LINUX distributions and their great diversity lead to endless discussions at best and flame wars at worst. Because they all incorporate the same kernel, they can be equated to beer from different brands (the infamous beer analogy). Each person, however, will try to convince you that his/her favourite beer is distinct and superior to all others.

A survey was conducted by ZDNet, which aimed to identify the best Linux distribution for a small business. Among the options that have been put to the test: Mandriva Linux 2006, Novell Linux Desktop 9, Red Hat Desktop 4, SUSE Linux 10 and Ubuntu Linux 5.1. The outcome:

We emerged from our Linux experience with a strong preference for Ubuntu Linux 5.1, with SUSE Linux 10 a close second. Both did everything we required of them, and both have very low setup costs. Ubuntu, in particular, costs absolutely nothing to purchase.

Interestingly enough, Ubuntu and SuSE have naturally become my preferred distributions. At some stage, I had 2 Ubuntu boxes and one preloaded with SuSE, but I now have 2 SuSE boxes and one which runs Ubuntu. One wonders if the crucial factor which is cost could have put SuSE at the very top rank. OpenSuSE can definitely make the exception in due time.

Related link: also in the headlines, among the ‘recent attractions’, is a comprehensive review of processors — mainly a collection of benchmarks comparing AMD and Intel.

Newspapers and Spying

Scare
“How did a newspaper reveal so much about me…?”

SPYING provides information. Information is power. The simple implication is that spying grants an organisation extra power. Especially, it gives an organisation advantages over its competitors. For this very particular reason, search engines put an end to privacy over time. As a matter of fact, the Internet in general has exposed most of us at a certain level. Controversially enough, Google can finally analyse the behaviour of rival search engines as they possess statistics of many Web sites.

Search engines and information management authorities are not alone in this. What I see more and more of are signup requirements for reading on-line newspapers (the New York Times is a notable example). I am not speaking of paid subscriptions, but rather about identification. It is no longer a secret that sales of in-print newspapers decrease, if not slowly diminish. As previously said, one must evolve and this includes publishers. More and more people simply find greater convenience in reading news on their personal workstation. So how can publishers keep up and protect their revenue? Can spying provide a solution?

Newspapers and publishers might not like the use of network bandwidth, which even when accompanied by advertisement, does not give them the same touch with the readers. Moreover, newspapers become more susceptible to plagiarism (which is a simple copy & paste), frequently due to millions of bloggers, some of whom are immoral. I occasionally find a heavily-cited article in blogs and it is ranked higher than its origin, which stems in mainstream media. Needless to say, such articles are copied verbatim, in full, and neglect to link to the source. No wonder the media is afraid of blogs.

All in all, newspaper head towards targetted content and they attain to get full information about their readers. This way, content (e.g. articles), as well as commercials, can be tailored to individuals. By localising items and customising them to a person’s taste, the relevance and thus value rises. This all comes at the expense of the individual’s privacy, of course. It all depends on the ability to make assumptions and generalisations in the process of ‘profiling’ an individual reader. Since the reader enters personal details at the start, too much is known. The browser cookie sooner or later contains full personal information about the reader, as well as all the article s/he has read. Similar issues and can in fact be ascribed to Google’s cookie.

Google Glitch Lets Porn Get Through

Porn shop

I thought that the following story would be of interest. A little hack in the new service allowed it to be spammed rather quickly.

A technology glitch temporarily turned Google’s new personal listings service, Google Base, into a vast, virtual red-light district earlier this week.

Some bystanders speculate that Google Base is intended to take the place of eBay and Craigslist (as previously mentioned). I heard another analysis that said Wikipedia is under threat too. The rate of Google’s expansion is by all means phenomenal.

Google Sometimes Listen

Telephone

GETTING in touch with Google is no easy chore. It has actually become a widely-known fact; even a notoriety to say the least.

Google Groups has is often becoming a gateway for spammers, from which to hit UseNet en masse. The Google Groups complaints address, namely abuse@google.com, has proven to be waste of one’s time. “Dissatisfied with the results” seems to be another time killer that rarely leads to anything productive. I have tried these myself in vain and heard from others about similar experiences.

There are exceptions, of course, which help us ‘little people’ voice our desires and be heard by the almighty Google. Examples:

  • Removing pages from the Google index or removing posts from Google Groups, which mirrors UseNet.
  • For unjustified site penalties, one can file a reinclusion request. It needs some careful and strict keywords, however, in order to be channelled to the right department.
  • The yet-not-so-public Google telephone number: +1 605 330 0100. This enables you to get an E-mail address with a daily passphrase, which gives it priority and makes it be read. For queries about one’s site and a conversation with an actual person, the route (‘code/digit maze’) is presently 5, then 3.

I truly believe that a large company such as Google, whose dominance in IT is undeniable, ought to take user queries seriously and make points of contact more trivial and responsive. If you show you care, others will care for you too. Reciprocity is gold.

Antennas and satellite dishes
Occasionally, communication belongs to Google

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