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Archive for January, 2006

Bye Bye to January

Sun is dimming

I suppose that could have said that “I leave to go on holiday” or “take a vacation” this afternoon. To me, it does not feel as though these expressions would be suitable though. They bear a positive connotation. “Taking a break” sounds like a better fit, but experience suggests that information anxiety and Internet addiction will take their toll. This time (for a change) I promised myself to remain off-line until February.

I reluctantly look forward to my Easter break, but it seems like pressure will again be associated with presentation of our work. It will possibly supersede the joy of some sunny days with family in Florida. I am yet to discover if I can still enjoy vacations. I once committed myself to avoiding them if possible. It was a new year’s resolution even.

Previous breaks (pessimistic/melancholic):

Nanny Country Snatches Search Logs

CCTV

‘Smile! Big brother is watching you.”

MSN, AOL and Yahoo have handed over log data to the U.S. government. The controversial move has seen strong resistance from Google however.

Yahoo acknowledges handing over search data requested in a subpoena from the Bush administration, which is hoping to use the information to revive an anti-porn law that was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Exposure of one’s search history is nothing new. In fact, exposure through search giants and third parties extends beyond this . The same companies maintain mail accounts and even statistics from other Web sites (Google Analytics).

Given sheer demand from up above, will they carrying on caving and exposing their customers’ data? Also, what about the new laws regarding data retention by ISP‘s? Everything you do gets logged, unless you use encryption of course. Being watched may be acceptable, but a so-called ‘nanny country’ is not, at least in my humble opinion.

Related items:

Fear Fought by Spreading of Fear

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

UNFORTUNATELY I am departing tomorrow, so I decided to pull a few pearls of zeal off my mind. Linux advocacy is, after all, an out-of-the bag obsession to me. [wink /]

The outsider to Linux creates fear (or FUD) and in turn spreads it, due to personal fears. It is a certain awareness that drives this cycle of fear-to-fight-fear effect. One knows that when Linux becomes a hot commodity, many new users will require Linux expertise. It is then that people with knowledge of Open Source software have the most valued skills. Perhaps, just perhaps quite suddenly, they find themselves propsper in a market where there is shortage of such skills. It is then that an army of spyware removal ‘experts’ becomes redundant. It is then that Windows expertise no longer has its market. What Windows advocates essentially do by coming to Linux forums and peppering them with lies is defending their jobs.

But guess what? The road goes where the source is located. Closure leads to dead ends. The deficiencies of closed-source formats are perceived and condemned by more and more people and corporations.

Criticism of Today’s Web

Internet

Two recent articles, which are definitely worth reading, are listed below.

Search engines extract too much of the Web’s value, leaving too little for the websites that actually create the content. Liberation from search dependency is a strategic imperative for both websites and software vendors.

To you who are toiling over an AJAX- and Ruby-powered social software product, good luck, God bless, and have fun. Remember that 20 other people are working on the same idea. So keep it simple, and ship it before they do, and maintain your sense of humor whether you get rich or go broke. Especially if you get rich. Nothing is more unsightly than a solemn multi-millionaire.

This reminded me of a fun blog which is purely dedicated to Web 2.0 bashing.

Browser Compatibility Responsibilities

Firefox and other icons in the dock

I recently volunteered to take browser compatibility more seriously. I never truly believed there was a place for platform discrimination. However, refusal to upgrade from Internet Explorer to Firefox is not quite so excusable. Web standards should be fundamental enough to be supported at the very core of a browser and behave reliably. And yet, I realise that my attitude must change.

The context of this post is WordPress, a blogging platform whose development and community I have been a part of for over a year. In fact, I have put my name down among the Roles in WordPress Wiki page. To quote:

Testing / QA

Browser Testing – Testing Firefox, IE, Opera, and Safari against major WP functionality; documenting bugs; coding workarounds.

  • I have a large variety of browsers which are built for Linux (including old versions), so I will continue to test nightlies and report inconsistencies and incompatibilities whenever time permits. I can use emulation to test under Safari and IE, but I have WinXP and an iMac at work. –[[User:schestowitz|schestowitz]] 3:38, 13 Jan 2006 (GMT)

The idea of roles in WordPress was introduced less than a fortnight ago. While editing the Wiki, I also decided to bind a vague personal description to an empty placeholder page which carries my name. I chose:

An ordinary guy who is overly fascinated by ‘anything Linux’ and ‘anything PHP/MySQL’.

My role involves using a large variety of browsers, especially exploring the Administration Panel (/Dashboard) side. Due to Safari and Internet Explorer, I will have to work on alternative platforms, too. Mac OS X is powerful, but rarely has the ‘expessivability’ of GNU/Linux. Also, it has commercial strings attached to it. Many of its applications bear a cost. To test cross-Web browser compatibility, I can disengage from the 3 Linux that I regularly use and take advantage of the iMac and Windows XP machines at the office. These operating system definitely have a place; just not in my house [smile]! They have not been switched on for months, but now there is a reason for a small change. I love WordPress! As matter of face, it was love at first sight and the affair carries on.

I have reported a few bugs already and some have been resolved:

Selective Exposure

Girl covers ears
Refusal to accept deceit

MEN, just like women, tend to show their strengths while hiding the weaknesses. It is a rational choice. Be smart and you will wish to boast about it. Chess clubs and advanced literature and among the destined venues, attractions or vocation. Be strong and you will probably wind up spending a lot of time at the gym. Social people (or extroverts) are more talkative, so they are inclined to go out more.

The same principles apply to one’s appearace. Guys can opt for long sleeves, short sleeves or no sleeves. Shorts, jeans and even baggy pants are all acceptable. Girls endowed with nice legs will go out in skirts. Girls with an attractive figure expose their torso nowadays, or even their arms. Those with large breasts often use their cleavage as a ‘weapon’.

The conclusion of the matter is that one’s exposed side — that which we are most aware of — hides the downsides and boasts glory. Never be misled by the cover or even be demoralised by impression made by peers. The neighbour’s lawn looks greener for a reason.

Search Engines Dig Deeper

SEARCH engines are constantly finding new ways to improve their performance. While there are many methods involved, some of them are less ethical than others. Think of the following perplexing scenario: Refinement of one’s results by means of crawling and utilising the opponents’ data, which is ‘exposed’ to everyone. In legitimate cases this is known as “harvesting” or — put negatively — ascribe to it the connotation of “scraping”. The root of the idea is use of search engines to improve and refine results of another. Scroogle and Webcrawler, for instance, are dependent purely on this concept. There is a cyclic trap here, too. Search engine ‘poisoning’ comes to mind.

Tractor armThink of MSN using Google Directories or Google using del.icio.us, which is a social linkage database that is now owned by Yahoo. Moreover, directories like DMOZ are non-profit, yet they are often open for use (or misuse) by profit-making companies. Link bases like deli.ci.us (owned by Yahoo) have the potential of refining results. As they are publicly available, could anyone truly restrict rivals from accessing and using the potentially valuable data? These links are contributed and managed by the public and have no prescribed copyrights. The depth of exploration for search engines does not seem to be limited, which is worrying.

There seems to be a certain ethical and legal border where image crawling and serving them within frames (Google Images) become questionable, let alone public forums, UseNet included (Google Groups). This by all means refers to Google Images and Google Groups, quite exclusively even. How deep should one be allowed to crawl the data in existence and how should it be attributed to the source? To dare is to win, but often this leads to demise which is catalysed by public opinion. There is no doubt as to whether company acquitions are intended for more extensive data collection, assuming that information, if obtained even in the form of spying, is available. Information can become powerful, but it has a cost which is often the death of privacy.

As I carry on with my drivel on the infiltration of search engines, I also discover the belated arrival of a European search engine.

In his New Year’s address outlining his administration’s plans for 2006, French President Jacques Chirac focused on plans for a European search engine to rival US internet companies such as Yahoo and Google. Some of the top tech labs in France and Germany are reportedly working on the ‘Quaero’ (Latin for ‘to search’) search engine.

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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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