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Thursday, March 31, 2005

The always useful Internet resources Newsletter: Issue 127 has just been published. I'm not going to list everything in it because quite frankly, you need to see it yourself. If you're interested in anything to do with what's on the net, this is a must visit.
I've been playing around with a bit of software called Jybe. It's very clever and I'm quite impressed with it - it has excellent uses for training/teaching purposes. Essentially you download the software and it installs into IE or Firefox. You create a session and other users can then connect to it in real time. They can then see the webpage that you're looking at, and you have a chat window at the bottom of the screen where you can converse backwards and forwards, so it's ideal if you're not co-located. Everything goes through their server, so no-one actually 'connects' to you, so there are no problems with security.

It's a little bit slow at times to refresh pages, and it doesn't take too kindly to tabbed browsing, nor does it automatically scroll down a page, but other than that, it's very nifty. I can see all sorts of uses for it in a training situation.

The download is very quick, installation is automatic, although it adds another line to your browser the toolbar can be hidden when not needed, and it's entirely free!

If you're a trainer, or you just want to talk your mum through how to use eBay, take a look for yourself.
Some time ago I posted a link to an American Phishing test. I'm pleased to tell you that there is now a UK Phishing Test using UK examples that might make rather more sense to us than the American one. Phishing, for those who don't know, are fake emails that supposedly come from banks etc. that are designed to get us to give out personal details, which can then be used to get money out of accounts and so on. No-one would fall for them, surely? If you're sure you're too clever then try the test and see how well you do!
From Google Help there is a little snippet that explains that Google automatically instructs Firefox to start downloading the top search result before you click on it, so that if you do, it will load faster. It can do this because of a special prefetching feature in Firefox that isn't available in IE. If you don't like the idea, you can always tell Firefox not to do it - instructions on how to do this are available via the link.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

MSN Gains Search Market Share up from 12.8% to 14.2% in February.
Sophos articles about spam: Sophos report reveals words that spammers most commonly try to disguise Link says it all.
My friend and internet consultant Karen Blakeman now has a weblog. Now added to my list of 'must read' logs.
Netdisaster allows you to type in an address and then have various catastrophes, such as floods 'attack' the page. All safe, harmless and mildly amusing.
The site from Proviser allows you to input a post code and see house prices. Sales of less than a year ago require free registration.
The World Sunlight Map is worth looking at. It shows you what part of the world is daylight at any moment in time.
I'm linking to The Unveiling of Britain simply because it's interesting to me. It's a selection of maps and views that trace the growing awareness of the British Isles and their place in the wider wider world between 800-1600.
Yahoo! Creative Commons Search is limited to content that has a creative commons license. Briefly, CC is content that authors are happy for you to share and reuse, under certain conditions. More information from following the link. It's going to be a very useful little search engine, and one that is worth while checking out.
Intelliseek's BlogPulse is a new blog search engine, indexing almost 10,000,000 weblogs. Not played with it yet, but it looks as though it does what it should do.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

I'm now done with blogging until after Easter. I'm attendingParagon2, which is the annual British Science Fiction convention for 4 days of fun and frolics. I hope you have a nice holiday break yourself.
Firefox extensions for Google is a nice small collection of must haves if you're both a Firefox and Google user.
Gigablast, which is an ok search engine has now released a new option - related pages. With some searches (but not all) you get a little yellow box with links. These are the related pages, defined as pages that are about the subject you're interested in, but which perhaps do not contain the words you searched on. Oh yes, and the index is now at 1.5 billion pages.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

BBC NEWS article claims that 1 in 10 users have bought products advertised in email. Astonishing!
An article in Internet Week discusses the fact that consumers are moving away from newspapers and heading for search engines to find local merchants and services. Newspapers becoming less important? Surely not!
BBC NEWS Manchester Cathedral hosts a Da Vinci night is something that I still can't get my head around. The news item says "an effort to discover the truth behind a controversial best-selling novel.' Here's the thing - there IS no truth. It's *fiction*. It's a *story*. It's *made up*. How hard is this to understand? has been very busy recently adding in new columns for searching. There are dozens of them now, from the NY Times to Wikipedia, Furl, British Library, Flickr, chess games, creative commons and more. While not quite personalisation, it's certainly moving in that general direction.
The futures group has produced a document detailing a vision of the public library service in 2015. It's worth reading, though I didn't agree with much of what was said. I think the idea that librarians should wear uniforms is going to raise eyebrows! I was also interested to note that 'internet' is mentioned once. There is also an assumption (from the quick read that I gave it) that books will still be around in the same way in 15 years that they are now. While that may be the case, I didn't see much discussion on that point. The point was also made (quite rightly) that in 10 years time we're going to be dealing with technologies we don't even know about yet!

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Who2 Homepage This is a fun site - providing you with factual information on famous people. It's not entirely serious, but does have a lot of good factual information on famous individuals. Good for quick short biographies and links to other sites.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Zoominfo is a search engine that is supposed to find individuals for you. They say that they have over 25,000,000 summaries of people on the web. Nice in theory, not so good in practice. The trouble with it is that it finds individual mentions of people, and displays information about them as though they are from that company/organisation or website. Consequently there's a dozen or more summaries of me spread all over the shop, with no way of linking between them. It's useful (I suppose) if you know all about the person you're looking for, but if you don't, it's not overly helpful.
Best Search Tools Chart is a nice quick reference chart listing major search engines, their databases, Boolean, other search options and miscellaneous items about them. Useful in a training situation.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Netimperative - Top 10 UK search engines is yet another listing. The top ten are: (63%), MSN (7%), (7%), (5%), Ifind (4%), (2%), (1%), (1%), (1), Altavista (.7%).

The interesting thing here is that Google is more popular in the UK than in the US. Full report is available via the link.
The Social Science Information Gateway, SOSIG has produced a subject news gateway for all things general election wise. Yes, I know we don't have a date yet, but this is an excellent idea. And what's even better is that they have produced an RSS feed for it, so I can add it to my aggregator. Excellent stuff! It's really nice to see more sites being proactive in this way.
A press release from TurboScout informs the waiting world that they've added a Firefox extension. This allows Firefox users to customise the browsers inbuilt search box. It allows users to compare results from over 90 different search engines in 7 different categories.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Resources for School Librarians looks like a very useful site - sections on learning and teaching, technology, continuing education, employment, information access and so on. I suspect that it's probably US oriented, but worth taking a look at even if you're not based there.
Hundreds of Literary Quotes - Quotations from Literature - LitQuotes provides over 1,300 quotes from the world of literature. Arranged by author, title, topic, new quotes. Nice fun site.
Regular readers will have noticed a lack of postings this week. This is because I was out teaching in Mauritius at the British Council. You can see a few pictures of the island in my Mauritius March 2005 Fotopic album. If you want to, that is!
I've just discovered Unsafe Search which is an interesting search engine that tries to do the opposite of what Google normally does with a filtered search. The Google filter obviously lets you filter out pornographic and sexually explicit content using the Safesearch function. However, it's not easy to check to see what Google does regard as being unsafe. With this search engine (well, modified Google interface really), you type in your search, it runs a normal query, then runs it again with safesearch enabled. The 'safe' results are then subtracted, leaving the 'unsafe' ones. Clearly the idea behind the engine is to get people to the porn more quickly, but it's a very interesting way to see exactly what Google thinks is unsafe. I ran a variety of different searches (you can think up your own, I'm not listing them here) and in almost every case there was material that was perfectly acceptable but was still in the 'unsafe' list. I already knew that Google tended to go overboard slightly on this, but it was still a surprise. Worth trying out.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Factbites is very nifty. It gives you factual information (no surprise there!) from a variety of different sources. It seems to work best if you just put in the subject that you want - 'When was Robert E Lee born?' didn't work at all, but 'Robert E Lee' gave me his birth date immediately. Very useful for fast, factual answers.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Acronym Finder This looks like fun for when you need to know what something means. What's particularly clever is that it returns a list of appropriate matches, but allows you to sort on Most common (default), information technology, military/government, science/medicine, organizations, business/finance, slang/chat or alternative searches. Simple, clever and quick.
Another Microsoft venture, which isn't officially supported is theirSearch aggregator.You need to click on 'show' in order to figure out what's going on. Interestingly it keeps copies of your recent searches as well, and allows you to add content. This has the potential to be really interesting, so I'll play around with it for a while and get back to you.
No sooner have I found a Bookmark manager that I'm happy with, it looks like Microsoft are coming out with the MSN bookmark manager. I'venot tried it out yet because 'Firefox support is coming soon!' but when I get around to firing up IE I'll take a look at it.

Thursday, March 10, 2005 I've been looking for a good bookmark manager for a while now, and tripped over this site. I uploaded my bookmarks in a couple of seconds and edited them really easily. It also comes with a utility to add them directly from your browser if you wish. You can also make them public or private.
Google News can now be customised to change sections around and they have more information on their FAQ page
BBC NEWS | UK | Libraries 'in scandalous state' can be filed under 'Tell us something we don't know'.
A useful list from of blogging libraries, categorised into public, academic, school, special and a couple of others. All US from what I can see, but a nice summary.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Brainboost is a natural language search engine - just type in your question and see what you get. Overall, I was pretty impressed, and I asked it some difficult questions, which it managed fairly well, such as:
What is the population of London? (Though it assumed I meant London UK, not London in Canada)
Where is London? (Gave me various good answers, mixed in with a few locations of hotels in London)
Why did the South lose the Civil War? (Wasn't too hot on that one, but linked accurately to websites)
Who is Phil Bradley? (Pulled the answer straight from DMOZ)
What's the best search engine (That one did confuse it rather a lot)
Is Google better than Yahoo? (Wasn't too bad on this one).

Definately worth trying out.
Welcome to PubSub. I'm really liking this. Pubsub matches your requests/interests against new information as it appears in real time. It tracks over 8 million sources on your behalf. You can create very simple searches - just a word or two in fact (though oddly it defaults to OR rather than AND), but it does have excellent Boolean capability, including nested logic. You can also limit searches to various fields, such as your keywords in the title. You can also limit to press releases, SEC/EDGAR filings, newsgroup posts and, strangely enough, airport delays and earthquakes.

Results can be returned to you in a variety of ways; if you wish, you can just go back to the site, which remembers who you are, or you can download a sidebar for IE or Firefox for example.

It's completely free and you don't even have to register to use it.
Nooked RSS Directory is a new directory where you can search for corporate RSS feeds by keyword or browse categories. They seem to have a fairly wide definition of 'corporate' since they include a feed from 10 Downing Street and one from a small Scottish Football Club! Still fairly empty as of yet, but worth bookmarking and coming back to in a few months.
Seth's Blog: Eyesite is a page that shows how people look at Google results. It's an interesting triangle up in the top left hand corner. Knowing that people are trained in this way might have some effect on how we put web pages together.
BlogStreet : Blog Profile is a useful set of tools to find other weblogs to read. Simply type in the details of one that you already like and it will find other that link to, are similar to, or which blogroll it.
VisioBrand is a clever little search engine that gives you access to the home pages of various different brands. Simply type in the brand that you're interested in and it'll pop up with the home page of appropriate organisations. I tried it with Levi and Virgin and both times got the home page that I was expecting. Didn't work with British Telecom though. However, it's certainly worth using if you want to get straight to a company home page, or to see what other companies are saying about the one you're interested in.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Info@UK from the British Council is now available. It's a monthly guide to major UK information society developments. Packed full of really interesting information it's almost useless. Why? Because it only comes in 2 flavours, Word or .pdf which means that it's difficult to read, almost impossible to search easily, I can't simply click on links to take me to places that interest me, and it doesn't have an RSS version that I can use. I think the British Council is fantastic, and I do a lot of work with them, but please get into the 21st century; it can be so much better than this!
I've compiled a short list of Search engines to help you find material quicker. It's a collection of resources that I use on a regular basis arranged under different topics. It should make your life quicker and easier if you're not sure which search engine to use for which type of query, and for created a search strategy

Monday, March 07, 2005

Matt Paines has blogged some useful stuff on the US Search Engine Conference that took place last week.
TurboScout is a nice search engine which allows you to search the results of 23 search engines by typing in your search, and then clicking on the engines that interest you. Very good for comparing results or top tens.
Xtra-Google - The Best of Google on one searchable page is a nifty little search page with links to everything that Google offers. Simple but very useful.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

A current boast over at the Google Blog is that you can now get current conditions and a forecast. Actually, no you CANNOT get current conditions and a forecast, unless you happen to based in the US. While I'm all in favour of Google innovating new things it would be really nice if one of their software engineers could actually spend their 20% project time by opening an atlas and recognising that actually the US is only part of the world.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Ask Jeeves Image search has been updated to give more relevant results. From the searching that I've done I think they've done a good job. However, what I would really like to have seen was some way of being more specific about the type of search I could do. Size of images, colour/b&w, format - none of that is available. They still need to do a lot to catch up I think.
FindForward Direct Image Search is another image search engine. I don't really like this one though, since it displays the images full size and without any information as to their properties. It also takes a long time for the page to load. It's an interesting idea, but for me, it just doesn't do the job. I want images quickly, and with at least some basic background information. I'll decide if I want to see them full size, thank you very much.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Take a look at the Yahoo front page from 10 years ago.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005 calls itself the human search engine because it draws its results from the bookmarking service. This is a similar system to Furl, which is one of my favourites. I like the concept, by Spurl is just too small to provide much useful data yet. Now, if you add in Furl, and a couple of others, I can see the point of it, so I await developments with interest.