Almost a Blog

Month: July, 2004

Mythical beast or Masterpiece

Pagerank! The term gets passed about like penicillin in a brothel. The cure-all for all afflictions! The bandaid for the unmentionables. Bliss in a bottle!
Unfortunately, penicillin is no longer the universal bandaid and hasn’t been for some time. Like everything else, we’re in an arms race. The Search versus the Found and we’re in extra time with search engines at a distinct disadvantage.
It does’nt sound too terrible but there are billions at stake both in dollars and in time. Just think how much time Google has saved you over the last few years? Could we quantify this? No we can’t, it would be like trying to quantify the spoken word. Google is much more than just a handy tool when you get a bit stuck looking for something, its become the biggest research tool in existence and its worth is immeasurable. I can hear people saying that the internet is the biggest research tool, no its not, its only the repository. How can I say this?
A library ain’t worth bugger all unless ther’s some way to find things. Put a blindflod on and go to the British library. Find me a copy of the Bible, I don’t care what version, its the most common book in existence so it shouldn’t be a problem, should it?
The problem is that the internet is an unordered jumble of things and its net worth is only appreciated if we have some way to navigate it.
I want the search engines to win this arms race because it will increase our capacity to move forward on a global scale, reducing research times, aiding communication. What other technology can say they are doing all this.
But at what cost!?
Some of the more popular engines are up to all sorts of tricks to leverage advantage over each other and I think some of them might be losing site of whats putting bread on their table. For instance, its quite common for search engines to accept money from companies to have their adverts shown above and beyond everyone else regardless of the best results for the search. Much to my dismay Yahoo does this, amongst others. Is this really what we need? In an age were information is king should money dictate what we see. It’s always been the big fish that have dictated what we see eat and breathe so whats new.
Is it wise for search engines to start dictating what we find or to track what we search for. Would they go that far? Are they already there? Quite a few of the main search engine are and I don’t like it!
No adverts is one of the main reasons I use Google. I am pretty confident that the search results are the net result of some mathematical jiggery pokery and money has not been a deciding factor. If this changes then I may move and I would say that a lot of other people might move as well. Nearly everyone switched from Yahoo, Alta-vista and the other engines a few years ago because Google was the best thing since sliced bread.
However, I have found myself using Yahoo on occasion to find what I am looking for when previously I would not even have contemplated using it. Are other users finding this to be the case? If they are then we might start to see a switch from Google to engines previously considered inferior.
Google is by no means mythical but it is a masterpiece.I am however concerned that it might need some refurbishment.

Badgers on the Brain

Its a rare occasion when I nearly wet myself with laughter. However, the following site had me in stitches for ages
Its absolutely mad. I actually found it several months ago and decided to go looking for it again. Particularly the badger scene, weebl 😉

Show me NOW

There is an ever increasing amount of information on the internet, this fact appears obvious in the extreme but what might not be so obvious is the ever increasing amount of duplicate information.
Have you ever tried looking for “man find unix” on google, nearly every page displayed has the same information. I know that some pages are slightly different but its becoming increasingly difficult to find what you are actually looking for. This is not an isolated incident, most search engines are suffering.
Google was a fantastic leap in the right direction but has anything changed in the last 2 years that visibly makes a difference to the layman, I haven’t seen it, have you?
Everyone assumes that the more pages a search engine has in its database the better the search engine. As popular as this school of thought is, its wrong! very wrong!! Why?
Up until 2 months ago I used Google exclusively and recommended it to everyone who wanted to find something on the internet. Just recently I have found that Google is not providing me with the goods. I have often caught myself switching to Yahoo in order to find what I am looking for, I have even went as far as Looksmart and got better results.
At first I considered these breaches from the one true search engine as isolated anomalies arising from the eclectic nature of the topics I was researching but empirical evidence suggests otherwise. I am now going to Google and trying a search and then going straight to Yahoo and getting what I am looking for. Am I a heretic to suggest that Google is just not cutting it any more, quite possibly, but I am not the only one.
As much as I love Google, it appears to be slipping compared to other engines. However, I will not give up on it because unlike most search engines I actually trust Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page to act in the best interests of the users. Maybe I am being naive in thinking Google will retain their morals in light of going public but hey, I’m an eternal optimist.
There goes any chance of ever attaining my dream job 😉

Where is the name Harry From

Years ago I can remember looking up my name in one of those Baby name books to see what the name Harry means. This was before we had the internet so I was very limited in my investigations.
This has changed so I decided to find out what the name Harry means. It has left me more confused than ever.

Unreadable site

I found another site I could not read. Why do people insist on using colors that clash.
Don’t know why I am linking to this site because its unreadable

Ignorance Arrogance or Autism

I had the pleasure of attending a technical talk the other night at the Morgan Stanley building down by the docklands. Or at least it was pleasurable when I was able to hear the speakers. Let me elaborate.
Lets for arguments sake say that you went to a talk by one of the following:

witten.gifEdward Whitten. One of the smartest guys on the planet. His brain generates so much heat they run a heat exchanger around his head. This runs a 2 Mega Watt steam turbine.

don.gifDonald Knuth Intel are experimenting with Knuth’s DNA in order to grow their next generation chips.

Would you take along your laptop. Some of you probably would. Would you plug it in? Possibly, you might want to record the talk. Would you type while they are talking. I wouldn’t, it’s pig ignorant. You might not know it but some of us want to hear them speak. The tapping on the keyboard is distracting.
Perhaps you’ve already had the pleasure a talk by Donald Knuth. We’d all be dying to ask him a question. I know I would. Some of us would be itching to stick our hands in the air and grab his attention. Should we talk to your mates or interrupt him with some witticism’s only you find funny. I think bloody not!
So why the hell do some people think its ok to inflict us with this crap when the speaker is not someone famous. These people took their time to do the talk and I was there to listen to it. I don’t want to hear the audience unless it’s relevant. If you really want to tap on your keyboard leave the room. If you have to interrupt make sure its something worthwhile or wait to the end of the talk or talk to the speaker after it. I am convinced that an awful lot of people in IT have Autism or Aspergers but don’t know it.
So, I ask, is it ignorance, Arrogance or Autism?

Cruise Missile Going Cheap

Have you ever read something and thought that there is no justice in the world. Have you ever been pushed far enough that in an act of desperation you would do anything to keep yourself sane, Bruce Simpson has and he’s selling cheap cruise missiles because of it. The New Zealand Government has decided to persecute him because he showed that it was possible to build a cruise missile for 5000 dollars and they didn’t like it.
Bruce Simpson Cruise Missile Maker extraordinare
Now if I had been the government the last thing I would have done would have tried to draw any attention to him at all and possibly even hire him. It’s a shame he has been pushed to the point of offering to build a missile for anyone but if you treat a man like and animal you are sure to be bit.
I thought that the lady holding the torch stood for freedom and liberty so why do we still hear about governments persecuting people, particularly America. You would have thought that history (our greatest teacher) teaches that persecution is a fine way to shoot yourself in both feet at the same time whilst simultaneously lighting cigarettes near a gas leak.
Will we ever learn?

Does Mathematics ever get any easier

I don’t think so. Just when I think I am getting to grips with something I get a good slap around the face from out of the blue. Is it this that has kept people all through the ages fighting for some insight in the hope that they might deliver a good slap back.
It all seems so much like an enormous quagmire were an unwary step might have you screaming for help before being swallowed up in muddy oblivion. On the other hand when you hear Ian Stewart describing Mathematics in his books he seems to alternate from quagmire to utopia. I have yet to find this utopia (but I’m still looking) and as far as I am aware there are no maps for sale down the local camping store.
I just wish I had a torch or even a compass, so even though I have no idea what direction is the best to take I have an idea what direction I am heading in and can be psychologically comforted.
Mathematics is the most frustrating yet fascinating subject I have come across. I just hope I find a compass soon and I imagine I am not alone.

M203 Group Theory

Is over and thank the lord. My tutor had told me that the Group theory was much easier than the linear algebra, unfortunately for me this was not the case. It was only when I handed him the Tutor Marked Assignment ( TMA ) that I found out he had specialized in Group theory so I think he might be a bit biased 😉
I think it was because I was unable to see an immediate use for it. I loved its elegance and I enjoyed the course more than the linear algebra but I found it much tougher going. I have been using linear algebra during the process of building a vector space search engine so it is nothing new to me and I could see a use for it which I lacked with Groups.
Still haven’t decided what I am going to study next year but I would like to do a a bit more work on group theory. I have a summer school coming up soon and I am hoping to get some idea of what might be suitable for my level 3 courses next year.
I managed to get 92% for the TMA so I must have done something right.

Science Toys

I like to play with gadgets etc and managed to come across the following website.
Science Toys
It has some very nifty little experimental toys on it.