Aug
11
2012
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Text messages, and why I hate them.

Actually, “hate” might not be strong enough. Despise? Deplore?

Not all text messages are bad, mind you.

I like texts from my wife. I like texts that are of the “FYI” variety.

It worked! — that’s a good text. It’s nice to know that you got it figured out, and I can feel happy with you and then forget about it without having to remember to do anything later.

Found it! — yep, I can handle that. I might even text you back, “great!

Bob dropped off a check for the website — this is a fine use of the SMS protocol.

What, then, are bad texts? (more…)

Written by in: Business,Technology |
May
06
2011
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Do Macs get viruses?

About 25% of our business involves IT–server administration, help desk stuff, malware removal, etc.  I field dozens of computer questions every week. One that I’m getting a lot lately is, “I’m thinking about getting a Mac. What do you think about them?” That is almost always followed by, “I’ve heard that you don’t need to worry about viruses on a Mac. Are they really that much safer?”

In an article called, “Why Malware for Macs is on its way,” Ed Bott makes the same arguments I’ve been making for years: Macs are less likely to become infected not due to superior technology, but because of economic reasons. If you are going to produce a virus or some other form of malware, you want to impact the maximum possible number of machines. Since Windows  has way more market share, Windows is a much larger target.

Quoted in the article:

But most security experts agree that malicious software these days is driven by financial incentives, and it’s far more profitable to target the dominant platform. […] At some point, assuming Apple continues to make appealing products, we Mac users will become bigger targets and face a higher level of risk.

More malware is likely on the way for Apple, but for now at least, your risk of infection with a Mac is pretty low. Then again, the premium you pay for Mac hardware could pay for quite a few copies of Norton Anitvirus.

Aug
30
2010
2

Blue Screen of Death

You’ve heard of Blue Screens of Death, right? Some people call them BSoDs. They tend to be scary, frustrating, and confusing all at the same time.

You’ve been working on a paper or project (or maybe just playing a game) for hours, and suddenly your computer freezes and up comes this huge blue screen with a completely useless error message on it like “Windows has encountered a critical error and will be shut down.” A few seconds later, the whole system grinds to a halt and blinks off.

Ever wonder why the screen is blue? It’s just text, right? No graphics. Kind of like DOS. But DOS was a black screen with white text.

Why aren’t these error messages black and white, too?

I found out today. This is great. Are you ready for this?

It turns out that, long ago, the folks at Microsoft studied psychology and found out that blue is a calming color. Get it? Ever since that day, those “critical errors” have been calming experiences.

I imagine that future versions will come with a computerized voice:

“Hello. This is just a friendly announcement that you’ve lost the last 4 hours of your work. Hopefully your computer hasn’t suffered permenant damage, but if so, computers are on sale this week for $499 at Wal-Mart. Or, Geek Squad can try to repair it for $129/hour. Please be calm. Don’t worry; be happy….”

See what I mean? It’s the blue that makes all the difference.

Written by in: Business,Humor,Technology |
Sep
02
2009
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Google tells users to contact users

So, I got a funny bounce message from gmail today. I use gmail. I tried to send a message to another gmail user. And here’s the bounce notification:

“Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the *recipient domain* (i.e., Google). We recommend contacting the *other* email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the *other* server returned was: 550 550 5.2.1 The email account that you tried to reach is disabled” (emphasis & parentheses added).

You’d think that Google would know that it was the sender and receiver domain, wouldn’t you?

Written by in: Technology |
Jul
24
2007
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World’s Largest Marketplace

If I asked you what is the world's largest marketplace, what would you say? 
I haven't been able to confirm this, but it's certainly believable when eBay claims the title.
This is an interesting piece about eBay's technology.
eBay hosts 100 million concurrent listings, which are updated at a rate of 500 times per second and searched 3,800 times per second. Our more than 233 million users–a number that increases at a rate of 130,000 users per day–generate more than a billion daily page views. To put that in perspective, we've created and have to maintain a tech platform that supports a transactional volume higher than Nasdaq's.
That's pretty amazing. Not bad for a site for a site that was NOT created to trade PEZ dispensers. :)   

(more…)

Written by in: Technology |
Jun
19
2006
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Changes in Wikipedia

Wikipedia, that amazing encyclopedia "written collaboratively by volunteers, [which allows] articles to be changed by anyone with access to the website"1 has changed that very policy.

From the beginning, back in 2001, Wikipedia has been growing at a phenomenal rate (now up to nearly 2,000,000 articles in English, and about as many in other languages besides) almost entirely through the efforts of volunteer contributors.

For the uninitiated, a "wiki" is a site that allows users to collaborate, and gives anyone with access to the page the right to add, delete, or change the content.

Despite its many detractors, the concept has gained a lot of traction, especially in the business world. Many companies use internal wikis to facilitate project management and content development, with collaborators sometimes being across the office, and sometimes across the world.

Wikipedia takes a collaborative approach to all knowledge. The idea is to have experts contribute articles to their respective areas of expertise. Then other experts can refine and expand these initial articles, and so the whole grows and improves with time.

Almost from the beginning, there has been "controversy over Wikipedia's reliability and accuracy, with the site receiving criticism for its susceptibility to vandalism, uneven quality and inconsistency, systemic bias, and preference for consensus or popularity over credentials. Nevertheless, its free distribution, constant and plentiful updates, diverse and detailed coverage, and versions in numerous languages have made it one of the most-used reference resources on the Internet."2 

This week, however, Wikipedia announced changes that some claim prostitute the very ideas which have made Wikipedia what it is today.

[The new] measures can put some entries outside of the "anyone can edit" realm. The list changes rapidly, but as of yesterday, the entries for Einstein and Ms. Aguilera were among 82 that administrators had "protected" from all editing, mostly because of repeated vandalism or disputes over what should be said. Another 179 entries — including those for George W. Bush, Islam and Adolf Hitler — were "semi-protected," open to editing only by people who had been registered at the site for at least four days. (See a List of Protected Entries)

While these measures may appear to undermine the site's democratic principles, Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia's founder, notes that protection is usually temporary and affects a tiny fraction of the 1.2 million entries on the English-language site.3

 

(more…)

Written by in: Technology |
Jun
19
2006
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Fort Knox of Seeds

From the Washington Post today, we read of a "high-security vault, almost half the length of a football field, [which] will be carved into a mountain on a remote island above the Arctic Circle. If the looming fences, motion detectors and steel airlock doors are not disincentive enough for anyone hoping to breach the facility's concrete interior, the polar bears roaming outside should help."

The project has been endorsed by over 100 nations so far. What's inside? Seeds. Millions of them. Why? The article explains:

The "doomsday vault," as some have come to call it, is to be the ultimate backup in the event of a global catastrophe — the go-to place after an asteroid hit or nuclear or biowarfare holocaust so that, difficult as those times would be, humankind would not have to start again from scratch.

Full text here.

(more…)

Written by in: Current Events,Technology |
May
30
2006
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Robots in School

Playing hooky just got easier. Except, with a $70,000 price tag, a forged parent's note might be cheaper. 
 
This article describes a robot used to stand in for a sick child missing school. One robot "sits" in the child's classroom, and his twin sits with the child in the hospital.
 
The two robots communicate live video and audio via the Internet, so the teacher can see the student in his hospital bed, and the student can have a virtual presence in his classroom. 
 
The child holds a video game-like controller that allows him to control the camera and even raise the robot's hand.
 
The children in the classroom soon learn to think of the robot as the child himself according to reports.
 
No commentary just yet; I haven't decided if this is a great idea or if it has potential for tremendous misuse. On the surface, however, it seems like a neat way to help sick kids.  

(more…)

Written by in: Technology |
Apr
27
2006
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Google Romance

Google recently announced a new service – Google Romance. (http://www.google.com/romance)
 
From their website:

When you think about it, love is just another search problem. And we’ve thought about it. A lot. Google Romanceis our solution.

Google Romance is a place where you can post all types of romantic information and, using our Soulmate Search, get back search results that could, in theory, include the love of your life. Then we'll send you both on a Contextual Date, which we'll pay for while delivering to you relevant ads that we and our advertising partners think will help produce the dating results you're looking for.

You've gotta love their self-depricating sense of humor.

 

(more…)

Written by in: Technology |
Apr
23
2006
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Resource File

Every so often in higher education, you get a new concept or method or resource or something in a class that really stands out – something you'll probably think about / use / refer to for the rest of your life. I can think of several. And, some classes have more of these than others, of course. 

This semester I find myself in several such classes. Perhaps I'll comment on more of them in future posts.

One of my classes this semester is History and Philosophy of Preaching, with Dr. Mark Minnick. One of the major semester projects was called an "Illustration File." It was really unrelated to the course content, but he includes it as a course requirement because he wants to force us all to test a system that he has used effectively for years, and he knows most of us wouldn't try it if it didn't cary a point value!

Although there were lots more particulars, the basic idea is that we had to collect at least 70 illustrations from our reading this semester. Not just reading for this class, or any of our classes, for that matter. Anything we're reading this semester is a valid source. Then he wants us to connect the illustrations to a particular Scripture text. The idea is that ever after, when preaching on a particular text, we'll have ready illustrative material.

(more…)

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