Archive for October, 2009

GeoCities: 1994-2009, Goodnight Sweet Prince

As if there wasn’t enough tragedy in the world today, an internet legend died recently. Yahoo, owner of GeoCities pulled the plug on the site on October 27th. Back in 1994, GeoCities actually started as a small internet start-up called BHI (Beverly Hills Internet). The original concept of the site was that there were different neighborhoods within GeoCities. Each neighborhood served as a category to organize the types of sites that were contained in those neighborhoods. For example, “Hollywood” was for entertainment sites, “SiliconValley” was for computer related sites, etc. The users who had homepages in those neighborhoods were called “homesteaders.” Eventually they added new neighborhoods including,  “Colosseum,” “Hollywood,” “RodeoDrive,” “SunsetStrip,” “WallStreet,” and “WestHollywood”.

I’m sure you all have had at least some exposure to GeoCities. The style of a GeoCities home page was unmistakable. There were a few key things that were defining characteristics of GeoCities. One of the key things pretty much every GeoCities home page would have is an animate .gif image. These were often times “Under Construction” signs. I mean, what better way to inform your visitors that you were not finished with your home page than a moving “Under Construction” image. Horrible color schemes, “webrings”, animated backgrounds, “Hit Counters”, “Guestbooks” and scrolling text were also common features on a GeoCities home page.

Without GeoCities websites like myspace might not exist. GeoCities is one of a few sites that brought the idea of having a personal homepage to the general public. They offered tools to allow users to build their websites with relative ease. Users did not have to have an in-depth understanding of HTML or any programming experience to build a home page. The idea of making the internet so accessible to everyone spread and now we have sites just like this one with easy to use interfaces, allowing everyone to build a site and contribute.

Don’t forget to take your quiz, but before you do, check out my special tribute to GeoCities below:

Atlantis1366constructionHeHeartlandVillage3603construction

October 28, 2009 at 11:14 pm Leave a comment

10/26/2009: GOOG-411

Almost everybody knows that Google is famous for its popular search engine. But, only limited people have heard and used one of the Google services called ‘GOOG-411’ that was out in September 2007. It is also popularly known as ‘Google Voice Local Search’. Google is one of those companies that seem to be expanding out in every direction.  Google 411 is a telephone service from Google that allows users to make a business search in any U.S. or Canadian City by calling toll-free telephone numbers i.e. 1-800-466-4411 or 1-877-466-4411.

When people call any of these two numbers, they will be told that the call is being recorded to improve results, and then asked to say the city and state of the sought business. Users may then search for the business by name or category, which generates a list of businesses matching the search. Users may then select a business on the list by saying “number” that corresponds to the business, or press the desired number on their phone. Once a business is selected, Google automatically connects the user to the business or sends short message service (SMS) with the phone number. Alternatively, users can listen to the address and phone number by saying “details”.

Another important advantage of using GOOG-411 is free of cost. Whether you use GOOG 411 once a month, once a day or 50 times every day for a month, no fees will be charged. The users using cell phones to obtain this service can enjoy two other fun features (i.e. text and map it facility) besides just an instant connection to the number of their choice. The user can utilize the option to get a text message that contains the information about business and phone number. Another feature called ‘map it’ gives the users a map of the area to make it easier to find the location from where the person is calling (internet is required). This feature turns out very beneficial when the user is traveling to new places such as going for job interviews or find out service places such as pharmacy in the middle of the night when visiting friends in a strange town.

Let’s take a look of this clip:

Google’s main objective is to build a powerful speech-to-text engine that will help them to perform accurate video search in future with the help of this service. Google will be using this product to accumulate more sample audio (different voices with different intonation) from people looking for businesses, so that they can use these speech samples to make a robust speech model.

Thanks for reading ~

Don’t forget to take the quiz on Blackboard.

Sandeep

October 26, 2009 at 2:23 am Leave a comment

10/22/09 – Technology Not Just for the Guys

Most people have heard of Mark Zuckerberg and Myspace Tom.  But entrepreneurial success on the internet isn’t just for the guys.  The internet is not nearly as male (or nerdy) as you might think.  Recently many women have been capitalizing on that fact.  After you watch this  video, head back to blackboard for a quiz and extra credit.

Thanks

David

October 22, 2009 at 11:48 am 1 comment

Windows 7: A Graphics Powerhouse

Well, the day is drawing closer and closer to when Microsoft officially releases Windows 7 to the consumer market.   Though many have been skeptical about the new operating system on the horizon, but articles and reviews are sure to put that away.  Set to release this Thursday, the 22nd of October, Microsoft promises to get a lot of things right this time in hopes to move past it’s horrendous original release of Windows Vista, which some of you may have heard, was far from an enjoyable experience.

One feature that many people don’t realize that comes integrated in the new operating system is support for “a once-obscure technology” that will accelerate everything from transferring files to hardcore gaming to adding songs to your iPod.

DirectX, the foundation for this new power, is a series of Application Programming Interfaces, or API for short.  It’s been used for years on Microsoft computer systems handling tasks related to multimedia and game programming as well as graphically intense applications, including those played on an Xbox 360.

DirectX 11 will be the latest addition to the API family and is included in this new powerhouse technology that Microsoft calls Microsoft DirectCompute.  Its goal is to use the processing power that comes integrated on a computers graphics processor to significantly enhance the performance of everyday applications.  “What’s taking 30 minutes right now might only take five or six minutes with DirectCompute,” stated Nathan Brookwood, principle analyst for Insight 64.

To be fair though, this technology won’t change the way we compute over night.  Some software will need to be rewritten which will be taken care of as software continuously gets released over the next few years.

So when it comes to shopping for a new computer for future paths that life takes you down, don’t just focus on a fast processor, or hefty amount of memory or an unnecessarily huge hard-drive;  look into getting a computer that can also rely on a powerful graphics card.

Thanks for reading!  You can find the entire article right here. Don’t forget to take the quiz!

Mike

October 19, 2009 at 9:04 pm 1 comment

Meet Microsoft: Jacqueline

Hey students,

You’ve all heard of Microsoft but have you ever wondered what it is like working there? If you have, this video is definitely for you and even if you haven’t, it’s still a cool video. Check it out below:

Don’t forget to take your quiz!

Nick

October 15, 2009 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

10/12/09 Meet Nao, the robot

Would you like a chance to meet a little humanoid, named Nao?  Nao stands 23 inches tall, and has some ability to “see” things, to “hear” things, and to speak. Most people also think Nao is cute, which is probably something the manufacturer is counting on.

ISU MAT 120 students have a chance to meet Nao in person, here on campus, next Monday afternoon, because Nao is coming to visit as part of a demonstration tour put on by Aldebaran Robotics, the makers of Nao.

Nao is a pretty amazing little robot. Inside, Nao’s “brain” is a computer that can be programmed so that Nao can act more or less on his own to carry out various tasks. So, Nao is not like a radio-controlled toy that has to be controlled second-by-second. Nao operates much more on its own, sensing the environment and altering its behavior accordingly. Check out this video of Nao in action:

The development of robots is serious business these days. There are many kinds of industrial robots already in use, such as those in the local Mitsubishi auto plant where the Eclipse and Galant are made. Police departments are beginning to use robots to enter dangerous buildings. Future uses for all sorts of robots are limited only by our ability to design them.

Maybe you yourself could find an exciting career path in robot development/maintenance if you were to study computer science here at ISU. Robots can’t do much without some pretty amazing computer power to guide them.

If you’d like to meet Nao and one of its creators, come by CVA 151 at 4:30 or so next Monday, October 19. The session next Monday is being put on by the manufacturer to get people excited about Nao, but it still should be fun. You probably aren’t going to buy one anyway, since they cost $12,000 each.

Extra credit for MAT 120 students who attend will work like it does for the after-class sessions with IT professionals. The Nao demo session may last longer than an hour, and you’re welcome to stay for the whole thing, but if you can only stay for the first hour, you could leave (and, yes, you still get credit if you turn in the evaluation form).  I’m planning to attend myself, and I hope to see you there.

Kenton Machina

October 12, 2009 at 5:41 pm 2 comments

10/9/2009 -Internet Spam Is a Cash Cow

Ever wonder how why annoying spam e-mails flood your in box with offers of cheap Viagra and exotic prescription drugs you have no desire to ingest?  Spam mail is actually a very profitable business.  It has enormous profit margins and requires a minuscule amount of effort,  which explains why spam mail is prevalent.  Check out this article by Jacqui Cheng sharing more details on how spam e-mail operates.  When your done head back to blackboard for the quiz and extra credit!

David

smilingbob350

Pharmaceutical spam can generate more than $4,000 per day in sales, confirming that spam continues to thrive because of those gullible few who click through and ruin it for the rest of us. And that’s not just an estimate: a security researcher from Sophos have combed through sales logs as part of his investigation into the growth of spam networks, noting that Russian affiliate partner networks—also known as “partnerka”—are responsible for some of the largest Canadian pharmacy spam businesses.

Dmitry Samosseiko’s report, “The Partnerka — what is it, and why should you care?”  focuses largely on these Russian networks and how they drive traffic, advertising, and more. Not surprisingly, online pharmaceuticals tend to be a very popular affiliate business, with one of the largest being one called GlavMed. GlavMed itself claims to be strongly anti-spam, but it has a sister company called “SpamIt,” a private group of e-mail spam affiliates that researchers suspect are also behind the Storm, Waledec, and Conficker botnets.

Samosseiko discovered a wide-open PHP backend to GlavMed that contained evidence that the company is indeed set up to benefit largely from spammers. This involves e-commerce software for spammers to launch their own GlavMed copies or to simply set up domains that redirect to GlavMed. Additionally, some of the documents Samosseiko discovered were sales records, giving a glimpse into the purchasing behavior of GlavMed’s targets.

According to the sales records from GlavMed, there were apparently more than 20 purchases per day per spam campaign, with GlavMed claiming a 40 percent commission on each sale. With an average purchase of around $200, that adds up to over $4,000 total per day per campaign (or $1,600 for GlavMed). As you can imagine, that total easily multiplies if more than one spam blast is run per day thanks to different affiliates, and it continues to skyrocket when we consider how many different online pharmacies exist that benefit from spam, including Stimul-cash.com, Rx-partners, Rxcash.biz, Evapharmacy, Rx-Signup.com and DrugRevenueget.

Clearly, the amount of cash being made makes spamming a worthwhile investment—even a small percentage of users making purchases can result in big returns. Earlier this year, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) released a report stating that 52 percent of e-mail users had clicked on a spam e-mail, with 12 percent of those doing so because they were actually interested in the product or service being offered. “Although a small percentage of the computing population, these numbers still earn a significant enough return on investment to support a booming spam-driven underground economy,” wrote MAAWG.

October 9, 2009 at 7:34 pm 2 comments

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