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We Know Where You Live

September 22, 2009

You may not realize it, but it’s quite possible to get a very good idea of where you live just from your IP address (your computer’s numeric address on the Internet).  Want to see where “they” think you are?  Visit this page (you don’t need to type anything in; “they” already have all the information they need to locate you).

The provider of the page above is MaxMind, one of a number of commercial outfits which provide this “IP geolocation” service.  MaxMind’s service is called GeoIP.  Based on my IP, it seems to be more accurate than competing offerings from IP2location and Quova.

Search Engine Taste Test

August 24, 2009

BlindSearch is an interesting novelty: you type in a search request, it gives you back the top 10 results from Yahoo!, Google, and Bing! (without telling you which is which).  Then you pick which results you think are the best.

The results after 8 weeks: Google: 41%, Bing: 31%, Yahoo: 28%. Not a huge difference, if you ask me.

(from the Search Engine Watch blog)

Ironkey Encrypted USB Flash Drive

July 30, 2009

If you carry a “thumb drive” (properly, a USB Flash drive) to store or transfer information which should remain private, you might want to take a look at the Ironkey encrypted USB Flash Drive, which is stores all information placed on it in encrypted form.  It doesn’t require any software or special drivers to work its magic, which makes it as easy to use as an unencrypted drive.

They are quite a bit more expensive than a standard thumb drive (a 1GB Ironkey is $80, vs. $10 for a commodity unencrypted drive), but if you need security — and you do — it’s worth it.

Did you know?

July 22, 2009

Take 5 minutes and watch this engaging video: Did You Know?

I used the original 64 kilobyte IBM PC when it was first introduced in 1981 and cost about $5,000.  It had a green 80×25 screen (no color, no graphics) and two 360 kilobye floppy disk drives.  Laptops hadn’t been invented yet.  Neither had CD-ROMs.

The past 28 years has brought a lot of change.

Last week I bought a new Toshiba laptop with 4 gigabytes of memory, dedicated video hardware (not the lower-performing integrated video), 320 GB of hard drive storage, and a DVD drive which actually labels the DVDs it burns, all for $825 at Best Buy, tax included.

The most interesting question in the above video may be “How did all those questions get answered B.G.?”

I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 28 years!

Rationing Healthcare

July 20, 2009

Last November, I wrote a column entitled The Very High Cost of Medical Care, where I wrote:

In the world of medicine, there are two trains headed toward each other with increasing speed. The first is the growing number of treatments available to prolong life. The second is the growing cost associated with such treatments. At the collision point, we face a difficult question: How much is another day with Grandma worth? Of course, the answer can change dramatically when you are Grandma (or Grandpa).

Now Peter Singer has written a similar article for the New York Times, Why We Must Ration Healthcare:

If there is any point at which you say, “No, an extra six months isn’t worth that much,” then you think that health care should be rationed.

The debate about healthcare reform must ultimately confront this question.  It’s hard, because we all pretty much want to live as long as we can, price be damned.

(thanks to kottke.org)

Pre-Mania

June 5, 2009

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave, the new Palm Pre smartphone has been officially released.  If you wanted an iPhone, but couldn’t stand the lack of a physical keyboard, or if — like my wife — you still carry a Palm and a cell phone, this may be the phone for you.

Like the iPhone, it’s $199 after rebate and agreeing to a two-year contract with Sprint.

Two good reviews from C|NET and the New York Times may help you make a decision, but the true test is to go to a store and see what it feels like to you.

If you have some first-hand Pre experience, or just a pro or con of your own, please leave a comment!

Competitive Cognition

May 8, 2009

Back in October of 2007, I wrote a column entitled Law, Sausage and Nootropics, about the rise in the use of cognition-enhancing drugs like modafinil, comparing it to the temptation to use performance-enhancing drugs among professional cyclists.

Wired Magazine has just caught up with me: Should Creative Workers Use Performance-Enhancing Drugs.

Remember: you read it here first.

Google Profiles

April 28, 2009

Google has extended its account called Google Profiles.  Here’s the official word.  TIME Magazine thinks it’s Google’s beachead in the Facebook/MySpace world:

The similarity to Facebook is no accident. Google profiles are the search giant’s fiendishly clever attempt to turn your ego-surfing pain into their gain. By giving users a modicum of control over the results that appear on a search for their name, Google hopes to establish a social network beachhead and take on wildly popular sites like Facebook and MySpace. Facebook users who otherwise couldn’t be bothered to set up a separate profile page on Google might find the idea appealing if it gives them some control over the Google search results for their name.

Here’s mine.

If you’re interested in being found on the Web, it’s probably worth taking the 10 minutes or so that setting up a Google Profile will take.  As always, it’s a good idea to periodically Google your name and your company name to see what your online reputation looks like.

Behavioral Advertising

April 23, 2009

This is either fascinating or scary, depending on your level of paranoia.

Opt Out of Behavioral Advertising shows you which advertising networks have given cookies to your browser in order to deliver targeted advertising based on your online behavior.

Note that opting out does NOT mean you won’t get ads.  You’ll just get ads that are (probably) less interesting to you (by virtue of being un-targeted).

In case you’ve been wondering where I had gone to, I’ve been on vacation.  Posting should resume its normal levels shortly.

Thanks to Seth Godin for the pointer.

Holy Crap!

April 7, 2009

Amazon announces Elastic MapReduce!

In layman’s terms, you can now use the ultra-powerful divide-and-conquer strategy of MapReduce to solve problems involving large datasets on a pay-only-for-what-you-use basis.  The complex framework of a MapReduce system (break a job into many pieces, farm it out, collect the results) is provided for you, and you’ll pay Amazon just pennies an hour for computing resources.

For most of you, the appropriate response is “So What?”  But for those who need this capability, the response is indeed, “Holy Crap!”  MapReduce, which does much of the magic at Google, is now available to everyone with a problem to solve and a credit card.

See my print article, 2009: Cloudy, with a Chance of Windows, for a concrete example of MapReduce in action.  It’s powerful, and now it’s also cheap and easy.

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