Jan 18, 2006

Backup your posts

Back up all your data, regularly. That is the first law for any prudent computer user. Virus attacks, hard disk crashes and simple human errors all gobble up your precious bytes in no time. And it is no different for a blogger. In a world where easy-to-use interfaces allows you to dump all your valuable posts to oblivion in a split-second, it is all the more true.

So how do you backup your blog posts? That would mainly depend on the blog you are using. I will describe a very simple method to backup your posts in one single file from Blogger, and things shouldn't be very different for others as well.

As you might know, every blog on Blogger has a unique ID. First, find out yours. Then, type in the URL : https://www.blogger.com/atom/xx, replacing xx with your ID. You might be prompted for your Blogger username and password. Enter it and you will get all your posts in that blog, in one single XML file. Save it to your harddisk or CD and you can be assured that next time you need it, you can safely find it there. Do this on a regular basis and you will never lose another post. (And yes, I did say that it was a very simple method.)

Other blogs offering RSS, XML or Atom feeds will most probably have a similar option as well. Play around with your feed to find them. Any feedback in the comments section will be greatly appreciated.

Jan 11, 2006

The technology paradox and innovation wave

The story is a familiar one. You wish to own the latest, most advanced mobile phone (or notebook computer or digital camera) and you pick your brand and spend those hard-earned cash to get the gadget of your dreams. You get home and see the newspaper lying on the floor. You stoop down to get it and guess what you see - an ad for a better model of the gadget that you still haven't unpacked, and at a lesser price!

The rate at which technology advances is mind boggling. It is amazing that the so-called Moore's law still holds to such a large extent, even after so many years have passed. Not only does the computing power expand exponentially, the cost comes down drastically too. And that is what haunts the mind of anybody wanting to buy the coolest gadget in town. Because as soon as you buy it and get home, it is no longer cool, and certainly more expensive than the latest model.

But what is the solution to this paradox? You obviously can't put off buying a computer that you need badly forever. I should know, I have been wanting to get a notebook computer for some time now. Everyday I scan the newspapers and see a better model at the same price or the same model at a lower price. Enter, the innovation wave.

Innovation wave

"Always remember that someone, somewhere is making a product that will make your product obsolete. " - Georges Doriot

Innovation wave is a term that vaguely describes the advancement of technology in terms of conceptualisation to actual product realisation. An innovation wave starts with a disruptive technology, something that is totally new that it suddenly makes the preceding technology totally obsolete immediately. An example would be how the advent of Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) made command prompts obsolete. A person who adopts the technology at the very start of it would stand to gain the maximum from it, although the cost may be higher at the initial stages. But if you wait for the cost to come down, you may buy it at a lower rate, but another technology would have made what you bought even more obsolete. So you end up with an inferior product although at a lower cost. The person who adopts the technology at the middle stages of its life gets a trade-off between cost and the utility - it will not be state-of-the-art nor obsolete, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg either. It all depends on what matters to you more - the cost or the performance/utility.

Thinking about buying a notebook computer is a similar issue. The best ones will definitely burn a hole in your pocket, and you always run the risk of being obsolete when a better technology comes along. So looking at how the industry has been progressing on the technology and economy front, it would be a wise choice to wait for a while when the cost comes down. But wait too long, and you risk becoming obsolete. Other questions like the validity of Moore's law in the future comes into play, with the possibility of packing transistors even more densely pushing the physical limits. Maybe another wave of innovation like nanotechnology or quantum computing is just around the corner. And maybe, just maybe, that sleek new notebook that you are flaunting right now at your neighbour has just been made obsolete.

Jan 7, 2006

Google to offer video downloads

Television may well be on its way out. Google has announced that it will offer video downloads, not unlike Apple's hugely popular iTunes online store, which offers paid music and video downloads to users. Video downloads are very popular on the Net, although most of the traffic is allegedly illegal using peer to peer file transfer software like the Gnutella and Kazaa networks.

Convergence advocates have known it all along. With broadband becoming increasingly popular around the world, the role of television will be taken over by the PC, even when the mobile handsets get smarter everyday. Google will offer content from hits like "Survivor","I love Lucy" and "The Brady Bunch". The service will be known as Google Video Store.

The move comes in the wake of Yahoo announcing its own video offering, Yahoo! Go TV. The new service allows users to take content from their personal computer or from the web and extend it onto the biggest screen in their home, according to businesswire.com.

Jan 3, 2006

Questions and answers

The Web has changed the way people store, retrieve and use information. With an entire generation growing up believing that Google has answers to all your questions, it is not that hard to get the idea that any information we need is available on the Internet. The tough part is finding it.

Yes, web search is not the most difficiult thing to do when you are searching for 'general theory of relativity' or 'iPod'. However, when you are searching for concepts that are hard to put down in a couple of words, you hit the brick wall of irrelevant results.

This is because all current search engines work on the principle of keywords. The keyword based search system implicitly assumes that the user knows enough about what he is looking for, and only then can she find a relevant webpage. I emphasise on the point that we are not talking about simple factual queries like the 'capital of Finland', which will yield the correct answer in Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves. Instead, imagine you are researching on the problems that a traditional media company will face in the next few decades. Depending on your luck and the keywords that you choose to search the Web, your results may range anywhere from mediocre to average. Unless, of course, you have done some lateral thinking.

The lateral thinking I mentioned is not exactly the Edward de Bono variety, you really don't need to go that far. It is indeed much simple. If you got what you are looking for with the exact keyword of the stated problem - 'problems faced by traditional media company in the future', well done. However, in the more likely scenario that you did not, consider stating the problem in a different way. Try using synonyms of the different words in your search query, mixing and matching them and see if your quality of results improve. In fact, to be more succesful, imagine yourself as an online webmaster or publisher writing an article on the topic and use the words that you would use in your article as the keywords. Chances are you will get to the relevant results much sooner.

Search engine technology have come a long way and already some of them provide answer to basic questions. However, their semantic and syntactic abilities are much limited at the moment, but improvements in artificial intelligence will see much clever search agents ready with answers to more complicated questions in the near future. Until then though, we will have to contend ourselves with keyword tweaking and trial- and- error searching before that elusive page answering all your doubts can be found. As Peter Drucker once said, a great consultant is one who asks the right questions.