Feb 22, 2006

VoSky - The Skype enhancer

Everyone has heard of VoIP, Voice over Internet Protocol, the technology that lets users make cheap phone calls over the Internet. Chances are everyone have heard about Skype too, the program that allows users to make online calls to other users, now owned by eBay. Put two and two together and you can probably use Skype to make calls over the Internet to conventional phonelines, fixed and mobile. And that is exactly what the VoSky Call Centre does.

The Call Center comes for around $70. You can attach an ordinary fixed line phone and use it to make calls to regular phones over the Internet at a reduced rate, made possible by the SkypeOut service. You can always make free calls to other Skype users anyway.

It also lets you forward incoming Skype calls to your landline or mobile phone and even lets you know when another Skype user is online by ringing your phone. The Call Center connects to the USB port of the PC, meaning no external power source is required. The only people who will not be too happy about this technology is your phone company. Say goodbye to long distance phone bills.

Feb 21, 2006

The Million Dollar Homepage

What would you do if your debts are way too high and you are so poor that you don't even have a good pair of socks? If you are Alex Tew, you would start a million dollar homepage. And make a cool million dollars in four months!

How can I become a millionare?

That is what Alex asked himself when his finances were really bad, even to the point that his pair of socks was not decent enough. He got out a notepad and started thinking of a way to get out of the misery. Twenty minutes later, he had an idea. He would sell pixels.

For the uninitiated, pixels stand for 'picture elements', those tiny dots that make up your computer display. In most Internet advertising, pixels are sold in bulk, like banners or skyscrapers. The very idea of selling individual pixel was what made this different from the rest.

That very night, he registered the domain milliondollarhomepage.com and started working on the project. The minimum purchase was for $100, which will give the buyer 100 pixels in a 10 X 10 space. Clicking on that space will take you to the advertiser's page.

With the $1000 that he raised from friends and family, he bought some publicity to his site. With every new visitor, the word about the new idea spread and the whole thing snowballed until he was able to raise his target within a short period of 4 months.

Besides making Alex Tew a millionaire, the site also spawned an entire industry of pixel selling sites. Many copycat clones with similar domain names have been registered, and what is more, you can even get a basic pixel selling kit for a few dollars.

For 20 minutes of thinking and 4 months to project completion of getting a million dollars, that is not bad, Alex, not bad at all.

Feb 14, 2006

The first anniversary

One year is not that long a period. However, in Internet time, it is eternity. And that is exactly how long this blog has been around. Wandering in Elysium is one year old today!

I didn't start off the blog as something that I would regularly update and maintain (and it hasn't been, I am afraid!). But then again, as all of you know, a blog is a precious little thing that you hold close to to your heart once you start one. Same is the case here. Completing one year is not a great achievement; but completing one year after it had been entirely deleted is something (Recovering deleted blogs).

I would like to thank all those nice people who happened to stumble across this blog and read a line or two and found it worthwhile. If any of my posts made you sit back and think about technology and how it affects our everyday lives, the purpose of this weblog has been served. I hope to write more frequently from now on, and hopefully, the writing shall get better as well. Wish me luck!

Feb 8, 2006

The Google Bomb lives on

Almost everyone reading this post would know what Google is and why it is the top search engine on the Web today. Type in a few words and you are guaranteed to find the most relevant website pertaining to that topic. Well, almost.

The set of algorithms that makes this possible is hailed as revolutionary in how it makes sense of the structure of the Web. The major innovation Google brought into Web search was the computation of value of a web-page on the basis of how many pages link to it, among many other things. This means that if page A links to page B, page B's value goes up; how much, depends on the value of page A itself. The algorithm is a work of genius. (On hindsight, it looks obvious enough; true genius always does.) But, like all software, it has loopholes.

The anatomy of a Google Bomb

As mentioned before, Google computes the value it assigns to page X on the basis of a number of factors, an important one being the number of pages linking to it and their respective values. However, it also does one more thing - it also notes the anchor text of that link and associates it with that page. That means if enough pages link to one particular site with the same text in its anchor, that word/phrase will be associated with the target site. That is exactly what a Google Bomb is.

Yes, that is right. The Google algorithm is not safe from attack. However, I will say that it is the more immune than others to the so-called black-hat techniques. Still don't believe me?Try searching for 'liar' or 'miserable failure' on Google and you will be surprised by what you find as the first search result.

This was done by a few Net-activists who set up enough pages with the above word/phrase as the anchor text and pointed it to the target site. (However, doing it on the same page won't give the desired result. You might even be black-listed by the Googlebot for spamming!)

It was first said that the Google Bomb was not a serious threat to the integrity of its search results. The temporal variables that Google has in its algorithm would defuse the bomb over a period of time, or after a couple of re-indexing. However, the 'miserable failure' search has been yielding the same first result for quite some time now. Maybe the Blogosphere is way too strong for Google to handle after all.

Read more - a few interesting links.

The Google Bomb
Google acknowledges the Google Bomb

Feb 1, 2006

The copyright debate

As like most of their other offerings, Google News is a great utility for Net users to stay updated on the world around them. Unlike Yahoo and others who offer similar services, Google News is completely automated - the Googlebots scour the Web and deliver the cream, all at one easy to access location. But that may end soon if some newspaper websites can prove that they have been wronged.

The World Association of Newspapers have brought a suit against Google, claiming copyright infringement. They argue that Google is using their content- headlines, stories, even photographs, in its own website and they are suffering as a result. Let us examine that argument.

If you have used Google News, you would know that it is categorised into sections like sports, business, science and technology, etc. Once a category is selected, news snippets from various websites are shown, one after the other. The point to be noted is that the whole content is not displayed; instead, a link to the original website is given. If a particular item catches your attention, you click that link and read the whole thing on that website.

Another important thing is that Google News does not carry advertisements. (Not yet, anyway.) Apparently, Google is not getting any benefit from this service and it doesn't pass off the content as its own either. It even links to the original websites. Personally, as a regular user of Google News, I have visited hundreds of websites that I would otherwise never had. I fail to see the rationale behind this lawsuit brought forward by these websites which raises the issue of copyright in a manner that seems to beat their cause rather than help it. Talk about cutting your own leg with your axe.