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April 12, 2007  11:17 PM

wikiCalc: Free server-based collaborative spreadsheet software

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wikiCalc is a mashup of a wiki and a spreadsheet. Dan Bricklin, the inventor of VisiCalc, the first computer spreadsheet, posted about it on his blog when he first released the beta. Now, the application is out of beta and ready for you to put through its paces.

The application works like a wiki as part of a web of potentially editable pages in a collaborative environment. Imagine a streamlined Web-based Excel that’s a living document. Dan’s idea is both simple and powerful. In his own words, wikiCalc is “a complete server-based spreadsheet that runs on your own server, not only on a service provided by others.”

Dan thinks anyone concerned or responsible for any of the various forms of compliance will find the audit trail that wikiCalc keeps quite helpful.

After a public beta, wikiCalc Version 1.0 is available for download from Software Garden. You can watch a screencast of wikiCalc in action at PeaPodcast.com.

April 12, 2007  1:33 PM

The Internet Governance Forum: Internationalizing ICANN

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The inaugural Internet Governance Forum took place from October 30 through November 2, 2006, in Athens, Greece.

The IGF Web site, which features text transcription of the opening ceremony and sessions on openness, security,
diversity, access and emerging issues was “set up to support the process started by the UN Secretary-General with a view to convening a new forum for multi-stakeholder policy dialogue.”

Archived webcasts of the proceedings are also available, in untranslated form, in English, Français and Español. The opening ceremony featured words from Vint Cerf and Robert Kahn. Much of the dialogue at the event was marked by implicit – and some times explicit – criticisms by delegates of US authority over ICANN.

The Secretariat’s informal summary of all the sessions is available here as a PDF.

April 12, 2007  1:28 PM

“Google Election?”

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As former Speaker of the U.S. House of Represenatives Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” Perhaps with that in mind, the Google Earth Blog has announced that Google Earth has geared up for future U.S. elections by adding “U.S. Elections Guide” and “U.S. Congressional Districts” information layers. Once you’ve downloaded the most recent version of Google Earth, you’ll be able to select layers that will display the boundaries of voting districts, local polling places, campaign finance data, links to candidates Web sites, news and other information related to the election. The layers are not available through Google Maps, so you’ll have to have access to a PC able to run Google Earth. (Hat tip to Slashdot.org and Greg Sterling at SearchEngineWatch.com.)

April 12, 2007  1:23 PM

Office 2000 HTML Filter 2.0: Free download to remove Office-specific HTML from documents

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If you work with Microsoft Office, you may be aware of the Office-specific HTML tags that the various applications in the suite add to your code when you save as HTML. This handy tool, available as a download from Microsoft.com, enables the user to easily remove those pesky tags. Nifty.

April 12, 2007  1:18 PM

Project Gutenberg: More than 19,000 free ebooks from the public domain

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Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart founded Project Gutenberg when he was granted an account with $100,000,000 of computer time in 1971 by the operators of the Xerox Sigma V mainframe at the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois.

PG_Button_104x40.gifThe Project Gutenberg Philosophy is “to make information, books and other materials available to the general public in forms a vast majority of the computers, programs and people can easily read, use, quote, and search.”

Only books that have entered the public domain are entered into the database of 19,000 titles, of which nearly 2 million are downloaded every month. That means the database is full of the classics of Western literature, with names like Twain, Doyle, Shakespeare, Dickens, Kleiser, Poe, Wells, Austen and Verne dominating the top 10 most downloaded list.

April 12, 2007  1:12 PM

EarthCode: How to create mashups with Ruby on Rails and Google Maps

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EarthCode is the blog of Ajax and Rails coder Andre Lewis. He uses it as a venue for technical projects and interests like this mashup that locates and rates free WiFi locations using a combination of Google Maps, user input and ratings or this tutorial that shows how to use Rails, Geocoding and Google Maps to create your own mashup.

April 12, 2007  1:09 PM

Google Code Search: Helping software developers find code since 2006

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Google Code Search is up and running! Google Labs has released a new search engine specifically designed to help software developers search for code. Google’s stated goal with Code Search is to “provide a useful resource for developers and help increase collaboration within the developer community.” Google maintains a blog with news and developments regarding the tool and a FAQ for developers would want to keep their code from being crawled.

April 12, 2007  1:00 PM

Google Gadgets: Making frequently consulted services freely available from the desktop

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Go, go Google Gadgets! Google has now made more than 100 of its gadgets available for free download and use. Like Apple’s Dashboard widgets, there have been a huge variety of Google Gadgets created, including mapping software, weather forecasts to Bible verses, quotes, IP address mapping and language translations, all available right from your desktop.

April 12, 2007  12:52 PM

Pandora: An online music discovery platform from the Music Genome Project

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Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help users find and enjoy music. It’s powered by the Music Genome Project, one of the most comprehensive analyses of music ever undertaken.

According to Tom Westergren, the founder of the project, the analytical engine that drives the service was created by “assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song – everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records – it’s about what each individual song sounds like.”

After you’ve clicked over to the Web site, all you have to do is enter a few of your favorite songs or artists and Pandora launches “a streaming station to explore that part of the music universe.” The more you listen, the more accurate Pandora becomes in predicting which other artists and tracks will be within your boundaries of taste, much as speech recognition software becomes more accurate with greater use.

April 12, 2007  12:22 PM

Bluespam: Spam sent to Bluetooth-enabled devices

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A TechDirt post from 2005 eerily predicted what’s actually happening in 2007: Bluespam has hit the bigtime. Well, Nascar and young people’s cellphones, anyway. Specifically, as Carlo posted on TechDirt yesterday, the Air Force is “aiming high” with Bluespamming.

Should our spam definition now be extended to unsolicited bulk electronic communication of any kind? Probably not — there’s an active market in creating new terms to describe this kind of solicitation in each medium. In fact, we recorded a podcast last year, “What are Spam, Spim, Sping, Splog and Spit?,” that addressed exactly this expansion.

If we start with WhatIs.com’s definition of spam, unsolicited bulk email (UBE) sent on the Internet, it’s easy to make the extension, though it’s necessary to make UBE more generel, extending it to unsolicited commercial electronic communication (UCEC). Spim is UCEC using instant messenging (IM) software.

SPIT, sometimes known as “vam” for voice spam, UCEC sent over IP telephony. SPIT may be broadcast over VoIP, which I suppose would be “SPoIP,” though we haven’t heard that much.

There’s good news for enterprise VoIP users, however, according to Zeus Kerravala: “Spam and eavesdropping, which is what a lot of them are worried about, is mostly based on consumer voice. That has nothing to do with what goes on behind the firewall, where the main concern is managing performance.” Kerravala is an analyst for the Yankee Group in Boston who wrote a guide to the realities of VoIP security for SearchVoIP.com, so we’re inclined to trust him on this count.

Back to Bluespamming. Using the same formulation from above, Bluspamming is defined as unsolicited commercial electronic solicitations sent over a Bluetooth connection. Is it really spam? TechDirt certainly thinks so:

While there are plenty of people who like to think that marketing is an evil profession, that’s not true at all. Real marketing has tremendous value in figuring out what people want and how to deliver it to them. It’s just that so many people do it so badly (and assume that marketing is more about telling people they want something they don’t) that it has a terrible reputation. That’s why you just have to cringe when some marketers do things so obviously bad that you just know it’s going to continue the downward spiral of the view of what marketing really is about. A few weeks ago, we wrote about a test of a system in the UK called “Bluecasting” which was more accurately described as “Bluespamming”, where terminals were set up to send commercial messages over Bluetooth to unsuspecting people passing by with Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones. The companies behind this plan insist it’s fine because rather than just sending you the commercial message, they first spam you to ask you if it’s okay if they send you a commercial message. For some reason, these folks then thought it was terrific that they only wasted the time of 85% of the people they spammed. Sure, compared to direct mail, that’s a high return, but it’s quite a different situation. Buzzing someone on their phone as they’re walking through a train station is likely to really interrupt them as they’re on their way somewhere. Yet, due to blind marketing-think, the folks behind it still are insisting it’s wonderful and are expanding the program to bug even more people — pretty much guaranteeing that most folks are going to start turning Bluetooth off on their phones. The people behind it are in denial about how annoying this really is. According to the manager of some airport lounges where this will be used: “I think it’s done very well because it enables the customers [to choose]. It doesn’t force it on them.” But, it does force it on users — by pinging them without permission to see if they want the ad. That’s the spam. Being interrupted as they’re trying to do something else. If it was really completely up to the user, they would just put up signs telling people they could request info or content on their phones using Bluetooth. But actively sending them messages via Bluetooth is intrusive and, to many, many people, clearly seen as spam.”

For more context, make sure to review our definitions for Bluejacking and Bluesnarfing and our glossary of ‘casts, which we’ve updated to include “Bluecasting”. For more information about Bluetooth, listen in to our podcast, “What is Bluetooth?,” over at Bitpipe.com (Free registration is required).

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