Our Latest Discovery

May 10, 2007  10:29 AM

The Encyclopedia Of Life: An individual Web page for every species of life on Earth

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Can you imagine a comprehensive, illustrated encyclopedia that documented and described every living species known to humankind?

If scientists succeed in a new, boldly conceived project, such a dream might become reality. Meet the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL). [Press release]

A steering committee of senior officers from Harvard University, Smithsonian Institution, Field Museum, Marine Biological Laboratory, Biodiversity Heritage Library consortium, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the MacArthur and Sloan Foundations has proposed that “an online reference source and database for every one of the 1.8 million species that are named and known on this planet, as well as all those later discovered and described. Encyclopedia of Life will be used as both a teaching and a learning tool, helping scientists, educators, students, and the community at large gain a better understanding of this planet and all who inhabit it.”

The EOL project has its roots in the writing of biologists Dan Jenzen and E.O. Wilson. Wilson’s 2003 essay on the topic and then a speech 2007 speech (read his wish on TED.com) at the influential TED Conference have brought the concept to wider attention.

Essentially, the EOL hopes to combine collaborative editing using wikis and mashups of a number of other sources of scientific materials. Crucially, entries will edited and approved by scientists to ensure the authenticity and accuracy of the information.

Draft species pages that demonstrate some of the possibilities of a fully implemented system are already available at http://www.eol.org.

The project’s creators hope to have actual, authenticated species pages available by mid 2008. You can learn more by reading the EOL FAQ or watching this video on YouTube.

BoingBoing has also posted about EOL , noting that while the project has received a $50 million dollar funding commitment led by the MacArthur Foundation, the EOL “reminds [him] a lot of Kevin Kelly’s All Species Foundation, which ran out of funding around 2003. It was a TED-borne idea.”

May 9, 2007  4:21 PM

Netvibes is a good start

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Netvibes.com is a terrific, highly customizable start page . It comes with some defaults but you can change just about anything on the page to get whatever you want to see first when you log in.

Dion Hinchcliffe named netvibes the best start page in his Best Web 2.0 Software of 2006:

Increasing in popularity in particular are what some people call Ajax desktops, or personalized start pages. Well exemplified by Microsoft’s Live.com, but also by the likes of the popular Protopage and Netvibes, the interest in these online desktops is being driven by a confluence of factors.

One major factor is that we are struggling with attention scarcity; finding enough time to digest the proliferating sources of information we need to track on a daily basis. I don’t need to tell you that the sheer variety can be daunting and now usually includes e-mail, calendars, contacts, to do lists, news, weather, school closings, blogs and work documents like spreadsheets, presentations, and more…

This is making the simplicity and elegance of online desktops ever more attractive.

May 7, 2007  9:07 AM

Corporate culture: What do you wear to work?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse


 When I was a little kid growing up in suburban Poughkeepsie, New York, it was easy to spot the Dads who worked at IBM. They all wore the IBM (I’ve Been Moved) uniform: a dark suit, white shirt, skinny tie and shoes with laces. Loafers of all kind were frowned upon.  

IBM celebrates the corporate uniform in a retrospective called “The Way We Wore.” 

I was surprised to learn that there really wasn’t a dress code at IBM during the 1960‘s. The uniform was just an example of what my parents would have labeled “peer pressure” when talking about a younger generation. 

I cringed when I saw the 1984 photo of a woman exec wearing a big bow tie that screamed “Dress for Success” and the group photo from 1997 could be an ad for the Gap.

Going through IBM’s virtual scrapbook got me wondering — what’s the corporate culture of today going to look like to future social historians? 

I telecommute and am working right now at my dining room table, still in my pajamas. My husband commutes an hour and 15 minutes each day. His daily uniform is a bright-colored shirt, wild tie, khaki pants and boating shoes. (Jeans on Friday) 

Not a dark suit or power bow-tie between us.  I know when I do have to go in to the office, it’s pretty eclectic. It got me wondering, IS there a uniform for techies right now?  Do people in your workplace still dress like they did in Freshman year — or has business invaded the landscape of your workday and changed the camouflage?

Informal survey: What’s your work uniform?

May 2, 2007  11:15 AM

Wolfram Demonstrations Project: Visualizing algorithms and mathematical models

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

nullThe Wolfram Demonstrations Project is a free service with over twelve-hundred dynamically interactive examples of math, science, and physics. Levels of complexity range from elementary school level to graduate physics. Each example has code associated with it.
Lovers of Mathematica, a marvelous mathematical modeling application, will recognize Wolfram as the maker of that fine software. Mathematica itself includes thousands of original algorithms, spanning applied uses that range “from simple calculator operations and educational demonstrations to large-scale systems deployment and maximum-power supercomputing.”

May 2, 2007  8:57 AM

Create your own Jackson Pollock

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Caught in a boring phone meeting? Need a brain refresh between tasks? Create a work of art at jacksonpollock.org. You start with a blank canvas. Go fast for skinny lines, slow for blobs, click to change colors — you’ll figure it out. For a real challenge, try creating something that DOESN’T look like a Jackson Pollock. (Hey, drop us a note if you end up with a Rembrandt!)

The site, created by Miltos Manetas, was named as one of Time’s 50 coolest Web sites. Here’s Maneta’s essay, Websites are the art of our times.

April 27, 2007  2:00 PM

W3Schools HTML Quiz

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse


W3Schools has an excellent collection of free HTML, CSS, JavaScript, DHTML, XML, XHTML, WAP, ASP, SQL tutorials with lots of working examples and source code. Be sure to bookmark this site and visit often.  

Take a short quiz and test your ability to code HTML.

April 26, 2007  12:53 PM

Ms. Dewey: Personalized search makes Live sexier — but the results are the same.

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

Have you been over to search with Ms. Dewey yet? Ms. Dewey is a viral marketing campaign that Microsoft launched in October, 2006. The campaign centers around msdewey.com, which features actress Janina Gavankar playing a character of the same name. 

The Web site features an experimental Flash-based interface that houses Windows Live Search, Microsoft’s search engine. Unlike the more minimalist design principles favored by Google or Ask’s search interface, Ms. Dewey uses a dark city skyline with Gavankar placed front and center. She prompts the visitor to search, commenting on keywords entered. When idle, she’ll find other things to do, often using props from behind the desk or making observations that can only be described as snarky.

The site was developed by graphic designers McCann-Erickson and developer EVB, using over 600 video clips. While the results may be no better than those generated on the standard Live Search page, there’s no question that Ms. Dewey is both easier on the eyes and more entertaining than Jeeves ever was.

April 26, 2007  12:30 PM

Netcosm: 3-D network monitoring and performance management tool

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

One of our colleagues, SearchNetworking.com’s Tessa Parmenter, wrote a provocative message to her audience this past week. In it, she commented on a new tool, Netcosm, described by Andrew Hickey in his recent article, “Network Monitoring gets a video game touch.” Here’s what Andrew had to say:

What if monitoring tools got a 3D kick and incorporated slick, video game-like graphics and sound effects to alert IT of problems on the network?

Sounds a bit goofy, but it just might work.

NetQoS, maker of tools like SuperAgent and ReporterAnalyzer, recently announced its latest creation: Netcosm, a 3D graphical representation of the network and the traffic that traverses it. It uses video game-style graphics, resembling something out of the futuristic 1980s movie Tron or early incarnations of popular games like Doom or Quake.

Netcosm, to put it simply, represents the network and the traffic that traverses it with 3-D graphics that look distinctly like those of a video game. While the tool is not yet released, Netcosm can be viewed as an online demo.

Tessa asked some provocative questions in a recent newsletter, which, with her permission, we’ve excerpted below. Please feel free to respond to with your thoughts in letters to the editor or in the comments section of this post. Do you think this is the future of networking and tech support?

Netcosm targets the younger generation of networking pros, those used to the graphics and sound effects of video games — the IT pro gamer.

What does this say to the non-gamer, networking professional? Maybe it won’t matter because the graphics are doing them a service, presenting lots of metrics all at once with quickly comprehensible images. But could this be ostracizing, or even belittling to the more informed and practiced IT pro?

My guess is no, since much of work these days feels, well, much more like work. Laughter seems to have been squeezed out of our daily work lives — no play allowed, no laughter, no games — so why not add a little joie de vivre to our work day? Isn’t this like getting paid to play video games? And isn’t that a gamer’s dream come true?

In a sense…but then what is this saying about our culture? Maybe the boundaries of work and play should not combine. If you go into this program with the mindset that you’re playing a video game, then you might want to rethink things. There are no pauses, no cheat codes, and certainly no extra lives. Once a failsafe has gone down and the bad guys have taken over your network, you’ve compromised corporate data, not just your self-esteem. And the excitement of the graphics might be tempting. Even the best network admin might want to see what happens, just this one time, when something combusts. Though unrealistic, it’s still a thought to consider. The worse things get, the cooler things look.

All in all, though, we can take this for what it is: a great way to illustrate what is going on with your network. Rather than deciphering vague alert messages, this gets the point across immediately. And, because the majority of us are image-oriented, it makes sense to represent these pertinent metrics graphically.

Do you feel differently about this? Is there something you want to add or comment on? Share your thoughts with us at SearchNetworking.com and send your message to: editor@searchnetworking.com.

April 25, 2007  2:09 PM

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GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

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April 23, 2007  4:27 PM

Damn Small Linux: How low can a distro go?

GuyPardon Guy Pardon Profile: GuyPardon

We’ve long since defined Linux.

We’ve gone on to note the various distributions, including lightweight versions in the skinny Linux family like Feather Linux, Austrumi and even Puppy Linux. These operating systems are often run directly from live distros burned onto CDs or from hot-swappable flash memory-based jump drives.

We’ve also podcasted about portable applications, where we learned how open source applications like Mozilla‘s Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird email client, along with Audacity, OpenOffice and many other apps have been made mobile. Similarly, these applications are run directly from portable storage media or devices. And, like many others, we’re watching how the OLPC’s XO is received and works “in the wild” as it moves from prototype to worldwide distribution.

Now, we’re taking note of the next version of the “portable desktop,” at least as described by Wired’s Monkey Bites blog. Meet “Damn Small Linux,” a distribution of Linux that takes up a mere 50 megabytes of memory. That makes it small enough to fit on most flash drives. Aside from adding even more acronym confusion to the world of computing (given that Damn Small Linux is shortened to “DSL”), DSL is the latest example of how simple experiments using the open source model of development can become robust distributions. In this case, the original concept was to see how many (usable) desktop applications could fit inside of a 50 MB CD, including a functional operating system.

If you’re wondering how many that is, by the way, the current breakdown, according the DSL Web site, includes:

XMMS (MP3, CD Music, and MPEG), FTP client, Dillo Web browser, Netrik Web browser, Firefox, spreadsheet, Sylpheed email, spellcheck (US English), a word processor (Ted), three editors (Beaver, Vim, and Nano [pico clone]), graphics editing and viewing (Xpaint, and xzgv), Xpdf (PDF Viewer), emelFM (file manager), Naim (AIM, ICQ, IRC), VNCviwer, Rdesktop, SSH/SCP server and client, DHCP client, PPP, PPPoE (ADSL), a Web server, calculator, generic and Ghostscript printer support, NFS, Fluxbox and JWM window managers, games, system monitoring apps, a host of command line tools, USB support, PCMCIA support, some wireless support.

Of course, that list could grow over time, but we’re still impressed by the power of community. In fact, it sounds like another example of crowdsourcing to our ears.

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