UMBC ebiquity
2004 November

Archive for November, 2004

Cool FireFox Extension: BugMeNot

November 29th, 2004, by Harry Chen, posted in GENERAL

Many non-pay news websites (e.g., NYTimes, Washington Post) require reader registrations. Sometimes they can be very annoying.

A FireFox extension called BugMeNot can help to solve this problem. “ was created as a mechanism to quickly bypass the login of web sites that require compulsory registration and/or the collection of personal/demographic information.”

More details

The Spammed Strike Back!

November 29th, 2004, by Anand, posted in GENERAL

Lycos is offering a free screensaver that will allow individuals to vent their anger on spammers. The Screensaver is essentially a Denial of Service attack tool that targets websites promoted by the spam messages. If nothing else, the websites (servers) promoted by spam will get lot of worthless hits that cost money for bandwidth and keep their servers loaded doing useless work, but of no value.

Then again, what happens if Lycos decides to take on someone else for a change. A hole is a hole and a DOS is a DOS.

Screensaver tackles spam websites

IBM Supports Cancer Ontology

November 29th, 2004, by Pavan, posted in KR

IBM and Massachusetts General Hospital Announce Effort to Improve Information Sharing Among Cancer Researchers “Effective tools for information management, integrated tightly with underlying computing and data infrastructures, are key to life sciences researchers gaining new insights into complex problems,” said David Grossman, Distinguished Engineer, IBM Internet Technology Group. “In addition, the use of semantic web technologies to integrate many sources and formats of data with advanced modeling algorithms is particularly helpful for this type of large-scale collaborative project.”

“There is an urgent need to develop a common, unifying infrastructure that enables the integration and sharing of knowledge about cancer — both in terms of disparate data and distinct computational tools — with the goal of modeling cancer as a complex dynamic system,” said Dr. Deisboeck. “While advances in cancer research and new technologies have generated a wealth of new data and insight, all too often the lack of shared systems and standards makes integration of this crucial knowledge difficult or impossible.”

A sign in the Heavens

November 28th, 2004, by Tim Finin, posted in Web

The picture on the left is of a nebula recently discovered in deep space around the time that Firefox 0.8 was released. The one on the right has been modified to show the amazing similarity to the Firefox logo.

Do you really need more reasons to switch browsers?

Blogosphere By the Numbers

November 28th, 2004, by Tim Finin, posted in Social, Web

ClickZ’s The Blogosphere By the Numbers discusses trends identified by several companies and projects.

According to David Sifry, Technorati‘s chief executive, the current number of blogs is now over 8 times bigger than the 500,000 blogs it measured in June, 2003. The company tracked 3 million blogs as of the first week of July, and has added over 1 million blogs to its stable since then. Meanwhile, Pew Internet & American Life reports a new weblog is created every 5.8 seconds. That roughly translates into 15,000 new blogs every day.

The article also points out that blog traffic spikes when certain “web communicable events” occur — like the Howard Dean scream and the Kryptonite lock debacle.

What is Captology?

November 26th, 2004, by Tim Finin, posted in Agents, Social

I stumbled across this term at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab web page. Not reading carefully, at first I thought it was a group working on Pervasive technology. But no …

The Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab creates insight into how computing products — from websites to mobile phone software — can be designed to change what people believe and what they do. Like human persuaders, persuasive interactive technologies can bring about positive changes in many domains, including health, business, safety, and education. With such ends in mind, we are creating a body of expertise in the design, theory, and analysis of persuasive technologies, an area called “captology.”

B. J. Fogg, the man behind this group, seems to have coined the term. He’s interested in exploring how all kinds of computing technologies, from kiosks to web pages to mobile phones, can be designed to motivate and persuade people, especially for good, e.g., encouraging healthy living or safe driving. A related project is the Web Credibility Project which studies how people evaluate a web site’s credibility.

Captology obviously has a dark side too. Google turned up an apparently related term captation which in French law has the following definition :

CAPTATION – French Law. The act of one who succeeds in controlling the will of another so as to become master of it. It is generally taken in a bad sense. Captation takes place by those demonstrations of attachment and friendship, by those assiduous attentions, by those services and officious little presents which are usual among friends, and by all those means which ordinarily render us agreeable to others. When those attentions are unattended by deceit or fraud they are perfectly fair, and the captation is lawful; but if, under the mask of friendship, fraud is the object and means are used to deceive the person with whom you are connected, then the captation is fraudulent and the acts procured by the captator are void.

That sounds a lot more like an all too common commercial (and political) approach to persuation.

What makes Google different

November 25th, 2004, by Pranam Kolari, posted in GENERAL

Innovation and the ability to associate with users. Lets keep all the privacy and other incidental worries aside. The point here is that Google is now for the Web(Search), what Microsoft/IBM was for Technology/Software. This is the message from Gmail homepage. I also like the “Gobble gobble” and “user – friendly webmail” part !

In 1621, a few hundred Pilgrims and Native Americans sat down to celebrate a bountiful harvest. The feast lasted three days, and included fowl, venison, fish, berries, watercress, lobster, dried fruit, clams, and plums. There was no pumpkin pie, however. There was also an alarming lack of user-friendly webmail services.

Now, 383 years later, it’s once again time to celebrate what has come to be known as Thanksgiving – a time to gather with family and friends and give thanks for all that we have. We have many things to be thankful for. But mostly, we are thankful for you – our users – who remind us of why we work so hard all year and why we love what we do. That’s better than all the dried fruit and clams in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving! Thank you for making our approach to email yours.

Gobble gobble,
The Gmail Team

Semantic Web Tutorial by Ivan Herman

November 25th, 2004, by li ding, posted in Semantic Web

The tutorial Questions (and Answers) on the Semantic Web was given by Ivan Herman, W3C on 27 Oct 2004.

This tutorial gave quick answers to the frequently asked questions about the semantic web. Below are some interesting ones.

– the role of the semantic web is not full-AI.
– RDF/XML is only a serialization of RDF graph.
– RDF is better than xml because of its graph model.
– OWL reasoner is good but domain specific reasoner are also desired.
– There are many RDF application (esp. industrial application such as Dublin Core, Boeing, Sun’s Sword Fish, RSS, Adobe’s XMP, Mozzila, and Creative commons)

Within the scope of Semantic Web Best Practices and Deployment Working Group, Swoogle matches the category “ontology/vocabulary development practices”.

ISWC04 papers available online

November 25th, 2004, by Tim Finin, posted in Conferences

The complete set of papers and posters from the 3rd International Semantic Web Conference (ISWC2004) is available online in PDF. You can also download the entire set as one 25MB rar file .

This Thanksgiving Do Some Blog Reading

November 24th, 2004, by Harry Chen, posted in GENERAL

The latest issue of the Communications of ACM has a special track on blogging. If you are an ACM member, you can download the articles for free. If not, search the Google Scholar, see if you can pick up some draft version of the articles.

SPECIAL ISSUE: The blogosphere

  • Structure and evolution of blogspace
  • Why we blog
  • Semantic blogging and decentralized knowledge management
  • How blogging software reshapes the online community
  • Democracy and filtering

FCC Approves First Software-Defined Radio (SDR)

November 24th, 2004, by Harry Chen, posted in GENERAL

Software-defined radio, sometimes shortened to software radio (SR), refers to wireless communication in which the transmitter modulation is generated or defined by a computer, and the receiver uses a computer to recover the signal intelligence. To select the desired modulation type, the proper programs must be run by microcomputers that control the transmitter and receiver.

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced
its approval of the first software-defined radio (SDR) device allowed in the United States.

The most significant asset of SDR is versatility. For instance, wireless systems employ protocols that vary from one service to another – even in the same type of service – whereas a single SDR set with an all-inclusive software repertoire can be used in any mode, anywhere in the world. Software defined radios can change the frequency range, modulation type or output power of a radio device without making changes to hardware components. This programmable capacity permits radios to be highly adaptable to changing needs, protocols and environments.

If you want to learn more, see this white paper.

SWAD-Eurpoe overview: some useful RDF practices

November 24th, 2004, by li ding, posted in GENERAL, Semantic Web

I just came across an overview about the SWAD-Europe by Dan Brickley, Libby Miller and Kate Sharp.

“Amongst its many themes, SWAD-Europe provided detailed answers to developer questions about RDF query and storage (analysis of scalability issues; query languages; APIs), and human-oriented classification (SKOS for thesauri, bookmark sharing etc.; semantic blogging). The project’s final workshop was on the theme of FOAF, Social Networking and the Semantic Web, and illustrated some of the strengths of the project, combining presentations from academic, commercial and opensource perspectives with active collaborative work on tools and applications.”

The project focus on practical issues for supporting collaborative work so as to incent human users and developers to adopt the concept and practice of the semantic web.

Then I jumped into the Semantic Web Best Practice working group and found an collection of interesting tutorials at

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