UMBC ebiquity
2005 September

Archive for September, 2005

Reactions to Oracle’s RDF support

September 22nd, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Semantic Web, Web

Seth Ladd blogs about Oracle 10g, which has support for RDF. He found a lot to like, including the ability to define rules (e.g., for RDFS or OWL), and one show stopper — any modifications to the RDF model (e.g., adding a triple) require rebuilding your rule indexes. Oracle has some documents and papers online on its RDF support, including:

New powerful GP2X linux handheld for $189

September 20th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Mobile Computing

It can play games. It can play your Movies. It can play your music. It can view photos. It can read Ebooks. It runs on just 2 AA batteries – And it can do all this in the palm of your hand or on your TV screen. GP2X is a linux handheld with two 200mhz CPU’s with 64meg of RAM, custom graphics hardware and decoding chips and a slot for SD cards. Price? $189 US! (preorder).

Google to launch free secure Wi-FI service

September 20th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL, Security, Semantic Web, Web

A Reuters article claims that Google is preparing to launch its own wireless Internet service, Google WiFi. Evidence includes several pages found at wifi.google.com including a FAQ for their Google Secure Access, a downloadable client application that allows users to establish a more secure WiFi connection. Some report that San Francisco Bay Area users will soon be able to connect freely to Google Wi-Fi hotspots using this VPN wireless client.

UPDATE: An anonymous source on Dave Farber’s IP mailing list says:

Google is doing two things:

1) promoting municipal Wi-Fi and working with the city of San Francisco and companies like EarthLink;

2) releasing a beta of a simple VPN client — “Google Secure Access” — which provides a tunnel to a Google VPN server exploiting the built-in VPN tool in Windows XP and 2000. This is useful on insecure Wi-Fi networks for those that have no VPN, but it is not a Wi-Fi service.

Offering a free VPN service might make sense as a new way for Google to put ads in front of eyes.

NSA to develop a secure PDA/phone

September 19th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Gadgets, Mobile Computing, Security

The US National Security Agency (NSA) is planning to build a secure wireless PDA that also does voice and data communications over public networks, including CDMA, GSM and 802.11. Dubbed SME-PDA (for “secure mobile environment – portable electronic device” — boy do they need better marketing!), it’s rumored to support voice and data communications up to Top Secret and email up to Secret. The device will be developed for NSA by L-3 Communications and another, not yet named company. Earlier reports named General Dynamics C4 Systems as being involved. …more…

WebGoat teaches web application security

September 17th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Security, Semantic Web, Web

The Open Web Application Security Project has developed WebGoat as a training environment for securing web applications.

WebGoat is a lessons based, deliberately insecure web application designed to teach web application security. Each of the 25 lessons provides the user an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding by exploiting a real vulnerability. WebGoat provides the ability to examine the underlying code to gain a better understanding of the vulnerability as well as provide runtime hints to assist in solving each lesson. V3.7 includes lessons covering most of the OWASP Top Ten vulnerabilities and contains several new lessons on web services, SQL Injection, and authentication. Simply unzip, run, and go to WebGoat in your browser to start learning.

Sounds like a great teaching and learning tool for building secure web-based systems.

The nine billion names of Google

September 15th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Blogging, Semantic Web, Web

Apologies to Arthur C. Clarke. The nine billion names of God.

(posted by karlcow on SWIG Scratchpad)

Key in Disaster Management — Communication

September 14th, 2005, by Anand, posted in Gadgets, GENERAL, Pervasive Computing, Technology Impact, Technology Policy

Local governments and agencies are waking up with a start — could it happen here? If first responders cannot communicate with each other in the first 72 hours — how do they do their job?

The New Orleans tragedy manifested the worst communication nightmares imaginable — underground communication lines were disabled due to flooding, cell towers were blown over, backup generators ran out of fuel — or filled up with water. Radios of police, firefighters, ER couldn’t talk to each other. In some cases first responders were simply walking over to each other to talk!

Ad hoc networks boast of working in especially such situations … after more than 10 years and millions of $$ in research … where is the first deployed/working ad hoc network?

Baltimore Sun:

No sooner had a 46-truck convoy of Baltimore first-responders and equipment left for Louisiana on Sunday than it received an education in emergency communications: Even state-of-the-art systems can fail.

Grand Rapids Press:

“The lessons we can learn from the Katrina disaster is what happens to those with mobility and transportation issues. If there is a need for a mass evacuation, how would we get those without transportation?” 1st Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak asked.

Eyewitness News:

The Nevada Homeland Security Department is taking up the issue of disaster response. From their own experience and what they’ve seen with Hurricane Katrina relief, they’ve determined the channels of communication are broken.

Google’s blog search

September 14th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Blogging, Semantic Web, Web

Google has released a beta version of Google Blog Search, a service that finds blog posts. Its options support searching in date ranges, for posts by an author, posts in a given language and restricting searchs by URL or to blogs with certain words in their title. Google’s FAQ on this has a few interesting details, including

  • “The goal of Blog Search is to include every blog that publishes a site feed (either RSS or Atom).”
  • They diuscover blogs by monitoring ping services (e.g., weblogs.com) and started indexing in June 2005
  • While the query results are posts, “when there are entire blogs that seem to be a good match for your query, these will appear in a short list just above the main search results.”
  • You can subscribe the a query results as an RSS or Atom feed.
  • Google’s usual search operators (e.g., link:, site:, intitle:) are supported plus some blog specific ones.

Some observations:

  • Through some experimentation, I think identifying entire blogs relevant to a query is done by matching queries against blog titles, which has caused me to go and change the title of our blog.
  • Google doesn’t index the entire post page. It ignores, for example, text in the post template. I’m not sure if it’s getting the post text from the feed or if it tries to extract a post’s content from the template background. The former is easy to do, but some people only include a truncated version of their post in the feed. The latter is more robust, but also more difficult to do and do right.

Technorati and other blogs search services will have to work hard to compete with this.

Vint Cerf Joins Google

September 8th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL, Semantic Web, Web

The NYT reports that Google has hired Internet pioneer Vinton Cerf away from MCI Inc to fill the postion of “chief Internet evangelist”. Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt said

“He is one of the most important people alive today. Vint has put his heart and soul into making the Internet happen. I know he is going to jump right in here and start shoveling out new ideas for Google.”

It looks like both Google and Yahoo are stocking up on people in preparation for a big battle. I’m available, btw.

Blogging and UMBC’s new home page

September 7th, 2005, by Pranam Kolari, posted in Blogging, GENERAL, Policy, Technology, Web

UMBC is designing a new home page, about to be unvealed by the end of September. What was interested to note was the use of blogging as a mechanism to solicit user input. UMBC’s Webteam blog notes –

UMBC is providing a “sneak peek” of its new homepage, which begins the process of redesigning UMBC’s entire web presence by summer 2006. If you’d like to comment on the new homepage or the process for developing the site to follow, use the comment form below.

However I must add, I agree with many of the comments on the blog. It would be nice to see atleast some of these comments incorporated into the new design.

On a similar note, I wonder when UMBC will host blogs of students on the same lines as many other universities.

Economist on the digital home

September 5th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Pervasive Computing

The Economist has a good article on industry’s vision of a “digital home”.

“Technology firms are pushing a futuristic vision of home entertainment not because consumers are desperate for it but because they themselves are.”

The article points out the gap between industry’s ideas (some of which are like Clippy on steroids) and what people actually say the want (less configuration and help with the basics like printer sharing). It also identifies a key problem in the lack of interoperability standards and the prisoner’s dilemma situation that has resulted.

Dave Beckett to join Yahoo

September 5th, 2005, by Tim Finin, posted in Semantic Web

Dave Beckett announced that he is leaving the University of Bristol and joining Yahoo as a Senior Software Engineer/Architect in Sunnyvale. This is another sign that Yahoo is investing in new ideas and technology to position itself to compete. We’ve really enjoyed using Dave’s Redland suite for RDF and hope that it will continue to be maintained and developed. Congradulations Dave and good luck in Sunnyvale.

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