UMBC ebiquity
2008 September

Archive for September, 2008

Congress asks telecos why text messaging rates are rising

September 11th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Mobile Computing

The US congress is asking the four major mobile phone providers why their charges for text messages have gone up by 100% over the past few years. As Chris Gaylord notes in his blog on the Christian Science Monitor, “text messages cost about $1,310 per megabyte. That seems a tad high.”

“With text-messaging rates doubling over the past three years, Sen. Herb Kohl has started asking questions. The Wisconsin Democrat and head of the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee sent a letter to the four major cellular companies on Tuesday with some interesting points.

In 2005, the industry charged about 10 cents per text. Now it’s 20 cents. All four carriers upped their rates at about the same time. The number of nationwide competitors slipped from six to four. And the remaining big-timers are gobbling up regional carriers.”

US Senator Herb Kohl’s press release includes the letter to the telecos.

“Today, US Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee, asked the presidents and chief executive officers of the four largest wireless telephone companies to justify sharply rising rates for its customers to send and receive text messages. In a letter, Senator Kohl requested an explanation from Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, which collectively serve more than 90 percent of the nation’s cellular phone users. The text of Senator Kohl’s letter follows below.”

Last call for W3C’s Rule Interchange Format (RIF) specification

September 9th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in GENERAL

The W3C’s Rule Interchange Format Working Group has published “last call” drafts of two of its specifications for RIF:

  • RIF Basic Logic Dialect (BLD) specifies an XML format for rules at an intermediate expressive power. The language is roughly Horn rules with URIs, datatypes, and builtins. This goes beyond datalog by having function terms but does not provide any kind of negation, including no negation-as-failure. Additional features, including negation, may be provided by future dialects which extend BLD.
  • RIF, RDF and OWL Compatibility explains and specifies how RIF rulesets are to be used in combination with RDF and OWL.

Sandro Hawk writes that:

“This is the time for people to read them and tell us about anything that doesn’t seem right. After this, if you don’t like something in the spec, it will be increasingly hard to get it changed. We would like comments by September 19 in order to consider them for our next set of revisions.”

A-Space: a social networking site for intelligence analysts

September 7th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Security, Social media, Web

Sixteen US intelligence agencies are encourage their staff to use A-Space, a new social-networking site for analysts being developed by the US Government and slated for launch on 22 September.

A-Space is an effort sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Defense Intelligence Agency is managing the project with serving as the prime contractor for development.

CNN has an article, CIA, FBI push ‘Facebook for spies’, with some of the details.

“It’s a place where not only spies can meet but share data they’ve never been able to share before,” Wertheimer said. “This is going to give them for the first time a chance to think out loud, think in public amongst their peers, under the protection of an A-Space umbrella.” Wertheimer demonstrated the program to CNN to show how analysts will use it to collaborate.

“One perfect example is if Osama bin Laden comes out with a new video. How is that video obtained? Where are the very sensitive secret sources we may have to put into a context that’s not apparent to the rest of the world?” Wertheimer asked. “In the past, whoever captured that video or captured information about the video kept it in-house. It’s highly classified, because it has so very short a shelf life. That information is considered critical to our understanding.”

Material on A-Space is, of course, highly classified and compartmentalized, so there will be stringent access control procedures. To further prevent information from being inappropriately accessed or used, A-Space will employ additional mechanisms, including monitoring for anomalous access patterns.

“We’re building [a] mechanism to alert that behavior. We call that, for lack of a better term, the MasterCard, where someone is using their credit card in a way they’ve never used it before, and it alerts so that maybe that credit card has been stolen,” Wertheimer said. “Same thing here. We’re going to actually do patterns on the way people use A-Space.”

Federal Computer week also has a recent article on A-Space, A-Space set to launch this month.

Can you survive 24 hour without Google?

September 7th, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Google, sEARCH

Rob Dubbin, a writer for “The Colbert Report”, wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post, Just Let Me Check One Last Thing…, on his attempt to last 24 hours without using any of Google’s services. The test was undertaken on the tenth anniversary of Google’s founding. It did not go well.

“I wish Google didn’t make me think of tentacles. It never did before I tried avoiding it for 24 hours — a doomed exercise that began as a challenge and morphed into a horror show.

This was supposed to be a birthday present to the Internet’s reigning brand — admittedly, an odd sort of gift for a company that so thrives on participation. Ten years ago today, on Sept. 7, 1998, Google was officially incorporated, beginning its historical march to ubiquity from a Silicon Valley garage. What better way to celebrate Google’s dominance — search, e-mail, chat, maps, news, calendars, Mars– than to abstain from its services entirely? ”

Google Chrome beta vs. IE8 beta 2

September 2nd, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Google, Web

Suddenly this slashdot item, IE8 Beta 2 Fatter Than Firefox and XP, posted today gains in relevance.

snydeq writes “Consuming twice as much RAM as Firefox and saturating the CPU with nearly six times as many execution threads, Microsoft’s latest beta release of Internet Explorer 8 is in fact more demanding on your PC than Windows XP itself, research firm Devil Mountain Software found in performance tests. According to the firm, which operates a community-based testing network, IE8 Beta 2 consumed 380MB of RAM and spawned 171 concurrent threads during a multi-tab browsing test of popular Web destinations. InfoWorld’s Randall Kennedy speculates that Microsoft may be designing IE8 for the multicore future. But until your machine sports four or eight discrete processing cores, IE8 will remain ‘porcine,’ Devil Mountain’s Craig Barth says.”

Last week it was widely reported that Firefox would soon get a new JavaScript engine that could result in an order of magnitude performance increase by using a compiler.

Maybe this is a case where things come in threes, with Microsoft, Mozilla and now Google all preparing major new browser releases.

Google Chrome beta only for Windows, not Mac OS X or Linux

September 2nd, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Google, Semantic Web, Web

I just noticed that the beta version of Google Chrome to be released sometime today will only be available for Microsoft Windows. 🙁 Hopefully, the MAC OS X and Linux versions will follow without too much delay.

Update: You can sign up to get more information on other releases here:

Google to launch Chrome Web browser Tue Sept 2

September 1st, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Google, Semantic Web, Web

Google Chrome logo

Updated below: (a).

Google has announced that they will launch a new Web browser, built partly from scratch and partly form other open source projects. The Google Chrome browser uses the WebKit open source rendering engine and an open sourced Javascript virtual machine named V8.

“On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn’t the browser that matters. It’s only a tool to run the important stuff — the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.

Under the hood, we were able to build the foundation of a browser that runs today’s complex web applications much better. By keeping each tab in an isolated “sandbox”, we were able to prevent one tab from crashing another and provide improved protection from rogue sites. We improved speed and responsiveness across the board. We also built a more powerful JavaScript engine, V8, to power the next generation of web applications that aren’t even possible in today’s browsers.”

As part of their roll out, they have released a 40 page Google Chrome comic book created by none other than Scott McCloud.

It’s always significant when Google releases new software, but not all of their projects have been successful. The technical details on Chrome sound promising. Having another good be open source browser might spur competition, experimentation with new ideas, and lead to better web tools for everyone. But, of course, we hope that it does not kill off any of the other good browsers, open sourced or not.

I scanned the comic quickly and saw no mention of the Semantic Web or direct support for noticing or capturing data encoded by sites. Chrome looks like it is mostly trying to do rework a conventional browser to make it cleaner, faster and safer. That’s a good goal, but an incremental one.

Google blogscoped has a good summary of Chrome’s features if you don’t want to read the comic.

UPDATE (a): The New York Times has a story, Microsoft Faces New Browser Foe in Google , that focused on the Google vs. Microsoft angle.

ProgrammableWeb lists Web 2.0 APIs and mashups

September 1st, 2008, by Tim Finin, posted in Semantic Web, Social media, Web

In a recent conversation, Steve Willmott of 3scale.net mentioned an interesting site that was new to me — ProgrammableWeb.

“ProgrammableWeb gets you the latest on what’s new and interesting with mashups, Web 2.0 APIs, and the Web as Platform. It’s a directory, a news source, a reference guide, a community.”

Their Web 2.0 API directory lists over 900 open web service APIs that one can search by category, popularity, name, or date. They also have a directory of over 3300 mashups.

It looks like a good resource.

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