Saturday, June 02, 2007

Fav5

  1. On Wednesday, Google released Google Gears (beta), a browser plug-in that allows you to run web applications whether you are connected to the Internet or not. The small plug-in contains three components: a web server, an open-source database SQLite, and browser extensions for running JavaScript code in parallel. More about it here.

  2. On April 27, Estonia relocated a Soviet-era memorial, the Bronze Soldier, which honored an unknown Russian soldier who died fighting the Nazis in World War II. Missionary friends of mine who live in Tallinn, the capital, emailed me about the ensuing riots and unrest the incident caused. (I’ve been to Estonia on three occasions, teaching Bible classes and working as a camp counselor.) Some background: Estonia was once begrudgingly part of the Soviet Union, but since gaining their freedom in 1991, there has been a lot of tension between the resident Russian (30%) and Estonian (70%) populations. Relocating the monument was essentially seen as a slap in the face to the Russians.

    What my friends didn’t tell me was that there was also a large scale distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS) attack on several Estonia websites, including several government sites. At the peak of the attack on May 9, fifty-eight websites were shutdown at once. An interview with Jose Nazario, a security researcher, sheds some more light on the DDoS attack.

  3. Congratulations to ACU (a sister school of Harding’s and the alma mater of three of my family members) for being mentioned in a Wall Street Journal article on social networking: At Some Schools, Facebook Evolves From Time Waster to Academic Study
    For the past year, Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas has funded two research projects that use social-networking site Facebook to examine student retention trends, in part because the school noticed its students were already spending so much time on the site, said K.B. Massingill, executive director of the division that funded the research. A group of undergraduate students also studied faith-related conversations in Facebook and MySpace and presented their findings to what Mr. Massingill called an unusually well-attended faculty session. "We filled up the room," he said.
  4. All good things must come to an end, including Battestar Galactica. There are very few TV shows I like, so it’s sad this one will be ending after next season. I’ve really enjoyed the show for the most part. I think they really messed up recasting Starbuck as a woman, especially one that is so annoyingly self-destructive, but the idea of a robot race hunting down their creators lends to a ton of creative plots and twists. My hope for the final season: focus more on the sci-fi aspects and less on the nutty Apollo-Starbuck relationship.

  5. I’m planning on teaching a course on search engine development and web mining next spring when I return to Harding, so I spent some time this week examining a book that is in progress called Introduction to Information Retrieval. One of the book’s authors, Prabhakar Raghavan (Yahoo! Research), was one of the main speakers at the WWW2007 conference a few weeks ago.

    Inspired by some of the concepts in chapters 19 and 20, I created a few new Wikipedia articles: adversarial information retrieval, web search queries, and focused crawlers. It’s kind of fun creating new Wikipedia articles- it’s a little like putting a flag in the ground and claiming ownership.