Saturday, September 29, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. This week Halo 3 debuted for the XBox 360, and by most accounts, it has met or exceeded expectations. I'm hoping to get a copy for my birthday next week.

  2. Researchers at UC San Diego are working on a music search engine. They've developed a Listen Game which uses the wisdom of crowds to help.

  3. Do you have difficulty identifying phish? Carnegie Mellon's Anti-Phishing Phil could help.

  4. I want a tree house. Anyone know of a good place in Searcy to build one of these?

  5. Almost half of IT workers surveyed said they have fallen asleep at their job. Big surprise. What is surprising is that 44% of male techies have said they've kissed a coworker. And I thought most tech geeks weren't very good with the ladies.

Friday, September 28, 2007

One week to go

My completed dissertation is due to my committee one week from today. As you can imagine, things are a little stressful, but I'm on target to complete it on time. I'll be defending three weeks from today on Oct 19. Please say a prayer for me if you get the chance.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - Philippians 4:13

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More Vista surprises

Can you guess what this is?
a) A beautiful piece of art work.
b) What the screen looks like when I'm up with Ethan at 5am.
c) Internet Explorer on crack.
d) All of the above.

The answer is D. I saw this marvelous window yesterday when IE decided it would no longer respond to commands. When I would minimize windows that were in front of the non-responsive IE window, it would leave a trail behind. For my GUI students, this is an excellent example of an application that is no longer processing paint messages. It's also an excellent example of why you hear me scream and kick my office wall periodically.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:

  1. Evidence that studying really does matter: A recent study finds that college freshman who have a roommate with a video game console spent an average of 40 minutes less time studying per day than those freshman whose roommate did not have a game machine. They also scored 0.241 points lower (on a 4.0 scale) at the end of their first semester. It's not that the games were causing the students' minds to waste away... they were simply eating into the time the students would normally have spent studying.

  2. The digital smiley face :-) turned 25 a few days ago. Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman claims to have been the first to use it in a computer message, and no one else has refuted that claim. Of course, proving you were the one to have invented the happy face is a difficult task; it would be rare for anyone to have access to a personal digital message from over 25 years ago.

  3. Kudos to the New York Times who recognized the potential to greatly increase revenue by unlocking their subscription-based content to the public.

  4. A Microsoft employee prematurely posted upcoming changes to Search Live on a blog. LiveSide caught it before it was pulled by MS.

  5. And finally, Microsoft lost big in Europe: $700 million and some change.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Search engine class

It's official- I'll be teaching a class entitled "Search Engine Development" in the spring semester, COMP 475. The prerequisites are COMP 245 (Data Structures) and 250 (Internet Development I). This course will count as one the 3 electives required for the CS-BS degree or one of the 2 electives required for the CS-BA degree.

In this course we'll be learning how search engines like Google are able to return a relevant set of search results from the Web in milliseconds. The following topics will be covered:
  • Web characterization
  • History of web search
  • Information retrieval (IR)
  • Web crawling
  • Deep web
  • Content indexing
  • Query processing
  • Search results ranking (e.g., PageRank and HITS)
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Adversarial IR
  • Personalization of search results

There will be several team projects utilizing open source software to build a search engine.

This course will be useful for anyone interested in doing research that could lead to presenting work at a major conference or in getting an internship at a search engine company.

The textbooks I'm currently looking at for this course include:

If anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Go Broncos!

Ethan and I decided last weekend to put on our Broncos gear and cheer them on against the Raiders. Apparently it did a world of good since the Raiders missed their chance at winning the game with a field goal kick in OT; the Broncos came back and kicked one for win.

Next weekend my parents will be visiting, so Ethan will be sporting his Cowboys outfit (his grandpa is a huge fan, and they're my second-favorite team).

p.s. Ethan won his first fantasy football game this weekend, beating his Uncle John 145-141. It helped having Chad Johnson who caught 2 TD passes and had 209 yards receiving.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Participate in ACM’s Mentoring Program

ACM has partnered with MentorNet to promote e-mentoring relationships between professionals and students in the areas of engineering, science and math. They are looking for students and professionals to be involved in the program. More information about the program is available here.

I highly recommend students get involved in this service; it will not only help you learn more about the profession you are about to enter, but it will also give you some contacts in the field which could be very valuable as it gets time to find an internship or graduate.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. This morning one of our senior computer science students did their senior seminar on Silverlight, a new web technology developed by Microsoft to enable .NET client-side programming on the Web. Like the Flash player, Silverlight first requires the engine to be downloaded and installed. I got it to work just fine with Firefox (although I hate restarting my browser, especially when I have 20 different pages open). This technology looks promising, especially if Microsoft really pushes hard for adoption. I wonder why they don't include it along with Flash in Vista? Maybe they're afraid of another bundling lawsuit.

  2. One of the examples used in the Silverlight presentation was Microsoft's new search engine, Tafiti. Tafiti is powered by Live Search, but it uses Silverlight for it's interface. Tafiti is a perfect example of how a pretty interface does not necessarily make your application any more usable (see the tree of search results below for "Harding University").

    P.S. I noticed today (3 days after this post) that the Tafiti tree view screen was eating 25% of my CPU cycles! I opened another tree view window to view different results, and 50% of my CPU cycles were being used! So not only is the screen useless, it will also cause your computer to waste time and energy. Booo.

  3. Google has recently improved their date range functionality on the advanced search. These improvements allow you to do things like, find the pages Google crawled from my blog within the past week.

  4. And Google is offering $30 million to the first team able to send a robotic rover to the moon that is capable of roaming the surface and sending readings back to Earth. Of course accomplishing such a feat is going to cost much more than $30 million, but it's a nice gesture.

  5. And just for fun: Sidesplitting tech comics.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Nokia 2610: The worst phone I've ever owned

When we moved from Virginia to Arkansas, we switched our cell phone service to AT&T. Of course our T-Mobile phones wouldn't work (what's up with that?), so we had to purchase new phones. Being the frugal couple people we are, we picked their least expensive phone, the Nokia 2610.

I find it hard to believe that this phone passed a thorough usability inspection (looks like I'm not alone). The arrow buttons are so narrow only a squirrel can press them, and the screen is totally unreadable when outside, even on a cloudy day. The default button shortcuts makes me think they just randomly chose from the set of options no one ever uses. Maybe it's the just the poor reception in this area, but the voice quality is pretty lousy as well.

The only positive thing is that it doesn't have stupid buttons on the side that accidentally get pressed when in my pocket, changing my ringer from vibrate to loud (thanks to Motorola for that exceptional design).

Sorry, but I'm just not in the best mood today. Maybe it's because I keep running into poorly designed technology that causes me to waste an exorbitant amount of time or just get angry. Here's just a few gripes:
  • A few weeks ago I wasted 15 minutes trying to find the Print button in Office "let's-confuse-them-by-removing-the-menu" 2007. (At least I didn't have to figure out how to open the box.)
  • Yesterday I rebooted my computer a dozen times because various software I installed said they "required" rebooting.
  • Vista continues to ask me 10 times a day if I really meant to start a program or change a setting.
  • iTunes won't play a purchased TV show on my brand-new computer without pausing every 2 seconds for 20-30 seconds at a time.
  • I can't get my car to quit saying "Maintenance required" on the dash because it requires me to do the equivalent of saying the alphabet backwards while standing on my head underwater.
  • And I keep hitting the panic button on my car door opener because some bozo thought they'd put the button right where by thumb needs to be when pressing the trunk button!

Oh yeah, my dissertation is due 3 weeks from today, so I'm a little more uptight than usual.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's Wednesday, September 12

According to Wikipedia, a number of historical events have taken place on this day:
  • 2001 - Article V of the NATO agreement is invoked for only the second time (the other being in Bosnia) in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States of America.

  • 1995 - Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's All Star Team beats the Harlem Globetrotters 91-85, ending the Globetrotters' 24-year, 8,829-game winning streak.

  • 1959 - Bonanza premiers. It's the first regularly-scheduled TV program presented in color.

  • 490 BC - Athens defeats Persia at the Battle of Marathon

Today also marks the first annual Day of Encouragement. So give someone you know an extra dose of encouragement today.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


My pick of the week's top 5 items of interest:
  1. Facebook has recently decided to allow search engines like Google to crawl their member pages to make them accessible to a much larger audience. For those that don't want their profile exposed to the world, Facebook provides an opt-out. This is a good move by Facebook that will likely draw in more members, and it will certainly be useful to social networking researchers.

  2. While on the subject of Facebook, have you seen the Friend Wheel? It creates a graph of your friends and connects your friends who are friends with each other. A really dense graph means your friends are very cliquish. A sparse graph would mean you have friends from a very broad range of people. Looks like I'm somewhere in the middle:

  3. The first Semantic Robot Vision Challenge was held in late July. The competition required robots to locate objects in a room by first utilizing the Internet to search for pictures of the objects. For example, if the robot had to find a pencil, it would first search Google Images for pencil and then, based on the results, attempt to locate something similar in the room. I've tried teaching Ethan what "sleep" is using a similar method, but he hasn't yet been able to locate it anywhere in his room.

  4. An interesting paper popped up in arXiv this week: Open Access does not increase citations for research articles from The Astrophysical Journal. The authors conclude:
    There are a number of excellent arguments in favor of changing the scientific publication system to an open access model. The open access citation advantage is not one of them.
    Why doesn't making a paper OA increase its citations? The authors admit in the introduction: a well funded field like astrophysics essentially everyone who is in a position to write research articles has full access to the literature.
    So, if everyone has paid access to everyone else's papers, there is no OA advantage. I don't think anyone would have thought otherwise. The problem is, most disciplines are not well-funded enough to provide everyone paid access to the literature, and hence the OA movement. So the conclusions reached by the authors seem trivial to me. Am I missing something?

  5. Is Apple the next Microsoft (monopolist)? Dan Frakes doesn't think so.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Searcy is so fly

S-E-A-R-C-Y... we so cool you can't deny.

We've got some very talented Harding students (with a little too much time on their hands. wink)

By the way, Harding's fall enrollment is officially 6,332 students of which approximately 5,000 are attending the Searcy campus. Since Searcy is a town of approximately 20,000, that means every 1 in 5 people you run into at Wal-Mart is probably a Harding student.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Ethan is 5 months old

Our little man is growing up.

Yesterday he turned 5 months old. He's still a hit with the ladies:

but he's also learned some new tricks:

And now that football season is here, he's got his own fantasy football team, and we occasionally catch a few minutes of football when I'm not busy writing my dissertation:

Now if we can just get him to do a little more of this

at night, Becky and I may start catching up on all those lost hours of sleep.