WolframAlpha is more than search

If you’ve never visited WolframAlpha.com you are in for an interesting treat.   This site is called a “computational knowledge engine”.   It’s kind of like a mix of a scientific calculator, Wikipedia’s knowledge, and Bing.   There is a goodintroductory video to help explain all the various things this site can do for you.   Their site is also available as an iPhone app and Firefox plugin.

In this example photo, I compared the life expectancy in India (69.9 years) to that of Japan (82.1).  While it might take a little time to learn the syntax of asking questions on WolframAlpha, there are LOTS of examples to help you.

Got a question? Get it answered at: WolframAlpha.com.   (Just don’t ask if it’s an ALIEN!)

Can Pre save Palm?

Palm released their newest touch-screen smartphone yesterday called the Pre. And while their site is short of details still, there’s been several stories (Gizmodo, ars technica) about it and that it *might* be an iPhone killer. I don’t doubt that Palm can do touch-screens; they have built excellent ones for years. And the reviews from their other cell phones have been fairly positive also.

For me, in order to really get close to iPhone, Palm will have to build up a delivery system similar to iTunes. iTunes makes it brain-dead simple to download music, and more importantly, apps (applications), quickly and easily in one centralized location. This delivery system of iTunes means that developers get paid quickly and can see their competition easily. Users of iTunes can rate and comment on each app. While Palm is going to allow downloads via the phone, as Apple does on the iPhone, this may not be enough to get more apps to more people. Without something similar to iTunes, Palm will either have to rely on third-party sites to promote and sell apps (as was the past with Palm programs), or, try to completely control it themselves via the Pre and their web site. Will it be enough…?

Also, the Pre will have to make better efforts at syncing between various OS, or, at least get one Operating System down completely. (I’ve had too many bad experiences of trying to get Palm to sync with Outlook/Exchange that didn’t end up with me spending hours de-duping contacts.) iPhone was supposed to work seamless with Outlook/Exchange (via MobileMe), but that has yet to happen well. However, iPhone (and Touch) work wonderfully with a Mac (fancy that). While most OS work with Palm, and make the effort to play nicely together, there are still going to be glitches with upgrades… The Pre may sync with Gmail as they say, and that might be enough for the demographics (mobile, cloud-based, social media users) they are targeting, but, it won’t open up new demographics, like my parents for example…

So, will Pre save Palm? I think most people would like to hope so… but…

Flash cookies and privacy

If you are concerned about your online privacy, then you should already know about “cookies” — small files that are stored on your computer that websites write information to.   These cookies are largely used to help with the functionality of the website, maintaining your “session” as you move around the site.  They can also store your login information, so you don’t have to enter your username and password each time.   On the negative side of things, they can also be used to track you, recording what you choose each time you visit the site.   And there are “tracking site” cookies used mostly by advertising sites.   Because many websites have advertising on them, and many are from the same large advertising companies, those ad companies can “track” you on the websites that you visit, along with what you might have done on those “partner” sites.

There are multiple ways to handle cookies, but here is just one quick solution. If you use Firefox, you can still have the postive aspects of cookies, but have them deleted each time you close the browser — so, it’s like starting fresh each time with the website.   You can control your cookies in Firefox by going to Tools, Options, Privacy (in Mac it’s File, Preferences, Privacy), and “Keep Cookies Until I Close Firefox”.

So, you think you are free of cookies then, right?!   Not really.   You may be still being tracked using “Flash cookies” — cookies that Adobe’s Flash program uses.   Flash is what makes the videos on YouTube work, and are also some of the MOST ANNOYING ADS on the Internet.

Continue reading Flash cookies and privacy