The Daily T

TA Positive Trend

I almost can’t believe it. You now get 2 x 30 minutes a day free WIFI at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, and turns out Montreal’s Trudeau airport has one-upped Amsterdam - offering unlimited WIFI.

I like where this is going!

EDIT: add Toronto Pearson to the list. Also, Westjet showed the Canadiens vs. Islanders game for the whole flight, including the time waiting to get off. Normally the time from fastening seatbelts to the gate is lights out.

TSilk

Silk is a gorgeous looking Canvas/Javascript-based plaything. Impressive. The colours remind me of the iPad app Uzu, and I see that Silk is also coming out for iOS.

TiPhone Goes 3D

Step aside, Word Lens, there’s a new wow iPhone app in town. If you needed any further proof that we’re now officially living in The Future™, look no further than Trimensional, a new 3D scanner for iPhone that constructs a coloured wireframe representation of what you point it to. Impressive!

TEcoute 2

Ecoute 2, a music player, is an interesting Mac app for two reasons.

One because it continues the iPad-styled small utility app trend set by Tweetie and Sparrow. As the Mac App Store is only three days away from opening I suspect that’s something we’ll see a lot more of in the coming weeks.

The other is that Ecoute is almost purely a reader for your iTunes library. I say almost because while you can’t edit any metadata in Ecoute, it does write your ratings and play counts back to your iTunes library. Ecoute is likely an answer to the complaint some have that iTunes have grown too heavy, and it really only does the most basic functions of iTunes, listing albums, artists and tracks and - of course - playing music.

Ecoute also has YouTube and Lyrics functions, showing related YouTube videos and track lyrics respectively. The Lyrics function didn’t work on the tracks I tried it on, but being able to quickly see related YouTube videos seems handy for finding live versions of tracks you like.

Ecoute costs USD 10, and might be worth it. I’ll try it out a bit and see if I can live with having to use two apps: iTunes for syncing my iOS devices, downloading podcasts and editing metadata, and Ecoute for listening.

TDownhill Google?

Turns out I’m not the only one who has been noticing the decline in quality search results from Google lately. And, like Jeff Atwood of Stack Overflow, I’ve tended to blame it on other factors first:

Throughout my investigation I had nagging doubts that we were seeing serious cracks in the algorithmic search foundations of the house that Google built. But I was afraid to write an article about it for fear I’d be claimed an incompetent kook. I wasn’t comfortable sharing that opinion widely, because we might be doing something obviously wrong. Which we tend to do frequently and often. Gravity can’t be wrong. We’re just clumsy … right?

I have, for over a year now, used DuckDuckGo as my primary web search engine, and I attributed the lack of good search results I was getting from Google to me being accustomed to using a different search engine. But seeing other people write about the same problem has confirmed my suspicions: Google is not doing well in the fight against spammers at the moment. Jeff Atwood’s post above is a good start, and so is Alan Patrick’s post ”On the increasing uselessness of Google” - accompanied by two Hacker News threads, here and here.

The main problem for me at the moment is the amount of spammy sites in programming related queries. Sites whose main mission is to scrape the excellent Stack Overflow for content and display it alongside as many ads as possible. If I wanted to be conspiratorial, I could agree with the following comment, in response to someone wondering what was causing the problem:

it’s not an AI problem. It’s not wanting to hurt the bottomline. Sites with more ads than anything else are banned from DuckDuckGo, for example. And that is a search engine run by 1 person only, if I am not mistaken.

I have a hard time believing this cynicism, but the fact remains that you clicking onto these sites and maybe even having to click back and forth a few times to find the site you actually wanted, is lucrative for Google. The sites are often laden with Google Ads, so it’s not just the Google search results themselves that make money for Google, each site you click into is another ad impression for them.

Could it be simply that these sites are useful enough to Google’s bottom line, while at the same time good enough for users to click on them and get something out of them so they stay off the blacklist? That they lie exactly in an equilibrium of useful information vs. ad-driven pages, for enough users? To be specific: for me, these sites are difficult enough to read compared to for example Stack Overflow so that I get annoyed when I click into one of them by mistake.

Anyway, it’s more just a feeling rather than hard facts but as I said, seeing these posts from other credible sources has served to somewhat confirm my suspicion that Google is not doing well with their web search engine at the moment. That, coupled with new alternatives (Blekko and DuckDuckGo for example) that for the first time offer credible alternatives - alternatives where you actually get useful, no: better, results.

That, coupled with the new alternatives Blekko and DuckDuckGo for example, makes the choice simple for me. They offer credible alternatives, alternatives where you actually get useful, no: better, results.

TCanabalt Open Sourced

Speaking of interesting technology, the cult iOS game Canabalt has been made open source. You can find it on GitHub. You can bet I’m going to check that out too.

TGoogle Heatmap of Wikileaks Searches

Via Reddit, I find it pretty fascinating that a look at Google Insights can reveal so much specific information that it’s possible to tell with some certainty an exact group of companies that searched a lot for wikileaks on Google lately.

The results are easily replicated: Visit Google Insights and look for ‘wikileaks’-searches in the US. The results will show you a map of where searches for wikileaks are the most prevalent geographically in the US.

Drill down through the top results, Virginia - Washington, to the cities of Herndon and Sterling. So turns out a huge part of the searches for wikileaks in the US originated from two towns I’ve never heard about.

I’m a bit unclear on how they got to the last step - a Google Maps search for Intelligence near Herndon, VA, United States - local knowledge I suspect.

Based on non-identifying Google search statistics then, we got from a search word to a list of companies that probably have been quite heavy Google users recently searching for that word. And considering the potency of the Wikileaks issue as of late this is not insignificant information, even if it might not be very surprising. It’s just interesting to see how much statistics can reveal.

It reminds me a bit of DuckDuckGo founder Gabriel Weinberg’s Facebook ad targeting a single user. Weinberg managed, with a bit of local knowledge and the ad segmentation tools on Facebook, to make an ad that only showed up for his own wife.

TBen the Bodyguard

The preview site for Ben the Bodyguard has been making the rounds today and I have to say it’s a gorgeous example of HTML5 and Javascript in action.

Visit the site and start scrolling.

Looks like they’ve used Paul Irish’ and Divya Manian’s HTML5 Boilerplate as a starting point. So have I lately and it is a real timesaver. Sets you up with everything you need to start prototyping a modern HTML5 site.