Archive for the 'Web' Category

Internet on the go

I’m not very transient in my Internet usage, meaning that I use the Internet at home and at work, but not a lot while I’m traveling. On occasion however, I really wish I had a way to connect my laptop to the Internet somewhere where I don’t have a wireless connection. These days, getting on the 3G network is all the talk. 3G is the 3rd generation of wireless Internet. Japan was the 1st to provide it in 2001 and in October of 2003, Verizon became the 1st carrier. By June of 2007, the 200 millionth customer of 3G networks had signed up. In 2008, it’s growth continues. [1] I find it amazing the number of devices that come enabled with Internet access these days.

So what about my laptop? If you live in or around the UK, you might check these mobile broadband deals from Broadband Expert. In addition to providing mobile internet, the broadband expert site allows you to compare mobile broadband.

Clearly, Broadband Expert is on your side when it comes to providing mobile Internet. Instead of touting a solution and hiding the competition, they present you with as many carriers and prices as they have access to. You can sort by price, contract terms, etc to find which option best suites you. Then, whichever carrier you choose, you get a cool USB stick that plugs in to your machine and presto, 3G Internet speeds on your computer. As cool as the USB Internet access stick is, I’m also intrigued by the price. The T-Mobile solution is only £10/month (about $17.91/month) and the other solutions are listed at around £15/month (about $26.87/month). That really isn’t that bad for the data transfer rate offered.

Clearly T-Mobile operates beyond the borders of the UK. That being my current provider for cell-phone and VOIP, I thought I’d look directly at their offerings for Internet service. After browsing their site for available packages, I only found a reference to data cards with Internet access. They don’t appear to offer, as an accessory, a cool USB stick. In addition, their data plans were about $50/month. I may be wrong about this, but in the mean time, it appears you need to go to a 3rd party site like Broadband Expert in order to get the Internet plan for your laptop/computer.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G

Is human powered search the next big thing?

I’d be well within reason to suggest that it would be somewhat difficult to use the web without a good search. Google has been so successful that their name has become a verb in the English language that defines using their service to search for something on the web. Traditionally, search engines compile a ginormous index of all the data their crawlers can collect on the web and then provide the fastest possible way for you to compare a search phrase with the content in their index. As good as the services have become, they haven’t been able to truly differentiate between relevant and irrelevant results for a large number of search phrases. You still have to sift through a few pages of results a lot of the time.

Lately, I’ve come across a few search engines that are attempting to take a different approach to the content relevancy problem. Instead of a proprietary algorithm that attempts for calculate relevancy, e.g., Google’s PageRank, they are letting relevancy be determined by human review. I decided to give RankNoodle.com a try and see if I could get better results with something powered by a bunch of other people than I can by simply typing in the search phrase in the search box of my browser and instantly getting a bunch of hits.

Here are a few review criteria I decided to test out:

  1. Does it work?

    First things first. Can I find information with their service? I decided to try and search for a few things I was in need of while I was writing this post. I didn’t want to just type in random search queries and browse the results. I wanted to try and find specific things that I need. For instance, I’ve been wanting a WordPress plugin that will tell me the word count of my blog posts. I searched for “wordpress word count plugin” and was pleasantly surprised to find a good option as the 2nd result. There are not 1000s of results like when you search on Google or Yahoo. I’m not exactly sure if users contribute the results or if RankNoodle uses crawlers and then just lets the users vote the results up or down. Either way though, the results page contained perfectly sufficient resources and I found what I wanted right away.

    RankNoodle.com still has work to do on basic functionality though. All the search results I obtained, for all my different search queries, advertise as having 41 comments. Nothing happens when I clicked on comment though so I’m not sure what is going on there. For a search engine however, I’m not terribly concerned about what other people say about the URLs. I’d rather just see what I want in the title and description listed with the URL and be able to make a quick decision from that about which URL to click on next. For the record, nothing happened when I clicked on “Share” or “Bury” either. I don’t know if that is a browser problem (FireFox 3.0 on Mac OS X), or just that they still have work to do on the interface.

  2. Is it fast enough?

    I think to for any search engine to be competitive, human powered or not, it has to be fast. There simply isn’t time to wait for results to fetch and display when other options can do the same thing in fractions of a second.

    I noticed that common search items are cached on RankNoodle.com so I thought I’d search for something that isn’t likely to have many users searching for it. I spent a lot of time this week working with wxPython and XRC resources (Yes, I’ll probably be needing to write a post about this too.) I wanted to know how to extend a wxPython Widget and have it automatically be loaded with the XRC handlers. I searched for “wxpython xrc custom class“. As I expected, the search did take a little extra time. As it stands now, it’s a little too slow to be competitive with other search options but I imagine if the concept is something that users will like and use, that performance can be tackled as the service grows.

  3. Usability

    I think overall, RankNoodle.com adheres to what a typical user would expect of any search engine. There is a search box on every page and results are not obscured by other page features. It would be nice if your current search terms were still listed in the search box on the results page though. It’s difficult to remember exactly what you typed and retype all but a portion when refining search results. I do like how image, video and related articles are listed on the side. In my opinion, that is a lot more worthy usage of the extra white space than filling it up with ads.

    That brings me to another subject. Search result pages are considered “articles” by RankNoodle.com. In addition to your search results, you get a general description and comments/questions by users for that article. I found it funny that the wxPython search I did when I first started testing had a question that was answered with “This is not a good place to ask this question.” Perhaps certain articles will get better results.

Anyway, overall, I think social or human powered searching has a lot of potential. For me to spend more time with it, it will have to be fast, integrated into my browser, and get me to the results I want. I can’t think of a better way to go up against current major search engine players though than by taking a completely different approach.

Using YUI to Create Nested Tabs

Recently, I was browsing the YUI JavaScript forums and found a post about nesting the tab control. I haven’t done that before personally, but have done things where my tabs had Ajax or DHTML dependencies inside the tabs. I decided I’d take a whack at this one and see what I could come up with.

Continue reading ‘Using YUI to Create Nested Tabs’

Ten Principles Of Effective Web Design

Here is another article from Digg.com highlighting some effective web design techniques. I’m stockpiling these for the next time I have a new project that requires a new face. This one is particularly informative since it gives examples at the beginning of how users use the web and then shows how you can take advantage of that. From the article:

Since the visitor of the page is the only person who clicks the mouse and therefore decides everything, user-centric design has established as a standard approach for successful and profit-oriented web design. In order to use the principles properly we first need to understand how users interact with web-sites, and how they think.

read more | digg story

8 Web Design Mistakes That Developers Make

I decided to make a blog entry for this so I can come back again and review it later. I fall exactly into the category of “developers creating websites”. Luckily, most of the work I do, at least professionally, has someone else to be in charge of how it looks! I found the tips mentioned here very useful however.

From the article:

An excellent website takes a particularly savvy blend of both great design and great code. Because of this, you often find designers having to figure out code and developers trying their hand at design. Speaking as a developer who spent his university years studying among other developers, I can safely say that programmers are not designers.

read more | digg story

A Few Cool Ways To Use RSS Feeds

So what is all this RSS hype? I’ve known about RSS feeds, what they are for, and how to use them for quite a while. It’s not like they are new or anything! It wasn’t until recently that I started to actually use them though. I didn’t know what I was missing. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”. You can read a whole definition for RSS here. Basically, an RSS feed allows you to easily keep yourself up to date with the publisher of the feed.

There are all kinds of interesting feeds available. Instead of checking a favorite blog for instance, you can subscribe to their RSS feed and go back when new content is available. There are feeds for Podcasts, products, and there is even a feed available for letting you know which stores have the Nintendo Wii in stock.

I decided to list here a few ways that I’m using and enjoying RSS feeds. Continue reading ‘A Few Cool Ways To Use RSS Feeds’



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