Robert’s Ramblings

Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

Archive for August, 2009

August-28-09

Snow Leopard Attacks

Posted by Robert Alonso under Software

Apple released today its much anticipated Mac OS X upgrade. It is called Snow Leopard and is officially designated as version 10.6. This new release optimizes the Mac operating system for faster loading of the core system and applications. It also handles dual core processors better. Apple has rewritten the Mac OS to work as a 64 bit system. In simple terms, this means that the performance should improve in some applications. I purchased my five pack upgrade CD today, so it is still early for me to make any kind of judgment on how well it works, but it is installing as I type this on a PC. The installation on a Mac Mini 2.0 GHz machine takes about 45 minutes.

Of all the new features that I have heard or read about, the most exciting to me is the integration with Microsoft’s Exchange Server. This new release synchronizes Mail, iCal and the Address Book with a corporate Exchange Server. This is a sweet feature which will enable Apple to work smoothly and elegantly in a Microsoft-centric office environment. I’ll report any issues or neat features that I discover in the next couple of days.

You can buy your copy here.

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August-12-09

Microsoft Loses Court Battle – Must Stop Selling Word

Posted by Robert Alonso under Software

Judge Leonard Davis, a federal judge in Tyler, Texas ruled yesterday in favor of a small Toronto-based company called I4i. I4i had sued Microsoft alleging that the software company had willfully infringed on I4i’s patents on XML. XML is a tech acronym for Extensible Markup Language and is a technology that is broadly used in many software products to store and exchange data in human readable form. The judge decided that Microsoft knew about the patents and violated them anyway. He ordered Microsoft to pay $240 million in damages and to cease selling Word in 60 days.

Microsoft may appeal this decision or take some other action. For example, it could try to buy the company and end up owning the patent. It is unlikely that they would risk having to stop selling Word. I can’t imagine that scenario, but we will see in the next 60 days.

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August-11-09

Bing is Cool!

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Opinions, Service, Software

Who would have imagined someone calling a Microsoft search engine, “Cool?” In the last couple of years, the answer would have been no one. The various incarnations of Microsoft’s efforts have been lame, slow and completely bereft of any savvy marketing. That has changed completely with Bing.com. Microsoft finally has a service that works well, is intelligently laid out and can make your search more meaningful and educational.

If you go to Bing.com, the first thing you notice is that the search engine is the anti-Google. It has a beautiful home page with images that change with each visit. These background images load quickly, are not obstructive and can help you learn facts. For example, in a recent Bing visit, I was presented with an image of the Bastei bridge in Saxon Switzerland. By moving my cursor over a small square in the image, I was told that the bridge was constructed of sandstone in 1851. I was also given an option to learn more. Clicking on the link, brought up search results for the bridge and included a Wikipedia entry as the top result. This distracted me from my main search, “Robert Alonso,” (just kidding) but I can assure you that it was far more instructive. It gave me the feeling I would get scanning through microfiche of old newspapers and discovering something new that I did not know before.

Bing Home Page

You perform your search just like you would on Google. For example, the image below shows the results for a search for “Democrats fishy activities program.” If you look at the image, you will also notice that under the “Bing” logo and orange colored band on the left, there is a “SEARCH HISTORY” listing. I have removed mine for this image, but that comes in handy if you need to go back to a previous search. You also have the option of turning that feature off completely.

Search results for Democrats fishy activities program

Perhaps the most interesting feature is that you can move your mouse over any of the results and see a popup blurb of the content to be found on the site. This is very helpful for finding out if a result is what you are looking for without having to click through to the site. The third image below shows the popup blurb feature in action. To get it to appear, I placed the mouse over the second result and waited a few seconds. In some of these blurbs, you are also shown other links and prominent items that are found on the page. This gives you a very clear idea on whether to proceed or not.

Blurb from Democrats SUCK!

These neat features aside, what really matters is finding what you are looking for. Bing compares very well with Google on relevance of results. In many tests that I have run, it actually does better. You can test this for yourself using this site: bing-vs-google.com. The site will give you a split view of the results from both engines side by side. This allows you to be the judge yourself.

Another feature that you are sure to like is that the left panel of the Bing results will show you meaningful links. The next image shows the results for a search on “Elisha Cuthbert,” an actress from the television drama “24” and from various films including, “The Gil Next Door.” You will notice that the results are very good and feature several images and the most likely sources of information including Wikipedia and IMDB. The left hand panel shows links to, “Images, Biography, Wallpaper, Posters, Fan Club, Interview and Videos.” These are the most typical results that people searching for her might want.

Elisha Cuthbert search results and images

The next image shows what a search for “Bill Gates” delivers.

Bill Gates search results and images

You will notice that the left hand panel is different and offers, “Images, Biography, Quotes, Books, Blog and Interview.” It is this kind of subject knowledge that makes Bing far superior and cooler. If you try entering a product name, like “Nikon D90” you are presented with a chart summarizing the camera, images and meaningful result listings. The left hand panel will give you relevant links that include the manual. This is very cool. There are many other features related to image and video searches, but I will recommend that you try them for yourself and let me know what you think in my comments section.

(I must also include a shameless plug. If you are needing help with search engine optimization (SEO), please contact Alonso Consulting. We will create a comprehensive plan for making your site appear higher in search results.)

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