Monday, May 16, 2005

Google School - Lesson Three

Google's Advanced Search is pretty cool, right? It's just a bit of a hassle that you have to tab between multiple fields to enter your search string.

Well you can use the main Google search page, enter your search string in a single field and still have access to all the advanced search features. It turns out that Google supports a shortcut notation in it's serach string that allows you to quickly compose complex and specific search strings.




Search a particular sitesite:
exclude words-
must include words+

For example, you could search for all pages containing the word "chemistry" in the university of melbourne domain (unimelnb.edu.au) by using the search string "chemistry site:unimelb.edu.au". This makes writing good search strings easy. You can also use Advanced Search to provide search help as the advanced search is always shown in shortcut notation along with the search results.

Happy Searching!

Previously:-

Crikey!

Unfortunately, for most non-Australians the term "Crikey" is irrevocably associated with a certain hyperactive herpetologist (probably most Australians for that matter). For me it means my daily fix of news, gossip and rumor from the team at crikey.com.au.

While their major product is a daily news email available only by subscription, there is a cutdown version of the daily email available for free and many of the stories are available from the web site. crikey.com.au is slightly irreverant, always entertaining and provides an alternative source of news to the big media corporations.

So support independant media in Australia, get over to crikey.com.au and get a different view of the world.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Google School - Lesson Two

Google's Advanced Search function allows a much wider range of search options than the main search page. You can search for all words in a search string, an exact phrase, at least one of the words in a string or exclude specific words. You can also only include results from a specific site or domain (i.e edu.au or www.theage.com.au) and specify that only results in a certain language or format (html,pdf etc) be returned. This allows you to easily create much more specific search strings and find relevant links much, much faster.

If you haven't explored the advanced search function yet, you will find that a few minutes poking around will allow you to really improve your searches and, more importantly, allow you to more quickly get to the particular site you were looking for.

Previously:-

spaceflightnow

Space Flight Now is a great space news site. With a simple, straight forward layout, Space Flight Now provides up to the minute stories focusing on commercial and research space missions from around the world (literally).

Their live mission coverage is fantastic, providing a live text commentary on a huge range of missions run by a number of countries and commercial companies. This allows you to keep an eye on a lot of the smaller, less glamorous missions as well as the better publicised ones.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Metablogging

I have only recently discovered MetaFilter but it has quickly found it's way into my frequently visited sites list. It's like a community blog with lots of links to interesting, quirky or topical things.

I really like the way many MetaFilter posts coordinate and contextualise a whole lot of related links. The site itself is pretty simple, has a pretty basic layout and I find it can sometimes take a while to load (or not load at all).

I have not really delved into the community aspect of the whole thing yet but it seems to be pretty popular and get a lot of favourable review from users. I guess that I should get in there, contribute and socialize.

Google School - Lesson One

Ever find that Google returns so many results to your search query that you can't pick out the relevant ones? Using better search queries can significantly reduce the number of results returned and significantly increase the relevance.

The most important Google search tip is to use lots of words. The more relevant keywords you can include in your search string, the more likely it is that you will get the most relevant results returned first.

I am constantly amazed by the number of people that use a single word in their search query. If you are using a single word you might be better off using a dictionary.

It is the context in which the words appear that determine a results relevance and this can only be provided by using more words in your search term.

Looking up

I'm a bit of an astronomy and space nut. I like to set my telescope up in the backyard and check out the stars as well as keeping tabs on whats happening in space exploration, commercialisation and science.

Space.com is not a bad starting point. The news is pretty good quality, frequently updated and covers a wide range of topics. There is also a good range of interesting satellite photography and live mission updates to keep up the interest.

My only gripe is that the site has too many ads and is a bit cluttered for my liking. Even so I am a regular visitor.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Exploding iPod's, Talking Penises and more

It has been a busy day travelling the internets for Rosco Pyjama. The USB equipped direction finding duck pointed the way to a couple of gems including:-

Exploding iPods

The Age reports that a kid from Bayswater (in Melbourne's north) managed to blow up his iPod. Apparently he left his iPod in his pocket when his mum washed his clothes and decided that he would try and dry it out and fix it. He was using a screwdriver when it exploded causing minor damage and requiring the local fire brigade to be called. I am assuming it was the battery (Li-Ion) that blew up but that seems a bit strange as Li-Ion batteries (as far as I know - which is not much) blow up when improperly charged or shorted as additional energy is dissipated as heat. Even if the kid did short it is seems a bit unusual that it woudld blow up.

Talking penis censored

The ABC has a go at a funny headline today with this effort -
Talking penis given the chop. Mind you, if the jokes attributed to the Penis in the article are true - "Hi, I'm Dick Smart. I am a comedian, yeah, stand up, ha" - then the headline was probably funnier than the penis anyway.

Audioblog Listing

Over at The Tofu Hut they have come up with a great listing of Audiblogs from around the interwebs. It's a great catalogue of sites that post mp3's as part of their blogs. A good thing to check out regularly as some tracks are only available for a limited period of time.

Aussie Rules is not rugby

Badjocks provides a classic reminder that Aussie Rules is a singularly Australian sport that is either unheard of or completely misunderstood overseas. It seems that the initial story referred to Australian Rules Rugby (or something similar) and was later edited to read "Australian Rules Football (similar to rugby, but more brutal)". Now I have aussie rules fans try and make out that their sport is more athletic, more skillful and requires more intelligence than rugby (both league and union) but I have never heard one of them claim it's more brutal.

You only have to watch a couple of minutes of an Aussie rules match to see that it doesn't have the bone crunching tackles of Rugby League nor the intense close quarter scrimmaging of Rugby Union. I always thought that the Americans thought that the best bit of Aussie Rules was the funny looking blokes in the coats and hats that waved their flags around their heads (they would be the goal umpires - whose old idiodynchratic uniform has been replaced with a boring plain one)

Make your own power supply

(via Hack a day)
I have been looking at laboratory bench power supplies for some time as I would really like one for my electronics projects. They beat the hell out of batteries as they don't go flat and can supply much more power at a consistent voltage. This hack involves modifying an AT power supply to provide 12v and 5v sources. I am not really confident working with mains power so some aspects of this project concern me but it beats the hell out of buying a bench supply of the shelf for AUD$200+.

Urban Legend

The Urban Legend Reference Pages at Snopes are the definitive source for Urban Legends on the internet. If you want to know if something is fair dinkum or if someone is having a lend of you then Snopes will provide the answer.

The only thing I hate on this site are the pop up ads. Other than this it is relatively easy to navigate and full of some of the funniest stories on the internet. Most of the information is well researched and referenced and the site provides a wealth of information for professional and amateur folklorists and urban legend devotees alike.

So don't get duped again - visit the Urban Legend Reference Pages to get the real story first!

Wired Up

I love Wired News because it is more technical current affairs than news. It has the feel of a weekly news magazine and covers tech related subjects in a lot more depth than most.

Wired also has a hip, funky style that I find really easy to browse, view and read. Articles are not posted as frequently as some news sites and while I find I don't need to check it every day its a good place to visit when I have got some time to spare and am after a good tech read.

Boys will be boys

Fark is a bit like the adolescent boy of the internet. Even the name Fark reeks of a smutty joke and the site provides an endless stream of links to weird, wonderful and tasteless news stories from around the world (and especially Florida).

Keeping with the adolescent theme, Fark also provides the occasional link to 'Boobies'. These are clearly marked, generally relatively inoffensive and easily avoided (hey, but who doesn't like to see Boobies from time to time).

One of my favorite parts is the Photoshop contests where members of the Fark community photoshop pictures to represent a theme. Most of the entries are pretty good and there are occassionally some real killers.

It a good place to sneak off to when no one is looking, have a good laugh and read some of the funniest headlines on the internet.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Flickr is crack

I've always thought of myself as the left brain type of guy. You know the type - fairly logical, a bit geeky and not much of an artist or particularly creative.

A few months ago I got a new digital camera. Like a lot of my purchases, the gadget factor and the fact that I could connect the camera to my computer was the real driving factor rather than a real desire to take photo's.

After taking a couple of average photos I started looking around the internet for tips, tricks and suggestions that I could apply to my new toy when I came across Flickr. While I had heard of and visited Flickr before it wasn't until I got my new camera that I really got clued in to the fantastic community that exists there.

Flickr is really the most amazing photo publishing, management and sharing application. You can upload your photos, share and discuss them with like minded individuals in group photo pools, comment on others photos and create galleries of your favorite photos. You can see some of my (pretty average) photos in the index bar on the right or here

This has to be one of the most addictive sites on the net - looking at others photos always inspires me to try and take more and better photos and the buzz you get when someone comments on one of your photos is great! Best of all - it's free to join so get over there and get amongst it.

Alternative World Views

As I mentioned this morning I am a big fan of online newspapers. In particular, I enjoy reading the same story from multiple different sources as it enables a number of different perspectives to be viewed. For example, I often find it interesting to contrast the same story in The Age and the Herald Sun and it is amazing how these two papers can approach the same story with a totally different spin.

This doesn't just apply to papers with different political perspectives, it is often illuminating to see what papers in other countries are saying about issues. The problem is identifying all possible sources for a news story and picking the ones you wish to read. Fortunately Google News can help.

Google news is a news aggregation service that uses Google's search engine to locate and aggregate related stories. It comes in a variety of localised versions including the International version and and Australian version.

This allows you to see the top local and international news stories of the moment and choose to view a particular version of that story from hundreds of media sources. It can be quite illuminating to see what the Australian papers are saying about an issue versus what the Americans or British are saying.

Almost makes you feel like you are not at the bottom of the world....

Keeping in touch with the meatspace

Sometimes I need to keep in some sort of touch with reality and find out about the world outside the armchair. This means that it is time to check out the Dinosaur Blogs.

While the blogspace is good for getting pointers to and opinion and comment on events sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and get a proper journalists view.

Fortunately the internet is full of on-line versions of traditional newspapers containing up to the minute news, opinion and articles. Both my local daily papers, The Age and the Herald Sun have internet sites that contain a subset of content from their printed versions. While this is useful and I am finding more and more that I use the online version in preference to the physically printed version, there are still occasions where the portability and convenience of the printed version wins out (waiting for Melbourne's persistently late trains for example).

The best thing about having free access to the electronic versions is that it allows you to read stories relating to the same topic from different papers. I think this broadens your perspective by leading you to think differently about issues, almost forcing you to consider things from a different angle. You can also more easily identify bias or opinions hidden deep in 'News' articles and address it appropriately.


I like to read papers that are considered to have different biases to mine. This forces me to look at an issue from a point of view that I would not necessarily been exposed to from reading a single 'preferred' newspaper. While The Age is the paper I have delivered and read most it is considered to be the more left wing of the two and the paper of the intellectual elite. Conversely, the Herald Sun is considered to be a more right wing paper of the tabloid style whose readers are mainly drawn from the working class.

This distinction seems to me to be more in peoples mind than in reality nowdays. In recent years I believe The Age has definately moved away from the left to the center, has changed a number of its sections to a tabloid layout and it is rumoured to be developing a full tabloid version to be sold along side the broadsheet. Conversely, the Herald Sun seems to have stayed pretty much where it is. This is not suprising as it is owned by Rupert and I can't see him changing anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Now on the right hand side....

After feeding my techie side at Slashdot it is usually time to check out some of the funkier side of the Internet at Boing Boing.

Boing Boing lives up to it's subtitle 'A Directory of Wonderful Things' by linking to and providing commentary on a wide range of news stories, interesting sites and other current internet happenings. Produced by a team of writers and journalists, Boing Boing is a great place to keep in touch with the latest internet memes and happenings.

The Geek Pyjama

Lets start with the left brain part. As a large part of my professional and unprofessional life revolves around computers and tech it's important to keep in touch with News for nerds, stuff that matters and Slashdot is definately the place to do it.

I reckon I check Slashdot at least 4 times a day. It's so well known that sites linked in it's stories often become 'Slashdotted' or victims of 'the Slashdot effect' where they simply cannot cope with all the traffic generated by the armies of geeks click-click-clicking.

Its also interesting lesson in internet communities, managing to keep the flamers, the trolls and the generally unsociable at bay by distibuting moderation duties across thousands of users.

In short, if you are interested in computers and technology you can't go wrong starting at Slashdot.

Origins of Rosco Pyjama

Rosco Pyjama is a contempary of Michael Leunig's Vasco Pyjama

Adventurous, inquisitive and sometimes fragile and despondent, Vasco circumnavigates his world from the comfort of his amphibious club armchair, accompanied by his ever faithful direction finding duck (who always points toward new joys).

Rosco Pyjama is an internet based explorer, unceasingly roaming cyberspace in a search for excitement and adventure. Although my chair is of a more modern 'office' variety and my direction finding duck has a USB connection (waiting for the Firewire upgrade) we travel together, looking for excitement in the dark (and not so dark) corners of the internet.