How do I use this gift again?

December 26, 2009

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, I’m told. That means evenings with family and friends, delicious food and new gadgets you can’t figure out how to get working.

Unfortunately, in the chaos that comes with the holidays the manuals and instruction books have gone missing. What’s a person to do?

Well, even before you try navigating the manufacturer’s website, you might want to try PDFgeni.com. This website has a wide variety of manuals and other PDFs (Portable Document Format files that are often read using Adobe Acrobat Reader) that are posted online, and while the search function is pretty basic, it is pretty accurate at finding that wayward manual.

Another useful website to check out during the holidays is RepairClinic.com, on this site you can get rundown of what the most likely problems are with your overused home appliances and what if anything you can do to fix them. Often the end result of the troubleshooting questionnaires is that you have to take the appliance in question to a mechanic, but it is nice to try some of your own repairs first.

Do you have any tips for making the holiday season brighter or the gadgets in your life more efficient? Let me know in the comments and happy holidays to everyone.


The Year in Search

December 20, 2009

As the end of the year rolls around, I find it interesting to look at the things people have been searching for on the web. Each search engine has their own list, so let’s take a look at the data for 2009.

Google:

1. michael jackson
2. facebook
3. tuenti
4. twitter
5. sanalika
6. new moon
7. lady gaga
8. windows 7
9. dantri.com.vn
10. torpedo gratis

Yahoo!:

1. Michael Jackson
2. Twilight
3. WWE
4. Megan Fox
5. Britney Spears
6. Naruto
7. American Idol
8. Kim Kardashian
9. NASCAR
10. Runescape

Bing:

1. Michael Jackson
2. Twitter
3. Swine Flu
4. Stock Market
5. Farrah Fawcett
6. Patrick Swayze
7. Cash for Clunkers
8. Jon and Kate Gosselin
9. Billy Mays
10. Jaycee Dugard

The first thing that jumps out at me in this data is that the only item that transcended all three lists was Michael Jackson. Certainly part of this is the methodology that the search engines are using to tabulate this data, and all of them are using “trending” topics. As you might guess, searches for things like Youtube or pornography are going to have relatively consistent growth on a year to  year basis.

The terms that made two lists were Twitter and Twilight/New Moon. It is certainly remarkable the growth that Twitter has had this year. It has certainly created a lot of public awareness in a short time. It will interesting to see if it remains a trend in 2010.

One interesting difference between the Google and Bing lists are the number of tech-related searches on Google versus the number of “obituary”-related searches on Bing. Bing has four celebrities who had died in the past year on its list while Google has arguably 7 different technology related results. TechCrunch Europe has an interesting entry on why Sanalika appears. Tuenti is the Spanish version of Facebook. Dantri.com.vm is a Vietnamese newspaper. Torpedo Gratis is a Portuguese site that allows you to send free text messages.

One thing you can certainly take from Google’s list is it’s international appeal. Techcrunch also argues that most international users will simply use Google over the address bar or bookmarks to get to particular websites.

Are there any interesting trends or notes that you’ve spotted? Let me know in the comments.


Privacy Quest

December 12, 2009

There have been a couple of big announcements in the realm of privacy in the past couple of weeks, and I wanted to take this post to talk about the developments.

The first announced this week is that Facebook has updated its privacy functionality ostensibly in order to give you more control over the information that you give out through the service. However, as many people are commenting, a lot of the privacy protection that was previously available now is not.

Facebook is a business that is designed to have as much information available as possible as this makes it a much more interesting site for users, however, if people are not comfortable with how much information is available this sort of plan could backfire.

As you can see here, if you aren’t my friend, I have my privacy setting set at a very high level. You can’t even find me in a search if you don’t know me. (The profile with no data isn’t actually me. I’m not on there at all.) While that might seem a bit extreme for some, I’m perfectly happy with that level of privacy. This is a setting that is still available with the new Facebook privacy changes.

Now a company that is getting some praise for its latest move is Google. Google has created a new privacy dashboard, which, when signed in, allows you to look at all the data Google has compiled on you. More importantly, it has many setting that allow you to delete that information. So, if Google has your search history and there’s something on there that you don’t want, you can finally do something about it.

Ultimately, privacy needs to be something that users have control over and don’t feel that they are giving away to use the Internet. This is certainly a challenge for content providers as this is a key way to deliver relevant advertising. I do believe there is a happy medium between these two positions, and I hope the future has more and more powerful privacy controls.

Don’t forget if you have thoughts, throw them in the comments.

(Bonus points if you can identify the obscure mid-90’s TV show I referenced in the title.)


Making the Google News Loophole a Noose

December 5, 2009

This week Google announced a plan to prevent unlimited access to newspapers like the Wall Street Journal‘s complete content. Normally, non-subscribers would have limited access to the complete text of articles on these newspapers. However, using Google News and typing in the headline or the topic and source:Wall Street Journal, you could easily and reliably get access to the complete content.

The Wall Street Journal is getting the most attention in this matter as their owner, Rupert Murdoch, had previously threatened to remove all of their content from Google‘s search engine and go over to Microsoft’s upstart competitor Bing. (It’s kind of funny to consider Microsoft an upstart at anything nowadays, but so be it.) That didn’t materialize, at least not yet, but it is something Murdoch will continue to hold in his back pocket.

The new program Google has started is called the program First Click Free. Reports say that you’ll be able to use the loophole I’ve just described five time a day and then you’ll be treated as the non-subscriber that you are. I mention the reports because I don’t see the clearly described in Google’s blog entry on the subject.

Now, what is a Techeap user to do? There are a couple of options. The first and most obvious to me is to simply switch search engines. Google News is certainly not the only news aggregator that can use this technique. Bing has its own news aggregator and there are many others. If you are a technically savvy user, you could change your referer and tell the browser that you are coming from another site.

However, the problem for the Wall Street Journal and any other paper continues. Previously, I’ve talked about the problems that newspapers face, and those issues are still out there. The business model for online news has simply not been perfected and until that happens content creators are tasked with the difficult job of making more with less.

Do you have any ideas for fixing these problems? Let me know in the comments…or fix them and make a lot of money. 🙂