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Jan 25

Qwiki + Wolfram|Alpha = Winner

Posted on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 in Uncategorized

If you read TechCrunch, then by now you must have heard about Qwiki. Qwiki answers questions by generating interesting infographics and combining them with Wikipedia articles on the topic. The storytelling and text-to-speech is really nicely done. At least it doesn’t sound as creepy as some of the other text-to-speech solutions out there.

So far Qwiki is really good at biographies and topics which have a Wikipedia article. But when it comes to assorted topics which do not have a Wikipedia article backing them, the results are less them optimal. Granted, there a few popular topics today which do not have a Wikipedia article. Qwiki is still in alpha testing, yet shows a lot of promise. The demo video showed an alarm clock tied to Wiki which wakes you up, gives you weather information and reads out you calendar to you. That is really cool. But the way I think they could get way cooler, is if they had Wolfram|Alpha results integrated.

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Wolfram|Alpha describes itself as a computational knowledge engine. It is good at getting facts and summarizes them down to the most important points you would want to know on any given topic. Of course, there are still topics which Wolfram|Alpha knows little about, but if Wolfram|Alpha can provide an answer, it does so very well. It even manages to parse phrases to deduce meaning from the input.

When all is said and done, Qwiki is off to a good start and I am excited to see where they go from here!

Jan 12

New possibilities to Open with…

Posted on Wednesday, January 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

Apple recently opened the doors of the Mac app store and you can read about it everywhere on the internet. What interests me more is the ability to find a program to use for an unknown file type, as aptly explained on the Download Squad:

Sometimes, though, the search option can be overkill. The fact that you haven’t assigned an app to open a certain file type doesn’t mean none of your currently-installed apps will do the job. Also, only some of the applications you downloaded from outside of the App Store will show up as "installed" in the App Store app. That means the search could easily miss a solution you already have in your Applications folder.

I am interested in this because if the rumors of a Windows 8 app store are true, then Microsoft should not fail to implement something similar. Anyone who has ever tried to use the ‘Open With…’ functionality on Windows knows that option to ‘Use web service to find and appropriate program’ is of limited usefulness.

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Until not long ago, the web service couldn’t rightly identify even very simple file types. Apart from a a few popular file types or those tied to Microsoft programs, the service was not very helpful. Right now, it takes you to a page that looks like this:

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When you click the link, you will be redirected to the Free Text Pad website where you can download the application. With a Windows app store, you will (hopefully) be linked directly to an app which you can directly download and install with (hopefully) one click and use. This will be a boon to everyday Windows users who come in contact with strange file types.

I, for one am excited about that possibility.

Dec 24

Is the web ready for the Instant Web?

Posted on Friday, December 24, 2010 in Uncategorized

It popularly started with the Google Instant unveiling. Then came YouTube Instant, Bing Instant and then Instant came to Chrome.

When Chrome Instant is activated in the about:plugins page, Chrome instantly loads previews of Google search results (or loads the web site) for whatever you type in the omnibox. But the interesting thing is that this does not only work for Google, but for any other search engine which is installed on Google Chrome: that means Bing, Yahoo and any other site where you have used a search box. This undoubtedly speeds up your web browsing experience.

The problem comes when the websites which have to deal with this amount of traffic are not prepared for it. Worse still, the web server thinks you are trying to perform a Denial of Service attack and bans you. Google reportedly noticed about 5 to 7 times more results pages fetched for a simple query. That’s a great increase in the amount of traffic.

Consider this page I saw when using Chrome instant on a language site:

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It basically says I’m pushing my luck with the number requests per given time. But I was just doing a simple query and the server stopped me. Now Chrome instant is not turned on by default and Chrome still has a relatively small portion of overall browser market share. But imagine if other browsers implemented this instant functionality and turned it on by default for the various search engines.

Would the web as we know it be ready to handle an instant web!? Merry Christmas interwebs!!