That scream you heard this afternoon was millions of high school and college students crying out in pain as they realized that Wikipedia was down.

Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, crashed this afternoon when its European data center overheated.  According to the site’s technical blog, once one of its data centers has a failure, all traffic is supposed to be automatically routed to another center, in this case Florida, via a “failover” device.  This will cause the DNS — the file that tells a domain name where to go — to automatically reroute to the secondary location.  The problem today was that Wikimedia, the company behind the site, discovered that the failover was also broken.

The problem has now been fixed, but domain name servers the world over will now have to play catch up with where they are supposed to direct your traffic.

Wikipedia is one of those sites you take for granted because it’s always “there”, so understandably some people are shaken by this.  We do however have a solution for those of you trying to finish term papers and essays right now … there’s this magical place called a “library” …

Categories: Internet, News   
 

A lot of noise is being made today about the fact that Hitwise is reporting that Facebook is now the most visited in the United States, beating out long-time top dog Google. The problem is that it isn’t even close to being correct.

While third-part analytics companies numbers always vary wildly from one to the other, it’s the data from Hitwise itself that makes no sense.  The company reported that for the week ending March 13th, Facebook accounted for 7.07% of all traffic, while Google was 7.03% of traffic and Yahoo Mail was third with 3.8% of all traffic.

Looks like Facebook really won doesn’t it?  Well, Yahoo alone makes this untrue.  For some reason known only to Hitwise, they separated out the numbers for Yahoo and Yahoo Mail.  Yahoo’s main page had 3.67% of traffic, so when you add them together, which you should, they had 7.47% of all traffic, beating out both Google and Facebook.  This makes no sense why the two Yahoo sites weren’t counted as one, but that was the choice of Hitwise.

Now, Google owns YouTube, and YouTube had 2.14% of all traffic, so added together with Google’s 7.03% traffic share, that would make 9.17%, and that isn’t even counting all of the other Google sites such as Picasa, Orkut and so on.  We can somewhat understand this separation of stats, but breaking apart Yahoo and Yahoo Mail makes absolutely no sense.

Does this really matter at the end of the day to your average user?  Nope.  Do we still think companies should report statistics honestly and correctly?  Absolutely.  This isn’t to say that Hitwise is lying about statistics, it just says it is amazing how you can manipulate them when you get creative.  Any time I see data like this, I feel the need to dig deeper because it always feels like a headline grabbing proclamation to me, and that is certainly what this one appears to be.

Categories: Internet   
 

On March 15, 1985, Symbolics.com was registered as the first domain name, and the rest, as they say, was history.

VeriSign, the first company to watch over domain names, has launched a site aptly named 25YearsOf.com to celebrate this historic event.  It is doubtful that at any other time in history have three letters and a punctuation mark had such a profound effect on the world.

As part of the year-long celebration, ‘the “.com 25″‘ are currently being selected to be honored at a gala in May in San Francisco.  While the final 25 are being selected by a panel of judges, the current potential list of honorees is up on the site for you to show your support.  These are supposed to be the 25 people and sites that have shaped the Internet as we know it today, and while some of them make a lot of sense (say what you will about Steve Case of AOL, if not for his site, it is doubtful as many people would have learned about the Internet as early as they did without him), others are a bit off-the-wall (eHarmony … really?).  So make sure to stop by and vote for those you would like to see included.

It’s hard to imagine the world without .coms in it, let alone the Internet.  So, happy birthday to the domain name extension that started it all!

Categories: Internet   
 

Ever wondered what some of the statistics are regarding the Internet? Well, you can stop wondering now thanks to The State of the Internet video.

Jess3, a company that bills themselves as “a creative agency that specializes in web design, branding and data visualization,” has created a fantastic video that shows you various information about the Internet in one digestible video.  Some of the numbers are amazing, others are scary (81% of all email is spam?  Yeesh!), but all of it is quite interesting if you spend any time on the Internet … which you must if you’re reading this.

Take a look for yourselves and leave your thoughts in the comments.

JESS3 / The State of The Internet from Jesse Thomas on Vimeo.

Categories: Internet   
 

Do you ever sit around thinking, “Wow, I wish I could turn on my Web cam and talk to a completely random stranger who also has their Web cam on …” Well, today is your lucky day since that is exactly what ChatRoulette is all about.

Created by Andrey Ternovskiy, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow, ChatRoulette launched in Nov. 2009, and while it got some traffic, it was just this month that the media picked up on it.  Having been featured on Good Morning America and in The New York Times, the site has now grown to tens-of-thousands of visitors at a time.

The concept is a simple one: Turn on your Web cam, click “Start”, and you are soon connected to some other random person from around the world that is on the site at the same time.  Don’t see a person you want to talk to?  Click “Next” and you are immediately sent to the next person in the line.

As I am sure you have guessed by now, the site is quickly filling up with men looking for women, and, yes, you do see a whole lot of … um … “excited men” as you randomly click through the various “strangers”, as the site calls them.  You do, however, also see a lot of very bored looking teens, people just looking for someone to chat with, and occasionally a demon playing a violin.  (I took that screenshot about five minutes before I started writing this)

The site doesn’t require any registration to use, but if you do see something you’d rather not see, you simply click the “Report” button, and if they get enough reports on a user, their computer will be blocked from the site.

While the site is gaining in popularity, there are some definite risks for the younger folks out there, and, well, really anyone who doesn’t want to see that which can not be unseen.  We’re not going to say “Stay Away!  This Way Lies Madness!”, but we are going to suggest you tread cautiously if your curiosity gets the better of you.

(for the record, the violin playing demon wasn’t half bad!)

Categories: Internet, What Is   
 

The OnlineFamily.Norton site has published the results of what children searched for online this year, and it is sobering to say the least.

OnlineFamily.Norton’s list of searches by children is disturbing and only goes to prove that computers should always be in a communal space where parents can monitor the computer usage.  First, the top 100 searches combines for all age groups under 18 years of age:

  1. YouTube
  2. Google
  3. Facebook
  4. Sex
  5. Porn
  6. YouTube.com
  7. Yahoo
  8. MySpace
  9. eBay
  10. You Tube
  11. Wikipedia
  12. Michael Jackson
  13. Taylor Swift
  14. Gmail
  15. Party in the USA
  16. Miley Cyrus
  17. Club Penguin
  18. Miniclip
  19. Fred
  20. Games
  21. Facebook login
  22. Google.com
  23. Hotmail
  24. Lady Gaga
  25. Amazon
  26. Yahoo Mail
  27. Justin Bieber
  28. Addicting games
  29. Facebook.com
  30. Webkinz
  31. Yahoo.com
  32. Boobs
  33. MSN
  34. Hannah Montana
  35. Dictionary
  36. Walmart
  37. Selena Gomez
  38. Dictionary.com
  39. MySpace.com
  40. New Moon
  41. Runescape
  42. Lil Wayne
  43. Google Maps
  44. Down
  45. Google Earth
  46. Norton Safety Minder
  47. Mapquest
  48. Boom Boom Pow
  49. Craigslist
  50. Twilight
  51. Megan Fox
  52. Sesame Street
  53. Poptropica
  54. Target
  55. Eminem
  56. Music
  57. Fireflies
  58. Disney Channel
  59. You Belong With Me
  60. Utube
  61. Weather
  62. iTunes
  63. Beyonce
  64. Pokemon
  65. Britney Spears
  66. Twitter
  67. Hotmail.com
  68. Demi Lovato
  69. Funny
  70. Black Eyed Peas
  71. One time
  72. Cartoon Network
  73. Jonas Brothers
  74. Halo
  75. www.youtube.com
  76. Watcha Say
  77. Family Guy
  78. Taylor Swift You Belong With Me
  79. Best Buy
  80. Taylor Lautner
  81. Rihanna
  82. Pussy
  83. Gmail.com
  84. Lego
  85. Gummy Bear Song
  86. Thriller
  87. You’re a jerk
  88. Nigahiga
  89. Girls
  90. Free online games
  91. New Moon trailer
  92. Translator
  93. Disney
  94. Ask.com
  95. Paparazzi Lady Gaga
  96. Poker Face
  97. Chris Brown
  98. iPod Touch
  99. Photbucket
  100. Bing

Sex being in the fourth slot isn’t too surprising with teenagers in the mix, but lets take a look at the top 25 broken down by age group:

Porn was in the fourth position for children under the age of seven, and sex was in the same position for the 8 – 12 age group.  Both terms are in the top 25 for all age groups.  The chart for gender had “sex” as the fourth term for boys and the fifth spot for girls.

I have talked many times on many different blogs about how children should not be allowed to have computers in their bedrooms, and these search statistics just go to prove that fact.  When you have 7-year-olds and younger searching for porn, you know you have a problem.

Categories: General Computing Tips, Internet   
 

google2Apparently there is nothing that happens on the Internet that Google doesn’t want some sort of involvement in, and with the announcement of its own URL shortener.

If you are unfamiliar with what a URL shortener does, you can take a Web address, also known as a URL, from this:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/space/02/25/galaxy.planets.kepler/index.html?eref=rss_tech

into this

http://tinyurl.com/ahjs53

They are an especially handy tool when you are trying to tell someone on a service like Twitter, which restricts your messages to 140 characters, about a Web site they should visit.

Up until now the services have all been services that do nothing but this activity, companies such as Bit.ly, TinyURL and so on, but all of that has now changed with the announcement of Google entering the space.

The new service, named Goo.gl, will work both from the Google Toolbar for the various Web browsers from their FeedBurner service.  Why should you use it over the other services out there?  There are three reasons that Google lists as good reasons to use their service over others:

  • Stability: Google’s scalable, multi-datacenter infrastructure provides great uptime and a reliable service to our users.
  • Security: As we do with web search, shortened URLs are automatically checked to detect sites that may be malicious and warn users when the short URL resolves to such sites.
  • Speed: At Google we like fast products and we’ve worked hard to ensure this service is quick. We’ll continue to iterate and improve the speed of Google Url Shortener.

In our opinion, a URL shortener is a URL shortener, although if a service ever shuts down, the links will go dead.  While Google has killed off some services over the years, there is a good likelihood this one will last for some time.  Seeing as I have a friend that owns his own service, I will probably stick with his, but the Google one sounds like a good alternative to most to me.

Categories: Internet   
 

seniorcomputerThe number of senior citizens, those aged over 65, has risen more than 55% over the past five years.

According to a report from Nielsen, the number of senior citizens on the Internet has grown from 11.3 million in 2004 to 17.5 million in 2009.  And they aren’t just hopping on for a second, they are spending an average of 58 hours a month online.

So, what are they doing with their time? Here are the top 10 ways they spend their time:

  1. Checking Personal E-mail
  2. Viewed or Printed Maps Online
  3. Checked Weather Online
  4. Paid/Viewed Bills Online
  5. View/Posted Photos Online
  6. Read General/Political News
  7. Checked Personal Health Care Info
  8. Planned Leisure Travel Trip Online
  9. Searched Recipes/Meal Planning Suggestions
  10. Read Business/Finance News

In other words, they appear to be all about using the Web as a utility.  Whether it be communicating or keeping current, they seem to be finding ways to bring more of the world into their home, saving them the time and trouble of going out.  While it is always wise for seniors to stay physically active, at least this allows them to spend their time out of the home on more leisurely pursuits than running all those sorts of little errands that do nothing more than annoy a person.

It also looks like they are looking ways to cut expenses.  Who needs to mail payments any more when you can pay your bills online and know instantly that your payment has been received?

What is also intriguing is the way they are engaging the Web when they aren’t doing the more practical activities:

  1. Google Search
  2. Windows Media Player
  3. Facebook
  4. YouTube
  5. Amazon
  6. Yahoo! Mail
  7. Yahoo! Search
  8. Yahoo! Homepage
  9. Bing Web
  10. Google Maps

Yes, there is a whole lot of searching going on there, but social network Facebook rose from 45th position last year to 3rd position this year.  With YouTube in 4th place, they are looking for entertainment, and Amazon in 5th means they are shopping or researching possible purchases.

Apparently they really like Yahoo! Mail for all that email they are doing.

StarterTech was started with the idea of making the Web simpler for people such as senior citizens, and apparently we were correct about them wanting to use it!

Categories: Internet, News, Opinion   
 

emailI have no clue why, but people sure do seem to want to call the day and date of email’s death.

Every so often someone comes up with the idea that sites like Facebook or Twitter are going to kill off email.  I first wrote a story about this in July 2007, and I thought it was stupid then, but I think it is even stupider now.

The Wall Street Journal wrote a piece today saying that products like Twitter, Facebook and Google Wave are moving us away from email because we can be constantly connected.  This is true to some extent, but horribly wrong in others.

My argument about Facebook replacing email has always been that it isn’t conducive to business communication.  You have no way to back it up, you can’t attach files and corporations can’t control it.  You will never see a Fortune 500 company saying, “Okay, no more email, all communication must now run through a third-party system that limits what we can do and how much control we have over it.”  This is simply never going to happen.

As for Twitter … you have 140 characters to communicate in, can’t attach files, has had a spotty history with security and is far too public.  Sure it is good for short communications between friends, but are you ever going to broker a deal for oil futures on it?  No.

Google Wave is the newest weapon in this silly fight against email, and while it is still in “Preview” mode, you receive no notifications of when you have an update to a Wave to read and there is no way yet to access it while mobile.  Sure these things may change as development move forward, but for now it is just an interesting tool for people to try out.

What I will agree with is that these services are killing the short, blurby style emails of “what are we doing tonight?”, “what do you want for dinner?”, etc, but the concept that they will completely kill off email is just silly.  Email has been here for 40 years for a reason: it works.

Categories: Internet, Opinion   
 

keysIf some security experts have their way, you may soon need a license to log on to the Internet.

It’s all in the name of “protecting” you, but there are people in Europe and Australia that think it might be a good idea for you to have a license to surf the Internet.

The theory is a simple one: there are people on the Internet who want to defraud you, and you should be required to take a class to learn to avoid these situations prior to being allowed on the Web.  At least that is the idea that Dr. Russel Smith, principal criminologist at the Australian Institute of Criminology, has been saying to iTnews.

While it seems his heart is in the right place, Dr. Smith is simply going too far with such a concept.  The majority of Internet fraud concerns can be solved with a short pamphlet that Internet service providers (ISPs) could send out to customers when they sign up.  Essentially it boils down to three things:

  • Never give out your password or personal info
  • Never send money to someone
  • Never use a credit card on a suspicious looking site

There, you’ve just earned your “license”.

Dr. Smith attempts to make an analogy between driving a car and controlling a computer, both items being dangerous machines, but it just comes off as lame.  Yes, the Internet can be a big scary place, but just because a handful of people get defrauded each year doesn’t mean that the hundreds of millions of other people on the Internet should have to jump through hoops to use their own computers.

You know what else is dangerous?  Guns.  But you don’t have to take a safety course before buying one.

You know what else is dangerous?  Alcohol.  But you don’t have to take a course before you drink.

You know what else is dangerous?  Smoking.  But you don’t have to take a course before you buy a pack of cigarettes.

I think you get the picture.

Categories: Internet, Opinion, Security   
 
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