Weblog on the Internet and public policy, journalism, virtual community, and more from David Brake, a Canadian academic, consultant and journalist

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26 December 2004

According to “Reuters”:http://www.reuters.com/audi/newsArticle.jhtml?type=technologyNews&storyID=7047174 Yahoo will release a desktop search tool of its own based on X1’s technology. Of course it may not provide X1’s full functionality but the report seems to suggest it will include its PDF searching (which so far Google’s search doesn’t do). There’s more detailed information “here”:http://insidegoogle.blogspot.com/2004/12/yahoo-announces-desktop-search.html.

Thanks to Guardian Onlineblog for the link.

19 December 2004

I had a quick look around and found grisbi (which has all its documentation in French), jgnash, Sacash, Eurobudget, and Jcash among others but many of them (other than the first two) don’t appear to have been updated in the last year or two. Gnucash is very popular I gather but it doesn’t run on Windows. Am I missing something? How is it that there doesn’t seem to be a prominent open source alternative to Quicken and Microsoft Money? Note: it would have to be easy for someone to use who hates accounting (me), has to allow me to divide my expenses into categories – preferably automatically as they are imported – and has to read and write QIF files to be able to shuffle data between my online banking and my Palm.

I would be willing to actually purchase Quicken but the company doesn’t appear to offer a demo so I can’t see whether it would work for me! I’ll take a look at Microsoft Money (which does have a demo) but I would really prefer something open source…

7 October 2004

The “Diskmeta”:http://diskmeta.com/ search engine ‘works on all Windows platforms (98 or higher)’ and ‘ is fast, intuitive and unfussy. You can also view the raw text in a special preview window but doesn’t have a preview facility like X1, dtSearch or the new Copernic Desktop Search’. Unlike some other desktop search engines it supports a variety of “boolean operators”:http://diskmeta.com/en/doc/request.asp.

The free version (for non-commercial use) only indexes txt, .doc and .html however – for indexing PDFs you need to pay, and Diskmeta doesn’t index Outlook email.

Thanks to Jeremy Wagstaff for the heads up.

Also see “here”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001230 and “here”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001202 for earlier coverage of hard disk searching programs.

20 September 2004

There are good free applications for most tasks available for Windows (there’s a good “directory of Windows free and open source software”:http://www.jairlie.com/oss/). The bad news is that in the case of OCR the Windows options I have found are pretty poor. SimpleOCR is the best of a bad lot – it is free but doesn’t work too well- at least it didn’t on the page I tried it on. There’s also a GNU option called “GOCR”:http://sourceforge.net/projects/jocr/ but I didn’t try it as it appears to be a DOS program with a text-only interface and I am skeptical that a half-Mb application could really do much!

Fortunately, there is another option. You can get the “US National Library of Medicine”:http://www.nlm.nih.gov/ to do the work for you. They have put an “experimental application online”:http://docmorph.nlm.nih.gov/docmorph/default.htm which allows you to upload files of a variety of different formats to their server and get back PDF, TIFF, text, or synthesized speech. This can be slow since a typical A3 scan of two pages at 300dpi is around 3Mb which takes a while to upload but may be a good alternative if you have no other way to get OCR done. They have a ‘MyMorph’ application which automates the upload and conversion process for multiple files but it only converts them to Adobe Acrobat files and does not OCR the text.

If anyone knows of an OCR program that is available as non-time-limited shareware or freeware and works reasonably well under Windows please let me know. “ABBY FineReader 7”:http://buy.abbyy.com/content/frpro/default.aspx works quite well I found but costs 81 pounds to buy and after a 15 day trial period it no longer lets you use it unless you buy.

P.S. I’m still at AoIR but I haven’t had time to craft a blog entry so this is one I did earlier. Pics etc will probably have to wait until Thursday.

30 August 2004

There are lots of photo sharing services around – (two years ago I did a “little comparison”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_useful_web_resources.html#000385 of several of them which offer photo printing as well) – but “Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/ – which I started to try out yesterday – seems to be the Internet geek’s best choice (they’ve got Cory Doctorow, “renaissance geek”:http://www.craphound.com/bio.html advising them so it’s “turning up a lot on boingboing”:http://www.boingboing.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-search.cgi?IncludeBlogs=1&search=flickr).

If after reading the description below, Flickr appeals to you and you want to try it out (basic membership is free), instead of visiting the site right away and signing up I would appreciate it if you could “email me”:http://davidbrake.org/contact.htm and I will invite you. There’s an offer available at the moment – if I successfully invite 5 new people to join Flickr I will receive a Flickr Pro Account (valid until September 15th, 2004). Yes I have therefore a small interest in selling you on the idea but I already have other photo library accounts so it’s not a huge deal for me one way or another. Anyway…

The Flickr feature that first caught my attention is that it has an automatic ‘post to your blog’ feature (which I used yesterday). It also lets you post photos to your Flickr site and/or weblog via email and directly from camera phones. What’s more intriguing though is that it has a number of creative ways of organizing photos. Most photo sites make you sort pictures into albums. This one lets you attach pictures to several different groups, tag them by keyword, lets you and your Flickr-using friends pool and organize your pictures in interesting ways etc etc.

Geekily enough it also supports RSS in different ways so people can automatically know you have added more pictures and they have built in chat and messageboard facilities so people with similar interests can share pictures (yes there are porn-related groups as you’d expect but also groups like “Bonsai lovers”:http://www.flickr.com/groups_view.gne?id=36521982934@N01). I’m a sucker for organizations like this one that just don’t seem to know when to stop adding new features on the off chance that someone will use them. “ICQ”:http://www.icq.com/ was a bit like that – it’s a pity the full version isn’t seeing much development any more. Anyway…

There’s a quick overview of Flickr’s features “here”:http://www.flickr.com/learn_more.gne and a longer “get the most out of Flickr”:http://www.flickr.com/get_the_most.gne guide but the best way to figure it out is to sign up and try out its features.

Signup is free. For the moment you can only sign up for their free account which lets you share either your most recent 100 photos or photos uploaded in the last 3 months (whichever comes first). It must be said this is not over-generous – “photo.net”:http://www.photo.net/ has a 100Mb quota, “Webshots”:http://daily.webshots.com/scripts/signup.fcgi lets you store 240 photos. Also at the moment the only software available for bulk uploading of photos is for Windows XP and MacOS X. Later they will have software available for more operating systems and premium accounts with more storage and capabilities (they are in beta testing at the moment).

P.S. I just discovered “Phil Gyford”:http://www.gyford.com/ has also recently “taken a shine to Flickr”:http://www.gyford.com/phil/writing/2004/08/25/seeing_the_light.php.

24 August 2004

I have recorded a discussion and am listening to it through my computer using the excellent piece of software called “Dictation Buddy”:http://www.highcriteria.com/main_productfr_dicbuddy_info.htm so that I can make a rough transcription. The weird part is that I’m making the transcription using Microsoft’s voice recognition software (via “OneNote”:http://office.microsoft.com/home/office.aspx?assetid=FX01085803). Of course if I could just get the voice recognition software to listen to and recognize the discussion I wouldn’t need to do this but I suspect even if the computer program was capable of accepting input from a file instead of the microphone it would not do nearly as good a job of recognition as I do so I am forced to use myself as a kind of of voice recognition peripheral!

By the way is there any documentation available anywhere on how to use Microsoft’s voice recognition software in detail? I would be particularly interested in knowing how I could add frequently used words to its dictionary like ‘Bourdieu’ (which it thinks is Bork To?) or ‘structuration’ (structure Asian?).

18 August 2004

I learned about “Biblioexpress”:http://www.biblioscape.com/biblioexpress.htm and “Scholar’s Aid 2000”:http://www.scholarsaid.com/aboutsafree.html from the “PhinisheD advice pages”:http://www.phinished.org/faqs/ which might be good bibliographic options if you can’t afford “Endnote”:http://endnote.com/ as both of them are free software. I’ve not tried them myself as the LSE has a site license to Endnote.

12 August 2004

I recently read (on CNet perhaps?) that anonymous people within Yahoo are promising one stop searching of web, email, hard disk and Yahoo services – sometime. I won’t get too excited about that until it gets close to launch.

Meanwhile, “X1”:http://www.x1.com/ (which admittedly costs $75) has been improving rapidly – it now supports boolean and proximity searching of your hard disk, contacts, email (including Eudora and other email apps as well as – and alongside – Outlook I am delighted to say) and email attachments. With those improvements I am going to start trying to use it again regularly. Download their trial version and/or “enter their sweepstakes”:http://www.x1.com/sweepstakes/index.html to win up to 50 copies.

For more on what Microsoft is up on this see “this post”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001134 and for Google’s plan’s “see here”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001119.

Update: Jeremy Wagstaff who shares my obsession with hard disk search has just posted a “discussion”:http://loosewire.typepad.com/blog/2004/08/the_new_search_.html of the race to provide good local search and a (probably comprehensive) “list of available programs”:http://loosewire.typepad.com/blog/2004/08/a_directory_of__2.html including three I have not yet tried – all free of charge – “Tukaroo”:http://www.tukaroo.com/, “Wilbur”:http://wilbur.redtree.com/index.htm (which is also open source) and “Blinkx”:http://www.blinkx.com/

10 August 2004

WebSM (where SM stands for survey methods), ‘is dedicated to the methodological issues of Web surveys, but it also covers the broader area of interaction between modern technologies and survey data collection.’ It chiefly provides a collection of bibliographic references and some full text. Though the site itself is academic a fair amount of the papers are produced by and/or aimed at marketers. It has an index of survey software suppliers but this isn’t very handy as it doesn’t seem to include free software and is only organized by country.

Free commercial hosts for online surveys include my3q (don’t be put off by the Korean – it offers up to 5 questionnaires without question number or respondent number limits!), SurveyMonkey (their free service handles 10 questions and 100 responses), Zoomerang (free up to 30 questions, 100 responses but results stored for limited period). QuestionPro has a particularly good student offer – you can conduct one survey free of charge with unlimited questions and up to 5000 responses as long as you cite them publicly and link to their site from your project.

Castle is a suite of quiz software (adaptable presumably to other survey use) which is created for UK higher academics to use (free of charge) but appears to generate CGI scripts which must then be uploaded to your own server. GetFAST is similarly designed to help teachers get assessments from their students and allows for up to 20 questions but could also be adapted for more broad use I imagine.

I recall learning about a service run by a US university somewhere that was also free for academic use but I can’t remember where it is.

Later… While my3q is tempting I just realised that it doesn’t appear to let you download the results- you have to rely on their web stats which limits its usefulness. Advanced Survey at $25 a month (approx) looks pretty good but it isn’t clear if they support branching – for example, if my respondents answer yes to question 1 then don’t show them questions 2-4.

Zoomerang has a discount for educators for its full version I see ($99 for 3 months) and appears to do branching and allow downloading. QuestionPro allows branching and downloading of data but the non-academic free trial option only captures 25 respondents over a single month.

12 July 2004
Filed under:Search Engines,Software reviews at8:18 am

I’ve heard for a while that Microsoft plans to produce a single search tool that finds data on your hard disk and on the Internet but I have always assumed they meant to deliver it in their next operating system (Longhorn) in 2006. Now according to Yusuf Mehdi, head of Microsoft’s MSN division it seems this technology will be released within 12 months. Apple also plans to incorporate this kind of search in its OS but “as with Windows”:https://blog.org/archives/cat_search_engines.html#001061 third party apps for Mac OS X are “already available”:http://www.wired.com/news/mac/0,2125,64070,00.html to search your hard disk.

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