Why don’t browsers have up and down buttons?

February 27, 2012

Browsers have a forward and back button. These help you navigate within your recent browser history. But, when you land on a site from an external link you sometimes want to, for example, go up the URL path to higher ‘folders’ within the site.

Example, your at http://somewhere.com/land/animals/waterbuffalo.html. How do you get to the land folder? Maybe there is something there, or how do I get to somewhere.com itself. The answer is you click on the address bar and edit the URL. Yuck! What is this, the 1800’s? Plus on any kind of smartphone this is pain to do. Plus, did you ever try to guide over the phone a non-compute savvy person to navigate on a site by editing a URL? Even more painful.

The old Google add-ons for various browsers used to have a page up widget. On FireFox I now use “Dir Up”.

Dir Up

Project support by micropayment for link use?

February 27, 2012

There are many projects that provide a valuable resource. Funds are required to continue operations, grow, and improve. Perhaps if commercial entities are using these projects they should contribute using a form of micropayment, somewhat in the same manner advertising is supported.

Wikimedia example
Lets use Wikimedia as an example. If a corporate hosted web site refers users to a WikiMedia article, and someone triggers that link, then that would trigger a micropayment to Wikimedia. Wikimedia gains an audience and if it also “advertises” its sponsors, just as public radio and TV does, the micropayment contribution is worth the good word.

Just thinking out loud….

Further reading

Sorry Wikimedia. No micropayment on above link to your article. WordPress doesn’t pay me for drawing clicks to their site.

Terje Rypdal – Avskjed

A Quest For A Personal Dashboard?

February 27, 2012

The author of a post on this subject gives a User Requirements for a type of information aggregation application that results in a Dashboard for personal use.  This is one of the “unfulfilled” needs of the computer age.  Like a usable Decision Making application, the Dashboard is nowhere to be found. Instead we have silos of information predation.

Sure there are applications that provide the raw materials for making one; the Browser is itself a good vehicle for this,   and, there are Suites that do this such as Lotus Notes, MS Office, and in the enterprise sphere there are a plethora of integrated management systems that allow one to drill into information within the systems, from SAP, Anderson, CS, etc.  There are also various Semantic Web research projects that could serve as springboards to a Personal Desktop.

Jon Udel on this post:  “The personal service management console”, also calls for a new type of application that would be required to accompany a Personal Dashboard.  After all, what good is an integrated view if your management of the resources is fragmented?

So why isn’t there one?

A new contender in this field is Mozilla’s Project Raindrop.

What happened to HayStack?  That was supposed to be a big deal as presented in this paper:  “Haystack: A General Purpose Information Management Tool for End Users of Semistructured Data”.

I originally wrote this in 2009. Just noticed it was in my drafts. How time flies!

For anyone who intends creating a dashboard there are many visualization options available. See this chart.

Some links

  1. My Quest For A Personal Dashboard
  2. Productivity Tools: Personal Dashboards
  3. Dashboard (management information systems)
  4. PersonalBrain as Personal Dashboard
  5. Mind Maps as Personal Dashboards
  6. Google releases Dashboard privacy tool
  7. Software Project Dashboards – Episode 1

From Tags To Categories

February 5, 2012

Tags are usually non-hierarchical fine grained descriptors of a resource. They are the opposite of categories which are usually part of a semantic hierarchy. Categories are really old-school, killed by the effectiveness of Search and the expanding mash-up universe.

However, while tags provide rapid access to resources and easier sharing of them, tags do not enrich knowledge. We can see this if we consider knowledge as one of the tiers toward wisdom: data, information, knowledge, wisdom. Tags are data on information, metadata. Categories are information on knowledge.

Since data is used to create information, the data on information, tags, can be harnessed to increase the information on knowledge by the automated creation of categories. We simply create the directed cyclic graphs of tags around resources and detect clusters. The naming of categories come from the resources themselves.

This is how the internet will wake up. It will create an ontology and it will act. Hopefully, humans are part of a necessary category.

Some possible related reading

  1. Ontology on Wikipedia
  2. New Common Tag Format
  3. Semantic Web Use Cases and Case Studies. Case Study: Semantic tags
  4. Ontology is Overrated: Categories, Links, and Tags

Email addresses should be more securely handled

April 4, 2011

Email addresses are entered in the clear, passed around, and even used for identification. Yet, these are not subject to many security concerns that other items such as user name and passwords. Why not?

They should be. Not only are email addresses identifiable pieces of one’s profile on any network, they are also attack vectors for nefarious schemes, smut, spam, and just plain nuisance. Yet, people don’t treat email addresses as that important.

Did you ever get a joke email sent to you about some amusing web page or You Tube video and on the cc address there were hundreds of other people’s email address? What is up with that? If you tell people that this is unwise or to just use bcc addresses, you get a blank stare (from even technical people).

I just got an email from a company telling me that their email provider’s database was compromised. They say that only the email addresses were stolen (yea, I believe that).

Yes, email addresses are valuable and should be treated as such.

Further Reading
Email Privacy Concerns
Users Still Careless With Email

Twixt: Tweet Continuations

January 17, 2011

Just had a thought. Tweets should be extendable.

My approach, what I call Twixt©, consists of two simple methods.

  • Threaded: In this approach, a tweet being created (edited) that goes over the limit is subdivided into multiple tweets, and each resulting tweet links to the next so that a consumer of the tweet (human or process) can recreate the intended content.
  • Linked: In this method, a tweet that overflows, will be subdivided so that the created tweet points to the rest of the content on an external server.
    An advantage with the linked approach is that this same server can create conventional content and then post the linker tweet, like an RSS substitute. That’s tsweet!

Of course, this would require Twitter clients that could support this and the server infrastructure and API for the linking if required (I’m not involved in Twitter minutiae).

I tweeted (s’cuse me), and in the tweet I put a link to a tiddler on a TiddlyWiki page.

Now if I knew how to link to a tweet, I could show you the tweet. Oh well, you get the whole idea.

Editing a TiddlyWiki page gave me this idea. A tiddler is very much a supercharged tweet except it’s locked into a single page, though a highly functional Single-Page Application (SPA) type. “Twixt” was just used in place of betwixt, but I’ll lie and say it stands for “TWeet Interaction eXtension”. :)

I was just informed on the TiddlyWiki forum about an awesome related use of TiddlyWiki see TwitterTabs.

A real implementation of Twixt would best be a server side service or cloud hosted application.

So what is the big deal? Well, you can still tweet what you had for breakfast, but it should also be easier to topple dictators too.

Further Reading

Setup SSL Issues On Tomcat

September 23, 2010

I was trying to setup an external HTTP server so that I can test SSL connections from my Java app. I’ve done this with Tomcat server before. It was easy, just follow the instructions on Tomcat’s document site. All done.


  • Windows XP Professional
  • Tomcat 6.0.29
  • Java 1.6

Not this time. A host of problems:

1.   javax.net.ssl.SSLHandshakeException: sun.security.validator.ValidatorException: PKIX path building failed: sun.security.provider.certpath.SunCertPathBuilderException: unable to find valid certification path to requested target
    at com.sun.net.ssl.internal.ssl.Alerts.getSSLException(Alerts.java:150)
    at com.sun.net.ssl.internal.ssl.SSLSocketImpl.fatal(SSLSocketImpl.java:1584)

2.  SEVERE: Error initializing endpoint
java.lang.Exception: No Certificate file specified or invalid file format
	at org.apache.tomcat.jni.SSLContext.setCertificate(Native Method)
	at org.apache.tomcat.util.net.AprEndpoint.init(AprEndpoint.java:721)

3.  SEVERE: Error starting endpoint
java.lang.Exception: Socket bind failed: [730048] Only one usage of each socket address (protocol/network address/port) is normally permitted.  
    at org.apache.tomcat.util.net.AprEndpoint.init(AprEndpoint.java:647)
    at org.apache.tomcat.util.net.AprEndpoint.start(AprEndpoint.java:754)
    at org.apache.coyote.http11.Http11AprProtocol.start(Http11AprProtocol.java:137)
    at org.apache.catalina.connector.Connector.start(Connector.java:1087)

The last issue above is very weird. I ran netstat and no other apps are using the ports that Tomcat is trying to use.

I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say, I just removed the native library, tcnative-1.dll, from the Tomcat folder and everything works.

Well, not everything, I’m still getting,

        javax.net.ssl.SSLHandshakeException: sun.security.validator.ValidatorException: PKIX path building failed: sun.security.provider.certpath.SunCertPathBuilderException: unable to find valid certification path to requested target

But, that is more tractable.

Copy of this post: http://octodecillion.com/blog/setup-ssl-issues-on-tomcat/

How to set per user browser settings?

June 12, 2010

On a shared PC running Windows 7 the browser has the last used settings when it should have the current user’s settings.

Here is another one of those things that should be easy on a modern PC but isn’t.  First searching for help on this is not easy.  Many of the links found are about setting the specific browser that each user will use.  For example, you use FireFox, wife uses IE, and your kids use Chrome.  What I’m talking about is one browser only, but multiple users on one PC.  Thus, when I open the browser my email, homepage, and other things are all mine, not the last user of the machine.  How annoying.  This is probably a symptom of Windows lame multi-user handling, after all, really supporting multiple users would reduce OS license fees.  I wonder how Windows MultiPoint Server handles this, probably doesn’t really present a “real” Windows client to each user.

I haven’t found the answer yet.  When I do I will post it here.

One kludge that works is to just use a browser in a virtual machine instance.  That will guarantee that the user settings are unique.  This will work, but only on a high-powered PC or server, not a laptop.  On a VirtualBox VM on my PC I run Ubuntu which allows me to run FireFox with the setting  I need.


System-Level Google Chrome Setup


Setting “default browser” affects all users on Win”, http://forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=513

VirtualBox:  http://www.virtualbox.org/

FireFox:  http://www.mozilla.com/en-US/firefox/firefox.html

Windows MultiPoint Server:  http://www.microsoft.com/windows/multipoint/default.aspx

How to improve web search

April 26, 2010

I originally wrote this on January 21, 2010.  A few weeks ago I was helping a family member with some research.  I searched the web on the topic.  It was very bad.  No matter what I used as a query the results were bad.  Not only were the results not relevant,  duplicates and noise were overshadowing everything.  I tried using different search engines, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and others.

This is not new, of course.  Though search services are very good, there is just a lot of noise out there.  Worse, there is an adversarial relationship between search targets and the search services.   To see an example of this see this blog post The Anatomy Of A Bad Search Result

During the following days I thought about this, then while driving  the solution popped into my head (very dangerous!).  Use the results of searching to present possible terms to the user to augment the search.  One technique I thought of using was Tag Clouds.  In Bing, Yahoo, or Google, one would just do a normal search, but new panels would then show with different type of Tag Clouds: terms, news, location, entertainment, etc.  The user could click on a term and that would be added to the search string.   That would solve the problem of not knowing what to add to the terms to narrow the search, but also whether the search terms are helping get closer to the “real” topic.  Subsequent searches would allow refinement, adding and removing terms, and new tag clouds would form.

Well, I get an idea and know how to embellish it and make it powerful, its fun to do this.   So, I also saw how to extend this to do much more such as using Semantic tools, RDFa, TopicMaps, and graphical visualizations.  As I’m doing research to see if I can write this up, I stumble upon DeeperWeb.  Wow, they use the TagCloud technology to do just what I wrote about above.   Not only did they implement this, they also started to use some Semantic Web technologies like Topic Maps, which I was also thinking about.   Oh well, at least I found something that hopefully will improve search.

Unfortunately, DeeperWeb plugin has not improved my search results.  In fact, it has not been useful at all.  Occasionally the phrases panel was useful.   Puzzling.  I think this is not possible with a plug-in.  Instead, the search services themselves must provide the “deep web” results.  For example, Google has an ginormous database that can create a tag cloud or other type of  search augmentation.  I know there were some lab experiments like a mindmap like visual explorer (which was lame).

In the meantime, just for fun, I’ll look into the other ideas I had.  Tag Clouds were just an interim means, much more can be done.   There is a rich storehouse of more information that can be correlated and presented to assist the user in search.   Even location based filtering.  Social network based topic discovery, cultural cues, and even search augmented by crowd sourcing.  Let say you are search for xyz, this search can be broadcast to subscribers of a search service who then can augment the search terms to provide better results.  They would ask pertinent questions of course, and privacy is paramount.

As a Google employee stated, most of search has been solved, its the last part that will take the most effort, the usual 80/20 rule.

I’ve had this blog post in draft so long now I lost the momentum.  Oh well.

Fixed but fluid ontologies?

March 26, 2010

I wonder what is the relationship between the Colon Classification system in library science developed by Shiyali Ramamrita Ranganathan and other Ontological studies like Top-Level Categories developed by John F. Sowa.

Does not appear to be  any, from:

“Faceted classification is used in faceted search systems that enable a user to navigate information along multiple paths corresponding to different orderings of the facets. This contrasts with traditional taxonomies in which the hierarchy of categories is fixed and unchanging.” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faceted_classification

I had an idea that bridging that gap would enable some cool new applications.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the details and can’t find the page I wrote it in.  Oh well, probably was nothing.


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