Saturday, June 28, 2008

Technological Digest XV

Long time since my last digest. My virtual drawer is full of items to discuss. But since this is a digest and I don't want any yawning readers, we'll limit the number. Here goes Digest XV:
  1. American students are avoiding IT degrees - This year's statistics show that the number of students registering for engineering and IT-related degrees is in decline - despite the fact that salaries in those fields are at all-time high. In addition, the number of women registering for those degrees is in an even sharper decline. Is this normal market behavior? Or does today's youth able to predict tomorrow's bubble burst?

    And what does it all say about immigration into the US? Will people in the government finally recognize that they need to "open the gates" and accept more foreign knowledge workers to fulfill the massive need? Will they realize it in time, or after all the jobs have been outsourced to countries more eager to lead the world technologically?

  2. Find interesting connections in your inbox - I've been using this cool add-on called Xobni (inbox in reverse) since the early beta began last December. If you're a Microsoft Outlook (2003 and up) user, this thing is priceless. It'll index your email (.pst files as well) and start finding patterns you haven't expected before: who do you correspond with the most? who replies promptly? What time of day do you usually get/respond to email from certain people?

    It also allows you to see all "conversations" you had with a correspondent in a nice panel, showing all the other people involved (very useful for me: every time I get an email from one of my clients, I immediately get the names of all other contacts I have at that company). The latest release will also show you the LinkedIn profile of the name you highlight. Xobni was about to be purchased by Microsoft earlier this year, but elected to retain its independence, rather than disappear in the Redmond cellars). Get Xobni at

    One last note: privacy is extremely important to me, and I made sure no information leaves my machine. You can turn off all the "support sharing" options, and stop the Xobni update service (that periodically pings Xobni for an updated version) to feel completely safe.
    Other similar solutions I've tested in the past used to upload and store information on their server - Xobni keeps it all on your disk.

  3. And in a related item... - And if you still think your information and mailbox are safe at the workplace, behind a nice firewall and all the corporate security crap IT forces you to install - think again. According to this survey, between 33% and 50% of IT administartors snoop on their users. We're talking about a potentially dangerous security hole here, both personally and business-wise, not to mention privacy concerns.

    So, while IT enforces crazy security policies, it also listens into our calls, "for our own protection".

    Many times it a lone IT administrator who thinks he's so much smarter than you, just because he has the root password. A lot of it is childish mentality.

    And this is where I make my personal confession: I worked my way through my first degree as my faculty's Unix sys admin. I've seen some things and done some stuff I'm not proud of (this is worth a separate post - remind me if I don't get to it), but I have NEVER even thought of reading private email. That's where I drew the line between being "smart" and being "criminally childish".

    Bottom line, as I've mentioned before - don't do anything personal at work. Don't leave "incriminating" traces behind. And think before sending every email, what would happen if more than just the recipient got a hold of it.

  4. No more AP quotes - AP decided to start charging bloggers who quote from its news sources and web sites. They claim they'll start charging for sentences of "5 words or more". This, to me, sounds preposterous. Rather than thank bloggers who cite their quotes and create positive publicity for AP, they fine them and post DMCA takedown notices against their sites.

    And "5 words or more"? What are you? Morons? Let's say I say "The man crossed the street". I'm sure you can find that phrase somewhere in the vast AP article collection. Do they now expect me to pay $12.50?!!

    People, here's how we fight that: go through the AP site, and find 5 word sentences that appeared in your blogs first, and charge AP $12.50 for them. I'm sure they'll get the message soon.

  5. Track your flight's price - Yapta is a new site that allows you to specify a trip, and follow price trends for it across time and airlines. You can set alerts to be sent to you whenever the price drops or rises to a certain point. And the coup-de-gras: if you've already purchased a ticket, and the price dropped further, Yapta will assist you in getting a refund from the airline. Cool!

  6. Non Kosher headset - This tasteless headset, supposed to resemble a pig stuck in your head, made me laugh for a while. Probably won't sell well in the middle east smile:

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