Google should offer web hosting

Google has been tinkering with the idea of immediate indexing of changed content in websites for some time. Its current solution is to have you place certain files and bits of code inside your site, that can notify the Google bots when your content has changed. But there’s a much simpler solution: why not offer web hosting? With content already on its servers, Google won’t have to go out over an Internet connection to index stuff – it will be able to do it much faster in-house.

Granted, this sort of a decision from the juggernaut may run afoul with web hosting companies, but it’s a thought. If they’re giving away 2.5 GB of space for Gmail, why can’t they give away the same amount for web hosting, or offer paid plans?

ComeAcross Podcast 2

➡ Download ComeAcross Podcast 2

Summary: Teens can’t stand the buzz, China still tortures, first face transplant, sensor listens for cancer, goldfish have memory, the Roman Room trick, Nigerian drag, the worst car, tiny movie projectors, hogs in your living room, new Mac Mini, Bose suspension and electricity from banana peels!

Links of interest for this podcast:

The Come Across Podcast

Just launched a new podcast called The Come Across Podcast, and I was very pleasantly surprised to see that it was listed in the iTunes Music Store within a day of my submission. I had to wait two weeks for my Bible podcasts to get listed. Here’s the feed link, courtesy of FeedBurner.

ComeAcross Podcast 1

➡ Download ComeAcross Podcast 1

Summary: Sea levels rising, there’s money in global warming, “soft” torture, Tom DeLay, avatars rising, Sam Alito, expensive gas, invisible employees, and mirrors to fight the winter blues!

Links of interest for this podcast:

The Dignoscentia Bible Podcasts

Great news! Just discovered the iTunes Music Store has added our Bible Podcasts. Ligia and I are recording them simultaneously in both English and Romanian. I submitted them about 1 1/2 weeks ago. Went frantic this evening making sure my RSS files are spiffed up and work with multiple readers. I’m also using FeedBurner to publish the feeds. You can access the pages for the English and Romanian podcasts by clicking on each language.

The next media player

I sat down to breakfast this morning and kept thinking about my media and the problems I face when trying to get things properly cataloged, and realized the tools still aren’t out there to do things correctly.

Current media players (such as iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, etc.) are good for playing music, or for playing video, and are fairly good when it comes to cataloging audio, but they have a ways to go when it comes to cataloging video or – and this is the most important thing – cataloging MEDIA.

Let me explain myself. Audio files are one type of media. Video files are another. Writings are yet another. So are photos or graphics. Web pages can use all types, and they can be though of as another media type as well, a hybrid, so to speak. There isn’t a media player out there that combines the ability to play and properly catalog ALL of these different types of media, and in particular, to correlate them in meaningful and flexible ways. Here’s are a few example that illustrate the current shortcomings:

  • I have a song by a certain artist, but I also have his or her music video for that particular song. They are seen as different files by the media player, and they come up as two different search results, when really, a common container should be created for that particular piece, and within it, the two pieces should be displayed together. While playing the song, I should be able to switch seamlessly between the audio version and the video version, without having to restart the song. The lyrics should also be stored as a third piece within that container, and if I want to, I should be able to display the lyrics onscreen for either the audio or the video version of the song.
  • If I have a video file, I should be able to properly catalog it within the media player, but I have yet to find a player that will do it right. iTunes has recently started to offer the ability to view and store videos within its library. It also happens to be my favorite player. Skipping right over the misnomer inherent in the name of the software – Tunes means songs, not videos – it doesn’t allow me to catalog the videos correctly. I can enter tags for the videos, just like I can for the songs, but the same fields that apply to songs (Artist, Composer, Album, etc.) are provided as tags for the videos. That’s wrong. Appropriate, but parallel tags should be provided, such as Actor, Director, Studio, Series, etc.
  • Lyrics can be entered for songs, but they cannot be entered for videos. That’s a clear shortcoming. What if I have a video interview. A transcript is also provided for that interview, in text format. I should be able to store that transcript right alongside the video, so I can access it as needed.
  • Let’s look at books. The audio and written version of books should be stored in the same container in my media player. I should be able to switch between both. Also, if a movie was made of the book, and I have that movie in my library, it should be stored in that same container as well. If I’m reading a paragraph in the book, I should be able to switch directly to the movie scene that deals with that subject if I want to do so. If I want to access a list of the photos (provided with the book), I should be able to browse just the photos.
  • Similarly, if I have an album by an artist, I should be able to see all of the cover art and photos for that album by switching to it while I’m playing the song.
  • In my photo library, I should be able to store audio narration for a single photo or group of photos that I have taken, or have received through email from one of my friends, or have purchased or downloaded from the Internet.
  • These containers that store the different media types for a piece of information, should be easily importable and exportable as a whole or in pieces. If I have two computers at home, I shouldn’t have to re-create each container by combining the pieces. If I want to copy a container from one computer to the other, I should be able to do so without problems, even if one of the computers is Macintosh and the other is Windows or Linux, as long as the media player was written for each of these operating systems.

The good news is that we can do this with the current technology. This isn’t some fairy tale. It should only take about 6 months to 1 1/2 years or so to develop the product. Yes, some of the media types will have to be re-tooled to allow for syncing of text and audio/video, but this CAN be done, and an amazing product awaits at the end of the tunnel.

Google Print launched today

Google Print just launched its first set of scanned books today. Go to to search the materials. You’ll need a Google account to get access to all of the search results.

Using recycled plastic to minimize collision impact

My wife told me about the difficulties with recycling plastic, and that so little of it can be re-used for the same purpose. Most of it can unfortunately only be used for utility purposes such as benches, garbage cans, etc. Immediately I thought of its potential use to minimize collission impact on our roads. We’ve all seen how concrete pillars are wrapped in collapsible plastic so that head-on collisions will be somewhat dampened. We’ve also seen big plastic containers filled with sand or water and placed in front of highway bifurcations, so that high speed head-on collision impact will be somewhat dissipated by the sand or water. Well, how about these next uses for low grade recycled plastic?

  • Instead of using sand or water, this low-grade, non-tensile strength recycled plastic, made from grocery bags and other cheap recycled materials, could be used instead of the sand or plastic. It would be naturally porous and somewhat elastic. I think it would work well to dissipate the impact and reduce the deceleration force encountered by a vehicle.
  • Different iterations of it could be used inside vehicle bumpers as well – instead of the foam or polystyrene currently used.
  • It could also be used in highway railguards, not to replace the steel bumpers but to bolster them and reduce damage on a car, should it bounce off the rails.

Audience-inclusive advertising

After the new video iPod launched, and the possibility to purchase and download ad-free TV shows came to light, I realized that the advertising industry would have to come up with some clever ways to keep their audience if they were to maintain revenues. The following ideas sprung to mind:

  • A site can be set up and maintained by a consortium of advertising agencies and brand owners or a neutral body, that would either track viewer product preferences through data mining and random surveys, or would actively encourage users to register and provide product preferences. Alternately, existing user data could be compiled from various databases.
  • Advertising during TV shows that certain user groups watch could be more closely targeted to those groups by ad personalization. Users could register for the chance to have an ad dedicated to them. For example, a sample user we’ll call Jane could indicate that she likes the MINI Cooper, and so when an ad for the Cooper runs during a show that she likes to watch, names can be selected at random from the database of users, and if her name comes up, that ad could say: “This goes out to Jane” before it runs, and end with a “Thanks, Jane!” Quite simple, really, but it serves to capture the audience, since people will stay tuned during the ads just to see if their name will come up.
  • This concept can be expanded to include groups of users, perhaps up to 3-5 identifiable users per ad.
  • Through the medium of the website, brand owners can also take a cue from the users about the kind of products they need to advertise, this time in a more direct way, through hard data. Even more, they can more easily survey the users about the kind of new products they want to see.
  • Another way to keep the audience is to offer prizes for watching the ads and picking through clues that are weaved through both the ads and the shows. Entries can then be registered on the show’s site or at this main site for a chance to win something, perhaps even products featured on the show, or something as banal as an actor’s coat, or the actual bottle of perfume used by an actress on the show. These aren’t things that cost much but mean a lot to the audience.
  • People are making a big deal about product placement, but I think that reaches a saturation point very quickly. You can’t plaster products all over the screen and detract from the value of the story or the entertainment. Product placements works when it’s subtle, weaved into the story, and reinforced through the regular ads.

Gravitational propulsion-levitation vehicle

I’ve had this idea for quite some time – since sometime in 1997 – and I’ve carried it around in my mind, not knowing how to bring it to fruition, and certainly not knowing if I wanted to share it with anyone.

I’ve decided to share this idea with the world because I don’t have the physics knowledge that can allow me to figure it out on my own, and given my current and past schedule, it doesn’t look like I’ll have the time to beef up on physics any time soon. I hope that by sharing it, I can reach someone in whose mind the various pieces I’m going to talk about will click. Maybe this is one person, or a team of people, but that’s the power of the Internet – I can put my idea out there and see what happens!

I have to concede that this is the stuff of science fiction, of Star Trek and Star Wars and the like, but I really do think it can work. I think what makes my idea different from the sci-fi iterations is that it’s grounded – literally and figuratively speaking. I’m talking about gravitation. I have an idea for a vehicle that can move and float by harnessing the gravitational force of the Earth.

Here’s how I think it can work. The gravitational force of the Earth pulls things down to the ground. But it’s a magnetic force. We are attracted by it. If we can somehow deflect the force of attraction, we can move left or right along the surface of the Earth – that’s gravitational propulsion! If we can reverse it, we can rise – that’s gravitational levitation! Okay, so how can one affect a magnetic field or force? Through a magnetic field of opposing polarity. The problem is, I have yet to see a magnet that falls up, not down!

Here’s where it gets interesting. I can offer you the following clues, and I hope that you can put them all together to arrive at a solution:

  • Create – on a small scale – a gravitational field like the Earth’s, and attract other objects to it – this could be microscopic, it doesn’t have to be on a large scale. Once we can create this, we can apply the technology to see if we can create a gravitational field that the Earth “doesn’t like” and thus rejects – if this works, it means we can float, or levitate.
  • Look at the following two products currently on the market. The principles upon which they work is very similar to the way my vehicle can work. One involves an oscillating magnetic pendulum whose direction is determined by the repulsion from neighboring magnetic fields. This illustrates my gravitational propulsion idea. The second is an anti-gravity top, which, once tuned correctly, rises and stays in mid-air while it rotates. Please understand I’m not endorsing or advertising the company selling these products or the products themselves. I’m simply using them to illustrate my ideas. I do think the products are really innovative. I first heard about the levitating magnetic top several years ago, and that’s what helped me think about how my gravitational propulsion vehicle could work.
  • I think the repulsing gravitational field can be generated through the rotation (either parallel or perpendicular, not sure) of a disc or series of discs. It may be that some will have to rotate perpendicularly while others rotate parallel to the Earth. The angle of rotation can be varied to generate propulsion, levitation, or both. I think an important first step would be to generate propulsion alone – 2D movement along the Earth’s surface. That in itself would be a monumentous achievement. Levitation can come later, after the propulsion is perfected.
  • The vehicle can be perpetually moving. A rechargeable battery can be used to set the rotating mechanism in motion, and once the vehicle is moving and generating its own energy – remember, magnetic fields can be used to generate electricity – the energy from the rotating discs can recharge the battery.
  • The same mechanism can be applied to power plants, once perfected. We’ll be able to generate electricity directly from gravitational energy – no more nuclear or coal plants! The best part is that gravitational energy is in endless supply!

Just think of the benefits if we can ever get this idea materialized! I can go on and on, but I’ll let you dream about it: driving over fields of flowers without trampling them under wheels, sailing over water without getting anything wet, floating along the Grand Canyon, putting your hand out the window and picking fruits directly from the top of a tree… We won’t need roads anymore. We won’t pollute anymore. We’ll be able to camp out at the top of Mount Everest, or in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean…

Updated 2/27/13: I watched a documentary entitled “Modern Marvels – Car Tech of the Future” tonight, and was glad to see that others are thinking about this very idea: the capability of controlling gravity through what they call a “gravity capacitor”. See the video on YouTube and turn to 1:26:20.

The underrated Betta fish

Let’s call this a journal of casual discoveries about Betta fish, made by an uninitiated Betta owner. Having had only bad experiences with aquarium fish in the past, I have only good things to say about owning Bettas. I’ve written about a few of them below.

November, 2004

I have three Bettas at the moment. I’ve only recently acquired them. Until now, I gave into the notion that Bettas are the most commonplace fish one can get as pets. I thought that when it came to entertainment, they were no better than goldfish, which was a short way of saying they were at the bottom of the aquatic intelligence scale. But I was wrong, and I’m glad to admit it! I’ve since discovered that Bettas are quite intelligent and very entertaining.

Unlike most aquarium creatures, they actually express gratitude for the love they receive. One can actually form a relationship with them that is quite rewarding. I like to think of them as the Italian greyhounds of the aquarium: small, delicate, clean, yet loving and wonderful. In this article, I will attempt to describe to you what I have discovered in the short time I have owned Bettas.

Betta fish looking up at me

My wife and I bought our first Betta in October of 2004. A week later, we bought another, and a day later, we bought the third. We couldn’t resist! They each have their little personality quirks that make them endearing. Yes, each Betta has a personality! The first thing we noticed is that they recognized our faces after just a few days of owning them. Since this happened with all three of our Bettas, I believe it can also happen with others. I suggest you try it out.

You will need to spend a little time with them, though. You need to let them get to know you. The usual mistake that people make is not spending enough time with their Bettas. Most of the time, they are thought of as ornaments or decor. That’s not how a smart fish can be treated. If they are ignored by their owners, the Bettas will withdraw into themselves and will become loners. They will shy away from the owner when they are fed, and they won’t look at him or her. It will become a stress for the fish to see the them. On the other hand, if you take the time to know your Betta, and spend a little time every day looking at the fish, smiling and talking to it, you will find that a relationship will develop between you and it.

For example, our Bettas move to the edge of the aquarium to greet us when we approach. Not only that, but as soon as they can see us enter the room, they will quickly move toward us, and will become active, even playful. They do this not because they expect food. They will do it because they are happy to see us. Having owned fish before, I was quite surprised to discover this. My other fish simply shied away whenever they saw me. The only time they gave me any notice of recognition was when they saw me feed them, and even that reaction wasn’t consistent. Most of the time, they were simply frightened of me. That’s actually what deterred me from continuing to keep fish. I found it discouraging that these creatures, to whose every need I catered, didn’t show the slightest amount of appreciation, even after months of being around me. Bettas certainly don’t do this. They do express appreciation, and it is very gratifying to see it.

Betta fish in aquarium

If they don’t like the food you give them, they will let you know. One of my Bettas didn’t like the Betta Bits I bought for him, and he would spit them out or not even touch them. He would then look intently at me, as if to say, “C’mon, can’t you do better than this?” If I looked at him as if to say, “Please try again,” he would make another go at it, though most of the time he’d spit it out again. To have this sort of interaction, where there is a halfway-intelligent question and response, amazes me. How is this possible with such a small fish? One usually only finds this in larger animals with more developed brains.

Bettas happen to like certain plants in their aquariums. I’ve found that the frilly plants, the ones with thin, long leaves, bother them. They act annoyed whenever they try to swim by them and their fins get caught in the leaves. I believe they like simple plants with well-defined leaves. Mine in particular seem to like these small plants with short stems and large, 1-2 leaves. They sleep under the leaves at night, nestled in next to the stem. Sometimes they take naps during the day right in-between the leaves.

At other times, they hover right next to the bottom, almost out of sight. This leads me to believe that they enjoy a little hiding place of their own. I don’t think they like being out in the open all the time. If you have a Betta, it might be a good idea to get them a hollow shell or a little fish house they can hide in.

Betta fish resting at bottom of bowl

I have also found that aquarium placement matters quite a bit. My Bettas were all fairly restless when their vases (I use large vases, 1-2 gallon capacity, as my Betta aquariums) were placed on tables, or somewhere in the open. As soon as I placed them next to walls or other pieces of furniture where one side was enclosed, they quieted down. I believe this gives them a sense of security. I think fishes in general don’t like to stay out in the open all day. Being next to the wall can afford them a little rest, because they don’t have to constantly look around for danger.

Betta fish swimming

Each of our Bettas has their little quirks and their behavior can’t be predicted. They don’t necessarily do the same things every day. For example, one of my Bettas would actively move back and forth, and perform intricate turns and flips a few weeks ago. As soon as I’d look at him, he’d quiet down and look at me. I’m not quite sure why he did that. I’ve found that my other Bettas have engaged in this sort of behavior at times, too. I don’t think they do it just to attract my attention. I haven’t discovered anything wrong with them so far, and I’ve had them for some time.

One of my Bettas displays a penchant for burrowing under the pebbles that are at the bottom of his vase. One of my other Bettas seems to like to nuzzle next to the glass and nibble on it. My last Betta enjoys staying under his plant most of the day, unless I’m near his vase. I think this is part of their personalities, and Betta owners shouldn’t worry if their Bettas are quirky like this. I don’t think they’re sick. I can’t judge the mental health of a fish, but physically speaking, if they were sick, their fins or scales would show discoloration or would start to peel off. They would also lose their appetite, which is definitely not the case with my Bettas.

Sometimes Bettas like to nap out in the open water, either right below the water surface or halfway between the bottom and the top. They won’t move their fins and it may look to you like they’re dead. They aren’t. I’m not sure why they do that sometimes, but it does happen.

Betta fish resting below water surface

At other times when they sleep, they’ll move their fins, and it may not be apparent to you that they’re sleeping. If you approach the aquarium and they happen to wake up with your face next to it, they’ll be too surprised to recognize you and will dash away. They may even turn around and puff up their little beard to show you they’re not scared. Don’t be offended. You’ve just frightened them, and they are reasserting themselves. Remember, they are mighty fighting fish, even if they are small in size.

Betta fish with flared fins

If you get along well enough, they may even “strut” for you sometimes. They will puff up their beard, and they will fan out their tail and fins, and will show you how beautiful they are. Don’t think they are threatening you. They are simply letting you know they feel safe and happy in their territory, patrolling their borders and being taken care of by you. Enjoy the show!

When your Bettas are content, they will build a bubble next at the surface of the water. You can’t miss it. There will be stacks of bubbles (2-5 levels on top of each other) on the water surface one morning, and you’ll wonder how in the world they got there. What the fish are telling you is that they’re very happy with their conditions and are ready to mate. Since I doubt you’ll want to provide them with a female Betta every time this happens, just enjoy it and know that you’re taking good care of them.

Betta fish bubble nest

I hope you find your Bettas as rewarding as I have. Please remember, your Betta is more likely to get sick if you don’t treat it right. Spend a little time with your fish every day, and you will have a very rewarding relationship. Just think of the benefits! You don’t have to house-train them, they don’t pee all over the carpet if they’re mad at you, and they don’t bark at the neighbors!

February, 2005

I don’t think Bettas have a sense of hearing. However, they have can immediately sense any tremor or vibration in the water. For example, one of our Bettas has his bowl on the corner of my desk, which is quite wide. If I tap my fingers on the opposite corner (not a loud tapping, mind you) he will immediately stop what he’s doing and turn around to face me.

Bettas can be jealous. If they see me or my wife giving attention to one of the other fish, they won’t like it and they’ll start swimming wildly in their bowls to get our attention. Sometimes they’ll even get upset, and when we do go and see them, they’ll stay at the bottom of their bowls and won’t come up to greet us as they usually do.

Bettas can get upset if they don’t get their food. Our Bettas expect to get fed every morning and night. My wife and I agreed not to feed them one day of the week, to help clear out their digestive systems – we read about this somewhere. That whole day of the week, they’ll swim wildly in their bowls every time we get near them, to remind us that they’re hungry. They’ll look at us and open their mouth wide – other fish seem to do this as well – as if to tell us we need to give them something to put in there. Toward the end of the day, they’ll start showing they’re upset by pretending not to notice us when we get near them. The next morning, we’ll literally have to coax them up from the bottom of the bowl to give them food. Sometimes they don’t even want to look at us and avoid the food altogether, to show us how upset they are.

Two of the Bettas have started to jump up out of the water to get their food. All I have to do is hold it above the water’s surface, and they’ll jump. Their aim isn’t very good though, so they end up nibbling at my fingers instead of the food. But it’s cute nonetheless! I think this means they can be trained to do tricks.

I read that their bowls should be covered so they don’t jump out and end up dying on the floor. I think that’s a bunch of baloney. We fill their bowls almost to the brim, and it hasn’t happened yet. If the Bettas are happy with their surroundings, they won’t jump out, period. You have to watch them and see whether they’re happy or not. We haven’t covered our bowls, and we don’t intend to do so, because there isn’t a need.

Here is a quick guide to help you figure out if your Bettas are happy:

  • Do they notice you as soon as you get close to the bowl?
  • Do they start to swim left and right and wiggle their tails?
  • Do they eat the food you give them right away?
  • Do they build bubble nests once in a while?
  • Is their coloration bright and vivid?

If the answer to these questions is yes, then they’re happy and healthy.

August, 2005

Over these last few months, I’ve been forced to admit that Bettas actually communicate with each other using sounds. I have no other way of putting it. We had put little glass containers in their bowls for them to hide in when they wanted, and I thought at first they were pushing them around, because I kept hearing sounds that sounded like glass being rapped on glass within water, or as if a pebble fell on a glass surface inside the water. But we kept on hearing the sounds even after we removed the glass containers. Recently, I even got to watch them as they were making the sounds. They’re swimming along, and all of a sudden, there are the sounds! They’re not touching the bowl walls, they’re not near the top of the bowl. They’re making these sounds while they’re fully submerged. I find it amazing. I don’t know to what purpose they’re doing it, perhaps to attract female bettas, to mark their territory – I’m not sure, but I have yet to hear of another small fish that can make sounds audible to the human ear!

I’ve also discovered that it’s better to keep about two feet away from the bowl when looking at them or greeting them. Otherwise they may get startled, especially if they’re sleeping. The two foot rule seems to work most of the time.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this has been helpful to you!

Updated 8/23/07: I’m truly appreciative of all of the traffic that this article has sparked, and for all of the wonderful comments that people have left, but please realize that my little Bettas have passed away some time ago. I decided not to get new ones after that happened. I am also not a Betta expert, just an owner who decided to record what happened. So please, no more questions. Your local pet store or Betta sites like Betta Talk are much more knowledgeable about these smart little fish than I am. I still welcome your thoughts, but I’m not equipped to answer expert questions on Bettas. Thanks!

The personal computer of the future

We’re still several years away from a device that can successfully combine a computer, phone, handheld, digital camera and music/video player, in a size/weight/price combination that’ll make most techies happy. But I’ve already got that device on my wishlist!

By computer, I mean laptop. I think that desktops will eventually disappear. Not only are they energy hogs, but they are simply too big and they aren’t portable. They take up too much space. Bulky desktops are already on their way out. The computer of the future will probably evolve from our current laptop form factor. I think the real breakthrough will come when OLED becomes a mature technology, and virtual keyboards are also viable. By virtual keyboard I mean either film you can type on, or simply a projected keyboard where your fingers breaking light waves trigger key down events.

The computer of the future will have all of the capability that we crave in a form factor that will likely approach the size of our current credit cards. It will probably be thicker, but I can envision a laptop with a rollout OLED or wall projection display and virtual keyboard that boots up in a 1-3 seconds, acts as a cellphone and digital camera, and that’s about 3-4 inches in terms of width/length, and about 1 inch or less in terms of thickness.