Friday, August 11, 2006

Where oh where has the RSS Link gone on Google?

I am working on a php driven website that displays information about historical figures contained in a Filemaker Pro database. One of the features desired on this website is a list of links to other resources on the web about the figure that is selected. I created a table to contain the links with various fields to relate the links to the figures individually and by group but as the compilation of links would be quite time consuming, I decided that it would be better to embed an RSS feed generated by one of the search engines based on a specifically defined search criteria instead. This would automatically update itself as new resources appear on the web.

I had used a Google-search generated RSS feed in the past so when I went up on Google and performed a search and looked for the RSS feed link I was baffled when I couldn’t find it anymore. Thinking it was just late in the day and I was just somehow overlooking the link, I called JQ and we both hunted all over for it. JQ finally found an article indicating that the feature was removed some time ago. Apparently, Google (and Yahoo) both decided that they didn’t want you to be able to easily create this time saving feature – I’m assuming it’s because RSS feeds do not contain advertising. So, JQ and I set about searching for a work around.

JQ found a blogpost about a tool developed by Ben Hammersley called Google to RSS. I found a tool developed by ResearchBuzz that will create a feed from several different search engines including special science and math search engines called Kebberfegg. Kebberfegg is a tool to help you generate large sets of keyword-based RSS feeds at one time..

With one search you can generate an RSS feed for:

Scientific and Medical: Hubmed, CiteuLike, Connotea,

Multimedia: BigFeeder, Audio, Video, BlogDigger Audio, BlogDigger Video and Image, Buzznet, Flickr, Blinkx TV

News: BBC, NewsisFree, FeedsFarm, Google News, IceRocket News, NewsTrove News, RocketNews,, FindArticles, Wired, Findory, Yahoo News, MSN News

Press Release Wires: MarketWire and PRWeb via FeedFindings, PR Newswire via Google News, Business Wire via Google News

Tags and Site Submissions: Digg, Del.Icio.Us, IceRocket Tags, Technorati Tags, RawSugar, Ma.gnolia

Technology: PHPDeveloper, Etamp

Web Search Engines: MSN, IceRocket

Weblog Search Engines: Blogdigger, Daypop, Feedster, Google Blog, IceRocket Blog, Findory Blog, RocketNews Blog, Blogpulse, Yahoo Blog Search, Sphere

Other: 43 Places

I decided to use the tool from ResearchBuzz then take the feed it generates and paste it into RSS to Javascript's tool:

and paste the resulting snippet of code in a text field in my database. Then I assigned a Php variable to that text field and call it within my PhP page. Too bad I can't rely on people to have the newest browsers that can display RSS feeds directly but I think that would be too optimistic at this point.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

3D Photo Tourism Project Showcased at SIGGRAPH

Several months ago I was contacted by researchers working on an immersive 3D Photo Tourism project at the Computer Science Department at the University of Washington.

"A central goal of image-based rendering is to evoke a visceral sense of presence based on a collection of photographs of a scene. The last several years have seen signicant progress towards this goal through view synthesis methods in the research community and in commercial products such as panorama tools. One of the dreams
is that these approaches will one day allow virtual tourism of the world's interesting and important sites.

During this same time, digital photography, together with the Internet, have combined to enable sharing of photographs on a truly massive scale. For example, a Google image search on “Notre Dame Cathedral” returns over 15,000 photos, capturing the scene from myriad viewpoints, levels of detail, lighting conditions, seasons, decades, and so forth. Unfortunately, the proliferation of shared photographs has outpaced the technology for browsing such
collections, as tools like Google ( and Flickr ( return pages and pages of thumbnails that the user must comb through.

We present a system for browsing and organizing large photo collections of popular sites which exploits the common 3D geometry of the underlying scene. Our approach is based on
computing, from the images themselves, the photographers' locations and orientations, along with a sparse 3D geometric representation of the scene, using a state-of-the-art image-based modeling system. Our system handles large collections of unorganized photographs
taken by different cameras in widely different conditions.

We show how the inferred camera and scene information enables the following capabilities:

Scene visualization. Fly around popular world sites in 3D by morphing between photos.

Object-based photo browsing. Show me more images that contain this object or part of the scene.

Where was I? Tell me where I was when I took this picture.

What am I looking at? Tell me about objects visible in this image by transferring annotations from similar images." - Photo Tourism: Exploring Photo Collections in 3D

The researchers requested permission to use some of my pictures of Trevi Fountain for a demonstration of their new system for creating an interactive environment for visual exploration of historical sites that have been photographed from many different angles at various times of the year by many different people. The demonstration was presented at Siggraph. You can view the system at:

I recommend watching the longer movie which explains the interactive features more in depth. I found it to be a fascinating learning environment and feel honored to have had some of my images selected for inclusion in such a cutting edge project. It really motivates me to continue to build my online archive for educational use.

Weighing a Switch to a Mac

I thought this comparison of the new Mac Intel-based platform with existing native Windows machines a thoughtful evaluation but was somewhat disturbed by the "switching experience" case study the article included.

New York Times: "The physical designs of Apple’s desktop and notebook computers are often innovative. The iMac, for example, is a space-saving desktop unit with an all-in-one enclosure that conceals the computer’s components behind the monitor. And the MacBook, a new notebook with a glossy screen, includes a new keyboard layout. This week, the company introduced the Mac Pro, a line of desktops replacing the Power Mac, completing its transition to Intel chips.

But while Apple’s selection covers much ground, it is less diverse than what is available from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony and Lenovo. For example, Apple does not offer ultraportable notebooks, a tablet design or as wide a choice in processor types and speeds. And when it comes to pricing, Apple no longer offers notebooks in the sub-$1,000 range, or desktop units in the sub-$500 range, as do other makers.

Consideration should also be given to the compatibility of any devices like printers, external hard drives and cellphones that may be connected to a computer. In some instances, only Windows may be supported."

The Switching Experience

Danielle Wang, 26, of Austin, Tex., bought her first Mac six weeks ago. She took the advice of a friend and decided to buy a MacBook to replace her Windows-based laptop, a Sony Vaio, which she said had been stolen.

Early in the transition, Ms. Wang said, it took time to get used to the Mac interface; the menus, the location of buttons and other items were different. “It was difficult,” she said. “The first three days, I was constantly thinking about returning it.”

Ms. Wang uses the MacBook mainly for applications like e-mail, Web browsing, digital music, games and instant messaging; so far, she has not encountered problems finding Mac software, and she still maintains access to Windows-based computers for other programs she prefers to use at home.

In comparing the MacBook and the Vaio, she said the graphics were clearer on the Sony.

“The Sony Vaio is more lively,” she said. But she prefers the look and design of the MacBook."

What I find primarily disturbing about this particular case study is that essentially Ms. Wang opted for a Mac for esthetic reasons not because of product functionality. It reminds me of Steve Jobs boast at Mac World several years ago when the I-Mac was introduced with its unusual shape and color combinations. He essentially said it didn't matter how powerful the machine really is but that it looks "cool". I would like to think computer users are not that shallow.