Welcome to my site. Here you will find some info about me, the things I do and a listing of upcoming (and past) presentations and lectures. While I initially expected most of my posts to be about Open Source/Free Software (hence the name), these days it's mostly rants and ramblings about running.

Some interesting alternatives for searching the web

My first searches on the web were using yahoo while it was still at a stanford.edu sub-domain. It quickly grew, got its own domain and started adding on more and more "features" that made investors feel something was happening and made most users feel annoyed. The page became so cluttered, they were trying to be so many things -- and putting all of them on the home page, crowding out the search features.

Then my world changed, in 1997 I stumbled on a new search engine called Google. It was clean -- a big empty page with a few links and it was clear that being a search engine was the primary focus. The results were really impressive also, it seemed to always return relevant items.

Over time, google has grown to be the giant behemoth of the internet. Gmail; advertising programs for website owners; website analytics/user tracking; translation; shopping; everything under the sun seems to have a link to google these days. At least they have kept the primary interface clean and about searching. As they have grown to own so much of the data on the internet, I have grown more and more leery of giving them all my data.

A few new search engines came to my attention recently. While lacking the game changing impact of yahoo and google's launch, they each have some interesting features that make them worth some attention.

First in the list is Scroogle. Scroogle is just a layer between you and google. The results are taken from google. The difference is that by standing between you and google, they prevent google from tracking your searches; they keep google from associating your searches with the other data they already have about you. This is a good thing, but it's still google.

Next on the list is StartPage. Startpage promotes itself as the search engine that is most concerned about and respectful of your privacy. They claim to collect no data about people using their search engine. The results are pretty good too.

The most innovative on the list is Blekko. The first thing that caught my eye is the option of sorting the results by relevancy or by date of the content. This is huge! Google does not give users control over sorting results, they are sure that their machine knows what you want.

Bleckko also introduces an interesting way of adding parameters to searches. If you want to restrict your search to one domain only, a topical group, or basically anything, you use what they call SlashTags. Enter a term in the field and click search and you get the full set of results, add in /flicker and you limit the results to flicker. They have some interesting pre-created slash tags such as /politicalblogs, /technology and /techblogs among many others. If you create an account, you can make your own slashtags which can then be used by other Blekko users (add in slashtag /ericfg/radref and you'll only get results from the Radical Reference website). I was impressed with the quality of the results as well.

Today's photos:


moving a bit slowly today

Not much to say, so I'm resorting to posting a few links

Palin is more than just a former mayor, governor, vice presidential candidate and political force. She has catapulted over most politicians to a status of entertainment icon. She has become a brand -- and she's trying to protect it by trademarking her name.

I'm not sure if this is really cool or really scary
The State Department is organizing a conference designed to convene those with an interest in government use of Open Source technologies and those who can envision an “Open Source future” that supports improvements to the world’s information infrastructure.

This one the other hand is nothing but scary
Oysters aren't disappearing from the dining table anytime soon, but they may be disappearing from our oceans.

A recent study published in BioScience has shown that the mollusks, declared "functionally extinct," are disappearing quickly as 85 percent of their reefs have been destroyed through disease or over-harvesting

I can't remember the last time snow was such a constant presence on the streets in NYC. It's pretty but it sure is getting boring.


The end is near!

It has finally happened. The world has run out of internet protocol addresses! The internet is over!

Well, it's not that bad, but it is a serious milestone in the history of the intenet.

The current scheme for ip numbers (called IPv4) has a total of about 4.3 billion possible addresses. At one time, I'm sure no one could ever imagine that we would get to the point where all 4.3 billion numbers would be assigned. Luckily, the nature of the internet allows for long term planning. About 10 years ago, a new scheme called IPv6 was thought up and slowly implemented. It's not completely in place yet but I'm sure today's news will speed things up.

For the average internet user, this is meaningless and will not have any impact on your lives. For some of us however, this requires a pretty serious change. I need to re-learn how to create DNS entries, the names of the different types of records are changing, and where I could once have some hope of keeping an ip address in my head, that's now a thing of the past. I still remember the ip number of the dns servers from my first ISP,, such simple numbers will soon be a thing of the past, gone the way of 7 digit phone numbers and all of NYC being in the 212 area code.

Even localhost (probably the most simple ip number to remember) is changing, in ipV4 is now 0:0:0:0:0:0:0:1. I guess I can keep that one in my head, but something like 2001:0db8:85a3:0000:0000:8a2e:0370:7334? no way.

More on this esoteric topic can be found, of course, via google http://www.google.com/search?q=ipv4+last+number+assigned

Today's photos:


The mystery of the colored snow solved! Some artists have been going around the neighborhood with cans of spray paint.

somehow I don't think this bike is going anywhere until spring

Thoughts on the invisible generation

A little over a month of daily posts and part of me is thinking "wow, that went quickly" and another part is wondering how the hell I'm going to manage to keep this up for another 11 months.

I've been thinking a lot lately about how Generation X has become, in many ways, an invisible generation. We were so much smaller than the generations before and after us that in many ways we seem to get lost in the blur between the Baby Boomers and Millennials.

Nowhere is this more clear than in digital archives of newspaper coverage of activism during our college years. Most newspapers that covered the campus anti-apartheid movement; anti-militarism movement; Central American solidarity movements, etc used freelance reporters. We were worth covering, but not worth the assignment of staff writers.

At first glance this was no big deal. The coverage we got was not compromised by this. But years later so much of that coverage has ended up down the memory hole.

Unless a researcher or student is willing to go old-school and use printed indexes to look up articles, so much of that content is missing from their search results.

I remember when a friend was in law school in the late 90s and I had access to his lexis/nexis account -- I could find hundreds of articles about actions I had participated in during my years at SUNY Buffalo, there was a rich and detailed history of what my generation tried to do and what we managed to get done.

If I do that same search now, almost nothing shows up. My history has been erased.

This happened when the Supreme Court ruled on the case of The New York Times v. Tasini in 2001.

The Association of Research Libraries' history of Copyright Law has some details on the case and the unintentional result

On June 25, 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in the case of The New York Times v. Tasini. In a decisive 7-2 ruling, the Justices upheld an appeals court ruling that the reuse of a freelance author's work on CD-ROMs and in commercial electronic databases without the author's permission constituted copyright infringement. In its ruling, the Court rejected the publishers' argument that a ruling for the authors would have "devastating" consequences, requiring them to delete freelance writers' works in commercial electronic databases. The Supreme Court explicitly noted in its opinion that deletion of the freelance writers' articles was not necessarily the only outcome and that publishers could explore other alternatives. The Justices pointed out that there are "numerous models for distributing copyrighted works and remunerating authors for their distribution" such as the system of blanket performance licenses for musical compositions.

The New York Times now requires permission for electronic republication of works by freelance authors, but this was not standard industry practice until the 1990s. Equally important, implicit in the Court's decision was the recognition that the nation's libraries and archives continue to provide access to the historical record of periodicals and newspapers. In addition, the Court's ruling recognized that certain archival media, such as microfilm and microfiche, do not infringe freelance authors' copyrights. Ultimately, The New York Times and other publishers chose to remove the freelance writers' works, as many as 115,000 articles, from Lexis/Nexis and other full-text databases

I totally understand why the writers were upset; I support their desire to be compensated for use of their content in the new media of the internet. I however fail to see the logic of the Court. How could they ever think that the media giants would do anything but remove this content from digital databases?

Oh well, I guess its up to us to fill in the gap and start to tell our own stories.

Over the next year, I'm going to try to do that. I'm going to try to tell some stories. I know that my memory is not as good as it once was; I'm sure I will forget some people, attribute one person's actions to another, combine some people into one character. I wish I could be more accurate, but those minor failings are nothing compared to letting us remain an invisible generation of activists.

Next week's initial post on this will be a story that touches on 3 Mile Island, the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant and my first political arrest.

Until then, enjoy the photos:



Free Software and Net Neutrality News

At least someone in Washington understands the issues around Net Neutrality
U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) introduced the Internet Freedom, Broadband Promotion, and Consumer Protection Act of 2011...

"Network neutrality principles are the foundation the Internet was built on," said Senator Cantwell. "They support a layered architecture, open standards, and an end-to-end design that gives end users the power to create and commercialize their innovation without having to ask permission from network operators.

"The reason a seemingly technical issue such as net neutrality has become such a politicized fight is that the financial stakes are so high. If we let telecom oligarchs control access to the Internet, consumers will lose."...

"Net neutrality is one of the most important issues facing our country today," said Senator Franken. "The recent FCC ruling on net neutrality does not do nearly enough to protect consumers, and this bill is designed to maintain a free and open Internet. This isn't just about speech, it's also about entrepreneurship and innovation, and it’s about our economy."

If this is actually a usable tool, it could be a big deal. Microsoft Exchange Server has, up until now, not had a serious competitor in the world of Free Software. Open Xchange might change that. I'm going to have to install this on a test server and give it a try.