A smarter Google to provide factual answers to your questions

Pyxle_OTH-01 (1)A smarter Google is out to capture the Next Generation Web with a pledge to provide a better understanding of the web.

Google Squared” – which, so far,  was an experimental effort to automatically identify and extract structured data from the web has been rolled out into the public today. With these algorithmic modifications in their search engine, comes the ability to highlight answers in the search results.

Answer highlighting helps you get to information more quickly by seeking out and bolding the likely answer to your question right in search results. The feature is meant for searches with factual answers… If the pages returned for these queries contain a simple answer, the search snippet will more often include the relevant text and bold it for easy reference.

For example, if earlier on someone was searching for the height of the Empire State Building using the keywords “empire state height”, the most probable results would be…

before-empire-state-height

Not so anymore. With Google Squared working behind the scenes, the same query will now fetch…

after-empire-state-height

As you can see, instead of providing links to articles containing the query keywords, Google now highlights portions of those articles containing to the point answers to the query. The idea is very similar to the quantified results that Wolfram Alpha provides although the presentation still remains in the same old Google format.

This is  definitely a huge step towards the next generation Web as envisioned by Tim Burners Lee (the inventor of the World Wide Web) and will make it much easier  and quicker for end-users to get to the  answers they are seeking. However, ReadWriteWeb expressed concerns over this new feature, stating that this may, in reality, prove to be a deterrent factor in terms of website traffic – as users won’t be required to visit the website anymore to dig through the article for the correct answer. Speculations aside, for webmasters it’s going to be more of a breathless wait-and-watch now.

On a similar note, the algorithmic changes introduced by Google Caffeine have started lapping up results from Twitter and related social media & networking sites.

What are you think about G-Squared?

Grab your free Backupify (online backup) account before January 31st, 2010

Backupify is a new cool service that automatically performs secure, unlimited and scheduled backup of your data from most of the common online services like Flickr, Twitter, FaceBook, Gmail etc. to a server cloud (Amazon S3)  for a nominal fee.

However, till the 31st of January, 2010 they’re offering these accounts for free to anyone who cares to signup with them. Following this date, they’ll revert back to the paid pricing plans – but those who have signed-up before this date will continue to enjoy unlimited free services (for good).

The list of currently supported services include:

  • Gmail
  • Twitter
  • Google Docs
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • Basecamp
  • WordPress
  • Delicious
  • Photobucket
  • Blogger
  • FriendFeed

… with YouTube, Tumblr, RssFeed and XMakrs coming soon.

Backupify creates daily / weekly (your choice) automated backups from all of these services using a “Set it and forget it” mode.

While providing extremely useful services, quite a few of the online services in this list do not employ adequate security measures. As a results they’re coming under direct attack by various hacker groups. Incidents like this invariably end up in huge loss of data – data consisting of pictures, videos, documents, blog posts that are an integral part of your lifestream. Hence, one cannot adequately stress on the importance of maintaining a regular backup of this data. Moreover, most tech-savvy folks subscribe to a multitude of these services and maintaining individual backups of each profile can prove to be a nightmare.

So hurry and grab your free account before we hit Jan 31st. Spread the light as you see fit, as this can prove to be a cool gift to share with your family and friends this New Year.

Besides, as Whitson Gordon states, “It can’t hurt — after all, it doesn’t get much cheaper than free.”

The next Web!

Tim Berners Lee, the inventor of the web talks about his visions for the next generation web where all raw units of data (and not just textual information or pictures and video) are linked together. This could very well make way for a new paradigm on how data is retrieved and used.

If you haven’t got the slightest clue on what he’s talking about, take a look at Wolfram Alpha – they’ve pretty much achieved the goal. However, what’s been done here in a single web-site (drawing from it’s own in-house data store), Tim envisions for the entire web.

A look at this side-by-side comparison of a conventional search vs. a search on Wolfram Alpha should help clarify it further.

Zoogmo – A new concept in free & unlimited offsite backups

Zoogmo LogoPast couple of days I’ve been consistently churning out reviews on file and video hostin / sharing services and through the comments left on one such post, I came to know about this brand new concept in distributed offsite backup named Zoogmo.

Almost any given file hosting / sharing / backup service operate under the same principles, i.e. you upload the file(s) to their storage servers under your account name and then distribute it as you wish by granting selective access to your friends, family & co-workers. Zoogmo – which is primarily designed as a backup facilitator – follows a completely different approach. With Zoogmo, you decide who and where your backup server is going to be. It could be anyone from a friend, a relative to a colleague – as long as they have a computer and a decent internet link. More than one person is allowed to participate in this venture and become your backup partner.

How it works

Online BackupWhat both of you need is to register for free at the Zoogmo site and get hold of their backup client. Once installed and run, this software performs a quick scan of your most used & critical documents and adds them to the pending backup list. Files and folders may be manually added too once the client of done with the configuration part. You also need to allocate some free space on any of your drives (HDD, USB etc.) or partitions. This space is going to act as the backup zone for the partner(s) in your network. The last step is to setup a list of your backup partner(s). If you know their nicknames a simple search will suffice. And that’s it. From then on, Zoogmo takes care of the rest silently in the background.

The very first time, a backup may take a good while for completion as there’s a lot of data to transfer (though the Zoogmo client employs a high degree of compression prior to transmitting your data). From then on only incremental backups occur, transmitting only the changes you’ve made to your files. The amount of data you can backup is only limited by the amount of free space allocated by your partner(s) on their computers.

The backups are performed using the idle CPU cycles – so your actual work shouldn’t be hampered at all. If your executable during the backup process, Zoogmo simply waits for it to be restored and resumes from the pending point.

Security

Encryption & SafetyAll you data is encrypted using a combination of Tripple-DES and AES 256 routines – rendering them pretty much useless to the prying eye. In fact, none of your backup partners are able to differentiate between any of the files stored on their computer. The data transmission too occurs through a secure channel between you and your partner(s) thus guaranteeing a high degree of security at all stages.

Chances of Viral Infection

Since all files are encrypted prior to transmission, any kind of file that is prone to a viral infection is rendered useless. Even if your backup partner’s system is infected, logically the infection shouldn’t be able to spread to your files.

Zoogmo recommends that you maintain a list of at least 3 backup partners so that your data is effectively replicated in multiple locations thus providing you with a redundant fall-back mechanism in case one of your partner’s computer goes dead.

Here are a couple of videos that explain the whole process in a lucid manner. Or you can always drop by at their site and go through the FAQs.

While replication servers in themselves aren’t a new concept, the whole idea of a free and open backup network certainly is very innovative.

Am off to find some suitable backup partners. How about you?

Update (15.12.2009): Sadly, Zoogmo is closing down. They will go out of operation end of this year (Dec 31st). I got a mail from them to the effect a couple of days back…

Valued Zoogmo Customer,

We would like to thank you for your loyal support.
Since we launched our backup service in August 2006 we have enjoyed serving you but the time has come for us to close our doors.
We plan to shut down our servers on 31st December 2009 at which point your backed-up data will no longer be available. We suggest that you check out www.mozy.com for unlimited online backup for just US$5/month. If you have any queries about our shutdown, please email us at info@zoogmo.com.

Thank you once again for using Zoogmo,

The Zoogmo Management

Another great startup venture that ‘s going down the drain, most likely because of not enough profitability when compared to the extremely high bandwidth and disk space consumption that a service like this requires.

A hands-free automated online backup system called IDrive-E

Bulldog with HeadacheLoss of critical data can prove to be one of the most horrifying nightmares specially if it involves official documents. Worst case scenario could lead to one getting sacked. And even if it’s only personal documents, who would ever want to see years of fond memories (photographs, videos etc.) disappear overnight due to some silly hardware malfunction ! The importance of having a proper backup mechanism cannot be stressed on enough.

Home computer backups are usually consist of burning a couple of folders onto a CD/DVD – but more often than not we burn our data once in a blue moon and maintain an oblivious stance for the rest of the time. Very few of us are able to follow a stringent weekly backup schedule. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have some sort of mechanism which would carry out this job for you all on it’s own ? Something on the lines of Click-Once and Forget-It ? Well, there IS.

IDrive-E LogoJust today I came across this automated online backup system named IDrive-E. This service comes with a pretty intuitive backup software which you’ve to install on your computer. Once done, simply point it to your critical data which needs to be backed-up on a regular basis and that’s about it. Periodic continuous backups (with intervals as low as 10mins.) keep happening on their own. Incremental backups are possible too – and the backup mechanism fires up the moment you modify a file on your computer. The backup account doubles up as a file-sharing and collaboration system too. You can grant access to any file / folder stored on the IDrive-E servers to anyone you wish to. The storage space is also mapped onto your computer as another drive, giving you drag-and-drop restore functionality in Windows Explorer. Incidentally, IDrive-E gives you a rudimentary version control system too, in the sense that you can revert back to any of 30 prior versions of a document.

As for the free part – you heard it right! This service is available free of cost to personal / home users albeit with a 2GB space limit. Unlimited storage quota can be acquired by upgrading your account to one of the paid plans which start around $49.50 annually (about $4.95 a month). A pretty inexpensive deal I’d say.

But is it safe to transmit all your personal documents to a remote storage location like this? Absolutely ! All communication with the backup server at IDrive-E are done through an 128-bit encrypted channel and on the server a 256-bit AES encryption routine secures your files with a key that is generated by you.

With IDrive-E, forgetfulness isn’t a vice anymore.

Get rolling with your free account today…