Craig Mattson (Personal Website)
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Quality of Search Engines (24/07/2009 10:27:04 PM)

I've been asked alot over the past few weeks as to which search engine I use. The answer is Google. I don't have a need at this stage to change my search engine - so Microsoft's Bing or Yahoo! Search aren't things I would normally consider when I need to search for something quickly. Like most products, I use Google because I have no reason to change *yet*. Google is still a streamlined search engine with a no frills layout and generally a fast interface. So what about the competition? Bing is slightly more bloated with the unnecessary loading of images - but then again, that has *always* been the Microsoft way. Take a look at this parody video of packaging if Microsoft released the iPod. It is still light weight enough that your searches are purely that... searches. Finally we have Yahoo!7. It's as bloated as they come (the search page takes forever to load!), but Yahoo! serves more as a portal than just a search engine.

But let's get one thing straight. Using a search engine is about the quality of the results returned by whatever decision engine is driving it. Bing has been noted as potentially being better than Google - so tonight (at the time of writing this) is about finding out which search engine offers the best results for a set of 10 keywords. I've tried keeping these keywords specific and general, based on things I *have* searched for in the past. I encourage you to do the same thing and compare the search engines as I have done here.

  1. Computer Stores in Clayton
  2. Video Game Music
  3. Train Timetables
  4. Cheap Games
  5. Things to do in Gippsland
  6. The Sims 2 Sheet Music
  7. ASP.Net C# Data Abstraction
  8. Content Delivery Network Hosting
  9. Left 4 Dead Console Commands
  10. Removing Mites from Blue Tongue Lizards

Computer Stores in Clayton

For this phrase, Google correctly identified MSY and Scorptec on the first two pages. I'm surprised Centrecom didn't make the page, but with MSY listed as Result Number 1 followed by Scorptec at Position 4, these are pretty good results. You'd find pretty quickly your stores. No maps though pointing to the store. Bing was the least relevent - in fact, so irrelevant that MSY didn't even make the first page (or second or third!!!). Scorptec was listed multiple times through the results - which suggests a problem with relevancy scoring. The maps were absolutely attrocious pointing to Game stores in America!!! Result number 1 wasn't even a computer store - it was a consultancy / business solutions company. Unacceptable. Yahoo however was on a par with Google with quality of results. Both MSY and Scorptec appeared (however Scorptec appears number 1 with MSY down the list) but surprisingly also links to CCW through Techstores. So with the diversity of results slightly better on Yahoo - Yahoo is the winner.

Results: 1. Yahoo, 2. Google, 3. Bing

Video Game Music

Ok - this isn't something everyone searches for Daily, but generally speaking; OCRemix, VGMix, VGMusic are widely known amongst the niche community as primary resources for Video Game Music. So now time for the results. Google returns both VGMusic and OCRemix. GameMusicThemes is pretty tiny and was placed higher than OCRemix giving the illusion it's better. GameAlbums is a new one, but the site is fairly incomplete. It's a pretty average result. Yahoo returns oddly enough, a Wikipedia entry. Not useful for my purposes (I'm looking to listen to music). VGMusic appears on the results, but Yahoo! seems to be returning alot of "information" including how to write music. Arguably, the term is fairly vague so Yahoo or Google could be placed either way. Finally, Bing returns VGMusic number 1, and EA Music somewhere on the page (which is quite interesting). Bing has tried to combine Information with Music - but failed to return OCRemix. So here are my results:

Results: 1. Google*, 2. Bing, 3. Yahoo* (* these could be switched depending on your desired goal).

Train Timetables

Technically I googled it to get Metlink's website, but I figured it would be interesting to see if the search engines can detect my localisation as Victoria / Melbourne. For this search, I forced Bing to use the Australian counterpart (for some reason, it assumed I was in the UK). From Google, all I get is Australian train operators as well as Metlink at result 2. This is a good set of results from Google. Yahoo! was on a par with Google, no real changes. Bing tried to be smart and build a URL for Metlink based on the fact "Train Timetables" had it's own page on Metlink's website. In this case - this wasn't as useful as going to the home page. Having said that, the page *did* have a list of train timetables I could look at. As a result, Bing is a better result - ALTHOUGH - the search engine did not pick up Australia as my localisation.

Results: 1. Bing, 3. Google, 3. Yahoo (Yahoo and Google were on a par this time).

Cheap Games

Looking for cheap Video Games? I've found a few websites but nothing that I would commit to. CDWow has some cheap games, but I would also expect the likes of EBGames and Steam to show up. While they aren't always the cheapest, it would be nice to get a list of video games. Google returned some spam (as expected with the phrase), but ultimately did return me GameHead, ShopBot (a website designed to search for the cheapest price, ReplayGames etc... so the results were usable. Yahoo returned a pretty similar set where as Bing produced the biggest pile of spam links I have ever seen.

Results: 1. Google*, 1. Yahoo*, 3. Bing (*Results were indistinguishable)

Things to do in Gippsland

If you read one of my last blog posts, you'd be aware that I tried finding things to do in Gippsland. There has to be something out there, and I was using Google and got no where. So I figured maybe the other search engines are more appropriate for this? Google returned bugger all but we did get GippslandTourism as a website. I would have thought the council websites (such as Baw Baw, Latrobe City) would show up, but most just ended up as spam. Yahoo on the other hand disguised a Melbourne based page as Gippsland. Unacceptable! However, it did also return more "useful" information than Google (at least on the first page). Bing produced much the same level of usefulness as Google this round, linking to websites that have little to do beyond Phillip Island. I can't say I expected much, but Yahoo wins this round by a very small margin.

Results: 1. Yahoo, 3. Google*, 3. Bing* (*Results were indistinguishable)

The Sims 2 Sheet Music

For something a little more specialised, I am after some sheet music or some cues to playing some of the music on Keyboard. I can't sight read, but I can use some ideas from proper sheet music to improve my playing. Google returns me with hamienet which I use often, and The Sims 2 website. A couple of YouTube videos were there as well (which kind of has some relevance), but Hamienet is probably the closest I got to some sheet music. Bing returned YouTube videos and The Sims 2 website. Yahoo was more intelligent and actually linked to at least one piece which *was* useful when I found it after hunting through Google. Yahoo did also have some Spam. Now, this is where my results need some explaining. Bing is clearly last - more garbage than the others. I'm placing Google first because of Hamienet AND The Sims 2 website. Yahoo is a very close second, and could be considered first if you just wanted some sheet music to play. But for my purposes, Google is first here.

Results: 1. Google*, 2. Yahoo*, 3. Bing (*These could be swapped depending on your requirements)

ASP.Net C# Data Provider Abstraction Layer

I was looking ways to implement a Data Provider Abstraction Layer. It's quite a simple concept that allows programmers to define the database in one layer, and run an "abstracted" version of queries in an Access Layer. The end result basically means you code your queries and results in your Data Access Layer, point to the Abstraction Layer which basically translates your Queries and Parameters to the respective control (or monkeys if you had a monkey layer). So I did actually search for this one. Google did return me relatively quick some implementations on CodeProject, but wasn't quite what I was after. I did eventually find a blog with a useful example and was able to build my DPAL relatively quickly. Bing returned me Wikipedia (I can't think of anything more useless in this scenario!), but did return me some proper DPAL implementations. Yahoo! missed the point (DPAL not DAL) and thus I got results to do with caching. Not what I was after.

Results: 1. Google*, 1. Bing*, 3. Yahoo (*Both Google and Bing produced correct results)

Content Delivery Network Hosting

This one is fairly simple, I need to find a CDN for hosting a live stream. The results on this one were interesting. Google produced a tonne of Hosting companies to choose from. These aren't ranked in any order, but I quickly was able to find suitable cloud hosting for my purposes. Bing produced a range of information again, some hosts but predominantly information on what a CDN is. The key word is Hosting. I was hoping to find some prices and companies. Yahoo! was very similar to Bing on this one, although did produce slightly more hosting results than information results.

Results: 1. Google, 2. Yahoo, 3. Bing

Left 4 Dead Console Commands

If you haven't heard of Left 4 Dead, it's a Zombie Shooting Video Game. Anyway, to make the game interesting - you can change some variables such as increasing the number of Zombies your computer will render at any one time, or just spawning more enemies. Anyway, what I am after is a complete list of commands. Google returns me alot of quesions asking for the whereabouts, but I also got a list in the first two results. Bing was relatively similar but Yahoo got the result first. This one is pretty indistinguishable all round given I got the results straight away - so it's a 3 way tie.

Results: 1. Google, 1. Yahoo, 1. Bing

Removing Mites from Blue Tongue Lizards

Trying to find number 10 wasn't easy, but then I remembered the difficulty in finding a way to remove mites from a lizard. Google had the infromation hidden under forums, what I was after was proper information from someone who has taken the time to write and publish information (rather than a quick reply to a "HELP!" question. Yahoo! provided me with the better quality of information sites to do with reptile care, and Google provided me more cautionary results rather than treatment. Yahoo was more relevant to the subject matter. Bing also produced relevant information which makes this result pretty indistinguishable as well.

Results: 1. Google, 1. Yahoo, 1. Bing

 


So, with these taken into consideration, the scorecard is as follows (lower the better):

Google: 14
Yahoo: 18
Bing: 21

Clearly the statistics are based around my personal preference as to which results provided me with the best all round information, and it's clear that Google is leagues ahead of Bing. Yahoo! is interesting though - in some cases, the information was a much better match than Google - but not so much that Google was useless compared to Yahoo!. Bing on the other hand seemed to miss the point in most searches. Where Bing did excel though was in returning information rather than commercial. Having said that, Google and Yahoo also displayed information - generally to a lesser extent unless my phrase was tailored for an information specific purpose. At this stage, I could probably get away with using Yahoo! and even consider using Yahoo! if Google wasn't returning the quality of information.

What is clear, however, is that Google returns the results I expect. They may not always be perfect, but they generally get me to where I want to be. You could argue that it's up to the web developers to make their websites better for Search Engines. However, the point of a search engine is to find information quickly and accurately. Irrespective of the phrase I put in, I should get consistency in the results I am commanding. Some of my phrases above are not as specific as they could be, but that's where Google appears to be working with me. Where I miss out on key points that may alter the quality of search results in the likes of Bing and Yahoo!, Google does seem to understand what it is I am looking for.

At the end of the day, it's up to you what search engine you use - but it's definitely something worth investigating. For the time being though, I'll keep Google bookmarked for my searches.

- - Craig Mattson

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Bizarre Error with Screenshot (23/07/2009 08:08:29 PM)

Now this is one for the books. The following error popped up whilst trying to compile a C#.Net Class Library. This was a simple build, nothing too draining - yet this bizarre error popped up:

wtf_362

I often experience delays... infact my Vista installation is always delayed. I wonder if I should report it :)

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Two new screens and the sights in Gippsland (19/07/2009 08:18:16 PM)

Woohoo! I'm now the owner of 2 x 24" Viewsonic LCD's to upgrade my Just-Over-18-Months old 19" LCD. Now all I need is my Ultranav keyboard to come in and I'm set for some more development. At the moment due to space limitations, I've only got one set up - but when I move out (I promise - it's coming!!!) - I'll have two side by side... totalling 3840 x 1050 in Screen Realestate. If that's not enough to develop more rapidly, I don't know what will help. So yeah, this brings my PC worth somewhere above $2,000 now, leaving the specs at:

Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8400
Motherboard: Asus P5B-MX
RAM: 4 x 2GB DDR2-800 Transcend (Read: Yum Cha)
Storage: 2 x WD Black 1TB HDD, 1 x Samsung 7200 1TB, 1 x 640GB WD Green, 1 x 500GB Seagate 7200.11, 1 x 160GB Seagate 7200.11 - Total usable storage: 2.8TB
Video Card: ATi Radeon 4850 - 512MB
Case: Antec P180-Mini
Power Supply: Seasonic 550W
Keyboard: Logitech Ultra-Flat (Soon to be replaced with Lenovo Ultranav when it arrives)
Mouse: Logitech MX-400
Screen: 2 x 24" Viewsonic LCD's (1920x1080 full HD)

So yeah, that's about it for the spec showoff... I just need my Ultranav in and I'll be set!


In other news, I spent some time with a mate from Melbourne around Gippsland and I swear it's incredibly difficult to find things to do in the area. When you think about the large area of land just in West Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley, you'd think there would be plenty to see. So, here was today's list of things to see and do in Gippsland with someone from Melbourne completely oblivious to what is east of Pakenham:

  • Princes Fwy between Pakenham and Longwarry - lots of "random" signs.
  • Labertouche (in General) - Nice to see some real regeneration since the fires.
  • Tarago Reservior, Neerim South - I live here, yet I've never actually been to the Reservior... Nice views there...
  • Neerim / Neerim East - Lots of cows, sheep, trees, forests...
  • Crossover - BIIIIIG houses, Camels!!!!
  • EDIT: Nilma - A CROW FARM AND A TIRE FARM! WHO'D HAVE THOUGHT!
  • Darnum - Milk Processing Factory (Fonterra).
  • Yarragon - LOLLIES!!! Seriously, best place to stock up on hardboiled lollies.
  • Moe - Watch out for Bogans...
  • Morwell - Power Stations, more Bogans...
  • Churchill - Monash University - THEY'VE REMOVED THE BINISHELL?!?!?! The land looks sooooo bear without it.
  • Back to Morwell - Courthouse, Legal Aid, Smashed Windows, A Monash Liveried Bus on it's way to Moe!!!
  • Warragul - Old decrepid Milk Factory. Words from an outsider seem to indicate it should be destroyed. I agree - it's absolutely attrocious. Either restore it or bulldoze it.
  • Lardner Park - Massive plantations of god-knows-what...
  • Drouin - Biggest Bus Shelter known to man...

Um... that's about it. While the drive is nice, 400km and there's bugger all to see. Nice views, but seriously - the most lively town was definitely Yarragon followed closely by Warragul. Moe and Morwell were just about as dead as a door knob.

I'll edit this post later with pictures.

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Per Hour Hosting (16/07/2009 07:55:41 PM)

This is just a quick shoutout to "The Rack Space Cloud". Now here's an idea that I would have initially thought who would bother (long term hosting would result in a very expensive server indeed!), but for Video and Audio streaming, it's not a bad idea at all. How would you like to get access to a server that costs you $0.22 per GB transferred, 1.5c per hour per 256MB RAM required? Well, it turns out that video streaming for a client of mine will be really cheap.

A server that costs 6c per Hour (1024MB of RAM), 22c per GB Transferred (a 256kbps stream should work out to be 60-80MB per user, multiplied by 100 users = 6,000MB to 8,000MB per session). So far, $1.76 per session + 18c per session (to set up, run a script) = a total streaming amount of ... $1.94 USD for 100 users to stream 45 minutes of video.

Anyway, it's a pretty nifty idea... could probably use these as temporary game servers as well! Check out http://www.rackspacecloud.com/ anyway.

Also - SAN LAN is on August 1st 10:00AM to August 2nd 3:00PM. Register at http://www.sanlan.com.au ASAP!

- - Craig Mattson

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Protoman Video Game Theme - On Keyboard (15/07/2009 07:29:08 PM)

Ok... time to stop all your whinging! (You know who you are!) I finally managed to upload the Protoman Theme on Keyboard. Enjoy. My apologies for recording more of my shoulder than the keys I am (was?) pressing...

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Linux makes headlines...... or does it? (11/07/2009 09:02:49 PM)

googlechromelogo_430How do you get Linux to make the headlines portrayed as the next big thing? Simple. You get one of the worlds biggest internet companies announce that they are releasing a new Operating System based on the Linux kernel. That's certainly what happened at the end of this week and the fanboys from all walks of life are already forming opinions on a not-yet-released Operating System. So I suppose in many ways, I'm obligated to form an opinion and prediction.

First and foremost, the operating system is not promising to be the next Ubuntu (which now appears to be replacing the term "Linux" amongst technology enthusiasts) - nor is it claiming to be an alternative to Microsoft Windows or Macintosh OS X. Simply put, it's a standalone web browser with a few offline applications bundled in (Docs, Calendar etc...). It is aimed at PC's and Netbooks (which I will get into later), so its installation base will probably stem from low-powered hardware to make a functional and fast machine for basic use.

The Operating System itself will basically be an interface between the user and the Google Cloud (which is basically a bunch of web services) with a few modifications, particularly to the security layer of the Linux kernel in an attempt to thwarte viruses and malware. I don't quite understand how you could kill a browser-only operating system, to me - that's just as logical as bricking the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). If the Google Cloud introduces a new service that allows users to login and store their profiles at Google, then a malfunction in the Operating System could almost be fixed instantaneously by a reinstallation of the Operating System itself.

So could something like this work on a PC? Absolutely - given the right environment of course. For instance, you wouldn't have this Operating System in a home as the primary computer - but a student may find the system useful - if the educational institute was to support the platform. Likewise, the uptake in web-based applications replacing client-side applications within SME's can reduce the TCO significantly where a Web Browser is necessary. With one of my clients controlling most aspects of their business online, they could theoretically replace one of the three systems with a web browser only Operating System. Other situations could be Retail Point of Sale Systems whereby a computer is designated to run one application over a network. Significant savings may be available for corporations using web applications.

But why would this be useful now instead of deploying Ubuntu? Well - nothing is stopping Linux systems being deployed to solely run Web Applications (in fact - in some SME's I have worked with, they have!). It's little surprise to find that the concept of Linux (freedom of choice) could be a potential flaw in GUI consistency. The thing about choice and freedom to develop is when someone doesn't like the way a particular application works - it either gets forked or something new ends up being developed. I can only imagine that's why there are sooooo many flavours of Linux. Has anyone tried to use Firefox and aMSN on Ubuntu where Ubuntu has fully Anti-Aliased fonts? Firefox doesn't carry those settings across, aMSN just looks like garbage and Open Office still looks like your typical unfinished Java application.

I believe the critical success with Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X and even various Mobile Phone / Smart Phone devices has been the User Interface. No one wants to be working with a dogs breakfast if they have a choice. If you load any application in Microsoft Windows, you will find many commonalities such as a Menu Bar (with the same fonts used), the same style command buttons, the same style text boxes etc... as long as the developers have chosen to use defaults. Even well-written Java applications look relatively standard. This is the same with Apple as well. A great deal of time goes into presentation of the application to retain consistency overall. For instance, if you want to change settings for an application, you will find them generally in the same place (Tools > Options..., Edit > Preferences etc...). I suppose it's a requirement too to have proper UAT especially when an end user is paying for something - but how many Open Source applications clearly don't have any Project Management letalone conform to some sort of strict SDLC?

acer_aspire_one_400A recent statistic on one of the forums I frequent suggests Microsoft has a marketshare of approximately 90% in the Netbook market. This is probably true - particularly from observations on my weekday commute into Melbourne CBD. The number of Netbook users is pretty high (9" Acer, HP, Asus and Lenovo), and all I have seen run Windows XP. I don't know how anyone can stand Windows XP at a non-standard resolution resembling that of a 14" CRT - but anyway - that's why I have 15.4" with 1680x1050 screen realestate. The common applications open are Word, PowerPoint, Visio and Outlook - so this suggests that Netbooks are being used as Laptop replacements, albeit operating terribly slow. The interesting thing is most of the people with Netbooks are also "suits", so the device is being treated as some form of portable assistant (where I would suspect the user has a PC at work and would perform some form of synchronisation).

If my predictions are right, then the solution to dominating the netbook market (which I believe would be pretty easy to do given the right OS is released) is to design an Operating System that incorporates synchronisation against compatible lightweight applications. I'm not talking about using an Xandros ripoff with Open Office installed, I'm talking about a unique and fast operating system that is visually pleasing to use. The iPhone manages to run a rich GUI on hardware slower than any of these 9" netbooks, so I'm sure something could be done for netbooks as well. A standard Office 2007-compatible should also be designed, as well as an optimised PDF reader and rich multimedia tools. The fact is, you could price a Netbook at the equivalent price of a Windows netbook if the Operating System was something akin to Mac in the visual appearance department as long as the system was also backwards compatible with Windows Applications. If the Operating System supported proper synchronising, then there would be no need for Microsoft Windows XP on these devices. Windows XP is clearly an interim thing that "just works" on netbooks, and I'm sure people would make the switch - much akin to Mobile Phones - as visually pleasing features come along. It's all about making applications suitable for netbooks, rather than using what we have.

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens with Google / Chrome OS especially to follow the impact. While there are certainly advantages to having a standalone web browser, I question how useful the Operating System will be in a home environment if all it is, is a web browser.

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Busy, busy, busy. (06/07/2009 05:42:01 AM)
My apologies for the late blogging, but while I have an hour or so this morning on the train - now would be the most appropriate time to blog. Anyway, here are the highlights and topics for the week:

Work Life
Not much more on last week really. I'm now working on an ASP.Net system designed as an inhouse product (which basically means we have the power to approve and reject features as we see fit). The latter half of the week involved playing with spreadsheets and rewriting formulae to work in our application. This was pretty cool - although the amount of code written versus time spent is pretty low - but I suppose there's not much you can do about it while you try to dissect a spreadsheet full of ridiculous formulae and a long testing procedure. I'd imagine I'll be starting the week finalising one calculator, and apparently this week - I get myself an introduction to the system. Unfortunately, they had a party on some yacht across the Yarra Friday night - disappointing as I thought I had other arrangements - I couldn't feasibly go. I'm sure there'll be plenty more where that came from though and hopefully I can make the time to get to a few.

Back in regards to Calculators, I thought C# and VB were supposed to be equals. If that is so, why the hell are all the financial calculations under Microsoft.VisualBasic.Financials?????? Sure, I can import them to C#, but why is there no global class? Grhhhh!
Mobile Internet
Seriously, what is the point. No, I'm not talking about Mobile Internet being pointless - just that there are some nights my Mobile Internet drops in and out with the only way to reconnect to launch an internet application on the iPhone. Where the HELL is the always on component? More importantly, what's the point of having 3G if all it's going to do is drop in the middle of a phone call? I'm not too impressed given I'm paying $70 a month for the service! It's a joke.
The Future of GreenTubeLAN
Last night, the 4 of us who run it got online for a meeting about the future of GreenTubeLAN, and we're all of the same opinion. GreenTubeLAN as a public entity has run it's course. It's clear that the combination with DLC-Lan works, however we have lost alot of people over the years and those still coming would register for just about any LAN with any name. So that's why GreenTubeLAN will be going invite-only and when we want to run it with about 15-20 people. The fact is none of the admin team (myself included) have much time to prepare much and we've been burned at the last few LAN's after many days of preparation (whether it's people not showing up or the gods against us - complete power failure in Narre Warren rings a bell!).

So yeah - it is with great regret we are rolling back the operations to an invite-only LAN, but this decision shouldn't affect many people. I will still be around DLC-Lan as will most of the other staff. We will still have 60 player LAN's in Frankston, just not under the banner of GreenTubeLAN. There is talk of a reshuffle with admin and staff for a more publicly aimed LAN in Frankston and I'll keep everyone updated here as the news comes. I suspect some decision will be reached during the first week of August.
That's about it for this week I'm afraid. There isn't a lot of news, I haven't moved out yet (although this week there's a few $120-$140 pw units in Drouin about 500m from the Station I will look at checking out during the week!) and yeah...

- - Craig Mattson

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