In an interview in early 2004, I was asked how I would improve a book-sellers website.

Between 2002 and 2004, as a graduate student, I had moved atleast 2 apartments every year. My biggest crib was moving my books, which unfortunately were also very important to me. It was an onerous task, but an important one. I would hate to start a new quarter without my references an arm’s-length away.

Naturally, I suggested that owning a copy of the published material could also lead to owning a copy of the electronic print, available ubiquitously over the Internet. This is an obvious solution, has been documented in History and applies to other media too – Movies, Music and so on.

Coincidentally, Amazon.com filed a patent for the very same idea a month ago. I quote from the patent application: Methods and apparatus of the invention enable users to request access to one or more electronic images of pages in a physical text. When the user is identified and user ownership of the physical text is confirmed, the user is given access to the requested electronic images in accordance with the one or more access rules. Electronic images of pages may be automatically added to a user-personalized library of electronic content for later access. A flag associated with the user and the pages images may be set to indicate confirmed user ownership of the physical text. A user may purchase a physical text itself or purchase an item that the physical text normally accompanies. Electronic page images may be acquired by scanning printed pages of the text or from a user upload. Access to the electronic images of a physical text is based on user ownership of the physical text.

I am not sure what to make of this, but I have a gut feeling that this is an awful attempt to patent a mechanism that should actually be available ubiquitously and not just through a single network or organisation.

UNIX: Retrieving meta-info on your file-system

Turns out there is no direct method to retrieve the information stored in the superblock for most file-systems within Unix.

Try ‘tune2fs -l /dev/hdXY’ instead, this will definitely work with ext2 and ext3:

tune2fs 1.32 (09-Nov-2002)
Filesystem volume name: /
Last mounted on:
Filesystem UUID: c5ba8667-4b47-4074-801a-b55be89e4df9
Filesystem magic number: 0xEF53
Filesystem revision #: 1 (dynamic)
Filesystem features: has_journal filetype needs_recovery sparse_super
Default mount options: (none)
Filesystem state: clean
Errors behavior: Continue
Filesystem OS type: Linux
Inode count: 2415360
Block count: 4827532
Reserved block count: 241376
Free blocks: 2490514
Free inodes: 2028280
First block: 0
Block size: 4096
Fragment size: 4096
Blocks per group: 32768
Fragments per group: 32768
Inodes per group: 16320
Inode blocks per group: 510
Filesystem created: Fri Oct 8 08:26:03 2004
Last mount time: Thu Mar 10 15:27:44 2005
Last write time: Thu Mar 10 15:27:44 2005
Mount count: 1
Maximum mount count: -1
Last checked: Thu Mar 10 15:27:41 2005
Check interval: 0 ()
Reserved blocks uid: 0 (user root)
Reserved blocks gid: 0 (group root)
First inode: 11
Inode size: 128
Journal UUID:
Journal inode: 8
Journal device: 0x0000
First orphan inode: 0

Symbian offers connectors for MS Exchange

Symbian Limited today announced that it has licensed the Microsoft Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol for use in Symbian OS�, the leading open standard operating system for advanced mobile phones.

Under the terms of the agreement, Symbian will develop an Exchange Server ActiveSync protocol � plug-in � for the Symbian OS messaging architecture to enable Symbian OS licensees � the world’s leading mobile phone manufacturers � to include in their Symbian OS-based phones direct over-the-air (OTA) synchronization capabilities for email, calendar, contacts and other personal information management (PIM) data supported by Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 .

Press release.

Q: Why do you need an agreement, especially when Microsoft’s MAPI has been forever available to develop applications that utilise the Exchange enterprise server?

Take for example the Blackberry Enterprise Server:

Key Features
BlackBerry Enterprise Server enables several key features essential for a complete wireless connectivity platform:

* Corporate Data Access – mobile professionals get always-on/push-based access to enterprise applications, as well as online content and applications.
* Wireless email synchronization – seamless integration with existing enterprise email account.
* Attachment viewing – users can view popular document formats (Excel, Word�, PowerPoint�, Adobe� PDF, WordPerfect�, ASCII, ZIP and image files) on their device.
* Wireless organizer synchronization – PIM information is updated wirelessly between the device and messaging server.
* Remote address lookup – users can search and interact with their Global Address List (GAL).
* Wireless application download – third party applications can be downloaded wirelessly to the device.
* Wireless activation and provisioning – users can activate their device wirelessly.
* Wireless backup – users’ device settings and preferences can be automatically, wirelessly backed up.
* Wireless IT policies – administrators can wirelessly mandate passwords and other controls.
* Data encryption – all incoming and outgoing wireless data and messages are encrypted and decrypted by BlackBerry Enterprise Server.

Q: What is ActiveSync?
A: Follow this link to MSDN

Eclipse resources

Dedicated to all things Eclipse

* EclipseCon2005

* A Quick start to agile development on Eclipse – EclipseCon2005 [pdf]

* Running Tomcat from within Eclipse – Sysdeo

* Eclipse lights up Java crowd – article [CNET]

* Performance testing from within Eclipse TPTP

* Unit testing – JUnit & Eclipse

* Integration testing – Jakarta Cactus

* Other tools – Ant, CVS

* Eclipse technologies [Alphaworks]

* IBM Web tools for Eclipse [Alphaworks]

Organizing email by task

Organizing email by task… article

Software organizes email by task
March 9/16, 2005
By Kimberly Patch, Technology Research News

There’s a lot of structure to a person’s email. Rather than random isolated documents, individual email messages are often portions of a larger activity. Despite the inherent structure, and despite organizational tools such as folders, much of the world’s email remains relatively unorganized.

Researchers from the University College Dublin in Ireland and IBM Research have developed a way to use the inherent structure of related email messages to automatically organize the messages by task.

“We realized that quite a lot of emails are not just random isolated messages, but rather relate in some specific way to earlier messages [by way of] some underlying activity or process” such as travel, meetings, or asset management, said Nicholas Kushmerick, a lecturer in computer science at the University College Dublin in Ireland and visiting scientist at IBM’s Dublin Software Laboratory. “Our email activity management technique enables the email client to automatically recognize the structure of these activities and group messages,” he said.

The method could eventually be used in tools that automatically organize email and allow a user to query the system based on the underlying organization. It could also lead to related tools like task schedulers, according to Kushmerick.

The researchers’ prototype uses a three-phase process, said Kushmerick.

First, the system groups messages according to the activity or task they relate to. For a user who participates in multiple eBay auctions simultaneously, the system would partition eBay messages into messages pertaining to the different auctions — for example, a desk auction, a bed auction, and a dollhouse auction, said Kushmerick.

Second, the system detects occurrences of the process across those activities and re-groups the messages. EBay auction steps include email acknowledgments of bids and notifications of outbids. For example, the eBay messages would be grouped into the ‘thanks for the bid’ messages for the desk, bed and dollhouse, and the ‘you’ve been out bid’ with messages for the desk, bed, and dollhouse, said Kushmerick.

Third, the system organizes activities and steps into a single representation, or process model that stipulates the order in which the process steps occur, said Kushmerick. “The complication is that many real-world processes can contain loops — a single eBay auction might contain many pairs of bid-out bid messages,” he said.

The researchers used text classification, text clustering and automata induction algorithms to carry out the process, said Kushmerick. Text classification algorithms determine some level of meaning for words. Text clustering algorithms group documents into related sets. Automata induction algorithms generate process flow models. Each of these pieces has been developed independently for decades, but no one had previously thought to apply them to this particular problem or integrate them in this manner, he said.

Compared to artificial intelligence approaches to data representation, the three-phase process is shallow, but appropriate, said Kushmerick. “We can get away with shallow techniques because the messages and processes we’re dealing with are generally quite structured,” he said. Every message from eBay, for example, contains a unique identifier such as 9188139a; information like this can be exploited to organize messages.

From the user’s point of view, the system is entirely automated, said Kushmerick. The user “gives the system a set of messages and says ‘please organize them’,” he said. “There is no need for the user to provide background such as ‘I have pending reports for two trips — to Singapore, and Berlin’.”

The researchers’ next step is to begin real-world testing of the technique with large collections of messages. They are also working on completing the user interface. They’re aiming to make the system easy to visualize and easy to correct, said Kushmerick.

The interface will enable users to correct system mistakes and to provide hints to help the system generalize correctly, said Kushmerick. “No matter how carefully we tune our algorithms, fully automated techniques will probably never be 100 percent accurate, so we need to make sure that occasional mistakes do not harm the benefit that accrues from our more sophisticated activity-centric presentation,” he said.

The current prototype is 91 percent accurate at classifying and grouping messages, according to Kushmerick.

The researchers are also working on ways to allow the user and machine to cooperate to discover the appropriate task structure when the computer cannot do it on its own. When the algorithm is stumped, “we don’t want the computer to throw up its hands and say ‘I’ve no idea’,” said Kushmerick. “Instead, the computer should ask a series of pointed questions that will disambiguate the situation, such as… ‘it would appear that eBay occasionally sends bid acknowledgments twice. Is that correct?'”

They are also working on enabling the user to carry out high-level queries that have to do with the underlying activities, said Kushmerick. For example, “Calculate the average amount I spent on each online grocery order last year,” or “Check the travel reimbursement transactions to estimate the total number of days I spent away from home for business purposes in the last six months.”

One drawback of the prototype is that it is overly dependent on computer-generated messages, said Kushmerick. “Extending our techniques from machine-person messages to person-person messages will be very challenging, but we have already started to make some progress,” he said.

The technology could be ready for commercial use in two to three years, said Kushmerick. “A patent application covering our technology has already been filed, and IBM is currently exploring potential avenues to commercialization,” he said.

Further down the line, the researchers’ system could be used to automate other tools like schedulers and email analysis tools. An analysis tool could, for instance, automatically notice when you send a message to someone requesting that they send you a document, add this request to a “pending” list, and automatically mark the request “satisfied” when the document arrives, said Kushmerick.

The ultimate aim is to enable ordinary end-users, as opposed to specialized technical support personnel, to personalize and customize their computing environments, said Kushmerick. “Each of us has a distinctive suite of activities that we engage in, preferences for the way information is presented, notions of what constitutes high-priority, constraints about divulging confidential information, et cetera,” he said.

In the last several years machine learning technologies have improved enough that it is possible to envision practical self-customizing software and high-level tools that allow ordinary users to customize applications, said Kushmerick.

Kushmerick’s research colleague was Tessa Lau. They presented the work at the Intelligent User Interfaces Conference (UIC 2005) held January 9 to 12, 2005 in San Diego. The research was funded by IBM’s T. J. Watson Research Center.

Toshiba 1115-S103 – issues

It's amazing what group efforts can help you accomplish:
Several people have report problems with there 1115-s103 screens going blank. One of our members reported that it is caused by loose wires in the backlight system. My s103 was finally bit by this problem today. I am wondering how widespread of an issue this is and if it is a product defect. Maybe we should try the number of people who have run into this problem. If you also have this issue with your s103, please post in our forums. Here are links to the Blank Screen discussions:

The unofficial page for Toshiba Satellite 1115 S103

Display problems

Fixing Toshiba laptops at service centers

Hardware analysis