Monthly Archives: July 2008

10 Skills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything

Written by lifehack

10 SKills You Need to Succeed at Almost Anything

What does it take to succeed? A positive attitude? Well, sure, but that’s hardly enough. The Law of Attraction? The Secret? These ideas might act as spurs to action, but without the action itself, they don’t do much.

Success, however it’s defined, takes action, and taking good and appropriate action takes skills. Some of these skills (not enough, though) are taught in school (not well enough, either), others are taught on the job, and still others we learn from general life experience.

Below is a list of general skills that will help anyone get ahead in practically any field, from running a company to running a gardening club. Of course, there are skills specific to each field as well – but my concern here is with the skills that translate across disciplines, the ones that can be learned by anyone in any position.

1. Public Speaking

The ability to speak clearly, persuasively, and forcefully in front of an audience – whether an audience of 1 or of thousands – is one of the most important skills anyone can develop. People who are effective speakers come across as more comfortable with themselves, more confident, and more attractive to be around. Being able to speak effectively means you can sell anything – products, of course, but also ideas, ideologies, worldviews. And yourself – which means more opportunities for career advancement, bigger clients, or business funding.

2. Writing

Writing well offers many of the same advantages that speaking well offers: good writers are better at selling products, ideas, and themselves than poor writers. Learning to write well involves not just mastery of grammar but the development of the ability to organize one’s thoughts into a coherent form and target it to an audience in the most effective way possible. Given the huge amount of text generated by almost every transaction – from court briefs and legislation running into the thousands of pages to those foot-long receipts you get when you buy gum these days – a person who is a master of the written word can expect doors to open in just about every field.

3. Self-Management

If success depends of effective action, effective action depends on the ability to focus your attention where it is needed most, when it is needed most. Strong organizational skills, effective productivity habits, and a strong sense of discipline are needed to keep yourself on track.

4. Networking

Networking is not only for finding jobs or clients. In an economy dominated by ideas and innovation, networking creates the channel through which ideas flow and in which new ideas are created. A large network, carefully cultivated, ties one into not just a body of people but a body of relationships, and those relationships are more than just the sum of their parts. The interactions those relationships make possible give rise to innovation and creativity – and provide the support to nurture new ideas until they can be realized.

5. Critical Thinking

We are exposed to hundreds, if not thousands, of times more information on a daily basis than our great-grandparents were. Being able to evaluate that information, sort the potentially valuable from the trivial, analyze its relevance and meaning, and relate it to other information is crucial – and woefully under-taught. Good critical thinking skills immediately distinguish you from the mass of people these days.

6. Decision-Making

The bridge that leads from analysis to action is effective decision-making – knowing what to do based on the information available. While not being critical can be dangerous, so too can over-analyzing, or waiting for more information before making a decision. Being able to take in the scene and respond quickly and effectively is what separates the doers from the wannabes.

7. Math

You don’t have to be able to integrate polynomials to be successful. However, the ability to quickly work with figures in your head, to make rough but fairly accurate estimates, and to understand things like compound interest and basic statistics gives you a big lead on most people. All of these skills will help you to analyze data more effectively – and more quickly – and to make better decisions based on it.

8. Research

Nobody can be expected to know everything, or even a tiny fraction of everything. Even within your field, chances are there’s far more that you don’t know than you do know. You don’t have to know everything – but you should be able to quickly and painlessly find out what you need to know. That means learning to use the Internet effectively, learning to use a library, learning to read productively, and learning how to leverage your network of contacts – and what kinds of research are going to work best in any given situation.

9. Relaxation

Stress will not only kill you, it leads to poor decision-making, poor thinking, and poor socialization. So be failing to relax, you knock out at least three of the skills in this list – and really more. Plus, working yourself to death in order to keep up, and not having any time to enjoy the fruits of your work, isn’t really “success”. It’s obsession. Being able to face even the most pressing crises with your wits about you and in the most productive way is possibly the most important thing on this list.

10. Basic Accounting

It is a simple fact in our society that money is necessary. Even the simple pleasures in life, like hugging your child, ultimately need money – or you’re not going to survive to hug for very long. Knowing how to track and record your expenses and income is important just to survive, let alone to thrive. But more than that, the principles of accounting apply more widely to things like tracking the time you spend on a project or determining whether the value of an action outweighs the costs in money, time, and effort. It’s a shame that basic accounting isn’t a required part of the core K-12 curriculum.

What Else?

Surely there are more important skills I’m not thinking of (which is probably why I’m not telling Bill Gates what to do!) – what are they? What have I missed? What lessons have you learned that were key to your successes – and what have you ignored to your peril?

10 Things You Should Know About the Internet

Written by Alex

“[The Internet] is not a truck. It’s a series of tubes.” – U.S. Senator Ted Stevens

Ah, the Internet: you use it every day for school, work or fun. In such a short period of time, the Net has grown into an essential every day thing that it’s hard to imagine life without it.

But how much do you know about the Internet? Did you know that you have the Soviets to thank for this wonderful invention? Or that despite the flack that he got for inventing the Internet, Al Gore actually did play a major role in the creation of the Net?

Here are the 10 Things You Should Know About the Internet:

1. Sputnik: Kick in the Pants that Launched the Net

In 1957, the Soviet launched Sputnik (Russian for “traveling companion” or “satellite”), the first man-made object to orbit the Earth. It was a big surprise to the United States, who feared that it was falling behind technologically against its Cold War enemy.

In direct response to Sputnik, President Dwight D. Eisenhower directed the Department of Defense to create the Advanced Research Projects Agency or ARPA in 1958. One of its research programs was headed by Dr. J.C. R. Licklider (or simply “Lick”), who convinced the U.S. Government to create a computer network, which would later evolve into the Internet.

Licklider, in his epic 1963 memo to “Members and Affiliates of the Intergalactic Computer Network” (Yes, that’s right – “Intergalactic”) explored the challenges in creating ARPANET, the precursor to today’s Internet.

So, who says war isn’t good for anything? The Internet is arguably one of the most important technologies that came out of the Cold War.

2. Before The Internet, There Was ARPANET

The logical map of the first 4 nodes of the ARPANET in December 1969, as sketched by Larry Roberts. (Image: The Computer History Museum)

In 1969, after Licklider left ARPA, his successors Ivan Sutherland, Bob Taylor, Larry Roberts and colleagues created the network that would later become the Internet. The initial ARPANET consisted of four nodes (or computers called Interface Message Processors, which would later evolve into routers) located in UCLA, Stanford Research Institute, UC Santa Barbara, and University of Utah:

First ARPANET IMP Log – CSK refers to Charles S. Kline, the very first person ever to login to a remote host via the ARPANET
(Image: The Computer History Museum)

The programmers in Westwood (UCLA – Ed.) were to type “log” into their computer, with the SRI computer in Palo Alto filling out the rest of the command, adding “in.”

“We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI,” Kleinrock recalled. “We typed the L, and we asked on the phone, ‘Do you see the L?’ ‘Yes, we see the L,’ came the response. We typed the O, and we asked, ‘Do you see the O?’ ‘Yes, we see the O.’ Then we typed the G, and the system crashed!” They immediately rebooted and this time, ARPANET sprung to life. (Source)

It would take a couple more years until ARPANET became popular. Indeed, in 1973, Bob Bell of Digital Equipment Corporation noted that the NET was a really busy place on Friday nights (well, geeks will be geeks!):

I remember hearing that there was an ARPANET “conference” on the Star Trek game every Friday night. Star Trek was a text based game where you used photon torpedos and phasers to blast Klingons. (Source)

3. Packet Switching: The Way the Internet Works

We won’t get too technical here, but the way information travels through the Internet is pretty neat. Take for instance, how data gets from point A to point B (say, the text and images from this webpage from the Neatorama servers to your browser). One way to do it is to open a channel from point A to B: data is transmitted in a dedicated circuit until all the data is transfered along the same path. It’s a pretty fast way to send information, but it comes at a high cost: a dedicated circuit has to remain open until the last bit of data is sent. This method is called circuit switching and it’s the system used by telephone companies.

In the early 1960s, Paul Baran, Donald Davies and Leonard Kleinrock, working independently, came up with a different way to send data. First, large chunks of data are divided into several small packets that are sent through the network. Each packet may take a different route to reach its destination. Once every packet has arrived, then they are re-assembled into the original data.

Packet switching may sound counterintuitive (it is slower than circuit switching and packets may get lost, thus requiring a re-send), but it has its advantages. For one, because there is no single path of communication, the packets can route themselves to avoid damaged or congested networks.

At the time, U.S. authorities were worried how a computer network would survive a nuclear attack, so when Baran proposed the packet switching method (he called it the “hot-potato routing” or “distributed communications” – it was Davies that named it “packet switching”), the military threw its support for the method.

4. TCP/IP: The Language of the Internet

In 1973, Vint Cerf (who is often called the “father of the Internet”) and Bob Kahn created the TCP/IP suite of communication protocols – basically a language used by computers to talk to each other in a network.

The TCP/IP protocol is so simple that, as an 1990 April Fool’s joke, D. Waitzman of the Internet Engineering Task Force proposed that pigeons be used to carry IP traffic!

A decade later, IP over Avian Carriers was actually implemented by the Bergen Linux user group. They released 9 packets over a distance of 3 miles and actually got 4 responses (that’s a packet loss ratio of 55% and a response time between 3,000 to 6,000 seconds).

5. Al Gore Actually Did Create the Internet. Sort Of.

“Remember America, I gave you the Internet and I can take it away,” joked Al Gore on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Okay, I was being cheeky with that heading. But here’s the story: During the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election, Al Gore took quite a drubbing for the claim that he “invented” the Internet. Problem was, Gore made no such claim. During an interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Gore was asked how he would distinguish himself from others, and he replied:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system. …

Though the term “initiative in creating the Internet” is vague, Gore did quite a bit of legislative work in creating a high-capacity national data network that is a significant part of the Internet. And don’t forget: though Gore didn’t coin it, he did popularize the term “information superhighway.”

For more, read “Al Gore and the Creation of the Internet” by Richard Wiggins.

6. Father of Spam: Gary Thuerk Sent the First Email Spam

Spamming is an old marketing technique – the very first spam was a dentist advertising his services via telegram in 1864. Then, as in now, people who got the unsolicited telegrams got really mad – some even wrote the local newspaper complaining of the advertising tactic. But when the paper reprinted the telegram, the dentist just got free publicity!

The first email spam was sent by Digital Equipment Corporation’s marketing manager Gary Thuerk in 1978 to 393 recipients on ARPANET. He was advertising the availability of a new model of DEC computers. The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Thuerk (along with a reprint of the original email):

From a marketing standpoint, the email was a success: About 20 people came to each of Thuerk’s open houses, and he estimates it led to more than $12 million in sales. But the email also earned Thuerk instant notoriety. “People started complaining immediately,” he tells the Business Technology Blog. Someone from the Rand Corporation sent him a letter telling him he broke the rules of the ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor. (There was an unwritten rule that people wouldn’t use the ARPANET to sell things; Thuerk tells us he only promoted a product.) A major from the defense communications agency called Thuerk’s boss and made him promise that Thuerk would never send an email like that again.

Thuerk has embraced his place in history as the father of spam. It’s landed him in the Guinness Book of World Records, and he does promotional work for anti-spam companies from time to time. He says people have one of three reactions when they meet him: Some are excited to meet someone with an unusual claim to fame; some want to beat him up on the spot; and others just avoid him like the plague. (Source)

7. The Sexy Web: 12% of Websites = Porn!

Grandma’s reaction to 2 girls 1 cup. If you don’t know what this is all about, consider yourself lucky. Very lucky. [YouTube Link]

We can’t talk about the web without talking about porn. The amount of smut available on the Net and our appetite for it are astonishing. Here are some statistics on porn from Jerry Ropelato of Top Ten Reviews (who claimed that all of them come from reputable sources)

Pornographic websites: 4.2 million (12% of total websites)
Pornographic pages: 420 million
Daily pornographic search engine requests: 68 million (25% of total search engine requests)
Daily pornographic emails: 2.5 billion (8% of total emails)
Internet users who view porn: 42.7%
Worldwide visitors to pornographic web sites: 72 million visitors (monthly)
Internet pornography sales: $4.9 billion

Every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing pornography
Every second, 372 Internet users are typing adult search terms into search engines

Statistics from GOOD Magazine:

35% of all Internet downloads are pornographic in nature
Every day 266 new porn sites appear on the Internet
“Sex” is the most searched word on the Internet
70% of Internet porn traffic occurs during the 9-5 workday
US produced 89% of all online porn

For more, check out Internet Pornography Statistics | GOOD Magazine video [a bit NSFW] on porn statistics

8. The Rise of the Blogosphere

Blogs (short for web logs) are regularly updated journal published on the Web. According to Technorati, there are about 112.8 million blogs on the Web right now, with 175,000 new blogs added every day. That’s about 122 new blogs a minute or 2 blogs a second!

The term “weblog” was coined by John Barger on December 17, 1997 to describe his website Robot Wisdom that “logged” the links he collected while surfing the Net – as such, his website got the distinction of being the world’s first blog*. (The contraction “blog,” which arguably became a more popular word, was coined in 1999 by Peter Merholz of who playfully broke up the word into we blog).

[*Note: yes, technically there are blogs that preceded Robot Wisdom, though they were never called “blogs.” For example, Justin Hall of Justin’s Links from the Underground (now defunct) started his website in 1994.]

Blogging became more popular in 1999, with the creation of hosted blog tools that made writing for and managing a blog easier (like, LiveJournal, and Today, blogs have become mainstream – newspapers have ’em, corporations have ’em – and heck, even politicians have ’em.

So whatever happened to Jorn Barger, the world’s first blogger? Paul Boutin of Wired Magazine wrote about his encounter with Jorn, homeless and broke, on the streets of San Francisco:

Homeless and broke at age 53, [Barger] allowed the domain registration for to lapse and can’t afford to re-up it. He has abandoned his Chicago apartment and is staying on Andrew’s floor while he tries to get back on his feet. He’s looking for work – sort of. After a few hands-in-pockets attempts at small talk, we give up. I continue up the hill.

A few weeks later, I find out that Barger has recovered his domain – and Robot Wisdom pops back up online. I hunt him down for a pint at a local pub and he tells me he’s moving on, this time to Memphis. He says he avoids the need for a job by living on less than a dollar a day. “I was carrying a cardboard sign when we met that day,” he tells me. “I wasn’t sure if I should show it to you. I figured if things didn’t work out with Andrew I could pick up some change.” On his panhandler sign, Barger had written:

Coined the term ‘weblog,’ never made a dime. (Source)

9. Surprise! There’s a Third YouTube Co-Founder

Before there was YouTube, there was … a dating site called Tune In Hook Up?! Yes, that was the first version of YouTube that completely failed (Source: article by Jim Hopkins at USA Today, from where I shamelessly, um, co-opted the heading).

The YouTube we all know and love got started when former Paypal employees Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim wanted to share some videos from a dinner party only to realize that the video clip was too huge for email. Posting the video online wasn’t easy either – since video websites back then accept some but not all video clip formats.

So the trio went to create YouTube in 2005 – and a little over a year later, the website streamed 100 million videos per day and got 70,000 videos uploaded per day (roughly 1 per second). It was the fastest growing website in the history of the Internet. It was estimated that in 2007, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000!

Hurley and Chen sold the company to Google for a cool $1.65 billion … so what happened to Jawed? He left active role at the company to be a graduate student in computer science before it was sold (but he didn’t leave empty handed – Jawed got about $64 million in stocks when YouTube was acquired by Google).

Oh, and of course: the first video clip on YouTube was uploaded at 8:27 pm on Saturday April 23rd, 2005. It was of Jawed himself (shot by Yakov Lapitsky) at the San Diego Zoo:

10. The Rise of Social Networking and Social Media

In a way, the Web is a big social network. Even before there was the Web, BBSes served as online communities where people chatted and collaborated. But the term “social networking” became a buzzword when it was reported in 2005 that MySpace had more pageviews than Google (Source).

But before MySpace, there was (launched in 1995) and (launched in 1997, dead by 2001). Afterwards, more successful websites followed: Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, LinkedIn and Facebook. And how successful were they? MySpace was sold to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. for $580 million and Facebook is now valued in the billions of dollars).

There’s a social networking website for everybody under the sun: Like movies? There’s Flixster. Online games? Avatars United. Anime? Gaia Online. Books? LibraryThing and so on. (Wikipedia has a huge list of social networking sites here)

On the other side of the new Internet are social media websites. The term “social media” is kind of a hodgepodge (Wikipedia, blogs like Neatorama, and videosharing websites like YouTube can all be classified as social media). But all of them have one thing in common: they encourage active interaction and participation of their users.

An interesting subset of the social media websites are social news sites like Digg, reddit and Mixx. These user-driven websites let people discover and share content on the Internet in a social way: users submit and vote on others’ submissions to determine which links get featured prominently on the websites’ front pages.

But there is a darker-side to social media website. The “Digg Revolt” on May 1, 2007 (remember that?), over the AACS encryption key controversy illustrates how the “social” in social media can be a double-edged sword:

Photo: rtomayko [Flickr] has become one of the Web’s top news portals by putting the power to choose the news in the hands of its users. Just how much power they wield, however, only became clear Tuesday night, when Digg turned into what one user called a “digital Boston Tea Party.”

When the site’s administrators attempted to prevent users from posting links to pages revealing the copyright encryption key for HD-DVD discs, Digg’s users rebelled. Hundreds of references to the code flooded the site’s submissions, filling its main pages and overwhelming the administrators’ attempts to control the site’s content. (Source)

Ultimately, Digg admins capitulated to its users’ demands and stopped deleting stories with the forbidden codes.

Bonus: Internet ? World Wide Web

Most people use Internet (or Net) and World Wide Web (or Web) interchangeably – but in reality, they’re quite different:

• The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks – these computers exchange data (hypertext documents like the one you’re reading now, emails, file transfers, and so on).

• The Web is a system of documents linked via hypertext that is accessed via the Internet – so the Web is just a part of the Internet.

The Web was created in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee (now Sir Tim Berners-Lee, as he was knighted in 2004 for his contributions to the Web) while he was working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. Sir Berners-Lee was just 34 years old at the time. (Photo credit: captsolo [Flickr])

Berners-Lee’s very first Web was a project called ENQUIRE (named after his favorite book: Enquire Within Upon Everything, a 1856 how-to book for domestic life). In 1989, Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau wrote a proposal to CERN management about a global information management system to keep track of accelerators and equipments and for scientists to share data. Berners-Lee originally considered calling it “Information Mesh,” “The Information Mine” (which was turned down because the acronym TIM is his first name), and “Mine of Information.” He later chose “World Wide Web” when he was writing the code in 1990.

A client/server model for a distributed hypertext system, as proposed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee

By Christmas of 1990, Berners-Lee had put together the world’s first Web: a web browser (written in Objective-C, by the way), a web server (his NeXT cube computer) and a web page (yes, that would make it the world’s first web page – archived here on w3: Link). The first practical use of the Web was a CERN telephone directory, to encourage its employees to it!

World’s first web server: Tim Berners-Lee’s NeXT cube, on which he scribbled: This machine is a server. DO NOT POWER IT DOWN!

Photo: Robert Scoble [Flickr]

The Web is now huge: according DomainTools, there are currently over 103.6 million active domains (and over 348 million dead ones) on the World Wide Web. Last week, Google announced that it has indexed 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) web pages (about 903,000 of which mentioned Neatorama 🙂 ):

We’ve known it for a long time: the web is big. The first Google index in 1998 already had 26 million pages, and by 2000 the Google index reached the one billion mark. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen a lot of big numbers about how much content is really out there. Recently, even our search engineers stopped in awe about just how big the web is these days — when our systems that process links on the web to find new content hit a milestone: 1 trillion (as in 1,000,000,000,000) unique URLs on the web at once!

9 ways you can take advantage of this terrible economy

Written by Andrew Galasetti

All right, we get it… Gas prices are high; the real estate market isn’t good, stocks are down, and many banks are in a mess. The media keeps drilling it into our heads like we had no idea.

Despite their negativity this may actually be an excellent time to better your life and the lives of those around you. Tough times are some of the best times for people to become resourceful, innovative, and make positive changes.

Here are 9 ways you can take advantage of this “terrible” economy.

1. Buy foreclosures and invest in real estate

It’s a buyer’s market for sure. You don’t want to look back in ten years from now and have a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” moment. Even if prices aren’t low in your area, explore different towns and states for commercial locations and empty lots. Even if you don’t have the resources and funds to develop right now, stake your claim while you can.

2. Invest in green technology

High oil prices are igniting interest in alternative fuels and green technology. If you’re active in the stock markets, perhaps you should consider doing some research on emerging green companies. If you’re not an active trader, another way to invest is to explore purchasing a hybrid or electric car. It might be costly now, but in a few years you’ll be happy.

3. Start a company

Sure, there are a lot of companies shutting down but this maybe the right time to start a company up. Here are some tips to think about if you want to launch a start up:

– Look for an industry or market with a large number of businesses closing. Are the big competitors shutting down? If so, you’ll have less competition.

– Research the reason why they closed.

– Find a solution and an opportunity in what they did wrong.

– Many of the companies shutting down are large corporations. So one of the best things going for you is being small but thinking big.

4. Switch careers

I know exactly what you’re thinking or even saying right now, “well there are no jobs, and my job’s safe.” Is it really though? Do you like what you do? Is there a long commute? And many expenses? You must ask yourself questions like these. Wouldn’t you rather be your own boss? Or have a job that you enjoy so much you don’t care what you get paid or what it costs you to get there?

5. Move somewhere you’ve always wanted to

A location or town you’ve dreamed about living in might be at its most affordable right now. Seize this window of opportunity to make a big change.

6. Learn

During times like these there is plenty that you can learn. Such facts as:

Where the US gets most of its foreign oil from.

How much gasoline the US uses.

– How big of a role the media plays in driving up fuel prices and striking fear in the public about their finances.

Become aware and educate yourself. You can prevent yourself from letting any future economic troubles giving you trouble.

7. Go on vacation!

Many people are skipping vacations because prices aren’t affordable for them. But you shouldn’t let that hold you back. While everyone else is staying home you can live it up and enjoy yourself with smaller crowds.

8. Get your voice out there

If increasing prices, the bad economy, and politicians are making you frustrated, then take action. Harness the power of new and old media to voice your opinions. Offer new ideas and solutions, be controversial, and be a leader.

9. Break bad habits & modify your lifestyle

Old habits die hard, but they might die quickly in a tough economy. Think about walking or riding a bike instead of driving everywhere. You’ll stay fit, save cash, and help out the environment. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Photo by Brent and MariLynn

*Note: These are views and opinions expressed in this post. Not concrete financial advice guaranteeing success. Bspcn is not responsible for your actions.

10 Practical Tips To Keep Your Cellphone From Killing You

Written by Carey

Have you heard, cellphones are deadly. Science told us so this week when Dr. Ronald B. Herberman of the esteemed University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute realized that cellphones emit death rays that fry your brain and turn you into a baby-eating Communist, or give you cancer or whatever. Dr. Despair isn’t a downer though! Inside, 10 practical ways to keep your precious little brain safe from those ubiquitous chirping cancer slabs…

1. Do not allow children to use a cell phone, except for emergencies. The developing organs of a fetus or child are the most likely to be sensitive to any possible effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields.

2. While communicating using your cell phone, try to keep the cell phone away from the body as much as possible. The amplitude of the electromagnetic field is one fourth the strength at a distance of two inches and fifty times lower at three feet. Whenever possible, use the speaker-phone mode or a wireless Bluetooth headset, which has less than 1/100th of the electromagnetic emission of a normal cell phone. Use of a hands-free ear piece attachment may also reduce exposures.

3. Avoid using your cell phone in places, like a bus, where you can passively expose others to your phone’s electromagnetic fields.

4. Avoid carrying your cell phone on your body at all times. Do not keep it near your body at night such as under the pillow or on a bedside table, particularly if pregnant. You can also put it on “flight” or “off-line” mode, which stops electromagnetic emissions.

5. If you must carry your cell phone on you, make sure that the keypad is positioned toward your body and the back is positioned toward the outside so that the transmitted electromagnetic fields move away from your rather than through you.

6. Only use your cell phone to establish contact or for conversations lasting a few minutes, as the biological effects are directly related to the duration of exposure. For longer conversations, use a land line with a corded phone, not a cordless phone, which uses electromagnetic emitting technology similar to that of cell phones.

7. Switch sides regularly while communicating on your cell phone to spread out your exposure. Before putting your cell phone to the ear, wait until your correspondent has picked up. This limits the power of the electromagnetic field emitted near your ear and the duration of your exposure.

8. Avoid using your cell phone when the signal is weak or when moving at high speed, such as in a car or train, as this automatically increases power to a maximum as the phone repeatedly attempts to connect to a new relay antenna.

9. When possible, communicate via text messaging rather than making a call, limiting the duration of exposure and the proximity to the body.

10. Choose a device with the lowest SAR possible (SAR = Specific Absorption Rate, which is a measure of the strength of the magnetic field absorbed by the body). SAR ratings of contemporary phones by different manufacturers are available by searching for “sar ratings cell phones” on the internet.

Of course, science doesn’t actually know for certain whether cellphones are safe or whether they cause debilitating brain tumors. “Further research is needed” is a common refrain, though this is the sort of thing that will work itself out over the next decade as more, um, tumors data become available.

Important Precautionary Advice Regarding Cell Phone Use [University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute via firedoglake] (Thanks to Shaula!)
(Photo: Getty)

15 Great Games That Are Playable On Low-End PCs

Written by Slapstic

Plenty of people use non-expensive laptops and desktop pcs for simple school projects, music management, and web browsing. A lot of these people are also gamers, but don’t buy games for their PCs because they think that their setup can’t handle anything beyond Bejewled. Well they’re wrong. I happen to be one of those gamers. I got my laptop last Christmas and ignorantly popped in the Orange Box and after the lengthy install, dove into Half-Life 2. It wasn’t pretty. I thought my computer was going to explode. So I started doing some research, and learned about system specs and what they meant. I found that all of the following great games worked well on my system. Here are my system specs so that you can compare for yourself and predict accurately how well the games will work for you. Before reading, prepare yourself. My machine is SUCKAGE.

I’m running an Acer Aspire 4720Z
Processor: Intel Pentium Dual CPU T2310 @ 1.46 GHz, 1.47 GHz
Memory (RAM): 1GB
System Type: Windows Vista 32-bit Operating System

Obviously there are other factors involved in how well a game will run on your system but those are the major ones. So here’s the list of games! There are some multiplatform games on the list, but I’m recommending the PC versions. All of the games below are absolutely quality.

1. Deus Ex

It’s not uncommon to find this game referred to as the greatest PC game of all time. I don’t necessarily think it deserves THAT title, but it’s definitely a great shooter. The graphics aren’t very pretty (but still passable), but it’s sort of like an old lady. She was hot at some point in time. But now that she doesn’t have any teeth and smells like Metamucil it’s like “eeeeeeh…”. Actually it’s nothing like that. This is a great game.

2. Diablo 2

I hope you like the sound of your own mouse clicking, because you’ll be doing it a LOT during this classic RPG. The character management and growth aspect of the game is fantastic, and anyone that’s played it will tell you that you NEED to play it.

3. Final Fantasy VII

Yes, nerds around the world, there IS a PC version of this game, and it’s exactly like the original. There’s no way you haven’t heard about this game already, so just go get it.

4. Unreal Tournament

Okay. So take any shooter and put it on acid. Congratulations, you have Unreal Tournament. It’s probably a cure for ADHD.

5. Guild Wars

There is no shame in playing a MMO that you don’t have to pay a monthly fee for, and this one is just fun. The game gets a little choppy in towns on even the fastest of internet connections, but other than that it’s a flawless experience.

6. Age of Empires 2: The Conquerors Expansion

As the single greatest RTS ever created, this game is more fun than a taco filled with jello. In fact, it took me forever to write this article because I took a break to play this game for a few hours. Once you learn the ropes, the game is timeless.

7. Counterstrike 1.6

It’s fun, but please, just play with friends if you’re a beginner. The people online don’t have too much else in life to do, so they’ll pretty much destroy you. It’s a fantastic shooter, though.

8. Metal Gear Solid

Like FFVII, it’ll probably surprise many gamers to learn that this game is available on the PC. This game also retains the original version’s greatness, as it’s pretty much a straight port of the PS1 masterpiece.

9. Warcraft 3

Don’t play this game for the actual game. Play it for the mods. There are some truly amazing mods for this game, most notably the multiple tower defense packs that abound on the net. Nothing quite beats a round on the Jurassic Park stage with a few buddies.

10. Call of Duty

Undoubtedly the best looking game on my system, CoD runs at a smooth rate and maintains its PS2-quality graphics despite my laptop’s weak specs. It’s also a great shooter with fun multiplayer. There’s no reason not to buy.

11. System Shock 2

A gruesome, scary FPS with more than few similarities to Deus Ex, System Shock 2 holds up as one of the best of its genre. Miss this one at your own peril.

12. Fallout 2

Odds aren’t you haven’t played this game. Odds are you’d like it if you did. Odds are your crappy pc can run it. The odds are good. So just shut up and get this one: it’s an RPG classic.

13. Halo

Yes, Halo online multiplayer is fun. A LOT of fun. And if you haven’t spent the last 5 years with your head in a mud hole, you’re probably aware of that. Well one more thing to be aware of is that Halo doesn’t require too much power out of your PC. So get to playing.

14. Grand Theft Auto 3

Although on my system, the game gets a tad choppy sometimes, it’s totally worth it to play the game that basically crafted the sandbox genre. Fun story, fun driving, fun music, and tons of freedom make for a truly great game.

15. World of Warcraft

Yeah… It’s WoW. No comments here. Just try not to get TOO addicted once you start. So that’s the list! If you don’t like those games, you probably smoke crack. Thanks for reading!

-Ryan Rigney

Best NBA ‘Separated At Birth’

Written by Lang Whitaker

Everybody looks likes someone sometimes…

Since we now know that ESPN the Magazine isn’t above jacking an idea without giving any credit, I suppose I should do the same to them. But I won’t.

I saw a link the other day to something on ESPN the Mag’s website which was billed as a list of all the celebrity/athlete lookalikes in sports, and I was pretty disappointed by their brevity as well as lack of creativity. Heck, we’ve been doing just NBA/celebrity lookalikes for nearly 7 years on The Links, and I was almost certain I could come up with more on my own.

Then I started thinking about it and realized that someone needs to create the world’s most comprehensive list of NBA lookalikes. So I’m going to run the list of all the lookalikes I can come up with, and you guys feel free to supplement the list in the comments section with your own observations. And for the record, I’m only using current players, coaches and refs.

Anyway, here are ones we’ve done on SLAMonline over the last 8 years. Some of them were mine, some came from the SLAM staff, and a lot came from you guys. Any photos used in this post were made over the last seven years, either by me or you guys. (Oh, and by the way NBA Friday – Fri-day! Yes! – will pick back up next week.)

And away we go…remember, don’t forget to add your lookalikes in the comments below…

Gilbert Arenas (self-portrait from adidas ad) – Junk Yard Dog

Mike Bibby – Dr. Evil/Mini Me

Steve Blake – Gummo (main character from the movie)

Andrew Bogut – Ashlee Simpson (pre-surgery)

Bruce Bowen – Droopy Dog

Kwame Brown – guy from movie “The Air Up There”

Mike Brown – The Grimace

PJ Brown – Willem Dafoe

Andrew Bynum – Tracy Morgan

Rick Carlisle – Anthony Perkins (Psycho)

Sam Cassell – ET; Gollum

Nick Collison – Sam Rubenstein

Danny Crawford (ref) – Kwesi Mfume

Mark Cuban – Joaquin Phoenix; Elephant Boy from The Howard Stern Show

Baron Davis – Kanye West

Big Baby Davis – Fat Albert

Michael Finley – Billy Ocean

Kevin Garnett – Heidi from “The Apprentice” season one

Devean George – The Grinch; the Chicago Bulls logo

Manu Ginobili – Rick Reilly, Balki from Perfect Strangers

Drew Gooden – New Orleans’ mayor Ray Nagin

Rip Hamilton (with braids) – Jar Jar Binks

Del Harris – Leslie Nielsen

Walter Herrmann – Fabio

Robert Horry – Will Smith

Bobby Jackson – Don Cheadle

Phil Jackson – Gandalf from Lord Of The Rings

Anthony Johnson – Wyclef Jean

Chris Kaman – guy from “Children Of The Corn”

Kyle Korver – Ashton Kutcher

Jason Kidd – Vin Diesel; MLB infielder Keith Lockhart

Tyron Lue (with hair) – Li’l Bow Wow (when he was younger)

Corey Maggette – Xzibit

Donyell Marshall – Ludacris

Andre Miller – Richard Pryor

Mike Miller (long hair) – Hilary Swank

Mike Miller (short hair) – Steve O

Reggie Miller – dude from Star Trek

Cat Mobley – Method Man

Adam Morrison – Tina Fey

Steve Nash – Gabriel Batistuta; Kelly Leak from The Bad News Bears

Don Nelson – John Madden

Nene (with hair) – Jules from Pulp Fiction

Joakim Noah – Bizzie Bone

Jim O’Brien – Reed Richards (Fantastic Four)

Emeka Okafor – Taye Diggs

Paul Pierce – Beetlejuice

Gregg Popovich – James Woods

Ahmad Rashad – Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons

Zach Randolph – The son from Family Matters

Nate Robinson – 50 Cent

Brian Scalabrine – Michael Rapaport

Wally Szczerbiak – Zoolander

Robert Swift – Freddy Krueger

Sebastian Telfair – Bucky from Fat Albert

Kurt Thomas – R. Kelly

Hedo Turkoglu – Alfred E. Newman

Jeff Van Gundy – Gonzo from The Muppets

Stan Van Gundy – Ron Jeremy

Anderson Varejao – Sideshow Bob

Ben Wallace (with hair out) – Fredrick Douglass

Bonzi Wells – Jay-Z

Shelden Williams – Mena Suvari

5 Reasons Why Nobody Cares About The New X-Files Movie

Written by Josh Tyler

Rant: 5 Reasons No One Cares About The New X-Files Movie The title of this story is of course, a gross generalization. There are indeed people out there who do care about the new X-Files movie. In fact all ten or twenty of them are rushing to this website right now and plotting ways to send me death threats.

Yes it’s a generalization to say no one cares about the X-Files movie, but like all good generalizations, it’s one that rather accurately reflects the sort of non-buzz there is out there for this movie. X-Files: I Want To Believe opens this very weekend, and it currently has the kind of pre-opening excitement around it that’s usually reserved only for should-have-been direct-to-DVD movies like Space Chimps. It’s a shocking state of affairs for a franchise that a mere decade ago completely ruled the geek world. Maybe things will turn around, maybe audiences will show up in droves this weekend and somehow knock The Dark Knight out of the top spot, but a long slow look around right now reveals a world in which no one seems to remember X-Files even exists, much less care enough about it to see Mulder and Scully’s new outing.

Why are things going wrong? Where’s the interest? It’s simple really. I’ve broken it down into five easily digested reasons:

5. The Dark Knight

It’s the same reason Hellboy 2 only made around $30 million opening weekend, even though it received stellar reviews and a monster marketing blitz. People have one movie and one movie only on their brains right now, and it’s about a guy who likes to dress up as a flying rat. Those who haven’t been able to see it because of sold out showings are planning to see it this weekend. Those who have already seen it are planning their second, third, and fourth sojourn into The Dark Knight world. Yes, the hype really is that out of control. Opening a movie in any sort of proximity to this sort of record-breaking phenomenon is suicide. Here comes X-Files, ready to commit hara-kiri. The Dark Knight is officially the biggest movie of all time, and for the next couple of weeks everything else will be stuck living in its shadow.

4. Bad Marketing

We’ve started seeing a few advertisements over the last week or so, but it was too little too late. By the time Fox got around to really trying to raise awareness on this thing, most potential moviegoers were already focused on something else. Meanwhile, the marketing they have done hasn’t been particularly exciting. The little plot nuggets they’ve dropped all seem to revolve around Mulder and Scully kissing or getting all romantic, a plotline that the X-Files series laid to rest years ago. It’s a dead subject. Hey moviegoers! Who wants to buy a ticket to see a tired old will-they-won’t they gimmick rehashed?

3. Stifling Secrecy

The production of X-Files: I Want To Believe has been wrapped in utter and total secrecy. Even now, a mere few days before the movie is released, 20th Century Fox still hasn’t handed out a proper plot synopsis. Worse, during the production they put out fake news items to trick whatever fans they have into thinking the movie was something it wasn’t, and then pulled the rug out from under them over and over and over again. I know a lot of the most hardcore X-Files fans are still excited to see this thing, but it’s hard to imagine a world in which at least a few of them might not feel a little burned by the mess. For the more casual fans, at some point they got tired of the bait and switch game and simply started ignoring not only whatever X-Files news has been floating around out there, but by extension the existence of the movie itself. I understand the need to keep the specifics of a plot on a movie like this under wraps, but there’s a way to do that without lying to and shutting out your supporters. X-Files: I Want To Believe never seemed to figure that out.

2. No One Cared About The First Movie

Even the first movie was met with somewhat lukewarm reception, and it was released a full decade closer to the epicenter of X-Files popularity. It made money, but it never really burned up the box office and people seemed to forget it as soon as it was gone. A mediocre, moderately well received film is hardly the sort of launching point to carry a fandom through a decade dry spell and keep them energized enough to support a new entry in the franchise when it finally pops up ten years later. The whole franchise has already been wrapped up pretty tightly. Fans haven’t spent the last 10 years wondering what if. They’ve moved on. Which brings me to number one….

1. The World Has Outgrown The X-Files

We’ve outgrown The X-Files. All of us. That includes the cast. David Duchovny has gone on to more interesting projects which allow him to hang around beautiful naked women on cable television, and Gillian Anderson went where all overrated geek obsessions eventually go: out of sight out of mind. As for the X-Files faithful, well they’ve moved on to better shows which have arrived to fill The X-Files void. People like JJ Abrams have stepped in to do what Chris Carter once did, and done it even better. The whole mystery thing has turned mainstream, and at best Chris Carter’s tired old show is retro. It was great in its time, but its time is long past. The world has changed, we’ve changed, and the creepy mystery of the X-Files world is nothing more than old hat. Been there done that.

Top 10 Concepts That Every Software Engineer Should Know

Written by Alex Iskold

The future of software development is about good craftsmen. With infrastructure like Amazon Web Services and an abundance of basic libraries, it no longer takes a village to build a good piece of software.

These days, a couple of engineers who know what they are doing can deliver complete systems. In this post, we discuss the top 10 concepts software engineers should know to achieve that.

A successful software engineer knows and uses design patterns, actively refactors code, writes unit tests and religiously seeks simplicity. Beyond the basic methods, there are concepts that good software engineers know about. These transcend programming languages and projects – they are not design patterns, but rather broad areas that you need to be familiar with. The top 10 concepts are:

  1. Interfaces
  2. Conventions and Templates
  3. Layering
  4. Algorithmic Complexity
  5. Hashing
  6. Caching
  7. Concurrency
  8. Cloud Computing
  9. Security
  10. Relational Databases

10. Relational Databases

Relational Databases have recently been getting a bad name because they cannot scale well to support massive web services. Yet this was one of the most fundamental achievements in computing that has carried us for two decades and will remain for a long time. Relational databases are excellent for order management systems, corporate databases and P&L data.

At the core of the relational database is the concept of representing information in records. Each record is added to a table, which defines the type of information. The database offers a way to search the records using a query language, nowadays SQL. The database offers a way to correlate information from multiple tables.

The technique of data normalization is about correct ways of partitioning the data among tables to minimize data redundancy and maximize the speed of retrieval.

9. Security

With the rise of hacking and data sensitivity, the security is paramount. Security is a broad topic that includes authentication, authorization, and information transmission.

Authentication is about verifying user identity. A typical website prompts for a password. The authentication typically happens over SSL (secure socket layer), a way to transmit encrypted information over HTTP. Authorization is about permissions and is important in corporate systems, particularly those that define workflows. The recently developed OAuth protocol helps web services to enable users to open access to their private information. This is how Flickr permits access to inpidual photos or data sets.

Another security area is network protection. This concerns operating systems, configuration and monitoring to thwart hackers. Not only network is vulnerable, any piece of software is. Firefox browser, marketed as the most secure, has to patch the code continuously. To write secure code for your system requires understanding specifics and potential problems.

8. Cloud Computing

In our recent post Reaching For The Sky Through Compute Clouds we talked about how commodity cloud computing is changing the way we deliver large-scale web applications. Massively parallel, cheap cloud computing reduces both costs and time to market.

Cloud computing grew out of parallel computing, a concept that many problems can be solved faster by running the computations in parallel.

After parallel algorithms came grid computing, which ran parallel computations on idle desktops. One of the first examples was SETI@home project out of Berkley, which used spare CPU cycles to crunch data coming from space. Grid computing is widely adopted by financial companies, which run massive risk calculations. The concept of under-utilized resources, together with the rise of J2EE platform, gave rise to the precursor of cloud computing: application server virtualization. The idea was to run applications on demand and change what is available depending on the time of day and user activity.

Today’s most vivid example of cloud computing is Amazon Web Services, a package available via API. Amazon’s offering includes a cloud service (EC2), a database for storing and serving large media files (S3), an indexing service (SimpleDB), and the Queue service (SQS). These first blocks already empower an unprecedented way of doing large-scale computing, and surely the best is yet to come.

7. Concurrency

Concurrency is one topic engineers notoriously get wrong, and understandibly so, because the brain does juggle many things at a time and in schools linear thinking is emphasized. Yet concurrency is important in any modern system.

Concurrency is about parallelism, but inside the application. Most modern languages have an in-built concept of concurrency; in Java, it’s implemented using Threads.

A classic concurrency example is the producer/consumer, where the producer generates data or tasks, and places it for worker threads to consume and execute. The complexity in concurrency programming stems from the fact Threads often needs to operate on the common data. Each Thread has its own sequence of execution, but accesses common data. One of the most sophisticated concurrency libraries has been developed by Doug Lea and is now part of core Java.

6. Caching

No modern web system runs without a cache, which is an in-memory store that holds a subset of information typically stored in the database. The need for cache comes from the fact that generating results based on the database is costly. For example, if you have a website that lists books that were popular last week, you’d want to compute this information once and place it into cache. User requests fetch data from the cache instead of hitting the database and regenerating the same information.

Caching comes with a cost. Only some subsets of information can be stored in memory. The most common data pruning strategy is to evict items that are least recently used (LRU). The prunning needs to be efficient, not to slow down the application.

A lot of modern web applications, including Facebook, rely on a distributed caching system called Memcached, developed by Brad Firzpatrick when working on LiveJournal. The idea was to create a caching system that utilises spare memory capacity on the network. Today, there are Memcached libraries for many popular languages, including Java and PHP.

5. Hashing

The idea behind hashing is fast access to data. If the data is stored sequentially, the time to find the item is proportional to the size of the list. For each element, a hash function calculates a number, which is used as an index into the table. Given a good hash function that uniformly spreads data along the table, the look-up time is constant. Perfecting hashing is difficult and to deal with that hashtable implementations support collision resolution.

Beyond the basic storage of data, hashes are also important in distributed systems. The so-called uniform hash is used to evenly allocate data among computers in a cloud database. A flavor of this technique is part of Google’s indexing service; each URL is hashed to particular computer. Memcached similarly uses a hash function.

Hash functions can be complex and sophisticated, but modern libraries have good defaults. The important thing is how hashes work and how to tune them for maximum performance benefit.

4. Algorithmic Complexity

There are just a handful of things engineers must know about algorithmic complexity. First is big O notation. If something takes O(n) it’s linear in the size of data. O(n^2) is quadratic. Using this notation, you should know that search through a list is O(n) and binary search (through a sorted list) is log(n). And sorting of n items would take n*log(n) time.

Your code should (almost) never have multiple nested loops (a loop inside a loop inside a loop). Most of the code written today should use Hashtables, simple lists and singly nested loops.

Due to abundance of excellent libraries, we are not as focused on efficiency these days. That’s fine, as tuning can happen later on, after you get the design right.

Elegant algorithms and performance is something you shouldn’t ignore. Writing compact and readable code helps ensure your algorithms are clean and simple.

3. Layering

Layering is probably the simplest way to discuss software architecture. It first got serious attention when John Lakos published his book about Large-scale C++ systems. Lakos argued that software consists of layers. The book introduced the concept of layering. The method is this. For each software component, count the number of other components it relies on. That is the metric of how complex the component is.

Lakos contended a good software follows the shape of a pyramid; i.e., there’s a progressive increase in the cummulative complexity of each component, but not in the immediate complexity. Put differently, a good software system consists of small, reusable building blocks, each carrying its own responsibility. In a good system, no cyclic dependencies between components are present and the whole system is a stack of layers of functionality, forming a pyramid.

Lakos’s work was a precursor to many developments in software engineering, most notably Refactoring. The idea behind refactoring is continuously sculpting the software to ensure it’is structurally sound and flexible. Another major contribution was by Dr Robert Martin from Object Mentor, who wrote about dependecies and acyclic architectures

Among tools that help engineers deal with system architecture are Structure 101 developed by Headway software, and SA4J developed by my former company, Information Laboratory, and now available from IBM.

2. Conventions and Templates

Naming conventions and basic templates are the most overlooked software patterns, yet probably the most powerful.

Naming conventions enable software automation. For example, Java Beans framework is based on a simple naming convention for getters and setters. And canonical URLs in take the user to the page that has all items tagged software.

Many social software utilise naming conventions in a similar way. For example, if your user name is johnsmith then likely your avatar is johnsmith.jpg and your rss feed is johnsmith.xml.

Naming conventions are also used in testing, for example JUnit automatically recognizes all the methods in the class that start with prefix test.

The templates are not C++ or Java language constructs. We’re talking about template files that contain variables and then allow binding of objects, resolution, and rendering the result for the client.

Cold Fusion was one of the first to popularize templates for web applications. Java followed with JSPs, and recently Apache developed handy general purpose templating for Java called Velocity. PHP can be used as its own templating engine because it supports eval function (be careful with security). For XML programming it is standard to use XSL language to do templates.

From generation of HTML pages to sending standardized support emails, templates are an essential helper in any modern software system.

1. Interfaces

The most important concept in software is interface. Any good software is a model of a real (or imaginary) system. Understanding how to model the problem in terms of correct and simple interfaces is crucial. Lots of systems suffer from the extremes: clumped, lengthy code with little abstractions, or an overly designed system with unnecessary complexity and unused code.

Among the many books, Agile Programming by Dr Robert Martin stands out because of focus on modeling correct interfaces.

In modeling, there are ways you can iterate towards the right solution. Firstly, never add methods that might be useful in the future. Be minimalist, get away with as little as possible. Secondly, don’t be afraid to recognize today that what you did yesterday wasn’t right. Be willing to change things. Thirdly, be patient and enjoy the process. Ultimately you will arrive at a system that feels right. Until then, keep iterating and don’t settle.


Modern software engineering is sophisticated and powerful, with decades of experience, millions of lines of supporting code and unprecidented access to cloud computing. Today, just a couple of smart people can create software that previously required the efforts of dozens of people. But a good craftsman still needs to know what tools to use, when and why.

In this post we discussed concepts that are indispensible for software engineers. And now tell us please what you would add to this list. Share with us what concepts you find indispensible in your daily software engineering journeys.

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Top 10 Most Pirated TV Shows on BitTorrent

Written by Ernesto

TV shows are by far the most wanted files via BitTorrent, and according to some, it’s fast becoming the modern day TiVo. But what are all those people downloading?

top gearThe data is collected by TorrentFreak from a representative sample of BitTorrent sites and is for informational and educational reference only.

At the end of the year we will publish a list of most downloaded TV-shows for the entire year, like we did last December.

TV-shows such as “Lost” and “Heroes” can get up to 10 million downloads per episode, in only a week.

Top Downloads June 13 – July 20

Ranking (last week) TV-show
1 (1) Top Gear
2 (2) Weeds
3 (3) Stargate Atlantis
4 (new) Generation Kill
5 (back) The Daily Show
6 (new) Psych
7 (7) So You Think You Can Dance
8 (9) In Plain Sight
9 (back) The Colbert Report
10 (4) Burn Notice