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Random Links

One surprise of early beta testing was the popularity of the "Random Page" feature. Several testers thought that this was Outfoxed primary function! So today I finally implemented a better version of this feature, integrating it into the user's start page.

After talking with people and doing more reading on the subject, I'm convinced that people want to explore more of the web, but don't know where to start. And in the same way that a song means more to you if it's recommended by someone you know, even a dumb web

Outfoxed is official

Outfoxed is now officially my master's thesis. Horay! My advisor will be Prof. Dr. Oliver Vornberger. I even got my own little page on the univserity servers.

(If you have an English browser, you might need to add German as a display language in order to see it.)

I'll be giving a presentation about Outfoxed to the Infomatik department on April 27th.

Unicode, Browsermessage

Figured out the beginnings of how to display those little status bars you see in Firefox. You know, the ones that say "Firefox has blocked a popup" or whatever. The code to do so is quite simple:

[[URL to image]],
"some message to display",

The "badReportOptions" indicates the id of the popup menu which will show when the user clicks. For example, I added the following to my overlay.xul file:

<popupset id="mainPopupSet">

Proxy server as catch-all browser solution

Great idea from Martin Schmidt: To bring Outfoxed functionality to MSIE, Safari, Opera, etc..., make a proxy server which can do lookups on retrieved pages. It could even do the re-ordering of search results. Why didn't I think of this earlier?!

But for now, the Firefox solution is much slicker...the cross-browser solution can wait a little longer.

'Geek Speak' Confuses Net Users

Nice article on BBC (via Slashdot) about how most users don't even know the words for threats on the internet.

Confusing "geek speak" used by experts and media included "phishing", "rogue dialler", "Trojan" and "spyware".

Eighty-four percent did not know that phishing describes faked e-mail scams.
A quarter said they knew what "spyware" was, although almost one in 10 of those thought it was a computer program that kept an eye on unfaithful partners.

Python Threading

The 4suite XSLT processor is damn slow, there's no denying it. 2 minutes to process a file that Firefox can process in 15 seconds. Rather than have the MDDB server unusable for minutes at a time, I got the setStatment functionality wrapped in a thread. Python threading is refreshingly simple. And APSW had nice instructions for dealing with threading issues. There is still a chance of failure if the thread attempts to access SQLite at the exact same time as the webserver. But the chances are too slim to worry about for a student project, and the consequences are pretty slight; if the statement doesn't get updated, it will be picked up on the next pass.

fMRI study of trust at Caltech

Saskia send me a link to an interesting study at Caltech where they did fMRI scans of people while they engaged in "trust games".

The findings are that trust is delayed in the early rounds of the game (there are 10 in all), and that the players begin determining the costs and benefits of the interchange and soon begin anticipating the rewards before they are even bestowed. Before the game is finished, one player is showing brain activity in the head of the caudate nucleus that demonstrates he has an "intention to trust." Once the players know each other by reputation, they begin showing their intentions to trust about 14 seconds earlier than in the early rounds of the game.

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