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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Volunia vies to be the 'search engine of the future'

Feb. 27, 2012
by Mark Ollig

It is being called “an ambitious project” by the Italian computer science professor who created it.

Earlier this month, Massimo Marchiori gave a one-hour presentation about his new Internet search engine, called Volunia, at the University of Padua, in Italy, where he also teaches.

“It’s just not a Google or some other search engine,” said Marchiori.

On its Twitter page, Volunia says, “It’s [Volunia] a new radical view of what the search engine of the future could be.”

During the last few years, we have seen new search engine introductions, such as Bing and Wolfram|Alpha (both launched in 2009), with the latter being advertised as a computational knowledge search engine.

And, who could ever forget the infamous search engine named Cuil?

Well, I am willing to say many of us apparently did forget.

Started in 2008 by two former Google employees, Cuil appeared to be headed in the right direction.

Cuil was given much press, as it was thought its founders would bring some of the Google “magic” with them to Cuil.

Some folks were saying Cuil was a bona fide challenger to Google.

Cuil was even listed as one of the most successful startup companies of 2008 by BusinessWeek magazine.

However, by 2010, Cuil was just not cool anymore, as the increasing number of user complaints, along with a massive drop-off in usage, led to the accelerated downfall of the company.

A failed acquisition of Cuil eventually caused the company to close its doors.

In 1997, Massimo Marchiori had created a computer algorithmic program, called Hyper Search.

The Hyper Search algorithm program gathered information from the Web, and more accurately ranked the text pages based on the user’s search terms.

Marchiori’s 1997 paper states how Hyper Search could be integrated as a “post-processor” on search engines.

The information gathered and presented to the user from the Web using Hyper Search screening was much more precise than existing search engine text screening methods of the day. Marchiori called this “dynamic information.”

Marchiori taught his Hyper Search algorithm programming to students at MIT.

Two people, Larry Page and Sergery Brin, became very inspired by Marchiori’s Hyper Search algorithm.

These two names may be familiar to you – they both co-founded Google.

Google uses a web link analysis program called Page Rank, which was, in part, influenced by Marchiori’s Hyper Search.

Google had, in fact, made an offer for Marchiori to work at Google, but Marchiori declined, choosing to continue his teaching and concentrating on his Hyper Search studies.

After many years of working on his futuristic search engine using his Hyper Search algorithm, he set up a beta test of Volunia.

Recently, Marchiori has been going over the feed-back provided to him by more than 100,000 enrolled “Power User” beta-testers currently using the features of Volunia.

My research leads me to believe that Volunia is a blending of web search engine and social media networking.

Volunia allows every web page visited to become an online social gathering place.

One example containing online search blended with social media could occur if say, you just performed an Internet search with the term “Roman Coliseum” using Volunia.

Your display screen will show the returned website’s hyperlinks with pictures, lines of text, and additional information not shown on other search engines.

Volunia provides a unique way of visually presenting the user what’s “inside” a website. The website’s text, pictures, and any audio files, are clearly presented, and easily accessible.

The additional information Volunia provides that I like is the two sets of numbers next to each returned website link Volunia presents after a search is made.

The first set shows the total number of users who have visited the website link in the past, and the second set shows the total number of users who are currently using the website.

This additional information from Volunia might cause me to choose the more visited website, or, I could click on one of the icons representing a person who is currently inside a website and ask their opinion about the quality of the information they are finding there. I could also invite them into a chat about the website’s topic, since we are both interested in researching and learning more about it.

The search-engine/social-media component of Volunia is something I very much believe will become popular with Internet users. This combination will promote a more interactive search, and encourage new, online social discourse and meeting encounters.

Volunia will allow a user to not only seek out information in a unique way at a website, but will provide the design functionality to meet someone who is also at the same website, and chat with them.

This may be the reason why the Volunia logo has the words “seek and meet” under it.

Currently, Volunia is still undergoing beta testing, and is not yet accessible to the online user.

Volunia will be available in 12 languages.

You can visit Volunia’s public launch webpage, enroll as a Power User beta-tester, and watch video presentations at

“The Quest for Correct Information on the Web: Hyper Search Engines,” written in 1996 by Massimo Marchiori, can be read at

Marchiori’s presentation of Volunia can be seen at

Telecommunications and all things tech has been a well-traveled road for me.
I enjoy learning what is new in technology and sharing it with others who enjoy reading my particular slant on it via this blog. I am also a freelance columnist for my hometown's print and digital newspaper.
- Mark Ollig

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Launching signals from an aerosol spray can

Feb. 20, 2012
by Mark Ollig

I sometimes wonder if people think this writer has too much imagination for his own good.

With that being said, this week, yours truly found a story to share with you that even he was a bit skeptical about believing.

Can you imagine that?

Hang on campers, here we go.

Do you ever experience annoying radio reception problems or intermittent “loss of signal” with your mobile devices?

Do you wish your radios and other wireless devices had a better-working antenna system?

Yes? Well then, have I got the product for you.

Step right up ladies and gentleman and take a seat, as your information-gathering columnist brings to you, an extraordinary technological advancement.

Spray-on antennas in a can.

Yes, you read it right, my dear readers.

Those inventive folks at Chamtech Enterprises have developed and successfully tested a working nano spray-on antenna material that comes out of an aerosol spray can.

Chamtech Enterprises, located in Sandy, UT, holds several patents for this spray-on antenna formulation material technology.

In their video on Google’s “Solve for X” website, Anthony Sutera, CEO of Chamtech Enterprises, explained how someday we may be able to get rid of microwave and cellphone towers altogether.

Imagine using buildings, billboards, streets, walls, and even trees, as two-way radio, cellular, Internet broadband and Wi-Fi antennas.

“What we’re talking about is a profound way of thinking . . . a whole paradigm change on antenna technology,” said Sutera.

As with many new technologies, this one got its start solving a problem for the military.

“My vision for our company was to create a conformal antenna for special operations,” said Sutera.

This new non-wire antenna is created by spraying on a formulation material containing thousands of tiny nano-capacitors.

When the spray is lined up in the right pattern, the formulation-particular material with its embedded capacitors will quickly charge and discharge while transmitting a signal – all without creating any heat. A typical copper wire antenna would get hot.

In one test for the government, Sutera showed his audience a picture of a tree trunk that had been sprayed with two strips of the new antenna material. This material was wired to an army field radio transmitter. Within five minutes, they were able to transmit via UHF, to an airplane 14 miles overhead using the spray-on antenna material.

This, according to Sutera, was double the range they could get from a standard wire antenna on the ground.

Here is a photo of it:

The advantages of this new ground-breaking technology are mind-boggling.

In another test, a one mW (milliwatt) RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) tag had its internal antenna coated with Chamtech’s spray-on antenna material.

An RFID tag typically transmits information at a maximum distance of about 5 feet.

When testing the RFID tag after Chamtech’s spray-on antenna material was applied, it was able to transmit information a surprising 700 feet.

They also tested this new spray-on antenna material on an iPhone.

Testing of the iPhone took place in an enclosed Faraday Cage that shields outside electrical interference.

First, they transmitted a simulated cellphone call and measured the dBm (power measured in decibels) using the iPhone’s standard built-in antenna.

The iPhone was re-tested after Chamtech’s spray-on antenna material was applied.

Using the new antenna material, a 20 dBm signal strength improvement was measured.

Sutera presented an iPhone with its cover off, revealing the antenna painted over with Chamtech’s spray-on antenna material.

This new antenna material transmits remarkably well through the air, but how about underwater?

In the first test, two standard military antennas were lowered 20 feet into a lake of seawater by field testers and were found to be able to transmit 100 feet at 50 MHz.

They then lowered a backboard measuring about 2-feet by-3 feet, 20 feet into the seawater. On this backboard were two Chamtech inter-connected antenna’s sprayed in a diamond pattern.

This next test proved they were able to successfully transmit one nautical mile at 50 MHz, using three watts of power through the sprayed-on antennas. Here is a picture:

Sutera talked about how he would like to be able to put wireless connectivity anywhere.

He envisioned having “painted antennas” on the walls of buildings.

Sutera said this special spray-on nano-material, mixed in with the painted middle stripe along a highway, could be used as a method for wirelessly connecting broadband signals into your vehicle while you drive.

He also revealed they are experimenting on gathering energy out of the atmosphere using the nano-capacitor antenna material sprayed on a wall. They would then apply this energy to power sprayed-on cellular antenna sites located on the very same wall.

Here’s a picture of the antenna spray can, and a close- up of the antenna formulation material:

Anthony Sutera’s presentation can be seen at:

I wish I had a can of this magical Spray on Antenna back in the day. Yours truly would have sprayed the outer body of his treasured ‘78 Plymouth Volare and wired it into his 40 channel CB radio.

“From yesterday to tomorrow, launching signals into the future” reads the message on Chamtech’s website at:

Telecommunications and all things tech has been a well-traveled road for me.
I enjoy learning what is new in technology and sharing it with others who enjoy reading my particular slant on it via this blog. I am also a freelance columnist for my hometown's print and digital newspaper.
- Mark Ollig

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The allure of vintage British 'telephone boxes'

Feb. 13, 2012
by Mark Ollig

It immediately captures your attention when you first see one.

They have the look of hand-crafted, well-made pieces of antique furniture.

It’s a reminder of early 20th century, artistry skill, and innovation.

They reflect the dedication of those who brought telecommunications to the people living in large cities, small towns, and rural areas throughout the United Kingdom.

What am I talking about?

The British call it a telephone box, or kiosk.

We call it a payphone booth.

Originally, all UK postal mail was under the sole control and operation of the UK’s General Postal Office or GPO, which Britain’s Charles II originally established in 1660.

When telegraph and telephone became available, they too, came under the GPO umbrella.

Those old British telephone boxes hold a certain fascination with me, and over the last few years, I have been collecting photographs of them, and visiting various UK websites to examine their history.

This allure I have about them is due, in part, to the time yours truly spent installing and repairing the payphones in my hometown.

I learned the British highly regard their beloved red telephone boxes as landmarks, and as an important part of their symbolic history.

Before the first telephone box was installed, the British were using an outdoor mail letter box or “pillar box,” painted green.

Unfortunately, those green mail letter boxes blended in too much with the green landscape. People were having a hard time finding them.

This led the UK’s post office to decide, in 1874, to repaint all the existing mail letter boxes a bright red, or what became called “pillar box red.”

That took 10 years to complete.

Today, these older mail letter boxes have become very popular, and are sought after by collectors.

One of the earliest outdoor British telephone boxes was called Kiosk No. 1 (K1). It appeared around 1921.

This kiosk telephone box used reinforced concrete, had a wooden entrance door, and two sides of paneled glass held in place by wooden muntin or glazing bars.

One of the distinguishing features of this particular telephone kiosk was its spiraling, spear-like ornament atop its roof.

Rooftop signs with the word TELEPHONE were attached to some K1 models starting in 1924.

These earlier telephone boxes were usually painted red, although I have seen some with added colors accommodating the local surroundings.

In 1927, bright red-painted cast iron K2 telephone boxes were installed along the streets of London.

White enamel was painted inside, underneath the kiosk’s roof.

Along all four sides of the top of the kiosk, it showcased the royal crest of King George V.

The K2 was heavy; this telephone box weighed in at 1.5 tons. Today, the K2 telephone boxes in London are preserved in the same manner we preserve buildings as national historic landmarks.

By 1931, K1 telephone boxes were no longer being installed, and the K2 had become obsolete by 1936, having already been replaced with the K3.

The K3, with a domed roof, was made mostly out of concrete, and was first introduced in 1929. It was intended for use in the more rural and urban areas outside London.

The K3 was greyish in color, with the window frames painted red.

It was later learned concrete was not a very suitable material for an outdoor telephone kiosk, and thus, the K3 was the last telephone box to be made with it.

Around 1928, a new, cast iron K4 was announced.

In addition to housing a telephone, the red painted K4 was also used for dispersing stamps and mailing envelopes.

A new transportable telephone kiosk, the K5, was introduced in 1934.

It was made of a type of steel-faced plywood, which could be disassembled and reassembled.

In 1935, to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of the coronation of King George V (June 22, 1911), a K6 Jubilee Kiosk was commissioned, and Sir Giles Gilbert Scott designed it.

The K6 was presented in 1936 – the same year King George V passed away.

This telephone box was made of cast iron

Inside, the K6 contained a Bellset D 3001 telephone made from black Bakelite plastic, an electric light, and an A/B pushbutton coin collection box which was bolted to the wallboard.

The outer portion of the K6 was decorated with crowned ornaments and panels, and painted red.

The K6 Jubilee Kiosk was topped off with a domed roof.

Yes, that was my pun for the day.

Before the end of the 1930s, over 20,000 of these popular K6 telephone boxes were in use throughout the UK.

You can see a picture of a K6 Jubilee Kiosk telephone box here:

Under the Post Office Act of 1969, the UK established a public authority called Post Office.

The Post Office was responsible for the development and operation of all telecommunications in the UK until 1981, when the British Telecommunications Act of 1981 transferred those responsibilities to British Telecom.

Many people are collectors of these early 20th century British telephone boxes.

A company called BritishBits refurbishes and sells vintage K6 telephone and mail letter boxes.

BritishBits can be found at:

Telecommunications and all things tech has been a well-traveled road for me.
I enjoy learning what is new in technology and sharing it with others who enjoy reading my particular slant on it via this blog. I am also a freelance columnist for my hometown's print and digital newspaper.
- Mark Ollig

Friday, February 3, 2012

International conference confirms technology's direction

Feb. 6, 2012
by Mark Ollig

Cisco, the maker of computer networking hardware that powers much of the Internet and business, held a three-day international conference called Cisco Live 2012, last week in London.

Cisco’s “World of Solutions” contained walk-in labs, demonstrations, exhibitions, and 360 technical sessions.

There were 160 Cisco engineers available to talk to during the conference.

Many segments of the conference were broadcast live, over the “Cisco Live! Virtual” video stream.

The Cisco keynote address was presented by Cisco Senior Vice President Engineering/Chief Technology Officer, Padmasree Warrior.

Her talk was entitled “Acceleration from Zero to Zetta.”

She began by saying we are fast entering the zettabyte era.

A zettabyte equals one trillion gigabytes, or the number one with 21 zero’s behind it.

“That’s a lot of zeros,” said Warrior.

And of course, we all remember one zettabyte is equal to one billion terabytes of data.

In comparison, the Hubble Space Telescope collected 45 terabytes worth of data in its first 20 years observing the cosmos.

A report from the IDC (a market research firm), stated in 2010, the amount of information people had created and consumed surpassed 1.2 zettabytes.

By 2020, this number will reach 35 zettabytes.

Handling this mammoth amount of information will require an exceptionally efficient high-speed network.

I learned, during the next 10 years, the networking data speed on our computing devices is expected to increase by a factor of 20 times over what we are presently using.

We are, as Padmasree Warrior said, undergoing “data-deluge and technology transformations.”

The way we access and consume information, the devices we use to connect to the Internet, our workplace, home networks, and with each other, are rapidly changing.

We currently find ourselves being inundated on a regular basis with technology transformations.

Today, there are about 13 billion different devices connected to the Internet.

This number is expected to reach 50 billion by 2020.

The tremendous use of video is identified as the primary reason for this increase.

A recent report by Morgan Stanley, says video traffic alone will quadruple all existing Internet Protocol traffic by 2014.

It is staggering when we consider the sheer volume of video content being created and consumed over the Internet.

It is said that every second, one hour’s worth of video is being uploaded to YouTube.

The Cisco keynote addressed the dramatic increase of data content, and how new ways will be needed to handle it within a company’s IT (information technology) infra-structure.

Folks, the computing platform is moving to the cloud.

I feel eventually a majority of our software application usage, processing, content creation, delivery, consumption, information storage and retrieval – most of our computing – will be taking place via cloud deployment.

According to the information and technology magazine, CIO, cloud-based technology and services will be used by 70 percent of major enterprise businesses during this year.

Logica, an IT outsourcing firm, describes cloud computing as “the railway of the 21st century.”

Forrester Research reports 56 percent of organizations want to implement desktop virtualization.

Desktop virtualization can be described as when a computer user’s desktop software applications and programs are accessed from a remote location, or from the cloud. It is likened to a client-server computing environment.

Businesses will use desktop virtualization computing in order to meet increased user capacity, reduce in-house hardware computing requirements, and for controlling IT labor costs.

Recently, my computer workstation was converted to desktop virtualization.

My work computer is now connected via a high-speed data network to one of my company’s computer servers located in another state.

I am no longer using the desktop software programs stored inside the physical computer hard dive sitting on my desk, they are now located in my “virtual desktop” residing within my company’s private cloud server.

In 2005, futurist Thomas Friedman wrote the book “The World is Flat.”

He recently said when he wrote this book “Facebook did not exist, Twitter was a sound, the Cloud was in the sky, 4G was a parking space, applications were what you sent to college, LinkedIn was a prison, and for most people, Skype was a typo.”

We now find ourselves transitioning into the next stage of our informational evolution, which Padmasree Warrior calls, “the hyper-informational age.”

I am reminded of the 1982 book, “Mega Trends” by John Naisbitt.

In this book, Naisbitt talked about how the long-term perceptions of the upcoming informational society would be very different from the prior industrial one.

So, here we are, 30 years later, living in Naisbitt’s predicted informational societal age.

And while I sometimes become melancholy about the past, I am eager to witness new technologies like IPv6 (Internet Protocol version 6), becoming fully implemented across the entire Internet.

With IPv6’s nearly limitless IP addressing capacity, practically every electrical appliance, device, and gadget you can think of will be able to have an embedded IP address, and thus a presence on the Internet.

These appliances, devices and gadgets will not just communicate their information with people – they will also be communicating with each other.

Welcome to the hyper-informational age.

Highlights from the Cisco Live 2012 London conference can be viewed at

Telecommunications and all things tech has been a well-traveled road for me. I enjoy learning what is new in technology and sharing it with others who enjoy reading my particular slant on it via this blog. I am also a freelance columnist for my hometown's print and digital newspaper. - Mark Ollig