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September 21, 2012

Science

Brewster Kahle’s Internet Archive.

Brewster Kahle was a 19-year-old computer science student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when a friend posed a simple, yet life-changing question: “What can you do with your life that is worthwhile?”

Kahle came up with two answers. The first, developing a microchip to ensure the privacy of telephone conversations, didn’t pan out. But 32 years later, Kahle is still happily pursuing his second big idea – to create the digital-age version of the Great Library of Alexandria.

His Internet Archive – fittingly based in an old Richmond District church that architecturally harks back to the ancient Egyptian library – is building a rich repository of modern digital culture. It’s best known for the online Wayback Machine, which provides a searchable online museum of the Internet, archiving more than 150 billion Web pages that have appeared since 1996. The nonprofit archive stretches beyond the Internet. It has recorded 350,000 television news broadcasts, including reports from around the world during the week of the 2001 terrorist attacks, and stores 200,000 digitized books.

The nearly 10 petabytes – equivalent to about 10 billion books – of material in the archive also has 900,000 audio files, including 9,000 fan-made recordings of Grateful Dead concerts. Volunteers are even converting old home movies and stock footage of post-World War II San Francisco into digital form.

It’s a mind-boggling, and constantly growing, amount of digital data, and it’s all available for free, as the site’s welcome says, to “researchers, historians, scholars, and the general public.” With 50 times as much data expected to be produced over the next decade, it will be an ever-increasing challenge to capture, catalog and store it.

But at a time when what’s brand new can almost instantly become passe, Kahle believes it’s more important than ever to remember our yesterdays.

“Let’s not throw out the old, even though we’re going headlong into trying to invent some new future,” he said. “And, in fact, the older things inform what we do.”

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September 20, 2012

Optimist and utopian

‘Optimist and utopian’.

The archive’s mission of creating “universal access to all knowledge” would appear to be a Sisyphean task at best, as well as a venture that’s not going to bring the 51-year-old entrepreneur and Internet pioneer the kind of money that would make a Mark Zuckerberg envious.

But Kahle isn’t motivated by the pursuit of money – he says he already has “plenty of that” from previous ventures, including Alexa Internet, a Web information company that Amazon.com bought for a reported $250 million in 1999.

He’s also earned plenty of accolades – in April, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame, an online-only hall established by the Internet Society of Reston, Va. He was part of an inaugural class that included tech luminaries Vint Cerf, Robert Kahn and Charles Herzfeld.

His real reward, he says, is creating a place for researchers – and anyone else with a curious mind and a thirst for knowledge – to have unfet-tered access to the fleeting cultural artifacts of the Internet age. The “optimist and utopian” in him believes his “Library of Alexandria, Version 2″ ultimately will make the world a better place.

“It’s really meant to be a resource where you can come up with your own ideas,” he said. “We want people to think deeper and then create new things that are worthy of putting in the library.”
Computerized church

Kahle, a tall, balding, slightly rumpled-looking fellow, has been married for 20 years. His wife, Mary Austin, is co-founder of the San Francisco Center for the Book, a strictly analog venture that teaches classic bookbinding and letterpress techniques. They live near the archive in the Presidio and have two sons, Caslon, 18, (named for the Caslon typeface) and Logan, 15.

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September 4, 2012

Internet scams

Look for PUIM to avoid internet scams.

Consumers wishing to shop online are advised to make purchases via websites that carry the logo of Internet Entrepreneurs Association of Malaysia (PUIM) to avoid scams or losses.
PUIM president Mohd Azrul Mohd Nor said the serial number and PUIM logo are proof that the internet entrepreneurs are recognised by the association where consumer rights are protected.
“Currently, 130 companies or businesses that conduct sale online have the PUIM logo. Customers faced with scams or service problems can contact PUIM so that we can contact the entrepreneurs,” he told reporters after a meeting with internet entrepreneurs here today.
Azrul said successful social sites like Facebook created many new businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as help bring their businesses to another level.
“Marketing via Facebook can be adapted to the needs of traders, regardless whether it is full-time or part-time business. Some started small but have grown big that they can afford their own shops,” he added.
Most of the small businesses via the internet target female customers by selling beauty products and cosmetic accessories, scarves and clothing.

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