Sunday, June 21, 2009

New WolframAlpha Search Engine

The new search engine, we are going to present today, has not made yet to the Google Tops. It even might not get there ever, since there is a limited visitors base, who will be interested in it, unlike Google and Yahoo. However, there is a huge group of population, like students, researchers, economists, and engineers, who can find it so useful, that it will become one of the most visited Internet pages for them.

What about you?

Some online professors are concerned about the new search engine WolframAlpha and its potential to give students the answers to assignments. WolframAlpha calls itself a "computational knowledge engine" and has the ability to calculate problems and deliver solutions - even for questions that no other user has ever asked.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
"The latest dilemma facing professors is whether to let students turn to a Web site called WolframAlpha, which not only solves complex math problems, but also can spell out the steps leading to those solutions. In other words, it can instantly do most of the homework and test questions found in many calculus textbooks...

Unlike Google, WolframAlpha features a supercharged math engine based on the Mathematica software used by many researchers. It makes a graphing calculator look like a slide rule."
Since WolframAlpha demonstrates how math equations are solved, students could easily get around the "show your work" requirement that is often mandated to make sure a calculator isn't used.

Perhaps online professors will need to come up with a new way for students to prove that they're working on their own. Or, perhaps it's time to embrace technology and let students use the problem-solving programs that will only become more common in the future.
The website is free for personal noncommercial use with no registration. The data comes not from the web, like in the regular search engine, but from WolframAlpha's internal knowledge base. Some of the data in that knowledge base is derived from official public or private websites, but most of it is from more systematic primary sources.
For those, who are in love with browser plug-ins, there is an opportunity to get extension for FireFox and Internet Explorer, or to Windows Vista Desktop or iGoogle.
And for Webmasters, especially specializing on the math related topics, there is an easy opportunity to embed the search box in the body of the site for the visitors’ convenience.
Sample of the search box:

Screens (Click to Enlarge): 


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Digital TV Transition: Are You Ready?

Amount of the Google Searches in relation to the ongoing transfer of all national full-power television stations to the broadcasting in digital format. It is understandable since by law (The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005), this process should be completed by June 12, 2009, and many people, who use an antenna to watch TV on a set that has an analog tuner (and don't subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service) will be affected by the transition.

You can review the list of the full-power station in Excel format here.

At least 19.6 million households receive over-the-air signals exclusively in their homes, and 14.9 million households have secondary over-the-air TV sets in their bedrooms or kitchens. Overall, nearly 70 million television sets are at risk of losing their signals.

What Does This Mean To You?
  • If all of your TVs are hooked up to cable or satellite, you will continue to get your TV after the switch. Just check with your cable or satellite company to be sure.
  • If you have a digital TV, you are ready for the switch. (If your TV is more than 10 years old it probably is not digital. If it is less than 10 years old, ask the manufacturer if your TV is “analog-only.”)
  • If you have an analog-only TV with a roof top antenna or “rabbit ears,” you will not be able to watch most TV stations after June 12, 2009, and sooner, if your local stations transition earlier, unless you get a “converter box.”

What Are the Consumer Options?
Consumers have three options to continue getting television reception:
§         Purchase a DTV converter box for your existing TV set.
§         Purchase a TV set with a built-in digital tuner.
§         Subscribe to cable, satellite or other pay TV service, if that carrier offers the local broadcast stations you want.

In either case, you will need an appropriate antenna connected to the TV set or the converter box; either an outdoor rooftop antenna or an indoor antenna (such as “rabbit ears” for VHF reception and a loop or bowtie for UHF reception).

If you have a digital TV set, you will not need any additional equipment (with the exception of an antenna) to receive over-the-air digital broadcast programming. However if you have an analog TV set, a digital converter box must be connected between the antenna and the analog TV to receive and display over-the-air digital programming.

Make sure that you have all of the DTV equipment you need. DTV equipment can be purchased as an integrated set or as separate components. "Integrated" digital TV sets have both a built-in digital tuner and a digital monitor to display the programming.

You will also need an antenna that provides good reception of signals on both VHF and UHF channels. The performance capabilities of TV antennas varies significantly, so make sure to talk to retail consultants and look at information on the packaging and/or the Internet to make sure that any new antenna you may choose provides good reception of both VHF and UHF channels. In addition, if you use an indoor antenna and receive signals on VHF channels, you may need to use an antenna with amplification.

If you buy a digital monitor only (without an integrated digital tuner), you will need a stand-alone digital tuner, a cable set-top box, a fiber service set-top box or a satellite set-top box to watch DTV.

Digital Cable Ready (DCR) or "plug-and-play" TV sets are also available. These can be used to receive digital cable TV (and often HD over cable) without a separate set-top box. A CableCARD is needed to watch certain cable programming. These sets do not work directly with satellite -- you still need a set-top box to view satellite programming.

Ask your retailer what connectors you need to make sure your new DTV set works with your other electronic equipment (DVD player, DVR, camcorder, VCR, computer, video games, and other equipment). The electronic equipment you have now should work with your new DTV, but you may need new connectors. Make a list of what you have now and ask your retailer what you need to connect the components.

Analog TV sets will need additional equipment to receive over-the-air television when the DTV Transition is completed. All broadcast TV stations in the country have temporary use of a second, separate channel so that they can transition from analog broadcasting to digital.

Why Is The Government Switching to Digital?
  • For improved public safety for everyone. The transition to digital will help police, fire, and other public safety departments to communicate more easily with each other during emergencies.
  • For you, digital TV offers better picture and sound quality, as well as more channels and programming choices.

An important benefit of the switch to all-digital broadcasting is that it will free up parts of the valuable broadcast spectrum for public safety communications (such as police, fire departments, and rescue squads). Also, some of the spectrum will be auctioned to companies that will be able to provide consumers with more advanced wireless services (such as wireless broadband).

Consumers also benefit because digital broadcasting allows stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, and digital is much more efficient than analog. For example, rather than being limited to providing one analog program, a broadcaster is able to offer a super sharp “high definition” (HD) digital program or multiple “standard definition” (SD) digital programs simultaneously through a process called “multicasting.”

Multicasting allows broadcast stations to offer several channels of digital programming at the same time, using the same amount of spectrum required for one analog program. So, for example, while a station broadcasting in analog on channel 7 is only able to offer viewers one program, a station broadcasting in digital on channel 7 can offer viewers one digital program on channel 7-1, a second digital program on channel 7-2, a third digital program on channel 7-3, and so on. This means more programming choices for viewers. Further, DTV can provide interactive video and data services that are not possible with analog technology.

What Should You Know About Converter Box?
  • The converter box will attach to your TV and let you go on getting free TV.
  • With the converter box you can get a better picture and more channels. The antenna you have should work with the box.
  • You can buy a converter box at a retail store. The boxes will cost $40 to $70.
  • You can get two $40 coupons per household from the US Government to help you pay for up to two boxes. (One coupon per box only. Please note that these coupons will expire 90 days after mailing.) Order your coupon here . 

Why Do You Need To Perform a Channel Scan Regularly?
Installing a converter box or setting up a DTV-ready television is only the first part of the process. After hooking up a converter box to your TV set or installing a new digital television, you will need to scan for new channels to ensure you receive all the digital stations broadcasting in your area. While some boxes do this automatically, you may need to select “scan” manually.

Since digital stations are becoming available regularly, and existing digital stations may be changing channels or adding subchannels over time, you should rescan on a periodic basis to get all of the digital programming available.
  • Run the “scan” function on your converter box or digital television set, usually on the remote control, labeled “set-up” or “menu” or some similar term. Consult the owner’s manual for more detailed instructions on how to run a channel scan.
  • Once the scan is complete, you should be receiving digital channels through your antenna.

If you run a channel scan and are still having difficulty, we recommend you use our tool at to see what stations you should be receiving in your area.

Sources and Additional Information: