Bing Maps Fall Release

There were a bunch of Bing announcements today, but the highlight is without a doubt the beta Silverlight-enabled Bing Maps. Using any other mapping service is a bit painful now. Think the leap from MapQuest to Google Maps. Silverlight is (obviously) required to take advantage of some seriously sick performance.

By default, the map mode will switch as you zoom really far out or really far in. It’s very effective and now, Bing Maps even has a Google Street View mode. There’s some fun Microsoft Research backing to the StreetSide views, as Microsoft is choosing to call it. It’s only available for limited locales for now.

I Take Broadband For Granted

One of the things that changed my life wasn’t the Internet itself, but the coming of affordable broadband that enabled me to easily access the wealth of information (and misinformation) available. For close to 10 years, I’ve had some form of high-speed connection (e.g. not dial-up), and I’ve rarely gone long periods of time without it. The things that you always have are the ones you take for granted. Broadband internet is definitely one for me.

So it was a bit of a shock when I moved into my temporary place in Toronto to discover that the advertised ‘high-speed internet’ was in fact a 128kb/s connection. There were many things I needed to do that were simply unreasonable on that sort of connection. For example, the online lectures for my distance education course were unusable. Using cloud-based storage was futile. Remote desktop through VPN was far more frustrating than it was worth. When I signed up for that web-based economics course, I never considered that I wouldn’t have a fast internet connection, where ever I happened to be.

It’s been three weeks with that connection and I’ve dreaded using the Internet every single day, but come next Wednesday, it’ll be upgraded to a 2mb/s line. While not terribly quick, it’ll be worlds apart from what I’m used to, and more than likely, quite adequate for my needs. Does that mean I have an appreciation for broadband now? I’m not really sure, but I do know that in the future, I’ll have to explicity check about the speed of a ‘high speed’ connection!

Comcast’s 250GB Cap – People Still Unsatisfied

Much maligned Comcast has made official a bandwidth (or transfer) cap of 250GB per month starting October 1st. While there are some pleased comments, there are also many who are still unhappy with anything short of literally ‘unlimited’ access. I for one would be overjoyed to lose the shackles of the 60GB or 95GB caps from Rogers, but also realize how illogical truly ‘unlimited’ access is from a business point of view. Physical mediums, such as wireless spectrum and cabling, are intrinsically limited in capacity and a business is a business; it’s about making money. To those asking for unlimited service, well, it’s just not a reasonable demand. Anything significantly over 250GB per month is probably getting into abusive territory and I think it’s a perfectly reasonable cap.

Searching the Internet with Blinders On

Google commands slightly more than 60% of the search engine market in the United States, but have you ever really thought about why you use it as opposed to Yahoo, or Microsoft, or AOL, or a multitude of other choices? Do you find the search results ‘better’? Have you experienced this for yourself or do you simply use it because that’s what others say?

I think I’ve accepted Google as my default search engine a bit too readily. I haven’t performed any testing of search results between the major search engines. Ever since picking up Google about 5 years ago, I haven’t even bothered trying anything else. When I started using Google, it certainly provided better search results than competitors, but since then, they’ve all made significant improvements to their algorithms. Now, 5 years later, I still harbor that same mentality: Google produces more pertinent search results, when it may not at all.

Today, due to a weird technological occurrence, I was unable to access any of the Google sites, and was forced to search the internet using Live Search and Yahoo. To Google’s credit, using a non-Google search engine actually made me feel  uncomfortable. That’s as deep a psychological attachment as I’ve ever seen. However, more importantly, I realized that I’ve been browsing the internet with blinders on. There’s no reason, aside from comfort, that I’ve been using Google exclusively. From this point on, I will make a conscious attempt to perform the same searches in Google, Live, and Yahoo. Hopefully by doing this for a week or two, I’ll get a better feel for the search result quality of each engine.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with using Google, and if through my test Google’s search results prove superior, I will gladly use it. I just don’t want go on searching the internet in ignorance. Anyone care to join me and share their findings?