Koolio

Thoughts & news on technology…well, mostly

Wanna help find Steve Fosset? Here’s how…


By now I’m sure most of you know about Steve Fosset and how his private plane disappeared somewhere in Nevada on September 4. So, what can you do about it? You can help find him by reviewing satellite images and marking them as either having ‘something of interest’ or ‘nothing of interest.’ The images that get marked as ‘something of interest’ will be forwarded to a team of experts for a more in-depth review.

How do you review these images? Go to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to begin reviewing the images. The Amazon Mechanical Turk allows humans to help accomplish a task (here’s a more detailed description), which is a very interesting way to harness the collective intelligence of humans.

Some interesting info on how Amazon got these satellite images: Google purchased 6,000 square miles of satellite imagery, at the request of Richard Branson (Steve Fosset is a friend of Branson’s), from one of the two companies they purchase satellite photos for their Maps and Earth products. The cost for these images: $100,000.

Now, let’s all hope Steve Fosset is found soon – whether the Amazon Turk site contributes to it or not.

Filed under: Amazon, Digital Photos, Search

Need to find a Starbucks on your cell phone? Send a text to “MYSBUX”


Starbucks has launched a service that allows you to get a list of the closest Starbucks by sending a text message with your zip code to “MYSBUX” (697289). After doing so, you’ll receive a text message listing the 3 nearest Starbucks locations with their address, phone number, and a link to a mobile-friendly web page that tells you if that location has WiFi and where the store is located on a Microsoft MapPoint map.

If you have a cellphone or smartphone that can browse the web, you can also navigate to their mobile-friendly site – mobile.starbucks.com – to find the nearest stores, identify which ones have Wifi, get maps, directions, etc.

I compared the text message service to Google’s 411 text message service by submitting 3 different locations (Somerville, MA, Cambridge, and Brookline, MA) to both services and got better results with Google 33% of the time (I’m sure this percentage will fluctuate depending on the city). When I say “better results,” I mean that Google returned more stores that were closer to my location. When I searched for stores nearest Brookline, MA, the Starbucks service didn’t return one store that was the second closest to my location. The response time from both services were equal – I got replies within 10 – 20 seconds. Overall, the Starbucks service is easier to use because all you have to do is enter your zip code whereas, with Google’s SMS service, you have to enter name, city, and state or zip code. The Starbucks service always returns 3 results compared to Google’s 2 – 3 results.

I also tried the Starbucks mobile site and was surprised at how fast it was. If you don’t want to use text messages, this is a very good alternative. Plus, the mobile site gives you a lot more results.

At the end of the day, I love Google SMS and will keep using it since it’s a lot easier to remember the number: “GOOGLE” (466453). Needless to say, I’m recommending Google SMS because not only can you search for Starbucks locations but you can search for anything else – it’s basically the mobile version of the 411 Directory Service.

Filed under: Cellphone, Google, Mobile Phone, Search, Text Message

Tired of Google? Try Ms. Dewey Search


Ms. DeweyLooking for an interactive search engine? Try MsDewey.com – it’s a Windows Live Search engine that has a Flash front-end (yup, it was created by good ‘ol Microsoft). Trust me, go to this search engine and do a search – you’ll enjoy it. 😉

Want to know more? Ms. Dewey is a female actress (Janina Gavankar) who responds to your searches via pre-recorded video segments. She has a couple of different responses for a particular search term – some of which are pretty funny. Here’s a few from the Channel 9 forum that I recommend trying:

  • video (this is the funniest – if you don’t find it funny, do the search a second time)
  • xbox 360
  • colt 45
  • microsoft

Is this the future of search? Nah, just a way to market Windows Live Search.

Give it a try and let me know if you find a good search term!

Btw, pictures of Ms. Dewey’s various responses can be found here.

Filed under: Microsoft, MsDewey, Search, Search Engine