Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Sum of all Knowledge

That's the goal of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia: Creating a world in which every single person is given free access to the sum of human knowledge. Wikipedia is free both as in beer (meaning that you don't pay to have access to encyclopaedia contents) and as in speech (meaning that you can take the content and do anything to/with it, except deprive other people of that right). Material is released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia written collaboratively by its users; anyone can contribute. Pick a subject that you know something about, write an article, and it gets saved to the encyclopaedia database immediately. Millions of people will instantly have access to what you wrote. Considering the number of articles Wikipedia contains, though, it's probable that someone else has been there before you. In that case, you can freely edit their work and improve the article. That is, essentially, how Wikipedia works. They harness the power of thousands of volunteers who share knowledge of a wide variety of subjects. For more information, you might want to read the Wikipedia article on Wikipedia.

Why am I posting this now? After all, Wikipedia has been around for a while. This week is special; Wikipedia reached 1 million articles! In comparison, the Encyclopædia Britannica contains about 120,000 articles.

The Wikimedia Foundation, the parent organisation of Wikipedia, is involved in a Fundraising campaign to support Wikipedia and its sister projects. Spread the news; help Wikipedia today!

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Take back the web!

The preview release of Firefox 1.0 has been available for the last few days. The team set themselves the target of 1 million downloads in 10 days, more than ever before. Incredibly, they reached that target in just over 4 days! The new goal is to reach 2 million in the original 10 days.

Determining the actual number of firefox users as opposed to downloads is a little more difficult. For one thing, this count only reflects downloads off the firefox site, not mirrors or bittorrent. Often, a single download is used for multiple installs, as in business offices or educational institutions. On the other hand, some users download the browser several times for different computers at home or work. Still, this is a remarkable achievement by any standards. In all probability, it's a new record for beta-tested software.

(I thought you were an Opera advocate! - ed.) I am, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate other good software or even software marketing. Many (dare I say most?) extensions for Firefox are copied from those integrated into Opera by default and the Opera versions are frequently better. Still, Firefox has better press and I'm happy to support it as long as it gets people to switch from IE.

Note: This is not Firefox 1.0, just a preview release of that version. Firefox is still officially in beta testing, and will remain that way until version 1.0 is finally launched.

P ?= NP

This post will only appeal to a limited audience; if you aren't in CS you probably have no idea what it means.

If you could choose to prove either that P = NP or that P ≠ NP, which would you pick? I'm not asking which you believe; you can decide mathematical truth here. Given that you have the ability to prove either, which one would you rather prove?

Remember to leave your name along with comments.

Back to Blogging!

Now that I've settled down in Urbana-Champaign and have bought a computer, blogging will resume on a regular basis. Thanks to all the people (particularly Faraz) who kept asking for updates.

I'll try at some time in the future to describe UIUC, Champaign-Urbana and life here, but for today I just wanted to post a link to a speech made at the 2004 (American) National Convention of the Society of Professional Journalists.

There are times I seriously consider a career in journalism.