Tales from the Terminal Room
May 2000 Issue No. 10
Please Note: This is an archive copy of the newsletter. The information and links that it contains are not updated.
Tales from the Terminal Room ISSN 1467-338X
May 2000 Issue No. 10
Editor: Karen Blakeman
Published by: RBA Information Services
Tales from the Terminal Room (TFTTR) is a monthly newsletter, with the exception of July and August, which are published as a single issue. TFTTR includes reviews and comparisons of information sources and search tools; updates to the RBA Web site Business Sources and other useful resources; dealing with technical and access problems on the Net; and news of RBA's training courses and publications.
I was going to kick off this months Tales from the Terminal Room with a review of Kenjin, Autonomy's new desktop search utility. However, Paul Blake says it all for me in his detailed review "Search Insider" in Information World Review, May 2000, no.157, pp 28-29. His last sentence sums it up very neatly:
A copy of his article can be found on the IWR Web site at http://www.iwr.co.uk/. If you want to try out Kenjin yourself, go to http://www.kenjin.com/
Instead of what would have been a very negative review, we have a more constructive comparison of news alerting services that was inspired by the recent UK FT.com television advertising campaign.
Next month we shall have a report on the UK Online Information for the City show and focusing on what is happening in the world of Portals.
In this issue:
Review of News Alerting Services
With FT.com well into its intensive TV advertising campaign, I decided to revisit their News by e-mail service. (I have to confess that I was not impressed by it first time around - you received just three headlines in each alert regardless of the number of stories in your chosen category.) Since the FT's initiative several other sites have set up alerting services, some of which are reviewed below. They all have different features and, although I have come up with my own top three, you may find that your own needs are supplied by completely different services depending on your industry sector and interests.
To receive News by e-mail you have to be a registered user, so you will have to first set up a user name and password. There are two main groups of Alerts: the weekly summaries (covering the FT in brief, Companies & Markets, World News in Comment) and 15 daily industry alerts. The latter has fifteen categories including Energy, Aerospace and Telecommunications. To receive one or more of the alerts, you tick the check boxes next to each one and supply your e- mail address. The news can be delivered in HTML or plain text format.
You can change your news selection or "unsubscribe" at any time by going to the selection page. It is possible for someone to subscribe you to a news alert without your knowledge, but you do receive an email confirmation with instructions on how to immediately unsubscribe.
Each News alert arrives in your mail box as a separate message listing the headlines in that category. Hypertext links take you directly to the story on the FT. This service covers articles in today's FT only and does not include other sources that are covered in the Global Archive. Whilst it does the job it claims to do, I require a broader coverage of sources and the industry categories that the FT offers are limited.
An alternative approach within FT.com is to set up your own personalised current awareness service by using the saved search facility within the Global Archive, which covers over 4000 sources world-wide. This is easy enough to do by setting up a search within Global Archive and limiting the search to, say, the last week or last two days. When the results are displayed you save the search strategy and give it a name. As with the News by email you have to set up an FT user name and password in order to access this facility. The search is not automatically rerun for you, though. You have to log into the Global Archive Web pages and run the search manually. Neither can you have the results delivered by e-mail.
Moreover has news from over 1500 online sources and claims to the largest collection of Web feeds. The company was launched in December 1999 and the service covers news sources world-wide. The information is gathered directly from the Web sites that actually carry the headlines so the coverage of each publication within the feeds is dependent on that of the originating Web site.
The headlines are arranged into 266 "categories", which are predefined profiles or Web feeds. These are grouped into topics such as Finance News, Regional News, Technology news. I find it easier to locate relevant categories by using the Full List option. Under the "General" group there are only four UK feeds (business, law, medical, politics) but I find that UK sources are covered more than adequately in the world-wide Industry feeds. All the Major UK dailies are covered for example The Guardian, FT, The Times.
Once the headlines within a category are displayed in your browser you can request that they be delivered to you on a daily or weekly basis by simply typing in your e-mail address. Moreover does not use a double opt-in procedure so it is possible for someone to sign you up to the whole 266 without your knowledge. You do, though, receive an e-mail confirmation of the request with instructions on how to unsubscribe. This involves sending a blank message to a mailto link given in the confirmation, and you have to do it from the e-mail address that was entered on Moreover's subscription page. If you lose the confirmation message, don't panic! The instructions are repeated at the end of each news feed that you receive from Moreover.
The news feed contains a list of headlines together with the source and a hypertext link that takes you to the full story.
If you are looking for stories on a specific company, person or event the "Find that story" uses WebTop. This is not part of the free email service.
Northern Light (http://www.northernlight.com/)
Northern Light has an Alerts option that enables you to set up your own tailored search on the Northern Light database. The search strategy can be set up from within the Alerts section or you can run a search on any of the Northern Light screens and then save the strategy as an Alert.
You have to set up an "account" with an ID and password to make use of this facility, but the service is free of charge. When you set up your account, you supply details of who you are together with your email address and these are stored centrally by Northern Light. You do not have to supply this information every time you set up an Alert - just try and remember your user name and password!
The Alerts are run on updates to the Northern light database and cover both free Web sources and Special Collection documents such as trade magazine articles, Investext reports, market research reports. You can search the Special Collection free of charge but there is a charge for displaying most of these documents. If you prefer, you can limit your search to either free sources or Special Collection.
What you receive in your e-mail box is not the results themselves, but a link to a page on Northern Light where the results are listed. I do find this irksome at times as the articles are not always of interest to me and I would prefer to be able to check through a list of titles without having to connect to Northern Light. Another slightly irritating point is that the pages are not always "new". They are new to the Northern Light database but can be up to several weeks or months old. Nevertheless, I find this service extremely useful for tracking individual companies or industry sectors.
Set up by the Press Association, Ananova claims to be the first virtual newscaster. It contains all the headlines and information that used to be on the PA News Centre including UK Newspapers, sport, television (TV and satellite) and Weather. The search option replaces the old PA StoryFinder service.
You can browse the site or use the search option to locate a story. Selected current stories have an "Alert me!" tag, which means that you can have news of developments on that story sent to by email. To use this option you have to register first and you are allocated a PIN which is sent to you by email. You need both your email address and the PIN to manage your Alerts.
At the time of writing, none of our alerts yielded new stories so I cannot report on how the system works, if at all. The stories on which you can have an alert are extremely limited at present. As for Ananova herself, she sounds more like a Dalek than a newscaster.
UK Activity Report (http://www.ukactivityreport.co.uk/)
The UK Activity Report includes information on acquisitions, investment plans, new projects, strategy and major new product launches. The report is organised by sector (Chemicals & Pharmaceuticals, Computers & Electronics, Construction, Energy, Engineering, Financial Services, Food & Drink, Health Care, Leisure, Media, Motor, Packaging, Transport). Each event is summarised in one sentence and contact details for further information are provided.
Delivery is once a week by email and the price for an annual subscription (50 issues) is GBP 75. You can sign up for a three week free trial at its sister site http://www.ukbusinesspark.co.uk/. It is an all-or-nothing service: you cannot select individual companies or individual industry sectors. However, subscribers have access to the full database which can be searched by company name, industry sector, geographic region and keywords.
Summary of Features
Service: FT.com News by e-mail
Service: FT.com Saved Searches (Global Archive)
Service: Northern Light
Service: UK Activity Report
The top three for my own purposes are Moreover, Northern Light and UK Activity but none of them are perfect. Moreover is restricted to predefined categories but excellent if you find ones that match your needs; Northern Light can be tailored to your exact needs but the alert that you receive merely tells you that documents are waiting on the Web site for viewing; and the UK Activity Report takes more of a scatter gun approach but is appropriate if you are monitoring a wide range of UK businesses and industry sectors.
There have been changes to some of the news sources listed under http://www.rba.co.uk/sources/news.htm
The UK Business Park (http://www.ukbusinesspark.co.uk/) has cut back on the information it provides free of charge and has launched the subscription based site UK Activity Report (http://www.ukactivityreport.co.uk/). This is reviewed above in the report on News Alerting Services.
The Press Association has moved to http://www.pressassociation.press.net/ and now carries just information about the Press Association and its subscription services. The free news service has moved to Ananova (http://www.ananova.com/).
Several directories have been added to this section of our site.
Thomas Register of European Manufacturers (http://www.tremnet.com/)
Business in Portugal (http://www.portugaloffer.com/)
GuiaNet: Portuguese Business On the Internet (http://www.guianet.pt/)
Directory of Spanish Companies:Exporters and Importers (http://www.spaindustry.com/ing/)
Made in Switzerland (http://www.made-switzerland.com/)
OSEC Swiss Export Directory (http://www.osec.ch/)
These things are sent to try us!
Email Attachments and I LOVE YOU
If you don't know what I am talking about then you must have been on Pluto for the last month! According to the industry pundits, the I Love You virus cost businesses billions of pounds. It is yet another virus designed to make use of the recipient's Outlook address book so that it can send itself off to new victims whilst trashing the computer it is currently on.
I must confess to feeling rather smug about the whole business but no doubt I will get my comeuppance sooner or later. Only one copy of this particular nasty got through to my own system and that was via a discussion list. By the time it hit my mailbox it had been "disinfected". Being totally paranoid, I have several levels of protection on my computers and networks. My Internet Service Provider has filters in place that remove about 80 per cent of junk mail and block any messages that arrive by the lorry-load. Within an hour of being notified about the I Love You message, they set up filters specifically to block it.
At the local level, I have my own virus scanning software that is updated weekly and set up to check all email and email attachments as they come in. As for my email software I use AMEOL. All messages come into my mailbox in encoded form and that is how they are displayed by default. If I want to decode and view or run them, I have to click on a button in the AMEOL toolbar. This has the advantage that I can assess the credentials of the message before decoding and immediately delete it if I am at all suspicious.
Once decoded, the file is displayed as an icon. To run the file I click on the icon. As a further precaution, I use "viewers" to look at Word and Excel attachments; these display the documents but do not run macros and do not allow you to edit the documents. (Viewers can be downloaded free of charge from the Microsoft Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/). Tedious it may be - and Yes, I should rename my company Paranoia 'r' us - but at least I feel as though I have some control over what is going on. If the virus had got through, the worst that could have happened was a trashed PC. As I don't use Outlook in any of its permutations, I would not have transmitted the virus to my correspondents.
This will not be the end of it, though. As soon as one gap in the security is patched up, someone will write a virus that exploits another.
Gizmo of the Month
Babelfish Buttons and PowerTools
An increasing number of Web pages are published in languages other than English and some offer few or no alternative languages for viewing information. If you have even a rudimentary knowledge of the languages in question then you can get a rough idea of the content of the page: if you don't then you either have to call upon the services of a human translator or try one of the online translation services.
(For those of you who have not read or do not know of Douglas Adam's Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which is the origin of the babelfish, a babelfish is a small fish that you stick in your ear so that you can immediately understand what is being said in any language across the universe. Yes, I know it sounds silly but what can you expect from a free Internet translation service. And we haven't even touched upon Marvin the Paranoid Android!)
Once you have installed the links or buttons, to translate a Web page that is displayed in your browser, you simply click on the link in your toolbar. The Babelfish page is loaded and the URL of the page to be translated is automatically placed in the Babelfish box. You then select the language pair and click on the Translate button.
Babelfish has problems with certain types of sites, for example with those that use frames. For a page that is within frames, Babelfish will display the URLs of the individual documents that make up each frame and you can then select the one that is required (usually by trial and error!). If you are using Netscape, one way round this is to hover over the frame to be translated, right click with your mouse and select "Open in New Browser Window". This will display the page on its own and you can then use your toolbar translation button.
For Internet Explorer users, the easiest way of dealing with this problem is to download and install the AltaVista Power Tools (119k). (Full instructions are on the Babelfish Web pages). With the AV Power Tools installed, you right click on a framed page and from the pop-up menu select AltaVista Translate this Page.
Babelfish is limited to translations to/from English and French, German, Italian, Spanish or Portuguese. For other pairs of languages try InterTran (http://www.tranexp.com/InterTran.cgi). This service offers Russian, Croatian, Hungarian, Polish, Czech, Slovenian and Japanese in its range of translation options, which are available in 767 language pairs. Unfortunately, there are no buttons or Power tools to help with frames sites.
WARNING: Both of the services mentioned above use machine translation. Whilst they are fine for rough translations the results are sometimes very odd. Proceed with caution!
Meetings and Workshops
Information for Empowerment: Resource Discovery & Management, 12-14 July 2000, Robinson College, Cambridge
This is the 9th UKOLUG biennial Conference. The programme will address the practical concerns and considerations facing information professionals in 2000, and explore the challenge of acquiring and managing resources in an increasingly complex global Internet market. It will be of interest to anyone who wishes to keep up to date with the latest themes and developments surrounding resource discovery and management.
Speakers include Micheline Beaulieu, Sheila Webber, Sandra Ward, Danny Sullivan, Karen Blakeman, Phil Bradley, Martin White.
Further information can be found on the UKOLUG Web site at http://www.ukolug.org.uk/meetings/conf2000.htm
TFTTR Contact Information
Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services
TFTTR archives: http://www.rba.co.uk/tfttr/archives/index.shtml
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