Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bing – don’t bother! has launched and I just cannot believe that Microsoft have made so much fuss over something that is no better than the existing The UK version is labelled as beta and the US one as “Preview” so is there more coming soon as is suggested by Microsoft/Bing in their blogs? I sincerely hope so because so far this “decision engine” does not live up to the hype.

Phil Bradley has already reviewed Bing and I agree entirely with everything he has said.  The home page is reminiscent of the old Ask home page that allowed you to “skin” the page with an image. I like the snow leopard that is on the UK version but if I should get bored with it, I can’t change it.

My test web searches came up with results that were mostly identical with those from For some of them, for example my search on car ownership UK, Bing puts a fact or a statistic at the top of the page. In this case it came up with 510 cars per 1000 people, a statistic apparently from the International Road Federation but 2004 data! The Advanced Search is as pathetic as ever, but you can use search commands such as ‘filetype: ‘ and ‘site:’ in the standard search box.

The image search is virtually the same as Live’s with minor changes to the layout.  The Shopping option takes UK users to (very confusing), News is as useless as before, and Maps takes you to Multimap. Much more interesting is the Google-type maps option at or but you cannot find that by following the menu options. You have to know and enter the URL directly into your browser.

At present, all Microsoft seem to have done is put a slightly different interface on top of Live and given it a different domain name, an impression further reinforced by the help files still being on I will continue to use as one of my favourite alternative search engines: it does sometimes come up with unique content and I like the image search. Bing has nothing that is significantly new or innovative. As Phil Bradley says, what a wasted opportunity. Google can rest easy.

Online maps for local crime statistics

Police forces in England and Wales are now providing access to local crime statistics via online maps. These allow the public to drill down to ward level and view crime trends in their area. The statistics include information about burglary, robbery, theft, vehicle crime, violent crime and anti-social behaviour.

The maps should be available via the local police web sites, although you may have to hunt around for the links. Once you have found the maps, you can either browse them or enter your post code to find information on just your area. The interfaces and presentation of the data can vary considerably between police forces as does the break-down of the crime statistics. Thames Valley provides a basic map and tables of data, while others such as the Metropolitan police offer graphs as well as the figures. All of the online maps colour code areas according to the levels of crime: high, above average, average, below average, low or no crime.

Metropolitan Police crime statistics for postcode DA17 5JD

Metropolitan Police statistics for postcode DA17 5JD

Chipwrapper introduces time-slices

One of my favourite news sites, Chipwrapper (, now offers an option to search for articles within a specified time period. Chipwrapper is a Google custom search engine that covers UK news sources on the Internet. Until now, a drawback  of the service has been the absence of an option to limit  your search by date. You can include a year and/or month in your search but now there are built in options to search for articles published within the past 24 hours, week, month or year.

My earlier review of this excellent service can be found at

IET announces launch of Inspec Direct

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has announced that Inspec Direct, a new web-based version of the Inspec database, will be available directly from the IET in January 2008. Inspec provides an index to literature in physics, electrical and electronic engineering, computer science, information technology, manufacturing, production and mechanical engineering as well as interdisciplinary areas such as materials science, oceanography, nuclear engineering, geophysics, biomedical engineering and biophysics.

The IET press release says that the new Inspec Direct platform will feature a “user focused design” that will support all levels of scientific and technical research in the corporate, industrial, government and academic sectors. The Inspec Direct platform will be commercially available on January 1, 2008, but researchers and information professionals are invited to trial the new platform for free. For a free trial or further information about Inspec Direct, go to

Earthquake alerts

Those of us with friends and relatives in Australia, New Zealand and in other countries on the Pacific rim are well aware that earthquakes regularly hit the region. Many of them are minor but recently there have been more serious events, most of which are not picked up by the UK or European press. A Google News alert will pick up those that make the headlines in the regional press that are local to the quake, but aftershocks are not always reported. Search engine Ask has a map showing recent earthquakes and their magnitude on a map at but there is no email or RSS alert option so you have to keep going back to the site to see the latest news. The US Geological Survey has detailed information and alerts on earthquakes at In addition there are two RSS feeds: one is for earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 2.5 ( and the second for those with a magnitude greater than 5.0 (

If you are a Firefox user there is an eQuake add-on at which uses the USGS data. It alerts you with the basic information (date, location, and magnitude) of each earthquake but you can specify a lower limit for the magnitude, for example 4. By default your browser will ‘shake’ proportional to the earthquake magnitude but you can configure the alert methods. I have only just installed it so I’m not sure how disruptive the quaking browser effect is going to be …… and as I write this an earthquake of 4.9 has just hit the Santa Cruz Islands region! And having just spell checked this article a 6.8 quake has occurred off the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand. If nothing else this is an interesting way to demonstrate the frequency of earthquakes.

Telecoms blast from the past

I am having a grand clear-out in the office and at long last have decided that my archive of telecoms software and manuals has to go. Before I sort the paper, binders, books and disks into the relevant piles for recycling I offer them free of charge to anyone who might be interested for historical reasons, research or whatever!

The list is on

You do not have to take the whole lot – you can take an individual item. Email me at if you are interested in any of them. Closing date 5th October 2007. After that date, they will be irrevocably recycled.

Blog Tag: 5 things you don’t know about Karen Blakeman

This is a blog tag game and I blame Phil Bradley for sucking me into this this, who blames Danny Sullivan, who blames …. I have no idea. The game is that having been tagged (by Phil!) I have to tell 5 things you didn’t know about me and ‘tag’ five people to do likewise!

So, the 5 things you possibly didn’t know about me are:

1. Phil claims to have run the first Internet course in the UK in 1994 but in late 1992 I ran an Internet course for people working in the commercial sector. We spent hours struggling with telnet, veronicas, archies, and gophers and got nowhere very slowly. At the end of the session I uttered the immortal words “Don’t worry, this Internet thing will never catch on” .

2. Chris (my husband) and I have walked the Thames Path twice during the last four years. 184 miles from its source in the Cotswolds to the Thames Barrier in Greenwich. Brilliant! Our greatest challenge was identifying public transport that could get us to and from various points along the walk.

3. I am a fervent vegetable gardener specialising in growing tomatoes, aubergines, courgettes, peppers, garlic, and chillies that blow your head off. If you are interested in growing really tasty vegetables, especially tomatoes and peppers, try Simpsons Seeds.

4. We have a tartan tortie cat called Jessie. She is a rescue cat adopted from Thames Valley Animal Welfare and has us well trained. Remind me – why are we getting up at 5 am in order to feed this animal?

5. I am a Thunderbirds fan. F.A.B . Need I say more?

I now tag:

Tom Roper. Great blog that as well as information related topics has racing tips!

Brian Kelly. Well I have to tag him don’t !? We all teased him mercilessly at Internet Librarian International this year about being the only web 2.0 speaker without a blog. So he immediately set one up. And very good it is.

Chris Armstrong. This is the fellow to contact about managing e-books. He is also very active in CILIP council and has been involved in the Review of Groups and the Governance Review. Anyone who recommends axing the incomprehensible, hierarchical panel, board, standing committee structure of CILIP gets my vote every time!

Chris Rhodes. My husband who is involved in environmental remediation and energy issues. His blog has interesting but sometimes seriously scary stuff concerning climate change and ‘peak energy’.

Christine Baker. Christine does not have a blog but I want to tag her anyway, and she gets out of having to tell and tag. She is the UKeiG (UK eInformation Group) admin person who keeps the whole group running and on its toes, and we all love her. More importantly, she is and has been a great friend to me for many years.

Passport launched for OurProperty and

Fubra, who run and maintain the and web sites, have launched the Fubra Passport. This is a single login system that will be valid for all existing and future Fubra web sites and consists of your email address and just one password. You no longer need your user name.

Fubra say that the benefits will become obvious as they launch more sites over the next few months, but no clues from them yet as to what those sites are likely to be. So far, I have been very impressed with Fubra’s sites. I use regularly use OurProperty, which repackages Land Registry data, and friends and colleagues reckon that PetrolPrices, which gives details of local petrol prices, is excellent. (We gave up our car 15 years ago as an experiment and are still managing to survive and travel with out it!). Fubra also run Compare Airport Parking.