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Usenet – The Pioneer of the Internet

by on Sep.29, 2011, under Featured

Although the Usenet has gained in popularity within recent years, it still remains unknown to many. No wonder, because the birth of the Usenet was already thirty years ago, even before the spread of the World Wide Web. In 1979, the three students Tom Truscott, Steve Bellovin and Jim Ellis came up with the idea of connecting two university computers. In the following years the size of the network reached already several thousand computers and people all around the world discussed lively about any imaginable topic. From sports up to political debates, you can find thousands of discussions in the Usenet and you are free to join them if you want to.

But then the internet became popular and began to compete with the Usenet. Web forums offered a more user friendly environment for discussions than the newsgroups. While the beginning of the 90s brought with it a big rise of Usenet users, the end of the 90s saw a big drop. The number of news postings decreased drastically.

This changed with the advent of high speed internet connections. New users discovered the possibilities offered by the Usenet. Its decentralized network architecture ensures high download speeds and so binary newsgroups (newsgroups which include text-documents and files) gained popularity. Any type of file can be posted and downloaded from these newsgroups. Usually these files are fragmented and so only available in a compressed format (e. g. Rar-Files).

However, because of the enormous amount of topics discussed in the Usenet, structure could become an issue. Therefore the Usenet is structured hierarchically. The top hierarchies, the so called “Big Eight” are “comp.” (computer-related discussions), “humanities.” (humanities topics), “misc.“ (miscellaneous topics), “news.” (newsgroup-related matters), “rec.” (recreation and entertainment), “sci.“ (science-related discussions), “soc.“ (social discussions), “talk.” (general “off-topic discussions). Another big hierarchy is the “alt.”-category which includes the popular binaries mentioned above.

However, the posts inside the Usenet aren’t there forever, as they are subject to a so called “retention time”. Since each newsgroup is allocated a limited amount of storage every time a new post is made, an old one will be deleted in order to provide enough room for fresh content. The offered retention time varies among Usenet providers from 400 up to 1000 days.

Unfortunately, the access to the Usenet has been limited. Nowadays, it is recommendable to sign up with commercial Usenet-provider like UseNeXT. Additionally to providing access to Usenet, the providers offer their own special Usenet software. Without this software you aren’t able to download files from within the Usenet. Because of the quantity and the offers of providers differ significantly, you should carefully compare them and choose the one which is best for you. The providers distinguish themselves especially in price, download capacity, software and retention time.

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UMD Students to Stream Cell Phone Video to Police in Emergencies

by on Apr.24, 2009, under News

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland is stepping up campus safety efforts by utilizing a new emergency-alert system developed by the university’s institute for advanced computer sciences.

The system is called ‘V911′ – one of the first of its kind for college campuses. By downloading a software program called ‘My View’ to a cell phone or a PDA, students can get up to date school directions and transportation schedules. But more importantly, users can access police attention like never before.

The university’s computer institute was working on the network for a year and a half. They got to work first on the 550 security cameras already on site, developing interfaces that all police to find a student’s exact location.

"Any security cameras that can see the scene, they will automatically turn themselves and focus on the incident scene," said Ashok Agrawala, UMD professor.

Now students can also take things into their own hands, ditching the emergency call box to use their cell phones instead. If a user is on campus and an emergency occurs, they can take out their cell phone, press the start button and within 15 seconds video will start streaming to a police dispatcher.

There is one exception. The iPhone isn’t designed to stream video to outside sources, but iPhone users can download an application that provides specific campus maps and locations, along with school bus schedules.

Many students say that type of help will go a long way. "Every little bit counts," said one UMD student.

Even though the university is at a ten year low for crime, police officers are already looking ahead and training themselves on the equipment.

"Universities traditionally are under the microscope because they’re suppose to be quiet, calm. This technology won’t stop crime, but it will help us get there sooner," said Major Jay Geruber, Prince George’s County police.

The live streaming video technology is so unique that outside companies are partnering with the school to use the technology. Researchers are still working on the user interface button and once that’s finished, the software will be free for all UMD students.

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