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The Internet

A Search Engine For The Slower Net 309

Posted by timothy
from the most-everyone-most-everywhere dept.
Makarand writes "According to this BBC News article researchers at MIT are developing a search engine for people using the web on slower net connections. The software will e-mail queries to a central server and receive the most relevant webpages from the search results by e-mail in a compressed form. Since the program is too big to download over a poor net connection it will be mailed on CDs to libraries for people to borrow and install. They are also considering trying to persuade computer sellers in developing countries to install the program on machines."
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A Search Engine For The Slower Net

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  • Re:Because... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by slimak (593319) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:37PM (#6455294)
    I believe it is the pages themselves, not Google, that this is an attempt to deliver.
  • by _Sambo (153114) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:42PM (#6455349)
    TODAY
    I am reminded of the Prepaid Legal system of doing business. You call up and ask a question, and the next day, an attorney familiar with the area you are asking about calls you back to answer your questions and advise you. So maybe this isn't all that outdated of an idea after

    IN REGARD TO THE SYSTEM IN THE ARTICLE:
    To have this capability back in 1973 would have been unbelievable. In 1983, to have this available to every library in the US would have been an unbelievable achievement. To have it now is so slow that I start to go google eyed even thinking about it.
    BUT
    This is great for countries that are 20-30 years behind in technology. It will revolutionize the search for information for areas that are not as connected as the US.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:42PM (#6455351)
    is not slow connections, but connections that are unreliable

    Using the phone in a country like Malawi can be a real adventure. It's not like the US at all.
  • by pbox (146337) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:42PM (#6455360) Journal
    Coincidentally (?) it is also very usefult to circumvent the Great Firewall. Way to go, but it would also be nice to optionally have the cached content (ala google) e-mailed as well. That would send the last standing wall crumbling.
  • Re:Because... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fliplap (113705) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:43PM (#6455369) Homepage Journal
    RTFA.

    Why don't you just scream "HI I'M FROM 'WESTERN' CIVILIZATION AND HAVE NO IDEA HOW THESE THINGS WORK IN LESS PRIVLEGED PLACES"

    Google is too slow when your school has one phone line that is used for _everything_, including net access. Not to mention the cost of using the phone anyway. This allows all the students to submit thier searches to a teacher one day, the teacher then submits the all searches with only a couple minutes of dialing up. He can retrieve the compressed results a few days later with only a minutes of dialing up. Now go read the article. Someone needs to mod that post down, hopefully the poster can redeem themselves later in the thread with something insightful.
  • Re:Hmmm. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mysticalfruit (533341) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:46PM (#6455410) Homepage Journal
    Seriously... something tells me that the serious push for broadband wasn't so grandma could do her geneology research faster... Someone once said that every advancement in media technology only came of age because it could be used to transmit porn.

    Now, take a good hard look at your cubemate. You know what they do when they get home... and it's not BF1942... probably gives you good insight into their test bench naming conventions...
  • by DeltaSigma (583342) <onu.public@gmail.cDALIom minus painter> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:48PM (#6455424) Journal

    ...only webdesigners had not collaborated to turn the web into the graphics orgy it is today. I mean, have these kids coming out of graphics school even browsed the relevant w3c specifications?

    News Flash !

    • The internet is for information, not television!
    • Web sites can look pretty and function better without being a giant photoshop mural!
    • Creating a clean design that's easily searchable, retrievable, and most of all, usable is a work of art!
  • Re:RTFA (Score:2, Insightful)

    by bongoras (632709) * on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:49PM (#6455428) Homepage
    "Let us assume you are in Boston, and you have tons of research money in a fund and no clue what to do with it. If you want to find a new way to piss away the money, you've got to be really creative, especially if you want to do it AND claim to be socially conscious at the same time. So what you do is invent a problem. And then invent a solution. Doesn't matter if it works or not."
  • Other needs (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ferreth (182847) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:55PM (#6455493) Homepage Journal

    First, for those of you saying 'Google is fast enough even on a 14.4K' - think school with one phone line, perhaps not even available during the day. Or how about connections via satelite phone at $$/min? Suddenly you want super efficient, when you only earn 5 bucks a day.

    As to what else this needs, the search engine needs to strip out all the crap before emailing a web page to you (Java, Flash, etc) - should focus on mostly text, small pictures only. Particulary since 486's would be a common platform for people using this, so the search engine better work well on one. You also should be able to strip out all pictures as an option to maximise text info download - remember turning off pictures in Netscape 2.x to speed up your browsing? If you need something it striped out, you should be able to query just for the bits you need later.

    Also the ability to share your cache between computers would be huge if they can't have a server to do that for them. At any rate, means of transferring those precious pages you downloaded to another computer - on a floppy, unless you have local email.

  • Uhh, google? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by libertynews (304820) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @03:58PM (#6455517) Homepage
    Google is obviously very light. If you really can't support the bandwidth for graphics, use lynx or turn off images totally.

    I realize that developing countries don't have fast connections, but google works fine across 24k connections (and really ought to work fine on anything).

    email requests and getting responses later seems like a bit more of a kludge than it needs to be.

    bcl
  • by Baby Duck (176251) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @04:00PM (#6455534) Homepage
    I liked this technology when it came the first time around. Archie via email? Anyone? Yay! MIT reinvented Archie! Only with a thick client instead of a small one! Way to go!

    So what if it scans webpages instead of FTP sites. It's not that big of a leap.
  • Re:The big problem (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @04:05PM (#6455566)
    Please explain how that is different than any other search engine.
  • Re:Other needs (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kwerle (39371) <kurt@CircleW.org> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @04:33PM (#6455804) Homepage Journal
    First, for those of you saying 'Google is fast enough even on a 14.4K' - think school with one phone line, perhaps not even available during the day. Or how about connections via satelite phone at $$/min? Suddenly you want super efficient, when you only earn 5 bucks a day.

    No, google is fast enough at 300Baud. Damn, but folks are young around here.

    As to what else this needs, the search engine needs to strip out all the crap before emailing a web page to you (Java, Flash, etc) - should focus on mostly text, small pictures only.

    Either configure your browser or proxy to do that. Easy.

    Particulary since 486's would be a common platform for people using this, so the search engine better work well on one.

    Give me a break. 486's are plenty powerful enough for web browsing. Even with pictures.

    You also should be able to strip out all pictures as an option to maximise text info download - remember turning off pictures in Netscape 2.x to speed up your browsing? If you need something it striped out, you should be able to query just for the bits you need later.

    [sarcasm on] Really? [/sarcasm]

    Also the ability to share your cache between computers would be huge if they can't have a server to do that for them. At any rate, means of transferring those precious pages you downloaded to another computer - on a floppy, unless you have local email

    Give me a frickin' break. PPP over null modem serial.

    This has got to be one of the worst ideas I've ever heard of. Hell, I knew of WWW via UUCP (that's email, kids) in the 90's - and that didn't require ANY "special search software."
  • Re:RTFA (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @04:39PM (#6455874)
    I agree.

    Slashdot would actually be a fairly intellectual place (with some humor) if people would read the article AND all the previous people's two cents before contributing some rehashed crap.

    As of now, I swear 2/3 of the comments are "28.8 is fast enough" Makes me want to drill my eyes out for making the mistake of reading the comments.
  • Re:uhhh...archie? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by EChris (24069) <chris.homebrew@net> on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @04:45PM (#6455915) Homepage Journal
    Yeah I thought the same thing, though this goes a step further and sends compressed copies of the resulting pages back you, not just an index of the sites.

    What I wonder is why the *client* needs any software? Why not just make an email addy that people send queries to (like you did with "archie") and get the results back in whatever mailer you've got already?

    Chris
  • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @05:34PM (#6456344)
    The internet is for information, not television!

    Why shouldn't the internet (by which, I assume, you mean specifically the World Wide Web) be for both information AND television?

    Just because the markup language we call "HTML" was originally developed and is best suited for information-rich text documents such as academic papers a decade ago doesn't mean that we must not, or even should not, look beyond that type of content and find new uses for the system.

  • Re:Because... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by indros13 (531405) * on Wednesday July 16, 2003 @05:36PM (#6456364) Homepage Journal
    I'm from 'western' civilization and have no idea how these things work in less privileged places. describes 95% of the American population. I'm not sure why you should be surprised that I didn't understand the need for low bandwidth services.

    To "redeem myself," I'd like to make two points:
    1. I was aiming for amusing with the Google thing. I decided to tack on the "real question" because I'm honest about my ignorance of the topic.
    2. In what way will this search function highlight the control of relevance algorithms over the kind of knowledge folks using this search process will get? In a higher bandwidth society, I have the freedom to check out numerous searches and continually refine my search strings to find the best information. Folks using this service, however, will not be able to do so as readily.
    3. I lied, third point. Ultimately, this just continues to reinforce the hierarchy of post-industrial nations over developing ones by giving them a quick fix for a dearth of wealth in the Information Age. For anyone to compete globally in knowledge or business, they have to have substantial information in a timely fashion. This provides neither, and while an admirable stopgap measure, fails to address the root problem.

  • by BillThies (690098) on Thursday July 17, 2003 @12:01AM (#6458628)
    ... sounds more like useless posturing from self righteous grant writers who are wanting to get taxpayers money by simply claiming to be doing something for the poor.

    I am a graduate student working on the TEK project, and we have never received funding directed for TEK. So far, the project has been carried out using general research funds (for example, a faculty startup package) available to the PI. We have been operating with a very low budget, mainly with undergraduate students. One of the researchers, Libby Levison, worked on TEK for an entire year without receiving any pay. Most of us also work on unrelated projects that are funded separately.

    As a policy, we have never applied for funding from any organization where we will be in competition with developing nations for the same dollar. For the record, we submitted a proposal to the NSF ITR program that covers TEK, but the proposal was rejected.

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