From:         Bob Rankin 
Subject:      TOURBUS - 10 Oct 02 - Macaroni Clean Out The Icebox


The Internet Tourbus - U.S. Library of Congress ISSN #1094-2239
Copyright © Bob Rankin and Patrick Crispen - All rights reserved
Howdy, y'all, and greetings once again from deep behind the orange curtain in beautiful Irvine, California, the river that provided much of the water for ancient Mesopotamia. :P

TOURBUS is made possible by the kind support of our sponsors. Please take a moment to visit today's sponsors and thank them for keeping our little bus of Internet happiness on the road week after week. On with the show ...

Google News

Two incredibly cool and useful Web sites debuted recently, one that garnered a whole mess of media attention and one that, sadly, no one seemed to notice. The first site, the one that everyone was (and still is) talking about, is Google News at

If you're familiar with other Google sites --,,, and so on - you're in for a bit of a surprise. Google's news site looks an awful lot like a portal. [GASP! Google ... has ... a ... PORTAL?!] In fact, my first reaction was that looks an awful lot like Yahoo Full Coverage at

Like Full Coverage, Google News displays and categorizes headlines amassed from news sources all over the world. But, while Full Coverage is continuously updated by a team of people, Google News is updated by a highly skilled flock of pigeons. [Sorry. Old joke.] Actually, according to the About Google News page, Google News is "compiled solely by computer algorithms without any human intervention."

The site archives articles "from approximately 4,000 news sources worldwide," updates its collection of articles every 15 minutes, and automatically arranges those articles "to present the most relevant news first." Quotes from:

The Google News site is easy to both navigate and figure out, so much so that now that you have the URL I should probably just shut up and get out of your way. Let me add one thing, though: if you want to know a whole lot more about how Google News actually works, there is no better source that Chris Sherman's recent SearchDay article at

------- MIT OCW -------

The second site to debut recently, albeit quietly, was MIT's OpenCourseWare site at

Back in April of 2001, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] announced the ground-breaking and ambitious goal that, over the next ten years, MIT should make available online all of its course materials from every MIT undergraduate and graduate course. Syllabi. Course calendars. Lecture notes. Assignments. Exams. Everything.

Available to the entire online world. No charge. Pretty amazing, isn't it?

The first phase of MIT's OpenCourseWare project debuted last week, giving the world access to MIT course materials from 32 courses in 17 different departments ranging from Aeronautics and Astronautics to Urban Studies and Planning. Materials from an additional 2,000 MIT courses will be added to the OpenCourseWare site over the next few years.

So, does this mean you can now get a free, online degree from MIT? Not on your life, Chester! While educators are encouraged to borrow MIT's course materials for their own curricula, and while everyone in the world is encouraged to use the OpenCourseWare site for self-study, MIT has absolutely no plans to offer credit for the online versions of their courses.

Besides, what makes MIT MIT isn't its course documents. Covalent bonding works the same in Cambridge as it does in Irvine, and the second derivative of 2 x squared is the same along the banks of the Charles River as it is at the confluence of the 5 and 405 freeways. What makes MIT MIT -- and what makes MIT worth $26K a year -- isn't it's course documents. It's its faculty. And THAT you can't put online.

Or, in the words of MIT spokesperson Jon Paul Potts in a recent CNET interview,

An MIT education happens in the classroom, by interacting with other students and with faculty, not by reading some Web pages or downloading some materials, or even watching a video lecture.

Still, MIT's OpenCourseWare site is an amazing educational resource, one that will have an impact on educational institutions and learning organizations around the world.

And, between you and me, I think the OpenCourseWare site is a heck of a lot more exciting that Google News. :)


As long as we're taking about education, I figured I'd give you a peek at what I have been working on at Cal State Fullerton for the past couple of days.

There are a bunch of problems with putting images online, especially if you want to use those images to teach. The biggest problem is bandwidth. Oftentimes to place a huge, high-resolution image online in a way that doesn't take an entire semester to download you have to both drop that image's resolution and crop the living heck out of it. Instead of a picture that says 1,000 words you end up with one that says maybe 50, tops.

I guess you could always take that huge image, thumbnail it, and then throw an image map on top of the thumbnail that takes you to zoomed-in regions of the larger source image. But does ANYONE know a college professor who has the time to do this? [And, besides, if the professor is anything like me, he or she is going to misplace or misname a thumbnail or zoomed region somewhere along the way.]

I guess my goal is to find a way to help Cal State Fullerton's professors create interactive, image-rich course Web pages and Blackboard/WebCT course sites that won't kill our student's dial-up connections and that don't require the professors to learn Photoshop or Fireworks. So I've been playing around with an enterprise server application called "TrueSpectra" that automatically renders images at different sizes. You place a single, disgustingly large image on the TrueSpectra server -- an image that's several thousand pixels wide -- and TrueSpectra renders that image on the fly, resizing it, zooming in and out, and so on.

I've just started playing around with the software, but you can see what I've created so far at .

Drop me a line and tell me what you think. In fact, I have a huge favor to ask of you: do you know where I can find some free, LARGE size (2000 or more pixels wide) educational images, stuff like skeletons, molecules, geographic features, and so on? I want to add some more stuff to this test page, and the only high res stuff I can find is at NASA. :(

----- Five! -----

I have some bad news: the University of Alabama has been "squirreled" ... again. You can read the tragic story at

TOURBUS extends its deepest sympathies to the squirrel's family.

Mmmm ... Bus-Shaped Spam

Finally, many of you may be wondering why the return address on today's TOURBUS post is Bob Rankin's and not mine. Well, it turns out that Cox Communications, my cable modem service provider, decided last week that TOURBUS is spam and that my sending my TOURBUS posts through Cox's network violated Cox's acceptable use policy. So Cox suspended my cable modem account.

No, really.

Only after promising to never send another TOURBUS post over my cable modem did Cox restore my account.

That's it for today. Have a safe and happy weekend, and we'll talk again soon. -- Patrick Crispen

.~~~. )) (\__/) .' ) )) Patrick Douglas Crispen /o o \/ .~ {o_, \ { / , , ) \ `~ -' \ } )) AOL Instant Messenger: Squirrel2K _( ( )_.' ---..{____} Warning: squirrels.

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