Monday, March 31, 2008

the other 13%

I wonder how many households in Canada have access to cable and/or satellite TV, and how many depend on over-the-air programming? Ten years ago such questions may have popped into my head and gone unanswered, but now the answer is 5 minutes away via Google.

The title of this CRTC report, "How Many Canadians Subscribe to Cable TV or Satellite TV", is exactly what I was looking for. Both Nielsen Media and StatsCan numbers are remarkably similar - something like 87% of Canadians subscribe to cable or satellite TV. The other 13% get whatever scraps are broadcast over the air.

I'm now one of the other 13%.

I had reduced my subscription to Basic cable some time ago because I found I wasn't watching any of the premium channels in the more expensive subscription packages. Today I cancelled Basic cable because I can't even remember the last time anyone in the family watched anything on any cable channel.

I haven't dropped Shaw entirely, though - they still provide me with my precious Internet link. The only way I'll be giving that up is when someone pries it from my cold, dead fingers.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

tasty google bookmarks

I opened a account as soon as I read about it, and posted my first bookmark on November 4, 2004 - an overview of 10 alternatives to the recently-killed bittorrent search engine Suprnova, as it turns out. Since that time I've continued to post my bookmarks to, amassing a total of 900+ to date.

I was posting a new bookmark recently when it suddenly struck me: I couldn't remember when I had last used to retrieve a bookmark. In fact, I view my friends' shared bookmarks on (via RSS) far more often than my own!

I find that I've adopted a search frame of mind for information retrieval - and not just for new material. Having used Google Desktop for several years now, I tap CTRL-CTRL instinctively to search for and retrieve documents even when I know exactly where they are. And I've increasingly used the same approach for web sites that I've bookmarked - Google search is so fast that I can jump to a well-known site more quickly than I can type the URL! There are, however, some gems in the 900+ bookmarks I've collected in that I've forgotten about. Many times I've "rediscovered" sites when I attempt to bookmark an interesting web site I've found, only to discover that I had already bookmarked it in the past! But I find I can't break the Google search habit I've developed, even when a quick search of might turn up exactly what I'm looking for.

Enter Google Bookmarks. I had given this new Google feature a try when it was first released, but found it didn't have several key features (like tagging) that made so valuable to me. Google Bookmarks has since added tagging, but otherwise had no additional "killer" feature to tempt me to switch. Until I read this snippet on a blog, that is.

The most important features that set Google Bookmark apart from other services is that all your bookmarks are private (nobody else can see them) and fully searchable. You are no longer restricted to the title of the page, the description and the URL - you can search the entire page.

Whoa - hang on. GB indexes all the text on all pages I bookmark and makes it all searchable? After some testing, I also found that GB bookmarks are included (and highlighted) in Google searches (when I'm signed in) and in results-as-you-type in the Firefox search box. I was hooked.

I've since switched to GB for all of my bookmarks, and now I see them pop up all the time when I'm searching for stuff using Google. Both the bookmarklet and Google Toolbar tools for bookmarking support tags and auto-suggest tags when you bookmark a page, but not at elegantly as does [sigh]. There's no doubt, though, that I get more out of my bookmarks now that they're woven into my "search reflex" approach to finding information.