National Geographic Quad View

October 13, 2016

Google Maps and other map tools each have their unique features, but some are better than others at helping you find your way.  However, most of these online map tools have the same basic function and information.  While they can help you if you are lost, they are not that useful for topographyNational Geographic comes to our rescue with free topographic PDFs.  Check them out at PDF Quads.

Here are the details straight from the famous nature magazine:

National Geographic has built an easy to use web interface that allows anyone to quickly find any quad in the country for downloading and printing. Each quad has been pre-processed to print on a standard home, letter size printer. These are the same quads that were printed by USGS for decades on giant bus-sized pressed but are now available in multi-page PDFs that can be printed just about anywhere. They are pre-packaged using the standard 7.5 minute, 1:24,000 base but with some twists.

How can there be twists in a topographic map?  They are not really that surprising, just explanations about how the images are printed out.  Page one is an overview map that, pages two through five are standard topographic maps sized to print on regular paper, and hill shading is added to provide the maps with more detail.

Everyone does not use topography maps, but a precise tool is invaluable to those who do.

Whitney Grace, October 13, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Lexmark Upgrades Its Enterprise Search

September 30, 2016

Enterprise search has taken a back a back seat to search news regarding Google’s next endeavor and what the next big thing is in big data.  Enterprise search may have taken a back seat in my news feed, but it is still a major component in enterprise systems.  You can even speculate that without a search function, enterprise systems are useless.

Lexmark, one of the largest suppliers of printers and business solutions in the country, understand the importance of enterprise search.  This is why they recently updated the description of its Perceptive Enterprise Search in its system’s technical specifications:

Perceptive Enterprise Search is a suite of enterprise applications that offer a choice of options for high performance search and mobile information access. The technical specifications in this document are specific to Perceptive Enterprise Search version 10.6…

A required amount of memory and disk space is provided. You must meet these requirements to support your Perceptive Enterprise Search system. These requirements specifically list the needs of Perceptive Enterprise Search and do not include any amount of memory or disk space you require for the operating system, environment, or other software that runs on the same machine.

Some technical specifications also provide recommendations. While requirements define the minimum system required to run Perceptive Enterprise Search, the recommended specifications serve as suggestions to improve the performance of your system. For maximum performance, review your specific environment, network, and platform capabilities and analyze your planned business usage of the system. Your specific system may require additional resources above these recommendations.”

It is pretty standard fare when it comes to technical specifications, in other words, not that interesting but necessary to make the enterprise system work correctly.

Whitney Grace, September 30, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

True or False: Google Fakes Results for Social Engineering

September 13, 2016

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we love the Alphabet Google thing. When we read anti Google articles, we are baffled. Why don’t these articles love and respect the GOOG as we do? A case in point is “How Google’s Search Engines Use Faked Results for Social Engineering.” The loaded words “faked results” and “social engineering” put us on our guard.

What is the angle the write up pursues? Let’s look.

I highlighted this passage as a way get my intellectual toe in the murky water:

Google published an “overview” of how SEO works, but in a nutshell, Google searches for the freshest, most authoritative, easiest-to-display (desktop/laptop and mobile) content to serve its search engine users. It crawls, caches (grabs) content, calculates the speed of download, looks at textual content, counts words to find relevance, and compares how it looks on different sized devices. It not only analyzes what other sites link to it, but counts the number of these links and then determines their quality, meaning the degree to which the links in those sites are considered authoritative. Further, there are algorithms in place that block the listing of “spammy” sites, although, spam would not be relevant here. And recently, they have claimed to boost sites using HTTPS to promote security and privacy (fox henhouse?).

I am not sure about the “fox hen house” reference because fox is a popular burgoo addition. As a result the critters are few and far between. Too bad. They are tasty and their tails make nifty additions to cold weather parkas.

The author of the write up is not happy with how Google responds to a query for “Jihad.” I learned:

Google’s search results give pride of place to The problem, according to the write up, is that this site is not a big hitter in the Jihad content space.

The article points out that Google does not return the search results the person running the test queries expected. The article points out:

When someone in the US, perhaps wanting to educate themselves on the subject, searches for “Jihad” and sees the Islamic Supreme Council as the top-ranked site, the perception is that this is the global, unbiased and authoritative view. If they click on that first, seemingly most popular link, their perception of Jihad will be skewed by the beliefs and doctrine of this peaceful group of people. These people who merely dabble on the edge of Islamic doctrine. These people who are themselves repeatedly targeted for their beliefs that are contrary to those of the majority of Muslims. These people who do not even come close to being any sort of credible or realistic representation of the larger and more prevalent subscribers (nay soldiers) of the “Lesser Jihad” (again, the violent kind).

My thought is that the results I expect from any ad supported, publicly accessible search system are rarely what I expect. The more I know about a particular subject—how legacy search system marketing distorts what the systems can actually do—the more disappointed I am with the search results.

I don’t think Google is intentionally distorting search results. Certain topics just don’t match up to the Google algorithms. Google is pretty good at sports, pizza, and the Housewives of Beverly Hills. Google is not particularly good with fine grained distinctions in certain topic spaces.

If the information presented by, for instance, the Railway Retirement Board is not searched, the Google system does its best to find a way to sell an ad against a topic or word. In short, Google does better with certain popular subjects which generate ad revenue.

Legacy enterprise search systems like STAIRS III are not going to be easy to search. Nailing down the names of the programmers in Germany who worked on the system and how the STAIRS III system influenced BRS Search is a tough slog with the really keen Google system.

If I attribute Google’s indifference to information about STAIRS III to a master scheme put in place by Messrs. Brin and Page, I would be giving them a heck of a lot of credit for micro managing how content is indexed.

The social engineering angle is more difficult for me to understand. I don’t think Google is biased against mainframe search systems which are 50 years old. The content, the traffic, and the ad focus pretty much guarantee that STAIRS III is presented in a good enough way.

The problem, therefore, is that Google’s whiz kid technology is increasingly good enough. That means average or maybe a D plus. The yardstick is neither precision nor recall. At Google, revenue counts.

Baidu, Bing, Silobreaker, Qwant, and Yandex, among other search systems, have similar challenges. But each system is tending to the “good enough” norm. Presenting any subject in a way which makes a subject matter expert happy is not what these systems are tuned to do.

Here in Harrod’s Creek, we recognize that multiple queries across multiple systems are a good first step in research. Then there is the task of identifying individuals with particular expertise and trying to speak with them or at least read what they have written. Finally, there is the slog through the dead tree world.

Expecting Google or any free search engine to perform sophisticated knowledge centric research is okay. We prefer the old fashioned approach to research. That’s why Beyond Search documents some of the more interesting approaches revealed in the world of online analysis.

I like the notion of social engineering, particularly the Augmentext approach. But Google is more interested in money and itself than many search topics which are not represented in a way which I would like. Does Google hate me? Nah, Google doesn’t know I exist. Does Google discriminate against STAIRS III? Nah, of Google’s 65,000 employees probably fewer than 50 know what STAIRS III is? Do Googlers understand revenue? Yep, pretty much.

Stephen E Arnold, September 13, 2016

Ads Appear Here, There, and Everywhere Across Google Landscape

September 12, 2016

The article on CNN Money titled Google Is Going to Start Showing You More Ads discusses the surge in ads that users can expect to barely notice over the coming weeks and months. In efforts to ramp up mobile ad revenue to match the increasing emphasis on mobile search, Google is making mobile ads bigger, more numerous, and just more. The article explains,

Google will be simplifying the work flow for businesses to create display ads with images. The company says advertisers need to “simply provide headlines, a description, an image, and a URL,” and Google will automatically design ads for the business. Location-based ads will start showing up on Google too. If you search for “shoe store” or “car repair near me,” ads for local businesses will populate the search results… The changes come as Google is trying to stay ahead of customers’ changing demands.

Google claims in the article that the increase is already showing strong results for advertisers, which click-through rates (CTR) up 20%. But it is hard to believe. As ads flood the space between articles, search results, and even Google Map directions, they seem to be no more significant than an increase in white noise. If Google really wants to revolutionize marketing, they are going to need to dig deeper than just squeezing more ads in between the lines.

Chelsea Kerwin, September 12, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph
There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark Web meet up on September 27, 2016.
Information is at this link:


Is Resting Data Safe Data?

August 2, 2016

Have you ever wondered if the data resting on your hard drive is safe while you are away from your computer?  Have you ever worried that a hacker could sneak into your system and steal everything even when the data is resting (not actively being used)?  It is a worry that most computer users experience as the traverse the Internet and possibly leaving themselves exposed.  Network World describes how a potential upgrade could protect data in databases, “ A New Update To The NoSQL Database Adds Cryptsoft Technology.”

MarkLogic’s NoSQL database version nine will be released later in 2016 with an added security update that includes Cryptsoft’s KMIP (Key Management Interoperability Protocol). MarkLogic’s upgrade will use the flexibility, scalability, and agility of NoSQL with enterprise features, government-grade security, and high availability.  Along with the basic upgrades, there will also be stronger augmentations to security, manageability, and data integration. MarkLogic is betting that companies will be integrating more data into their systems from dispersed silos.  Data integration has its own series of security problems, but there are more solutions to protect data in transition than at rest, which is where the Cryptsoft KMIP enters:

“Data is frequently protected while in transit between consumers and businesses, MarkLogic notes, but the same isn’t always true when data is at rest within the business because of a variety of challenges associated with that task. That’s where Cryptsoft’s technology could make a difference.  Rather than grappling with multiple key management tools, MarkLogic 9 users will be able to tap Cryptsoft’s embedded Key Management SDKs to manage data security from across the enterprise using a comprehensive, standards-compliant KMIP toolkit.”

Protecting data at rest is just as important as securing transitioning data.  This reminds me of Oracle’s secure enterprise search angle that came out a few years ago.  Is it a coincidence?


Whitney Grace, August 2, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Baidu Hopes Transparency Cleans up Results

July 28, 2016

One of the worries about using commercial search engines is that search results are polluted with paid links. In the United States, paid results are differentiated from organic results with a little banner or font change.  It is not so within China and Seeking Alpha shares an interesting story about a Chinese search engine, “Baidu Cleans Up Search Site, Eyes Value.”  Baidu recently did a major overhaul of its search engine, which was due a long, long time ago. Baidu was more interested in generating profits than providing its users a decent service.   Baidu neglected to inform its users that paid links appeared alongside organic results, but now they have been separated out like paid links in the US.

Results are cleaner, but it did not come in time to help one user:

“For anyone who has missed this headline-grabbing story, the crisis erupted after 21-year-old cancer patient Wei Zexi used Baidu to find a hospital to treat his disease. He trusted the hospital he chose partly because it appeared high in Baidu’s results. But he was unaware the hospital got that ranking because it paid the most in an online auctioning system that has helped to make Baidu hugely profitable. Wei later died after receiving an ineffective experimental treatment, though not before complaining loudly about how he was misled.”

The resulting PR nightmare forced Baidu to clean up its digital act.  This example outlines one of the many differences between US and Chinese business ethics.  On average the US probably has more educated consumers than China, who will call out companies when they notice ethical violations.  While it is true US companies are willing to compromise ethics for a buck, at least once they are caught they cannot avoid the windfall.  China on the other hand, does what it wants when it wants.


Whitney Grace, July 28, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Hewlett Packard Makes Haven Commercially Available

July 19, 2016

The article InformationWeek titled HPE’s Machine Learning APIs, MIT’s Sports Analytics Trends: Big Data Roundup analyzes Haven OnDemand, a large part of Hewlett Packard Enterprise’s big data strategy. For a look at the smart software coming out of HP Enterprise, check out this video. The article states,

“HPE’s announcement this week brings HPE Haven OnDemand as a service on the Microsoft Azure platform and provides more than 60 APIs and services that deliver deep learning analytics on a wide range of data, including text, audio, image, social, Web, and video. Customers can start with a freemium service that enables development and testing for free, and grow into a usage and SLA-based commercial model for enterprises.”

You may notice from the video that the visualizations look a great deal like Autonomy IDOL’s visualizations from the early 2000s. That is, dated, especially when compared to visualizations from other firms. But Idol may have a new name: Haven. According to the article, that name is actually a relaxed acronym for Hadoop, Autonomy IDOL, HP Vertica, Enterprise Security Products, and “n” or infinite applications. HPE promises that this cloud platform with machine learning APIs will assist companies in growing mobile and enterprise applications. The question is, “Can 1990s technology provide what 2016 managers expects?”


Chelsea Kerwin, July 19, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

There is a Louisville, Kentucky Hidden Web/Dark
Web meet up on July 26, 2016.
Information is at this link:

Turn to Unsplash for Uncommon Free Photos

June 7, 2016

Stock photos can be so, well, stock. However, Killer Startups points to a solution in, “Today’s Killer Startup: Unsplash.” Reviewer Emma McGowan already enjoyed the site for its beautiful free photos, with new ones posted every day. She especially loves that their pictures do not resemble your typical stock photos. The site’s latest updates make it even more useful. She writes:

“The new version has expanded to include lovely, searchable collections. The themes range from conceptual (‘Pure Color’) to very specific (‘Coffee Shops’). All of the photos are free to use on whatever project you want. I can personally guarantee that all of your work will look so much better than if you went with the usual crappy free options.

“Now if you want to scroll through beautiful images a la old-school Unsplash, you can totally still do that too. The main page is still populated with a seemingly never ending roll of photos, and there’s also a ‘new’ tab where you can check out the latest and greatest additions to the collection. However, I really can’t get enough of the Collections, both as a way to browse beautiful artwork and to more easily locate images for blog posts.”

So, if you have a need for free images, avoid the problems found in your average stock photography, which can range from simple insipidness to reinforcing stereotypes and misconceptions. Go for something different at Unsplash. Based in Montreal, the site launched in 2013. As of this writing, they happen to be hiring (and will consider remote workers).


Cynthia Murrell, June 7, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Travel to South Africa Virtually with Googles Mzansi Experience

May 18, 2016

The article on Elle titled Google SA Launches the Mzansi Experience On Maps illustrates the new Google Street View collection for South Africa. For people without the ability to travel, or scared of malaria or Oscar Pistorius, this collection offers an in-depth platform to view some of South Africa’s natural wonders and parks. The article explains,

“Using images collected by the Street View Tripod and Trekker, Google has created 360-degree imagery of some of South Africa’s most beautiful locations, and created virtual tours that enable visitors to see the sights for themselves on their phones, tablets or computers. Visitors will be able to, for the first time, visit a family of elephants in the Kruger National Park, take a virtual walk on Table Mountain, admire Cape Point, or take a walk along Durban’s Golden Mile.”

For South Africa, this initiative might spark increased tourism once people realize just how much the country has to offer. So many of the images of Africa that we are exposed to in the US are reductive and patronizing, like those ceaseless commercials depicting all of Africa as a small, poverty-stricken village. Google’s new collection helps to promote a more diverse and appealing look at one African country: South Africa. Whether you want to go in person or virtually, this is worth checking out!

Chelsea Kerwin, May 18, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


Fun with Google Search Delivers Fun for Google

February 24, 2016

The article on Value Walk titled Top 10 Ways to Have Fun With Google Search invites readers to enjoy a few of the “Easter Eggs” that those nutball programmers over at Google have planted in the search engine. Some are handy, like the spinning coin that gives you a heads or tail result when you type “flip a coin” into Google. Others are just funny, like the way the page tilts if you enter the word “askew.” Others are pure in their nerd factor, as the article explains,

“When you type “Zerg rush” into the search box and hit enter you get a wave of little Google “o”s swarming across and eating the text on your page. Of note, Zerg rush was a tactic used by Zerg players in the late 90s video game StarCraft, which meant the sending many waves of inexpensive units to overwhelm an opponent. Typing “Atari Breakout”…leads to a nostalgic flashback for most people older than 45…”

Speaking of nostalgia, if you type in “Google in 1998” the page reverts to the old layout of the search engine’s early days. In general, the “Easter Eggs” are kind of like watching your uncle’s magic tricks. You aren’t really all that impressed, but every now and then a little surprise makes you smile. And you are definitely going to make him do them again in front of your parents later.


Chelsea Kerwin, February 24, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph


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