Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Share your questions for the Canastota candidates

Do you have questions for the Canastota village candidates?
The Dispatch wants the public to contribute questions for Thursday evening’s event.
The questions could be for the mayor candidates, the trustee candidates, or both.
Please use the comment box at the bottom of this story if you’re reading this online. If not, come to the event and file a written question there, drop it off at The Dispatch Office, or email it to:

Friday, February 24, 2012

From the Shades of Green conference in Morrisville

A good number of attendees have turned out.
Heard some interesting things about the Rogers Environmental Center in Sherburne.
Seems the state closed the facility because of budget cuts, but a group of volunteers are working to keep it open.
I plan on assigning a reporter; it sounds like a great story.
If you have memories of the center, or other information to share, let me know.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Google Earth finally updated our area

Being a news guy, I do my best to keep up on current events, especially those that affect this community.
That’s why I sheepishly bring you this news, which I’m sure it isn’t “breaking news” to some of you.
It’s about Google Earth, that free program that lets you see satellite images of any spot on the globe.
It’s great software and fascinating to use.
You just type in an address or click on a map and zoom right to the spot. It’s loads of fun to visit familiar places, famous landmarks even check out the backyards of homes you lived in decades ago.
Sounds neat, huh?
There was just one problem, at least for this area. The local satellite photos hadn’t been updated in years. In the photos of downtown Oneida, for example, City Lanes, which burned down April 22, 2007 was still standing.
If that weren’t bad enough, the photos weren’t just old, the resolution was low. As you would zoom it the pictures would quickly get fuzzy.

From The top: VVS High School, OHS High School, Casolwood Golf Course, Turning Stone Casino - Resort, Sylvan Beach, and The Dispatch Building on Broad Street in Oneida. That's my Jeep in the red circle.
But no more. Google Earth now has fresher, higher resolution photos of the local area, taken on June 6, 2011 and July 21, 2011.
I hope this heralds a change bringing more frequent updates, but I’m tempering my expectations. Truth be told, when Google decides how much attention our area warrants compared to the rest of the world, we have many factors working against us. Some are fair and some aren’t. They include:
• We’re not an economic powerhouse like Los Angeles, Manhattan, Geneva or Hong Kong.
• We’re not densely populated like Tokyo, Taiwan or Miami.
• Does anyone working at the Googleplex in Mountain View, Calif., consider Upstate New York anything more than something you fly over when you go “back east?”
• Aerial photos are only useful when they’re taken when the sky as clear. What percentage of the time is that true? If it’s cloudy when the satellite passes over, we’re SOL until the next time it comes through.
All this aside, Google Earth is a must have, and at free, the price can’t be beat. It runs on Mac, Windows, iOS and Android. It’s easy to figure out how to use it, but you should have a fairly recent computer, because it takes a bit of oomph to manipulate those big photo files.

Get Google Earth: earth.google.com

Monday, February 6, 2012

Internet is anonymous / Internet is not anonymous

Two of the key features of the Internet, paradoxically, are that everything is anonymous and nothing is anonymous.
Like some sort of spooky quantum state, both are true at the same time.
How so?
When you read an e-mail or a forum post, it's impossible to know if the purported sender is genuine merely by looking at it. It's a simple matter to add professional looking logos or spoof the "from" like of an e-mail.

It brings to mind one of my favorite cartoons of all time. Two dogs are sitting in front of a computer. One says to the other, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."
The clever cartoon is by Peter Steiner and appeared in the July 5, 1993 issue of The New Yorker.
While this is all true, prosecutors or plaintiffs armed with subpoenas, shadowy people chasing terrorists and marketers assembling far-reaching databases can indeed know many things about us. While identity information is beyond your grasp and mine, these people know a lot about you and the amount is growing and is never erased.

In light of this some person unknown to me updated the cartoon, adding to the screen "Welcome canine, User 39... Mutt, Mostly black lab. Enjoys pepperoni, fetching, and sniffing other dogs' heinies... Updating profile"
Two key things we can take away from this:
-- Since the Internet is anonymous and we can't tell who sent something just by looking at it, we must use our brains. Pay attention to the little things like context and spelling. Know that any e-mail from you bank is likely bogus. When there's any doubt at all, call the person or the business (and look up the number yourself; don't use the number in the suspect e-mail).
-- Since the Internet is not anonymous and messages last forever, think really hard before you post anything. You could have to answer for it years later.

The cartoons: