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June 13, 2013

Search For First Web Page Leads To North Carolina


Associated Press

For the European physicists who created the World Wide Web, preserving its history is as elusive as unlocking the mysteries of how the universe began.

The scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, are searching for the first Web page. It was at CERN that Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web in 1990 as an unsanctioned project, using a NeXT computer that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs designed in the late 80s during his 12-year exile from the company.

Dan Noyes oversees CERN’s website and has taken on the project to uncover the world’s first Web page. He says that no matter how much data they sort through, researchers may never make a clear-cut discovery of the original web page because of the nature of how data is shared.

``The concept of the earliest Web page is kind of strange,’’ Noyes said. ``It’s not like a book. A book exists through time. Data gets overwritten and looped around. To some extent, it is futile.’’

In April, CERN restored a 1992 copy of the first-ever website that Berners-Lee created to arrange CERN-related information. It was the earliest copy CERN could find at the time, and Noyes promised then to keep looking.

After National Public Radio did a story on the search, a professor at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill came forward with a 1991 version.

This NeXT machine was the first web server (c) CERN

Paul Jones met Berners-Lee during the British scientist’s visit to the U.S. for a conference in 1991, just a year after Berners-Lee invented the Web. Jones said Berners-Lee shared the page with the professor, who has transferred it from server to server through the years. A version remains on the Internet today at an archive Jones runs, ibiblio.

The page Jones received from Berners-Lee is locked in Jones’ NeXT computer, behind a password that has long been forgotten. Forensic computer specialists are trying to extract the information to check time stamps and preserve the original coding used to generate the page.

The Web page preserved by Jones is both familiar and quaint. There are no flashy graphics or video clips. Instead, it is a page of text on a white background with 19 hyperlinks. Some of the links, such as ones leading to information about CERN, have been updated and still work. On the other hand, a link to the phone numbers for CERN staffers is dead.

Noyes said he’ll keep searching for earlier versions of the page. Noyes said his project still has to sort through plenty of old disks and other data submitted following NPR’s story. He suspects there will be a couple of pages to pop up that were created months before the version Jones has.

The Internet itself dates back to 1969, when computer scientists gathered in a lab at the University of California, Los Angeles to exchange data between two bulky computers. In the early days, the Internet had email, message boards known as Usenet and online communities such as The WELL.

Berners-Lee was looking for ways to control computers remotely at CERN. His innovation was to combine the Internet with another concept that dates to the 1960s: hypertext, which is a way of presenting information nonsequentially. Although he never got the project formally approved, his boss suggested he quietly tinker with it anyway. Berners-Lee began writing the software for the Web in October 1990, got his browser working by mid-November and added editing features in December. He made the program available at CERN by Christmas.

These days, many people see the Internet and the Web as one and the same, even though the Web is just one of the many functions of the Internet. Personal email tends to be conducted over Web-based systems such as Yahoo and Google’s Gmail. Web-based message boards have replaced the need for Usenet. Friendster, Myspace and later Facebook emerged as go-to places on the Web for hanging out. People now use the Web to find dates, watch television shows, catch up on the news, pay bills and play games. Many more services are still being invented.

In less than a quarter century, the Web has turned into an easy way to retrieve data on just about any topic from just about any computer in the world with just the click of a link. It has become the equivalent of millions of libraries at the fingertips of anyone with a Web browser and a network connection. The resources have made it far more difficult for authoritarian regimes to keep information from their citizens.

Berners-Lee’s office was a few corridors down from Noyes at CERN’s headquarters in Geneva. Nearby is a plaque honoring him for his innovation. Noyes recently brought his 14-year-old son and showed it to him.

``For him, it was a concept that doesn’t make any sense,’’ Noyes said. ``It’s no fault of his own, but he can’t imagine the world without the Web.’’

Attempts to reach Berners-Lee through CERN were unsuccessful.

That’s part of why Noyes believes it is important to round up the World Wide Web’s history. He said it represents the best of how science and free governments can make the world a better place. And the quest for the first Web page reminds him of CERN’s main goal, seeking answers about the universe using tools such as the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, where high-energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other at incredible speeds.

``We’re looking at the origins of the universe. Origins are intrinsically exciting,’’ Noyes said.

Jones takes pride in his small part in Internet history, too. He understands the pull of trying to find the first Web page even if it doesn’t make much sense. After all, even the simplest page created by a blogging novice today is richer and has more depth than those Web pages more than two decades ago. He likens it to why millions of people go to Europe to see original paintings of The Scream or the Mona Lisa when they can see replicas with almost no effort at all.

``No matter how perfectly you can reproduce something, like The Scream or the Mona Lisa, we have a fetish for the original,’’ Jones said. ``The more you see the derivative, the more you want to see the original.’’

Online: First website project:

Information on Web’s origins:

Myspace Is Reinvented (by Justin Timberlake)

As A Home For Musicians, Artists & Writers

Nashville, TN (AP) Tim and Chris Vanderhook think Myspace had it right - at one point. And they believe they’ve revived and improved that formula for success as the revamped first titan of social media debuts its latest incarnation.

The Vanderhooks unveiled the new Wednesday, June 12, revealing a site focused on entertainment that combines social networking with streaming music. There are new features aimed at helping musicians, writers and other artists connect with their followers, an app and a radio function.

“Today more than ever there’s this need for a creative ecosystem that kind of caters to the creative community and that’s both a social network and the streaming services attached,” Tim Vanderhook said. “For us when we looked at it, we really talked to a lot of artists and ... they all said, `I use all these various platforms but none of them really do what we need.’ What they really needed, they explained to us, was a home.”

The launch comes nearly two years after the Irvine, Calif.-based Specific Media owners teamed with Justin Timberlake to buy the ailing website for $35 million, a fraction of the $560 million News Corp. paid for it in 2005.

The new owners briefed media this week in the run-up to release. Timberlake was not made available, but the company says he provides the strategic vision for the company and was the person behind the idea of focusing on the creative community.

The Vanderhooks believe the previous owners made a mistake when they tried to compete with emerging force Facebook. At its peak, they believe Myspace was driven by a sense of discovery and sharing. Bands, for instance, would post songs, tour schedules and blogs for fans to follow. It was more direct than a website and gave users the first true sense of social media’s larger possibilities.

“Everyone had a lot of fun on Myspace at one point,” Chris Vanderhook said. “It’s easy to kick it and say, oh, yeah, Myspace sucks now, but everyone had fun on Myspace before. It’s just that they didn’t keep pace with technology and they didn’t keep up with the times.”

The site continues to help those bands (or filmmakers or writers) with analytics that measure fan response and other tools to help them grow.

And by focusing on artists initially, they’re gambling fans will soon follow in large numbers.

“We think the creative class is about 38 million people in the United States and growing every single day,” Tim Vanderhook said. “And by really servicing that group, we think reaching out to one level past that - all of their fans and the creative consumers that like this type of entertainment - we think are going to be critical to our success.”

The deal to purchase Myspace drew plenty of attention - partly for Timberlake’s involvement and partly for what seemed the foolhardy nature of the venture. Even the Vanderhooks admit Myspace was on a downward spiral that should have ended in the site’s demise. But they became infatuated with it in 2008 as they watched it fade and were convinced it could be rescued.

The revamped site debuts at a particularly competitive time, however, with Apple launching iRadio this week and other established brands like Google moving into the streaming field using the subscription model, the radio model or both.

The Vanderhooks don’t start from scratch, however. They say the site still has 27 million users in the United States and about twice that worldwide. Those users will be switched to the new site Wednesday and the previous version will disappear.

“Keep playing up the crazy angle so when people actually do decide that we made a good decision, it will serve our ego even bigger,” Chris Vanderhook said with a laugh. “To the average person out there they think you’re totally nuts, but no, I don’t think we’re crazy, to be honest.”


Keep It Down! New Products Help Soften Noise Sensitivity


Associated Press

Homeowner Christine Igot knows one thing for sure. ``I will not have a fridge in my kitchen ever again,’’ she says firmly.

In the new house she’s building, in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, the 51-year-old is putting the refrigerator in a pantry off the kitchen and will double insulate the walls. Why? All that noise, noise, noise.

Her present house has an open plan, and the sound of the fridge drives her crazy. ``I tried to get used to it. I had an appliance man come to see if it was running properly.’’ It was—it just emitted a high-pitched whine.

Roxanne Went uses her car as ``a cone of silence’’ to escape the noise of leaf blowers outside her suburban West Chester, Pa., home, and of family members’ blaring music inside.

For baby boomers, noise matters.

``Decreased tolerance for loud sounds is a fairly common symptom of age-related hearing loss, as the range of comfortable listening levels seems to shrink,’’ says Ted Madison, an audiologist in St. Paul, Minn., and a representative of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Beyond creating stress and annoyance, loud noises can cause hearing loss, according to experts. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health reckons that noise over 85 decibels may cause hearing loss.

So what are the loud products we live with at home? According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, based in Rockville, Md., the ``very loud’’ range includes blenders, blow dryers, vacuum cleaners and alarm clocks, all in the 80 to 90 decibel range. ``Extremely loud’’ —in the 100 to 110 decibel range—are snow blowers, gas lawnmowers and some MP3 players.

In Brighton, England, a Noise Abatement Society fields complaints from citizens about annoyances ranging from neighbors’ power tools to barking dogs to wind chimes. Managing director Poppy Elliot says her team decided to channel the collective angst over unwanted noise into ``Quiet Mark,’’ a seal of approval they give to products designed to be quieter. So far more than 35 products have received the designation, from hair dryers to commercial tools, and Eliot said the organization is expanding globally.

``The ultimate aim is to encourage industry across the board to put a high priority on factoring in low noise at the design stage. Investment in acoustic design and sound quality of a product should be just as important as energy efficiency or visual design,’’ Elliot says.

Manufacturers are responding to concerns about noise with new, quieter products.

LG has several, including the TrueSteam dishwasher, that use a Direct Drive motor, an alternative to the noisier belt-and-pulley system of traditional motors.

Swiss-based Liebherr uses low-sound dual air compressors and cooling circuits in their high-end fridges. And Samsung’s dishwasher has extra insulation, which cuts the sound.

Range hood fans can often by noisy. Italian firm Falmec makes a line that uses a perimeter extraction method rather than one single vacuum vent; the air is drawn evenly into the hood’s edges more quietly than being sucked straight up.

Jerek Bowman, a chef in Toronto, recommends sous vide cooking, using a thermal circulator and heating the food in water, as a quieter way to go. ``There’s simply no noise. You can use it the same way you would for roasting, stewing or braising,’’ he says. A side benefit? With the equivalent of only a light bulb to heat the water, there’s some energy savings as well.

Food processing pioneer Magimix has a new multi-tasking mixer that chops, slices, whisks, grates, kneads and mixes all in one machine, and does it quietly with an induction motor. Induction motors, which don’t use stiff brushes to transfer electricity, mean a weightier but quieter appliance.

Rowenta’s noise-reducing inventions include the Turbo Silence home fan and the Silence Form Extreme vacuum cleaner, which emits a decidedly timid 65 decibels. Electrolux’s Ultra Silencer canister vacuum comes in at 68 decibels.

As for hair dryers, the Centrix Q Zone and Biolonic IDry Whisper Light are two low-noise options; the latter was one of the first products to receive the Quiet Mark designation.

And Stihl has a line of lithium-ion battery yard gear, including a leaf blower, mower and trimmer, that are much quieter than gas-powered equipment.

Pictured is the BG66L. Also pictured is an AEG blender, which received a Quiet Mark designation.



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