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In Search of Better Search

Wade Roush’s article (“Search Beyond Google,” TR March 2004) provides a well-composed, broad survey of search engine history and the competitive landscape. One surmises that Google has a sizeable lead but that new technology could crown a fresh champion. Interestingly, when I enter the term “search engine” on Google, google.com is ranked fourth. Maybe Google is even more aware of the competition than we realize.

Michael Ashley Schulman
Newport Beach, CA

If Microsoft is developing such flashy search technology, why are the search engines on its own websites so bad? I am a computer technician who spends a significant amount of time on various Microsoft sites looking for information, and using the “site:microsoft.com” parameter in Google returns far more relevant information than the Microsoft search does. Other difficulties include not being able to find specific software files in a search after they were downloaded from the Windows Update site and the apparent impossibility of locating software files by their file name. It also takes more clicks to run a search in Windows XP than in earlier versions of Windows. Given my difficulties with their current search technologies, I wouldn’t trust Microsoft’s future ones any farther than I could toss Bill Gates-and that’s not far.

Marc Erickson
Edmonton, Alberta

A Net Phone Deal Breaker

As an early adopter of new technologies, I seriously looked into Vonage and what it had to offer. While Simson Garfinkel’s article “Dial N for Net Phone” (TR March 2004) covered some good points, it left out one of the most important-which, for me, was the deal breaker. What Garfinkel doesn’t mention is that every time Vonage customers dial out, they must use the full 11-digit numbers (1 plus the area code) of the parties they are calling, even next-door neighbors. Likewise, everyone who calls your Vonage number must also dial the full 11-digit number. I don’t need my local friends or doctor’s office constantly receiving that annoying message telling them to dial my full number starting with the area code. They might think I moved out of state without telling them.

John A. Cantera
Essex Junction, VT

Garfinkel fails to recognize an important point with regard to Internet telephony. Whatever protocol is used to transmit voice or data, it still uses someone’s physical network. These networks can’t be run for free. If the Federal Communications Commission and authorities in other countries continue to refrain from applying fees for use of the Net for voice service, then there will be an incentive for service providers to move to that technology. The ultimate result of this shift, however, will be that there are no network facilities on which to deliver the service. To provide for the maintenance and expansion of networks, it is necessary to charge either the end user or the service provider for access to that network. The adage remains true: there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

John Harris
Tulsa, OK

Pontoons of Yore

In response to “Bridge Over Rising Water” (TR March 2004): floating bridges are hardly new technology. Xerxes’ army used a pontoon bridge circa 480 BCE to invade Greece, and armies have been using them to great success ever since. Today, U.S. Army combat engineers can assemble a floating bridge that can carry the weight of an M1 Abrams tank in less than a day.

Andrew Tabar
San Diego, CA

Why Close the Door?

I was pleased to read “The Patriot Act: A Visitor’s Tale” (TR March 2004). Unfortunately, what happened to “Ahmed” is not rare. As an expert in the field of immigration law, I have seen huge backlogs and delays, and even unlawful refusals of visas. This not only hurts people, it damages American employers, universities, research, science, and technology, and the U.S. economy. Brilliant scientists and physicians are stuck abroad for months waiting for security clearance. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has enough cases pending to count against this year’s 65,000 H-1B visa cap so that technology and biotech companies, as well as other U.S. employers, can’t hire professionals like “Ahmed” until October 2004. Amendments to increase the cap have been unsuccessful so far. The more people hear about these stories, the better chance we have to abolish bad practices.

Karen Weinstock
Atlanta, GA

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