Tech blogs on call

Sometimes the fastest way to solve a problem is to chat with a friend. If your problem is a technical one, it helps to have a techy friend. Alas, not all of us have friends sufficiently knowledgeable to solve many of our daily problems.

For answers to general computer questions, user groups’ online bulletin boards have been useful for a long time. Now, blogs have captured everyone’s attention.

After checking out a handful of blogs, you soon learn that not all are created alike. Some are simple Web logs, in which a blogger maintains a running diary on a subject. Other blogs invite comments and operate essentially like an online bulletin board. Still others offer a combination of extensive Web content and online discussions.

You usually don’t seek a blog to answer a specific question about a product or service. For that, you would have better success searching a vendor’s knowledge base or sending an e-mail message to its technology support address. But if you want to stay abreast of general ideas about a topic, a good blog can be a helpful — and fun — resource.

Keep in mind that blogs tend to appear and disappear. A popular blog that you enjoyed reading in January might be gone in May. Blogs that don’t get heavy traffic tend to be out-of-date and less informative.

A growing number of vendors and most computer publications, including Federal Computer Week, publish blogs. If you want to explore the blogosphere, here are 10 interesting general technology blogs.

1. AMCP Tech Blog
amcptwo.blogspot.com
You read it here first: The Vatican’s radio station gave Pope Benedict XVI his own iPod. Only about a year old, the AMCP Tech Blog is one of the most active general technology blogs on the Web. Although most postings are by the blog’s editor, Alex Morganis, the posts include visitor comments. The news items are generally worthwhile, but visitors’ comments rarely add useful ideas to the discussion.

2. Gazotto
www.gazotto.com
Finding information about Gazotto is difficult. Its archives go back only to December 2005. The blog does not include information about its owners or authors. It focuses on a broad range of consumer technologies, and someone updates it often. The blog’s news items are interesting; however, they attract relatively few comments by visitors. Time will tell whether Gazotto establishes itself as a lively blog community.

3. Gizmodo
www.gizmodo.com
Gizmodo is an advertising-supported blog devoted to consumer electronics and gadgets. The blog is attractive and includes large photographs of products that it reviews — notebooks PCs, cellular phones, personal digital assistants, digital cameras and similar equipment. Each brief review includes comments by visitors. The reviews and contributors’ comments are not particularly discerning. The reason to visit Gizmodo is to learn more about a product that sparks your interest.

4. Kuro5hin
www.kuro5hin.org
Kuro5hin’s slogan is “technology and culture, from the trenches.” Besides covering technology, the blog offers major sections on science, politics, fiction, opinion/editorial, media and culture. The blog’s contributors tend to be knowledgeable, which makes the blog an effective networking tool. You can learn a lot by cruising the various topics. Click on a contributor’s name, and you can see all the comments, stories and other data from that contributor. You can also display your presence on the site to others, which often prompts instant chats. Advertising supports the blog, but you can avoid viewing the ads by paying for a premium membership.

5. WirelessMuse
www.wirelessmuse.com
WirelessMuse offers little visitor interaction, but it allows people to post comments. Being an author-oriented blog is successful in this case, because the author — Allan Reiter — carries a great deal of authority. As president of a wireless Internet and mobile computing consulting firm, Reiter has been an industry insider for more than 25 years. He focuses on wireless e-mail and instant messaging, wireless network access, wireless devices, cell phones and PDAs. The blog includes reviews and comments on emerging technologies.

6. Slashdot
www.slashdot.com
Slashdot, subtitled “News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters,” is a visitor-driven blog in which virtually all of the content is visitor postings. The blog offers sections on hardware, general IT, Linux and Apple Computer, plus general sections on politics, science and books. The blog’s message strings make navigating easy. This site is heavily used and has many recent postings and comments. Registering lets you save your preferences on the site, and subscribing lets you avoid viewing the advertising content.

7. StumbleUpon.com
www.stumbleupon.com
OK, so StumbleUpon really isn’t a blog, but it has bloggish features. StumbleUpon lets you share Web sites you discover with others who have similar interests. As you visit sites, you can rate them as positive or negative and add them to the StumbleUpon database. You can also include comments with your ratings. The fun part happens when you click on the Stumble button that the site adds to your browser’s toolbar. After clicking, you are whisked to a site that others who share your declared interests have recommended. You’d be surprised how quickly you find interesting sites you didn’t know existed.

8. Symantec DeepSight Threat Management System
https://tms.symantec.com
This one will cost you. Prices begin at $9,995 a year. If you’re responsible for your agency’s computer and information security, a subscription to Symantec’s DeepSight Threat Management System is worth considering. The site is much more than a blog. It offers current information on vulnerabilities and threats. You can set alert thresholds so you receive an e-mail or pager message when specific threats reach certain levels. The blog offers analysts’ journals, which contain timely information about emerging issues.

9. TechDirt
www.techdirt.com
TechDirt is a blog aimed mostly at nontechy managers who have to make technology-related decisions. The blog offers insights from a team of analysts with experience in various communications, media, biotechnology, financial services, retail, automotive and government sectors. Most of the postings are news items, with a focus on corporate or legal actions in the tech community. Visitors are knowledgeable, lively and frequent.

10. The Hive
hive.net/member
The Hive is a highly active site that combines forums, blogs, reviews and other content. Be aware that the site is Microsoft-centric — many Microsoft specialists participate and the majority of postings focus on Microsoft technologies. Some areas are available only to members, but membership is free and only requires registration. One nice feature: You can request to receive e-mail when someone posts something new in a specific message string.

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