Saturday, January 28, 2012

Screen readers ("Evi" vs. Siri)

Comparison of screen readers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Siri at Apple iPhone 4s has finally managed to make computer voice communication mainstream.

How about "reading text?"

While this should be much simpler task than recognizing speech,
there are no many usable tools available...

There is one "special" among those tools: JavaScript based "webanywhere"
by University of Washington.

It works better with simple text, without web links.
Here is one such example:
(Project Gutenberg's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll)

There is also a plugin for Firefox browser "Text to voice".
While quite usable, the quality is not quite ready for mainsream...

Why did I start to investigate this?

There is a new competitor to Siri, called "Evi"
Story at MIT Technology Review
that I in fact listen as podcast, generated by "audiodizer".

Evi one-ups Siri for iOS and Android @ slashgear

The "Evi" is created by TrueKnowledge
and is available for free on Android, and for .99 on iPhone.
Why the difference in price?
Android has Text-to-speech API embedded, and for iPhone license from Nuance is needed...
TrueKnowlage is using Semantic (Web?) technology for finding information...
Siri is using AI

I thought something similar can be done on Windows without much trouble...
Windows also used to have "Agent" tools, until Windows 7 when it is apparently deprecated...
Now, Microsoft offers "TellMe" tools.

Nuance, provider of voice technology for iPhone 4S, also offers text-to-speech tools,
as well as demo web site: Vocalizer 5
The demo accepts max 140 characters (like Twitter), and the quality is quite good,
plus it is fun to select from a few dozen international languages, that read English with accent :)
But Vocalizer is apparently sold only in some special way, for solutions...

Maybe Android is the best platform for this feature after all..
It just need a bit more work on apps.
"Evi" just responded (by voice) on an Android phone:
"I'm really sorry. Due to overwhelming demand, my servers are overloaded..."
No much real challenge for Siri and Apple just yet... :)

htmlUI: HTML5 & CSS3 Demos

htmlUI « HTML5 & CSS3 Demos

a collection of homegrown HTML5 and CSS3 experiments

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Enyo JavaScript Application Framework

Enyo JavaScript Application Framework

HP has just open-sourced JavaScript framework part of WebOS,
with Apache 2.0 license (non restrictive)

Enyo 1.0 requires WebKit based web browser, but Enyo 2.0 is apparently more portable...

GUI widgets are generated from JavaScript... nice...

Enyo is functional similar to jQuery Mobile and similar frameworks...
But there are differences in "level", since Enyo(greek godes of war)
is object-based, and the code a bit "cleaner" and more compact for apps.
For simple web pages scaled down for small screens, qQuery Mobile is easier.

Combined with PhoneGap
that is now also released as Apache open source (after purchase by Adobe)
Enyo could be a nice platform for portable mobile apps...
Provided examples work nice in Chrome, as well as in IE9 and Firefox...

Back to JavaScript, the language of the future :)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Udacity - Educating the 21st Century

Udacity - Educating the 21st Century

A new education venture of Stanford Prof. Sebastian Thrun, co-teacher of AI-Class
New free classes:
    Start Date: 20 February

    Behind the scene of AI-Class
    Video: @livestream

    In fact Prof. Thrun gave up tenure position at Stanford to start this new venture.
    Udacity and the future of online universities
    Sebastian Thrun resigns from Stanford to launch Udacity @ Kurzweil AI

    It is interesting that there will be many Stanford online free classes
    also coming in a few weeks, just using different "software platform" coursera
    That platform is more controlled and less open, while more integrated.
    As usual, life is complicated, and healthy competition is useful...


    This class will give you an introduction to computing. In seven weeks, you will build your own search engine complete with a web crawler and way of ranking popular pages. You will understand some of the key concepts in computer science, and learn how to write your own computer programs.

    No previous background in programming is expected.

    Programming language used for class is apparently Python.
    Python is one of most popular languages in Google (along with Java and C++)
    as well as on many Computer Science and AI departments on universities.
    Python is very easy to learn. The most popular book from
    Hello World! Computer Programming for Kids and Other Beginners is about Python

    Week 1: How to get started: your first program Extracting a link
    Week 2: How to repeat: Finding all the links on a page
    Week 3: How to manage data: Crawling the web
    Week 4: How to solve problems: Responding to search queries
    Week 5: How programs run: Making things fast
    Week 6: How to have infinite power: Ranking search results
    Week 7: Where to go from here: Exam testing your knowledge


    This class, taught by one of the foremost experts in AI, will teach you basic methods in Artificial Intelligence, including: probabilistic inference, computer vision, machine learning, and planning, all with a focus on robotics. Extensive programming examples and assignments will apply these methods in the context of building self-driving cars. You will get a chance to visit, via video, the leading research labs in the field, and meet the scientists and engineers who are building self-driving cars at Stanford and Google.

    Prerequisites: The instructor will assume solid knowledge of programming,
    all programming will be in Python.
    Knowledge of probability and linear algebra will be helpful.

    Week 1: Basics of probability: Car localization with particle filters
    Week 2: Gaussians and continuous probability: Tracking other cars with Kalman filters
    Week 3: Image Processing and Machine Learning: Finding objects in sensor data
    Week 4: Planning and search: Determining where to drive with A* search: Finding optimal routes with dynamic programming
    Week 5: Controls: Controlling steering and speeds with PID
    Week 6: Putting it all together: Programming a self-driving car
    Week 7: Final Exam: Exam testing your knowledge
  • Monday, January 23, 2012

    Sunday, January 22, 2012



    the open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit.
    2,425 books with 40,134 pages

    Wall St: "Apple Worth More than Greece"

    At $400 billion, Apple is worth more than (GDP of) Greece

    Here is why:
    Apple Profit More Than Doubles as IPhone Demand Fuels Sales - Businessweek

    Here is result:
    Things Apple is worth more than

    iBooks 2: Apple re-inventing textbooks, for iPad only

    1 hour video, well worth watching...
    Apple - Apple Events - Apple Special Event January 2012
    You will need Apple's QuickTime to watch it...

    Here are some facts mentioned:
  • High school drop-out rate in US is 30-40%
  • Textbooks are expensive ($50-70), and re-used for 5 years, not in great shape, heavy

    Not mentioned, but known otherwise:
    Steve Jobs described textbooks as an '$8 billion a year industry ripe for digital destruction',
    in conversations with his biographer Walter Isaacson.

    Here is what is new:
  • iBooks 2, a new/improved iPad app for interactive books
  • iBooks Author, a new "free" Mac app for making those interactive books
  • "Textbooks" section on iTunes, for those interactive books
  • iTunes U app for iPad, to view free education materials (books?) on iTunes U
  • iTunes U for K-12 education (so far it was only for universities)

    Apple in Education

    The bottom line: a well polished system for teaching, based on iPad and Mac.
    It looks great!

    But this is an "exclusive club". No iPad and Mac, no iBooks.

    And there is a problem, hidden in the "fine print" of iBooks Author license.
    While the tool is free, materials created by it MUST be distributed bu iTunes.
    The author gets 70% and Apple 30%, as usual. It could be free also.
    The material is "locked in" Apple platform. So "free" is not really free anymore.
    Everybody needs at least an iPad.

    Here is an opinion by Sascha Segan @ PC Magazine:
    iBooks Author: You Work For Apple Now

    There is no doubt that there will be imitations of iBooks.
    It would be great if they are done as HTML5, to be completely portable.
    And they should be able to work nice on 7" screens, such as Amazon Kindle Fire.
    The target should be a $100 tablet that everybody can have.

    The platform can be called "Web Books", or "we Books".
    While Apple has "i" line for private exclusive use ("I Books"),
    there could be a parallel "we" line for a collective good, like Wikipedia.

    In fact, Apple is already using ePub, that is just zipped HTML, CSS and images,
    with some proprietary extensions. The key for Apple is ability to control distribution,
    so this could encourage people to produce content...
  • Saturday, January 21, 2012

    Free Online Education Who is Who

    Free Online Education Who is Who | - aiqus
    New venture of Prof. Thrun
    Coursera is the organization behind the new (spring 2012) courses from Stanford (et al).
    other *-classes
    Class central is unaffiliated with Stanford, just set up as a resource; similarly to aiqus.

    Thursday, January 19, 2012

    100mpg: Ford Fusion Energi

    Detroit Auto Show: Will Ford's New Car Really Get 100 Miles Per Gallon? - (MIT) Technology Review

    The "Energi" looks great, similar to
    Aston Martin V12 Vantage

    MSRP from $180,535

    The main competition: Hyundai Sonata (I think)

    Hyundai Sonata ranks 3rd among midsize sedans in August 2011 auto sales
    Hyundai Sonata: 21,399, Honda Accord: 22,506; Toyota Camry: 29,599.

    Amazon DynamoDB

    Amazon DynamoDB

    Amazon DynamoDB is a fully managed NoSQL database service that provides fast and predictable performance with seamless scalability. With a few clicks in the AWS Management Console, customers can launch a new Amazon DynamoDB database table, scale up or down their request capacity for the table without downtime or performance degradation, and gain visibility into resource utilization and performance metrics.

    New service for Amazon’s cloud about to be directly exposed: DynamoDB

    Build Your First Robot for $100

    Build Your First Robot - With Plans and Step-by-Step Instructions - Popular Mechanics


    Toyota Prius v Side-by-Side Comparison

    Toyota Side-by-Side Comparison

    The size of this vehicle is almost the same to the first generation of Honda Odyssay,
    but the fuel economy is 2x better.
    This is 16 years of efficiency improvements...

    Prius v Takes Me Past and Present @MotorTrend

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012

    Free Computer Programming eBooks

    Download Free Computer eBooks and Programming eBooks

    "Legally Free Computer Books"

    Smooth CoffeeScript

    CoffeeScript compiler is now written in CoffeeScript, that compiles to JavaScript.
    That means it can run in any web browser, as well as in node.js server.
    (Original compiler was first written in Ruby).

    With portability (and current popularity) of HTML5, that is based on JavaScript,
    CoffeeScript has a potential to become the most popular programming languages... is an amazing web site,
    where complete language reference and interactive tutorial is implemented
    as a single web page: one .html, one .js and one .css file!
    That includes a complete annotated source of the compiler, too!

    This is a "brave new world" compared to "classic CS training" that we know.
    The same CS techniques are still used, parsers, generators etc,
    but all an interactive environment that is simple to use and test!

    Free e-book: Smooth CoffeeScript (without solutions)

    and With Solutions

    Online book, with an advanced reader (turning pages as real paper),
    also available as HTML5 and PDF...

    Or just watch video presentation by CoffeeScript creator Jeremy Ashkenas @InfoQ

    More CoffeeScript links

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    HP TouchPad + Android

    CyanogenMod's HP TouchPad Team Releases A Glimpse At CM9,
    Hopes To Give Us "Something To Play With" Soon

    CyanogenMod team recently declared they have reached the impressive 1 million user milestone which involves official and unofficial installations...

    Android 4.0 ported to HP TouchPad
    announcement by HP that it would be open sourcing its WebOS software has led to a surprise reverse phenomenon of developers now hoping to port the operating system to Android devices.

    Since both Android and WebOS are based on Linux and WebKit browser engine,
    they may be able to run in parallel, that is to run both Android and WebOS apps
    on the same base OS. It is more likely to have Android platform as a base,
    since there are more drivers already developed...

    On the other side, both Android and WebOS should be able to run as a "Desktop VM",
    to run "universal" apps on every computer... That sounds like HTML5 offline apps...
    and for the most part it is, except that a platform (OS) should provide packaging,
    updates, and protection services...

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    WikiSPEEDia, the open speed limit database.

    Google navigation app (on Android) does not have speed limit info.
    Some other app is needed for that...

    Here is one (potential) solution:
    Welcome to the Wikispeedia, the open speed limit database.

    We are gathering the GPS-coordinates of every speed-limit sign on earth.
    You don't need any GPS or cellphone to help, just 2 minutes of your time.
    Its open source so you can contribute.
    People can put these data into GPS devices to regulate or warn of excessive speed. 
    Google, Garmin, Teleatlas, even AAA aren't doing this, so please help out. 
    Plus the data you capture is copyrighted with your name.

    It even has open source code
    Nice idea, if it works, and can you trust such data?

    As usual, there is a simpler solution for some money...
    TeleNav "Premium" has such feature, and more... Having Google as competition is not fun...
    So, TeleNav is now available as free app, with limited features...

    ACMQ Online Programming Competition

    ACMQ Online Programming Competition: Jan 1- Feb 12, 2012 | Channel 9: ACM Queue is hosting an online programming competition on its website from January 15 through February 12, 2012.

    Using either Java, C++, C#, Python, or JavaScript, code an AI to compete against other participant's programs in a territory-capture game called, "Coercion".

    Saturday, January 14, 2012

    HTML5 Canvas Demos

    Applications, games, tools and tutorials using HTML5 canvas and JavaScript - Canvas Demos

    Wikipedia Knowledge Map

    Wikipedia Knowledge Map (Albert Einstein)

    WebGL Maze

    "Pure Web", no plugins! Impressive.

    Windows Phone: 30 to Launch

    30 to Launch

    Another Microsoft push for Windows Phone...

    Your path to a Windows Phone app in 30 daysThe Challenge Is On:
    January 31, 2012 – February 29, 2012

    With great devices hitting the market and the broadly acclaimed
    user interface based on Metro design principles,
    Windows Phone is setting the new cool for mobile computing.
    Take advantage of the excitement and create
    a cutting edge application - fast. Really fast. 30 days fast.

    Official Rules

    Nokia is preparing some really good Windows Phone devices
    (Best phone of CES 2012: Nokia Lumia 900)

    At the same time, Nokia is preparing to hold-on to lower-end market
    (Nokia buys Norwegian smartphone OS maker Smarterphone)

    Thursday, January 12, 2012

    AI-class, ML-class, DB-class by Stanford

    A detailed comparison of 3 online classes by Stanford professors:

    Fortnightly Mailing: Apples, screwdrivers and desks: a comparative review of three Stanford free online computer science courses
    AI-class notes

    Machine Learning - complete course notes

    CityCar, CityHome - MIT Media Lab

    Smart Cities by MIT Media Lab

    The CityCar electric automobile...
    get the equivalent of 150 to 200 miles per gallon of gasoline...
    is powered by four in-wheel electric motors...
    Each wheel unit contains drive motor (which also enables regenerative braking)...
    This enables maneuvers like spinning on its own axis (an O-turn instead of a U-turn)..
    fold to minimize parking footprint...
    possible to park three or four CityCars in the length of a traditional parking bay...

    A new vision for the city of the future @ Fortune Magazine

    When parking, the rear of the electric CityCar slides under the chassis, allowing the body to fold up into a compact shell. Once folded, the CityCar will fit into a space just one-third the size of a standard parking spot. A single door on the front of the car pops open, allowing the driver to step out onto the sidewalk
    MIT's Media Lab is also working on what it dubs the CityHome. Again, greater flexibility is key. The CityHome concept takes a Murphy-bed approach. A bedroom can double as anything from a kitchen to a personal gym with stoves, fridges, and StairMasters swinging out from hidden panels in the walls. Larson says that the customization cost for a small apartment would be as much as $30,000. However, the savings of paying for a one-room studio that functions as a three-room apartment could be 10 times that amount. MIT hopes to launch pilot programs in the Boston area.

    Smart Cities by MIT Media Lab

    One thing is missing to MIT great ideas: "Responsive Web Design" of web site :)

    Wednesday, January 11, 2012

    Responsive Web Design

    Skeleton: Beautiful Boilerplate for Responsive, Mobile-Friendly Development

    60 Examples of Responsive Website Design

    The Boston Globe
    The New York Times

    Try re-sizing web browser window... First news site adjusts automatically,
    and the second one stays the same... so they need a separate "mobile" version, or app.

    Responsive Web Design is done by clever use of CSS and JavaScript,
    completely on "client side", in the browser...

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Trello: Organize anything, together

    Organize anything, together. | Trello

    Unreasonable for Progress

    "Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world.
    Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves.
    All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people
    George Bernard Shaw

    The hi-res user experience

    Creating Passionate Users: The hi-res user experience

    Learning adds resolution to what you offer.
    And the change happens not within the product, but between the user's ears.
    The more you help your users learn and improve, the greater the chance that they'll become passionate
    They knew enough to appreciate and enjoy subtleties
    that are virtually inaccessible to everyone else.
    How can you increase the resolution of the products and services you offer-
    -without touching the products?
    there's potential for a richer experience-
    -an experience the non-passionate don't see, taste, hear, feel, smell, touch, or ever recognize...

    Peter Norvig Interview | Remote Learning Project

    Peter Norvig Interview | Remote Learning Project

    "...So, what was different?” It wasn’t information. It was motivation, determination or something like that. So I realized that you got to have a minimum floor of information and once you have that, its the determination that counts.

    So I wanted to think about how you can do classes that do that better. And one thing I realized was a lot of the online classes say let’s take advantages of being online, and one of these advantages is that you can do it any time you want.

    You see these ads on television showing a student that saying “I took my classes in my pajamas. Oh great. I can do my classes wherever and whenever I want.” But part of the problem is that if you can do it whenever you want you can do it tomorrow. Then you end up not doing it.

    We wanted to make sure that although week to week its asynchronous (you can do it any time you want during the week), there has to be a homework assignment. Because if there is no homework assignment, you are going to push it off and not do it, at least I know I would.

    So I thought that part was important. And when you ask “What works with distance learning?”, I would say it really depends on how you organize distance learning and solve these different aspects that I think are more important than whether you are in the same room or not."

    Monday, January 09, 2012

    Saturday, January 07, 2012


    "The GeoNames geographical database covers all countries
    and contains over eight million placenames that are available for download free of charge."

    with jQuery autocomplete

    Scratch by MIT Media Lab

    Scratch | Home | imagine, program, share

    Scratch is a (visual) programming language that makes it easy to create your own interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art -- and share your creations on the web.
    created by MIT Media Lab


    Google Car - YouTube

    Google Car - YouTube"

    'via Blog this'

    .NET benchmarks

    Open source .NET and Mono web services framework

    "A collection of 3rd Party and our own .NET library benchmarks
    found on the Internet showcasing the performance of .NET server technologies."

    Unfortunately, despite all marketing, Microsoft's ORM solution (EF4)
    is much slower than others, same as I have observed on my simple tests...
    While in many cases database access is just one element of overall performance,
    it is not practical to spend 10x more time than necessary.
    My guess is that using dynamics could be a reason for speed penalty,
    and one solution may be adding static typing option.

    here is one alternative solution: Dapper
    Dapper code

    podcast: Service Stack with Demis Bellot @Hanselminutes

    Wednesday, January 04, 2012

    Agile Value = Why / How

    Cutting an Agile Groove: The Live Sessions
    presented by David Hussman @PragProg (The Pragmatic Bookshelf) me the results, reframing the practice as a tool that has a purpose - "Why"
    ...“the big picture” context... is so often missing
    where people are spending copious amounts of time talking about “doing agile.” ("How")

    Tuesday, January 03, 2012

    Store Wars: Apple vs Microsoft

    Store War: Mac Vs. PC -
    Apple's stores generate more than $5,000 in sales per square foot annually.
    Total stores:
  • Apple: 357
  • Microsoft: 14

  • Monday, January 02, 2012

    Jeff Ullman - Mining of Massive Datasets

    Famous Stanford professor Jeffrey Ullman
    offers a free online book Mining of Massive Datasets


    He is also planning (free) online class automata theory for the spring quarter...

    PhoneGap: Adobe, Apache, Native HTML5 apps

    presentation (video & mp3): InfoQ: Making the Mobile Web Native with PhoneGap

    Many "mobile" apps could very well be web apps.
    PhoneGap is a solution to "wrap" a web app into a "native mobile" shell,
    where native APIs are exposed to JavaScript,
    such as camera and storage on the phone...
    This was available for years, not new.

    The news is that PhoneGap team is now part of Adobe
    and that its source is now open source, managed by Apache
    under new name "Callback" ("Gap" jeans trademark was a problem for PhoneGap name)

    There is also a "build" service

    that makes it possible to make "native" iPhone app even without an Apple Mac computer,
    or windows phone app without a Windows PC.

    This will make it even easier to make even more mobile apps.
    While most of such apps are not very good, out of large quantity
    there will be some benefit too... not least saving developers time...

    One more thing: apparently there are more contributors to PhoneGap
    from IBM than Natobi (now Adobe)...