I went to Mountain View and saw fair and
Zack this weekend. fair's house gets my vote as one of the
finest places in the Bay Area to get quality hacking done.
Fast DSL, comfortable couch, nice folks, and unlimited
quantities of strong Earl Grey tea! I made lots of new
additions to alice, the car computing software that I've
been working on. The biggest addition is a new module
called PrefMgr, that acts as the central source for
retrieving and saving configuration data throughout the
system. Right now there's a file called
alice.config, which has UNIX style line separated
name/value pairs in the form VARNAME=value. When
the PrefMgr client starts, it reads the config data into a
hash table in memory, then opens a socket connection back
to the event distribution server (EDS), which is the
central core of the application. When other clients
connect to the EDS (like the speech i/o module, mp3 player,
etc) they register with it by sending a service name. The
EDS then passes this to the PrefMgr, which sends back a
list of current configuration settings for the service.
These are passed back to the client, which then continues
loading, using the options given.
Ideally I'd like to hack up a little web-based interface
that would allow the user to easily set and change
available options, rather than having to manually edit the
config file each time. I considered initially using the
speech rec. system to do this, but rejected it as
impractical, because most of the options are set-and-forget
(IP addresses, log file locations..), and setting the
options in this manner would be a bit tedious. 'Set the Ee
Dee Ess Aye Pee to one two seven dot zero dot zero dot
one..', and so on.
Every time I add to alice, it gets closer and closer to
being an application server for voice controlled programs.
I think I like that.
I found an interesting article on the social aspects of
talking computer systems last week -- http:
It talks a little about the interesting stories of how some
people came to be the very recognizable voice within
automated systems. UTexas' Tex class scheduling system,
AOL, and the Wildfire personal assistant are mentioned.
This passage amused me:
...Now, the fan groups and fascination spawned by the
Wildfire voice are an indication that Harnett and company
have been successful in their task of making the
computerized assistant seem real.
Some men have become preoccupied with Wildfire, calling the
company to find out information about her, sending her
Christmas cards and starting Web sites to speculate about
what she looks like and how she acts in person. For this
reason, Wildfire's identity is still a secret. She lives in
the Boston area. She has a day job. She thinks the foofaraw
over her voice is interesting but tries to keep it in
perspective. "She's not the girlfriend of the lead engineer
anymore," Harnett said, "but they're still on very good
I found the article in a serendipitous fashion. I was
searching for "You've got Leprosy!" in Google (recent
Simpsons quote that I wanted the sound-byte for), and it
was the third result returned.
My birthday is on Wednesday. I'll be 22. Ack! I feel
really old, now. On my wishlist --- Lego Mindstorms, flat
panels, a Dremel tool, one of those little blue Photon
Lights from ThinkGeek
, and some
grab bags of toggle switches, LEDs, DC motors. And maybe a
Cisco AiroNet 802.11b card too :-). And a BGSystems CerealBox
(multi chan A/D converter w/RS-232 interface).
--- Rupert (email@example.com)