Thursday 28 April 2011

Delicious has a new owner

As you can see, I'm a user of the social bookmarking site Delicious, or to use its original name, It was previously owned by Yahoo!, which announced last December that they didn't want it anymore. This led to panic amongst Delicious users, as a rumour went round that the site was going to close. Yahoo! quickly issued a statement that they weren't closing it, they were selling it, and now the new owners have been announced - AVOS, a company founded by the users of YouTube. Hopefully they might develop the site a bit more - Delicious has had the feel of a resource with untapped potential for a while.

And while we're at it, can we have the cool URL back please?

Wednesday 27 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Impossible Astronaut

Doctor Who has started again! This gives me a way to get back into the habit of writing regularly, after a couple of off weeks. Before I start, though, here's a warning from River Song.


Saturday's episode lulled into a false sense of security with The Doctor messing about in history, and then brought us to the picnic, where Amy caught her first glimpse of The Silence, and a the Astronaut appeared out of a lake and assasinated The Doctor. As Rory decided to give The Doctor a Viking Funeral in a burning boat, I'm wondering if this was "The Picnic at Asgard" that River referred to in Silence In The Library. After meeting a younger version of the Doctor, we headed to the White House in 1969, where we met Richard Nixon. Whereas historical characters have been major parts in previous stories, here Richard Nixon was more of a supporting character. The episode was really pushing Steven Moffat's trademark mixture of scares and weirdness to the limit. There are a load of unanswered questions, including
  • Who are the Silence? It's implied that they were the behind the scenes villains of last season, and their ship is the same as the one seen in The Lodger, but we really don't know anything more of them than that.
  • What do they want?
  • Can Amy save the Doctor, and if so, how?

But the one that's intriguing me most is Why were Amy and Rory at home at the beginning of the episode? Last time we saw them, they were happily travelling with The Doctor and showed no sign of wanting to go home. River said that it would be dangerous for The Doctor to interfere with his own timeline, but maybe everybody's timelines have already been interfered with, and need to be put right.

Also, could this be when The Doctor tells River his True Name? When she revealed that she knew it in Silence In The Library, The Doctor said there was only one reason why he'd tell it to anybody. Could the reason be because he was going to die?

Wednesday 6 April 2011

Not as easy as it sounds

A while ago, I came up with the idea of a spoken language recogniser. The idea was that it would use a stripped down speech recognition engine to identify the phonemes in an utterance, and then feed these into an AI system which could identify which of a given set of languages a particular sequence was most likely to come from. You may have noticed that I've been a bit quiet about this recently. I've run into a few snags.

The first is that a speech recogniser needs to be trained to recognise all the different sounds it has to identify. I can't just use an off-the-shelf model for this, as there aren't any that are designed for multi-language use. As far as I can tell, nobody else has needed a multi-language speech recognition app before. So, I'll have to build my own model. Fortunately this site has recordings of many sounds from many different languages, and so gives me a good starting point for building a phonetic model.

The second problem is with transcribing all these sounds. The speech recognition engine I'm likely to use, CMU Sphinx, seems to want phonetic transcriptions to be case insensitive and alphanumeric. I'd prefer to use an X-SAMPA derivative called CXS, but the constraints the speech recogniser places on me won't allow that. Fortunately, sounds within a transcription can be separated by spaces, allowing for multicharacter notation, but with the sheer number of sounds the system has to recognise, I'll probably end up with something like htwvitbveuotkvwvahfi, a logical but unusable system I created as a parody of spelling reform proposals.