cheeni: (Default)

Speech recognition on Windows Vista is exceedingly good. My initial attempts with using it were successful but I did not attach much importance to it since I did not see myself using it in day to day life.

I'm not really sure what has changed, but I've been using it all of today for pretty much everything I do on the computer, which includes typing emails, chatting and suchlike.

Consumer acceptance with regards to speech recognition reached a plateau a few years ago when it seemed like it was universally prevalent on most operating systems, but it never took off because accent training was impossibly hard. Vista seems to have cracked the barrier of intuitiveness - -right out of the box it seems to comprehend any normal accent, and seems to interpret words based on the context. This is awfully hard to do and terribly useful if implemented well, as Microsoft has. For one thing, it distinguishes between speech that is meant to be interpreted as text and system commands. The system commands are not rigid, which means you can pretty much use a logical command and expect the system to comprehend. Furthermore, there is a comprehensive set of navigation aids that allow you to use your voice to achieve a remarkable dexterity in navigating the computer. For example, in the above video you will see a demonstration of using the speech recognition to draw a line using MS paint.

Personally speaking, this is the first time for me that speech recognition has extended beyond an interesting plaything to being a useful tool. I can see myself getting by with speech recognition for most chores where I would have needed to use a keyboard. This is really helpful since I have been using a keyboard for a very long time now and I fear carpal tunnel syndrome and RSI as an occupational hazard.

It works well for now with Microsoft products such as Internet explorer and badly with a browser like firefox. This is to be expected for a number of reasons, but I am not going to complain about having to type my letters in notepad and copy them into gmail. This is my first day and the experience is already quite good, I can only imagine that it will improve with further training.

Mac OS X (leopard) has speech recognition for system commands as well, but I can tell you that it isn't half as good as vista. Which is a pity, because I have come to depend upon the Mac for most of my work. Luckily I also have a Vista desktop at work which I hope to capitalize upon. Give it a try! Soon, you will also sound like a robot, just like me :-)

P.S. This post was not composed using a keyboard.
cheeni: (cheeni in Bangalore)
This bottle of wine seemed set on denying its pleasures to us from the very start. Remarkably it survived a motorbike ride in a backpack, ineffectual late-night attempts at opening the bottle with a nail scissor in a hotel room and a plane ride in checked-in baggage.

Today seemed like the night it had been waiting for. We had a hot meal of steamed corn and roast vegetables, and "Snakes on the plane" was playing on the tele. Sturdy looking cork screw in hand I managed to coax the bottle into accepting the screw all the way to its final curves. The slippery cork that threatened to slip down into the bottle held. Nice, now for some wine - NOT. The cork screw snapped at the first pull leaving an orphaned screw in the bottleneck.

These situations seem to happen to me once in a while as if to mock my 20 years of formal education. Never fear, a few Google searches followed by a few interesting videos [on sabering champagne (I'm leaving out the links to 10 other videos on the same subject), making a plum cake, breakfast tacos, ginger bread, Puerco Pibil, christmas turkey and cookie dough] later, I realized the wine bottle was still waiting. Some gentle teasing with a nylon noose around the 0.5 inches of screw jutting out managed to get me a hold on the screw with a plier. Pulling vertically didn't help, so one of us held the bottle and the other pulled at the screw and what do you know it worked.

A great evening's work I'd say...

cheeni: (Default)
Too much email

IMO, the problem from a productivity and health and wellness standpoint isn't too much email, but too much of the wrong kind of email. I'd find my email load tolerable if it was only about stuff that I would find immediately useful.

The extremities of the email load bell curve are easily tackled. I can very successfully ignore or attend to the least and most important emails I receive - i.e. email sent to lists I don't care about which I filter and ignore until I hit a slow weekend, or email sent explicitly to me that I tag and read many times a day.

It's the stuff in the middle that I can neither keep up with nor ignore because they are occasionally useful that annoy me the most.

The email that falls in the middle of my bell curve bucket is usually sent to many people, and it would be trivial to apply the social voting concepts made popular by sites like and digg to these emails if everyone used an extensible email client like Gmail.

Thread count is a useful metric on occasion, but also inaccurate when it comes to predicting the importance of an email sent to an announce only list or where there's an email thread that goes on for ever because it's highly interesting to a small subset of the list.

As an aside you'll get email Karma snobbery if your emails are consistently voted as interesting.

Someone at work pointed out that newsgroups have always had scoring features. It's a shame newsgroups aren't used much anymore.

P.S. I get about 1500-2000 emails a day
cheeni: (Default)
Every time I pick up a canz of mah favright buvrage in India I spended 10 preshuz minutes wiping thez can top of all durt. WTF is wrong with mah peeplz?

Kl33n your 0wn canz, b*tch!

cheeni: (Default)

I haven't been this thrilled by a technology demo in a long time.
cheeni: (Default)
I am trying to save an attachment from Thunderbird on my mac to my desktop machine running Vista.

So, I smb mount the Vista location which looks like so;


However, each time I try to save the file it saves it in my local mac home directory, which is /Users/srinivasanr

I am quite shocked at Apple!
cheeni: (Default)
I hacked my Targus DEFCON-CL PA410U with strips of a soda can today.

The lock

The pick

Sources of inspiration:

1. An email thread at work about locked out laptops
cheeni: (Default)
No third party apps on the iPhone:

So why won't Apple make the iPhone an innovative environment?

It's all about the money honey.

Stop believing naively in a benign Apple. The carriers hate an uncontrolled phone environment. Ergo, Apple will need to control the phone to make greedy money. Because, you guessed it Apple makes more money working with the carriers than fighting them. The iPhone innovates with the help of the carrier, think visual voice mail. OTOH, a full featured OS X running phone would make SIP/VoIP trivial.

An open platform will lead to SIP / VoIP, the carriers need a couple of years to control the VoIP market through usable offerings of their own, and they need to cripple better choices till then. It'd be really bad timing for Apple to deliver a full feature phone this early. Apple is at the mercy of the carriers who subsidize every popular phone in the US market. A popular phone with carrier subsidy will end up selling more music for Apple than any other medium.

A powerful computing device in the hands of the many will prove to be too disruptive a force to established businesses, including Apple. Heck you'd have people cracking DRMed music for the iPhone, having OGG and DivX running directly on the iPhone, and in short ringing a death knell to the iTunes walled market. Apple clearly intends to make money off the iPhone, and it's not merely by selling the hardware.

Of course there are other reasons too,

The UI is completely unique in the industry today, Apple will want to gain maximum mileage from it, and understand how the UI can be used optimally before opening it up to 3rd parties in a controlled manner. In a couple of years if the UI proves to be successful there will be innumerable clones on the market, at which time the Apple UI libraries will be infinitely superior and offer greater control. Hence possibly mad profit.

The processor maker, Intel has an interest in ensuring that the iPhone does not kill the handheld / tablet / micro-notebook market for a while. It's also clear that too much computing will kill the battery in short order increasing customer dissatisfaction and leading average joe to think twice about buying the phone.

Of course all of this is assuming that Apple has not as usual made bloat ware, where loading any extra app on the phone would slow it to a crawl and make it unusable. i.e. make you miss your calls because the color wheel of patience is busy spinning.
cheeni: (cheeni in Calcutta)
I've been using and friends who are looking to switch hosting providers have asked me in the past about my experiences with them. When I got an email yet again today I decided that there might be a good reason to publish this information to the world.

First check out the latest plans and offers at, this post doesn't deal with any of this.

Now the recommendation:

Hi srini,

My xxxx is up for renewal. Don't want to continue (too much downtime, and 
i end up telling them that the server is down!). How is dreamhost working out? 
SSH ok? MySQL ok? 

Dreamhost works fine for me. They provide a lot for the price, and since I am not running anything mission critical, it seems ok.

There is some downtime since there are a lot of users, and DH is good but not really looking to deliver 9s, everything is only best effort. I have reported mail / www / mailman outages, but I'm usually not the first person reporting it, and they are usually already working on it. Outages have rarely been greater than a few hours. You can report an outage on the webpanel and it will tell you when it was first reported, when it was confirmed and so on.

This is the most automated webhost I have ever been at, this is a lot of power, and you tend to get used to it. Creating a sub-domain, upgrading the version of PHP, creating a new mailing list, editing DNS records, everything works off the web panel and gets done in minutes. Much better than emailing a helpdesk every time you need to do something.

Whenever I've needed human support, they have always responded in 24-48 hours, even on weekends. System loads are fine, and the servers are not really slow. Of course I have never thrown anything that challenging at so I wouldn't really know, it works for me.

The current load average for the server that runs is
22:57:02 up 55 days, 20:44,  2 users,  load average: 2.35, 2.61, 2.86

$cat /proc/cpuinfo
model name      : Dual Core AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 175
cache size      : 1024 KB

$cat /proc/meminfo
        total:    used:    free:  shared: buffers:  cached:
Mem:  4172861440 4035751936 137109504        0  8925184 2341986304
Swap: 6465036288 1043316736 5421719552
MemTotal:      4075060 kB
MemFree:        133896 kB
MemShared:           0 kB
Buffers:          8716 kB
Cached:        2263292 kB
SwapCached:      23804 kB
Active:         734012 kB
Inactive:      1562204 kB
HighTotal:     3211200 kB
HighFree:         5464 kB
LowTotal:       863860 kB
LowFree:        128432 kB
SwapTotal:     6313512 kB
SwapFree:      5294648 kB

The servers are definitely not under utilized, but it's good enough for most.

> Let me know. If you get referral credit,
> let me know what i have to do to get you credit.

Dreamhost will from time to time release promo codes of their own that are usually the best deal. For example, I used promo code 777 that got me a year's service for < $10. This code may not be active anymore but I am sure you can find something reasonably good from DH or on Google. Using this promo will eliminate any referrals, which is ok as long as you are getting a good deal.

If you don't find anything that gives you at least $97 off, then contact me and I can make you a promo code that gives you up to $97 off.

If you'd like to refer me, you can do so in one of these ways.

Click and then sign up, like so

1. Enter that cheeni AT (s/AT/@/) referred you when you sign up.
2. Use a promo code that I created for you when signing up.

If you don't use any promo codes, and refer me by citing my email address then I get $97 after their 97 day cancellation window has expired.

Hope this helps!


P.S. [ profile] thaths,[ profile] jace,[ profile] brainz and [ profile] ravi are Dreamhost customers too.
cheeni: (cheeni)

I've lately followed with interest the life and times of "Bartholomäus Ziegenbalg", the first Protestant missionary in India. BZ was an interesting man, among other things he learned the Tamil language and script in less than 6 months at the age of 24. Considering this was in 1706, and that very few Indians spoke the European tongue (Portugese, not English back then), this is just amazing.

He went on to write his version of the New Testament in Tamil and printed copies on a printing press skillfully manoeuvered to his use from a passing ship. This was the among the first instances of printing in India. His contribution is nothing short of brilliant - Tamil is a diglossic language that uses diacritics which make printing especially difficult. So much so, the 1975 government of MGR made changes to the Tamil alphabet to make it more amenable to printing.

I copy here a few details on his life in his words from elsewhere on the Internet.

Of his attempts at understanding the idiomatic usage of Tamil and his fear of Catholics:
"Then the Commandant recommended to us a grammar in the Portuguese language, written by a missionary of the King of France. We obtained a number of books in the Malabar (Tamil) language, prepared by Catholics, which almost led us into dangerous heresies but not into an understanding of the language or a Christian style of writing. We had no means of knowing with what words and expressions we should explain spiritual matters in order not to give them a heathen flavour." (Lehmann 1956: 24)

Of his rigorous schedule:
Ziegenbalg reported that during the first three years of his stay in India, he hardly read any books in German or Latin. He gave the following schedule of his language lessons: "from 7-8 a.m. he would repeat the vocabularies and phrases which he had previously learnt and written down; from 8-12 he read only Malabar (Tamil) books which he had not previously read. This he did in the presence of an old poet (Tamil Pandit) and a writer who immediately wrote down all new words and expressions. The poet had to explain the text and in the case of linguistically complicated poetry put what had been read into colloquial language. At first he had also used the translator Aleppa,whom he later gave up to one of his colleagues. Even while eating he had someone read to him and from 3-5 he read some more Tamil books. In the evening from 7-8 he had someone read to him from Tamil literature in order to save his own eyes. He preferred authors whose style he could imitate in his own speaking and writing. 'Thus it has happenedthat I sometimes the read the same author a hundred times, so that there was no world or expression in him which I did not know or imitate. Such practice in this language has given a sureness and certainty'" (Lehmann 1956:24).

He died at the age of 37 in Tranquebar.

See Also, The First Protestant Missionary to India : Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg 1683-1719
cheeni: (Default)

For the curious, I was searching for BootVis. The same search on Google. Chalk one down for Office humor I guess.

cheeni: (Default)
This is deeply ironical on many levels...

For most people, being swamped with information is just annoying. But for soldiers, pilots and police officers it can be a matter of life and death. So a device that prevents urgent communications from getting lost in bureaucratic babble, patented by US defence firm Honeywell, could prove invaluable.

Honeywell has been investigating ways to reduce information overload under a grant from the US government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The company's idea is for soldiers' uniforms to conceal an electrocardiogram, galvanic skin response detector, and respiration and blood pressure sensors. These instruments should be able to tell when a person is breathing hard, sweating and has a racing pulse. If so, the time is probably not right for HQ to ask them any mundane questions.

The same system should be able to sense when a person is calm and breathing easy, so ready to receive a load of information.

If all the sensors suggest that the solider is dead, the patent suggests that important messages should be relayed to another whose sensors still show signs of life.

Read the soldier sensor patent here.

[Via New Scientist]
cheeni: (Default)
Countries with highly evolved and transparent bureaucracies have difficulty managing spectrum allocation in a manner that is fair and forward looking. It doesn't help that there are greater demands on the spectrum management function in nations with ubiquitous use of wireless technologies.

India's spectrum management is in my view not efficient (read "a holy mess"). This fact has far reaching implications for the nation, and especially in the near term for companies like my employer that seek to harness the latest in wireless technology to bridge the digital divide.

Stories on spectrum management often don't reach the front page because the idea is not easily expressed in simple "newspaper man" words. This time however, there is one story1 that has bucked the trend. Sure, sure there's doubtlessly been frenetic PR lobbying, which is natural given the amount of money in play. However, I believe that this just might be an inflection point in the Indian government's sad track record of managing technology.

1 GSM providers ask for a 5:1 handicap as compared to CDMA, not 2:1, as the government proposes. CDMA providers are naturally quite upset.
cheeni: (Default)
It appears there is a class-action lawsuit being filed against Wikipedia by a bunch of scammers. The law suit looks to ride on the coat tails of the recent Seigenthaler episode, which sort of ended in an anti-climax with the anonymous John Doe offendor, either owning up or being traced, depending on who you ask.

I profit from the Wikipedia's existence. More often than not, it proves reliable. In fact, I can't really say I have ever been misled by the Wikipedia, whenever I've seen a factual error it has been fairly easy to spot the NPOV angle.

What is with the mollycoddling of the masses? Wearing my tin-foil hat, it seems easy to get carried away about the real reason behind all of this. From some of the facts, it does appear to be a case of the wolf taking cover behind the sheep. Wikipedia is a powerful and influential source of news that cannot be censored - not a happy thought for the powerful, who merely view Wikipedia as a disruptive tool that challenges their status quo.

The Internet was a celebration of freedom, a tribute to the geek. This appears to be lesser and lesser the case. Bah!
cheeni: (Default)
For example, whatever's happened to Slashdot these days? This is not the first time I'm making my disgust for the 'new' slashdot plainly known, but yes, I still do care, because /. was a geek institution once upon a time. For that matter, 'the Internet' was a geek institution once upon a time...

There are just so few geek institutions left, unless of course you want to lurk around Lisp blogs and SGI forums *wink*. Where's the common geek meeting ground these days?

Every time I come across a webpage plastered with "Welcome Slashdotters, we hope you enjoy your visit", I get an uncanny sense of deja-vu, the closest memory being of waking up blinking at 3 AM and staring at the bright lights of a highway convenience store blaring "Welcome Greyhounders, we hope you enjoy your visit"...

cheeni: (Default)
I swear, I'll wring the neck of the next person who mentions the words "Web 2.0" anywhere near me. Read more... )
cheeni: (Default)
There I said it... :-(
cheeni: (Default)
Google Desktop Search

I've found an excellent hack for effective document sharing in a small collaborative work group, like in a LAN.

1. Setup a Windows file share on a dedicated Windows machine, and get members to dump shareable docs in a neat folder hierarchy.

2. Install Google Desktop Search (GDS)

3. Install DNKA ( - DNKA[1] is a GDS plugin that allows GDS to be searchable over the network.

DNKA adds web based directory browsing, which can be pretty neat too. Authorized users can login / authenticate by IP and browse/search docs in less than 30 minutes from step 1.

Now, tell me this isn't effective and neat! [2]

Ideas, comments, rants?


[1] DNKA is pretty neat since it has host-based-allow rules, and password authentication, and login based content filtering (more or less). I also liked the extensive logging feature.

[2] I especially like this for the relative lack of administrative overhead. I'd imagine doing the same with Apache Lucene and antiword, pdfextract and other tools would be quite challenging.


cheeni: (Default)

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