October 29, 2008

Human Efficiency?

Ran into an interesting link:
23.5 miles per gallon

Created by The Car Connection

This link leads to some other questions. Efficiency of the car is obviously higher because it can carry more and go faster..but what about carbon footprint? What is my output for the same mileage (or over the time frame it would take me to walk this far)? How expensive is a gallon of food/water compared to gasoline?....

Natural Language Processing

'Pentagon!' - One word - that's normally all that is communicated between commuters each morning as they pick up riders for the HOV lanes here in Northern VA. With three riders, cars can use a special section of I-395 meant for high occupancy vehicles. It's a fast way to work and the process is known as 'slugging' here in the suburbs of our nation's capital.

After the cry of 'Pentagon!' out the window, 2 people will get into the driver's vehicle, perhaps mutter 'Thanks!' and then no other words will be spoken the entire ride until they get out at the end of the ride. Again, a quick 'Thanks!', 'Thank you' or 'Thanks for the ride!' is called out as the transaction is completed.

It's a fairly complex transaction from the standpoint of an outsider, but once the protocol is picked up, those of us who participate understand it completely. 90% of the transactions are completed with less words than comprise this sentence. Humans communicate in short bursts for many repeated transactions in their daily lives. It got me to thinking about communication, The Turing Test, computers and, oddly, my 7th grade English classes on thesis paper construction.

In English class, we learn to write different types of papers. The contruction algorithm of an argument is explained to us in simple terms {statement of hypothesis, supporting argument sentences, closing resolution/restatement of hypothesis}. We were taught how to construct sentences, how to construct paragraphs and so on....

A lot of what we do in our day to day lives is driven by our unique needs and goals. Perhaps thinking of it in terms of dopamine receptors and language centers may help us in engineering a natural language processor that would seem more human and able to pass the Turing Test. Additionally, we need to take into account concepts such as 'shame' and 'fear' to induce different personalities into our AI. I know that I put together sentences that I never utter due to these modifiers (not willing to be punched in the nose or start an altercation, saving face, etc...).

I saw something about a semantic dictionary that I probably need to look into that would help with some of the sentence/paragraph construction logic, but I think much of the work that hasn't been done is in the 'motivation' side of speech analysis. Surely to pass the Turing Test, the motivation is clear - convince the human that you are human (even though you are not). I'll need to do some research into thinking/speaking patterns used in deceipt. Maybe I can start with analyzing structure of political speeches and news interviews, working my way up [or down] to criminal defendant arguments on the stand.

A library of structure/patterns of speech need to be created that fit different motivations for speech so that language is more real to the computer, and more of a driving force in the structure of the speech itself. Hopefully the semantic dictionary will help the faux paus of not understanding hidden meaning in sentences by providing further context for the words that are used. Perhaps even irony and back-handed compliments could be detected in analyzing input (or better yet, delivered by the program itself)

Just my thoughts for today...later

October 25, 2008

Speed of Commerce Kills Big Box Stores

The speed of commerce using the Internet just kills the price models at big box stores like Best Buy and Circuit City. Today I was shopping for an 8GB micro SD card to fit my new phone. Nothing like lots of storage for video and music to take with my on my commute. More space means fewer days organizing data once I watch and listen to everything on my small 2GB card. Any-who, I looked online and see that 8GB micro SD cards are selling for around $24.00 ea (plus shipping of 5.95 about). I also see that 16GB micro SD cards are already out and selling for close to $100. Well, as I happened to be going to the mall anyway, I stopped by both Best Buy and Circuit City. $69.95 for class 2 (the slow version) 8GB micro SDHC cards. What a difference. Double-plus what I would pay online. So, I went back home and ordered them on meritline.com - free standard shipping and $28. ea for class 6 (the fast ones) cards. I bought 2. Sure, I have $70, but I wasn't that hard up to get the items today. I'll wait 3-4 days for UPS ground or snail mail.

October 21, 2008

3GP videos on the AT&T Tilt (HTC 8925)

Do you have an AT&T Tilt with Windows Mobile 6.1 on it? Are you trying to play your 3GP files on it? Are you frustrated by the million or so posts on the web about how to make it work properly? Do you feel you should just be able to download and install a codec or something to make it just WORK? Well, here's the answer:

Download and install a special version of TCPMP made just for the Tilt. Once you install it, you can use TCPMP to play your 3GP (and a myriad of other files) videos!

That's it....have fun!

October 20, 2008

What did Circuit City do wrong?

Over on Ars, I read an article about Circuit City possibly closing stores. It got me to thinking about my own personal experiences with Circuit City. What did they do wrong? Why are they losing market share to Best Buy?

The first thing that struck my mind is their trade dress. The colors for Circuit City are drab and dull. Even the red in their logo isn't bright and cheery. The font itself screams BORING at the top of its lungs. In other words, the Sunday circular from Circuit City doesn't scream look at me. Instead, it just kind of says, meh, this is what we have for sale.

The second thing that came to mind? The Admiral brand stereo system. If there is ever a low-priced item for sale at Circuit City, dollars-to-donuts it was this cheaply manufactured, low on features and high on non-recyclable plastics brand. Nothing screams CHEAP more than a store brand stereo or computer. Thankfully for Best Buy, they've stayed away from identifying their store with any one product (and a poor one at that). On top of that, the whole DIV-X debacle probably sits on people's minds more than anything else.

Let's see, what else? Circuit City brings to mind SALESPEOPLE, Best Buy brings to mind GEEKS. If I'm shopping for electronics, I'm not looking for a pressure-cook from a sales guy...I want information. I'm more 'likely' to find that at Best Buy (although pickings are sometimes slim). I've never found someone at Circuit City who knew what they were selling.

Best Buy stores - packed with goods. Circuit City - drab showroom floors with poor lighting, sparse product placement (plenty of room to walk though..)

Lessons for the next big box store, I guess.

October 14, 2008

Been Meaning to Write

Ok - been meaning to write, so stream of conscience(sp? - whatever) may pop up here.  Interesting, Google Chrome gave me a red underline while composing that word (in Edit HTML mode) but didn't bother to tell me HOW to spell it.  I'm sure that it is now spelled right, but it could be a homynym for whatever I meant.

I was out riding my bike (been a long time since I've done that, but it feels good) a few miles and got to thinking about stuff...lots of stuff - like how I never blog much any more.  Not that I've ever been religious about it, but it would do me good to exercise the language neurons every now and again.

This whole election just has me pissed off.  I've heard things that make me want to vote for Obama, like trusting that he'll put the right people in the right jobs (perhaps he'll put someone in charge of FEMA who has, you know, experience with disaster planning) [based on what I've heard about the appointments he made at Harvard Law Review].  He is probably not the type of guy to put yes-men into his cabinet slots.  HOWEVER, I've also read some disturbing information about his tax credits and how some of them are geared to become a form of social welfare.  While I believe in NO taxation on the poor and barely getting by, I certainly don't believe in negative taxes.  You shouldn't be getting a check from the government.  In fact, I've been ashamed to receive rebate checks from our Republican administration.

Taxation belongs in one place - the only fair place - on spending.  You shouldn't tax people who scrimp and save.  You should tax people who can afford luxury.  My feelings on taxation have for a long time been very simply that you should pay a flat tax on anything that isn't a staple (food, healthcare, the roof over your head, utilities).  However, I'm also not a believer in welfare.  Welfare is something best left to the community, and shouldn't be the job of the federal government.  Churches, civic organizations and local communities should decide what's needed and the best way to provide it for their people.  Taking my money and giving it to others is a bad idea, even if it is for the greater good.  I get enough phone calls and letters in the mail asking me for money, thank you very much.

But, the Republican party let me down.  They picked a hot-headed, not-very-bright guy based on popularity and hero-status, and then tried to dress him up with a pretty girl with an accent.  Two people of sometimes differing mind sets, but apparently not much of a clue between the two of them.  Ok, perhaps I give McCain too much of a short-shrift on intellect when I really only dislike his lack of an actual platform he's willing to stick to, his gung-ho, damn-the-torpedoes attitude and his apparent lack of deep thought [Just think - if he had given DEEP consideration in picking a running mate, is Sarah Palin the best he could do?!?]  Spur of the moment decisions based on popular opinion [Women for McCain - that's why he chose her] are not the way to run a candidacy nor a presidency.

Sigh - enough of politics. 

I started practicing my piano pieces again - just to tinker.  I love the melancholy sounds of the sax and the feel of the keys under my fingers...sometimes even miss my baby grand...just no room for it.  Also started playing chess again - not as fervently(word choice?) as before, but something to enjoy.  I also picked up a book on 6502 assembly language programming and am perusing it but haven't really bit into it yet.

I found a program to rip my DVD's down to 3GP format for my mobile phone.  In a day, there's about 1:30 of my time spent at lunch or commuting to work (no I'm not driving and watching).  I've been able to watch some stuff I've got lying around.  Just today I watched 3 Burns and Allen TV shows I have on DVD.  I love some old stuff, Jack Benny, George Burns.  It's hard to find this stuff, but when I do, I snatch it up.  I have some Red Skelton, Little Rascals and Three Stooges as well.  But I did start out with T3 (Terminator 3) and the ever-fun UHF (w/Al Yankovic).  I finally settled on Xilisoft DVD to 3GP Converter because it was easy, did what I needed and saved me time mucking with all the other software.  

Ok, enough writing - on to other stuff....random as always, Rich