Monday, September 30, 2013

Books I Read Last Week

Whoops, sorry was traveling last week and didn't get a chance to pull together a post.
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation by Michael Pollan is not my favourite book by the author. In this one he learns how to cook by working with some incredible chefs that are out of the realm of a mere mortals ability to contact.There is some interesting info on how to cook but it is certainly not a cookbook. I'd probably take a pass on this one if I had the chance to do it over again.
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian by Jack Campbell. In this third book of his Beyond the Frontier trilogy the fleet is on their way home. On their way they have to defend the Midway star system from an attempted takeover by the Syndicate Empire who want to bring Midway back into the fold.

Check out my post from last week to see how I feel about the second book in this series.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney is an extension of his popular blog also called You Are Not So Smart. The book catalogs all of the different ways in which we lie to ourselves. It's a pretty interesting book but I felt like I've read quite a bit of the topics that he covered in books by Dan Ariely
Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Invincible is the continuation of the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. In this second book of his Beyond the Frontier trilogy the fleet is escaping a battle with the Enigma race when the run headlong into another alien race that they need to quickly determine if they are friend or foe. If they are hostile how does the fleet get out of this star system without being wiped out.

I always like these Lost Fleet novels. They are like popcorn, quick and enjoyable reads. They are fun for anyone who enjoys military sci-fi.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Book's I've Read This Week

The Evolutionary Void by Peter F Hamilton concludes his Void trilogy. I really, really loved this book and series. It is a big commitment in terms of page count but it is worth it. I hesitate to get into it in too much detail for fear of spoiling anything. You are probably better off going back and checking my review of the first or second book.
Revival Volume 1: You're Among Friends TP with story by Tim Seeley and art by Mike Norton is a rural noir story. It is set in small town Wisconsin where the dead have come back to life but they are not brain eating zombies instead they are rational thinking human beings that are not really different than you and I other than they are dead.

The residents of the town have to deal with their loved ones coming back to life. The government quarantining the town to prevent the "possible" infection from spreading. It seems like the government has watched a lot of George Romero movies and that has informed their opinion of what to do. As well the religious calamity arising from the dead walking.

This is a really creepy feeling graphic novel and another great work from Seeley and Norton.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Books I've Read This Week

Wonder is the concluding chapter of Robert J Sawyer's Wake, Watch, Wonder trilogy where a young girl discovers an emerging intelligence on the internet. In this volume the world now is aware of webmind and we see how we'd react to a non human intelligence. The reactions run the full gamut where some folks treat webmind like god while others see it as a threat and make moves to kill it.

I enjoyed the book but I did get skived out at one point where the female lead, Caitlin a 15 year old girl, is about to become "sexually active". I'm not sure why it bothered me so much but it may have something to do with that 8 year old daughter I have and wanting to stick my head in the sand.
The Daylight War by Peter V Brett is another third volume but in this case it does not conclude the series. In this volume we get more of the background of Ahmann Jardir who is possibly the Deliverer reborn. Could this be the man fated to deliver this world from the tyranny of the demons that plague it nightly.

The book does a nice job of filling in the background of the man who is so important to the story but I did feel like it stalled the narrative a bit. By the end of the book we are ready for the fight to between Jardir and Arlen Bales. Only one of they can be the Deliverer and it rightly identifies that the world will remain split as you can't have two generals so one of them has to go.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My SpeechShim for Desktop Development of Speech Recognition and TTS Apps

So I've been working on some plugins for PhoneGap to enable people to develop their apps with Speech Recognition and Text to Speech functionality. I've been following this specification and while it isn't on track to be adopted by the W3C anytime soon it does have two big benefits:

1) The speech recognition bit is already available in Chrome.
2) The specification is "sane". I guess it helps when only a couple of people are credited as authors instead of a committee.

One of the things that has been bugging me for awhile is the inability to develop these type of apps on the desktop using the same API. Yes, as I said above the speech rec bit is available in Chrome but the objects have the "webkit" prefix and there is not TTS support. So during one of the Ottawa Ruby project nights I set out to write a shim that would give everyone the ability to use the same API that will be available from the PhoneGap plugins on their desktop.

Basically that is what SpeechShim is in a nutshell. When you add speechshim.js into your web app you will be able to access the "SpeechRecogntion" object instead of needing to prefix it like "webkitSpeechRecognition". As well if you combine it with the speak.js project the speechshim.js code will add the methods necessary so you can use the SpeechSynthesis interface.

To get up and running you will need:
  1. A copy of Google Chrome version 29 or higher.
  2. A copy of the speak.js project from github.
  3. A copy of my speechshim.js from github.
Here's an example HTML page:

and you can run the live demo here. It's nothing fancy. Just click the big button then say something. It should get updated under the button and you will hear it spoken out by the TTS. More on plugin availability for PhoneGap is coming soon.