Sunday, March 28, 2010


Briefly seen at 3:13 this morning.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wikipedia outage due to cooling failure in European datacenter

Global Outage (cooling failure and DNS) (Wikimedia Technical Blog)

If you tried going to Wikipedia anytime from ~noon today to shortly before now (6PM) you were treated to either an "unable to find server" message or a page looking like html written by a middle-schooler (luckily Google's cache option is always there to save anyone totally without access).

Anyway, long story short there was a cooling problem in a Wikimedia datacenter in Europe and they tried to route traffic to one in Florida but they messed up changing the DNS entries. And because a lot of ISPs don't follow some protocols that speedily replace the incorrect DNS entry with the right one, the guys giving you your internet connection might not have known where Wikipedia's servers are for a while.

Oh, and of course you can already read about this on Wikipedia.

(By the way yes I am using this to experiment with breaking-news reporting. And no, I'm not sure what the point is when people are more likely to find the blog I'm referencing than this one. But why not take a crack at it? Isn't that what this thing's supposed to be for? Experimenting?)

Friday, March 19, 2010

This cooking show I saw once

Aww, poor rage guy. He thought he was going to get some baking tips!

P.s. If you need some backstory, here's why this makes sense:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Google Voice transcriptions - oooh, pretty linguistics

 (Disclaimer: in case you're unaware, he's kidding; computational linguists love this comic)

So Google Voice's voicemail transcription is pretty cool.

I already assume that it learns its voice-recognition by training its algorithms on samples of real speech: videos with captions, people calling automated systems. That's pretty cool in itself, because it means it's not just teaching the software what "book" sounds like by having someone in a studio say "book". Instead it uses real examples of people saying "book" - quickly, imperfectly, with background noise. So it can understand you when you say it quickly, imperfectly, or with background noise.

But recently I've been getting the feeling that it's using another, very different trick to figure out what people are saying in voicemails. I think it's starting to notice what people usually say at different points in a voicemail. For instance, it's very likely to guess that you're saying "Hello" at the start of a voicemail. Here's an extreme example, where my mother left a totally blank message except for some breathing and "clunk"s:
I've seen this happen a few times recently. What I think is going on is that it's not related to the "beginning" "middle" and "end" exactly, but it's taking into account the wider context surrounding each word. As in, it's noticing what words are usually said one-after-another. Computational linguists have been using this trick for a while. And maybe it's taking into account more than the word immediately preceding, and is considering the context of the whole sentence or voicemail!

The cool new thing is that Google Voice's speech recognition isn't just matching individual sounds to words, but is thinking about the whole context of the message and asking what word would someone normally say at X point in the conversation?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why is this not all over the interwebs already?

Once again, internets, you have let me down and I've gotta pick up your slack.

Well hopefully now I'll find something when I google "international exit signs Portal"



Yes, I was snickering to myself the whole Europe trip.

(prompted by Boing Boing)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

UPDATE: Apple swings +6 mace of multitouch at enemies

(followup to my previous note that "Apple can now swing +6 mace of multitouch at enemies")
Apparently multitouch is not one of the patents Apple is suing over! Very strange, though one theory I've seen is that they aren't confident enough that the multitouch patent will stand in court. Because of the obvious prior art. So that's cool. But my ranting about them patenting it in the first place still stands, so on with the show:
(via This Week In Google via Engadget)
Well, Apple has now officially used its controversial patents on multitouch to sue HTC, manufacturer of Android phones. Apparently Google has, since my first post, added the pinch-to-zoom gesture to its Nexus One phone (joining Palm which went ahead with that early last year).

And, of course, I gotta re-outline my opinion that it's a little ridiculous to patent something like the pinch-to-zoom gesture from the iPhone. It kind of seems like patenting the "shift-to-capitalize gesture" after inventing the typewriter. Plus, there's loads of prior art:

The following demo was made in 2006 and presented in a TED talk.
(jump to 0:44 for the money shot)