Recently in the Software Category

Typo generator

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Researchers at U. Penn have created software that generates typos. Give it a phrase, and it will generate a list of variants on that phrase, featuring things like missing letters, doubled letters, and so on. I'm not sure whether they specifically focus on typos that real people would make while typing (for example, substituting letters that are adjacent on a keyboard in a given language), but either way, I'm amused by the idea.

In addition to being cute, the code has search-relevant implications; website owners can use it to generate likely misspellings of search queries, in order to catch traffic from people who misspell their queries. I obviously don't advocate using this for black-hat SEO, but it seems to me that it has legitimate uses for white-hat SEO.

Daisy: 50 years of song synthesis

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I got curious about why HAL 9000 sings “Daisy” (actual song title: “Daisy Bell) in 2001.

It turns out that it's because Arthur C. Clarke saw a 1962 Bell Labs demo of an IBM 704 singing “Daisy”.

That wasn't the first electronic speech synthesis; the Voder was invented in the 1930s. But the Bell Labs demo may've been the first electronically generated singing.

I wonder what led the Bell people to pick that particular song. I especially wonder whether it's because Daisy's last name in the song is Bell.

YouTube has an audio recording of the demo, accompanied for some reason by a still image made to look like an old movie. The voice doesn't start until a minute in. It's pretty good speech synthesis; not as good as, say, Siri, or Google's synthesized voices, but not as much worse as I would've expected, given that it was fifty years ago.

Speaking of which: in response to the query “sing me a song,” Siri will recite the beginning of the chorus of “Daisy”—but won't actually sing it. So fifty years on, we still don't have singing computers in daily life. Another failure of living in the future, like jetpacks and aircars. I'll have to console myself by listening to the Dictionaraoke version of “Video Killed the Radio Star” again.

(Nitpicky number details: The YouTube video says the demo took place in 1961 (rather than 1962) and was on an IBM 7094 (rather than 704). I tend to believe the Bell Labs official website over a random YouTube video, but I don't know for sure. Also, Wikipedia says that the 7094 wasn't introduced until 1962; if that's true, then the video can't be right about both the year and the model number. But I haven't actually researched any of these numbers.)

Inadvertent smiley

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Just saw this in a blog entry at alternet:

One of the lawyers handling the case for the defendants (that is, defending the constitutionality of Prop. 8) sent us a note recently[....]

Presumably, the blog software is set to automatically turn "8)" into a smiley icon. Cute idea, but perhaps a little overzealous.

I've seen this sort of thing happen elsewhere, in software that turns ":)" into a smiley icon. But a colon is much less likely than an 8 to appear just before a close-paren in ordinary English text.

Scrabble-izer

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Ever wanted to send someone an online message spelled out in Scrabble tiles?

Use Scrabble-izer!

After you've Scrabble-ized your message, you can email or post the URL. For example, Bill (the author of Scrabble-izer, I think) once posted an idea about mashing up Scrabble-izer with Twitter.

(Btw, I'm guessing that Bill doesn't save or read the messages that people create, but I haven't asked him so I don't know for sure, and the messages could probably be reconstructed from a log somewhere; so I don't recommend using this for anything illegal.)

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