Sunday, September 24, 2017

Hughesnet...Will You Stop That!?

One of the features of SPOCS, at least on my system, is tracking my internet FAP limit.  That is the data download allowance we get every month.
I first taught SPOCS to read the web page from the Hughes modem some years ago.  About 5 years ago, Hughes updated the modem website, and poor SPOCS started having troubles.  Specifically, the Brain module, which reads the data, was getting very confused. 

Every 15 minutes, I have CRON (in SPARCL12), run a script that used WGET to read the web page from the modem.  The script saves the web page as a text file, which Brain checks every 15 minutes, and updates the FAP numbers from.

The last time Hughes changed the modem web page, I was thinking of dropping this feature.  Then I started thinking, "wait. How does THEIR application read FAP data?"  This was not hard to figure out.  Download a copy of Wireshark.  Start the Hughes application.  Use Wireshark to capture the packets going to and from the modem.  Aha!  The trick was to use WGET to retrieve a hidden page of data from the modem.  Problem solved.

Now we come to last week.  SPOCS is reporting all FAP numbers as zero.  I check the modem webpage.....whoa, what is this!?  Also, the old version of the Hughes app stopped working.  So...download the new Hughes app, fire up Wireshark...and...the page of data is still there, but you now have to use a different command to get the data.  So, I changed the script that grabs the data, tested it, and all is well, once again.  Hughes, will you please quit changing the modem interface?

For SPOCS speech, I am looking a Flite, the "lite" version of Festival.  In the meantime, I have attempted to contact Dr. Alan Black, to see what is happening with Festival.  Soon, I hope to have a solution for SPOCS speech.

Good night, Ma & Pa Wolfe, wherever you are.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

As Summer Roars On To A Close...

Here we are, at the end of August.  Time is roaring by at an ever-increasing rate, at least it seems like it to me.  From getting downsized in January of this year, to starting my own business, to hooking up with a great company that has great potential, it has been quite a ride.
One lesson that I have learned, first-hand...Obamacare is not that great!  We switched to Obamacare, or Marketplace insurance, if you must, after getting robbed by COBRA insurance.  COBRA is the health insurance you can get when you are laid off or downsized from your job.  The only problem - you get charged just as much as the insurance companies can legally charge you! For example, for three people, I was paying $1,800 dollars per month!  Switching to Marketplace insurance brought that down to $1000 per month.  But, marketplace insurance has its own quirks.
Such as, you do not pay an up-front copay when you visit the doctor.  Obamacare insists on you paying some percentage of the bill.  So, your doctor has to submit the claim to the insurance company, find out what they will pay, then figure out your share, and bill you for it.  Thus, more paperwork, more delays, and more expense to process what should be a simple claim.  This is what you get when the government tries to get into the health insurance business.  This is why insurance companies are quitting the marketplace.  I notice the liberal media have not reported on any of this in the years since Obamacare was made into law.  

I believe that in the next month, we shall ascertain the fate of Mr. Alan Black, of the University of Edinburgh.   He is the principal developer of the Festival text-to-speech software package.  I shall try and find out what will happen with Festival, and whether SPOCS will continue to use Festival, or switch to the EMICS speech system.  I shall keep you informed.

Good Night, Ma and Pa Wolfe, wherever you are.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Whoops! How Time Flies Away!

It's been a busy summer.  I have been doing contract work for a couple organizations, and one in particular kept me very busy in June.  They are threatening to keep me busy for the forseeable future, which is a good thing.  We will see.
I got the new version of Festival compiled and running on SPARCL15.  All I want now, is a selection of voices for it.  The old Festival voices won't work with the new version.  I tried to contact Alan Black, Festival developer, of the Center for Speech Technology, at the University of Edinburgh.  It appears he is on vacation for the summer, so I will have to wait until he returns.  I have a working speech system, using an EMICS II module, but it just isn't as good as Festival.  If there is a chance I can still use Festival, I shall wait a little longer for it.  After that, I must move SPOCS forward.
machine SPARCL12 is still our main SPOCS system, and is running well.  We had our water well pump replaced recently.  I noticed that SPOCS is reporting that the new pump runs a LOT less than the old pump did.  The fellow who installed it said the pump was new technology;  both the motor and the pump are more efficient then older models.  The data from SPOCS seems to bear this out.  I double-checked the connections by which SPOCS monitors the pump, but found no problems.  Can't wait to see my electricity bill for this month...

Good Night, Ma and Pa Wolfe, wherever you are.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Wha.....? It's almost Summer!

Sometimes, life just goes too fast.  This spring, I started my own business.  It is automation engineering, something I have many years experience doing.  The company I worked for decided to downsize me and several other people last winter, so here we are.
I knew that the actual work was going to be the least of my concerns.  That's the way it is when you not only do the work, but have to manage the money, obtain and keep customers, pay for insurance, and so on.  So far, I have gotten some work, and have made a bit of money doing it.  I am far from breaking even, though, because I invested in a new computer, and some expensive software that is needed for my work.
Nonetheless, there are opportunities, and I am working to make the most of them.

Then, there are the people who go on a rampage, having little information, and less sense, and try to make a situation go in a direction they think is best.  Case in point is a certain sibling, who failed to get the entire picture, before latching onto a lawyer - no doubt, pro-bono - to make his point in court.  My youngest sibling, who has been doing almost everything for my aged father since my mother died, was applying for guardianship for my father, so he could help Dad better, and protect him.  For some reason, the other sibling decided he would make a better guardian - I shall not bore you with the many, many reasons why he would be a horrible guardian - and also applied for guardianship.  So...we all go to court, to settle it out.  In the end, knucklehead sibling sees just how bad his position really is, and withdraws his application, after a bit of grandstanding.  This bit of stupidity was so incredibly, unbelievably, needless.  Thank goodness it is over, and we can get back to normal life - whatever that may be.

The result of all this is I have been away from SPOCS for a while.  Fortunately, the penguins in the Farm don't seem to get lonely...they just keep ticking away, day in and day out.  Except for about two weeks ago, when a big wind storm took out electricity to half our county, and all of the next one for about seven hours.  Many thanks to the electric folks who got things going again!

Hopefully, I will get back to SPOCS soon.

Good Night, Ma and Pa Wolfe, wherever you are.
 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Just Say No to Samsung Appliances!

Among all of the other things going on these days, our Samsung refrigerators' ice maker died.  The refrigerator still works, but it keeps flashing this error code on its front panel.  So...I pay my friendly, well-known, appliance repair guy to check it out.
Now, my repair guy is a fair guy.  He only charged the basic fee for a house call.  He spent a while on the telephone with Samsung service.  At the end, he told me that a component of the ice maker has failed.  This component is built into the ice maker housing...in other words, it is not repairable!
So, I take his advice, and call Samsung.  Not only do they not believe my service guy, who got his information from Samsung...they want me to pay a "recognized" service outfit to come to my house from fifty miles away, and charge me $250.  So - I would be shelling out over $300, and hope Samsung does the right thing.  Now, to be honest, the refrigerator is out of warranty.  But, as I pointed out to Samsung service, an ice maker should last more than three years, shouldn't it? (they never did reply to that one).  Samsung service is sticking to their point of view on this one, and so am I.   I told them that if they did not make it right, I would never buy another Samsung appliance.  No reply to that one, either.  So - phooey to you, Samsung.
The lady at the store where I bought the refrigerator had an interesting viewpoint.  She said that whatever brand it was, she would buy the extended warranty, just in case.

The bladder inside our water tank also died.  It had had a reasonable life, all things considered.  The guys from Smith's Plumbing and Piping came out, and replaced the tank in about an hour, no fuss, no muss!  The price was below what they estimated, too!  You gotta love companies like that.

Haven't heard any more about festival, yet.  I am considering making the new SPARCL15 the new main machine, since it has the new Festival software on it, plus the latest version of Fedora.
More when I know more.

Good Night, Ma and Pa Wolfe, wherever you are.