Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Now We Are Drying Out!

After the last few days, it is good to see dry ground again.  The rains came, and they only let up briefly, before resuming their deluge.  Now the weather is cooling off, and things are wet - probably nature getting ready to go into deep-freeze mode for the winter.

Haven't heard back from Dr. Black yet, on Flite.  In the meantime, I had a breakthrough on my own, so I am using Flite on my development machines.  Its voice quality is not quite as good as Festival, but it is better then my EMICS2 hardware speech module.

So - we are back on the road to the next SPOCS release.  This year has been so eventful, I haven't had too much time for SPOCS.  Faithful  old SPARCL12 has been chugging along all these months, running SPOCS 2.51, and watching over things around here.  SPARCL15 is up with SPOCS and Flite, and so far, so good.  I need to review my feature list.  Do any of you have any features you would like to see in SPOCS?

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

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

We Need "Truck Control"!

Today the news media reports on another horrific terrorist act, that killed a number of people, and injured many more.  Before I proceed, I want to make it very clear that I am not belittling those people, or trivializing their pain and suffering.
It seems that a man in New York took a truck, and drove it down a bicycle trail.  He caused a lot of death and injury before the police stopped him.

If you recall, when the shootings happened in Las Vegas recently, the anti-gun folks came crawling out from under their rocks to once again demand more gun laws.  I would ask these people, "how would more gun laws have prevented the disaster in New York?  Do we need 'truck control' ?"
And, once again, those morons would fail to understand that the weapon is not the cause.  We need 'truck control' as much as we need 'gun control'.  Every so often some anti-gun person reminds us that there are more guns in our country than people.  And I say "Right!  And if you look at all the gun incidents, nation-wide, for a whole year, and put that against the number of guns owned, you would find that, literally, 99.9% of all the guns in this country are NOT being used to commit a crime or hurt someone."

Some years ago, a local newspaper published an editorial I wrote on gun control.  I told of a man who walks up to a crowded school yard, and opens fire with a gun.  Many kids are killed, many are hurt.  So we outlaw guns. Then this guy gets out of prison, goes back to that school, lights a Molotov cocktail, and throws it into the playground.  Many kids die, many are hurt.  So, we pass a law, one cannot possess gasoline, except for what is in your car.  And once again, this guy gets out of prison (he shouldn't, but you know, we civilized folk do not execute murderers any more), takes his car, and drives it through the wall, into the school yard.
At what point do you finally say, hey, this person might be the problem?? 

Time to end this rant.  I have not yet heard back from Dr. Black on the Flite question.  I am working on it myself.  Hopefully I will have a solution soon.  Thus ends the 150th SPOCS post.

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Ah, It Is Never Simple, Is It?

The last time I contacted Dr. Alan Black, of CMU, about the Festival text to speech package, he mentioned the Flite package.  Flite, or Festival-Lite, is a smaller package Whose voices sound almost as good as Festival itself.  I had tinkered with Flite a bit, but discovered that it was trying to access the audio device /dev/dsp.  This is the old Linux audio device.  It has been replaced by ALSA and OSS.  Fortunately, there is a utility called padsp, which can be used to run older audio applications.

Things get a little complicated when you are calling Flite from the command line, as SPOCS does.  I am exploring a couple ways to get past that.  I also asked Dr. Black if he was planning on releasing a new package, that does not depend on /dev/dsp.  I haven't heard from Dr. Black yet.

You know, I am aware that my readership is quite low.  Google offers ways to bring in more readers, but I wonder if it would be worth it.  I am used to being a lonely voice in the wilderness.  It does not really bother me.

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

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.