Technology Archives

April 12, 2004

Universal Translator

Looks like Star Trek's Universal Translator is getting closer.

Today's StrategyPage on "How to make war" (scroll down to the April 12, 2004 entry) mentions some interesting developments in document reading and computer translation.

First, there's the software developed by the Language Weaver Corporation, running under Windows on a server. This package can communicate with other servers or individual PCs.

The documents are scanned to electronic form, and then translated. It isn't clear from the article whether the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) application is part of the package or not. What is interesting is that as the database of correctly translated phrases grows, accuracy increases.

Favorite sentance: "Iraq, one of the places (China and Egypt being the others) where mankind created literacy, has never lost its fondness for writing things down."

Very cool.

Next we have the Phraselator. No "Ahnuld" jokes, please! And, yes, that really is what they named it. This doodad is about the size of a PDA like a Clie, or a Visor, and can accept Flash Cards with different phrases in different languages.

All the user has to do is speak English into the Phraselator, and the appropriate translated phrase is uttered by the device. But it isn't a general translator. The phrase has to be part of a pre-defined set on the Flash Card.

The interesting thing here is that the cards are customized for specific situations, such as the "Medic" card. The phrases are constructed for a simple response such as pointing (to where it hurts, for the Medic card, or "which way did they go?" {g}), or a yes/no answer.

Favorite sentance: "the troops agree that it sure beats sign language or thumbing through a phrase book. The locals like it because it's yet another neat American gadget, and one that won't kill them as well. "

Also very cool.

January 25, 2005


I don't know if it's just the local area (maybe I'm lucky enough to be in a test market), but I just got an email from RoadRunner explaining that they just increased the bandwidth to 5Mbps (megabits/second).

So I trotted over to; a great place to see just how fast your throughput really is.

I tested out at 4683Kpbs (4.68Mbps)! Another way to measure that is 572 KB/sec (Kilobytes/second).

Or, as the web page says "You are running: 84 times faster than 56K and can download 1 megabyte in 1.79 second(s)."


March 26, 2005

"Mac attack" gains new meaning

This will probably fire up some of the True Believers out there:

"Macintosh Hacker Attacks Are on the Rise - Symantec

Tuesday, March 22, 2005; 8:16 PM

SAN FRANCISCO -- Hacker attacks on Apple Computer Inc.'s Macintosh OS X operating system, thought by many who use the Mac to be virtually immune to attack, are on the rise, according to a report from anti-virus software vendor Symantec Corp."

While Symantec didn't release details of how they came to that conclusion, it should come as little surprise. As Gartner analyst Martin Reynolds said in the article

All these platforms have vulnerabilities - it's a fact of life ... The truth of the matter is that Mac is only a couple percentage points of (computer) shipments so it's not an interesting target.

Apparently the anti-virus company believes that strong sales for the new mini-Mac, which seems to be targeted to Windows users considering their next computer, could make things worse by increasing the number of Macs operated by "less-savvy users." They expect "the number of vulnerabilities can be expected to increase, as will malicious activity that targets them."

Now, before anyone blows a gasket, let's review a couple points. First technically-aware users will agree that the Free-BDS based OS X base is significantly more secure than today's Windows XP base. Which is a shame, really, since the Windows NT base was originally a very secure and powerful OS. Alas, Microsoft made it more "user friendly" in such a ways that damaged security.

Second, "more secure" doesn't mean "invulnerable," even though more than a few Mac-heads have a bad habit of saying things like "now that I own a Mac, I don't have to worry about trojans, viruses, or anything!" Um, no. You just have a lot less to worry about.

Third, while Symantec said it had documented 37 "high-vulnerabilities" in the past year in OS X, they have "almost always" been acknowleged and patched by Apple.

Finally, let's recall that selling anti-virus and other prophylactic applications is how Symantec makes money. Does this mean they're lying? Hardly. But I'm sure they wouldn't mind the extra income. :)

Bottom line: OS X still has a substantial lead over Windows XP in security, but it isn't invulnerable. No operating system is. And it is fairly easy to establish good habits while using XP to avoid 99% of the hacker/virus threat out there. Using Mozilla/Firefox is an excellent start. Just remember that no hardware or software solution is worry-free.

Me, I'd love to see the mini-Macs take off, if for no other reason to watch Redmond sphincters collectively tighten. They might even restore real security to their flagship operating system.

Heck, I wish I had the money to get a mini, but not right now. It would be great to plop it down next to my Athlon WinXP machine and my Thunderbird Win2000 system to see how it compares. The Apple networking is supposed to work very well with Windows nets these days.

July 15, 2005

Battlestar Galactica, the new download frontier...

Dean reminds us that the first episode of the second season will be shown in less than 24 hours...

Just lemme know where the torrents are. :)

You know, this show could be the Itunes of television. Me, I'm not going to fork out $40/month to see that one show -there's not that much on cable I want to see-, but I'd still love to watch Battlestar Galactica.

I certainly wouldn't mind forking over a couple bucks to pick up a digital capture of a given episode.

Continue reading "Battlestar Galactica, the new download frontier..." »

October 1, 2005

Blue-ray and HD-DVD: wave of the future, or already washed up?

Dean's World contributor Aziz P discusses the "fanatical bickering" ... of competitive DVD formats.

His final graf focuses content protection, and how it protects consumers:

I think [the debate between Blue-ray and HD-DVD is] important and affects us in a potentially greater way than did the VHS vs BetaMax standards battle of a few decades ago. Ultimately, content on these next-generation discs will have to tread a fine line between consumers' rights and content producers' need to protect their intellectual property. It is good that the debate is playing out in public, because the transparency will ensure that we consumers have a window into the process. After all, it's our hard-eaned cash that both consortiums plan to suck in the hope that we will replace our DVD collections for our personal home theater libraries. Stay tuned.

Continue reading "Blue-ray and HD-DVD: wave of the future, or already washed up?" »

October 6, 2005

Movies on demand

Will Collier has an interesting post at Vodkapundit , wherein he speculates about just what Apple will be announcing during their October 12 "One More Thing" event.

His suggestion: "iFlicks," a downloadable movie service similar to iTunes, with (one supposes) similarly low prices. Will envisions a connection he calls "Airport-Express-on-steroids" with a video out connector, and a remote.

There's some consensus in the comment thread that -if this is what Apple is planning- it will involve a new 100Mbit/second Airport standard to handle the bandwidth.

All of this is very cool, and even if that's not the new service, folks should check out a recent innovation from Apple: Airport with Airtunes, called Airport Express.

What's so cool about Airport Express is that -if you're using Airport as your wireless router- you can painlessly transmit music to another room. Just connect a "stereo out" line from your sound system to the base station, and plug a second pair of speakers to a module in another room. Viola, music everywhere!

You can even get a remote. So (say) your sound system is in the living room, and your downstairs blogging (or hobbying, whatever) you can control the music from down there.

How cool is that?

January 18, 2008

Current events in research...

The Instapundit recently linked to this article about new battery research.

Apparently some nano-tech research done at Stanford's Department of Materials Science and Engineering indicates that it might be possible to increase the life of a rechargeable lithium-ion batteries by a tremendous amount. The article mentioned the possibility of reaching a 40-hour life.

That's fantastic compared to current (excuse the pun) batteries. I agree with Professor Reynolds: "Bring it on!"

Something else occurs to me; is it possible to scale this technology up? Forty hours at 40 mph could give an electric car a 1600 mile range. Forty hours might be unrealistic (at least at first) but the possibilities are intriguing.

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