Monday, January 31, 2005

Teaching Computers to Read

While trailing far behind in skills such as long division, the average three year old human is a much better reader than even the most sophisticated computer program. But for how long?

Two professors at RPI are working on software that can read text and answer questions based on the relevant information. They hope to one day develop a system which can analyze and act upon real-time information "by either reading or listening to spoken instructions."

The difference between these guys and me? They've got a sweet grant from DARPA.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Semantic Knowledge from Google

Again, people out there are stealing my ideas. Where the heck did I put my tin foil hat?

As posted on Slashdot, a team in Amsterdam is working on an unsupervised system that can perform Automatic Meaning Discovery Using Google. This is quite similar to the idea I have of building a much more broad and extensive knowledge base for AIML bots using a web crawler with built-in semantic analysis. Except these guys are limiting the scope of their project to distinguishing "between colors and numbers, and [...] 17th century Dutch painters."

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Mac mini TV

That new Mac mini has got the wheels in my head spinning. I think if I hooked it up to my HDTV it would make for a pretty sweet media center computer.

I had been thinking about getting a Mac for a while. I've toyed around with OS X a bit, and I'd really like to get to know it inside and out. At the same time, a lot of my friends have been setting up dedicated media center PCs, and I was considering following suit. Now I just might be able to combine both ideas into one.

I can run a DVI cable from the Mac mini to my Samsung HDTV. Add the optional internal Bluetooth module and wireless keyboard & mouse, and I'll be able to have a great OS X experience on a 32'' screen from the comfort of my sofa.

1.25GHz Mac mini: $499
Bluetooth add-on: $50
Wireless keyboard & mouse set: $99
DVI cable: $99

Total cost: $747

I should be able to swing that no problem, but I think I'll wait until 'the first half of 2005' for Mac OS X v10.4 Tiger before I take the plunge. I'm still planning on building the RAID 1 development platform for the project, but that's on hold for now while the paychecks roll in and the prototype software comes together.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I guess this makes me a pro?

Finally got a chance to write (well, edit actually) some code at work today. Besides some freelance web design I did a while back, this was the first time I was paid for programming.

In all reality, it really wasn't that big of a deal. Last week, I was asked to take a look at some PHP for a web interface to a pretty high-profile database we use. There was a bug somewhere that was generating incorrect entries. Today I got a chance to poke around in there, and I quickly isolated the problem and wrote a very elegant fix if I do say so myself.

I showed it to the database administrator, and she was visibly excited when she realized it was working properly. Now she won't have to go in and manually edit every single new entry.

I showed it to my supervisor, and he was pretty impressed. He doesn't have much experience in this area, but he had had another CS grad working on the problem for at least a couple of weeks, to no avail. When I showed him exactly how simple my solution was, he remarked that the other guy will be kicking himself when he sees it.

I honestly didn't think it was that I did anything special, but I certainly impressed a few people. What I did fixed an annoying problem in a pretty important system we use. Hopefully, this will lead to more oppurtunities for me to work directly on projects like this in the future.

And besides, it's pretty sweet to think that code I helped to write is running on a military system. :)