Saturday, April 30, 2005

Dude, I got a Dell

One of my customers bought me a Dell PC as a gift this week. They quite rightly thought that a dual P4 system would wean me off of using a Mac for their work :-)

The system came with a **lot** of software on it that I did not want. Fortunately, it was simple to burn an OS-reinstall CDR, wipe the disk to also make room for Ubuntu Linux, and reinstall Windows XP. The latest issue of Communications of the ACM was my companion during this process.

Actually, I find Windows XP to be "OK" when it is stripped down to a base install, and just a Java SDK, IDE, OpenOffice.org, and Firefox installed. Strip away the fluff for a working fairly decent working environment...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Security update makes Java unusable on OS X

This happened to me last year also. I always keep the latest developer's versions of Java installed (from Apple's developer support web site) - so, I did not have a standard configuration. When this happened once before, I spent a while reading about other people's similar problems on the web, trying to fix the problem, etc. to no avail. I eventually just did an OS X re-install.

This morning when applying the latest software update zapped Java, I just went ahead and did an OS X re-install followed by re-applying security patches, etc. About 90 minutes wall clock and about 20 minutes of my time wasted.. eerrrrrr....

PS: (written a day after original post): it is rare that updates zap Java on OS X, but it does happen. People using OS X should install this update - my advice is that if Java does become inoperable, then doing an OS X re-install (use the install option for saving previous user accounts and network settings!) is probably the most straight forward thing to do.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

My new career playing the didgeridoo?

OK, I am kidding - love software development too much. I was talking to two friends today (at my birthday picnic) who are getting married this summer. The bride-to-be asked me to play my didgeridoo (I assume that she meant the reception and not walking down the aisle music :-)

I also enjoy playing the guitar and Native American flute - but, nothing beats playing a didgeridoo.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Liferay: open source CMS/portal: looks good

I saw a reference to Liferay this morning and took 15 minutes to install it and start to experiment with it.

After even a short look, I must say that it is impressive: a document repository that allows searching a variety of document types, many plugin portlets (blogs, message board, SMS messaging, wikis, etc.) that each user can plugin to their home page.

I have been largely ignoring the Java portlet specifications, etc. Time to dive in...

Monday, April 04, 2005

This is why Free Software works!

Earlier today, I took a few minutes to package up some Ruby code that I wrote for my own use in order to share it under the GPL. I figured that a few people might find it useful.

Within a few hours someone who downloaded one of the packages sent me back some useful changes. (Thanks Pat!)

Another example: about 9 years ago when I got my first digital camera I wrote a Java utility (PicWeb) to recursively walk nested directories creating HTML with links to image files in the current directory and to subdirectories; it also generated thumbnail images. Not rocket science but it was just what I needed. Over the years, of the roughly 25,000 people who downloaded PicWeb, four people sent in very useful code for new features. Everyone wins.

I wonder how often companies waste money and other resources by trying to "protect their IP" and not taking advantage of open source development. Sure, some software needs to be proprietary for business reasons, but the decision of proprietary vs. Free Software should be an informed decision.

I released my open source Ruby part of speech tagger and text categorizer

I wrote these Ruby utilities for my own use, but then thought that perhaps other people might also find them useful and/or fun. Both downloads also include required data files.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Very useful: links to PyCon 2005 papers

Links to Python PyCon 2005 papers

Not all of the papers are on line but many of them are. If you use Python, you will find something useful to read.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

My DevX article on Lucene was just published

I use the fantastic Lucene search engine code in a lot of my work and research projects. I wrote an article for DevX that I hope people find both fun and useful. It is a quick start for using Lucene and a sample web applicaion that indexes Word, PowerPoint, OpenOffice.org, AbiWord, and PDF files - users can search for and download documents. Hopefully fun stuff!

renewed interest in neural networks?

In the 1980s, I was really into NN technology: spent a year on a DARPA advisory panel, implemented all 12 neural models in the SAIC ANSim product, and advised on several interesting projects (e.g., a bomb detector that worked well, image analysis, etc.).

I started to read Jeff Hawkin's most interesting book "On Intelligence" last night and that got me thinking and reminiscing about NNs. Jeff mentioned the first IEEE neural network convention in 1987: I presented a paper there on phoneme recognition with NNs and I also manned the SAIC NN booth. Lots of fun!!

One of the most interesting neural models that I used was Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART) by Stephen Grossberg and Gail Carpenter (his wife). Gail kindly spent some time on the telephone with me to make sure I got it right - very helpful, and very interesting technology.

I think that Jeff Hawkin's book will be very influential and his hierarchical model of the cortex definitely reminds me of ART. If I did not have to work for a living, I have often thought that I would be quite happy trying to make a theoretical contribution by using hierarchical associative memory models to build an AI Go player. I like Hawkin's emphasis on temporal processing: except for recurrent NNs, something often ignored.