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August 31, 2006

FJ Car Computer Update



I couldn't stand the thought of waiting a week and being without the FJ for a couple of days to have the new computer installed, so I screwed up my courage, grabbed some wrenches and wire cutters and went to work.

I'll post details later, but there were no sparks or fires and everything was working great . . . and then I made a mistake. It's my own fault really, and the story involves drivers (the software kind), backups (the kind I don't have) and a tech support guy who has every right to say "I told you we didn't support that!"

To be continued . . .

August 31, 2006 in Car Computer | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

Phase Two of the FJ Project Begins

The computer for Phase Two of my FJ Project arrived this week.  I was planning to build a computer that would probably live in the glove compartment connected to an LCD touch-screen in the dash, but a new product recently was released that changed my mind.  I now have an Infill T3 from Korea that has been imported and set up for the U.S. market by mp3car.com and streetdeck.com.  They are actually (I think) two arms of a single company with mp3car.com being the storefront for anything having to do with car computers and streetdeck.com being the software development group for the front-end software that is installed on the T3.

The box arrived a little beat up, but inside it was lined with Styrofoam and everything seemed OK.

Inside were two boxes and a lot of individually packed parts.

 

 

Hmm, I must have missed the installation manual, or any documentation for that matter.  After going back through the boxes, I thought "Maybe there is an online manual", and then found the note on the website, and I quote exactly as it is written, "Installation mannuals will be comming soon"  Woody, I think I may need a hand with this . . .  (To be continued . . .)

August 26, 2006 in Car Computer | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

Funny school automated system

Boulder's local radio station, KBCO, played a great spoof of an automated school information line.  This one clearly works better as a touch-tone system.  If you know a teacher, you'd better send them this link quick because it is sure to make the rounds.

I don't know how long KBCO maintains their archives but it's working right now:  http://www.kbco.com/pages/bcomorningshow-what.html?feed=105556&article=687176

Some Gold Systems trivia:  We once leased space in a couple of buildings on Riverbend Road, and actually had the old "Studio C" space for awhile.  Lots of great musicians have played there and KBCO has used the proceeds of their annual Studio C CD sales to donate over $500,000 to the Boulder County Aids Project.

August 21, 2006 in Speech Recognition | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

Gold Systems' customer mentioned

Gold Systems' very first customer on the Microsoft Speech Server was mentioned on Ken Circeo's blog, and I've been slow to acknowledge the story.  He tells the story better than I could, but he doesn't mention the customer's name.  Since they allowed us to write a case study about their experience, I think it is OK for me to say who it is, plus I'm happy to give the company some publicity.  ServiceMagic is the customer, and they have a great business.  If you are looking for a contractor to do some work around the house, and you would like to actually get a call back, try ServiceMagic.  (A contractor came to my house today, and not only did he return my call but he WROTE STUFF DOWN.  He's destined for success.)

If you want to read more about what we built and why it worked so well, our case study is here in a large pdf.  To everyone at ServiceMagic, thank you for being a great customer and I wish you continued great success!

Thank you Ken for mentioning this story, and I believe you SHOULD get that new Tablet PC.  The future of Speech Recognition technology practically depends on it!

August 15, 2006 in Speech Recognition | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Spelling errors, RSS and staying connected

I just realized that I had a misspelling in the title of one of my previous posts, and while I know I'm not a good speller, I hate it when I allow a spelling error to creep into my writing.  I have an excuse, but not a good one.  It's what I think of as an edito - not a typo, but an edito.  The error happened because I made an edit to a word and I didn't notice that I'd deleted one-too-many letters.

My next mistake was to rely on spell check.  I use typepad to maintain my blog and I always try to remember to run spell check, which I did.  Unfortunately, typepad doesn't seem to check the title of the post.  I think I'm going to give the new Microsoft Livewriter blog posting tool a try.

I've already made the correction, which is one of the great things about delivering content via RSS.  I know many people reading this are going directly to http://www.terrygold.com and checking to see if I've posted anything new.  Unless your web browser is caching the old version, you'll see the new error-free version.  It's fine if you want to do that - you get to see my reading list and other information that might be helpful, but there is an easier way to keep up with new posts to my blog, and most other blogs.

If you are not visiting my website, you are probably reading this via an RSS reader.  I think a lot of people are missing out because the idea of RSS or "news aggregator" is not widespread outside of the [jarbarish alert] blogsphere.  Personally I use Newsgator because the Newgator guys introduced me to the concept, I can use a reader on my phone and via the web and they magically keep what I've read in sync, and they have a free version, so it is easy to recommend to friends who are new to the idea.  (And since I just looked up how to spell "aggregator" I realized where the name "NewsGator" came from.)

With Newsgator, I can subscribe to blogs or other sources of news and information, and have it all come to me without actually visiting the individual web pages.  It's easy - I go to http://www.newsgator.com and I login.  It then pulls up a list of all the [jargon alert] RSS Feeds (blogs) that I subscribe to and it only shows me the ones that have new content.  I can quickly scan each feed for anything interesting.  As a result I can go through industry news, world news and whatever else that I find personally interesting very quickly without actually going to each and every website to see if anything has changed.  I'm using a mobile version on my Treo, which isn't publicly available yet but will be soon, and so I can get news in the odd moments between meetings or while standing in line at the grocery store.

So, back to my spelling error.  If I was using email to distribute my writing, I'd either just have to hope no one noticed or I'd have to send a second email correcting the error which would really just serve to draw attention to the error.  I expect that one day all press releases and much of the news will be delivered via RSS - Really Simple Syndication in case you are wondering - so go ahead and give it a try

By the way, spell check caught two errors for me.  My fourth grade teacher said I'd never be a success if I didn't learn to spell and I'm still working at it.  I also have a new Volunteer Editor-At-Large who has agreed to point out any mistakes, and through the magic of RSS, hopefully I'll be able to correct them before you see them. 

August 15, 2006 in Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

That was quick! But does it spellcheck the title?

 

I just installed Windows LiveWriter and this is my first post.  If it works, it only took about 5 minutes to install and configure to work with typepad.  And yes, it does check the title of a post when I run spell check.

Web interfaces are great for a lot of applications, and I still think an application running on my personal computer can be best.  In the early days of typepad, it was too easy to accidently hit the back button on the browswer and lose my entire post.  At least now they warn you that it is about to happen.

Just to test it out a bit, I'm going to see if I can insert a map into this post. 

Looks like it worked.  Next I'll see if I can control it with speech recognition!

August 15, 2006 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2006

Do we really need more best practices?

SpeechTEK 2006 started out on an interesting note this week, since the first keynote speaker was Paul English, the guy behind www.gethuman.com.  You probably have heard of him even if you aren't in the industry - his website lists all the automated telephone systems that he can find and tells you what to press or say to get to a live person.

Surely this is the number one frustration for most people who encounter an automated system.  I've always advocated to our customers that they should make it easy for people to get out to a live person.  I've stood up on soapboxes at conferences for years and begged the people making these decisions to not assume their customers are stupid, because even before www.gethuman.com most people could figure out how to get to a human.  The easiest way, unless you were tied tightly into a relationship, was to just hang up and find a different company to do business with.

It turns out, thanks to Paul and others, that the industry is taking notice.  We'll see if it takes, but Paul has suggested that there be a standard for letting people know how to escape out to a live human.  Microsoft and Nuance have already pledged support and I expect we will too very shortly.

I was invited by Opus Research to be on a panel discussion called CEOs Survey: No Smooth Seas Here at SpeechTEK 2006, the speech recognition industry's event where vendors and customers come together to talk about and learn about speech recognition.  Sure enough, one of the discussions was about how the industry needs to collaborate and promote Best Practices.  My comment was something like, "I think we all know how to build great, or at least very good, speech recognition applications.  The problem is we're not doing a good enough job convincing our customers to always implement the best practices."  You see, as developers of these systems we hate it when a system is held up in public as being unfriendly or hard to use.

I've written about this before, but I have renewed hope that we can keep making the caller's experience better.  I encourage the analysts and people like Paul to keep giving our customers concrete evidence that it is better for business in the long term if they let us build easy-to-use systems for them.  I encourage the people who are buying these systems to add a little CST (a term I heard from Tim Walsh at Walsh Media).  CST stands for Common Sense Technology. Ask yourself, would you want to use your system?  If the answer is no, then your customers won't either.  If you're not sure how to fix it, [shameless plug for Gold Systems here] then call me.

August 11, 2006 in Speech Recognition | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 10, 2006

Windows Mobile client for Typepad



Typepad.com just released a client for posting to blogs for Windows Mobile devices (and Palm and Symbian). It's basic, but it seems to work. You can get it right from your device at http://get.typepad.com

If I had it earlier this week in New York I would have done a play-by-play update from SpeechTEK.

August 10, 2006 in Blogging | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 09, 2006

Microsoft Speech Recognition and Unified Messaging

 

This is a longer post than usual – it’s about Microsoft’s latest speech recognition demo of Vista, Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging and my experience this week as a surprise guest in Microsoft’s keynote address at SpeechTEK 2006 in New York this week.


I’ve been using Vista, Microsoft’s next operating system to be released in 2007, for about four months.  I immediately tried the built-in dictation software and was blown away by how well it worked.  Out of the box, with NO training, it performed better than anything I’d ever experienced and the editing capabilities for the first time (for me at least) made voice control of the PC intuitive and workable.


So . . . I was surprised and disappointed for my industry when I saw the video that circulated last week of the demo crashing and burning right before the eyes of the financial community.  If you haven’t seen it, I’ll spare you the pain by not linking to it, but it was clear that something was very wrong.  My Vista builds were much older and I had experienced for myself recognition that was very different from what I saw in the video.

 

It turns out there was a bug in the audio subsystem that was introduced at the last minute, and killed just as quickly, but it did its damage by once again making people think that speech recognition is never going to work.

 

Now . . . what a difference a week makes! At SpeechTEK 2006 in New York this week and I witnessed for myself the very same demo, and it worked PERFECTLY!  Microsoft even had the guts to joke about the previous failure, “taunting the demo gods” as one journalist put it, and still I expect they made a bunch of people (albeit industry people) believe that we have entered a new era for a technology that has been a long time coming.

 

I was not an uninterested bystander.   Richard Bray, who gave the keynote address on behalf of Microsoft and who runs their Speech Server group, invited me to demo Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging for Microsoft during his keynote address.  I’m pretty comfortable speaking to groups of people, but this was practically my entire industry and we were going to use live systems to do a live demo in real time.  No recorded demos – no net, just a telephone and a chance to either make a good impression or look like an idiot if I screwed up.  I knew the technology worked, because I’ve personally been live on Microsoft’s Exchange 2007 Unified Messaging product for about four months, but I also knew from experience that it would be easy to misspeak or have an AV problem that could hose up everything.  I had also heard that others had not had the best experience in the same room earlier in the event.

 

The keynote started with Rich talking about Microsoft’s investment and long history in speech recognition.  He then introduced Rob Chambers to do the Vista demo.  I admire Rob – he looked really cool and confident as he walked up to the stage. The dictation recognition was perfect and it understood everything Rob said.  He showed how easy it is to change and edit a document and then moved on to controlling the PC with just his voice.  He received several rounds of applause, especially when he changed his wallpaper from the standard Vista wallpaper to a photo of his young son without ever touching the keyboard.  (I’ll bet you’d have to think about how to do it even with the keyboard, which is what was cool about that part of the demo.  He said something like “How do I change the wallpaper?” and Vista walked him through it, all with only his voice.  You’ve got to see it to believe it.  I hope when THIS video makes the rounds that it is half as popular.) When he finished his demo of Vista speech recognition, my first thought was to high-five him for doing such a great demo.

 

My second thought as Rob walked off the stage and Rich began to introduce me, was “Holly crap, I’m up and if I screw up, I’M going to be the guy in next week’s video making the rounds.”  Rich put me at ease by surprising me by starting this part of the presentation with a photo of my FJ Cruiser project and asking if I really had installed an Xbox 360 in it.  I said something like “I’m not sure which is more embarrassing, that I have installed an Xbox in the FJ or that I’ve had to admit that I’m from Boulder, Colorado and I own an SUV.”

 

I then jumped into the demo and showed how in addition to email; I can now access my voice mail and faxes via Outlook and Exchange Server 2007 with Unified Messaging.  For the demo, I used Outlook Web Access which allows me to access email via a web browser.  We listened to a voice mail from Clint Patterson (another jokester) who suggested that “I needed more cow bell” in the demo.


By the way, this was a demo, but it was my real inbox and our live Exchange Server 2007 back in Boulder.  No one behind a curtain and nothing faked and it will be delivered as part of Exchange 2007.  The idea of Unified Messaging has been around for years but it has typically been an integration of a legacy voicemail system, an email server and an add-on to an email client.  With Microsoft's approach, Exchange 2007 IS your voice mail and while pricing has not been publicly announced, the phrase “Radical Economics” has been tossed around by the analysts.  It means that I now have only one place to go for my office voice mail, my cell phone voice mail, my email, my faxes (I do still get a few faxes and they are usually something I don’t want sitting out on a public fax machine) AND I have only one login.  My IT people love it because they don’t have to manage separate systems and separate directories.  I know some of our customers are justifying the upgrade to Exchange 12 with the savings in maintenance charges on their legacy voice mail systems.

 

Back to the demo - After listening to the voice mail, I walked across the stage to a plain old telephone and dialed my number at Gold Systems.  I logged into Outlook Voice Access and was given the options of listening to my voicemail, listening to my email (and I can respond by voice to anyone but Brad, who hates voicemail), calling anyone at Gold Systems or (I really like this) anyone in my personal contacts.  Finally, I can do some very interesting things with my calendar which is what I showed next.

 

I said “Calendar” into the receiver and the system replied with something like “You have a meeting in progress entitled SpeechTEK Keynote address with Richard Bray from 8:30 AM to 10:00 AM.”  It offered some options but I interrupted and said “Next.”  It said, “Your next meeting is entitled “Breakfast with Clint Patterson” and again I interrupted and said “Cancel the meeting.”  I was asked to confirm that I really wanted to ditch Clint for breakfast, which I did, but I accepted the offer to send a voice message along with the cancellation notice.”  I responded “Clint, I have no idea what More Cowbell means and I told you they wouldn’t get the joke.  I’m going to have to skip breakfast as I’m still on stage here with Rich.”  I pressed a button on the phone to indicate I was done talking (maybe I could have just stopped talking?  I don’t know, I haven’t tried it) and I said “Send it with Priority”.  The meeting was canceled, Clint was sent an email with my voice note and my calendar in Outlook was updated.

 

For the next meeting on my schedule, I interrupted the system again and said into the phone, “I’ll be 30 minutes late”.  I know a LOT of people who could use this feature!  (I’m fine with you being late occasionally but let me know, OK?  Now you have no excuse if you are on Exchange 12 with UM)  This time the system sent out meeting notifications saying that I was running 30 minutes late.  I hung up the phone, showed everyone how my calendar had updated automatically, made a few last points and I was done.  Whew!  I was the only non-Microsoftee on stage and I was grateful for the chance to be a part of the keynote.  The other demos went perfectly too and for the rest of the show I felt elated to have been a part of it all.

 

The big announcement at the keynote is that Microsoft is merging what has been known as Speech Server 2007 into what was formally known as Live Communications Server to create the Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007.  I’ll write about THAT in another post, but it’s big news and is going to create a lot of opportunity in the industry.

 

I know I sound like I’m drunk on Microsoft Kool-Aid, and I am a little tipsy from it, but this really is big news and I think it will be good for the industry.


To everyone but my competitors, even most of Microsoft’s competitors, this is going to be good for business because it is going to extend speech recognition throughout the enterprise.  The world of communications in general is going to grow and change in fundamental ways, and a lot of people will benefit from Microsoft’s massive investment in this world. 


To Gold Systems competitors specifically:  Pay no attention to this and keep doing what you are doing. No one is ever going to trust their voice mail, phone calls or important business to a PC.  After all, when was the last time you rebooted your mainframe?  Just keep repeating that and maybe this will all go away.  But I doubt it.

 

 

August 9, 2006 in Car Computer, Speech Recognition | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack