Archive for October 2008

Old java project, part 2

I took the old java project from previous post loaded under Eclipse and compiled.   Only got one error, that was broken code anyway.  With that one line commented out I got 429 warnings but no errors, nice.

Started setting up a test configuration at a voice network.   VoiceGenie has been bought by Genesys.  They didn’t have a clear link to the dev section or maybe I just didn’t see it later found it here.  For some reason Tellme does not allow google email address or any free service address, can’t use that.  Voxeo had a clear dev section and got me signed up in a matter of minutes.

I mounted a test application “HelloWorld” of course what else ?   It worked fine out of the box.  Then to try something more daring.   Dusted off an old application “Blackjack”, that ran fine out of the box too.   I’m really surprised pleased to see that an VoiceXml application written in 2001.   Using our java Api ( qIVR ) also from 2001 runs on the current voice network.  That is without changing a single line of code.

If your so inclined you can call the Blackjack application by dialing (720) 897-8933.  If you prefer skype you can use +99000936 9991261498   Maybe you can win a few bucks 🙂  I have to say being able to use skype to call / test the voice apps is a big plus.

How does it work ? The voice network, Voxeo in this instance takes the phone call.   Then it will go to the URL that your application is located at.   It fetches the voiceXml, then It interacts with the user on the phone as instructed by the voiceXml code you give it.  A simple HelloWorld looks something like this.

<vxml version="2.0" xmlns="">
        Hello world!

A lot of times apps are served up as static pages.  If your application is more than a handful of pages it becomes hard to handle and maintain.   And that’s exactly why we developed the qIVR “quiver” voiceXml java Api.   qIVR allows you to handle the phone conversation in java code by using java objects.  Without even having to learn voiceXml.   Here is HelloWorld again, qIVR style.

pCall.speak( pCall.factory().qivrPrompt(” Hello world “) );

The Random Lava lamp

I once came across a sketch, which was something like

int RandomNumber()
return 4; // This number is completely random from a dice toss

I want to take a look at some Random number generators ( RNG ), it isn’t as simple as it seems at first.

Looking back in time. The book A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates was a big hit in 1955.

Today we have much more powerful hardware and much greater needs.

Probably the most famous generator used Lava lamps.

At there is another one that uses two radios.

And you have one using radioactive substance with a Geiger counter, just keep your distance.

Then you have the second version of the Lava lamps.  Landon Curt Noll moved over to LavaRnd which hooks up to your webcam.  Not any webcam they have a list of supported cameras.  And the source code is even available on Source Force.  Apparently they got tired of changing the bulbs in the Lava lamps and turned to webcams instead.  With a cheap webcam and their source code either in c or perl you can have a really strong generator up and running quickly.

Here is an idea, what about having humans do it.  We could put a lot of people in a room throwing dice, but that’s not efficient at all.  Let’s start with a list of bloggers, the list is randomly chosen each day.  As new posts are published on the bloggers RSS feed we will pick up the new data.  This data will be mixed in with posts from other bloggers.  Along with the feed from the stock market.  We could throw in some random Twitter feeds as well.  After doing some shuffling we create hash signatures from the sets of data and you have your randomness.  I’m sure the process could also use some blending similar to the LavarRnd blender.

How reliable are bloggers as a random source ?  Very reliable, as none of the bloggers will post the same post again.  They don’t repeat themselves, that would make no sense to a blogger. It would only cost them readers as people would get turned off.  It’s like hearing the same news over and over again, wait that’s Tv.  Maybe that’s why I don’t watch tv, at least not the news.

Let’s blog away, create those random numbers !

Tweet trends

I just played with the Twitter api / links to get to know it.  Took their trend feed which is a json stream.  The stream includes names of the trends and it’s URL.   After the json info is imported the next thing is to hit the RSS / Xml feed for each topic.  Load it into entry objects including authors and spit out the ones that include links, up to the last three per category.  As that’s what gives you the best bang for the buck checking on Tweet trends.  You can take a look at it here.  The feed it self is live and updates real time, but you have to refresh the page to get the latest.  Thanks to @johnadepue for his input.

Then I went on Twitter Grader for fun.  It turns out I’m in negative territory.  My ranking shows up as “57,255 Overall rank, out of 56,047“  Althought I only been a few days on Twitter that doesn’t feel right.   I’m graded a bit less than the whole Twitter population.  How is that for a math problem.

Minix hack to Linux

I just read an interesting post with a reference to a newsgroup post from Linus Benedict Torvalds.  On October 5, 1991 about the new “free version of a minix-lookalike.” Beware it’s only for developers hackers !

Interesting excerpt from the post,

This is a program for hackers by a hacker.  I’ve enjouyed doing it, and somebody might enjoy looking at it and even modifying it for their own needs.

Doesn’t that remain the state of Linux today ?

Twitt it

I started Twitter-ing today, as an experiment.  I will let you know how it goes.  I have heard some people just don’t get it or maybe they just don’t like it.  You can actually find out trends and what’s happening in your neck of the woods with a twitter search.  Take my city for example Twitt in / about Boulder, you can search on whatever you like.  It’s real time and pretty cool if you ask me.

I threw away my cell phone a few years back.  But recently got a hand me down from my wife.  It’s a old one that can text message.  I was surprised when I saw that I could use it with Twitter.  It’s prepaid service as I don’t use it much.  In the meantime my wife is cruising on the iPhone.

I think I figured out a killer app Twitter related.  If it turns out any good I will let you know.

And in the news today, a big win for the Ubuntu distro on the server side, way to go !

Skype it

I guess this one is going to sound like a commercial for Skype.  It’s just my personal experience using Skype.  First off if you have some geeky friends or non geeky for that matter that use a computer.  Have them buy either a mic and a speaker or a headset.  If not already present.  Then have them sign up with Skype, the rest is history now you can talk all you want for FREE.  Just like on the phone, except it’s FREE and the quality is so much better than the phone.  It just does not compare.

Not only that, you can conference with people from all over the place.  I have been on calls with 8 people from a few different countries and the quality is just superb.  Everybody can hear each other and there is no interference like on the normal phone lines.

Calls to a normal phone line ( which costs to call ) is not as good quality.  That’s because your talking with somebody on a normal phone line.  The skype end is good but the other one isn’t.

Now about calling to normal phone lines, I happened to have a need to call my brother in Norway and friends in Iceland.  So I signed up for the long Unlimited World plan $9.95 a month.  I thought I could just call endlessly without worries to all my friends far and near.  But didn’t catch all of the small print, which lies in the list of countries.  First off Iceland isn’t on the list, no calls to them.  Secondly for Norway I can only call landlines I don’t get access to cell phones.  Argh, I knew about Iceland up front but figured if I get Norway for $10 a month it would be worth it.  Only to discover no cell phones, not so good.

Another not so good part is when I complained.  Before I had realized that cell phones were not included in the world plan.  I got a totally canned response from Skype.  Instead of investigating and figuring out what was wrong, they sent me the following.

Hello Orn,

Thank you for contacting Skype Support.

We apologize for the delayed response. Our goal is to respond to all customer e-mails within 72 hours, however due to a recent increase in inquiries it has taken longer to respond to you.

Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Our records indicate that you have successfully purchased a Skype subscription. You can see it delivered here:

The subscription will be reflected in your account as a delivered order, but not as additional Skype credit as this is a subscription that activates your account to make the unlimited calls to the selected nations.

You can find more details about your subscription benefits at the “Manage” section on your account page:

We hope you continue to enjoy using Skype!

Best regards,

Obviously I was aware that I had bought the plan, but I needed some help…   After a while I canceled the world plan as my brother in Norway was only reachable on his cell.  To skypes credit, they canceled it immediately and sent a confirmation email right away.

Now I’m torn between the Vonage $0.23c a minute to Norway and the $0.212c a minute using Skype.  The benefit with Vonage is that they will just put it on my bill to be paid at the end of the month.  The benefit with Skype is that I have better quality and I can see the credit I have count down in the skype interface while I’m on the phone.  It’s there reminding you to use your minutes wisely.