Ichabod is itchy

November 15, 2006

Photo booth

Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:39 pm

We’ve got a new mac desktop (early xmas present for Lewis) and have had great fun playing with it. One of the coolest ‘toys’ that it comes with is a program called ‘photo booth’– which uses the in-built camera at the top of the screen to take pictures of you. Not so interesting in itself– but the program lets you add all sorts of distortion affects. A bit like being at a funfair in front of all the crazy mirrors.

Check it out–

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October 5, 2006

Library Thing

Filed under: literature,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 7:19 pm

A friend at work pointed me to a wonderful site today– Library Thing. You can build an online ‘catalogue’ of your books. Like all good Web 2.0 applications, you can tag entries, rate them, share them, get fun stats on them (e.g. an ‘obscurity index’) etc. There’s a couple of things I particularly like– tag clouds and author clouds (I know you get these everywhere, but I’m a big fan of tag clouds) and also an ‘author gallery’, which will show you visual pictures of all the authors of books in your collection.

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I’ve started building mine, although have only got about 60 odd books in there (clumped by authors as is easiest to add all by the same author at the same time). But I’m looking forward to getting ‘up to date’ and being able to add one book at a time, as I read them. I also really love the idea of keeping up to date on what other people (that I know) are reading… so now I just need to convince some people to sign up.

Check it out— v cool.

July 24, 2006

Mac toys

Filed under: webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 7:18 pm

For those of you with Macs (Ian–eyes on you!!) here are a couple of cooooool toys that use the internal sudden motion sensor on your computer. Your Mac obviously needs to have a sudden motion sensor, so they only work on Mac OS X 10.4 or later.

First up is the SeisMac— a groovy application that turns your Macbook into a seismograph and displays x,y and z motion in a multi-real-time graph. For example, here’s a screen shot:

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The high movement shown above is obviously me shaking the computer to get a good picture! But it’s really very sensitive– mine picks up me tapping the floor under the table for example, and even if I talk loudly to the computer!

Even more cool– combine a Mac with starwars and what do you get? The MacSaber!

21732.jpg This also uses the sudden motion sensor–but rather than a visual effect, you get an audio result. If you’re even a tiny starwars fan, you will be delighted when you hear your Macbook turn into an instant lightsaber. Move the computer around and listen to the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh…

June 27, 2006

Tap out a song…

Filed under: webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 10:11 pm

A fun way to pass the time is The Song Tapper. You tap out a song on your space bar and the song tapper tries to figure out what it is. It picked out the Star Wars theme tune when I tried it, and had no problems with Old Macdonald Had a Farm either (although offered Eric Clapton’s Layla as an alternative).

You can also listen to your tapping (this is my star wars)…

Rather silly– but I can certainly see everyone in the office spending at least 10 minutes of tomorrow tapping away in front of their computer screens…

June 19, 2006

Google fighting

Filed under: webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 9:56 pm

Perhaps you all know about Google fighting, but I only discovered it today and, in case you haven't come across it, wanted to point it out. Google fight compares the number of results returned for two 'competing' search terms. There is a little animation whilst the fight goes on and then the two search terms are displayed as proportional bars with the results.

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I was introduced to Google fight at work, where we were debating whether to use the word 'nutritional' or 'nutritive' in a story– I was for the former, a colleague for the latter and, given that both are in the dictionary, we decided to Google fight it out. Needless to say, 'nutritional' was the resounding winner (50 million results vs just under 3 million).

For those of you with little imagination for setting up Google fights, there are some pre-set examples (Bush beats Bin Laden by about 4 to 1 and the pen proves mightier than the sword with 176 million vs 77). And if you don't speak English, don't despair for it's also available in French (although no other languages as yet).

May 24, 2006

ichaBOT

Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 8:20 pm

Lewis has pointed me to the wonderful world of pandora bots, where you can create your very own chatBOT virtual personality. You can assign your chatBOT a 'basic' personality and then train her (or him) to answer questions as you would (well, that's the idea anyway!). This is done through a basic set of fields that describe the basics like favourite colour, where you live, what you name is etc. On top of that, you can keep track of the conversational logs your bot has with the 'public' and, if she doesn't give the answers you like, train her based on those specific questions (or broader ones via use of a wild character "*").

Pandora bots is created by ALICE, using AIML (Artificial Intelligence Mark-up Language), and has many options for customising your bot, particularly if you want to pay for bells and whistles like a talking bot. The subscription talking bots offer lots of customisation– voice, facial characteristics, clothes, background, movement etc. But there are also four 'standard' characters if you want to just try them out first. These can't be customised in terms of how they look, although you can assign them different voices. Each one comes with 500 free text-to-speech 'streams' per month.

I have set up ichaBOT– my virtual personality. She has a picture (that doesn't look like me in case you're wondering) and even an English accent!

There is also a text-only version of ichaBOT but trust me, the text-to-speech streaming is worth it. I'd recommend asking who Lewis is.
ichaBOT is still being trained– the more questions you ask, the more I'll be able to customise her, so please visit her and have a chat.

May 19, 2006

Trendy Google

Filed under: toys,webTech — by ichabodisitchy @ 9:58 pm

I know I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but have only just had my first go at playing with the new Google tool, Google Trends— with my stepson Dylan (aged 13). This latest effort from the innovators at Google Labs lets you compare up to five 'topics' (search terms) to see how often they have been searched for in Google over time and by geographical region. It also shows you how often these terms appear in news stories indexed by Google News and gives you a list of the top 10 cities, regions and languages searching.

Inevitably, almost the first search we did was "Dylan" vs "Harry" (other stepson). Dylan was feeling rather confident that he would come out on top (knowing that all the Bob-Dylan searches would count in his favour). But he had forgotten about Harry Potter, which, to Harry's great delight, nabbed all the news headlines as well as more than four times the search 'volume'.

According to the CBS Blogophile column, over 23,000 bloggers were talking about Google Trends in their blogs last week. Somewhat ironic then that the tool doesn't include blog posts in its searchspace!

My own take is that it's definitely a fun tool. Especially if you are just after a relative search to see how one term compares against another. But not so good for looking at a single term– there's no scale on the vertical axis! So you only get a sense of change over time (as well as the 'lists' of course). But you could argue that I should have got that from the name– Google Trends.

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