News at Seven

This is a pretty amazing bit of technology. Watching it is not a great experience, but it demonstrates a lot of little technologies assembled together to produce some cool results.

They scrape the web (blogs, news sources, etc) daily for what’s newsworthy, come up with a summary (automatically) and have a text-to-speech engine and some computer animated people deliver it. They also scrape for images and videos to run behind the people much like in the news. The voices are surprisingly choppy and non-human, but it’s still cool that every bit of the process is automated:

I watched the 11/17 update and it’s kind of funny how the videos map to what she’s saying. At one point she mentioned Bush, and the video of him flipping off the camera played in the background.

OJ Simpson is insane.

OJ Simpson is writing a book entitled If I Did It


The early part of the book tells how Simpson fell in love with Nicole and how the marriage collapsed, reports the tab. He goes on, according to the article, to describe in gruesome detail the killing of his ex-wife and Goldman; he stipulates that the murder scenes are “hypothetical.” But, notes the tab, the descriptions are “so detailed and so chillingly realistic” that readers are left with little doubt as to what really happened.

Another article
suggests the title will be If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened.

Absolutely amazing.

Paul Graham on Wealth

I enjoy almost every essay that Paul Graham writes, and his recent one on wealth was no exception. He sounds quite libertarian… the speech is reminiscent of Francisco D’Anconia’s money speech in Atlas Shrugged. A few highlights:

People like baseball more than poetry, so baseball players make more than poets. To say that a certain kind of work is underpaid is thus identical with saying that people want the wrong things.

With the rise of the middle class, wealth stopped being a zero-sum game. Jobs and Wozniak didn’t have to make us poor to make themselves rich. Quite the opposite: they created things that made our lives materially richer. They had to, or we wouldn’t have paid for them.

In the section titled “The Lever of Technology” he uses a number of examples to make an interesting point. When people talk about “the gap” between the “middle class” and the rich, they’re usually talking about income. However, there are other gaps that are much smaller than they used to be, especially general lifestyle attributes (cars are cheap/available, etc).

Quad Core Chips

There are tons of reviews coming out for Intel’s new Quad Core chips. I’ve read through a few of them and repeatedly they keep saying that most applications can’t take advantage of all four cores. They seem to suggest that unless the popular applications are re-worked to take advantage of parallel processing, more cores aren’t going to help you.

I don’t understand why they’re saying that. Although a benchmark would look nice if it showed some mpeg encoder run twice as fast on a quad-core chip vs. a dual core, that’s not how most people use computers. Looking around my desktop right now I have a web browser, a mail client, several terminals and an IDE running. Taking a look at the process list reveals that I have 96 separate processes running in the background – a web server, desktop manager, random applets in the system tray, etc.

A real person using a computer has many programs open at once. Just because each program can’t use multiple processes, that doesn’t mean they’re not gaining substantial benefits from having multiple processors. I can compile some code that completely pegs one CPU, and still have another one idle so that checking e-mail is still responsive. Each of these processes are running independently, and their work can be allocated across all four processor cores. There is a net gain there that I have yet to see represented in any benchmark, but it would be interesting if someone bothered to do it.

Free business idea for someone

I’d really love the ability to have an RSS feed turned into a podcast automatically. I don’t think it would be that hard to build a site where people could put in the URL of an RSS feed, and in return you’d give them a URL for an audio-version of that feed, where you’d use a text-to-speech library to convert that content to audio.

There are a lot of times I’m walking and would like to catch up on specific blogs. Also, being the motion sick type, if I’m in a car or bus it would be great to be able to “read” without the discomfort of taking my eyes off the surroundings. Someone get on it!