Voice as a User Interface is Almost Here

Talking to your computer to interact with it has been science fiction fantasy for over 50 years. It will soon be a reality.

Amazon made voice activated devices popular with its Echo devices . Google responded with the Google Home.

We now have an arm’s race between these two giants.  Amazon or Google should get us over the finish line.

Apple has Siri, of course, but it’s currently in third place in capabilities, and it does’t offer cheap $30 Siri devices. Nevertheless, look for Siri improvements too.

One concern with these devices that’s always mentioned is that of privacy. Your request, along with your voice, is transmitted to the cloud for processing. That’s where all the computational power and most recent machine learning algorithms live. Apple’s data is anonymous, which I believe slows their ability to improve Siri’s abilities. Alexa and Google, for example, can recognize between different people’s voices.

Here’s a review of the Google Home Mini:

Marques also does a great comparison of the voice assistants:

Finally, if you’d like to help crowd source an open source voice solution, the Mozilla Foundation has Mozilla Common Voice where it needs people to both verify and donate their voice. This open source data will be used to help improve voice recognition.


Groundhog Day: Amazon Updates Echo/Someone Rants About Privacy

Whenever Amazon updates the Echo or Google updates their Home Device, someone on Hacker News begins the rant about how they don’t like the intrusion of their privacy.  I certainly can appreciate that they don’t want their information transmitted to a corporate mothership.  Unfortunately, this conversation tends to drown out any other discussion about the products.

The solution seems simple enough: don’t use the product. Stop reading articles about such devices because you’re not going to use them.

The generic version of problem of this exists throughout the Internet. There’s a product that people hate, and will never use, but they feel this insatiable need to tell the world why they will never buy it.  The electric car, is one example that springs to mind.

At any rate, there’s nothing wrong with disliking a product, but it probably doesn’t add anything to the conversation to tell the world why it’s not for you




Stories That Should be Banned from Hacker News: Immortality

Some stories on HN are a complete waste of time.  Little real knowledge is ever included in the threads.  No one learns anything. We just bullshit for a few hours.  And this happens a few times a year for each topic.

My first suggestion is stories related to immortality. Most of the comments immediately turn  philosophical.

“Death gives life meaning”

“It’ll only be for rich people”

“The money should be spent on something better.”

On HN, most people don’t  want to learn anything about aging.  No one discusses the basic science that we might gain by doing the research.  The knowledge gained could have benefits in other areas of medicine like heart disease and cancer, for example.  You aren’t going to want to live forever and have Alzheimer’s.

There are 7 billion people on the planet.  It’s not going to hurt if several thousand people work on basic research to understand aging.  From reading the current news headlines, robots and AI, will  soon leave many people without jobs. Perhaps basic research in all areas of science should be expanded to create jobs?

Finally, let’s not delude ourselves into thinking that death is going to be any easy disease to cure.  Maybe we’ll get a few breakthroughs over the next couple of decades and we’ll figure out how to add a few extra healthy years to the average person.  We definitely need to move beyond long term studies and peer deeper into our bodies.  By the way, the latest study says we need to take 15,000 steps a day to live a longer life.


5000 Swift URLs

Another 3 months and another 1000 URLs added to the collection.


There haven’t been any updates to the “search engine” in the past 3 months, and I don’t have much to add at this point that hasn’t already been said in the previous announcements:




Please let me know if anyone has any feature requests.  Also, don’t forget that all the URLs are in a tsv on Github:




Ghost in the Microwave


This morning our 8 year old (2008) GE microwave started turning on by itself in “Canned Vegetable” mode, a mode I don’t think we’ve ever used. I unplugged it several times for several minutes at a time, hoping the “reboot” might clear it up but it didnt’work.  At this point, I simply don’t trust it.

Anyway, I’m glad I was home. I don’t know if these things can start fires but having the microwave running for hours while we are away can’t be good.  Here’s the microwave information, in case you are experiencing a similar problem:

Model No: JVM1750SM1SS

Made in Malaysia

From what I’ve been reading on the Internet, it seems like the main circuit board is the culprit.

Someone else with the same model had the exact same complaint:


However, it does seem to be a common problem in other GE models:

4000 Swift URLs

The Swift Resources page reached 4000 URLs yesterday.


It has been 3 months since 3000 URLs, so Swift content is being generated quite quickly. iOS 10 will be announced in less than 2 months. At the current rate, we should expect 1000 iOS 10 Swift blogs and Github projects before it’s released in September.

In addition, over the past few months, I’ve added paywall links, although I haven’t gone back to add all the links. The content created by https://www.raywenderlich.com and http://nsscreencast.com/episodes is exceptional and well worth the money.

Finally, the iOS Swift books now has a search feature and I’m in the process of adding discount codes.


If you know of a book not on the list, please let me know.

We’re approaching the start of Swift’s third year, and it looks like everything is in place to accelerate its already rapid adoption.

The Convergence of Mobile Phones and Desktop Computers

I’ve been telling people for over 15 years that someday we’ll have smartphones that will transform into desktop computers. It’s finally actually starting to happen with feature’s like Microsoft’s Continuum.

My initial thought was that you’d simply place your phone next to an external keyboard, mouse, and monitor then they would all automatically and wirelessly connect to the phone.

This will happen but now there’s another far more interesting possibility. Phones, always with you, simply innovate beyond what you can do with a desktop.

Consider technologies like Google Glass, Microsoft’s HoloLens, or Magic Leap will be the display, providing the large and augmented view.


For enhanced user input, a combination of voice and gesture recognition will allow people to make more use of our phones while on the go. Minority Report is 14 years old. Intel and Google, along with manufacturers of VR headsets. are making rapid progress on recognizing hand gestures.

This Google Soli video demonstrates the emerging possibilities:

Over a billion smartphones are sold every year, generating hundreds of billions in profits. The revenue is being used to fund a smartphone arms race to build fresh and innovative mobile technologies (e.g. Apple Pencil, 3d Touch, TouchId).

Individually, each of these technologies might seem minor, but in aggregate they’ll make the smartphone of today appear antiquated within a few years. After all, companies need to give you a reason to update every few years.

All of these enhancements will give you fewer reasons to sit down at your desktop or reach for your laptop.  Personal computers will soon be the pickup trucks of computing.