Computer professionals celebrate 10th birthday of A.L.I.C.E.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005File:Turing1.jpg

More than 50 programmers, scientists, students, hobbyists and fans of the A.L.I.C.E. chat robot gathered in Guildford, U.K. on Friday to celebrate the tenth birthday of the award winning A.I. On hand was the founder the Loebner Prize, an annual Turing Test, designed to pick out the world’s most human computer according to an experiment laid out by the famous British mathematician Alan Turing more then 50 years ago. Along with A.L.I.C.E.’s chief programmer Dr. Richard S. Wallace, two other Loebner prize winners, Robby Garner and this year’s winner, Rollo Carpenter, also gave presentations, as did other finalists.

The University of Surrey venue was chosen, according to Dr. Wallace, not only because it was outside the U.S. (A.L.I.C.E.’s birthday fell on the Thanksgiving Day weekend holiday there, so he expected few people would attend a conference in America), but also because of its recently erected statue of Alan Turing, who posed the famous A. I. experiment which inspired much of the work on bots like A.L.I.C.E. University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre organizers Lynn and David Hamill were pleased to host the event because it encourages multi-disciplinary interaction, and because of the Centre’s interest in interaction between humans and computers.File:ALICE Birthday Cake.jpg

Dr. Wallace gave a keynote address outlining the history of A.L.I.C.E. and AIML. Many people commented on the fact the he seemed to have moved around a lot in the last ten years, having lived in New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Maine, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, while working on the Alicebot project. The A.L.I.C.E. and AIML software is popular among chat robot enthusiats primarily because of its distribution under the GNU free software license. One of Dr. Wallace’s PowerPoint slides asked the question, “How do you make money from free software?” His answer: memberships, subscriptions, books, directories, syndicated ads, consulting, teaching, and something called the Superbot.

Rollo Carpenter gave a fascinating presentation on his learning bot Jabberwacky, reading from several sample conversations wherein the bot seemed amazingly humanlike. Unlike the free A.L.I.C.E. software, Carpenter uses a proprietary learning approach so that the bot actually mimics the personality of each individual chatter. The more people who chat with Jabberwacky, the better it becomes at this kind of mimicry.

In another interesting presentation, Dr. Hamill related present-day research on chat robots to earlier work on dialog analysis in telephone conversations. Phone calls have many similarities to the one-on-one chats that bots encounter on the web and in IM. Dr. Hamill also related our social expectations of bots to social class structure and how servants were expected to behave in Victorian England. He cited the famous Microsoft paperclip as the most egregius example of a bot that violated all the rules of a good servant’s behavior.

Bots have advanced a long way since philanthropist Hugh Loebner launched his controversial contest 15 years ago. His Turing Test contest, which offers an award of $100,000 for the first program to pass an “audio-visual” version of the game, also awards a bronze medal and $2000 every year for the “most human computer” according to a panel of judges. Huma Shah of the University of Westminster presented examples of bots used by large corporations to help sell furniture, provide the latest information about automotive products, and help customers open bank accounts. Several companies in the U.S. and Europe offer customized bot personalities for corporate web sites.

Even though Turing’s Test remains controversial, this group of enthusiastic developers seems determined to carry on the tradition and try to develop more and more human like chat bots.Hugh Loebner is dedicated to carry on his contest for the rest of his life, in spite of his critics. He hopes that a large enough constituency of winners will exist to keep the competition going well beyond his own lifetime. Dr. Wallace says, “Nobody has gotten rich from chat robots yet, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. There is such a thing as ‘bot fever’. For some people who meet a bot for the first time, it can pass the Turing Test for them, and they get very excited.”

Airbus A380 safety test injures 33

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thirty-three people were injured during a test of the Airbus A380, a double decker superjumbo jet, in Hamburg, Germany. Injuries include friction burns from sliding down the escape ramps and one broken leg. 853 volunteer “passengers” and 20 crew members took about 80 seconds to evacuate the aircraft, beating the test’s requirements by 10 seconds and over 200 people “rescued”. Only eight of the plane’s sixteen exits were used, as required by the test; the crew members were not told in advance which doors would open. The test was carried out in a dark hangar and the plane’s aisles were littered with debris to simulate actual emergency conditions.

The A380 will be the world’s largest passenger airliner, almost twice as large as the current largest airliner, the Boeing 747. Airbus has had 159 planes on order by 16 customers, and the first A380s will go to Singapore Airlines towards the end of the year.

This test was important to Airbus, as in August 2005 an Airbus A340 overshot the runway and 300 people escaped before the plane burst into flames. Infrared camera recordings of the test will be analyzed by authorities such as the European Aviation Safety Agency, while the US Federal Aviation Administration was present during the test. The European Aviation Safety Agency will confirm the test results this week; Airbus intends to repeat the test on Saturday if the aviation agency fails this attempt.

The volunteers, who were paid 60 euros (about US$72) and a meal, were from Airbus staff, sports clubs, and dancing clubs in the Hamburg area where the test took place. Airbus recruited people from clubs in order to get volunteers in good physical shape.

Two days later, the American and European aviation authorities (the FAA and EASA, respectively) officially certified the A380 to carry 853 passengers. This certification demonstrated that the test procedures use by Airbus met their respective standards.

Paramedics protest outside New South Wales parliament

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paramedics employed by the Ambulance Service of New South Wales in Australia marched on the New South Wales parliament today. They called for the Government to sack Ambulance Service of New South Wales CEO Greg Rochford, hire 300 additional ambulance officers and 60 patient transport officers. Paramedics gave the Government 48 hours to agree to the proposed staffing levels or face industrial action.

“We are currently at the same levels of staffing that we had in 2002 and these not withstanding, also there’s been an increase in workload of 5 per cent per year every year since then,” said Health Services Union general secretary Michael Williamson.

The union also called for chief executive Greg Roachford and other senior management to be sacked over what has been described as a culture of bullying.

What Makes Bamboo A Compatible Timber Investment}

What Makes Bamboo a Compatible Timber Investment

by

Tonka Dobreva

The brainchild of 48-year-old identical-twin artists, Doug and Mike Starn, project Big Bamb was a 120-feet long structure of more than 5,000 poles from a bamboo farm in Georgia and a century-old plantation in South Carolina. The brothers Starn chose bamboo as their building material because, according to them, bamboo is lightweight, but very strong and can endure varying weather conditions. As far as stability, the installation was tested with 350 50-pound sandbags over a 24-hour period. It didnt even tremble.

Bamboo, traditionally considered as member of the grass family, is recognized as one of the best materials to consider if you want to invest in timber as it is suitable for home construction, floors and fiberboards. It is known to be the more stable than hardwoods, with a tensile strength of 52 pounds per square inch more than that of cold-pressed steel. Investing in bamboo plantations might also be a suitable alternative for those looking to invest in timber, but are put off by long investment cycles as the maturity span of the bamboo plant is four to six years after planting, which is considerably lower than that of traditional timber. Regular trees can take from 30 to 60 years to mature and be ready for use, while bamboo can produce up to 15 kilometres of usable pole over a 13 -year period.

In addition, once mature and cut off for timber production, more bamboo material grows from the already planted clump and roots, which gives a larger harvest each year without the need for replanting.

YouTube Preview Image

Bamboo And consider this: Bamboo sequestrates around five times more CO2 from the atmosphere compared to traditional trees while its oxygen-releasing capacity is 35% higher than that theirs.

Companies that invest in timber should seriously take into account these remarkable bamboo characteristics. Bamboo, which can also be SIPP-approved, can render faster returns than traditional forest investments. Moreover, its unmatched capability for offsetting greenhouse gas emissions provides it with a competitive edge, giving other timber investments a run for their money.

Recognizing how much bamboo projects can be beneficial for the investment portfolio and the wallet alike, David Cox, a young UK entrepreneur, has launched what he claims to be the worlds first bamboo bond. Based in Oxford, his company has bought 2,000 acres of bamboo plantation in South America. The location was selected with the prospective buyer in mind. Cox considers the U.S. as its primary market for the bamboo material. According to the optimistic timber investments enthusiast, people can invest as little as 10,300 in the bond with hopes of getting a return of 503 per cent over 15 years.

With over a billion people living in houses made of bamboo, Indias Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the $10 billion world market for bamboo will double by 2015, reaching $20 billion.

There are feasible issues that also need to be addressed when evaluating bamboo plantations as viable timber investments. Considering the fact that bamboo sometimes travels long distances before it reaches its destination-of-use, the GHG emissions involved in transporting it can be significant. Therefore, bamboo plantation locations and intended markets should be selected properly and carefully.

The bamboo bandwagon might seem like a lucrative

timber investment

option, but potential investors should do just as if not more — thorough research on the industry itself and the reliability of companies offering options to invest in timber before taking advantage. For further details on timber investments please visit

timberinvestments.co

Article Source:

What Makes Bamboo a Compatible Timber Investment}

Denny’s Super Bowl free ‘Grand Slam Breakfast’ brings 2 million diners

Friday, February 6, 2009

Denny’s 1,600 chain restaurants across North America, Puerto Rico and Canada, were slammed for eight hours Tuesday with hungry patrons standing on sidewalks for nearly two hours to take advantage of the $5.99 “Grand Slam Breakfast” giveaway.

Denny’s, a dining chain with annual revenue of about $900 million, has advertised in a TV commercial Sunday during the Super Bowl XLIII that it would give away its signature breakfast from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. local time Tuesday, at all its restaurants in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, while supplies lasted.

Denny’s Diner has promoted the iconic dish giveaway heavily, with a bold 30-second appeal ad that aired during the third quarter of the Super Bowl 43 on Sunday, plus another 15-second ad during the post-game show, offering a free breakfast to some 90 million viewers. In addition, it has placed a full-page ad in USA Today‘s Monday edition. The promotion was further announced on The Today Show and notices were also sent out to the chain’s “Denny’s Breakfast Club” members.

The NBC ad, which was bought to unveil a new promotion for customers squeezed by the recession, may have cost as much as $3 million, said Nelson Marchioli, CEO of Denny’s Corp. Super Bowl XLIII’s 30-second commercial time slot costs $2.4 million–$3 million for the airtime alone, excluding production and talent costs.

The game was televised live by the US NBC Sunday Night Football and Canada’s CTV Television Network. BayTSP has reported that, “as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, commercials that initially aired during NBC’s Super Bowl XLIII broadcast subsequently had been watched online more than 28 million times.”

“The promotion has a total cost of $5 million U.S., which includes $3 million for the commercial on NBC,” said a Denny’s spokesman, noting also that the company received about $50 million in news coverage, most of which was positive. According to a Denny’s representative, two million people walked through the restaurant chains’ doors Tuesday, and each Denny’s restaurant served an average of 130 Grand Slams per hour.

With the “Denny’s Feeds America” promotion, the company has reported 14 million hits on its Web site between Sunday night and Monday morning. Denny’s shares rose 6 cents, or 3.1 percent, to $1.98 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded in a range of $1.18 to $4.10 over the past 52 weeks.

“Denny’s free Grand Slam” has ranked in the top 10 Google searches early Tuesday and fell to No. 18 by the end of the promotion, while “denny s locations” was #9 on Google Trends, which tracks fast-rising searches. It has also held spots No. 1 (Denny’s) and 7 (Grand Slam) on Twitter‘s trending topics. It has generated much chat on Twitter, garnering 1,700 tweets on Tuesday, compared with its average of 59. Doritos, winner of the USA TODAY survey for best Super Bowl spot ad, had 933 mentions after reaching a peak of almost 3,300.

The idea of the TV ad was to get people to come in and re-evaluate Denny’s Diner. “A lot of people have forgotten what Denny’s is, or they think they know, while we’ve come out with a whole lot of new products. We felt like we needed to jump start the brand,” Denny’s Chief Marketing and Innovation Officer Mark Chmiel said.

“We’re celebrating the Grand Slam this year,” Chmiel said. According to the company’s financial data, on January 15 Denny’s reported systemwide comparable-store sales for the fourth quarter were down 6.1 percent, compared to a 0.2 percent decline from the same period in 2007.

According to Robert Gonzalez, public relations company Hill & Knowlton spokesman, Denny’s has expected at least 2 million people to eat a free Grand Slam by the end of the promotion. “Every restaurant is packed with people and lines,” Gonzalez said. “Everything today is about fast. People are on the go, and they’re eating fast food. It’s cutting into sit-down dining,” he added.

“Each of the more than 1,500 Denny’s were planning to make about 100 Grand Slams an hour,” Denny’s spokeswoman Cori Rice said. It had predicted it will have served about 1,400 people per location, more than five times the normal volume. “Grand Slam Breakfast” is a four-item option on its menu, consisting of two pancakes, two eggs, two strips of bacon and two sausage links. It weighs in at 44 grams of fat, 56 carbohydrates and 770 calories.

Nationwide, Denny’s expected to sell about 2 million Grand Slams — about 15 percent of the annual tally. According to Mark Chmiel, chief marketing operator and executive vice president, the diner chain has reported approximately 2 million meals worth more than $12 million were given away nationwide and each Denny’s restaurant served an average of 130 Grand Slams per hour. It estimated it has earned about $50 million worth of public relations following the free Grand Slam campaign, Chmiel said.

The company is also experimenting with a Grand Slam Burrito and also has introduced for this year, a Grand Slamwich, which includes eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese between two slices of bread, with a teaspoon serving. “It already has shown strong consumer appeal,” said Chmiel. The company has received flood of e-mails and letters proving the positive impact of the Grand Slam campaign and commercials on its customers.

Chmiel also announced he’s planning a third major promotion in this year’s third quarter, which happens to include another major sporting event, the World Series. “That’s one we’re definitely looking at,” he said.

Jobless Paris Winslow of downtown San Francisco, California has joined the long line which stretched from the front door on Mission Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, to the corner of Fourth and up the block. “The economy is getting kind of scary. This line looks like those pictures of soup kitchen lines during the 1929 Great Depression,” Winslow said.

“I came all the way from San Francisco for a free $6 meal, Isn’t that pathetic? A year ago, I never would have done this. These days I’m willing to put my ego on the back burner,” said Stephen Weller, a jobless contractor who waited with his dog, Emmett. California Denny’s restaurant managers have issued rain checks (for free chilled meals, as security backed by actual bacon) to anyone who failed to get in by the 2 p.m. deadline.

A big eater could also “Slam It Up” by adding any two additional items for 99 cents each to their meal. Customers on Tuesday were also handed “bounceback” coupon books that include offers for additional free menu items with purchases. Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin Pang has eaten five free Grand Slams on Tuesday at five different Denny’s Diners in four hours. He claims to have consumed 4,100 calories at Harwood Heights, 5:36 a.m, at Schiller Park, 6:22 a.m., at Franklin Park, 7:08 a.m., at Melrose Park, 7:41 a.m. and at Grand Slam No. 5 Oak Park, 8:57 a.m.

“The Grand Slam has always been a Denny’s favorite. This free offer is our way of reacquainting America with Denny’s real breakfast and with the Denny’s brand,” Denny’s CEO Nelson Marchioli said in a statement. In 1977s, the Grand Slam started as a baseball-related promotion in Atlanta, Georgia. Its normal price averages around $5.99. Marchioli said the event was also a way to kick-off its “Year of the Grand Slam” promotion. Denny’s claimed it has sold 12.5 million Grand Slams a year.

“The economy’s tough and people are jumping all the way to fast food to try to figure it out. We all use fast food, whether it’s for time or convenience or for money. But you can go to Denny’s and you don’t have to give up a real breakfast and that was the whole focus of our commercial,” Marchioli explained. McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500) has done well during this economic meltdown since the global recession pushes people toward less expensive dining options.

McDonald’s has announced plans Wednesday to open 175 new restaurants in China this year despite the global economic crisis, thereby increasing the number of outlets in China by 17 percent, from 1,050 currently. Last month, McDonald’s 2008 net profit has risen 80 percent from 2007 to 4.3 billion dollars.

Marchioli has also introduced Denny’s $4 Weekday Express Slam, which is a streamlined version of the Grand Slam. “I want to take back share. For too long, we have allowed others to take share, whether it was Starbucks or McDonald’s. They’re fine competitors and I don’t expect to take all their business from them, but I’d like a little bit back,” Marchioli noted.

According to Rafi Mohammed, author of “The Art of Pricing,” people love free. “It triggers a Pavlovian response in people,” said Mohammed. If Pavlov’s dogs salivate when a bell rings, Denny’s free Grand Slam breakfast has attracted 2 million hungry customers. “I believe free maximizes trial and doesn’t devalue a product as long as it is a rare event. Aside from the cost, the major downside is that it attracts customers who truly have no intention of coming back,” he added.

According to University of Portland consumer psychology professor Deana Julka, people flock to free promotions amid just a few dollars saving because there’s nothing in life for free. “So when there’s something out there that costs nothing, it creates a psychological rush. Especially in these times when people feel overtaxed or overburden, there’s an internal reward people feel by getting something for free,” she said. “It’s being thrifty and feeling like you beat the system. Free really hits the spot for a lot of people,” Julka added.

“Free is an emotional hot button. When free is concerned, there is no downside – or, at least, we don’t see the downside immediately. So we overvalue everything that is free. People love free stuff, particularly when money’s tight,” said Dan Ariely, a business professor at Duke University, author of “Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions.”

Experts, however, explained these moves need to be done sparingly, since giveaways can teeter in the balance between desperation and a well designed marketing ploy. “Giving your product away for free is not worth it because it undermines your brand value,” said branding expert Rob Frankel, saying people are attached to the idea of it being free, than the actual product itself.

Free giveaways are not anything new in the food industry. “It just feels good when you can get something for free and not have to worry about it coming out of your wallet,” Frankel noted. Dunkin’ Donuts and Panera Bread all have had free coffee and food promos last year. “In November, Starbucks gave away free cup of coffee to anyone who came in on Election Day. Have you taken a look at how Starbucks is doing now?” Last week it has announced it would shut down 300 stores, in addition to the 600 it already planned to close.

On February 24, IHOP will be offering a free shortstack to every customer to encourage donations (in place of the cost) for Childrens Miracle Network. The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) is a United States-based restaurant chain that specializes in breakfast foods and is owned by DineEquity. The chain had more than 1950 restaurants in all 50 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada and Mexico. Since 2006, IHOP’s National Pancake Day celebration has raised over $1.85 million. In 2008, over 1.5 million pancakes (12 miles high if they were stacked) were given to customers for donations.

Denny’s (“Denny’s Diner”) is a full-service diner/family restaurant chain in the United States. It operates over 2,500 restaurants in the United States (including Puerto Rico), Canada, Curaçao, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, and New Zealand). The resto chain is known for always being open, serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert around the clock.

Today, Denny’s operates about 1,600 restaurants in all 50 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico. There are also about 578 Denny’s restaurants in Japan operated under a license by a subsidiary of Seven & I Holdings, seven Denny’s locations in New Zealand, and approximately 38 Denny’s diners in the United States. Denny’s headquarters is now located in Spartanburg, South Carolina, headquarters of the parent company Trans World Corporation that acquired Denny’s in 1987.

Denny’s was historically notable for offering a free meal to anyone on their birthday. The offer included a limited number of meal options from a special birthday menu. The promotional ritual ceased in 1993, though occasionally individual franchises will continue the tradition.

In 2008, Denny’s has ceased to be in the ranks among the top diner chains in the $83 billion breakfast market, whose top five firms — McDonald’s, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King and IHOP — accounted for 22 percent of the volume. “A lot of consumers have written Denny’s off their let’s-go-there list,” said Ron Paul, president of Technomic, a consulting firm.

Super Bowl XLIII was an American football game between the American Football Conference champion Pittsburgh Steelers (15–4) and the National Football Conference champion Arizona Cardinals (12–8) to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2008 NFL season. It was played on February 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadiumin Tampa, Florida. It has an attendance of 70,774 and 98.7 million viewers. Pittsburgh earned its sixth Super Bowl win, thus securing sole possession of the record for most Super Bowl wins.

OpenSync Interview – syncing on the free desktop

Friday, May 19, 2006

This interview intends to provide some insight into OpenSync, an upcoming free unified data synchronization solution for free software desktops such as KDE, commonly used as part of the GNU/Linux operating system.

Hi Cornelius, Armin and Tobias. As you are now getting close to version 1.0 of OpenSync, which is expected to become the new synchronisation framework for KDE and other free desktops, we are quite interested in the merits it can provide for KDE users and for developers, as well as for the Open Source Community as a whole. So there’s one key-question before I move deeper into the details of OpenSync:

What does OpenSync accomplish, that no one did before?

Cornelius:

First of all it does its job of synchronizing data like addressbooks and calendars between desktop applications and mobile devices like PDAs and cell phones.
But the new thing about OpenSync is that it isn’t tied to a particular device or a specific platform. It provides an extensible and modular framework that is easy to adopt for application developers and people implementing support for syncing with mobile devices.
OpenSync is also independent of the desktop platform. It will be the common syncing backend for at least KDE and GNOME and other projects are likely to join. That means that the free desktop will have one common syncing solution. This is something really new.

How do the end-users profit from using synching solutions that interface with OpenSync as framework?

Cornelius:

First, the users will be able to actually synchronize all their data. By using one common framework there won’t be any “missing links”, where one application can sync one set of devices and another application a different one. With OpenSync all applications can sync all devices.
Second, the users will get a consistent and common user interface for syncing across all applications and devices. This will be much simpler to use than the current incoherent collection of syncing programs you need if you have more than the very basic needs.

How does OpenSync help developers with coding?

Cornelius:

It’s a very flexible and well-designed framework that makes it quite easy for developers to add support for new devices and new types of data. It’s also very easy to add support for OpenSync to applications.
The big achievement of OpenSync is that it hides all the gory details of syncing from the developers who work on applications and device support. That makes it possible for the developers to concentrate on their area of expertise without having to care what’s going on behind the scenes.
I have written quite a lot of synchronization code in the past. Trust me, it’s much better, if someone just takes care of it for you, and that’s what OpenSync does.

Tobias:

Another point to mention is the python wrapper for opensync, so you are not bound to C or C++, but can develop plugins in a high level scripting language.

Why should producers of portable devices get involved with your team?

Cornelius:

OpenSync will be the one common syncing solution for the free desktop. That means there is a single point of contact for device manufacturers who want to add support for their devices. That’s much more feasible than addressing all the different applications and solutions we had before. With OpenSync it hopefully will become interesting for manufacturers to officially support Linux for their devices.

Do you also plan to support applications of OpenSync in proprietary systems like OSX and Windows?

Cornelius:

OpenSync is designed to be cross-platform, so it is able to run on other systems like Windows. How well this works is always a question of people actually using and developing for this system. As far as I know there isn’t a real Windows community around OpenSync yet. But the technical foundation is there, so if there is somebody interested in working on a unified syncing solution on Windows, everybody is welcome to join the project.

What does your synchronisation framework do for KDE and for KitchenSync in particular?

Cornelius:

OpenSync replaces the KDE-specific synchronization frameworks we had before. Even in KDE we had several separate syncing implementations and with OpenSync we can get replace them with a common framework. We had a more generic syncing solution in KDE under development. This was quite similar from a design point of view to OpenSync, but it never got to the level of maturity we would have needed, because of lack of resources. As OpenSync fills this gap we are happy to be able to remove our old code and now concentrate on our core business.

What was your personal reason for getting involved with OpenSync?

Cornelius:

I wrote a lot of synchronization code in the past, which mainly came from the time where I was maintaining KOrganizer and working on KAddressBook. But this always was driven by necessity and not passion. I wanted to have all my calendar and contact data in one place, but my main objective was to work on the applications and user interfaces handling the data and not on the underlying code synchronizing the data.
So when the OpenSync project was created I was very interested. At GUADEC in Stuttgart I met with Armin, the maintainer of OpenSync, and we talked about integrating OpenSync with KDE. Everything seemed to fit together quite well, so at Linuxtag the same year we had another meeting with some more KDE people. In the end we agreed to go with OpenSync and a couple of weeks later we met again in Nuernberg for three days of hacking and created the KDE frontend for OpenSync. In retrospect it was a very pleasant and straightforward process to get where we are now.

Armin:

My reason to get involved (or better to start) OpenSync was my involvement with its predecessor Multisync. I am working as a system administrator for a small consulting company and so I saw some problems when trying to find a synchronization solution for Linux.
At that point I joined the Multisync project to implement some plugins that I thought would be nice to have. After some time I became the maintainer of the project. But I was unhappy with some technical aspects of the project, especially the tight coupling between the syncing logic and the GUI, its dependencies on GNOME libraries and its lack of flexibility.

Tobias:

Well, I have been a KDE PIM developer for several years now, so there was no way around getting in touch with synchronization and KitchenSync. Although I liked the idea of KitchenSync, I hated the code and the user interface […]. So when we discussed to switch to OpenSync and reimplementing the user interface, I volunteered immediately.

Can you tell us a bit about your further plans and ideas?

Cornelius:

The next thing will be the 1.0 release of OpenSync. We will release KitchenSync as frontend in parallel.

Armin:

There are of course a lot of things on my todo and my wishlist for opensync. For the near future the most important step is the 1.0 release, of course, where we still have some missing features in OpenSync as well as in the plugins.
One thing I would really like to see is a thunderbird plugin for OpenSync. I use thunderbird personally and would really like to keep my contacts up to date with my cellular, but I was not yet able to find the time to implement it.

Tobias:

One thing that would really rock in future versions of OpenSync is an automatic hardware detection mechanism, so when you plugin your Palm or switch on your bluetooth device, OpenSync will create a synchronization group automatically and ask the user to start syncing. To bring OpenSync to the level of _The Syncing Solution [tm]_ we must reduce the necessary configuration to a minimum.

What was the most dire problem you had to face when creating OpenSync and how did you face it?

Cornelius:

Fortunately the problems which I personally would consider to be dire are solved by the implementation of OpenSync which is well hidden from the outside world and [they are] an area I didn’t work on 😉

Armin:

I guess that I am the right person to answer this question then 🙂
The most complicated part of OpenSync is definitely the format conversion, which is responsible for converting the format of one device to the format that another device understands.
There are a lot of subsystems in this format conversion that make it so complex, like conversion path searching, comparing items, detection of mime types and last but not least the conversion itself. So this was a hard piece of work.

What was the greatest moment for you?

Cornelius:

I think the greatest moment was when, after three days of concentrated hacking, we had a first working version of the KDE frontend for OpenSync. This was at meeting at the SUSE offices in Nuernberg and we were able to successfully do a small presentation and demo to a group of interested SUSE people.

Armin:

I don’t remember a distinct “greatest moment”. But what is a really great feeling is to see that a project catches on, that other people get involved, use the code you have written and improve it in ways that you haven’t thought of initially.

Tobias:

Hmm, also hacking on OpenSync/KitcheSync is much fun in general, the greatest moment was when the new KitchenSync frontend synced two directories via OpenSync the first time. But it was also cool when we managed to get the IrMC plugin working again after porting it to OpenSync.

As we now know the worst problem you faced and your greatest moment, the only one missing is: What was your weirdest experience while working on OpenSync?

Cornelius:

Not directly related to OpenSync, but pretty weird was meeting a co-worker at the Amsterdam airport when returning from the last OpenSync meeting. I don’t know how high the chance is to meet somebody you know on a big random airport not related at all to the places where you or the other person live, but it was quite surprising.

Tobias:

Since my favorite language is C++, I was always confused how people can use plain C for such a project, half the time your are busy with writing code for allocating/freeing memory areas. Nevertheless Armin did a great job and he is always a help for solving strange C problems 🙂

Now I’d like to move on to some more specific questions about current and planned abilities of OpenSync. As first, I’ve got a personal one:

I have an old iPod sitting around here. Can I or will I be able to use a program utilizing OpenSync to synchronize my calendars, contacts and music to it?

Cornelius:

I’m not aware of any iPod support for OpenSync up to now, but if it doesn’t exist yet, why not write it? OpenSync makes this easy. This is a chance for everybody with the personal desire to sync one device or another to get involved.

Armin:

I dont think that there is iPod support yet for OpenSync. But it would definitely be possible to use OpenSync for this task. So if someone would like to implement an iPod plugin, I would be glad to help 🙂

Which other devices do you already support?

Cornelius:

At this time, OpenSync supports Palms, SyncML and IrMC capable devices.

Which programs already implement OpenSync and where can we check back to find new additions?

Cornelius:

On the application side there is support for Evolution [GNOME] and Kontact with KitchenSync [KDE] on the frontend side and the backend side and some more. I expect that further applications will adopt OpenSync once the 1.0 version is released.

Armin:

Besides kitchensync there already are a command line tool and a port of the multisync GUI. Aside from the GUIs, I would really like to see OpenSync being used in other applications as well. One possibility for example would to be integrate OpenSync into Evolution to give users the possibility to synchronize their devices directly from this application. News can generally be found on the OpenSync web site www.opensync.org.

It is time to give the developers something to devour, too. I’ll keep this as a short twice-fold technical dive before coming to the takeoff question, even though I’m sure there’s information for a double-volume book on technical subleties.

As first dive: How did you integrate OpenSync in KitchenSync, viewed from the coding side?

Cornelius:

OpenSync provides a C interface. We wrapped this with a small C++ library and put KitchenSync on top. Due to the object oriented nature of the OpenSync interfaces this was quite easy.
Recently I also started to write a D-Bus frontend for OpenSync. This also is a nice way to integrate OpenSync which provides a wide variety of options regarding programming languages and system configurations.

And for the second, deeper dive:

Can you give us a quick outline of those inner workings of OpenSync, from the developers view, which make OpenSync especially viable for application in several different desktop environments?

Cornelius:

That’s really a question for Armin. For those who are interested I would recommend to have a look at the OpenSync website. There is a nice white paper about the internal structure and functionality of OpenSync.

Armin:

OpenSync consists of several parts:
First there is the plugin API which defines what functions a plugin has to implement so that OpenSync can dlopen() it. There are 2 types of plugins:
A sync plugin which can synchronize a certain device or application and which provides functions for the initialization, handling the connection to a device and reading and writing items. Then there is a format plugin which defines a format and how to convert, compare and detect it.
The next part is a set of helper functions which are provided to ease to programming of synchronization plugins. These helper functions include things like handling plugin config files, HashTables which can be used to detect changes in sets of items, functions to detect when a resync of devices is necessary etc.
The syncing logic itself resides in the sync engine, which is a separate part. The sync engine is responsible for deciding when to call the connect function of a plugin, when to read or write from it. The engine also takes care of invoking the format conversion functions so that each plugin gets the items in its required format.
If you want more information and details about the inner workings of OpenSync, you should really visit the opensync.org website or ask its developers.

To add some more spice for those of our readers, whose interest you just managed to spawn (or to skyrocket), please tell us where they can get more information on the OpenSync Framework, how they can best meet and help you and how they can help improving sync-support for KDE by helping OpenSync.

Cornelius:

Again, the OpenSync web site is the right source for information. Regarding the KDE side, the kde-pim@kde.org mailing list is probably the right address. At the moment the most important help would be everything which gets the OpenSync 1.0 release done.
[And even though] I already said it, it can’t be repeated too often: OpenSync will be the one unified syncing solution for the free desktop. Cross-device, cross-platform, cross-desktop.
It’s the first time I feel well when thinking about syncing 😉.

Armin:

Regarding OpenSync, the best places to ask would be the opensync mailing lists at sourceforge or the #opensync irc channel on the freenode.net servers.
There are always a lot of things where we could need a helping hand and where we would be really glad to get some help. So everyone who is interested in OpenSync is welcome to join.

Many thanks for your time!

Cornelius:

Thanks for doing the interview. It’s always fun to talk about OpenSync, because it’s really the right thing.

Armin:

Thank you for taking your time and doing this interview. I really appreciate your help!

Tobias:

Thanks for your work. Publication and marketing is something that is really missing in the open source community. We have nice software but nobody knows 😉

Further Information on OpenSync can be found on the OpenSync Website: www.opensync.org


This Interview was done by Arne Babenhauserheide in April 2006 via e-mail and KOffice on behalf of himself, the OpenSource Community, SpreadKDE.org and the Dot (dot.kde.org).It was first published on the Dot and is licensed under the cc-attribution-sharealike-license.A pdf-version with pictures can be found at opensync-interview.pdf (OpenDocument version: opensync-interview.odt)

This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.
This article features first-hand journalism by Wikinews members. See the collaboration page for more details.

Colleges offering admission to displaced New Orleans students/OH-WY

See the discussion page for instructions on adding schools to this list and for an alphabetically arranged listing of schools.

Due to the damage by Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding, a number of colleges and universities in the New Orleans metropolitan area will not be able to hold classes for the fall 2005 semester. It is estimated that 75,000 to 100,000 students have been displaced. [1]. In response, institutions across the United States and Canada are offering late registration for displaced students so that their academic progress is not unduly delayed. Some are offering free or reduced admission to displaced students. At some universities, especially state universities, this offer is limited to residents of the area.

How You Can Increase Your Tax Refund In Tracy Ca

byadmin

A Tax Refund Tracy CA can put a smile on your face by giving you a little extra money to spend or allow you to save up or catch up on debt. Everybody loves getting a check in the mail, but few know how to increase the money they get as a tax refund each year. One of the ways with which you can increase our tax refund if you are employed on a full time basis is to reduce the number of exemptions on your tax form so as to increase the amount of your income withheld in taxes during each payday. This will allow you to collect a bigger tax refund at the end of the year. Another way to reduce your tax bill is to donate to charitable organizations so as to increase the amount of tax deductions on your income.

If you are required to purchase a piece of equipment for your job from your personal income, you can claim a tax refund provided the company does not reimburse you the money you spent. For instance, if you use your personal mobile phone for work-related reasons, you can have the work-related phone expenses deducted as part of your income tax so as to increase the tax deductions on your income.

The same is also true for of any professional dues you incur such as paying a fee to join a worker’s union or professional organization. Another brilliant way to increase your Tax Refund Tracy CA is to review your filing status. If you get divorced or lose your spouse, that will effectively change your status filing and make you eligible for a significant amount as a tax refund. Any change in your status as the head of your household or as a single individual should also be reported to a professional accountant.

By deducting familial obligations such as alimony and expenses on a dependent child, you can increase the amount deducted from your income and therefore increase your tax refund.

Dove ad viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube

Saturday, November 4, 2006

An advertisement for Dove beauty products has been viewed by well over three million people, without ever being on television. A copywriter from Ogilvy Toronto, the advertising agency that created a spot named “evolution”, uploaded the advertisement to video sharing website YouTube.

While the official upload of the ad itself has been viewed 1,119,262 times, there are dozens of copies of the ad on YouTube, adding to a minimum of 3,059,546 views. The official copy of the video is the website’s 12th most viewed this month, 53rd of all time.

Unofficial uploads have each received high levels of viewership, with 449595, 445322, 207906, 201670, 195265, 116501, and 102634 plays.

The agency did not originally intend to upload the video to YouTube, only display it on the company’s homepage. Staff member Tim Piper uploaded it to his account on October 6, about a week before it first got media coverage on Good Morning America.

The ad begins with a woman walking into a photo shoot. From there, she is primped and plucked by hair and makeup artists, then tweaked on a Photoshop-like program. The photo-manipulation is then posted on a billboard for the fictional “Easel Foundation Makeup” brand. Two young, teenage girls walk past, glancing at the board. “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted” ends the ad in text, “Every girl deserves to feel beautiful just the way she is.”

The creative team for the ad included Tim Piper, Mike Kirkland, Janet Kestin, Nancy Vonk, directors T Piper (treatment and post production) and Yael Staav (live action) from Reginald Pike, Soho post production, Rogue editing, Vapor music, Gabor Jurina and Make-up: Diana Carreiro, and Reginald Pike.

The official French copy of the ad has only received 132 views, although it was only uploaded on November 2, 2006.

Computer professionals celebrate 10th birthday of A.L.I.C.E.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005File:Turing1.jpg

More than 50 programmers, scientists, students, hobbyists and fans of the A.L.I.C.E. chat robot gathered in Guildford, U.K. on Friday to celebrate the tenth birthday of the award winning A.I. On hand was the founder the Loebner Prize, an annual Turing Test, designed to pick out the world’s most human computer according to an experiment laid out by the famous British mathematician Alan Turing more then 50 years ago. Along with A.L.I.C.E.’s chief programmer Dr. Richard S. Wallace, two other Loebner prize winners, Robby Garner and this year’s winner, Rollo Carpenter, also gave presentations, as did other finalists.

The University of Surrey venue was chosen, according to Dr. Wallace, not only because it was outside the U.S. (A.L.I.C.E.’s birthday fell on the Thanksgiving Day weekend holiday there, so he expected few people would attend a conference in America), but also because of its recently erected statue of Alan Turing, who posed the famous A. I. experiment which inspired much of the work on bots like A.L.I.C.E. University of Surrey Digital World Research Centre organizers Lynn and David Hamill were pleased to host the event because it encourages multi-disciplinary interaction, and because of the Centre’s interest in interaction between humans and computers.File:ALICE Birthday Cake.jpg

Dr. Wallace gave a keynote address outlining the history of A.L.I.C.E. and AIML. Many people commented on the fact the he seemed to have moved around a lot in the last ten years, having lived in New York, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, Maine, Amsterdam and Philadelphia, while working on the Alicebot project. The A.L.I.C.E. and AIML software is popular among chat robot enthusiats primarily because of its distribution under the GNU free software license. One of Dr. Wallace’s PowerPoint slides asked the question, “How do you make money from free software?” His answer: memberships, subscriptions, books, directories, syndicated ads, consulting, teaching, and something called the Superbot.

Rollo Carpenter gave a fascinating presentation on his learning bot Jabberwacky, reading from several sample conversations wherein the bot seemed amazingly humanlike. Unlike the free A.L.I.C.E. software, Carpenter uses a proprietary learning approach so that the bot actually mimics the personality of each individual chatter. The more people who chat with Jabberwacky, the better it becomes at this kind of mimicry.

In another interesting presentation, Dr. Hamill related present-day research on chat robots to earlier work on dialog analysis in telephone conversations. Phone calls have many similarities to the one-on-one chats that bots encounter on the web and in IM. Dr. Hamill also related our social expectations of bots to social class structure and how servants were expected to behave in Victorian England. He cited the famous Microsoft paperclip as the most egregius example of a bot that violated all the rules of a good servant’s behavior.

Bots have advanced a long way since philanthropist Hugh Loebner launched his controversial contest 15 years ago. His Turing Test contest, which offers an award of $100,000 for the first program to pass an “audio-visual” version of the game, also awards a bronze medal and $2000 every year for the “most human computer” according to a panel of judges. Huma Shah of the University of Westminster presented examples of bots used by large corporations to help sell furniture, provide the latest information about automotive products, and help customers open bank accounts. Several companies in the U.S. and Europe offer customized bot personalities for corporate web sites.

Even though Turing’s Test remains controversial, this group of enthusiastic developers seems determined to carry on the tradition and try to develop more and more human like chat bots.Hugh Loebner is dedicated to carry on his contest for the rest of his life, in spite of his critics. He hopes that a large enough constituency of winners will exist to keep the competition going well beyond his own lifetime. Dr. Wallace says, “Nobody has gotten rich from chat robots yet, but that doesn’t stop people from trying. There is such a thing as ‘bot fever’. For some people who meet a bot for the first time, it can pass the Turing Test for them, and they get very excited.”