Microsoft Voice Command for the X1

Sony Ericsson’s Xperia X1 – the appropriately abbreviated SEX1 – can do most everything. OK, it’s struggling slightly on watering the garden and I must confess that I had to help it out slightly with explaining what steps Jacob Zuma can still take to avoid seemingly unavoidable prosecution for being naughty with money. But aside from horticultural dampening and the legal minefield facing our President in waiting, it’s pretty awesome.

Thus, when it was suggested to me that it could possibly be made to be slightly more awesome, I snorted in a rather rude and derisory fashion. Aside from a hosepipe attachment, this was surely as good as it got, right?

Wrong.

Step forward, Microsoft’s Voice Command 1.6. I’ve been having the time of my life since I popped this little app on my phone. Because yes, I know you can get phones with voice dialling, but this is a bit different.

Users can go beyond today’s limited voice options by using speaker independent phonetic speech recognition and text-to-speech technology. Instead of requiring users to pre record all of the names of their contacts, the software is designed to recognize the commands users say without any training, resulting in effortless, hands-free communication.

So yes, it’ll call the wife if you ask it to. But then, you can ask also it what time it is, what date it is; it will chat to you about your upcoming appointments – even tell you who will be in your next meeting or you can ask it to play Favourite Worst Nightmare  by Sheffield’s finest Arctic Monkeys* and it will launch into Fluorescent Adolescent recorded live at The Leadmill.
Which is pretty cool.

There’s a lot to learn on the X1 and I don’t think I’m getting anywhere close to complete knowledge just yet, but every step I take, I’m getting more impressed.
Now, does anyone have a beta version of Sprinkler for Windows Mobile?

* by literally just saying “play Favourite Worst Nightmare”…

Breaking news…

From BBC News Online:

People who drank more than seven cups of instant coffee a day were more likely to hallucinate than those who took just one, a study found.

Thanks for that, Durham University. I’d never have guessed.
I’ll put it in my folder labelled “Startling and Important Scientific Research” along with:

Pope “more likely” to be Catholic, and
Bears “more likely” to shit in the woods

Oh – and that paper about disappearing teaspoons from Melbourne.

Why can’t I get a research project like that?

Learning the hard way

“Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

It’s been a “fun” morning.
You know – “fun”? Like going to a local shopping mall with hopelessly inadequate parking 12 days before christmas. “Fun”. 
Yet, desperate to get into the festive spirit, despite the temperature outside being in excess of 30°C, we had headed out in search of a christmas tree. We chose to go artificial this year. Not ideal, but when you consider the utterly appalling range of twigs and mangled branches which claim to be the genuine article, together with their propensity to shed razor sharp needles all over the floor after being in one’s house for more than an hour, not really a tough decision.
Better then to go with the neatly boxed plastic version with integral fairy lights and needle-free-carpet guarantee.

“Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

Game at the Kenilworth Centre was suitably over-priced, under-stocked and chock full of clueless employees being unhelpful and impolite customers binging their 0.5% interest rate reduction away. Thanks for that, Tito
While the season and the weather here may be rather different from back home, it’s nice to recognise some of the christmas traditions have made it safely over. We went for the 6′ (180cm) version – anything else just looks foolishly small – threw it in the trolley with a bit of tinsel and some baby food and set off on the 3 mile trek back to the car, which was parked 3 miles away.

 “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

Feeling slightly weak after the ordeal of fighting our way through a billion (apparently blind) shoppers and inhaling lungfulls of car fumes during the return expedition through the parking lot, the wife suggested a stop at the McDonald’s across the road for suitable sustenance. Namely a chocolate milkshake for her, a really unhealthy burger for me, a Happy Meal for the boy and absolutely bugger all for the baby (we’re still trying to wean her off chicken mcnuggets).
And here, after all those other hard-learnt lessons about fir trees, Kenilworth Centre’s parking problems, foolish times of the year to go shopping and so on, is where I learnt the hardest lesson of all.  
“Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”  “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”

McDonald’s Happy Meal toys now make noises. Did they ever do that before?
Sure, some of them moved and stuff, but Alex the Lion from Madagascar 2 – Escape to Africa (I tried it, it’s not too bad, but avoid Jo’burg) goes  “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!” every time you shake go within 10 feet of him. My little Alex is delighted that, although his chesseburger wasn’t up to much, his small leonine namesake makes a noise. Repeatedly. An  “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!” noise. 

Alex the Boy has gone for his midday nap now. Alex the Lion is still “Ooh!” “Ha ha!” “ROOOOOOOOOAR!”ing despite currently residing at the bottom of the swimming pool. 
Yep, you can say what you like about the Chinese, but when it comes to making annoyingly resilient cheap plastic crap, there’s no-one that comes close.

EDIT: And in reponse to this, these (with more at flickr):

        

Sick Toddler?

Is your toddler running a high fever?

Does he have a history of copious vomiting in these situations?

Here’s a comprehensive list of what foodstuffs not to feed him:

  1. Cherry jelly

I’m sure there are others, but at the mention of that first one, my brain has gone into an immediate and complete automatic shutdown in the interests of preserving what remains of my sanity.

I think I need to go and lie down in a darkened room.
(That way, I won’t be able to see the stains on the carpet.)

New Unbalanced

I’m a t-shirt, trainers and jeans kinda guy. In fact, throughout winter, you’ll find me in little else, save for socks. Undergarments are a given, obviously – it’s just too dangerous for a bloke of my dimensions not to.
In the summer, I’m more of a t-shirt, flops and shorts kinda guy, but this isn’t a post about summer.

The jeans are invariably Levis, because they’re the only ones long enough. The t-shirts are invariably one of Puma, Nike or Adidas and the trainers have been New Balance since I can remember.
I can like to be a creature of habit.

My latest pair of takkies – as they are called out here – are New Balance 606 Trail Running shoes.

New Balance 606 – I have 2 of them

Of course, I haven’t run any trails in them – they might get dirty. Oh, and because I might get dead.
Why?
Because while it quite clearly states “All Terrain” on them upon a silhouetted image of a mountain, they make me look like Bambi on ice as soon as the relative humidity rises above 8%. They’re bloody lethal.

Looking at the sole, one could quite easily believe that they would grip anything, anytime. And indeed, they will – as long as it’s not wet. I can only imagine that they were road-tested in the Sahara.
Sadly, we are still in the throes of an extremely damp Cape Town winter, which has made walking about town dangerous for me, yet somewhat amusing for passers-by whose only concern is avoiding the several hundred invisible ball-bearings that I am struggling with. 

I will think long and hard before buying another pair of New Balance “All Terrain” trainers.
Assuming, that is, I live long enough to wear these ones out.