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Retweet of OtherDanOBrien

2014 Nov 20, 6:02
[Testing Cat-Human Translator] Scientist: Cat, what is your name? Cat: I AM KANG THE DESTROYER Owner: It's not working. His name is Socks.
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Platonic Ideals in Anathem and The Atrocity Archives

2009 Apr 7, 11:58
The Atrocity ArchivesThe Jennifer MorgueAnathem

This past week I finished Anathem and despite the intimidating physical size of the book (difficult to take and read on the bus) I became very engrossed and was able to finish it in several orders of magnitude less time than what I spent on the Baroque Cycle. Whereas reading the Baroque Cycle you can imagine Neal Stephenson sifting through giant economic tomes (or at least that's where my mind went whenever the characters began to explain macro-economics to one another), in Anathem you can see Neal Stephenson staying up late pouring over philosophy of mathematics. When not exploring philosophy, Anathem has an appropriate amount of humor, love interests, nuclear bombs, etc. as you might hope from reading Snow Crash or Diamond Age. I thoroughly enjoyed Anathem.

On the topic of made up words: I get made up words for made up things, but there's already a name for cell-phone in English: its "cell-phone". The narrator notes that the book has been translated into English so I guess I'll blame the fictional translator. Anyway, I wasn't bothered by the made up words nearly as much as some folk. Its a good thing I'm long out of college because I can easily imagine confusing the names of actual concepts and people with those from the book, like Hemn space for Hamming distance. Towards the beginning, the description of slines and the post-post-apocalyptic setting reminded me briefly of Idiocracy.

Recently, I've been reading everything of Charles Stross that I can, including about a month ago, The Jennifer Morgue from the surprisingly awesome amalgamation genre of spy thriller and Lovecraft horror. Its the second in a series set in a universe in which magic exists as a form of mathematics and follows Bob Howard programmer/hacker, cube dweller, and begrudging spy who works for a government agency tasked to suppress this knowledge and protect the world from its use. For a taste, try a short story from the series that's freely available on Tor's website, Down on the Farm.

Coincidentally, both Anathem and the Bob Howard series take an interest in the world of Platonic ideals. In the case of Anathem (without spoiling anything) the universe of Platonic ideals, under a different name of course, is debated by the characters to be either just a concept or an actual separate universe and later becomes the underpinning of major events in the book. In the Bob Howard series, magic is applied mathematics that through particular proofs or computations awakens/disturbs/provokes unnamed horrors in the universe of Platonic ideals to produce some desired effect in Bob's universe.

PermalinkCommentsatrocity archives neal stephenson jennifer morgue plato bob howard anathem

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 Released with Activities

2008 Mar 5, 11:36

Internet Explorer 8 Beta 1 is available now. I can finally talk about some of the stuff I've been working on for the past year or so: activities. Activities let you select a document, some text on a document, or a link to a document and run that selection through a web service. For example, you could select a word on a webpage and look it up in Wikipedia, select an address and map it on Yahoo Maps, select a webpage and translate it into English with Windows Live Translator, or select a link and add it to Digg.

IE8 comes installed with some activities based on Microsoft web services but there's a page you can go to to install other activities. However, that page is missing some of my favorites that I use all the time, like del.icio.us. Accordingly, I've put together a page of the activities I use. MSDN has all the info on creating Activities.

Activities are very similar to other existing features in other browsers including the ability to add context menu items to IE. There's two important differences which make activities better. Activities have a preview window that pops out when you hover over an activity, which is useful to get in place information easily provided by developers. The other is that the interface is explicit and takes after HTML FORMs and OpenSearch descriptions. Because the interface is explicitly described in XML (unlike the context menu additions described above which run arbitrary script) we have the ability to use activities in places other than on a webpage in the future. And because activity definitions are similar to HTML FORMs, if your webservice has an HTML FORM describing it you can easily create an activity.

PermalinkCommentsmicrosoft technical activity openservice ie8 ie activities msdn

Second Life Translator

2007 Jul 4, 10:58Hackdiary
I really enjoy reading Matt Biddulph's blog hackdiary. An entry some time ago talked about his Second Life flickr screen which is a screen in Second Life that displays images from flickr.com based on viewers suggested tags. I'm a novice to the Second Life scripting API and so it was from this blog post I became aware of the llHTTPRequest. This is like the XMLHttpRequest for Second Life code in that it lets you make HTTP requests. I decided that I too could do something cool with this.

Translator
I decided to make a translator object that a Second Life user would wear that would translate anything said near them. The details aren't too surprising: The translator object keeps an owner modifiable list of translation instructions each consisting of who to listen to, the language they speak, who to tell the translation to, and into what language to translate. When the translator hears someone, it runs through its list of translation instructions and when it finds a match for the speaker uses the llHTTPRequest to send off what was said to Google translate. When the result comes back the translator simply says the response.

Issues
Unfortunately, the llHTTPRequest limits the response size to 2K and no translation site I can find has the translated text in the first 2K. There's a flag HTTP_BODY_MAXLENGTH provided but it defaults to 2K and you can't change its value. So I decided to setup a PHP script on my site to act as a translating proxy and parse the translated text out of the HTML response from Google translate. Through experimentation I found that their site can take parameters text and langpair queries in the query like so: http://translate.google.com/translate_t?text=car%20moi%20m%C3%AAme%20j%27en%20rit&langpair=fr|en. On the topic of non US-ASCII characters (which is important for a translator) I found that llHTTPRequest encodes non US-ASCII characters as percent-encoded UTF-8 when constructing the request URI. However, when Google translate takes parameters off the URI it only seems to interpret it as percent-encoded UTF-8 when the user-agent is IE's. So after changing my PHP script to use IE7's user-agent non US-ASCII character input worked.

In Use
Actually using it in practice is rather difficult. Between typos, slang, abbreviations, and the current state of the free online translators its very difficult to carry on a conversation. Additionally, I don't really like talking to random people on Second Life anyway. So... not too useful.PermalinkCommentspersonal translate second-life technical translator sl code google php llhttprequest
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