Wintermute Voice Assistant That Works Across Platforms And Follows You Everywhere?

Nuance stand at GSMA Barcelona 2008

Nuance stand at GSMA Barcelona 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Phys.org’s “Wintermute voice assistant makes intro at CES” article reported Nuance, a tech company from Massachusetts, is working on a software which allows people to use voice to control devices that aren’t necessary using the same operating system.  This means that when this software of theirs, codename Wintermute, gets to the market, the users will be able to use voice to control all devices with ease.  Furthermore, Phys.org reported that this voice assistant software will also work in such a wonderful way that the users will be able to rely on their voices to for an example, abstractedly reveal the intention from one device and yet to be able to have another device does a follow up on the same intention.

Confuse?  Let say, you use this voice assistant software to check out some information about a movie you want to watch in theater on a tablet.  All of the sudden, you switch to PC and ask for the same voice assistant to buy a movie ticket for you without telling it about the movie you want to buy a ticket for and which theater you would like to go to.  If this voice assistant software is going to be really good, it definitely knows what movie you have had intensively searched for from the search engine on a tablet and automatically looking for ticket information of this particular movie in the closest theater near you on a PC.  When it got all the necessary preparations down, it would then ask you to approve the purchase of the movie ticket through voice, and you can simply reply back with a simple yes or no or a not so simple answer which this voice assistant software would then offer you more choices to decide.  Obviously, if you decide that you want to cancel the whole shebang, you can simply tell it like it is such as “Let cancel the whole thing,” and the voice assistant would just record your decision for further analyzing to further its own smartness while it goes ahead and cancel the whole movie ticket buying thing.

In truth, I’m not sure will Nuance’s voice assistant will be capable of the things I mentioned, but it does sound like Nuance’s voice assistant might be able to do some of the things I mentioned, because Phys.org reported that Nuance’s voice assistant prototype was able to pull up a football game on TV when a user had merely browsed for the football game score on the smartphone.  So, I think Nuance’s voice assistant might be able to understand the users abstractedly somewhat.  Nonetheless, abstract thinking isn’t something computers can easily tackle, therefore I’m not too sure about Nuance’s voice assistant performance.  Just take a look at Siri and other voice assistants from other smartphone platforms, all in all these software/apps perform rather poorly.  These voice assistant software/apps often misunderstand the users’ voice commands and intentions.  If Nuance’s voice assistant can be smarter than the rest, I definitely love to see it in action!

Phys.org reported Nuance is going to rely on the power of the cloud networking to service its voice assistant software.  Through the cloud servers, Nuance’s voice assistant software will be able to synch the information from one device to another, because Nuance’s voice assistant software needs to be able to analyze what the users have done from one device to another.  Furthermore, I think that in order for the users to be able to use Nuance’s voice assistant across devices and platforms, the users might have to install Nuance’s voice assistant software on all devices and platforms that they’re going to use.  This might not be a convenient thing to do, because the users might have to update, upgrade, or remove Nuance’s voice assistants from all devices too.

I think Nuance’s voice assistant software is a cool idea, but I wonder how Nuance will deal with privacy.  It’s a very powerful thing for a software to know the intents of the users.  Furthermore, if a hacker can hack into Nuance’s voice assistant software, will this hacker has the control of all devices that Nuance’s voice assistant software serves?  Imagine the things a hacker can do with all devices at once.  Turning them into zombies and so on…  Anyhow, the privacy and security issues are two sticky issues that cloud services often have to contend with.  So, in this sense these two hot issues are not only Nuance’s voice assistant software’s problems, but these problems are all cloud services’ problems.

I’m not sure if Nuance can deliver this sort of all device interaction for its upcoming voice assistant software, but it sure does sound promising from what I’d read on Nuance’s Wintermute project on Phys.org.  Until then, I guess I be wishing for Nuance to release their work really soon.  Until then, let us all use the current single platform voice assistant software such as Siri or whatever we have on our devices.

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Just A Thought About A Cloud Internet

Cloud computing comes to NERSC

Cloud computing comes to NERSC (Photo credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

On Monday, I flipped through Flipboard and couldn’t understand why halfway through Flipboard threw a tantrum.  The tantrum went on a long time, and so I had to refrain from using Flipboard until late in the night, adhering to eastern standard time.  Today, the New York Times’ “Amazon Cloud Service Goes Down and Takes Popular Sites With It” piece confirmed Flipboard’s Monday tantrum.  Of course, not only Flipboard but other huge, gigantic kind of services that use Amazon for cloud services had also experienced the Monday case.  Monday, Amazon acknowledged that cloud servers experienced degraded performance and problems with the Northern Virginia data center(according to the New York Times).

I’m making a big deal of this incident is to point out that cloud services (as in singular) isn’t invulnerable to outage.  In fact, I believe (but not knowing for sure) that cloud services might have a tendency to breakdown even more since the complication of keeping everything tidying within a cloud is not that simple.  Of course, when a cloud is doing everything right, it can be way more resilient than non-cloud services.

Amazon is one of the biggest cloud players in the market.  Whenever Amazon has cloud problems, it shows that cloud services can be just as vulnerable as non-cloud services.  I think cloud services (as in singular) is more resilient in many ways (e.g., data redundancy, scalable computing, etc…), but whenever it sneezes million of services will catch a cold too.  This prompts me to ask a question, how much bigger a cloud needs to be so that a common cold won’t be powerful enough to infect a cloud?

I imagine, a company Y which provides cloud services to have a backchannel which connects to a cloud infrastructure of company X, and when company Y experiences a cloud cold, company X’s cloud infrastructure would kick in to cure the cold for the cloud of company Y.  The billing will reflect the rescue operation, therefore there is an incentive to setup this sort of backup cloud infrastructure between these gigantic cloud companies.  Imagine this scenario would be interconnected as large as if there is a separate Internet, but this Internet is responsible for cloud services only.

Of course, just like the Internet, if a company isn’t too careful in applying security protections and so forth, a cloud Internet can be just as infectious as the regular Internet.  A cold in a cloud Internet has the ability to infect way many more services than a regular cloud.  If this is the case, why would I think a cloud Internet is better?  Resiliency is the answer if a service does care about not ever going down for a cloud outage.  I think the cloud Internet would definitely be large enough to absorb most cloud outages and allow time for the cloud outages to be fixed and reenergized.  Then again, I might not know what I’m talking about since I’ve never actually operated and engineered a cloud.  (Almost forget to bring this up, perhaps encryption would be the panacea for data security since cloud backchannels might get rather even more murkier in term of who is in charge of whose data.)

Source:  http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/22/amazon-cloud-service-goes-down-and-takes-some-popular-web-sites-with-it/?partner=rss&emc=rss

How To Create, Attach/Associate, And Mount EBS Onto Amazon EC2 (Using Ubuntu 12.04 Linux OS)

English: Cloud Computing

English: Cloud Computing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was playing around with Amazon Web Services, and then I thought it would be a good idea to make a how-to video which shows people (who are new to Amazon Web Services) how to add, attach/associate, and mount EBS (Elastic Block Storage) to Amazon EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) instance (using Ubuntu 12.04 Linux OS for the EC2 instance).  For your information, Amazon Web Services is like a cloud web hosting and network infrastructure (plus a whole lot more).  Nonetheless, if you have no idea what I just spewed and still think Amazon Web Services is interesting, you definitely can find out more about Amazon Web Services at Amazon (the website and not the jungle).  Anyhow, the thought is awesome in my opinion, and so the end result is the video right after the break.  Enjoy!!!

Using FreeNAS With VirtualBox To Create A True Personal Storage Cloud?

FreeNAS

FreeNAS (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Besides using third party online cloud services such as Dropbox or Pogoplug, you can always set up your own personal cloud at home.  In my opinion, a personal cloud should not route your data to any third party service, and so even Pogoplug touts as a personal cloud solution — your data still route through their network first.

OK, before we go even further into this post, I should make clear that a cloud can mean many things.  To some people, a cloud should be able to sync things.  To others, a cloud should automate things such as push and pull data — similar to iCloud.  Then there are folks who think cloud as expandable/scalable storage (either automatically or manually).  To me, a personal cloud can be all of the above and more.  Unfortunately, to have a personal cloud to do all of the above and more, one might have to go through a third party cloud service which touts as personal cloud — this to me isn’t truly a personal cloud!

In this blog post, I prefer to create a personal cloud that I host on my own machines.  Although the solution I’m going to talk about isn’t as elegant as iCloud or Dropbox, but at least this solution is somewhat capable of allowing you to interact with your personal cloud as if it’s an unlimited/scalable storage cloud (but manually scalable).  Our solution has to be manually scalable since when we want more storage capacity we have to add more storage means.  When I say more storage means, I mean we have to add either more hardware or to configure our personal storage cloud software to handle larger storage capacity.

So, what is our personal storage cloud solution?  Virtualizing FreeNAS!  Yes, FreeNAS is just a software which specializes in allowing people to create a free network-attached storage server.  When one uses FreeNAS natively (i.e., not virtualizing it), then it’s just a free network-attached storage server solution.  Now, imagining one can install FreeNAS onto VirtualBox, suddenly everything changes as one can begin utilizing FreeNAS as a personal storage cloud solution!

How is the virtualization of FreeNAS can provide us a personal storage cloud solution?  We can always add more virtual hard disks with the largest virtual hard disk size.  At this point in time VirtualBox allows largest virtual hard disk to be around 2 Terabytes.  You might be curious, what if you don’t have enough real disk space to support the humongous capacity (i.e., stringing together many large virtual hard disks under one virtual machine) of virtual hard disks right?  Well, the marvelous thing about virtualization is that you don’t actually have to have exactly the amount of real hard disk space until the virtual hard disks are actually growing that large.  In the worst case scenario, you can always move the virtualization of your FreeNAS onto a system with large enough storage capacity (i.e., move the VirtualBox virtual machine which runs FreeNAS and all of the attached virtual hard disks to a physical system which has larger storage capacity).

Meanwhile, working with FreeNAS in VirtualBox will not harm your real system in anyway, because it’s virtualization!  You can play with FreeNAS in VirtualBox without fear, and this leads to allowing you to understand FreeNAS better (i.e., practice makes perfect).  To tell the truth, I just get to know FreeNAS, therefore I will have to play with FreeNAS a lot more through VirtualBox’s virtualization before I can confidently post an excellent FreeNAS tutorial in thorough detail.

What I know so far about installing FreeNAS with VirtualBox is that it’s easy!  Just make sure that you specify FreeNAS as a BSD operating system type and FreeBSD as the operating system which FreeNAS is based on.  This means FreeNAS is a unix type of operating system, but it’s designed for creating network-attached storage server.  During the setup of a new VirtualBox virtual machine for FreeNAS, don’t forget to configure the settings to add however many additional virtual disks — this allows you with the ability to create storage volumes with specific virtual disks within FreeNAS’s control panel (i.e., FreeNAS graphical user interface control panel which can be accessed through a web browser through a local IP address or an external IP address).

When done installing FreeNAS through VirtualBox, you will see a black screen with scrolling letters and you will see options that you can choose so FreeNAS can be configured — you should pick the option which allows you to set up how FreeNAS should advertise its IP address (i.e., Configure Network Interfaces).  In unique situation when you cannot use DHCP to automatically lease/borrow a dynamic IP address from a router for your FreeNAS virtual machine, you can always fall back to the option which allows you to enter a shell.  Inside a shell, you can set up a temporary static IP so you can access FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel through a browser.  Here is how you set up a temporary static IP for FreeNAS — enter this command [ifconfig eth0 192.168.1.55 netmask 255.255.255.0], but do not use the square brackets and make sure you replace the static and netmask IP addresses with the ones that work with your router’s configuration.

Once done set up a temporary static IP for FreeNAS, you can access FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel through a browser.  Within FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel, you can access Network > Interfaces to add a permanent static IP address for your FreeNAS virtual machine (i.e., VirtualBox virtual machine).  This way, whenever you reboot your FreeNAS virtual machine, it will boot up with the same static IP address, consequently allowing you to access FreeNAS with the same static IP address.

By the way, I forgot to tell you that you should choose Bridge Adapter when you set up the network adapter for your FreeNAS virtual machine through VirtualBox Manager, because NAT adapter will advertise FreeNAS services on VirtualBox’s virtual IP address which might start as something like 10.x.x.x.  NAT type of IP addresses might prevent you from accessing FreeNAS’s graphical user interface control panel through a browser.

I’ll post more on FreeNAS once I get to be expertly using it, OK?  For now, at least we know that FreeNAS can be virtualized into an unlimited personal storage cloud in virtualization sense.  In reality, we still have to add more hardware to cope with growing disk space of virtual disks.  Even with FreeNAS, it’s illogical to think we can have unlimited personal storage cloud in absolute sense unless you have unlimited amount of money to buy unlimited amount of hardware (i.e., disk drives) to support the unlimited growing disk space of virtual hard disks.

For your information, FreeNAS is free to download and install and use, therefore there is no harm in trying it out — virtualizing FreeNAS for personal storage cloud or natively using it.  What’s even more wonderful is that virtualizing FreeNAS with VirtualBox is also free, therefore you can virtualize FreeNAS to your heart’s content without paying a dime.  What isn’t free is buying more hard disks to handle the growing virtual disks for your system!

I Wish To See Cloud As An Open Source Cloud As A Service

English: Cloud Computing Image

Image via Wikipedia

Cloud computing is usually shortened for just cloud.  Cloud is now a word that most people carelessly throw around, because it’s one word which has been promoted heavily by the tech industry.  And I quote Wikipedia, “Cloud computing is the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a metered service over a network (typically the Internet).” — Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing.  I’m surprised that Cloud hasn’t yet becoming an open source cloud as a service.

I think I need to clarify on what I mean by “cloud” as an open source cloud as a service.  Imagine having someone whips up an open source cloud as a service software that would allow strangers to come together and share computing resources, consequently allowing each participant to have more cloud storage space, cloud computational resource, and cloud this and that.  Of course, such an open source cloud as a service software needs to provide or implement a unique security protocol so it would be almost pointless to decrypt and pry for information without proper authorization.

Such open source cloud as a service software should be freely distributed to anyone who wants to promote their own open source cloud as a service environment/ecosystem.  I guess, someone just needs to start a first node, then the rest can join!  Once again, I like to emphasize on the security implementation; if a security implementation isn’t done right, instead of having an open source cloud as a service, people who participate might find their personal open source cloud as a service ecosystem to become a zombie service where hackers use this particular computing ecosystem to deploy attacks such as Denial-of-service.  It would be bad indeed.

Furthermore, if proper brains come together and agree, who would say a business model might not spring into existence from having an open source cloud as a service, right?  Anyhow, this idea of mine might be a foolish idea, but I don’t mind throwing foolish idea into the cyberspace.  Then again, this foolish idea might already be in the work by someone else who has yet to announce his new creation to the world; he who quietly codes away from his tiny table somewhere in this world.

Update:  Imagine an open source cloud as a service as an open source Internet (but a small cohesive cloud Internet ecosystem which can grow quite large), because people would be using one another computational resources, whether that be hardware and software, to create an open source cloud ecosystem which isn’t that different from a commercial cloud service/ecosystem.  Imagine Amazon S3, EC2, and other Amazon web services as open source services, and the participants don’t really need to spend cash/credit other than their already available physical hardware, software, and bandwidth.  Come to think of it, bandwidth might be a problem.  Nonetheless, BitTorrent works out just fine, and so open source cloud as a service might work out just fine too, I hope.  And yeah, I don’t think open source cloud as a service will be similar to BitTorrent, because this isn’t about peer to peer protocol, but it’s probably something else entirely.

Update:  I can see energy cost and frequent unplug/shut-down of hardware and shoddy hardware might hamper the idea of open source cloud as a service, but dedicated users/participants might not have such problems, I guess.