Helping Out a Local Charity

I’ve been helping out a local charity with preparing tax returns for the needy and underprivileged for the past few weeks and we’ve run into a problem. Each time we have to print out the tax returns for the clients, we have to take the laptop over to the printer to have it printed out.  This takes a while, and it can be a royal pain.  So I have suggested setting up a small print server so that the laptops on the WLAN can easily print.  My initial set-up looks encouraging: I have set up a Raspberry Pi as a little print server, and have successfully printed from one of the laptops.  With some security measures and other set-up, the other laptops that the tax preparers are using will be able to use this print server, too.

MyCroft, AI, and how I’m trying to help it

The other day, I saw that a version of MyCroft was released for the Raspberry Pi.  I have been following MyCroft for a while now (mostly through the Linux Action Show) and have tried using it.  The software is still in beta, so I found some bugs with it, namely I can’t really use it.  I have tried pairing it, then talking into it with my microphone.  But it can’t understand what I’m saying.  At first, I thought it had something to do with getting a secure connection to the MyCroft backend servers.  Now it could be a problem with my microphone.

I’ll admit that my desktop microphone isn’t the best.  But how much clarity does the microphone require?  Apparently, a lot.  The microphones on the Amazon Echo, for instance, can pick up a bunch of channels of sound.  So it looks like I’m going to have to get a better microphone.

What I’ve also seen is that MyCroft uses Google’s backend for the speech recognition.  It looks like they’ll go to something such as Kaldi, but that doesn’t have a large enough speech model to get the job done.  While it has a model based upon over a thousand hours of speech, it may require thousands of more hours of speech just to get better results.  I’ve been donating to Voxforge and trying to help with their speech corpus.  However, they’ve barely got enough for half of their first release.  So I was wondering how to speed things up and get them more samples.

What they could do is make it fun and interesting to donate.  I was thinking of something like a badge system on the Voxforge website, or even leaderboards.  Then again, would this make it fun to donate?  I need to think more on this.

Made My Own NES Classic Console

It looks like the NES Classic is sold out every where, and there are scalpers on eBay trying to bilk old fans out of their hard-earned coins.  Now, I don’t want to get an NES Classic on account of owning a couple of the featured games, as well as owning them on the Virtual Console.  But since the lack of want doesn’t stop me from tinkering, I made my own.

It’s quite easy to make a tiny device which can emulate and play NES games; it’s already been a reality for a long time.  In my case, I took a Raspberry Pi 3, got the official Raspberry Pi touchscreen, a case to contain these parts, an old SD card with an install of RetroPie on it, and a Classic USB NES controller.  And just for shits and giggles, I also hooked up the whole thing to a 20Ah battery so that I can play it on the go.

Frankenstein’s fun machine

This was a fun little project, but it does have its setbacks.  The Raspberry Pi, along with the other attachments, draws a good amount of current, and so has a problem with voltage (that’s the reason it has two USB connectors).  Also, if you want good sound, you’ll have to use a different sound output; the on-board audio jack is terrible.  Then there’s the price: this little beauty set me back around $200.  So while the NES Classic will set you back $60, at least that’s an official machine, and has a few bells and whistles.  Still, this device is easily configurable, and I can add as many games as I want.  So it not just plays NES games, but also SNES games.