Happy 92nd Birthday to “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof. Kelly Gotlieb

Wednesday, 27 March, 2013

eps02 with Prof. Kelly Gotlieb, Father of Computing in Canada

Happy 92nd Birthday to Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb, (Wikipedia) “Father of Computing in Canada”, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. I am happy to be able to reach Kelly today to wish him happy birthday, good health and all the best!

In recent weeks, I had the honour and pleasure to interview Kelly extensive twice, once via video using Google+ Hangout On Air, another time using Skype audio. Have a watch & listen. Enjoy. Happy 92nd birthday Kelly!

eps02 chat with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof. Kelly Gotlieb (Ref original article)

Interview with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof Gotlieb re Google Car, Google Glasses, Alan Turing (Ref original article)

U of Toronto University Professor Emeritus Stephen A. Cook won NSERC $1 million Herzberg Medal – with interview by Kempton

Wednesday, 27 February, 2013

20130227 Professor Cook interview pix

Congratulations to University of Toronto Computer Science professor Stephen Cook, best known for formulating the P v. NP problem, for winning the $1M 2012 Gerhard Herzberg medal!

After all these years, I still remember the thrill in taking my first year UT Comp. Sci class in 1987 with prof. Cook! And it remains an honour (and bragging right) to have taken the famous third year CSC364 Computability and Complexity class with prof. Cook and seeing him proved to us 3-satisfiability and taught us P v. NP, etc. I am truly excited for prof. Cook!

Check out my 15 minutes interview with Prof. Cook this morning: Interview with Dr. Stephen A. Cook, 2012 Winner of NSERC’s $1m Herzberg Medal

By the way, as prof. cook mentioned in the interview, he came to the idea of the NP complete problem about 6 months after he came to Toronto in 1970. If you read the detailed & insightful oral history interview with Stephen Cook (courtesy of University of Minnesota), you will realize professor Cook could have easily stayed at UC Berkeley (if they had not denied him tenure) instead of joining us at University of Toronto! Lucky us!

Last week, I asked prof. Kelly Gotlieb “Father of Computing in Canada” for his thoughts about some giants in computer science, here is what Kelly has to say about Steve (video clip).

Here is “NSERC Presents 2 Minutes With Stephen Cook

Here is an excerpt from a great Q&A from U of Toronto.

What drew you to this field – and to this particular focus?
I enrolled as a mathematics graduate student at Harvard in 1961, thinking I’d concentrate in algebra. Computer Science did not yet exist as a discipline. After taking a course in `logic and computation’ from Hao Wang, my future advisor, I switched fields. My PhD thesis was inspired by a question posed by a pioneer in the field named Alan Cobham: Is multiplication (of large numbers) intrinsically harder than addition? Part of the challenge was to formulate this as a precise mathematical question.

Why U of T?
I joined the faculty of the computer science department at U of T in 1970. This was one of the world’s first CS departments, and Tom Hull, the department chair, had a powerful vision for its future. He already had recruited some aspiring young faculty, including my close colleague Allan Borodin, who continues to be a pillar of the department. It helped that Toronto is a good sailing venue on Lake Ontario, and sailing was (and is) a major hobby for my wife and me.

What advice would you give to a student just starting out in this field?
You’ve made a good choice. The possibilities are boundless.

Via this UT page, see more media coverage about the 2012 Herzberg Prize at these links below:

“- Globe & Mail


Calgary Herald

CBC News

eps02 chat with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof. Kelly Gotlieb

Wednesday, 20 February, 2013

eps02 with Prof. Kelly Gotlieb, Father of Computing in Canada

This is the second (eps 02) of a series of extensive chats with Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb, (Wikipedia) “Father of Computing in Canada”, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. In this video episode (as oppose to audio recording only in episode #1), we further discussed Google Driverless Cars and Google Glasses in a bit more details, and a few other topics. (I will try to provide a time code key when I have time later or if someone can help me with providing a time code key to the interview.)

eps02 chat with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof. Kelly Gotlieb

P.S. Incidentally, I am happy to claim credit for suggesting Kelly to setup a Google+ account and then also helped him to setup his computer this morning so that we were able to conduct a successful Live Broadcast using the Google+ Hangout On Air technologies using its YouTube engine! It puts a smile on my face in helping the man who helped bought the second electronic computer (a Ferranti machine for $300,000) in the world in 1951 to use Google’s cutting edge technologies to broadcast live from his and my home!

Interview with “Father of Computing in Canada” re Google Car, Google Glasses, Alan Turing

Wednesday, 13 February, 2013

20130212 Father of Computing Kelly interview - pix

Interview with “Father of Computing in Canada” Prof Gotlieb re Google Car, Google Glasses, Alan Turing

This is an extensive interview with Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb, (Wikipedia) “Father of Computing in Canada”, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto, Feb 2013 interviewed by Independent reporter Kempton Lam
KL: Kempton Lam
KG: Professor Emeritus C.C. Kelly Gotlieb
Table of content (with time codes):
0:00 KL: Introducing Professor Emeritus C.C. (Kelly) Gotlieb, “Father of Computing in Canada”, University of Toronto
0:29 KL: My question about Google Driverless Cars. Three US states already has law permitting testing of Google Driverless Cars. Talking about California governor signed the bill, “SB-1298 Vehicles: autonomous vehicles: safety and performance requirements” into law.
2:07 KL: Bill SB-1298 allows Google to test the Google Driverless Car provided Google pays a $5 million insurance, and provided there is a driver in the car.
2:21 KG: “That’s what I expected.”
2:35 KL: My concerns were concerns raised by Kelly in an earlier speech of his.
2:47 KG: listing some of the concerns he has with concepts like Google Driverless Cars. “United States is a very litigious society.”
3:12 KG: Google Driverless Car gets into an accident, whose to blame? And who can you sue? The person who wrote the program? Google who authorize the car? Car manufacture? The person who is in the car? Or all of the above? […] Lots of questions to be asked when failure happen. Read the rest of this entry »

“Computational Thinking” by Professor Jeannette Wing, CMU Comp Sci Department Head

Wednesday, 20 June, 2012

Highly recommending an insightful Feb 7, 2012 “Computational Thinking” presentation at U of Toronto by professor Jeannette M. Wing (President’s Professor of Computer Science and Department Head, Computer Science Department, Carnegie Mellon University).

Two Google lawyers reflect on Oracle v. Google

Monday, 11 June, 2012

Great interviews re “Oracle v. Google” patent and copyright trail with two Google attorneys: general counsel Kent Walker, and litigation counsel Renny Hwang. Highly recommended. [HT +Lauren Weinstein]

Meetings, Bloody Google Search Quality Meeting

Monday, 12 March, 2012

I absolutely LOVE this highly technical but also very insightful annotated Google Search Quality Meeting: Spelling for Long Queries (hence the ref to the comedy training film Meetings, Bloody Meetings). The annotation is great. I hope Google will post more. Enjoy. [HT Google & Google Inside Search]

Following are my words of encouragement in hope that Google will post more.

1) For tech geeks

I am one. And it is cool to see how you guys think and make decisions that affect users of Google.

2) For non-geeks

I think it is great that you guys are trying to be more transparent. I hope you will post more of these videos on a regular basis. Google Search affects so many people and business, the more transparent things are, the less we “worry” about Google (I hope I am right to worry less).

3) For your competitors

I remember Toyota used to (I’m not sure if they still do) give tours of their factories to competitors. Why? Don’t they worry about being copied? Well, no. The idea is by the time competitors copy, Toyota will have improved on its process, production methods, etc. This also forces Toyota into a continuous improvement cycle. In the pursuit of perfection. They will never be perfect but they will always be trying.

Catch up with Bill Buxton

Thursday, 2 February, 2012

Bill Buxton is one of the smartest technologists I know of. Once in a while, I try to “catch up” with Bill by finding some of his online presentations/videos to watch. I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I do.

2011 TIFF Nexus: Locative Media Day Keynote: Bill Buxton on Whereable Media

Bill Buxton presents at AdWeek 2011

Bill Buxton speaks about technology’s effect on advertising at AdWeek 2011

See my previous post about Bill here, here, here, here (video), and here (video).

Also check out tiff.net/nexus. Here is an intro video.

Big Ideas: Freeman Dyson on Living Through Four Revolutions

Friday, 2 December, 2011

Freeman Dyson on Living Through Four Revolutions - pix 02

What a great pleasure (funny and very insightful) to watch the video presentation of the 87 years old Freeman Dyson on TVO Big Ideas: Freeman Dyson on Living Through Four Revolutions. Highly recommended.

P.S. I read about Dyson initially through the stories and scientific works of Richard Feynman.

Freeman Dyson on Living Through Four Revolutions - pix 01

Computational Aesthetics 2011 – Marta Blicharz

Sunday, 4 September, 2011

Check out my friend Marta Blicharz’s report where her artwork submission was accepted into the Computational Aesthetics 2011 academic conference and art exhibition. Really cool looking arts and interesting report.

Here is a brief video.

re: internet voting – A software engineer’s critique of Elections Canada Chief Electoral Officer’s plan

Wednesday, 24 August, 2011

Internet voting in a by-election held after 2013


In this article, I am writing as a reporter and also as a computer scientist with 10 years of software engineering experiences plus a keen interest in internet security & internet voting issues for over 10 years. To me, there are many potential issues with internet voting and I will discuss two main issues I see in this article.

This recent discussion of  internet voting is a result of Elections Canada Chief Electoral Officer’s report on the 41st general election (PDF file) (emphasis and link added),

Under section 18.1 of the Act, the Chief Electoral Officer may carry out studies on alternative voting methods and test electronic voting processes for use during general elections or by-elections, subject to the approval of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs. Elections Canada has been examining Internet voting as a complementary and convenient way to cast a ballot. The Chief Electoral Officer is committed to seeking approval for a test of Internet voting in a by-election held after 2013.

1) “Security” of internet-based voting system vs. Advantage of Paper Ballots

Paper ballots used in Canada have one major security advantage: it takes a long time to fake or temper with the votes. Can you image, with our existing checks and balances, someone physically temper with (i.e. change the voters’ votes) 10 paper votes, 100 votes, or 10,000 votes? I honestly can’t. There are just so many Elections Canada people and election scrutineers from all parties to make tempering with physical votes almost impossible.

Now, can I, as a former software engineer, image someone with the smart and knowledge of the particular internet voting system’s precise weakness, electronically tempering with 100,000 votes in a general election? Absolutely!

Am I just imagining potential security weaknesses and worrying too much? Well, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics had some serious eggs on their faces in Oct 2010. They thought they had a secure internet-based voting system enough that they ask people to help test their system. Only after a few days of testing, their embarrassing failure was documented by Washington Post in “Hacker infiltration ends D.C. online voting trial”. [HT Bruce Schneier]

Last week, the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics opened a new Internet-based voting system for a weeklong test period, inviting computer experts from all corners to prod its vulnerabilities in the spirit of “give it your best shot.” Well, the hackers gave it their best shot — and midday Friday, the trial period was suspended, with the board citing “usability issues brought to our attention.

Here’s one of those issues: After casting a vote, according to test observers, the Web site played “Hail to The Victors” — the University of Michigan fight song.

“The integrity of the system had been violated,” said Paul Stenbjorn, the board’s chief technology officer.

Let me quote Bruce Schneier which I totally agree (emphasis added),

My primary worry about contests like this is that people will think a positive result means something. If a bunch of students can break into a system after a couple of weeks of attempts, we know it’s insecure. But just because a system withstands a test like this doesn’t mean it’s secure. We don’t know who tried. We don’t know what they tried. We don’t know how long they tried. And we don’t know if someone who tries smarter, harder, and longer could break the system.

Fair election is the foundation of our democracy, as a software engineer of large scale safety and mission critical systems for 10 years, I try speak with an impartial view. I honestly don’t know if we can build a secure internet voting system that I would risk Canada’s democracy.

Sure, other countries may have internet-voting which their citizens approve. But what other countries do or don’t does not necessarily mean it is right! I care about my own country’s democracy which is why I am speaking out.

By the way, don’t even think about security by obscurity (using secrecy of design, etc) because it is a really bad idea!

2) Secret Ballots in Polling stations vs. Internet voting location

Polling stations in Canada have a specific set of requirements and the ability to let voters cast their ballots in secret is one of those fundamental requirements.

Unfortunately, when voting is done over the internet, we can be no longer be sure all ballots are casted without undue influence from others in the “voting booth” because there isn’t a “voting booth” anymore.

Imagine a religious, trade, activist, etc group encouraging their members to vote on a computer at a common location for “elections parties”, while their leaders keep coercing their members. Can we stop this easily and effectively?

Even if the group is as small as a family, should we allow the sanctity of & requirement of “secret ballots” be violated by over-eager parents, grandparents, relatives, or friends?

3) My brief replies to interesting comments and “solutions” from this CBC News August 18 at 6:43am Facebook posting.

  • From Melissa Dimock, “I’m a little leery of it, but it’s being done elsewhere. I do think that making voting easier, more accessible and convenient would improve voter turn-out. […]” August 18 at 6:45am

My reply: I don’t know if internet-voting will increase voter turn-out for the long term once the novelty factor is gone. But assuming it does, does it worth the risks stated in (1) & (2) above?

  • From Steve Cooper, “I’m not too down with it. I wouldn’t trust it. Imagine on election night the result is a massive swing to a party you are not pleased with. How confident would you be that the result is legitimate?” August 18 at 6:51am

I have to agree with Steve.

  • From David Jamieson, “Nope and Nope again. It is a ridiculous idea in this age of hacking. A vote in a democracy is far too important to be left in the hands of so few. […]” August 18 at 6:52am

I also agree with David.

  • From Erika Belanger, “if you can submit your income tax or do banking on the Internet, we should be able to vote that way. Might have more voters that way. There as to be a way to make it secure…..” August 18 at 6:54am

I think Erika‘s thought may be shared by many Canadians. Why is it safe to submit income tax and do banking on the internet but not so for voting?

Well, lets put things in context with #2 above. We have no worries if someone is watching and monitoring how a person is paying income tax or banking online. But we have serious concern if someone is monitored and being “influenced” on how they vote in an “internet voting booth” at home or at any location.

Hacking our internet banking while profitable to criminals, imagine criminals help hack an election and control Canada’s political future? Our votes, paradoxically, are much more valuable in some sense even many fellow Canadians routinely give up their rights to vote.

A healthy democracy needs constructive debates. Please add your views, I will try to selective reply to some of the comments.

*** References & Notes ***

Bruce Schneier is an internationally respected computer security expert, he is the expert that I have read and admire for over 10 years! In this article, I quoted his Oct 2010 piece “Hacking Trial Breaks D.C. Internet Voting System” extensively. His earlier but comprehensive Dec 2000 piece “Voting and Technology“, while written over 10 years ago, still contains some valuable insights (even thought they may not be his latest thinking). His Dec 2003 “Computerized and Electronic Voting” is also a good read.

Interview with Mohamed Mansour – Creator of “Facebook Friend Exporter” & “My Hangouts for Google Plus”, and Google Chromium committer

Tuesday, 23 August, 2011

Mohamed Mansour Technical Software interview

Mohamed Mansour is a Canadian Software Engineer and the creator of the cool Google+ extensions “Facebook Friend Exporter“, “My Hangouts for Google Plus“, “Hangout Auto Retry Try Again” and “Extended Share for Google Plus“. Mohamed is also a contributor (actually a committer) of Google Chrome‘s open source project Chromium.

Few days ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a technical interview with Mohamed to talk about his various software work and a little bit about himself. Have a watch of the following video clips. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I was in conducting the interview.

Mohamed Mansour Technical Interview (Chromium, Chrome vs. Firefox …) 01/03

- How did Mohamed get start working on Chromium (Google Chrome’s open source project)?

- Why did Mohamed choose to work on Chrome instead of Firefox?

- Mohamed talked about his experiences of putting in his first patch on the Chromium.

- At university, how did Mohamed switch from chemical engineering to electrical engineering, and finally settling on software engineering?

- Why did Mohamed decide to take the path of putting in so much time in open-source software work, instead of like other talented software engineers spending time to make the next new new product and make a ton of money?

- And other discussions.

Mohamed Mansour Technical Interview (Facebook Friend Exporter…) 02/03

- “Facebook Friend Exporter“, Mohamed talks about the development history and the road blocks Facebook put up.

- “Extended Share for Google Plus” (a tool that share things to Facebook, Twitter, etc)

- “Hangout Auto Retry Try Again

- And other discussions.

Mohamed Mansour Technical Interview (Google+ Hangout, My Hangouts for G+…) 03/03

- Technical discussion about Google+ Hangout. Video data usage, etc.

- Talk about the useful extension, “My Hangouts for Google Plus

- Mohamed’s path to become a committer of Chromium (Google Chrome‘s open source project).

- Lines of code Mohamed authored for project Chromium. Here are some stats of Mohamed’s Chromium (Google Chrome) contribution and Chromium Tools (Google Chrome) contribution.

- And other discussions.

Apple Latest PR Disaster – Final Cut Pro X is Not a Professional Application

Tuesday, 28 June, 2011

July 2nd update: New article, “Business Strategy: Apple, with its Final Cut Pro X, lets Adobe & Avid refight their Battles of Waterloo #fail


It is puzzling and amazing to see Apple seems to have created a massive PR disaster for itself and there is even a group of professional Final Cut Pro users created a petition – “Final Cut Pro X is Not a Professional Application”. And according to AppleInsider report, “Dissatisfied Final Cut Pro X customers receive refunds from Apple“.

More news,

* CNNMoney, “600 filmmakers sign complaint about Final Cut Pro X

* ZDNet, “What does Final Cut Pro X teach enterprise vendors?

* WaPo, “Apple Final Cut Pro X: 600 filmmakers say nothing ‘pro’ about it

* SlashFilm, “Final Cut Pro X: Did Apple Just Walk Away From the Professional Video Editing Market?

*  CNet, Petition seeks to bring back old Final Cut Pro

If shows again even Apple (a Lovemark to many people, not to me anymore since July 2010) isn’t immune to complains from seriously unhappy customers if it doesn’t deliver the goods as expected.

Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

Sunday, 26 June, 2011

Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto

Writing an earlier article reminded me of some fond memories during my time at the Department of Computer Science at University of Toronto. A quick visit to the DCS site later, it got me into wanting to write and share a few words.


I want to congratulate Professor Allan Borodin (my teacher in CSC238) for being named University Professor. The citation notes (emphasis added):

“Professor Borodin has a long and distinguished research career in theoretical computer science. His central area of interest, computational complexity and algorithm design, addresses the basic issue of determining the minimum resources required to solve computational problems. A common theme in Borodin’s research is that he explores fundamental questions that seemingly should be well understood but often defy answers to even the most basic aspects of these questions. Hence, he has often been at the forefront of developing new models and problem formulations that have become standard frameworks for computer science studies.”

Prof. Borodin’s “full citation may be found on the U of T Vice-President and Provost Web site. Also, the U of T Bulletin released an article on the 2010-2011 University Professors.”

Congrats Prof. Borodin!


I noticed University Professor Stephen Cook (my teacher in CSC158(?) and CSC364) now has “Emeritus” added to his formal title, I supposed meaning he is retiring. But I also noticed that he is still teaching CSC2401F (Sept – Dec 2011) so I hope Prof. Cook is still teaching a course or two from time to time.

I haven’t been back at DCS for many years now, but I think it will be a bit strange, for future students, to study at DCS  without being taught or exposed to NP-complete problem by the man who first described the problem in 1971 or simply attending seminars or colloquium with Prof. Cook in the audience, which I had the pleasure doing when I was doing my B.Sc. at DCS.

In Memoriam – Professor Kenneth C. Sevcik

While I was student of Professor Sevcik for a brief time (part of CSC158 and for CSC354(?)), I remember Prof. Sevcik as a very warm and helpful teacher. So it saddens me to read that Prof. Sevcik passed away on October 4, 2005. But reading the “Ken Sevcik Memorial Blog“, especially Prof. Sevcik’s wife Carmen’s October 1, 2010 entry touched me very much as it reminds me that when we pass on, we will live in the hearts and minds of others who stay behind. When we have lived a good life, we stay on thorough the memories of others.

Have a read of Carmen’s loving entry and you will know what I mean.

Ariel Garten, CEO InteraXon, interview @ Banff World Media Festival 2011

Sunday, 19 June, 2011

Ariel Garten - CEO of InteraXon

I had a very enjoyable time attending Ariel Garten’s (CEO of InteraXon) NextMedia Keynote address: Thought Controlled Computing @ Banff World Media Festival 2011. Afterwards, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ariel. Here is the interview video.

The following are a few highlights of my video interview with Ariel.

* 0:00 In your presentation, some ideas are very cutting-edge and quite “out-there”. When you meet corporate clients, how do you engage them and bring them down to earth?

* 1:03 Talking about the chewing gum example (the “chew off”) discussed in your presentation, can you tell us more and which brand it was? What does InteraXon actually measure? [Kempton's note: The chewing gum campaign went live on June 16th. At press time, I haven't heard any updates from InteraXon.]

* 2:20 So does the software system work by basing on its previous training of brainwave signals?

* 2:48 How accurate is the software? Lets take heart rate as an example because it is easy to know what is right.

* 3:16 You mentioned the system has limitations, can you elaborate on the kind of limitations please? [Kempton: Here are some reading about Alpha (relax "awake but relaxed") and Beta (focus "alert and attentive") brain waves. And via Wikipedia, Alpha and Beta.]

* 3:48 Ariel talks about the reliability in using Alpha and Beta brain waves, especially for new users.

* 4:05 What other signals can your system use?

* 4:25 Am I using the right analogy to compare the “training” your system undergoes to the “training” speech recognition system needed in the past?

* 4:52 Someone asked Ariel about the possibility of using brainwaves for security authentication purposes. How unique are brainwaves? Can it be done now? If not now, how may it work in the future? Read the rest of this entry »

New Quotes I Love by Bill Buxton

Friday, 20 May, 2011

Here are two new “Quotes I Love” entries.

Those of us in the Internet Age with the most access to search engines have the least knowledge about our past. We’re so obsessed with the future that we only look forwards. I’ve been collecting specifically to counter that – to show how deep the roots go.” – Bill Buxton shows off 35 years of tech devices

Look at the [Buxton] collection and then try and convince me that our slow rate of progress is due to a lack of technology rather than a lack of imagination.” – Bill @ [Buxton] collection

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese speech-to-speech translation app

Saturday, 5 March, 2011

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 2

What is Jibbigo?

Jibbigo is a “speech-to-speech translation app for your mobile device. You talk in one language, it talks back in the other. [...] No data charges required–just your voice. Jibbigo is available in eight different language pairs on iTunes and the Android Market.

Apple iPad app:  “Jibbigo ” (link to iTune)

Price: US$ 24.99

Star rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

*** Background ***

Machine translation is a very difficult problem even for desktop/large computers. I see translation in three levels of difficulties, beginning with the hard problem of text-to-text translation, then speech-to-text translation, and the toughest one is speech-to-speech translation (the one Jibbigo tries to do). Why? Because speech-to-speech translation requires,

1) the original (e.g. English/Chinese) human voice be recognized and converted correctly into (English/Chinese) text;

2) the translation of recognized text into target language text (Chinese/English) be performed correctly (very hard in itself); and

3) the translated target text being read out in the target language correctly (should be easier but not always as you will see here).

I’ve spent days and many hours testing and exploring the Jibbigo iPad app (feeling like testing software in one of my previous jobs). The following is my review plus an edited video highlighting some of the tests I’ve conducted.

*** The Good/OK ***

* Translation of simple greetings (“Good morning.”, “Good Afternoon.” etc) were done correctly most of the time.

* Some simple English sentences were picked up and translated to Chinese correctly.

(e.g. “How much?” ==> “多少钱?”; “How about two million five hundred thousand dollars?” was translated to “2500000美元怎样?” (note: ; 2500000 was read as 2 million, 500 thousands); “Do you have orange juice?” ==> “有橙汁吗?”; “I live in Canada.” ==> “我住在加拿大。”)

* Jibbigo allows user to enter names and their Chinese translations. For example, I entered my name Kempton and my name in Chinese. Jibbigo was able to recognize my name “Kempton” in English and translated it to Chinese. Unfortunately, Jibbigo failed to pronounce my Chinese name correctly. More on this in the next section.

* Some simple sentences were translated somewhat correctly.

(e.g. “What time do I need to get up in the morning?” was translated to “我想要什么时候起床?” The translation missed the word “morning” “早晨/早上” and confused “need to” with “想要” (the word for “wish to”).

“Where can I rent a car?” was translated to “我在哪能租车吗?” . This Chinese translation is understandable but a better one may be “我在哪里可以租到车?” since the “吗” at the end is not really necessary. And being the picky me, I think “哪里可以” is stylistically better than “哪能”.

* To “protect” the user :), Jibbigo won’t display or translate profanities. So if you said “F*ck off!”, the Jibbigo will show it detected/picked up “<beep> off.” and actually create a beep and display “<beep>.” instead of doing any Chinese translation!

*** The Bad/Not-so-good ***

* The simple sentence of “Do you have steak?” was translated to the non-sensical “你有排怎么做?” instead of the correct one of “你有牛排吗?”.

“I am having steak for dinner.” was incorrectly translated to “我的牛排吗。”, missing the word/idea of “dinner” and adding the question word “吗” for no good reason. A better translation may be “我的晚餐是牛排。” or  “我吃牛排晚餐。”

* “The machine part number is 123456789.” was translated to “这个机器号码是123456789分。” The last word “分” is not needed and indeed confusing and misleading.

* “How much is your machine?” was badly translated to “你是多少钱?” meaning “How much are YOU?” Jibbigo missed the important word of “machine”. A better translation is “你的机器是多少钱?”

* “I need it next month.” was incorrectly translated to “我需要它。” missing the translation for “next month”. A better translation may be “我下个月需要它。”

* I think this one may be tough but important to crack. Jibbigo has problems with proper nouns. e.g. “China Airlines.” was translated to “中国航空公司。” when the proper Chinese name for this Taiwan-based airline is “中華航空公司”. Imagine, someone at the airport trying to fly “中国航空公司” and being told there is no such airline!

“How about two million Canadian dollars?” was badly translated to “加2500000美元吗?”, misplacing the word “加” (for Canada?) and missing the fact that it is “Canadian dollars” and not US dollars “美元”. The correct translation should be “2500000加元怎样?”

* When the Chinese tester said hello and her Chinese name (which was entered into Jibbigo), the app picked up, “你好。我交换怀孕。” and translated the words to, “Hello. I am exchange.” Jibbigo goofed badly because “交换” and “怀孕” are the words for “exchange” and “pregnant”, very far off from her name!

* “Bee” was translated as “啤酒”, the words for “beer”! The correct Chinese words for bee are “蜜蜂”.

* And for some strange reason, Jibbigo failed to translate the following list of words when they were said individually. “Talk, Speak, Speaking, Love, Month,

*** Software stability problems and errors ***

* When iPad went into sleep/auto-lock mode (I set my iPad to go to sleep in 5 minutes) while Jibbigo is running, it will crash and will fail to record voice/function properly when the iPad is woken up.

*** Concluding comments ***

As a computer geek and someone who wants to see Jibbigo‘s technology working, I am disappointed to find Jibbigo failed to work as advertised. Based on my extensive testing, I cannot recommend Jibbigo. And as one Jibbigo user commented in his review, “I wouldn’t dare use this on a trip for fear of getting laughed at or smacked!“. To be truthful, I don’t think he was being excessively harsh.

I think the Jibbigo English to Chinese translation app development team needs to spend some time in resolving the various translation and stability problems in the current version of the software (Jan 21, 2011, Version 1.12226). I wish the Jibbigo team the best of luck.

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 3

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 4

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation - Pix 5

P.S. The user can choose one of two language pairs, “English International <==> Chinese” or “English USA/Canada <==> Chinese”, I picked Canadian English.

iPad app review: Jibbigo English to Chinese translation

IBM’s Watson: Jeopardy! champ. Planet’s health and everything expert consultant ?

Friday, 18 February, 2011

It was interesting and exciting to watch Watson compete against two former Jeopardy! champs. To me, a computer geek, it will be even more interesting to read the scientific papers to be published by the IBM team about how exactly Watson did its “magic”. At the moment, not to take away the achievements of the IBM team, the more technical details I read, the less impressed I am with Watson.

Quoting artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky‘s points about Watson,

Now, the minute the Watson people publish a scientific paper saying how they did it, then we’ll have something to discuss, because maybe some of us will say, “Yes, that is a good new idea, I’m really interested.” Or, as in the case of chess programs, we’ll say, “Now, I see, this is just another worthless, stupid trick that answers the kinds of questions that most people are interested in for no particular reason”—like what date did a certain baseball player make a certain kind of play. That doesn’t require any intelligence to answer if you have the answer in a list.” [Kempton: "Building Watson: An Overview of the DeepQA Project" may be a good start.]


* “My Puny Human Brain – Jeopardy! genius Ken Jennings on what it’s like to play against a supercomputer“, Ken Jennings

* “IBM’s Supercomputer Watson Wins It All With $367 Bet“, Bruce Upbin, Forbes

* “IBM Watson’s Jeopardy! Wagering Strategies“, Dr. Gerald Tesauro, IBM Researcher

* “Watson’s wagering strategies” (with video), IBM Research

Knowing what it knows: selected nuances of Watson’s strategy” (with video), IBM Research

* “Watson on Jeopardy! Day Three: What We Learned about How Watson Thinks“, IBM

* “Watson on Jeopardy! Day Two: The Confusion over an Airport Clue“, IBM

* “It’s alive: IBM’s Watson supercomputer defeats humans in final Jeopardy match“, VentureBeat

* “IBM’s Watson obliterates humans in first Jeopardy round“, VentureBeat

* “How TV’s Dr. House Could Benefit From Having IBM’s Watson on His Team“, IBM

* “IBM to Collaborate with Nuance to Apply IBM’s “Watson” Analytics Technology to Healthcare – Joint Research Effort to Integrate IBM’s Watson and Nuance’s Voice and Clinical Language Solutions to Provide Enhanced Access to Critical and Timely information“, IBM (Feb 17, 2011 press release)

“A Dr. Watson would not replace a real doctor; it would just assist the physician. He [Dr. Eliot Siegel, a radiologist and director of the Maryland Imaging Research Technologies Lab at the University of Maryland School of Medicine] sees Watson providing some of the help that he now gets from medical students and residents. They give him ideas and backstop him. “Neither we humans nor the system are infallible, but I look forward to being able to work with Watson and to have it learn a lot and get better over time,” says Siegel. “My medical students and residents leave, but Watson would stay with me. All the knowledge will be preserved, and Watson will get smarter and smarter.””

News video,

Feb 18, 1:46 am MST Update:

* “Building Watson: An Overview of the DeepQA Project” (Fall 2010), the Watson team [Quoting MIT Technology Review, "And the IBM team has been pretty open about its methods. Though not every detail was revealed, and the team has asked certain collaborators to sign non-disclosure agreements, I assume that more details will be forthcoming in the scientific literature after the contest."]

* “IBM Researcher Explains What Makes Watson Tick [VIDEO]“, Mashable

I am looking forward to watching this video and Q&A,

IBM’s Watson vs. Jeopardy champs (Feb 14 – Feb 16, 2011)

Monday, 14 February, 2011

I am not a fan of Jeopardy and I don’t think I’ve watched many episodes of Jeopardy! But starting tonight (Feb 14, 2011), I will be watching Jeopardy! for three nights to see how will IBM’s Supercomputer/software Watson do comparing to the two human champs.

Mind you, I like artificial intelligence pioneer Marvin Minsky‘s points about AI and Watson (emphasis added),

“But if we’re impressed by somebody’s program that plays Jeopardy!, then we have to ask, is this because it’s taking a lot of data and doing something really stupid like the chess programs do, having no knowledge of chess itself but only knowing how to do, say, 20 of a certain kind of search and that’s all there is to it? If that’s the answer, then yes, ignorant people will be impressed, but people who understand how it works won’t be impressed.

Now, the minute the Watson people publish a scientific paper saying how they did it, then we’ll have something to discuss, because maybe some of us will say, “Yes, that is a good new idea, I’m really interested.” Or, as in the case of chess programs, we’ll say, “Now, I see, this is just another worthless, stupid trick that answers the kinds of questions that most people are interested in for no particular reason”—like what date did a certain baseball player make a certain kind of play. That doesn’t require any intelligence to answer if you have the answer in a list.”

9:43pm, Feb 14 Update: On the first night (Feb 14th), Watson shared the top spot with one of the champ.

10:42am, Feb 15 Update: From CNet, “IBM’s Watson bores as ‘Jeopardy’ big shot Sherlock“. And I found the following excerpts worth repeating from a live chat with Ken Jennings on WaPo (emphasis added),

Q: Hi Ken, thanks for taking questions today! Last night, when you answered a question incorrectly, Watson buzzed in and repeated your wrong answer. Do you know if this obvious defect in Watson’s programming was fixed for later rounds? It seemed like a really glaring oversight. – February 15, 2011 3:17 AM

A: Not an oversight: a known weakness. Watson is both blind and deaf to most of the events of the game (except the text of the clues and the correct answers once they’re revealed, which it receives electronically) so it has no way of knowing what the last wrong answer was. It’s a rare hiccup, so I’m sure IBM isn’t pumped that it happened in prime time last night! – February 15, 2011 11:11 AM”

Q: I was suprised that you only got through the first round. I found too much of the first night devoted to IBM, like a long commercial. What is the format of the next two nights? – February 15, 2011 11:06 AM

A: The contest is two games stretched out over three nights: another half game tomorrow, with the final game Wednesday. In addition to giving IBM a nice infomercial spot (if you buy a Watson 1.0 license for home use, you also get a Watson mouse pad and some steak knives!) the documentary spots help explain how the contest came together, why this truly represents an AI breakthrough, and so forth.

It reminds me of the “human interest” stuff that always clogs up Olympic footage. Revealed tonight: Watson hopes to win these games for its adorable little sister, who has leukemia! – February 15, 2011 11:17 AM” Read the rest of this entry »

CUHK Bioencryption – Just storage, no encryption?

Sunday, 30 January, 2011

It was interesting to read about a team of students and their advisors from Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) School of Life Sciences won gold with their bioencryption project (see more news) at the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) 2010 competition organized by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

While the team has certainly made some interesting progress, security technologist and author Bruce Schneier has questions about the team’s “bioencryption” claims (emphasis),

Why can’t bacteria be hacked? If the storage system is attached to a network, it’s just as vulnerable as anything else attached to a network. And if it’s disconnected from any network, then it’s just as secure as anything else disconnected from a network. The problem the U.S. diplomats had was authorized access to the WikiLeaks cables by someone who decided to leak them. No cryptography helps against that.

And Bruce even started his article with, “The article talks about how secure it is, and the students even coined the term “bioencryption,” but I don’t see any encryption. It’s just storage.

I can’t find a full technical paper to read but after reading the above press reports and the team’s iGEM project description, project principle, and project results, I have to say, like Bruce, I also don’t see any encryption and it looks like just storage to me.

And reading scientist’s quotes like the following in popular press,

Bacteria can’t be hacked. All kinds of computers are vulnerable to electrical failures or data theft. But bacteria are immune from cyber attacks. You can safeguard the information.

just don’t exactly give me confidence that the scientist fully appreciate/understand computer security/cryptography.

I don’t mean to be too critical of some of the CUHK team’s achievements. I think they have done well. At the same time, I think it is very important for serious scientists to know the limits of their scientific claims and don’t overextend without proper justified support.

Of course, I might be wrong, and it will be wonderful if someone can explain to me what I missed so that I can learn and understand. If I am mistaken, it will be my pleasure to correct this article.


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