Friday, November 28

Silly translations

Since I do some work on software translation, I have seen my fair share of silly translations (in my case from English to Lithuanian). Here's my latest find: in Gmail there is a choice of chat list for every person in the address book, and there are four options: Auto, Always, Never, and Block. The Lithuanian translation of the option "Auto" is ... "Automobiliai" which means "Cars". Took me a while to figure out what happened the first time I saw it. This ranks right next to the already classic wizzard button translation "Kitas", "Kitas", "Suomių" for "Next", "Next", "Finish" (translated back to English that would be "Next", "Next", "Finnish" – as the language of Finns) and my personal favourite: Finnish translated as "Finikiečių" (Phoenician).

FWIW I tried to apply for access to Gmail translations (there are many more inconsistencies, mistakes and screwups in there), but it seems that Google is not interested. I wonder if they have any translation quality control at all.

Friday, November 21

Computer-generated music

EMI (Experiments in Musical Intelligence) by David Cope changed my mind on the state of computer music generation software. I had come across numerous "music generation" programs, but it would have been a long stretch to call their results "music". They would produce, at best, strange patterns of beeps. I had heard of a live "jazz improvisation gig partner" machine (probably this one), but EMI is on a completely different level – just listen to the MP3 samples. Sure, in the end it is mostly splicing and rehashing of existing pieces, but Cope claims that in blind tests even experienced listeners would sometimes confuse an original piece by a composer and a composition by EMI. In other words, EMI passed the equivalent of a Turing test for music generation software. If that is not impressive, I do not know what is.

Unfortunately David Cope's site is skimpy on the details of how EMI works, even though there is an extensive bibliography (note the time span: 20 years!). At least some information can be gathered from the webpages of his numerous books.

Thursday, November 20

Book meme

I am a bit of a bookworm, so I could not resist this meme:

  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open it to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.

The book is actually a Lithuanian translation, but I'll translate the sentence into English for you:

After entering the palace, he seduced the king's wife, killed the king with her help and seized his throne.

Can you guess which book the sentence is from?

Friday, November 14

Non-native LCD resolutions

Now that LCD monitors have spread, I keep noticing one thing: lots of public places with computers have the resolution set to some non-native value. Blur in cafes, libraries, everywhere! It seems that people just do not notice the blurriness, and I do not really blame them – how could they know that there's a better resolution? This makes me think that it would be a good idea to warn the user on the desktop environment configuration level about reduced quality whenever the screen is an LCD and they are trying to switch to a non-native resolution. A non-intrusive, but informative message could do the trick, I think.