Ten Minute TensorFlow Speech Recognition

Like a lot of people, we’ve been pretty interested in TensorFlow, the Google neural network software. If you want to experiment with using it for speech recognition, you’ll want to check out [Silicon Valley Data Science’s] GitHub repository which promises you a fast setup for a speech recognition demo. It even covers which items you need to install if you are using a CUDA GPU to accelerate processing or if you aren’t.

Another interesting thing is the use of TensorBoard to visualize the resulting neural network. This tool offers up a page in your browser that lets you visualize what’s really going on inside the neural network. There’s also speech data in the repository, so it is practically a one-stop shop for getting started. If you haven’t seen TensorBoard in action, you might enjoy the video from Google, below.

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Half-Baked Idea: Put Your PLA in the Oven

[Thomas] wanted to try baking some carbon fiber 3D printing filament because the vendor had promised higher strength and rigidity after the parts were annealed in the oven. Being of a scientific mindset, he did some controls and found that annealing parts printed with the carbon fiber-bearing filament didn’t benefit much from the treatment. However, parts printed with standard PLA became quite a bit stronger and more rigid.

The downside? The parts (regardless of material) tend to shrink a bit in the X and Y axis. They also tend to expand in the Z direction. However, the dimension changes were not that much. The test parts shrunk by about 5% and grew by 2%. He didn’t mention if this was repeatable, which is a shame because if it is repeatable, it isn’t a big deal to adjust part dimensions before printing. Of course, if it isn’t repeatable, it will be difficult to get a particular finished size after the annealing process.

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Retrotechtacular: Tinkertoy and Cordwood in the Pre-IC Era

It is widely accepted that Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized thought in Europe and transformed the Western world. Prior to the printing press, books were rare and expensive and not generally accessible. Printing made all types of written material inexpensive and plentiful. You may not think about it, but printing–or, at least, printing-like processes–revolutionized electronics just as much.

In particular, the way electronics are built and the components we use have changed a lot since the early 1900s when the vacuum tube made amplification possible. Of course, the components themselves are different. Outside of some specialty and enthusiast items, we don’t use many tubes anymore. But even more dramatic has been how we build and package devices. Just like books, the key to lowering cost and raising availability is mass production. But mass producing electronic devices wasn’t always as easy as it is today.

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Pi Zero W Impersonates iPhone, Becomes Terminal

There’s something to be said for economies of scale and few things sell more than cell phones. Maybe that’s why [NODE] took inspiration from an iPhone slide out keyboard case to create this Pi Zero W-based portable terminal. This is actually his third iteration, and in the video below he explains why he has built the new version.

By housing the custom bits in a 3D-printed frame that is size compatible with the iPhone, [NODE] manages to leverage the slick slide out keyboard cases available for the phone. The iPhone in question is an older iPhone 5, so the cases are inexpensive, compared to the latest generation. On the other hand, the iPhone 5 is recent enough that it shouldn’t be hard to find a compatible case.

The circuitry itself is pretty straightforward: a battery, a charge controller, and an LCD display. The only complaint we could see was the lack of a control key on the keyboard.

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Shut the Backdoor! More IoT Cybersecurity Problems

We all know that what we mean by hacker around here and what the world at large thinks of as a hacker are often two different things. But as our systems get more and more connected to each other and the public Internet, you can’t afford to ignore the other hackers — the black-hats and the criminals. Even if you think your data isn’t valuable, sometimes your computing resources are, as evidenced by the recent attack launched from unprotected cameras connected to the Internet.

As [Elliot Williams] reported earlier, Trustwave (a cybersecurity company) recently announced they had found a backdoor in some Chinese voice over IP gateways. Apparently, they left themselves an undocumented root password on the device and — to make things worse — they use a proprietary challenge/response system for passwords that is insufficiently secure. Our point isn’t really about this particular device, but if you are interested in the details of the algorithm, there is a tool on GitHub, created by [JacobMisirian] using the Trustwave data. Our interest is in the practice of leaving intentional backdoors in products. A backdoor like this — once discovered — could be used by anyone else, not just the company that put it there.

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Configure ESP8266 Wifi with WiFiManager

There’s no doubt that the ESP8266 has made creating little WiFi widgets pretty easy. However, a lot of projects hard code the access point details into the device. There’s a better way to do it: use the WiFiManager library. [Witnessmenow] has a good tutorial and a two-minute video (which you can see below).

Hard coding is fine if you are just tinkering around. However, if you are going to send your device away (or even take it with you somewhere) you probably don’t want to reprogram it every time you change access points. This problem is even worse if you plan on a commercial product. WiFiManager does what a lot of commercial devices do. It initially looks like an access point. You can connect to it using a phone or other WiFi device. Then you can configure it to join your network by setting the network ID, password, etc.

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Retrotechtacular: How Old is the Remote?

A few weeks ago we covered a (probably) bogus post about controlling a TV with the IR from a flame. That got us thinking about what the real origin of the remote control was. We knew a story about the 38 kHz frequency commonly used to modulate the IR. We’ve heard that it was from sonar crystals used in earlier sonic versions of remotes. Was that true? Or just an urban myth? We set out to find out.

Surprise! Remotes are Old!

If you are a younger reader, you might assume TVs have always had remotes. But for many of us, remotes seem like a new invention. If you grew up in the middle part of the last century it is a good bet you were your dad’s idea of a remote control: “Get up and turn the channel!” Turns out remotes have been around for a long time, though. They just weren’t common for a long time.

If you really want to stretch back, [Oliver Lodge] used a radio to move a beam of light in 1894. In 1896, [Marconi] and some others made a bell ring by remote control. [Tesla] famously showed a radio-controlled boat in 1898. But none of these were really remote controls like we think of for a television.

mysteryOf course, TV wouldn’t be around for a while, but by the 1930’s many radio manufacturers had wired remotes for radios. People didn’t like the wires, so Philco introduced the Mystery Control in 1939. This used digital pulse coding and a radio transmitter. That’s a fancy way of saying it had a dial like an old telephone. As far as we can tell, this was the first wireless remote for a piece of consumer equipment.

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