Sunday, January 22, 2012

Weapon of choice

After 7 months of fairly hardcore OSX usage (on a relatively underpowered Mac Mini) I'm finding using Windows both less relevant and, given my latest project focus, harder to use as a default development platform. More and more of the tools and packages I want to use are freeware, and the more I dig into open source hardware, the more I realise that using Windows to develop in is not the best choice. And the correct choice is, obviously - Unix.

Not OSX? I hear you whisper ... Oh yes, you wanted me to say that. Except the really obvious thing I've found over the last 7 months is that I spend a lot of my time in a terminal window, ssh'd into a remote box somewhere doing stuff the old fashioned way. In fact, my machine is becoming increasingly less relevant - the relevant machine is in the cloud, or in that cupboard over there, or under the stairs ... The glitzy GUI is really a thin veneer over a command line which takes me to where I want to actually be. Increasingly, I'm finding my windows-centric CLI skills give more cumbersome results than the equivalent linux results. I've got used to using Bash and Python for the small stuff, I can just about steer Vim between file creation and edits and I'm getting comfortable with greps, finds and some of the other linux CLI utils. OSX makes this effectively seemless, helping me transition between my Mac and a remote Ubuntu/BusyBox/whatever distro. Windows just puts spanners in the way - the file system is different, the tools for security are different, all of the commandline tools I'm getting used to work slightly differently.

So I'm biting the bullet, and from this month, I'll be using raw Ubuntu for my local development. Sure, I could set up a VM or a box in the cloud, but this means I can stop scratching my head and fighting the urge to work inside the prison I've built for myself. No More spending an hour hunting for the Windows install of something before giving up and switching to a different language or my Ubuntu VM.

Once that's set up, I'll be delving into CMUSphinx4, PocketSphinx and Arduino. After that, world domination.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I've recently bought an Arduino Uno and a small selection of components. I have high hopes that my dream of a voice-controlled house can take a step closer to reality - the only remaining missing piece of the puzzle is the time and inclination to glue everything together from software stack down to the box the end result goes in for my first prototype. There's something quite primal about making motors and sensors work - tapping in some numbers on a keyboard and watching a servo spin is darned cool.