Sunday, July 29, 2007

The scripts are speaking to me...

WARNING: Reading about the following program may induce long periods of time wasting and excessive enjoyment.

Alright, now that that is out of the way... I started playing with a program called Festival some time ago, but have been unable to write about it until now. I am still trying to think out how it might actually be useful to the average linux fanatic, but it is unequivocally fun. While it is actually a very advanced linguistic program, the basic function that gives it greatness is: you give it text, it reads it to you. And not just in a Stephen Hawking sort of tone (while I love him too), but in a wide range of voices, from distinguished British gentlemen to American women.

While very neat to play around with, I had a few ideas on how it might be put to more practical use in interacting with a linux system.
  1. Alerting: One immediate use that came to mind is to create a script that would monitor various statistics and warn you if they reached dangerous pre-defined levels. The warning could then be sent to Festival. Having my computer warn me of something out-loud would be much more effective than having to remember to check the metric myself.
  2. Testing/Stats: I think it might be quite handy to have Festival read you the levels of certain resources or the progression of certain tasks while performing testing. While testing a program, it could read out available memory at the time, or the percent completed of a task being performed. This way you could keep track of needed statistics while monitoring others at the same time, or watching the program output.
  3. News: This idea was proposed in one of the articles I read on Festival, and I think it might be quite useful. In short, you create a script to get the latest news items, likely from one or more RSS feeds you subscribe to, and send these to Festival. That way you could be read the latest news while working on other tasks.
There is an Ubuntu package for Festival, which makes the basic install rather trivial. Source may be downloaded here. It will compile on any *nix machine, OSX, and apparently Windows machines as well.

As mentioned, it is a rather advanced program with a wide range of features I will not go into here. Some helpful sites for further information:


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