Why Technical English

Beware of danger when playing PC games online

October 30, 2010
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Example of firewall function: Blocking spyware...

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By P. B.

The Internet is a place where the user can find a lot of information, entertainment or work, but on the other side, the same user can “catch” viruses, spyware or malware. Many people don´t understand why somebody creates these harmful programs (see the notes below about these programs). However, the answer is easy – similarly in the common life we can meet a lot of people with wicked goals. And gaining money through special programs is an appropriate goal of many Internet thieves. There are various methods how to do it. On the Internet the user may visit some Web pages which contain  viruses or spyware or malware. It can very often happen to the pages with games because games are considered to be typically connected with gamblers and for this reason it can be a source of money.

But the harmful code  may not be only on the Web pages, games themselves can include it.  It means that the player, when downloading some game and installing it on the local computer, also installs the harmful code without any suspicion. It can be very dangerous – one small example. Imagine the user installed the game that involves a so-called keylogger. The key logger is a small program that records stealthily all keys which the user presses. Many antivirus programs consider this software as a virus (usually as a Trojan-horse – see A worm, a virus or a Trojan horse?). So, the key logger writes all pressed keys to the txt file and sends it to the thief´s e-mail. Suppose, after that the user visited his online betting on the http://www.tipsport.cz, where he had to write the text “www.tipsport.cz” following by username “honza” and password “sazeni123”. The key logger put this string of characters in the txt file “www.tipsport.czhonzasazeni123”. The thief received the file, found this text and was very fast able to connect to the honza-account and transferred all the money from Honza´s Internet account to his (thief´s) own account. It was easy, wasn´t it? Of course, the probability of this coincidence is not very high, but who knows.       

Replica of the Trojan Horse in Troy, Turkey

Image by Alaskan Dude via Flickr

 

Notes:

  • Malware means malicious software – authors of malware create programs for harming  other software. Malware includes PS viruses, trojan-horses, spyware and adware.
  • Spyware is a program that uses the Internet for sending data from the computer without awareness of a user of the computer. It differs from the backdoor by a content of sending data, i.e. it sends only statistic data (e.g. overview of visiting pages, installed programs) and can be used for advertising. The spyware is typically widespread in shareware programs and the authors of the shareware know about it and conciliate it because they want to earn money. 
  • Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software that automatically downloads advertisements to a computer. The goal of the adware is to generate revenue for its author. Adware, by itself, is harmless; but some adware may come with integrated spyware such as keyloggers.

See more in What is Adware, Spyware and Anti-virus?

 

 

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Video Games Platforms

October 6, 2010
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Composed by Galina Vitkova

 

Terminology

The term game platform refers to the particular combination of electronic or computer hardware which, in connection with low-level software, allows a video game to run. In general, a hardware platform means a group of compatible computers that can run the same software. A software platform comprises a major piece of software, as an operating system, operating environment, or a database, under which various smaller application programs can be designed to run. Below main platforms of video games are reviewed.   

  

Platforms for PC games 

PC games often require specialized hardware in the user’s computer in order to play, such as a specific generation of graphics processing unit or an Internet connection for online play, although these system requirements vary from game to game. In any case your PC hardware capabilities should meet minimum hardware requirements established for particular PC games. On the other side, many modern computer games allow, or even require, the player to use a keyboard and mouse simultaneously without demanding any additional devices. 

As of the 2000s, PC games are often regarded as offering a deeper and more complex experience than console games. 

 

Video game consoles platform

A video game console is an interactive entertainment computer or modified computer system that produces a video display signal which can be used with a display device to show video games.    

Usually, this system is connected to a common television set or composite video monitor. A composite monitor is any analog video display that receives input in the form of an analog composite video signal through a single cable. The monitor is different from a conventional TV set because it does not have an internal RF (Radio Frequency) tuner or RF converter. However, a user can install an external device that emulates a TV tuner. 

  

Handheld game consoles platform

A handheld game console is a lightweight, portable electronic device of a small size with a built-in screen, games controls and speakers. A small size allows people to carry handheld game consoles and play games at any time or place. 

A One Station handheld console with game

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 The oldest true handheld game console with interchangeable cartridges is the Milton Bradley Microvision issued in 1979. 

Nintendo, with a popular handheld console concept released the Game Boy in 1989, and continues to dominate the handheld console market with successive Game Boy, and most recently Nintendo DS models.  

  

Handheld electronic games platform

In the past decade, handheld video games have currently become a major sector of the video game market. For example, in 2004 sales of portable software titles exceeded $1 billion in the United States. 

The Gizmondo handheld video game unit. United ...

Image via Wikipedia

Handheld electronic games are very small portable devices for playing interactive electronic games, often miniaturized versions of video games. The controls, display and speakers are all a part of a single unit. They usually have displays designed to play one game. Due to this simplicity they can be made as small as a digital watch, and sometimes are. Usually they do not have interchangeable cartridges, disks, etc., or are not reprogrammable.  The visual output of these games can range from a few small light bulbs or a light-emitting diode (LED) lights to calculator-like alphanumerical screens. Nowadays these outputs are mostly displaced by liquid crystal and Vacuum fluorescent display screens. Handhelds were most popular from the late 1970s into the early 1990s. They are both the precursors and inexpensive alternatives to the handheld game console. 

Mobile games platform

A mobile game is a video game played on a mobile phone, smartphone, PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), handheld computer or portable media player.  

The 16 best iPhone games of 2009

Image by docpop via Flickr

The first game that was pre-installed onto a mobile phone was Snake on selected Nokia models in 1997. Snake and its variants have since become the most-played video game on the planet, with over a billion people having played the game. Mobile games are played using the technologies present on the device itself. The games may be installed over the air, they may be side loaded onto the handset with a cable, or they may be embedded on the handheld devices by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or by the mobile operator. 

For networked games, there are various technologies in common use, for example, text message (SMS), multimedia message (MMS) or GPRS location identification. 

  

Arcade games 

The Simpsons arcade game by Konami

Image by Lost Tulsa via Flickr

An Arcade game is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses such as restaurants, public houses, and video arcades. Most arcade games are redemption games, merchandisers (such as claw crane), video games, or pinball machines. The golden age of video arcade games within the early 1980s was a peak era of video arcade game popularity, innovation, and earnings.     

Furthermore, by the late 1990s and early 2000s, networked gaming via console and computers across the Internet had appeared and replaced arcade games. The arcades also lost their a forefront position of the of new game releases. Having the choice between playing a game at an arcade three or four times (perhaps 15 minutes of play for a typical arcade game), and renting, at about the same price, the exact same game for a video game console, people selected the console. To remain viable, arcades added other elements to complement the video games such as redemption games, merchandisers, games that use special controllers largely inaccessible to home users. Besides, they equiped games with  reproductions of automobile or airplane cockpits, motorcycle or horse-shaped controllers, or highly dedicated controllers such as dancing mats and fishing rods. Moreover, today arcades extended their activities by food service etc. striving to become “fun centers” or “family fun centers”. 

All modern arcade games use solid state electronics and integrated circuits. In the past coin-operated arcade video games generally used custom per-game hardware often with multiple CPUs, highly specialized sound and graphics chips, and the latest in computer graphics display technology. Recent arcade game hardware is often based on modified video game console hardware or high-end PC components.

References:   http://en.wikipedia.org/

 

 


Kernel improvements in Windows 7

March 27, 2010
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  We continue in discussing Features new to Windows 7. This time some kernel improvements are argued. Join us!

Galina Vitkova

The kernel is a central part of most computer operating systems. That is a component of an operating system which makes a bridge between applications and the actual data processing executed by hardware. The kernel is intended to manage communication between hardware and software components of a computer system. It means the kernel communicates with external devices (Input/Output devices: a keyboard, a mouse, disk drives, printers, displays, etc.), manages internal components (like RAM, CPU, HDD) and operates entire processes. The kernel controls all processes which are starting and running and decides which process will have access to the hardware and for how long.   

    

Fig. 1  (from Wikipedia)

A kernel connects the application software to the hardware of a computer

 

The kernel is a constituent of a series of abstraction layers, each relying on the functions of layers beneath itself. As a basic component of the operating system it merely corresponds to the lowest level of abstraction that is implemented in software. The abstraction layers simplify designing all the software and make its implementation feasible.   

   

Fig. 2 (from Wikipedia)

A typical vision of a computer architecture as a series of abstraction layers: hardware, firmware, assembler, kernel, operating system and applications

Several improvements and additions have been made to Windows 7 (and Server 2008 R2) kernel components, which have increased system performance and enabled more optimal use of available hardware resources. Some of them are as follows:

  • Support for up to 256 logical processors.
  • Introduction of the concept of “timer coalescing (joining)”: Multiple applications or device drivers, which perform actions on a regular basis, can be set to occur at once, instead of each action being performed in accordance with their own schedule.
  • Implementation of Device Containers: Before Windows 7, every device attached to the system has been treated as a single functional end-point, which has a set of capabilities and a “status”. This has been appropriate for single-function devices (such as a keyboard or scanner). But it does not accurately represent multi-function devices such as a combination printer/fax machine/scanner, or web-cams with a built-in microphone. In Windows 7, the drivers and status information for multi-function device can be grouped together as a single “Device Container”. Then this device container is presented to the user in the new “Devices and Printers” Control Panel as a single unit.  
  • Accomplishment of User-Mode Scheduling: The 64-bit versions of Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 introduce a user-mode scheduling framework. On Microsoft Windows operating systems, scheduling of threads inside a process is handled by the kernel. This is sufficient for most applications. However, applications with large concurrent threading requirements, such as a database server, can profit from having a thread scheduler in-process. It occurs because the kernel no longer needs to be involved in context switches between threads. Due to this innovation threads can be created and destroyed much more quickly when no kernel context switches are required.

For more information about kernel innovations in Windows 7 and more English practice see Core operating system .

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

 

 


Handwriting recognition and Windows 7

December 25, 2009
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Compiled by Galina Vitkova

Handwriting recognition concerns the ability of a computer to get and interpret comprehensible handwritten input from paper documents, photographs, touch-screens and other devices. Two varieties of hhandwriting recognition are principally distinguished: off-line and on-line. The image of the written text may be estimated “off line” from a piece of paper by optical scanning through OCR (optical character recognition) or by IWR (intelligent word recognition). As contrasted to “off-line handwriting recognition”, under “on line handwriting recognitiona real-time digitizing tablet is used for input, for example, by a pen-based computer screen surface.

 Off-line recognition

Off-line handwriting recognition involves the automatic conversion of text into letter codes, which are usable within computer and text-processing applications. The data obtained by this form is regarded as a static representation of handwriting.

The technology is successfully used by businesses which process lots of handwritten documents, like insurance companies. The quality of recognition can be substantially increased by structuring the document, for example, by using forms.

The off-line handwriting recognition is relatively difficult because people have different handwriting styles. Nevertheless, limiting the range of input can allow recognition to be improved. For example, the ZIP code digits are generally read by computer to sort the incoming mail.

In optical character recognition (OCR) typewritten or printed text (usually captured by a scanner) is mechanically or electronically conversed into machine-editable text. When one scans a paper page into a computer, the process results in just an image file a photo of the page. Then OCR software converts it into a text or word processor file.

Intelligent Word Recognition, or IWR, is the recognition of unconstrained handwritten words. IWR recognizes entire handwritten words or phrases instead of character-by-character, like OCR. IWR technology matches handwritten or printed words to a user-defined dictionary, It leads to significantly reducing character errors encountered in typical character-based recognition engines. IWR also eliminates a large percentage of the manual data entry of handwritten documents that, in the past, could be detected only by a human.

New technology on the market utilizes IWR, OCR, and ICR (intelligent character recognition, i.e. an advanced optical character recognition) together. For example, most ICR software has a self-learning system referred to as a neural network, which automatically updates the recognition database for new handwriting patterns. All these achievements open many possibilities for the processing of documents, either constrained (hand printed or machine printed) or unconstrained (freeform cursive). Moreover, a complete handwriting recognition system, as a rule, also handles formatting, performs correct segmentation into characters and finds the most plausible words.

 On-line recognition

On-line handwriting recognition involves the automatic conversion of text as it is written on a special digitizer or a personal digital assistant (PDA), which is a mobile device, also known as a palmtop computer. PDA sensor picks up the pen-tip movements as well as pen-up/pen-down switching. The obtained signal is converted into letter codes which are usable within computer and text-processing applications.

The elements of an on-line handwriting recognition interface typically include:

  • A pen or stylus for the user to write with.
  • A touch sensitive surface, which may be integrated with, or adjacent to, an output display.
  • A software application which interprets the movements of the stylus across the writing surface, translating the resulting strokes into digital text.

Commercial products incorporating handwriting recognition as a replacement for keyboard input were introduced in the early 1980s. Since then advancements in electronics have allowed the computing power necessary for handwriting recognition to fit into a smaller form factor than tablet computers, and handwriting recognition is often used as an input method for hand-held PDAs. Modern handwriting recognition systems are often based on Time Delayed Neural Network (TDNN) classifier, nicknamed “Inferno”, built at Microsoft.

In recent years, several attempts were made to produce ink pens that include digital elements, such that a person could write on paper, and have the resulting text stored digitally. The best known of these use technology developed by Anoto (see also Discussion – The Digital Pen), which has had some success in the education market. The general success of these products is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, a number of companies develop software for digital pens based on Anoto technology.

                                                                             

 

 

 

 

 

Handwriting in Windows 7

According to Mountain View, CA, December 1, 2009 – PhatWare Corporation announces the launch of the latest version of PenOffice (PenOffice 3.3), which works with Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2. PhatWare Corporation is a leading provider of software products and professional services for mobile and desktop computers. Its new product offers customers enhanced security and innovative user interface features. PenOffice 3.3 is an advanced pen-enabled collaboration and handwriting recognition software for Microsoft Windows-based computers. It can be used with any pointing input device, such as graphic tablet, interactive while board, touch screen monitor, Tablet PC, online digital pen, and even standard computer mouse.

In compliance with Stan Miasnikov, president of PhatWare Corp. “Making application compatible with Microsoft Windows 7 and Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 helps us offer our customers compelling benefits, including intuitive user interfaces such as pen-based collaboration, improved security and reliability features, full support for multi-core processing, and sophisticated configuration and management features to improve mobile working.”

Although handwriting recognition is an input form that the public has become accustomed to, it has not achieved widespread use in either desktop computers or laptops. It is still generally accepted that keyboard input is both faster and more reliable. As of 2006many PDAs offer handwriting input, sometimes even accepting natural cursive handwriting, but accuracy is still a problem, and some people still find even a simple on-screen keyboard more efficient.

 

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

                                          


Windows 7

October 28, 2009
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                                                        Composed by G. Vitkova using Wikipedia, the free enciclopedia

Windows 7 launched

Windows 7 is the latest version of Microsoft Windows produced for use on home and business desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablet personal computers and media center of personal computers. Windows 7  was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009. General retail availability was announced on October 22, 2009, less than three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows Vista. 

Unlike Windows Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 is intended to be a more user focused, helpful upgrade to the Windows line. As a result Windows 7 is fully compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista is already compatible. Some applications that have been included with prior releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Photo, are not involved in Windows 7. Several of them are instead offered separately as a part of the free Windows Live Essential Suite.

Goals

Earlier in 2007 Bill Gates in an interview with Newsweek, insinuated that this version of Windows would “be more user-centric”. Later he added that Windows 7 would also focus on performance improvements. Steven Sinofsky, the new president of the Windows division at Microsoft, responsible for the Windows, Windows Live, and Internet Explorer, afterward expanded on this point in the Engineering Windows 7 blog. He explicated that the company was using a variety of new tracing tools to measure the performance of many areas of the operating systém. The tools help locate inefficient code paths and prevent decrease of performance effectiveness.

The Senior Vice President Bill Veghte stated that Windows Vista users migrating to Windows 7 would not find the kind of device compatibility issues they met migrating from Windows XP. As early as in October 2008, the Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer confirmed compatibility between Vista and Windows 7, pointing out that Windows 7 would be a refined version of Windows Vista.

New and changed features

Windows 7 includes a number of new features, such as advances in touch and handwriting recognition, support for virtual hard disks, improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot  performance, Direct Access, and kernel improvements. Windows 7 adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors, a new version of Windows Media Center, the XML Paper Specification (XPS) Essentials Pack. Windows Power Shell, and a redesigned Calculator with multiline capabilities. Many new items have been added to the Control Panel, such as the Clear Type Text Tuner, Biometric Devices, System Icons, Display, etc. Windows 7 also supports Mac-like Raw image viewing plus full-size viewing and slideshows in the Windows Photo Viewer and Window Media Center.

Windows 7 includes 13 additional sound schemes, titled Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, Heritage, Landscape, Quirky, Raga, Savanna, and Sonata. A new version of a Windows Virtual PC Beta is available for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions. It allows multiple Windows environments, including Windows XP Mode, to run on the same machine, requiring the use of Intel Virtualisation Technology for x86 (Intel VT-x) or AMD Virtualisation (AMD-V). Windows XP Mode runs Windows XP in a virtual machine and redirects displayed applications running in Windows XP to the Windows 7 desktop. Furthermore, Windows 7 supports the mounting of a virtual hard disk (VHD) as a normal data storage, and the bootloader delivered with Windows 7 can boot the Windows system from a VHD. The Remote Desktop Protokol (RDP) of Windows 7 is also enhanced to support real-time multimedia applications including video playback and 3D games.

The taskbar has seen the biggest visual changes, where the Quick Launch toolbar has been replaced with pinning applications to the taskbar. Buttons for pinned applications are integrated with the task buttons. The revamped taskbar also allows the reordering of taskbar buttons. To the far right of the system clock there is a small rectangular button that serves as the Show desktop icon. This button is a part of the new feature in Windows 7 called Aero Peek. Hovering over this button makes all visible windows transparent for a quick look at the desktop. In touch-enabled displays such as touch screens, tablet PCs, etc., this button is slightly wider to accommodate being pressed with a finger. Clicking this button minimizes all windows, and clicking it a second time restores them. Additionally, there is a feature named Aero Snap, which automatically maximizes a window when it is dragged to either the top or left/right edges of the screen. This also allows users to snap documents or files on either side of the screen to compare them.

Windows 7 taskbar includes a new networking API – Application Programming Interface for developers. It supports building Simple Object Access Protocol based (SOAP-based) web services in machine code, adds new features to shorten application installing time, reduced User Account Control (UAC) prompts, simplified development of installation packages, and improved worldwide support through a new Extended Linguistic Services API. As early as in 2008 Microsoft announced that colour depths of 30-bit and 48-bit would be supported in Windows 7. The video modes supported in Windows 7 are 16-bit  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”16-bit “>sRGB (standard Red Green Blue colour space), 24-bit sRGB, 30-bit sRGB, 30-bit with extended colour gamut sRGB, and 48-bit scRGB. Microsoft is also implementing better support for solid-state drives, so Windows 7 will be able to identify a solid-state drive uniquely. Microsoft is also planning to support USB 3.0 in a subsequent patch, although support would not be included in the initial release because of delays in the finalization of the standard.

Users will also be qualified to disable more Windows components than it was possible in Windows Vista. New additions to this list of components include Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows Search , and the Windows Gadget Platform.

“The launch of Windows 7 has superseded everyone’s expectations, storming ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the biggest-grossing pre-order product of all-time, and demand is still going strong,” claimed managing director Brian McBride, Amazon UK on October 22, 2009.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7


About renewables position just now

September 6, 2009
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Compiled by Galina Vitkova

Renewable sources of energy are a hot problem till now. Many specialists, politicians and common peoples discuss advantages and drawbacks of alternative sources of energy. Especially solar, wind and water energy attract debatersˇ attention.

 Since 2004 several international organizations dealing with renewables have been established. The Political Declaration of the International Conference for Renewable Energies in Bonn, Germany in 2004 – initiated the establishment of a global policy network. One year later, in June 2005, the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) was officially launched in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The strategy of the Network is directed by the Steering Committee of REN21 comprising eminent and prestigious specialists. The Steering Committee members work for various governments, private sector, and civil organisations over all the world. The Secretariat of REN21 is located in Paris, France, and is supported by the IEA.

REN21 strives to encourage the ideas and actions aimed at advance of renewable energy exploitation. Linking participants from the energy, development, and environment communities, REN21 sustains their successes and activities for the rapid expansion of renewable energy worldwide.

 In 2009 REN21 updated the Renewables 2007 Global Status Report, published in March 2008. The updated Report covers the most important changes in renewables worldwide between late 2007 and early 2009. The original 2007 report is available at http://www.ren21.net.

See below the aggregated data about the state-of-art in this industry

 Ren2008

World_energy_consumption,_1970-2025,_EIA

From the report we see that even if the renewable sector driven by policy has been expanding, its share in the worldwide energy production is insignificant. I wonder how this energy will be able to substitute in the near future the energy, which is produced by coal- or oil-fired power plants,

What about you dear colleagues? Does the problem concern you?

 

See Renewable energy – our downfall? By Ralph Ellis for more information

 

Reference: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ , www.ren21.net

 

 


Hanhelds and English learning

August 27, 2009
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By Galina Vitkova

Introduction

Nowadays communication and computing technologies are converging. So, simpler user-friendly interfaces of high-quality, low-cost solutions, which function across platforms, processors and operating systems, are offered. Technological advances within the miniaturization of computing and communication devices have made possible the highly effective usage of mobile devices in language learning. While the global economy becoming bound together more and more, English has become an essential tool for communication with the world, and also a key to find a better job. Hence in the following text we will chiefly concentrate on learning English.

The early projects of this kind (at the beginning of this century) having used mobile devices involved Spanish study programs, which consisted of vocabulary practice, quizzes, and word and phrase translations. Soon after, mobile phones were used to teach English at a Japanese university. A similar program was created for learning Italian in Australia. By 2005, the connection between learners and a teacher was accomplished via SMS. [4].

In 2007, USA-based company Moka LCC (Company Overview) started offering mobile multilingual communication and learning products. In these systems translation was one of primary functions. The products utilized the SMS and SKYPE as the means of multilingual communication. Moka currently supports English to Chinese and English to Spanish translation, and plans to introduce additional language pairs. In the same year the Bulgarian company Interlecta commercially released machine translation software for handheld devices that in addition to SMS and email involved speech synthesis and “image translation”.[6]

The number of translation applications, including text-to-speech and speech-to-speech capabilities, available for various mobile platforms has continuously increased since 2007, and has featured products such as the LingvoSoft Full-text Translation Software [7], the SYSTRAN Mobile Translator [8], or Transclick’s translation applications for mobiles[9], or Phonix Speech Group. As a rule the systems have capabilities for learning languages.

Gradually handhelds competences for language learning have been refined into the powerful means of active language learning. These sophisticated flexible devices enable learning and teaching functions as follows.

Vocabulary building, including creating your strong professional vocabulary with connections to the main dictionary

  • Dictionaries containing hundreds of thousands of entries in the general dictionary (up to 1,000,000 words, sometimes more) as well as including specialized terminology make excellent conditions for language learning and building your own vocabulary.
  • Professional add-on dictionaries, e.g. telecommunications and computers, business, finance provide a basis for constructing your professional vocabulary.
  • You can create your own customized editable dictionary, which automatically links to the main dictionary.
  • Learner’s cards, which are provided by some models, make memorization tasks easy and work to quickly enrich your vocabulary.
  • Vocabulary practice, quizzes, and word and phrase translations help you to learn the language quicker than by current means.

Making easier comprehension tasks

  • The dictionary and translator capabilities enable much better comprehension when studying texts. At the same time the capabilities help to improve your reading skills.
  • Handheld electronic dictionaries enable individuals to speak a word in their native language and have the text read back to them in English.

Refining pronunciation

  • Speech capabilities help you to improve your pronunciation and let your speaking sound just like native speakers´. Furthermore, speech capabilities enable you to perfect your pronunciation continually.
  • Advanced English speech synthesis delivers the pronunciation of any text, not only dictionary entries. Together with a full set of enjoyable games and exams, it enables you to improve your language speaking and pronunciation skills naturally and intuitively.
  • Accent correction function will coach you and help you to perfect your English pronunciation with native speaker sound. Furthermore, you can always test yourself.
  • Speech-to-speech electronic translators understand what you say in your own language and immediately repeat the same in English.

English grammar and exercises

  • Some models of handhelds provide a complete guide to English Grammar, Vocabulary, and Phonetics.
  • Step-by-step lessons conduct you comfortably from beginner to advanced learner.
  • English grammar resources are usually accompanied by standardized testing references. Equipped with fast and powerful search functions they provide everything necessary for instant communication.
  • Some models offer i personal programs for English study depending on the level of the language knowledge. The level for Beginners comprises 230 lessons, whereas the level for Intermediates contains 190 lessons. You yourself prepare the timetable of your study. The method involves: study of reading rules, study of the grammar and spelling, pronunciation drilling and comprehension of the spoken language and active building of your vocabulary. There are tests of your knowledge after each lesson. Depending on the results you are recommended to pay more attention to certain parts of the studied material.

Language Tutor

  • Interactive English language tutor, which mostly is a part of dictionary and translator devices, provides a rapid language learning solution and helps users express themselves in day-to-day life.
  • The Language teacher system you are well on your way to complete control of a new language within minutes. It employs the advanced True Voice and Speech Recognition modules and step-by-step lessons to guide you comfortably from beginner to advanced speaker. With a full set of enjoyable games and exams, you improve your language skills naturally and intuitively.
  • Some advanced models include the so-called Car Tutor. It lets you study hands-free and eyes-free to make use of every spare moment to improve your language skills. Moreover, when starting an application, a memorizing splash screen shows you an appropriate word or phrase, a translation and a corresponding picture. It’s a superior way to improve your vocabulary and master a foreign language.

Good luck to everybody who is going to study English with the help of handhelds!

PS: See for details Talking handheld dictionaries and Electronic dictionaries .

References: http://en.wikipedia.org, http://www.ectacoinc.com/, Ectaco Russia Ectaco Inc. , LingvoSoft , Fonix Speech Group – http://www.fonixspeech.com/


Robots – a follow-up of the discussion

January 10, 2009
2 Comments

By Galina Vitkova

In order to better understand qualities and threats of military autonomous robots let´s look through the basic terms or concepts used in this branch. What are the robots like? Roboticists (people who develop and build robots) state for robots is typical that they have a reprogrammable brain (a computer) and a physical body controlled and moved by this computer – see for details

http://science.howstuffworks.com/military, robot.htm, www.roboticstrends.com, www.gyre.org/node, www.defenseindustrydaily.com, www.foreignpolicy.com.

Robot Basics

The overwhelming majority of robots have several common features. First of all, almost all robots have a movable body. Some of them have only motorized wheels, and others have dozens of movable segments. Like the bones in your body, the individual segments are connected together with joints. These jointed segments are set in motion by actuators. Some robots use electric motors as actuators; some use a hydraulic system and some employ a pneumatic system.

Most robots are powered by a battery or sometimes they plug into the wall. Hydraulic robots also need a pump to pressurize the hydraulic fluid, and pneumatic robots need an air compressor or compressed air tanks.

The actuators are all wired to an electrical circuit. The circuit powers electrical motors directly, and it activates the hydraulic or pneumatic system by manipulating electrical valves. The robot’s computer controls everything attached to the circuit. To move the robot, the computer switches on all the necessary motors and valves. Not all robots have sensory systems, and few have the ability to see, hear, smell or taste. The most of robots have ability to monitor their own motion.

Roboticists can combine these elements in an infinite number of ways to create robots of unlimited complexity.

Robots and Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is probably the most exciting field in robotics. It’s certainly the most controversial: everybody agrees that a robot can work in an assembly line, but there’s no consensus on whether a robot can ever be intelligent.

Like the term “robot” itself, artificial intelligence is difficult to define. Ultimate AI would imitate the human thought process. This would include the ability to learn just about anything, the ability to reason, the ability to use language and the ability to formulate original ideas. Roboticists are nowhere near achieving this level of AI, but they have made a lot of progress with more limited AI. Today’s AI machines can imitate some specific elements of intellectual ability.

The basic idea of AI problem-solving is very simple, though its execution is complicated. First, the AI robot (its computer) gathers facts about a situation through sensors or human input. The computer compares this information to stored data and decides what the information signifies. Of course, the computer can only solve problems it’s programmed to solve – it doesn’t have any generalized analytical ability.

Some modern robots have also the ability to learn in a limited capacity. Learning robots recognize if a certain action (moving its legs in a certain way, for instance) achieved a desired result. The robot stores this information and attempts the successful action the next time it confronts the same situation. Again, modern computers can only do this in very limited situations. They can’t absorb any sort of information like a human can. Some robots can learn by mimicking human actions. In Japan, roboticists have taught a robot to dance by demonstrating the moves themselves.

A number of robotics experts predict that robotic evolution will ultimately turn us into cyborgs – humans integrated with machines. Possibly, people in the future could load their minds into a sturdy robot and live for thousands of years!

In any case, robots will certainly play a larger role in our lives in the future (see Statistics on robots). They will influence our daily life in the same way as computers did it in the 1980s.

Autonomous robots

Autonomous robots can act on their own, independent of any controller. The basic idea is to program the robot to respond a certain way to outside stimuli.

This type of robots has a bumper sensor to detect obstacles. When you turn the robot on, it speeds along in a straight line. When it hits an obstacle, the bang pushes in its bumper sensor. The robot’s program tells it to back up, turn to the right and move forward again. In this way, the robot changes direction any time it meets an obstacle.

Today, advanced robots have modern programs and sensor systems to be able effectively navigate a variety of environments. Simpler mobile robots use infrared or ultrasound sensors to see obstacles. More advanced robots can analyse and adapt to unfamiliar environments. These robots may associate certain terrain patterns with certain actions. A rover robot, for example, might construct a map of the land in front of it based on its visual sensors. If the map shows a very bumpy terrain pattern, the robot knows to travel another way.



Last summer SKYPE conversation conference and concluding remarks about the summer conferences

September 2, 2008
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By Galina Vitkova

On Wednesday 27th August the last summer SKYPE conversation conference took place. The animated discussion about search engines and their optimisation showed that the topic was interesting and insistent for participants.

What conclusions could be done after completing the series of such conferences? First of all it appeared to be quite clear that SKYPE fully proved its ability to be a good and simple instrument for online conversation via the Internet.

The experience showed that small conversation groups up to 5 participants might be an optimal number of people for 45-minuits sessions. Within this period each participant is actually able to take part in the discussion and have a short contribution. The topics, which were discussed and materials (e.g. see Search Engines presentation on the page of the blog), which each participant received before the sessions, were reasonable and sufficient. They enabled debutants to gain a sufficient knowledge about the topic and to be properly prepared.

Another important experience lies in the fact that it is necessary to have a number of registered participants bigger than 5 because of busyness of people who want to take part in conversation.

In any case as one student says the SKYPE conferences are a great opportunity for speaking technical English.



Students´ opinion (6)

July 28, 2008
1 Comment

Dear colleagues,

I would like you to pay attention to the next student´s opinion about technical English. In this essay the student emphasises limitedness of technical English. I don´t think technical English is low in expressing your professional ideas. It is only more standardised. What do you think?

Galina Vitkova

Technical English?

By Petr Mik

This is a strange title for the topic of an essay. And probably my ideas about this topic will be strange, too. I am expected to write that technical English is very interesting, but it is not true for me. The subject (content) of technical English is interesting and useful for me and everybody who is interested in similar things. But technical English has a poor structure and destroys the English language (in the Czech language the situation is similar). I must use the passive because it is often used and its using is common and normal in technical English. I work little with the rich English tenses store. In this regard I don’t like technical English. Nevertheless, I know that I will very often use this part of English in my branch and life too and its using will be necessary for me.


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