[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[Accessibility] Can you help write a free version of HTK?

From: Bill Cox
Subject: [Accessibility] Can you help write a free version of HTK?
Date: Fri, 9 Jul 2010 06:38:53 -0700

I volunteer as the tech lead for Vinux, where we test and improve new
accessibility technologies for Linux.  There is a wonderful project
called Simon which uses Julius, which uses the HTK toolkit for speech
recognition.  It works well, and has potential to help many
programmers who have lost the ability to type due to RSI injuries.
Programmers with RSI injuries could use it to write code entirely by

Unfortunately, the HTK toolkit license is completely unacceptable, and
I mean not even close.  This is one of the most evil licenses I've
ever read, and the damage it's doing should not even be legal.  In
short, the HTK license allows unsuspecting projects like Julius and
Simon to become dependent on the HTK toolkit, and then at any time in
the future, Microsoft can decide to start charging users for access,
and go closed source.  It's like giving away addictive drugs to kids
for free, and HTK has already hooked Simon, making it impossible for
Simon to fulfil its mission of helping people with typing
disabilities.  If you think I'm being a bit melodramatic, I'll ask you
to go look at this long dead project:

Xvoice was in fact used by programmers with typing impairments up
until the day IBM stopped selling licenses to ViaVoice for Linux.
When IBM did that, those programmers lost the ability to program by
voice natively in Linux.  IBM derailed programming by voice in Linux
for a decade, and we still have not recovered.  In case you didn't
know, Microsoft owns HTK, not Cambridge University.  So, every Linux
project that depends on HTK can be killed at any time by Microsoft.

Because of the HTK license, Simon is not going to be fully integrated
into Vinux, or Ubuntu which is the upstream distro we test
technologies for.  Simon built on HTK can never be included Debian, or
Fedora.  In other words, Simon is dead, because of HTK.  Typing
impaired programmers around the world will not benefit from all the
hard work of either the Julius or Simon project.  If you can't tell,
this really pisses me off.

Fortunately, we can freely read the HTK source code, and can learn how
it works.  We can then go rewrite it, and hopefully do a better job.
I propose we start an open-source effort to do exactly that, in order
to enable Simon and other accessibility software to be freely used to
help typing impaired people.  There is already a similar effort under
way, with a proper license:

If anyone on this list is interested in leading a project to make a
free alternative to HTK, possibly based on ghmm, please give it a try!
 We can certainly help with testing, and maybe recruiting volunteers
in Vinux.  What we can never do is include HTK in Vinux.


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]