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

From: Sina Bahram
Subject: RE: [Accessibility] Re: Can you help write a free version of HTK?
Date: Sun, 11 Jul 2010 11:11:46 -0400


Thanks for your email on this subject.

I think it would be a wonderful idea if both sides could just take a breath and 
figure out a way to work together on this.

As you undoubtedly know, prospective developers who are users can be the most 
passionate about the littlest of issues. I've most
certainly been guilty of this in screen reader discussions on other mailing 

I do; however, think that there's a lot of good work here, and we need to 
figure out a way to proceed towards a productive and
collaborative future, if this stuff is going to work, what-so-ever.

I do applaud your generalizeable approach, and the instantiation of that 
approach from 0.1 to 0.2 into 0.3.

>From software engineering, we all know that functional requirements are a good 
>place to start.

Shall we try to form some, and see how many of them we agree on, as opposed to 
disagree on?

>From there, I propose we move on to discuss further issues.

Take care,

-----Original Message-----
From: address@hidden [mailto:address@hidden On Behalf Of
Sent: Friday, July 09, 2010 11:56 AM
To: address@hidden
Cc: address@hidden; address@hidden; address@hidden
Subject: [Accessibility] Re: Can you help write a free version of HTK?


First of all: If you really want the HTK maintainers to change their license, I 
don't think writing angry mail is the best strategy.

To put this mail into context: I am the maintainer of the simon speech 
recognition project.

Yes, the HTK license is an issue.

But take a deep breath and let's talk about this:
The HTK does what it is supposed to. It is stable, extremely well documented 
and "just works".

When we were evaluating the existing software for simon it's not that we didn't 
choose free alternative X because we were "tricked"
by the HTK it's just that if we had chosen something else, simon would most 
likely have failed completely. If that means using the
HTK to get started, so be it.

> [...] and HTK
> has already hooked Simon, making it impossible for Simon to fulfil its 
> mission of helping people with typing
Please don't post misleading statements like this before you research the topic 
a bit more thoroughly.

The HTK didn't "hook" simon;
simon 0.1 required the HTK for everything and this dependency was taken into 
account at multiple places in the code - nothing too
big but still.
simon 0.2 moved a lot of the HTK code in a central place and it could have 
easily been replaced back then with something else.
Since simon 0.3 (the current trunk version) we even moved away from the HTK 
file formats and use our own. Once it's time to compile
the model we ask a generic interface to do "something" with our generic input 
Right now there is still only a HTK backend for this process but adding another 
one should be fairly trivial.

Also, in simon 0.3 you can set up a complete voice recognition without ever 
touching the HTK.

One reason for this is because the HTK license is far from being the worst 
thing on the planet: It doesn't impose any limitations on
the models created with it.

You can find more details about my viewpoint on this in the comment section of 
this article ("Re: Proprietary Software Should be

> 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.
Nobody told me that my project was dead...? The last commit was 2 hours ago...

> 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.
Thats actually illegal. Nobody who did read the HTK source code is technically 
allowed to work on GHMM because of copyright issues.

The law basically is that if you get your information from a copyright 
protected source (that doesn't explicitly allow you to use it
to create a derived work) and create something similar then it boils down to the
question: Could you have created your derived work without ever looking at the 
"original"? If the answer is no, than you violated
the original works copyright.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer but that's basically how I understood the 
copyright law - at least in Austria.

> 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:
I have already contacted them a while back and they said that their library was 
not geared towards speech processing and couldn't be
used for it neither now nor in the short term future IIRC.

> 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.

Well I think it's much more realistic to just use SPHINX instead of Julius/HTK 
which works _right now_ and shouldn't be that hard to
integrate into the simon framework.

The only reasons its not there yet are:
1. Limited time on my part
2. Very little documentation available online

(simon developer)

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