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Conversation with Richard Stallman re: VoxForge and FSF
User: kmaclean
Date: 5/14/2008 8:58 am
Views: 2909
Rating: 12

From Richard Stallman: 

The Free Software Foundation and the GNU Project would like to help
the development of free software for speech recognition.  It sounds
like Voxforge is working on this, and we could encourage people
to visit Voxforge and help.

But there are a few points I need to check on, first.

1. Does Voxforge recommend any non-free software?

It's crucial that the user be able to do the activity without using
any non-free software.  If Voxforge depends on the user's running a
Java program, that has these consequences:

 a. That program has to run on a _free_ Java platform.

 b. The site should say where to get that _free_ Java platform,
    and should not recommend installation of any non-free Java platform.

 c. The Java program must itself be free software, and the user must
    be able to get its source code and then install it on his machine
    and use it.  In other words, the user should not be limited
    to running the executable copy that comes into his browser.

2. We need a commitment to release the data under a suitable free license.

Perhaps they have already made such a commitment.  If so, could
you show it to me?

--- (Edited on 5/14/2008 9:58 am [GMT-0400] by kmaclean) ---

Re: Conversation with Richard Stallman re: VoxForge and FSF
User: kmaclean
Date: 5/14/2008 9:00 am
Views: 132
Rating: 13

My reply: 

Hi Richard,

[...] 

1. Does Voxforge recommend any non-free software?
Unfortunately, yes we do.  For better or worse, I have chosen to solicit speech donations from Windows and Mac users.  I have chosen to do this because of the difficulty of soliciting speech from people, which occurs for a variety of reasons (boring, tedious, not interested in speech recognition, etc), and figured that casting as wide a net as possible for potential speech submitters was the best way to go.

It's crucial that the user be able to do the activity without using
any non-free software.  
I agree, but we are not there yet. 

If we can set something up where we meet this requirement (i.e. the main approach for getting speech from users uses all Free software), can we still solicit speech from Windows and Mac users (using free software on their proprietary OSs)?
 
If Voxforge depends on the user's running a
Java program, that has these consequences:

 a. That program has to run on a _free_ Java platform.
The Java Speech Submission applet relies on the Java Sound module, which (as I think you might know...) Sun has not yet released as Free software yet.  They are talking about it, so that likely means it won't be released for another 1-2 years (if at all ...). 

There are possible open source solutions to this (like the Tritonus project with OpenJDK/IceTea), but I was learning Java while creating the Speech Submission app, and found that using Java Sound API was the easiest approach - at the time.  I am not a Java programmer  (more of a Perl hacker) but I can put this on my todo list to see what I can come up with.

If I can get Tritonus working with a Free Java, can we still allow users with non-Free JVMs to submit speech (as an alternative)?

 b. The site should say where to get that _free_ Java platform,
    and should not recommend installation of any non-free Java platform.
As I stated above, the Java submission applet does not work with a Free Java platform - it needs the proprietary Sun Java Sound API.

If we have a Free solution working on the site, and as an alternative allow Windows/Mac users to submit speech, does this mean that our audio is somehow tainted from a GPL perspective, and thus cannot be used with other GPL programs?

  c. The Java program must itself be free software, and the user must
    be able to get its source code and then install it on his machine
    and use it.  In other words, the user should not be limited
    to running the executable copy that comes into his browser.
The source code is, and always has been, available here, but is not currently set up as a free running program on someone's computer (i.e. it is designed to be web-based).  This can be done, but nobody has asked for this - usually, a person who might want to do this would just run an audio editor like Audacity.

The web-based speech submission app was the result of failing to get enough users to submit audio with the Audacity audio editor (which I thought was an easy program to use) because they found it to be too difficult to use ...

2. We need a commitment to release the data under a suitable free license.

Perhaps they have already made such a commitment.  If so, could
you show it to me?
See the front page, second paragraph of the VoxForge web site.

I would like to post this thread on a VoxForge forum [...] ... please let me know if that is OK.

thanks,

all the best,

Ken

--- (Edited on 5/14/2008 10:00 am [GMT-0400] by kmaclean) ---

--- (Edited on 5/14/2008 10:09 am [GMT-0400] by kmaclean) ---

Re: Conversation with Richard Stallman re: VoxForge and FSF
User: kmaclean
Date: 5/14/2008 9:07 am
Views: 366
Rating: 10
from Richard Stallman (references from previous email bolded): 
   1. Does Voxforge recommend any non-free software?
   >
   Unfortunately, yes we do.  For better or worse, I have chosen to solicit
   speech donations from Windows and Mac users.


It's fine to give Windows and Mac users a way to contribute speech.
The point is that it has to work also for GNU/Linux users (and BSD
users, I hope).  Otherwise in effect you are asking people to use
Windows or MacOS.

   >  a. That program has to run on a _free_ Java platform.
   >
   The Java Speech Submission applet relies on the Java Sound module, which (as I think you might know...) Sun has not yet released as Free software yet.
   They are talking about it, so that likely means it won't be released for
   another 1-2 years (if at all ...).


Is there a free software replacement for that yet?  If not, I could
talk with the GNU Classpath developers to urge them to give it
priority.

   There are possible open source solutions to this (like the

Open source is not the same thing a free software.
(See http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html
for an explanation of the difference.)
Most open source programs are free, but not 100% of them.

Are these programs free?  If so, could you use them instead?

   If I can get Tritonus working with a Free Java, can we still allow users
   with non-Free JVMs to submit speech (as an alternative)?


Certainly.  There is no reason to reject contributions from
those who are under the thumb of proprietary software developers.
The point is that we shouldn't send people in that direction.

   but is not currently set up as a free running program on someone's computer  (i.e. it is designed to be web-based).  This can be done, but nobody has  asked for this - usually, a person who might want to do this would just run  an audio editor like Audacity.

There's no problem with making it available that way, but it is really
important to advertise it as a free-running installable program also,
on general principles.  An applet is a program that the user cannot
control, and that is not a good thing.

   See the front page, second paragraph of the VoxForge web
   site<http://www.voxforge.org/>

It isn't feasible for me to browse a web site--could you email me
that text?

   I would like to post this thread on a VoxForge forum [...] ... please let me know if that is OK.

Ok with me.

--- (Edited on 5/14/2008 10:07 am [GMT-0400] by kmaclean) ---

Re: Conversation with Richard Stallman re: VoxForge and FSF
User: kmaclean
Date: 7/15/2008 10:35 am
Views: 1037
Rating: 3

Just an update on this thread (though I have not communicated this to RMS yet...). 

Basically, preliminary testing shows that the VoxForge SpeechSubmission app *works* with OpenJDK (ava-1.6.0-openjdk on Fedora 9).  More testing is required to see if anything strange crops up, but this is good news.

The bad news is that OpenJDK's (free implementation of Sun's Java run-time environment) browser plugin, gcjwebplugin, does not yet support signed plugins, and the the VoxForge Speech Submission applet is a signed Java applet.  From the Fedora Project Wiki:

Handling Java Applets

Upstream OpenJDK does not provide a plugin. The Fedora OpenJDK packages include an adaptation of gcjwebplugin, that runs untrusted applets safely in a Web browser. The plugin is packaged as java-1.6.0-openjdk-plugin.

  • ...
  • The gcjwebplugin adaptation does not support signed applets . Signed applets will run in untrusted mode. Experimental support for signed applets is present in the IcedTea repository, but it is not ready for deployment in Fedora.
  • The gcjwebplugin security policy may be too restrictive. To enable restricted applets, run the firefox -g command in a terminal window to see what is being restricted, and then grant the restricted permission in the /usr/lib/jvm/java-1.6.0-openjdk-1.6.0.0/jre/lib/security/java.policy file.

I don't think we can run the SpeechSubmission app in untrusted mode, since the app needs to access audio on the users PC, and the ability to save audio files in the user's temporary directory (we might be able to work around this last limitation by storing the audio in memory...).

I need to experiment with the Java Policy tool to see if there might be a workaround with the current implementation of OpenJDK.  We may have to wait for an OpenJDK release that supports signed applets.

 

--- (Edited on 7/15/2008 11:35 am [GMT-0400] by kmaclean) ---

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