Starbase 2 under attack!!!

I can’t remember the name of the game but I remember the voice! Let’s take a trip back. Where were you around 1982-1984 when the Intellivision and Intellivoice system made its impact? I remember where I was. Hi, I’m Cliff. You’re here because your starbase is under attack. You’re not sure how many attackers are invading but you’re hearing the early Text To Speech (TTS) prompts, “Starbase 1 under attack, starbase 2, under attack, starbase 3 under attack!”

*Update* the name of the game was Space Spartans and the technology was actually voice synthesis not TTS. Oh and who can forget Tron? That’s what happens when you stay up late to author a post!

So I was emailing my aunt and taking a trip back to when my dad bought the Intellivision II for the family. That lead me to include some Wikipedia links, which lead me to remambering my very first experience with computer voice output. I never really thought about it but this may be one of the reasons I get all dumb over Text To Speech. I must have been about 8 t the time and I still can’t remember the name of the game, but I remember my first Intellivoice experience. Was it Star Smash? …Space Armada? Whatever the name, the voice was so impressive at the time. Robotic, though still magical, the game would alert you when your starbases came under siege. You had the opportunity to engage enemy star ships and blast them to what many refer to as “smithereens”. Now I’ve never owned or held a “smitheren” but I would imagine that is is a very small particle of matter, similar in shape/size to an atom.

Did you grow up in the early 80s? Do you remember the Intellivision? Burgertime? Type something relative in the rectangular shape below and share your experiences.

OSX Tcl/Tk and snack

So I finally figured out how to install snack on OSX. I went down many different paths and ended up building from source and getting lucky. I’m sorry, what is snack? Apparently it’s some audio tool kit for scripting engines like Tcl, Python, and Ruby. Woah, I’ve probably lost you. Let me back up. Why am I messin’ with Tcl/Tk and snack? I’ve been trying off and on to build a custom voice for MaryTTS. It’s sortr of a pain b/c I don’t have time to mess with this in the office. I’d like to experiment at home but my development linux install is in the office and I haven’t figured out how to get audio over remote desktop on Linux yet. (I’ve gotten close but that’d take a whole ‘nother round of experimenting!) So I’m running OSX on my Mac of course for my MaryTTS tinkering but it’s difficult to get things intended for Linux to work the same way on Mac. I’ve installed Mac Ports which dumped a bunch of stuff somewhere on my hard drive. I managed to get sox from it. Wait, let me start over again! Hi, I’m Cliff. You’re here because you were having the same troubles installing snack on your Mac. I’m here because the prior sentence creates an interesting rhyme.

In experimentation with Mary custom voices I’ve learned that you can spend an entire month just getting the required dependencies for using the voice import stuff. The list of required tools is huge and I wish it could be simplified. To add on that, each tool spins its own dependency web. For eg, installing ehmm (or was it speech tools?) requires sox which requires Mac heads to go out and install Mac Ports or something similar. Running “./configure” for hts just to create the dumb make file requires tcl/and snack. God help you if you’re on modern 64bit hardware like I am. The web site for snack offers a PPC version of snack. It’s best (and painful) to build from source.

So I download the source tar and carefully follow the steps in the README which are incorrect. According to the README the tcl framework should be located in “/Library/Frameworks/Tcl.framework/Headers”. On my system I found it under “/System/Library/Frameworks/Tcl.framework/Headers”, though this might vary depending on how you install Tcl. And that’s the problem. With all the different paths for frameworks and libraries it’s a wonder you can get anything to work! After getting no satisfaction after running “make install” from the source bundle and many failed attempts to copy the libraries into the different Tcl and Tk framework folders I stumbled across a post somewhere that hinted that Tcl extensions should be found/loaded in “/Library/Tcl”. You would never know this unless you were a Tcl veteran. There wasn’t even a “/Library/Tcl” folder on my system! I created the structure and voila! Where was I? Oh yeah, I was trying to install the hts package. Now I’m struggling with a another dumb error that complains it “can’t find swab of SPTK”. What in blue blazes is SPTK and why do I need a swab of it? In conclusion, to build your own voices in Mary you have to be Tcl’ish, have a snack, get a swab of SPTK, oh and make sure you’re wearing sox! That’s only scratching the surface.