Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

It's approaching New Year's eve in the US and we would like to wish everyone around the world a safe New Year's eve and a healthy and prosperous solar new year.

 Hopefully 2013 will be be a far better year than 2012 was economically and politically.

New Years Resolutions- Part 2

By Robert Sanborn

To make matters worse, I have had two friends call me because they received a call from “Microsoft Support” telling them they are there to help them with an error report that they recently sent to Microsoft.  Guess what, they find errors and tell them that they will have to pay to get them fixed.  One of my friends called me while she had them on the other line and I told her to immediately unplug the power to her desktop and bring me the computer.  They had installed Tight VNC and ShowmyPC on her system to let them in later and probably to install keyloggers and the like.  She was lucky, the other was not. They had also hit her credit card for $195 which she needed to call and stop. I would also recommend replacing that credit card as well.

So, what do you do if you think you have been a victim of such? There are four programs that I use on a regular basis to try and clean these things out.  Kaspersky is a good place to start with their TDSSKiller Root Kit utility:

The second is the RKill utility from Bleepingcomputer:

Third on the list would be MalwareBytes. This is a terrific free program that does a great job of ridding your system of malware after the fact.

Fourth would be a good registry scanner program like CCleaner. It does a good job of cleaning out junk and temporary files from your computer as well as checking the registry for left over entries that can be deleted. From Piriform software.
Once you do that, start up your anti-virus or internet security package and have it do a full scan. If you still don’t trust it, go and run some of the online scans from places like Norton (Symantec), Trend Micro, or Kaspersky. My favorite right now for an internet security and anti-virus package is Kaspersky’s Pure. If you have more than one computer, get the three user license.

Once things are back to normal, this is also a good time to create a New Year’s Resolution to keep your computer running well.  As part of this, it is a good time to make sure that your Windows is up to date.  Click Start and in All Programs, look for Windows Update. Also, make sure you are running the latest version of Java, Adobe Reader, and Adobe Flash.  If you are still running Windows XP, I would be inclined to make Google Chrome my browser. If you are Running Vista, Windows 7 or 8, make sure Internet Explorer is at version 9.  All this will go a long way to keep your computer running as it should.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Back to work

It’s just about time to get back to work. The Holiday Season has been wonderful with lots of time spent with family and friends. After this Tuesday, January 1st, 2013, it will be time to get all of our CES 2013 prep work done and try to get caught up on the latest news in the tech world.

Make sure you read this blog every single day for the latest news, the hottest deals and our insight into what makes the tech world tick.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Travel Equipment- Part 4

By Chuck Hajdu

Bags and other stuff
Criteria: A few months ago I had the opportunity to review several camera bags. At first I thought the excellent Vanguard convertible shoulder bag/backpack would be perfect but the closer we got to travel time I realized it was totally wrong. The game changer was my need to bring a carry-on bag for the flights. The Vanguard bag was too big to fit inside of a carry-on but too small to carry the non-camera stuff I needed to bring.

As it turned out the solution was readily available. For a carry-on I used the FlighTable we reviewed many years ago and inside I used the great Golla large camera bag we recently reviewed. The Golla bag fit inside nicely and held all of the camera equipment. All of the computer stuff easily fit in the FlighTable bag in specially designed and protected sections.

The additional equipment I used during the trip included a LensPen lens cleaner, a lens hood for the 14-42mm lens,  2 Otterbox 1000 cases to hold small items, 2 spare Olympus PEN batteries and a spare 32GB Kingston microSD card.

Here's how things worked out: The first thing I discovered is that I brought the wrong lens hood. The one I took was designed for the 17mm lens and was visible in the corners when I shot at 14mm. That was bad and the lens shade came off for the rest of the trip.

Everything else was absolutely perfect and made the trip more carefree and relaxed.

Grade: A

Friday, December 28, 2012

Travel Equipment- Part 3

By Chuck Hajdu

Interchangeable lenses
Criteria: As I said in the section on dSLR bodies, this was a trip where I didn't want to compromise on picture quality. For "normal" use I chose to go with a wide-short telephoto rather than multiple lenses. Newer zoom lenses are just as good as single focal length lenses and much more convenient.

Since I had decided to use the Olympus PEN E-P3 as my primary body, I tested the four different 14-42mm lenses that were available to me. All four were different in that they had different internal construction and/or different materials used to build them. The silver version that we had proved to be slightly better than the other three and that's what I chose to use.

Telephoto lenses took a different path. I actually made the decision to take a Sigma 50-200mm zoom lens in Pentax K-mount as the telephoto fairly early on. It's a great lens and fairly compact for it's zoom range. The one big problem was that I would have to carry two different makes of camera bodies. Then I discovered a great lens adapter on that would give me full focus, zoom and aperture control of the lens on an Olympus PEN body!! I bought one immediately and it worked without any problems.

Here's how things worked out: Both lenses worked perfectly. I carried the 14-42mm lens on the E-P3 all the time and kept the 50-200mm on the E-PL1 handy in the camera bag for when it was needed. I was able to take every shot I wanted problem free.

Grade: A

Tough camera
Criteria: This started out as a slam dunk, I knew what tough camera I'd be bringing. From the beginning I knew what water-proof, dust-proof, crush-proof camera I would bring for bad weather or hazardous situations: a Pentax W-90. I'd used it a lot and it was great.

But this summer I found out it wasn't Alex-proof. It may have been able to stand up to rain, snow, sleet and hail. It may have been drop proof and dust proof. But it couldn't stand up to a six year old boy! Alex managed to kill it one afternoon in Chattanooga.

That left me back at square one. I evaluated various tough cameras and decided that the toughest one seemed to be the Olympus Tough TG-820. It had all of the features I needed including a retractable lens cover.

Here's how things worked out: The TG-820 turned out to be an outstanding choice. Performance was excellent and it had the easiest to use controls of any camera of it's type that I've ever used. I couldn't ask for any improvements.

Grade: A+

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Travel Equipment- Part 2

By Chuck Hajdu

Criteria: This was a vital piece of equipment for me because I use a Phablet every day of my life. There were three sizes in competition, phone size, 7" and 10". All of my devices use different versions of Android so that makes the OS a wash.

I was already carrying two phones so that gave them an initial lead. But both use Android 2.3 and have useless keypads. That's strike one and two. Strike three is screen size. You can't enjoy digital pics on their small screens.

That gets us down to medium and large units. I wrestled with this down to the last minute, literally. I switched back and forth between the Motorola Xoom, Acer Iconia Tab 10.1 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7. In the end I chose the 7" Samsung because it was it's turn to be number one.

Here's how things worked out: I have happily used the Galaxy Tab every day with no regrets. I probably would have felt the same about the other two also.

Grade: A

Digital SLRs
Criteria: There is no doubt that this was the most important equipment decision that had to be made, period. This was a once in a lifetime trip and I wanted the best possible pictures to remember it with.

I had two families of dSLRs to choose from, Pentax and Olympus.  Both families had comparable sensors and lots of lenses. The Olympus cameras included several of their PEN mirrorless interchangeable lens camera bodies and a slew of lenses which I'll discuss later. The Pentax cameras included both mirror and mirrorless K-mount bodies and another slew of lenses.

Here's how things worked out: Over the summer I used all of the candidates extensively. For a long time there were two strong leaders, the Olympus PEN E-P3 with the 14-42mm zoom lens and the Pentax K-5 with a Sigma 50-200mm zoom. I had eliminated most of the other cameras for one reason or another and thought this combo would work the best. However, the thought of carrying two different systems just didn't appeal to me.

In the end I chose to go with the compact Olympus system and I brought the PEN E-P3 and an E-PL1. Both use the same batteries and charger and the same lenses and external viewfinder. It was an ideal combination.

Grade: A+ The PEN cameras worked perfectly and never let me down, not even once. And they took great pictures every time!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Hardware warning

To all of our regular readers:

We are on the road again for the Christmas Holiday, as we have been a LOT lately. However, our preferred travel Netbook, an old Lenovo S12 with WinXp, has been showing signs of fatigue/old age lately. 

If you notice that our promised longer articles aren't posted it's for good reason. We try to have a goodly store of articles stashed in "the cloud" for quiet news weeks like the Christmas/New Years week. However, we may have problems accessing them IF the Lenovo dies.

Travel Equipment

By Chuck Hajdu

On my recent two week trip to Europe I took great pains to select the perfect electronic equipment to accompany me. I had taken different cameras, lenses, phablets and laptops/netbooks on various shorter trips during the year to gauge their effectiveness for my purposes. Each product had to meet certain stringent requirements that I set up to evaluate them in order to make the cut.

What I eventually settled on was projected to be the best combination of products available to me for the trip. Here's what I took, what the criteria were for their selection and how things worked out:

Criteria: The USA and Europe use different cell phone systems that aren't, for the most part, compatible. I needed to have cell phones available for my trips to and from my gateway airport, ATL, and wanted to be able to have service once I got to Europe by switching SIMs. The equipment that was on hand included an ancient CDMA Cingular flip-phone on a pre-pay plan, a Sprint Windows semi-smartphone (is Windows ever really "smart"?) an LG Revolution from Verizon and an AT&T Samsung Galaxy SII.

The LG looked like the ideal USA phone (it has always performed perfectly for me) and the Galaxy should be great for Europe. Since all of my criteria were met, I packed both phones and a charger (only one was needed) for the trip.

Here's how things worked out: terrible. All of my planning was for naught. Yes, both phones worked as phones in the US but neither worked for internet access, even in ATL. They both had worked fine earlier in the day so I was frustrated.

Finally we landed in Paris and a man in front of me did exactly what I planned to do. He switched SIMs and had a Europe-phone! The only problem was that I didn't have the time to find a cellular store in CDG and I was headed for a cruise ship. By the time I was able to find a cellular store the trip was half over and I was in Istanbul. I just decide to drop the whole idea.

And the Navigator app struggled to find my location because it couldn't find any GPS or WiFi for most of the trip.

Grade: D-   

Happy Boxing Day

In Great Britain December 26th is celebrated as "Boxing Day". No, it doesn't involve putting on gloves and punching someone's lights out, it has far different roots. We intend to celebrate the day in a traditional way and we'll be giving all of our servants the day off and giving them "box" lunches to take with them. Oh wait, we don't have any servants! Oh well, we tried to celebrate!

We'll have a new review to post later today so stay tuned.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Today is the day before Christmas and our entire staff would like to take a moment to wish everyone a safe and happy Holy Day. Like many people world over, and the family of Jesus on the first Christmas, we are on the road visiting family.

We are taking tomorrow off but we’ll be back posting interesting news and opinions on the 26th. Until then, Merry Christmas to all and to all a good (and blessed) night!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Are You Ready For New Years Resolutions?

By Robert Sanborn

Happy holidays and what comes with it besides Black Friday, Small Shop Saturday, and Cyber Monday, is this flood of phishing and spam mail coming to my inbox. The more I use Outlook from Microsoft, the more I appreciate the help it gives me in deciphering those miserable emails that come in. This season will be a flood of bogus air ticket confirmations, shipping notices, Amazon purchases, and the like trying very hard to part me with my credit card numbers. Ahhh, I miss the days of Nigerian bank accounts and simple Viagra adds.  I still get an occasional Canadian Pharmacy ad but mostly this season has been the shipping notices.

Fortunately, Outlook makes it pretty easy to figure them out and to tell that they are not legitimate transactions.  Outlook 2007 and 2010 allows you to use the preview pane to see what is in the email message without it alerting the sender that there is a live body at this end of the message.  If I just hover the mouse/pointer over the link in the email message, it will tell me the actual URL that the message link is pointing to and they run the gamut from what should be legitimate sites in this country to websites all over the world.  If the “FedEx” message that I get has a link to a site in Russia, you can pretty well bet that it isn’t the real thing. Same with that “FedEx” message linking to a non Federal Express site in the US should also raise the same red flag. Or, how about just looking at the message with the FedEx logo at the top but it has a link to get a “Postal Receipt”.

My next favorite is what looks like a US Airways email telling me to confirm a ticket I never purchased. Again, just hover the pointer/mouse over the link in the message and you will see in the status bar at the bottom of the screen, the actual URL that you would be linking to and as you probably guessed by now, it definitely doesn’t point to US Airways.  Gotten them from Delta and American as well.

You get the idea. You should be following this process for any email you get that you did not expect to receive to see if it is legitimate or not.

Tomorrow we’ll discuss another scam and what you can do to protect yourself.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

HoverCam Neo 3 Review

By George Harding

Here is a device that will solve all your scanning and copying problems. The name gives you an idea of what the product looks like. An extended arm, supported by a vertical post, contains a camera and a light to illuminate the object to be photographed.

The arm contains not only a light and camera, but has an additional camera as well, to provide you with the versatility to photo just about anything from any angle. The unit is portable and collapses to fit in your briefcase.

The photo is usually saved to your computer, in a choice of three resolutions, the highest of which is 1600 X 1200. A computer is not required, though. There are VGA connections for projection of the image directly through a projector.

When saved to a PC or MAC, you have a choice of five formats: jpg, png, bmp, tiff, gif and pdf. In addition, the image can be saved in any one of four compression levels.

The image can be cropped as needed and can be rotated as needed so that it is properly oriented. Photo balance of brightness, contrast and saturation can be adjusted as needed.

As if that were not enough, not only can a document or object be photographed, you can prepare a video of a process or lesson with this versatile device, at 30 fps. It can be saved and projected to a class or a group meeting. The video is saved as an avi file type.

The unit comes with a power cord and a USB connector cord. It also comes with a flexible plastic sheet, with notations about document size and placement. The Quick Start brochure is very limited, showing only how to set up the device and connect it to a PC or MAC.

This is a great device that is easy to use, flexible and produces excellent results.

HoverCam Neo 3        Price about $300

Friday, December 21, 2012

We're still here

I guess the doomsday prophets were wrong (once again). The 21st of December has come and gone and the earth wasn't destroyed.

As we have said many times before, the 21st was just December 31 to the Mayans and it starts a new cycle all over again. Just as it has for many thousands of years.

TripLog GPS Mileage Tracker

We found this article online and thought it would be of interest to our readers. We'll be testing this app over the next week or so and we'll let everyone know how it works.

When it comes to managing business expenses, half the battle is keeping tabs on your mileage. Obviously there are plenty of apps that let you manually enter your miles or odometer readings—but that's still a pretty low-tech approach.

But, hey, your smartphone has a built-in GPS, right? Seems like a smart app could leverage that to automatically keep tabs on where you drive for business.

That's TripLog GPS Mileage Tracker in a nutshell. Available for Android and iOS, this app monitors your mileage via GPS, tracks any parking, tolls, or other expenses, records fuel costs, and generates IRS-ready reports.

All you do is set up your vehicle, then take a few seconds to create a new trip before you head out on the road. TripLog will automatically pinpoint your starting location, though you can enter a different location if needed.

Then just tap Save and be on your way. When you reach your destination, tap End Trip Now. You also have the option of specifying the nature of the trip (business, charity, medical, etc.), entering notes, and adding any applicable parking or toll costs.

TripLog can also calculate fuel economy, manage multiple vehicles and business entities, and support commercial trucks. It leverages 2012 and 2013 IRS data to determine mileage rates.
Best of all, the app can email IRS-compliant, tax return-ready mileage reports in CSV or HTML format. Actually, at the moment only the Android version can do that it; it's coming soon for iOS. In fact, the vastly superior Android version also lets you snap photos of your expense receipts. It offers one-tap start/stop via a Home Screen widget, and can even be set to auto-start mileage tracking.

TripLog is not only free, but also ad-free. However, you'll want to check the developer's pricing page for information on some premium options, like a reasonable 99-cent charge for a single-year report or $4.99 for unlimited reports, receipt photos, and the like.

Android users should definitely check this out. The iOS crowd may want to wait at least until mileage reporting is enabled, as the app isn't much use without it.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

January ePub

Today we will be emailing the January issue of our monthly ePub to all of our subscribers. If any of our regular blog followers aren't already subscribers just let us know and we'll add your to the list!

By the way, if the dooms-day nuts turn out to be right and tomorrow is the end of the earth then we would like to say "goodbye" to everyone! It's been a good life.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Changing Face of Computing

A recent survey conducted by a Cisco research unit found a major trend in computer preferences. The survey asked 1,800 18 to 30 year olds in 18 different countries for their computer preferences. The results are based on the question: If you had to choose just one device to own, which would it be? The choices listed were smartphone, laptop, tablet or desktop.

Results varied greatly by country but two of the most technologically advanced countries, South Korea and the USA, both showed a strong preference for smartphones over other devices.

Here are the numbers: The preference for a smartphone over all other computing devices was strongest in South Korea, where 54 percent of respondents preferred the smartphone. By comparison, 29 percent of South Korean young adults preferred a desktop system,11 percent a tablet and just 4 percent a laptop.

The smartphone was preferred by 41 percent of U.S. respondents, compared to 39 percent who liked laptops best, 9 percent who preferred desktops and 5 percent listed a tablet.

I have observed this trend in person as many of the people I know in that age range really do use their phones as their primary computer!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TaxACT Sweepstakes

TaxACT, a leader of affordable digital and download tax preparation solutions, has launched the Student Loan Relief and Cash Prize Giveaway Sweepstakes. The Facebook-based sweepstakes provides college students and graduates the opportunity to pay down their student debt.                

Eligible sweepstakes participants can win one of the following:
  • Grand Prize - $5,000 Student Loan Relief Giveaway
  • Three Monthly $1,500 Student Loan Relief Giveaways
  • Eight Biweekly $500 Cash Prize Giveaways
  • Four $500 Cash Prize Referral Giveaways

"We believe how we act as a company, and as individuals, is a measure of who we are," said TaxACT President JoAnn Kintzel. "As a company, we act responsibly and with integrity to provide the best value in tax preparation products. As individuals, we believe financial responsibility and higher education play major roles in our community's future. This sweepstakes recognizes students and graduates who share those same values and act responsibly using their college education to better their communities."

All taxpayers can enter in several ways between now and April 19, 2013 on TaxACT's Facebook page.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Power Dock Pro Review

By George Harding

When we drive with our mobile device, there's always the possibility that it will run out of charge and not be usable when we need it most. Here's a solution to that problem - Power Dock keeps your iPhone charged and ready for use.

The Power Dock is car-ready and has a plug that fits the power socket in your car (it used to be called the cigarette lighter, but since so few smoke any more, it's been renamed the power socket). You just plug it in to start the process.

Next you attach your iPhone to the fitting and adjust the clamp to fit the device, so that it's held securely. The clamp has an arm at the top to keep your iPhone fixed in place.

Lastly, you bend the gooseneck that attaches the power plug to the iPhone holder. It is quite flexible and allows you to position your phone so that the screen is in a good position for you to see it.

One other advantage of the Power Dock is that it has a USB port on the power plug base. You can use this to charge another device, whether that device is an iPhone, Blackberry or whatever. The unit comes with a supplementary cable, USB plug on one end, a micro-USB plug on the other. This means you can charge a device other than an iPhone with it.

This is a handy and valuable addition to one's stable of devices. It protects you from the "out of power" problem when you need your phone the most.

Power Dock Pro by Bracketron, Inc.        Price about $33

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Samsung SSD Review

By George Harding

SSD (Solid State Disk) is growing in popularity, as they become more available and prices drop. Their capacity is nowhere near as large as a hard disk, being 256 GB or less, but they are big enough to hold your operating system, with the rest of your files on the hard disk.

The advantage of this arrangement is that the operating system starts up much faster than it does from a hard disk. The moving parts in the hard disk are certainly fast, but do not come close to electron movement alone.

I received for review a Samsung SSD 830 series 128 GB. It uses the SATA connection type, which for me required purchasing a power cable and one to connect to the motherboard. These two cables are inexpensive.

The kit came with a very nice Quick User Manual, a Review Guide, the SSD and two CD-ROMs. One of the CDs contains Norton Ghost, which can be used to back up your computer to the SSD. The other has several useful files.

As it turned out, the SSD is not large enough to use for cloning my C: drive. But you can imagine that the process has been completed. This step is done with both the hard disk and the SSD connected.

Next, you shut down the computer, disconnect or remove the hard disk drive and restart the computer. It may be necessary to enter the BIOS to set the SSD as the primary boot device.

When you restart, it should boot from the SSD. You will notice that the boot process is much faster.

Not only is startup faster, but loading programs, especially large ones, will also be faster.

Samsung SSD 830 128 GB                   MSRP $230

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Google Expands Their Lead

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt recently made an interesting statement about the growth of Google Android. Here’s how Bloomberg announced the news.

Booming demand for Android-based smartphones is helping Google add share at the expense of other software providers, Schmidt said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. Android snared 72 percent of the market in the third quarter, while Apple had 14 percent, according to Gartner Inc. Customers are activating more than 1.3 million Android devices a day, Schmidt said.

“This is a huge platform change; this is of the scale of 20 years ago -- Microsoft versus Apple,” he said. “We’re winning that war pretty clearly now.”

Schmidt’s remarks reflect Google’s growing confidence in its ability to attract users and advertisers as more customers rely on handheld devices and shun traditional computers. By giving away Android, Google cedes revenue to hardware partners, such as Samsung Electronics Co. Schmidt is willing to make that sacrifice because it drives demand for ads and other Internet- based services that benefit Google over time.

“The core strategy is to make a bigger pie,” he said. “We will end up with a not perfectly controlled and not perfectly managed bigger pie by virtue of open systems.”

Friday, December 14, 2012

Google Maps for iFruit OS

Google maps is now available on the iFruit app store! Everyone who uses the latest iFruit products can now safely use their devices for navigation, just as we Android lovers have ALWAYS been able to do. As a matter of fact, I no longer use a GPS in my car because my phone software has better maps and gives better directions!

Here’s the official announcement from Google:

People around the world have been asking for Google Maps on iPhone. Starting today, we’re pleased to announce that Google Maps is here—rolling out across the world in the Apple App Store. It’s designed from the ground up to combine the comprehensiveness and accuracy of Google Maps with an interface that makes finding what you’re looking for faster and easier.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Here's the Review of Dragon Naturally Speaking

By Bayle Emlein

I have been seeing a lot of advertising with Dragon 12 lately that implies ropes that you can just talk to it and have it to say exactly what you want without any editing or correction. I’ve also been seeing a lot of sales on the product which implies that a new version is coming out soon said there really is no competition for Dragon as a speech to text application. I’m doing this dictating this on a what is the slapped in spurn Dell Inspiron 1520 with an Andrea headset using window was seven and went to have for gig of RAM which is probably the most important thing about what’s on the machine.

Because I’ve been seeing so many ads implying that I could write the Great American novel went out have ever having to edit I am editing this I am not editing this at all. While Dragon is light years better than it was when I first encountered it more than a decade ago, it still is not quite the automatic for voice to perfect text on the page as I imagine it in my head. I also included just a little bit and in saving this document used my fingers on the keyboard I could not make it go where I wanted to to. And as you well know Windows will save documents to some mysterious file and it’s the good scratch that of its innard unless you intentionally move the files to folders that you have managed and set up according to the way you can think of them and find them. I was not able to do that by voice I am sure.
Keep forgetting to say the punctuation and it’s not picking up punctuation in my intonation.

Is Dragon worth your time and trouble? It depends on how much patience you have to train it to the way you speak. More importantly it depends on how much patience you have in getting trained to speak the way it will recognize you. Well there’s an S floating out at the end of this document which is just going to have to stay there since the rule that I made up for this game is that I am not going to use my fingers. S
Go back one will I am trying to edit here and get rid of that S in the middle of the document and it is not working babble babble.

As I was saying learning to use Dragon naturally speaking might be worth your time and trouble depending on how much difficulty you have with keyboarding and/or manual writing. It still seems to take in an inordinate amount of attention to the content and editing and focus to get it to say on the screen what’s coming out of my mouth I think. I do not have the voice the ideal voice for Dragon but then if I had the ideal voice well that’s not true faith just says everything you want to say and then leaves everything on the screen unless you go back and edited never am and is interpreted as a word. Maybe I should write a parallel document that says in English what I thought I was saying because some of this is just total nonsense.

I have seen Dragon advertised anywhere from $49 $299 that’s not what I said. I said that I have seen Dragon version 12 advertised anywhere from $49 up to $199. So shopping carefully and looking for sales are definitely in your best interests if you’re at all interested in trying this out but I would definitely recommend trying it out will be for making it a commitment.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dragon Naturally Speaking, Version 12

By Bayle Emlein

Speech to Text has gotten so much better that I thought I would use it to write a review of itself, with mixed results. So near, and yet so far. After all these years, this is still a technology whose maturity is five years in the future. I know some others claim to have better results and I’ve seen the ads on TV.

I performed the requested trainings for mike, sound level, and recognition of my speaking style. Granted, I do not have the ideal voice or speech patterns for the software, nor do I have much patience for further training and correcting. Furthermore, no eating, drinking or chewing gum. How am I supposed to think without caffeine?

That being said, Dragon is ready for the user who has the patience to correct its misrecognitions, especially if that user lacks keyboarding skills or is otherwise limited in ability to use a keyboard. Sufficient reading and language skills are helpful in noticing and correcting errors. The Read Back feature will overcome this barrier to some extent–particularly helpful to low-vision users. But there is no substitute for the reading and language management skills needed to get Dragon to successfully and accurately record one’s ideas.

Tomorrow we’ll see just how accurate Dragon proved to be!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Jabra Supreme UC Review

By George Harding

Communications methodologies today are many. This product is a Bluetooth-enabled headset that fits comfortably on your ear. It has the advantage that it is a hands-free device for phone calls.

The headset market has matured considerably since their beginnings. They are smaller, more efficient and more comfortable. Something to consider, as well, is that this device looks attractive, in contrast to some that look like a beetle in your ear!

Setup is remarkably easy. The first step is to charge it. The internal battery takes about 2 hours to fully charge, but it can be done either from your computer or from a wall socket. The kit comes with a USB cable and one with a wall socket connector.

Once charged, the next step is to pair it with a phone. You simply use the settings menu in your phone to turn Bluetooth on, then search for the Jabra device. Once the Jabra is found, it will automatically pair with the phone.

The kit comes with a new type of connector, which the company calls Jabra Link 360. It fits into a USB slot on your computer or laptop and can be used to connect with the headset for Internet calls.

There are other important features of the Supreme. It includes active noise cancellation technology, which allows you to hear your conversation even when surrounding noises would otherwise interrupt.

It also includes audio enhancement technology, which gives you incredible sound quality for both you and the person to whom you are talking.

There are three controls on the Supreme. One is the flip-boom arm. It swings up or down, turning the Supreme off or on. No buttons to push!

The second is the call answer/end button, which is relatively large and is on the side of the Supreme. No problem answering a call or ending it.

Third is the volume control, one for increase, another for decrease. These aren’t quite as easy to use as the flip-boom arm, but aren’t needed often.

There is a fourth control, but it is only to give command to the Supreme, to pair with a device, for example. You can also use it to check the battery level.

This is a well-engineered product which is very easy to set up and use.

Jabra SupremeUC                    MSRP $149