blogging without using a keyboard (using windows built in speech recognition)

307-speechrecognitionmicrophone.pngI’ve been looking at buying dragon naturally speaking from an IT supplier for typing on to the computer. It is software I heard of many years ago that converts speech into type as you speak. I had an mail offering it for only 30.00 which is less than I remember. However I like to test things before I buy them especially when it comes to software. I searched the Internet but couldn’t find a trial version to download. Just as I was about to give up I discovered a webpage that mentioned windows built in speech recognition.

So I’m sitting at home to blog for the first time ever without typing a word. I’ve been through the tutorial and so far I’m finding it very accurate. In the first paragraph I Can Count Three mistakes, I’m sure that as I continue to use it accuracy will improve over time.

It isn’t quite plain sailing, I’m having a little trouble remembering all the commands but that’s no different to when I first learned to use a computer. (quick note, I was brought up with a local dialect where I use the word learnt, but the computer heard learned. I’m sure there’s a blog Post about observations of my local dialect somewhere here). One thing I am glad of is that my headset microphone has a microphone mute button. The software does it by saying stop listening to stop listening, but sometimes while I’ve been thinking of what to say and start speaking it thinks it misheard my silence as a word and asks me to repeat.

As a beginner with speech recognition the other problem I’ve been having is getting the cursor mixed up with an action. For example, a moment ago I managed to select a whole section of text inadvertently and then change the format by telling the computer to use a button on the webpage.

I think I’m a long way off using this is a regular way of inputting text. I just tested my typing speed on the website and got a result of 72 words per minute. I think my current speaking speed is actually slower than 72 words per minute as I’m waiting for the computer to display each sentence as I’ve spoken. Those of my friends who have seen one of my presentations may know that one of my biggest floors (and there are many I know) is speaking too fast. Maybe I should record all of my presentation through speech recognition as a way of slowing myself down!

Now to see if I can publish this blog post without touching the keyboard …

Root Nicknames

We all have nicknames. Some we know of, some we don’t. Some we find fun, some we don’t.

A friend just emailed me on a Rotary topic using “Rootlebaumeisterstuck”. I have no idea how that came to be made up! Within the club I’m often named Rooty simply because there are 4 members called Steve.

A very lucky week for Steve!

Do you remember the saying that things always come in threes? Well, I really should buy a lottery ticket. Instead the numbers I would have picked had I bought a ticket for Saturday will be 7,11,32, 40,48,49.

Why do I tell you this? Well I believe the odds of me winning the lottery are so far stacked against me I’m not going to spend the money on a ticket. However, I have just won TWO competition prizes. Yes, TWO! Maybe the lottery could be the third…. Oh, hang on, I’ve had THREE prizes this year now, I never got round to blogging about the first.

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So, here they are in order. I won an iPod Touch back in May. This is the second iPod I’ve won, the iPod shuffle came from Ford in 2006. The iPod Touch was won in April after I replied to a survey on out-law.com. 16Gb of music player worth around 200 promptly borrowed on a long term basis by my wife. Well, I wouldn’t use a music player much but it did reveal to me the clever touches an iPhone would have. I can’t have an iPhone because it isn’t as flexible as I need it to be as a PDA organiser and phone – the touch cruise is still a better option for me. However the safari web browser it has built in outperforms Internet Explorer mobile version and Opera mobile so if it weren’t for the application flexibility I like I’d probably be on an iPhone already. Out-law.com is an online legal magazine that reviews ongoing, erm, legal things. I find it well written, informative, impartial and it’s one of the few RSS feeds I have set on my phone.

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Last week a ‘signed for’ package arrived in the post. In it was a prize courtesy MXR Digital. There was a competition in a trade magazine which, for some reason, I decided to enter. I must have had a lucky feeling because I won a Pure Highway DAB Digital Radio for the car. Looking at the prices online, they’re around 70. I wouldn’t choose to buy one though on long journeys I do occasionally wish for some different radio entertainment. However, now I have it I can’t wait to find time to put it together and play with it. It transmits to the car through an FM transmitter built in or through a cable you can plug it into. Hopefully I’ll have some free time in the next week or two to try it out and report back.

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The third prize is a lot more special than this little picture shows. I’ll be telling you all the amazing technical features later when I get to play with it, once it arrives. Today, I got a phone call from the magazine and email from the supplying company to say I’ve won a flat screen, 23″ TV. This, however, is no ordinary flat screen TV. It’s a Bath-o-vision 23″ wall mounted, mirror fronted flat screen TV worth around 1,800. Excuse me while I pick myself up off the floor. How on earth can you justify that for a TV? Well, this TV is designed to go in a bathroom, or swimming pool. When turned off it looks like a normal mirror. When turned on, you get to have a decent size TV with a wide viewing angle (178 degrees!), HD Resolution and a built in digital TV tuner. This is not the kind of TV you’ll buy in the supermarket! It’ll be a month or so before this prize arrives, the company are organising for the magazine to visit for photos of them presenting the screen to me.

Steve the podcast star?

Does podcast start with a capital P? It’s not something I’ve though of before, the whole podcast thing passing by me until today – when I stared in one!*

Podcast’s are like radio shows that you listen to offline. If you have the right software, the show will download when you are on the Internet and copy itself to your music player. Then you can listen to it when you are out and about. Although I am a fan of audio (be it music, documentaries, comedies and so on) as much as the next person, I’ve never got round to playing with podcasts and finding ones I want to listen to regularly.

The biggest reason for that is the difference between iTunes and Windows Media. Having just played with the iTunes podcast setup instructions as directed on this page, I had the system setup in less than a minute so I should automatically receive the future shows as they are released. Unfortunately, I don’t use iTunes for all my music. My new phone syncronises through Windows “ActiveSync” which talks to Windows Media Player. I dare say I could change that to sync with iTunes, or figure out how to make podcasts work with Windows Media player but I simply haven’t spent any time to figure that out. I used iTunes when I won an iPod Shuffle, but I don’t use the device that often. I’ve been using my new phone to listen to music (it synchronises with Windows Media Player) but that too may be a passing fad.

Now, that’s my excuse for not listening to podcasts out the way, what made me start listening today I hear you ask.

Well, my experiences with taking a spammer to court have garnered a little media interest, to which point I was interviewed at the beginning of the week by “Out-law” magazine. They are a magazine that focuses on legal issues of technology. I’ve been reading it myself for a few years too. They have a weekly podcast but I’ve never listened to it. I have read the transcripts though, just never downloaded to listen. The interview with me has been included in this weeks podcast. The whole show is 10 minutes long and if you’ve ever wondered what I sound like now is your time to find out. (If you don’t figure it out during listening the spam story is in the last half and the harmonious Scot’s accent isn’t me, it’s the journalist).

Happy listening folks.

*star is probably a bit strong, featured may be a more accurate word.

Mr Roots and his lovely old boots (or 14 years of heaven courtesy of Mr Brasher)

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I love my boots. I know, they’re not a lot to look at but they are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever owned. I almost fear the day I need to replace them. What are they? a 1994 Vintage “Brasher Hillmaster Classic“. The date is stamped inside the soft leather ankle area and I remember buying them in 1995. I was doing the thing you never do, buy boots just before an expedition. As a 19 year old I had not a lot of money and had bought a cheap pair (perhaps 20) of walking boots. They didn’t last the breaking in period, the cheap lace hooks cut through the laces within two days. Time to push the boat out and spend some serious money, more than half a weeks wages at the time, a staggering 100 – a huge amount of money to a 19 year old Steve

I still remember two parts of the sales pitch. Firstly, the sole. Not only big chunky grips but the deliberate shape that keeps the toe’s high. As you put your heal down and roll forward the shoe literally helps you keep going, rolling the next part of each step. At least that’s the theory, in practice I certainly have no complaints. They’re gorgeous when you get into a stride and so much more ‘walkable’ than any other shoe or boot I’ve ever owned. Secondly, the tag line: “Travel light, travel far, travel in comfort”. I know, now days I ignore tag lines for the marketing hype they are…. well, I pretend to ignore them. Every time I strap these boots on I get excited by the thought that I’m going somewhere and remember that phrase, even if it’s just across the local fields with the children.

The only thing I ever do to them is smother them liberally in Grangers G-Wax before any major walk (my, this really seems like I’m getting carried away with the brands… perhaps I should be BBC like and add ‘other brands are available’).

They’re first trip out was an epic, trekking for 3 weeks across Nepal. I was fortunate enough to be growing up within the youth group culture. We were organised by our leaders to fund raise enough to pay for a trek into the Himalayas, around 1800 which could also be described as far-too-much-of-my-annual-salary-for-me-to-cover-it-myself. The boots were an essential purchase as until then I’d survived in a pair of “High Leg DMS” army boots (very appropriate for ATC running around in wood things but I wanted something more appropriate for general walking). The trip was an experience of a lifetime, things I learnt on that expedition still benefit my life today.

This week I had to visit Sweden to check out a potential new supplier. It may sound like fun but the web-cam for the town showed snow on the ground, the forecast said snow, the UK Agent that was meeting me there said ‘dress warm, it’s very cold this time of year’. “Travel Light, Travel Far, Travel in Comfort”…. I immediately decided to grab my Brasher’s and my prized 30L Karrimor daysack (enough space to take as cabin baggage yet still carry 3 books, a change of clothes, a packed lunch and a “small clear plastic bag with not more than 100ml of any liquid” to meet the new stringent security requirements of air travel). My kit was light, Sweden is far, and I flew with Ryanair. OK, that may not sound like comfort and it sure isn’t luxury but it was more than comfortable enough for my needs. I’ve not flown with Ryanair before and I’ll have to write about it, some very interesting business principles well applied there.

Enough of my diversification though, you too can own the current incarnation of this boot by buying a pair of “Brasher Hillmaster Classic GTX“, including the modern improvements of things like a Gore Tex Lining, for an under the rate of inflation price of 100. Yes, 14 years, 0% inflation and technically a much better pair of boots. Shall I treat myself to some new ones? No, my current pair are still perfect and besides, I don’t have 100 to spare.

"Smart" new training centre (I just couldn't resist the pun!) and other things

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Wednesday night was hospitality night for me. First, I went to Ashford to see my friend Annie Browne’s opening of her new training centre. Apple juice, nibbles, some words from the mayor and meeting people I haven’t seen in a while. All good fun! It’s a smart training setup in more ways than one; it’s a nice new professional training area, it’s also the first time I’ve seen a smartboard in use in business.

Smartboards are like great big computer screens that you can draw on. Gone are the days of looking for a piece of chalk, you can write things using just your finger. You can write things in different colours, save your notes and email them to people later. You can use it to show a PowerPoint presentation, watch a move or surf the Internet.

This may be new to me in business, but my 10 year old daughter would know exactly how to operate a smartboard. Her school started installing them 5 years ago and now every classroom has one. My 5 year old son arrives in class to move his name tag into whether he is pack lunch or school dinners. It used to be a set of cards in pockets on the wall, now he drags his named hot air balloon image on the smartboard from the ground into the cloud that equates to pack lunch or dinners. As someone who remembers the transition from chalk board to white board at school I can’t help but be impressed at the speed technology is moving on.

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In my recent course at Canterbury Christchurch University, almost all the tutors used projectors and PowerPoint presentations. Smartboards haven’t quite reached them yet. Wednesday night was also the award ceremony where I and many of the others collected our certificates. More apple juice, more nibbles, some words from the Vice Chancellor and meeting people I haven’t seen in a while. More good fun! So here you have it, a photo of my “Certificate in Business”, a whole 40 credits at level 1. I confess, I’m vain enough to want a degree just to prove I could do it. In reality, I don’t need one (it wont help my career prospects!). That said, I love learning new things. The trouble is knowing what I need to learn. This course did nothing for my business knowledge but lots for my French. Perhaps I should do a course on how to operate a smart board…

Running – not always good for your health

One of the good things about starting the business studies/French course at the local university is that it’s only 5 miles from home. It’s easy to get someone to drop me off there so that I can run home at the end each lesson.

I’ve been relatively good at running home since the course started (that is I’ve made the effort and run) and I’ve already noticed my times improving along with my French. However, for the rest of the course I’ll be being driven. Running home on Wednesday night ‘je suis tombe’, that’s french for “I fell”. I thought I’d sprained my ankle and decided it would be best to call Rhonda and get picked up. 6 hours later the pain hadn’t diminished so I went to hospital. A few x-rays and some prodding by the doctor confirmed I have broken a bone within my foot.

I guess I won’t be running for a while…maybe using the crutches will improve my upper body strength though 🙂

J'apprends Franais!

Mercredi soir, j’attendais Canterbury Christchurch University pour apprends franais. Depuis douze ans depuis j’apprends franais a l’cole. A l’cole j’tudie le “A/S”, peut tre un ‘demi baccalaurat’.

Pour moi, la grammar est difficile en anglais et en plus difficile en franais! Masculine/feminine, “tu ton tes” (je pense?). Maintenant je connais en plus de nouveau mot franais aprs seulement une semaine.

A l’cole, j’achte un livre “Jochim a des enuis” (peut tre “jochim es les enfant?”) – un livre pour les enfant je pense, mais pour moi c’tait trs difficile. Peut tre aprs mon tude (en douze semaine) je peux lire un autre livre franais.

J’espre cet est lisible pour tout person franais! Utilise la “comments” sil vous plat! (En franais aussi, pour aidez mon tudie).

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Addition!
Je trouve “Joachim a des ennuis” a amazon!

Addition deux!
Merci pour google “spellcheck”! Je voudrais le google “grammarcheck” aussi!

I've done something amazing

i-4397a072cb905f3e4f2f795bb99ea47c-blooddonor10.jpg I’ve given blood 10 times. I’m not exactly a record breaking donor. I started giving blood when I was around 18 when the National Blood Service used to collect blood in the canteen. When I started the business it was always hard making the time. The last few years have seen me going more consistently.

The blood service also have a really useful web site. It allows you to book appointments and find out how your blood is used. The thing I find most interesting is the “Blood Stocks” page, which gives you up to date information on how much blood is in stock by number of units and more usefully how many days they think that stock will last. As I write this, there are 39,854 units of blood available in the country but only 0.6% (258 units) are in my blood group. Before I go and wrap my self in bublewrap and cotton wool, this will last about 5 days. They don’t have to have your blood group, some groups can take blood from other groups and all of this is explained on their web site.

I encourage you all to go and give blood at your local donor session.

Giving blood costs nothing and one day it may help someone you know. It may even help you. If you are nervous about giving blood feel free to give me a call and if I can I’ll go with you.

A new category – Root Theory/Root Memory/Roots Observations

Decided to add a new category for the bundle of posts half written that I haven’t published yet. This section covers:

My Theories (on life, the universe, and anything else).
My Memories (We are the sum of our experience, and these are things from my past that pop into my mind from time to time).
My Observations (Those little things that I notice during my everyday life – now I’ve got somewhere to note them down)