DoubleClicks.info About Computers for Newbies & Everyone Else

July 18, 2017

Dictation

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:18 am

From a column a few weeks ago regarding speaking to voice activated devices, Microsoft came to mind.  You are in all likelihood aware of Cortana the voice search that comes built into Windows 10 but there is more.

It all started many versions ago in Microsoft Word where you had the ability to speak to Word and it would type what you said.  Well sort of.  You had to first train it to recognize your voice.  I remember testing it and having to read several sample texts to your computer for it to learn.  If memory serves me correctly I had to read paragraph excerpts from Shakespeare, a couple of well-known novels and even a paragraph or two from The Wizard of Oz.  Once that was completed it could clearly understand your speech patterns, accent, etc.

Then you could start it up in Word and start dictating your work.  It would do a poor job nowhere near what it should be.  You would get quite a few errors with grammar, punctuation, misunderstood words, with plurality always a mess.  The last time I checked it, several years ago, it was not very good.

Microsoft recently announced a new foray into the dictation arena which is a free add in that works with Word, Outlook and PowerPoint.  Other than a microphone and speaker on your computer you need a couple of other things.  A minimum of Windows 8.1, Office 2013 and .Net Framework 4.5.0 (.Net will be automatically installed if needed).

You can easily install this add in and get much more information at “Dictate.ms.”  You no longer have to read sample text for “Dictate” to understand you.  It uses data pulled from speech recognition in Cortana to convert speech to text on all Windows 10 devices.  All the millions of Cortana users are contributing in all languages, dialects, accents, etc.

Dictate.ms

Now to my testing for accuracy.  I read several paragraphs from the old Bard and from The Wizard of Oz.  I tested the first time by reading aloud at my normal pace, not over enunciating or adding commas, question marks, etc.  I got an accuracy rating, which includes all of the missed items from years ago, mentioned a few paragraphs earlier, of about 65%.  Again, not fantastic.

The next way I tested was to speak more slowly, clearly and properly, especially when I used the word, “but” which it missed every time it was used in the first test.  This time I got a better score at 87%.  Much better; however, still not what I feel like it should be.  However, I can see usages where it could be very helpful.

If you are not a great typist you could use Dictate to more quickly put the words on the “paper” and then carefully correct it.  Or if you we unable to type it could be useful.  But in my opinion for day-to-day work I do not believe it is up to speed…yet.

I dictated the above paragraph which you can see below and has about 88% accuracy.

“You are not a great typist. You could use dictate more quickly put the words on the paper and then carefully corrected. Or if you are unable to type that could be useful. But in my opinion for day to day work. I do not believe it is up to speed dot, dot, dot yet.”

I could have said, “period” three times and the ellipsis above would have worked.

June 28, 2016

Have You Ever Considered Audiobooks?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 5:38 am

Have you read any good books lately?  I have and there are millions to choose from.  Today I have a recommendation: any book by Harlan Coben if you like a good mystery.  Start with his first, "Tell No One" and you will be hooked (rd.dblclx.com/28Vh6IA).  However, since I write about Tech, enough of the book reviews.

imageI love to read but I am on the road much of the time and it is really difficult to read while driving.  That being said I highly recommend audiobooks.  There are many services out there including a great one called, "Your Public Library," which has many audiobooks, including CDs and other formats.  The library system also is closely linked to Overdrive.com.  Overdrive’s is a global network founded in 1986 and includes more than 27,000 libraries and schools. Go to their site with a valid participating library card (most libraries participate but you can go to the site and see if yours does or ask your librarian) to check out books.  Once there you may check out eBooks or audiobooks for a fixed period of time, just like your library, for free. 

One of the biggest names in audiobooks is, "Audible" found at Audible.com.  These books are not free but if you are an avid reader of current authors try it out.  They have had a deal on it for quite a while with your first book being free then $14.95/month afterward for one book per month.  You can get most authors in a wide range of categories from adventure to science along with occasionally free mp3s.  The quality of these recordings is excellent.

 image

Another site that I endorse is Podiobooks, Podiobooks.com.  All of the audio books here are free, yes absolutely free.  However, I need to give you a couple of caveats. Most likely you will find authors there you have never heard of before.  These writers are just starting out or have written several books and not been published…yet.  Some of the books are excellent and some are so- so.  You can try any you like.

image

You will have to search for them by the types of books you are interested in.  I have found some excellent books at Podiobooks and some that I listened to for 20 minutes and then gave up.  They are all originally done as weekly/monthly podcasts, read by the authors.  Sign up with your email address to be notified each time another "chapter" has been posted to the site.  However, if you are like me and want an entire book right now, search for the "completed" books, download all of the podcasts at once and listen to them at your convenience.

Most of the books there are read by the author which I enjoy.  Again, like the books, some are excellent and some do not have the greatest voices.  So give it a try.  It is well worth the money!

If you have a long commute or a friend who likes to read but can’t see well enough to read any longer, these sites are a great way to go.

November 3, 2015

OK Google, the All Hearing iEar?

Filed under: Columns — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , — Ron @ 4:32 am

There were a couple of interesting electronic add-ons to our world a few years ago.  One called Siri for iPhones/Apple devices and “OK Google” for Google devices.

Google The All Hearing iEar?For my Android phone I simply say, “OK Google” and tell it whatever I am looking for.  If I need help finding a store I say, “OK Google,” adding a slight pause then, “Where is the closest florist?”  It will usually give me a list of florists in my immediate area.

In recent months I have heard about people wondering if Google ever stops listening.  And if not, what is it finding out?  Some think we are being spied on by nefarious eavesdroppers.  Can Google and Apple be gathering everything we say?  Like your morning conversations, your private spoken out loud thoughts, singing in the car on the way to work ad infinitum.

I will say that yes, Google collects a lot of data about you that you may not appreciate; however, listening to your voice all the time…highly unlikely.  It does listen for the beat, tone, intonation for the words, “OK Google” which starts it working.

That being said, what does Google collect about you from your audio commands and questions?  Not only that, but how about your Chrome browsing history, (if you are logged in with your Google account) emails, travel and more.  Sounds a little “big brotherish” does it not?

To check on this information, edit and or stop it all, first log into your Google or Gmail account.  Then go to, “history.google.com” and look around.

On the left side there is a dropdown menu with three short vertical lines for you to click.  There are six areas where Google collects information.  They are, “Web & App Activity,” “Voice & Audio Activity,” “Device Information,” “Location History,” “YouTube Watch History” and “YouTube Search History.”  If you did not realize it, Google purchased YouTube in October of 2006, which is why you see that specific item.

Google Web & App Activity screen

Once you have looked around and either laughed or cringed click on, “Voice & Audio Activity.”  I am sure you have already checked it out but it is fun to listen to yourself speak to Google and read how it may have sometimes been improperly interpreted.

If you want them gone you may delete them by checking them and hitting the Delete button.  You may also head to any of the six areas you want to delete and click the three dots in a vertical column on the upper right and choose “Delete Options.”  From there you can choose either Today, Yesterday or Advanced.  Advanced allows you to choose “All time” to remove all of them.

What if you what to get rid of OK Google’s ability to remember what you say, where you go, or what you have watched on YouTube?  First make sure you have deleted all activity as we discussed above.  Now click the three dots in the upper right for the “Menu,” “Settings,” and “Show More” controls.  You will now be presented with a listing of the six items.  Start flipping the switches for each setting to off (changes the buttons to gray).

The only ones I keep on are Places you go and Information from your devices.  All the others are off for me.  But for you conspiracy theorists out there…could they still be listening?

Six ON/OFF Choices with Ron's two selected

January 29, 2013

Music on the Go

I receive questions every now-and-then about listening to music online.  Questions like whether you can listen on a computer or a phone, free or paid music, rock or classical, etc.

There are many, many streaming music options out there so you can listen to your favorite group or genre of music.  Some of the more popular ones are, "Slacker Radio", "Spotify", "Maestro", Last.fm and the one I like best…Pandora.

I would check each site individually to see the slight differences.  Some are more "social," meaning that they have built-in designs which allow you to more easily share your music and/or playlists with others. They all have free streaming; however, you can get paid versions which give you more options and features.  They also have options for use on smartphones, tablets and of course computers. 

imageI have had a free Pandora account for several years.  You start off by adding a couple of favorite songs or artists, rate a few of the songs you hear and then Pandora will find you "similar" music.  Sometimes the choices are good and sometimes not so good but you can always grade the songs with a thumbs up or down.  Thumbs up will allow the song to play more often; a down vote will remove the song from your Pandora account so you won’t have to hear it again. 

You can then create your own "stations" from your music choices.  I have Country, Christian, Classic Rock and Celtic Music (yes, including the Celtic Women). 

Again, Pandora is my personal favorite but all of the ones I have mentioned are good.  Try a couple and see which one you like best.  You will be able to discover new artists and have the ability to purchase songs if you wish.

Now the question comes up: How can I store my music online if I already own many MP3s?  If you do not want to use streaming since you already have a lot of music you enjoy, how can you listen to them online when you do not have your MP3 player? 

Musical notesThe answer is Google once again.  Google Play/Google Music helps you bring your iTunes library or any music specifically to your Android devices.  There are also applications out there that will allow you to use Google Play with your iPhones, too. 

A side note here.  I prefer to call it Google Music since Google Play is the Android App store name and it gets confusing, so excuse my relabeling.  Also, the site is found at music.google.com and the original name of this feature was Google Music.     

Google Music has a neat feature.  You install it on the computer that has your music and show the application where your music is located.  It then uploads your music to the site over time; lots of time.  I had about 2,500 songs in my library and it took over a day to upload it all to Google Music.  Since you can upload up to 20,000 of your songs to Google for free it could take much longer.

Once you have uploaded your music, it is instantly available at music.google.com on the web and your Android phone or tablet.

You have many options.  Pick a couple and enjoy them whenever you want to hear some good music.  Or new music since most of these sites will give you “unpublished” musicians that you can help discover.

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