Category Archives: Computer

Comparing Dictation from AT2020 Microphone to ipod

I wanted to compare the new Dragon Dictate 5.0 using both the newly acquired AT 2020 compared to just an iPod. I spoke into the AT2020 as I normally would in a quiet room. I then held the iPod from my face and I spoke into it calmly, without any attached microphone. I was quite pleased with the transcription results. I compared the results to the same passage that I typed. I think that I had more errors typing the passage that I actually did have in transcribing the passage, with either technique.

I suspect, the improvement in transcribing is more likely the result of whatever changes in code were made to Dragon Dictate 5. In comparison, Dragon Dictate 4, using the same transcription file from the iPod, had an error rate of 7.1%. So Dragon Dictate 5.0 is truly much more accurate than the previous version and seems much more tolerant of microphone quality. However, the tendency not to show correction windows when appropriate is annoying.

Overall, I think Dragon Dictate five is a better product. I think Nuance was trying to achieve a lot with this version. The application no longer acts as an application but as as a service. It also seems more stable in my machine. Unfortunately, there are times when it does crash. But unlike the previous versions, I seem to be able to use Dragon for several days in a row without having to shut the machine down. In the previous version, the longer the machine stayed on, the more likely Dragon was clinical.I think the programmers also believe that their engine was much better at transcribing than the previous version. While I think this true, I also think the users would’ve been better served by having more choices in the correction window.

Errors from the AT2020

  • possessive one’s was missed
  • two commas were missed but this was user error – I forgot to speak them
  • missed one dash
  • spelt 10th as tent
  • 3 errors/224 words or 1.3 % error

Errors from the iPod alone without a microphone

  • possessive one’s was missed
  • , instead of a dash (operator error ?)
  • that instead of the bad
  • spelt 10th as tent
  • and instead of is a
  • 4 errors/224 or 1.7% error

Dragon Dictate 4 with iPod alone with a microphone (same transcription file)

  • One’s success
  • of instead of are
  • deeply instead of daily
  • convenient instead of good in you
  • Completely missed the last sentence: 12 words
  • 16/224 or 7.1 %

Life as a Dictater… or Getting Dictation to Work

I have been struggling with Dragon for Mac for a few years.I was ready to quit Dragon after my initial frustration. I could not get the thing to work and I was mad after having payed over $100 for the software. But listening to the sound files I found that the Apple Router created interference with the Dragon headset. Placing the router further away from the computer saved my sanity. Dictation worked well enough but not enough that I would trust it. Besides, I “thought” with my keyboard.

At some point the headset that came with my Dragon software stop working. I upgraded to a Plantronics audio 628 exterior USB headset. It worked fairly well for a number of years. It was better than the original headset that came with Dragon and it was less cheaply made. But transcription never worked as smoothly as I thought it could. Afterc listening to the Mac power users, I was sure I could to better. One of the hosts , David Sparks had dictated serveral books. What was he doing that I was not .

I finally read the book by Monica Leonelle: “Dictate your book”. But I never quite believed it. I always thought that my Plantronics headset did a good job in terms of rendering sound. Then I listened to an interview Monica Leonelle on the Creative Pen Podcast . That gave me the impetus to replace the headset with an AT 2020 condenser microphone.

It has made an incredible difference in how smoothly the dictation occurs. My words seem to flow much faster and smoother. I no longer have to distrust my software quite as much. The equipment that I used:

The next mental hurdle is getting over the ingrained habit of thinking with the keyboard.

Loss of function

It seems that Circus Ponies Notebook is out of business.Aperture, which I find suits my needs perfectly well, is not supported in El Captain. Lightroom, which is its nearest competitor has a horrible user interface and I am sure will eventually go to a subscription only model just like every other Adobe product. YNAB 5 is going for a subscription model. Your personal financial data does not belong in the cloud. The new version of Dragon Dictate 5 is less than spectacular. It’s better than when it first came out, but it offers fewer choices for correcting mistakes. Since I use a lot of non-English names, it makes it much harder to do any kind of personal writing. Nuance is also pushing Dragon Dictate 5. I received more phone calls trying to sell this edition than before; this is even after I bought Dragon Dictate 5. They must not be liking the backlash of users that are displeased with their new version. I wonder how long it will be before they decide to go to a subscription model as well.The more time that passes, the less functional my software becomes and all I want to do is maintain what I have.

I almost want to freeze this Mac in time. Disconnected from Internet and keep the functionality that I have. Of course I need the Internet for some of the functionality. George R.R. Martin wrote “The Game of Thrones” in Wordstar. Perhaps, he had the right idea. Maybe keeping things old-school and text based is a better way to go. I know I won’t go this route and I say these things out of frustration and anger. Whether this is sad and depressing but perfectly good tools are cast away. Newer and supposedly better tools have no added functionality and are just a disguised way of getting more money in the pockets of companies.

Change the CAPSLOCK to “Hyper” on press and ESCAPE on Tap

Please see:

http://brettterpstra.com/2012/12/08/a-useful-caps-lock-key/

for the original code and explanation of how to change the CAPSLOCK to “Hyer” on hold and  ESCAPE. The names of the tools have changed to Seil(https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/seil.html.en) and Karbiner(https://pqrs.org/osx/karabiner/index.html.en).

To keep the CAPSLOCK  function:

http://brettterpstra.com/2015/12/18/a-hyper-key-that-can-still-yell/

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I am not a Coder – Why Would I Learn Vim?

I have been trying to learn Vim. Why would I want to learn the 20-year-old editor? What are the deficiencies of modern editors that make me want to choose something so ancient ? Efficiency of movement. Vim was created before the mouse, so it has much more efficient cursor movement and text manipulation shortcuts. Vim’s commands are snippets of text that have meaning, grammar and structure .The commands are “composable” . This means that you can figure commands out based on a logical structure without having to memorize arbitrary keyboard combinations or codes.It is almost like lego for editing.

Learning Vim commands is not easy.But, small snippets of text with a consistent grammar are easier to remember than abstract keyboard shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts are abstract because they have no meaning by themselves. Mac Os X keyboard shortcuts for cursor movement are not as powerful as Vim movement commands. There is no way to move or manipulate sentences as a unit. You can jump by words and paragraphs but not sentences. There are Emacs keybindings, but they require holding down the CNTR key. I wanted to avoid having to press multiple keys. This is hard on the fingers and not at all pleasant when trying to write with a DVORAK keyboard. But, why all this keyboard magic, what is wrong with the mouse?

The mouse is easy to use. It does not require much training, but it requires more precision. Carefully having to select between words is easy enough but it gets tedious. I seem to work slower with a mouse when editing text. I do not know if this is an illusion or not. But, I just don’t like the strain of switching between the mouse and the keyboard. Is this more efficient than taking the time to remember keyboard shortcuts ? I think once a shortcut is memorized, it is much easier and faster to stick to the keyboard rather than reach for the mouse.

There is no easy way of integrating Mac Os X terminal Vim and the system clipboard. Of course the file system is inaccessible with anything but the CLI. There are concerns about formatting which I still haven’t quite figured out yet(extra tabs and spaces appearing). I will also hit some mysterious combination of letters and the text rearranges or disappears.I wonder if the time I’m spending learning Vim is not better spent actually writing? Since using MacVim instead of terminal Vim, my concerns about integrating the editor into the Mac Os X are unfounded and I get to use Mac Os X keyboard shortcuts (the very thing that I said I wanted to avoid -turns out I don’t want to avoid them that much, but would prefer not to have to use keyboard cursor movements.)

I am enjoying the experience of editing in Vim. But, I’m anything but efficient.This is more a matter of learning and experience, but is the payoff of learning this system worth the effort? Perhaps, I would be even more efficient if I just spend more time writing rather than having to fiddle with a 20-year-old editor. But, editing with Vim is almost like a game; what magic combination of codes do I need to make my change?

Comparing Omnioutliner and Circus Ponies Notebook

Why write an Outline

I wrote an outline, once, in high school, when computers were big and screens were green. I did not understand the purpose of it and the numbering conventions seemed arcane. I was so confused that, I wrote the outline after I had written the paper, completely defeating its purpose. Writing down a proposed structure seemed a waste of time because a paper outline is not malleable. An outline is an exploration of structure and exploration requires revision.

What I did not understand at the time was the efficiency of writing an outline. Nothing slows down writing than not know where the piece is going. It is easier and faster to create the structure and flow of a document and then write what you think you need.

The use writing as a sole means of a discovery takes a long time and is incomplete. mind mapping is a better tool 1 for discovering the links and in your topic. Outlines are a means to structure those connections.

Outlines are guides but they should not necessarily restrict the writing. The outline is only a means of exploration and clarification; deviation and modification are expected and encouraged.

What Software is available

There are some interesting online outlining applications:

  1. Ginko – a horizontal outliner
  2. Fargo 
  3. Mind Meister

But, since I like the ability to be work offline, my choices for Mac Os X are:

Dr.Drang has given an overview of most of these outliners. It is also worth reading Arno’s Tech Tools  for more analysis.

Folding text a markdown outliner. There some ingenious bit of programming to accomplish outlines in plain text. It is the fastest way of getting from an outline to a markdown document. Unfortunately development seems to have stopped for Folding Text.

The Tree offers some interesting possibilities as a horizontal outliner – but I have a difficult time wrapping my head around the concept. Horizontal outlines provide a view of the structure and content of the document in a compressed format. Not Nursed Ratchetoffers an interesting modification to Tree to compose markdown documents.

Opal is solid, straightforward and handles OPML well – it is just a little limiting and has some obscure shortcuts. Neo is crazy powerful,is incredibly obscure and uses non-standard shortcuts.

Neo is an extremely powerful, advanced and capable outliner. Unfortunately, it is obtuse, and uses non standard keybindings and conventions.

I have been using Circus Ponies Notebook for a few years and it has worked well, but I wanted to give Omnioutliner 4 another try.

Comparing Omnioutliner 4 and Circus Ponies Notebook

Cost

Omnioutliner comes in two versions: Standard ($50) and Pro ($100). The biggest difference is the two is AppleScript. The Pro version has row to row linking.

Circus Ponies Notebook cost $49.95.

Advanced Outlining

Omnioutliner 4 Pro allows for hyperlinking within a document. Circus Ponies Notebook allows for linking within an outlines and between outlines within a document.

Both programs support hoisting but not cloning.

Omnioutliner allows for multiple columns. Circus Ponies Notebook allows for keywords to be placed outside of a row.

Styling

Text can be styled according to outline level in both programs. However, Omnioutliner makes the process much easier as style choices are readily available in the sidebar. These styles can be transferred from document to document. Different “Themes” can be applied on the fly to a document. Omnioutliner can make an outline look good. Unfortunately, only the Pro version comes with the option of turning off row handles.

Circus Ponies Notebook allows for styling as well but it requires a deep dive into preferences. Styling options are not as complete. Styles can not be transferred to another outline. This means you would have to start with a blank notebook without the styles that you wanted for a given project or recreate them for each new project. However, Circus Ponies Notebook does allow you to turn off row handles if you want without having to pay for the “pro” version.

Features outside of outlining

Annotations

Circus Ponies Notebook allows:
+ diagramming
+ stickies
+ Flags
+ Due dates/creation dates
+ Highlighting
These annotations with the exception of highlighting and dates occurs at the level of the page and not the cell.

Metadata

Circus Ponies Notebook allows for keywords to be added in the column for any given cell. Omnioutliner allows for multiple columns – a column could easily hold a keyword. Circus Ponies Notebook can highlight words in cell. Omnioutliner applies styles to selected text. However, Circus Ponies Notebook has the multidex. The multidex is a collection of indexed data :
+ index words
+ keywords
+ highlights
+ dates
+ attachments
+ Superfind – multiple user defined search criteria

For creating multiple connected outlines, Circus Ponies Notebook has far more profound organizing capabilities.

Audio

Both programs support attachments, and audio recordings but Circus Ponies Notebook does a better job of tracking what you type with what is being said. This means you can go back to a specific part of the recording by clicking on the appropriate text. Omnioutliner just pastes the recording in one spot, which is really not that useful.

Keyboard Shortcuts

I prefer Omnioutliner keyboard shortcuts for expanding and collapsing a line/outline. Omnioutliner is able to collapse rows and sections without obscure shortcuts. Circus Ponies Notebook has more multiple key keyboard shortcuts which do not work as seamlessly.

This may seem like a trivial difference, but I like to maintain flow when I am writing. I would prefer not having to reach for the mouse if I do not need to or think about what keyboard shortcut I need.

Systems

Circus Ponies Notebook allows for multiple outlines in one document. These outlines are easily accessible using the notebook metaphor as well as “Superfind” and an “Multidex”, indexing text, keywords etc…

iPad version

Both Omnioutliner($30) and Circus Ponies Notebook(4.99 – was $30) come with iPad versions. Circus Ponies Notebook’s iPad version works wells as a reader for documents- it is fast and renders attached PDFs well. However, the Omnioutliner iPad version works better for creating or modifying outlines.

Omnioutliner allows for more intuitive editing that does not disrupt the flow of thoughts. Circus Ponies Notebook requires two taps before being able to write. That is one annoying tap too many.

Both iPad version handle attaching media poorly. I managed to crash the iPad while trying to include a PDF in a cell of both Circus Ponies Notebook and Omnioutliner.

Circus Ponies Notebook does a better job of rendering the PDF. Circus Ponies Notebook simply opens the PDF for reading. Omnioutliner requires that the PDF be opened in Goodreader or other PDF reader. I like to use the iOS version of Circus Ponies Notebook as a repository for PDFs and travel notes when I am traveling. Omnioutliner for iOS makes reading PDFs in the outline tedious.

Conclusion

Both programs are excellent for creating outlines. I find Omnioutliner more intuitive because of better keyboard shortcuts for outline navigation and application of styles. Outlines just look better in Omnioutliner.

But, Circus Ponies Notebook has far better tools for organizing and finding information. It is meant as a repository for multiple related outlines of information. The Multidex and Superfind are robust methods of finding information buried in outlines. It is considerably cheaper than Omnioutliner Pro and has many comparable features. But, it is harder for me to create outlines because of the annoying keyboard shortcuts (can be remedied with Keyboard Maestro) and the difficulty of changing styles.

I find that I am using Omnioutliner more for outlines where I need to create the structure and Circus Ponies Notebook for outlines where I want a repository of information that is immediately available or for organizing PDFs for travel.


  1. As an aside, for the exploration of a topic, mind mapping is much more useful than outlining. Without knowing your content, structure is impossible and trying to force structure on while exploring a topic is to push the mind opposite directions.

    David Sparks has talked about how he uses mind mapping to help him write books.

    http://macsparky.com/blog/2013/11/mindnode-for-ios-version-3
    http://www.macpowerusers.com/2012/04/23/mpu-082-cooking-ideas/ 

Reverse Printing of Scan Snap files on Samsung 3051ND printer

My Samsung 3051ND printer will print the second page of a scanned PDF (from Scansnap 1300) in reverse. This problem seemed to resolve it self with Lion and Mountain Lion but it seems to be back with Mavericks.  I found the solution here – https://discussions.apple.com/thread/2622531. The printer is no longer  reversing the pages, after changing the color matching preferences in Preview.

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Dragon Dictate 4 is fast.

Nuance has released Dragon Dictate 4. I am pleased with this update, despite my misgivings. The speech recognition is much faster than it has been in the past. I am not left wondering if what I’m going to say will be translated or not. The last two updates of Dragon Dictate were good but just not spectacular. So, when I was downloading Dragon Dictate 4 I found myself holding my breath.

I was wondering if this things could even work. Dragon Dictate has never been my favorite programs to use. I had incredible hard time initially setting it up, because my AirPort extreme caused interference with the USB headset. This was a program that I had a lot of hangups and shutdowns. With each new version, there have been some incremental improvements. But, the speed of translation has always left me wanting.

However, with this new version, the dream of a near instantaneous voice-recognition has been almost realized. Now, of course there are some problems with recognition of a non-English words. This particular version of Dragon also seems to hang up on its training window. Also although I can activate the program, I cannot seem to get it registered. But, this is the best version yet. I can use his program in real time, without having to wait for a translation. I did try the transcription feature, but that failed miserably. I suspect this has more to do with the recording rather than the technical ability of the program but I would have to explore this feature further.

Markdown for General Writing

Author, David Hewson has written a post about using Markdownfor general writing.


Definitions

The title of the post is “Markdown: For general writing I really don’t get it”. But, Hewson later qualifies this.

OK. Stop the shrieking. I’m not saying that Markdown is, unlike IA Writer Pro, rubbish. It’s actually a very capable invention. Just one that’s not made to be used for creative writing.

In spite of the inflammatory title and prose, I have to agree in part with this sentiment. Markdown might not have much benefit for the purely creative writer(Fountain is another story though). Writing in plain text will not make you more creative than writing in rich text.

But, to me general writing encompasses more than creative writing. When I write I want to be able to define headings, bullet points, lists and footnotes quickly.

Hewson misses the point by disparaging the time it takes to type markup for bold and italics…

Formatting

Most Markdown editors do actually format text too. So you get the italic styling and the marks as well. Plus, if you type out the marks instead of using keyboard shortcuts, you do more work for some — four keystrokes for bold and six for bold italic, against two and four keyboard combinations. And if you’re using keyboard combinations… what’s the difference anyway? You might as well be in a real text editor such as Scrivener or Word.

Why is it better to write in Markdown than using the standard formatting shortcuts we’ve all learned over the years? No really… why?

If all I wanted to do was bold and italics , Markdown would be overkill. This is where a markup language outshines WYSIWYG. I can define these things much quicker with markup rather than a laborious trip to the menu bar to find some obscure item to accomplish the task.

I suppose I would eventually learn the keyboard shortcuts for that particular editor to learn footnotes etc… but with markdown, I can use my knowledge in any text editor without having to worry about program specific keyboard shortcuts. I can also write using my iPad without having to worry about syncing issues or being tied once again to one specific editor.

Cool factor

The trouble is fashion — and nothing else — has now dictated that it’s cool to use Markdown as a general word processor too. That stripping out conventional text formatting — the kind you see in uncool but universal apps such as Microsoft Word — somehow unlocks the creative process by removing the supposed distraction of WYSIWYG.

I do not use markdown because it it “cool”. I use it for it speed, consistency and ubiquity. For me this means the ability to use multiple editors for the same text. Markup is faster that a trip to the menu bar and if there is a problem with formatting, I can see where things have gone wrong and correct them as opposed to madly deleting unseen returns and hoping for the best.

Rich Text

Books are read in rich text — and for most of us that’s surely how they’re best written.
And when you come to deliver your manuscript to an agent or a publisher they will, I promise, shriek if you go all geek on them and say you’d like to deliver it in any other format than Word. So if you write in Markdown you have to export it to rich text anyway.

Sometimes, I like to write in one font and print in another. Some fonts just look better on the screen. Markdown makes the option available. To be fair so do good text editors like Scrivener.

I have never submitted anything to a publisher, but markdown to rich text conversion very easy, using any competent markdown editor. In addition you have the option of exporting to Latex, Word, ePub, Open Office etc…

Writing in plain text will not improve your creativity. But, I think that assuming

Markdown was never meant as a replacement for an industrial strength word processor. It’s a superb minimal markup language for people dealing in computer code or writing for the web

is too narrow a focus. Markdown has great application for general writing. I suspect that most people do not need the bloat (power?) of MS word for their day to day writing.

I suspect I am on the losing end of the argument because WYSIWYG makes things look like typing on paper. There is more of a learning curve initially with Markdown, but what you have to learn is some basic syntax. The biggest stumbling block is wrapping your head around markup as opposed to WYSIWYG.

I can write things faster in markdown than in a WYSIWYG editor because I do not have to rely on style to define headings, bullet points or footnotes. The words I type are potentially readable for generations because they are in plain text( I am not dependent on MS Word maintaining backward compatibility). If I write in markdown, I am not restricted to an editor, device or operating system and I do not have compatibility issues.

Markdown has application outside of writing for the web in spite of what Hewson contends. If you are interested some great applications that are useful are:

Understanding iOS URL Schemes – Opening a specific file in Notesy using Drafts

I have been trying to do some ios automation using Drafts, Lanuch Centre Pro, and Notesy. I have been failing miserably because I have no idea of the format for the whole URL Schemes. Yea, my though was – schemes – that is exactly what it is; I paid good money to do exactly nothing.

I wanted to create an action that would allow me a append text to a specific text file in my Notational Velocity Database. My normal procedure would be to load Notesy, find the note and then type my amazing, enlightened texts. Because when insipiraton strikes, I need to be ready (My other problem is finding inspiration – but in case I do find it I want to be ready).

I have been amazed at the things people automate with ios:

But, I feel that I am on the outside looking in and having no way to join the secret club. Apple does have some documentation on Url Schemes but they make no sense to a non-programmer. This site has a seachable index for Url Schemes. But, once again I am missing some fundemental information.

So I decided to play around to try and create my own url scheme.

Format

The devolopers of Notesy have laid out the available url schemes.


' notesy://x-callback-url/[action]?[x-callback parameters]&[action parameters]'


What the heck does this mean ? No idea but I played with Lanch Centre Pro, which allows you construct a URl scheme bit by bit. Unfortunately, with Drafts, you have to know what you are doing to start with – clearly not the case with me.

notesy://x-callback-url/append?path=Notational%20Data&name=blog&text=[[draft]]

This was the URL scheme I created after much playing around.

notesy://x-callback-url/

notesy://'

Both will open a blank file in the root directory. This was a good start. But, I wanted to open a specific file on Dropbox in my Notational Data folder, called "blog".

Actions

Notesy allows for a few actions:

  • open an existing note (use open action)
  • open to a folder (use open action)
  • send contents of note to another application (use open action with x-success parameter)
  • copy contents of note to the clipboard (use open action)
  • create a new note (use append action)
  • append text to an existing note (use append action)
  • open Notesy to its previous state (use restore action)
  • convert Markdown text to HTML (use render-markdown action)
  • send rendered Markdown to another application (use render-markdown action with x-success parameter)
  • have Notesy open another application after using the append, render-markdown, or open actions

The important actions were:

Open

Append

Since I wanted to add to a file, I chose append. Why is there a question mark after it – don't know, but seems important.

Path

The path describes the location of the file. In iOS, each application is an island. So, it does not matter that the file is on dropbox, Notesy calls it up. If I were accessing a file on the root directory, I would not need a path. But, the file in is the folder : Notational Data.

I found this hard, to figure out, but just typing Notational Data into Launch Centre Pro, the app provided me with the URL. I think this is some really basic information that everybody on the planet knows, except me. Turns out that

path=Notational%20Data

you need to add %20 for spaces in the folder name. If I needed to go deeper in a folder structure:

notesy://x-callback-url/open?path=dir1%2Fdir2

Text

Finally, I wanted to add my enlightened text:

the &text= tells Notesy what text to place in the file . If it is left blank, Notesy will append the clipboard text.

Drafts allows you to add specific things to the file:

  • [[draft]] the body of the amazing text you composed
  • [[title]] the title of this stupendous body of work; this is the first line
  • [[text]] everything except the first line

I hope this article was uselful. There are some amazing tutorials out there, describing some detailed workflows. But, my eye glaze over, because I am lacking in the fundamentals. I feel this way every time I read some detailed workflows at Mac Stories. Sometimes, it is good just to cover the basics and hope not too many people were bored.