Tuesday, December 18th, 2012 at 9:25 AM
When I had thumb surgery in 2008, I invested in voice recognition software to try to get work done. I spent most of the time fighting and correcting the Dragon Naturally Speaking. The one good thing that came out of the maddening experience was this funny speech-to-text software post.
Despite having little hope in software to help me while I recover from arm surgery, I figure it wouldn’t hurt to try the software that came with Windows 7. At least, I wasn’t throwing money away like I did with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Folks said that speech recognition apps had improved in the last few years.
Well, not in my case.
I completed the training tutorial and had a few shouting matches. My husband must’ve thought I went bonkers when he heard me yelling at the laptop.
I spoke slowly and put on my best speech forward. The crossed out text is what the software thinks I said. What I actually said appears in [brackets]. Here are the sound files of my dictating this letter: [original .wma] [converted .mp3]. Do I really sound like that?
Dear Voice Recognition Software, [During world recognition that when]
Next three [Let’s see] how you do. Are you any better than one can not to write [Dragon Naturally] Speaking brown to the than eight [from 2008]? What are you dress adding [Or are you just as] temperamental?
Oon Caplan on my mother [I’m having ulnar nerve] (Aside: would you believe my maiden name is Kaplan?) decompression star Julie on [surgery] on my right arm on Tuesday, in king, to do a one to [December 18, 2012]. I don’t know how number that were the people were [long it’ll be before] I can type halfway do badly the end of period. [decently with two hands].
away from [grateful] that I have horrendous and a burned rest am a newcomer accident [two hands and a voice even though it’s not the clearest one]. Thank you for less than 10 listening.
I spent another 10 minutes trying to spell my name. “R” gave me the biggest fit. I knew it was my weakest letter, so I tried telling it “R and in rabbit. R as in read” It interpreted that as a, i, and y. Seriously — Navarro? Meryl? Na-va-ro? Meh-ril? Do they sound anything alike?
“Two” from “two hands” changed the paragraph heading to header 2: big, bold, light blue. It was a 10-minute battle of wills trying to fix the paragraph formatting and telling the app I wanted to write “two.”
I’ll be getting an upgraded smartphone soon with voice recognition capabilities. Wanna bet that Siri and I won’t get along?
What’s your experience with voice recognition software?
Friday, August 5th, 2011 at 5:05 PM
I don’t think the weather realizes this as we continue breaking all kinds of records with this heat wave. Uh oh! Now I’ve got that “Heat Wave” song playing in my head. Both versions. Marilyn Monroe and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. It’s too hot for a picture. It’ll just fall off the page or pop more popcorn.
This one is brief. Didn’t sleep well and you know how I get when I don’t sleep enough. It’s my fault that I didn’t get to bed on time. I became absorbed in some work I needed to do and time escaped me.
For fun because we’re allowed…
Tuesday, April 26th, 2011 at 2:57 PM
Being your own tech support person speeds up fixing the problem. While you’re not the expert in whatever fails to work the way you expect it, many companies have set up self-help systems anyway or they’ll ask if you did this ‘n that. So trying to solve the problem — or narrow it — can save you time as you’ll have the answers to standard tech support questions.
Photo from sxc.hu user laser
Tech support often follows a script. You contact them to report a problem. “Is it plugged in?” “Is it turned on?” They’ll continue down the list from the simple to the complex depending on your answers. Think of it like a flow chart: if yes, go this way. If no, go that way.
These steps are not in a specific order as different problems call for different approaches. The 10 steps will solve the most common problems.
- Reboot or shut down/turn back on. This works for almost every computer, accessory, mobile device and other electronics. When my digital video recorder (DVR) freezes or acts weird, I shut it down and turn it back on. This solves the DVR’s problem 99.99 percent of the time. We had to call the service provider once or twice in all these years. With laptops and PCs, try to shut down the computer before rebooting. Sometimes it can take a long time to shut down. Go do something else for a while and if the computer looks frozen, then turn it off. Wait a few minutes before turning it back on. I had a monitor acting weird (the other was fine) and asked my husband about it. He told me to turn it off and back on. (I can’t believe I didn’t even think of this.) It worked. I had never encountered this problem and sometimes we overlook the obvious.
- Run and update your anti-virus (daily) and anti-spyware software (weekly). I know plenty of successful professionals who don’t have their anti-virus applications automatically checking for updates on a regular schedule (more than once a day). Sometimes a situation requires turning off the anti-virus app and people forget to turn it back on. They forgot they turned off the software and never turned it back on. Most standard anti-virus apps run a full-system scan at least once a week. Make sure yours does.
- Check cables and switches. The cable on my printer sometimes falls out. (The cable is barely long enough.) So first thing I do when printer doesn’t turn on — check that cable. My son has a laptop that only works if plugged in because the battery is dead and not worth replacing. He said the laptop wasn’t working. It was the surge protector where he had it plugged that was turned off.
- Go to manufacturer and developer websites. Manufacturer and developer websites often have forums, Q&As, support pages, knowledgebases and documentation with common problems and their solutions.
- Search the problem. Some of us forget that people experience the same problems and post them somewhere outside of the developer or manufacturer website. Look at this post I did in 2008 that solves the problem of the mouse not working in Microsoft Word. Notice the latest comment is a couple of months old. This is a three-year-old post. It’s tempting to ask a blogger, writer or expert for help. They won’t all respond or take the time to help because they get many requests like yours. They’re not trying to be rude, but they have jobs to do plus they are thinking “Let me Google that for you.” Be specific as possible in your search by entering error messages (if you get one) and the name of the application. Copy the error message or take a screen shot.
- Know how to save, export and import files in different formats. Many people emailed me when Office 2007 came out because they couldn’t open the .docx, .xlsx and .pptx files. Two solutions: Have the sender save these files as .doc, xls and ppt, and download the free Office file converter from Microsoft. Make “File > Save as” your friend. Thankfully, we’re seeing more standard formats like CSV files and ical, which you can import into Outlook, Gmail, Apple Address Book and more. Also find a resource (search for them — many free ones out there) that lets you save files into Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format because the reader is free and everyone can open and view them.
- Narrow down the causes. A new tablet kept posting a notification that the new microSD card may be corrupted. I looked for a microSD card reader so I could test it out to rule out the possibility it was a bad card. Two of my readers were broken! Luckily, I found one and it confirmed the microSD card worked. I also verified there were no files on it. If it had files, I would transfer them somewhere else for safekeeping before reformatting the card. Problem solved. No more notifications.
- Uninstall and reinstall. After trying everything, remove and reinstall the app unless it’s something big like an operating system. First, back up your data files to a safe place.
- Test it on another computer or app. A client’s website looked weird in Firefox. Rather than panicking thinking the client’s website had a serious problem, I checked the website in other browsers and it showed up fine. The problem was a small one (it would’ve been a biggie had it happened on all browsers).
- Backup and sync all data. I have a stand-alone external drive that holds a backup of all my computer data AND I also backup to a cloud service. The cost of various backup solutions have gotten cheaper so there’s no excuse for not having a backup. Remember to backup your devices, too.
Solving the problem on your own saves time, avoids sugary sweet scripts thanking you for being a valued customers and how they want to help you or waiting for someone to respond to your call or email. Even if you can’t find the answer, you have a list of steps you’ve taken and can get through the script faster.
What tech support tricks do you have?
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Many entrepreneurs and small business owners are natural born sales people whose excitement knows no bounds when it comes to closing deals, building strategies and devising marketing campaigns. But what about … accounting? It may feel like drudgery, but managing the business side of a business is absolutely crucial if that business is going to blossom.
Technology allows us to dispense with pencil and paper, dispose of double data entry, empty overstuffed file cabinets and do away with long nights chained to the office desk checking and double-checking rows and columns of figures. One of the more popular tools is QuickBooks from Intuit, an accounting software program. The program streamlines the accounting process.
Here, we’ll explore five ways to make the most out of QuickBooks.
1. Choose the Right QuickBooks Product
Venturing into QuickBooks requires reviewing your unique needs and studying the program’s offerings so you don’t pay for more than you need. You’ve probably noticed QuickBooks offers several options:
- QuickBooks Online provides basic invoice creation, sales tracking, data backup and support. It comes with a 30-day free trial.
- QuickBooks Premier contains industry-specific reports and tools tailored to a specific business type for more fine-grain control, in addition to forecasting and planning tools.
- QuickBooks Pro targets businesses that are up and running that don’t need as much tailoring or features as those in Premier.
- QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions is the most advanced plan. This includes expanded user controls, enhanced customized reporting and customer snapshot features that lets you view customers’ purchase history and outstanding balances.
So, which plan do you need? Here are a few important factors to consider before you buy:
- How much is feasible for your current budget?
- Are you working on a PC or a Mac?
- Will there be multiple users or one user?
- Do you need to track multiple locations?
- Do you need a better way to track employee time?
- Will you be using the software for payroll purposes?
- Are you interested in detailed analysis of sales and profits?
2. Customize QuickBooks
After narrowing down your QuickBooks selection, you’ll discover a wide range of customization options. The latest version of QuickBooks Premier, for example, has features designed for specific types of organizations, including general business, contractors, retail, manufacturing and wholesale, and even nonprofit.
You must also consider who will be using the software on a daily basis. Other employees may not need access to certain information or controls, so you can customize your settings to give other users more or less power. Keep in mind that you might need to train people to use the software.
Other custom options include interface layout, designs and colors, which not only affect the basic look and presentation, but also provide better organization and visual reminders. Setting up favorites, to-do notes and alerts can keep you on-task every day.
3. Integrate Your Accounting Software and Payment Processes
One of the major benefits of QuickBooks software is the ability to connect the program with other business processes, allowing for a one-source solution that can save you time, money and hair-pulling. Synchronizing your payment and accounting processes can eliminates double data entry and provides accurate, immediate reports.
With today’s customers using the Internet to shop, pay bills and place orders, online payment processing capabilities from companies like BluePay help expand sales and improve profits. With QuickBooks, you can integrate your accounting processes with major online shopping carts, so that you have the data you need to track online purchases, invoices and other customer details without having to manually enter the information.
4. Protect Your Business Assets
No business is 100 percent safe from fraud. However, taking the proper precautions and securing your assets as much as possible can cut your risk. Fraud occurs in many different ways, from electronic credit card theft to payroll theft. Unfortunately, small businesses are often susceptible to fraudulent activity, lacking the extra funds required for advanced security plans, or not having enough money to hire more qualified, trustworthy employees.
Security is crucial when using accounting programs that give access to business information to multiple users. As covered in Customization, it’s important to edit your privacy and admin settings to limit user control. Don’t give your employees more access than they need, no matter how nice they are.
Use QuickBooks’ ability to track employee hours and ensure your workers are making the most of their time. You can also use QuickBooks to track employee discounts, minimizing the risk of abused privileges.
Set up separate logins and passwords for each QuickBooks user, and make sure the admin password remains safe. While having all of your information in one place is useful, it also requires extra security precautions. Don’t let fraud be as easy as clicking a button.
5. Take Advantage of Educational Tools and Support
With all the different features, options, tools, reports, passwords –- it looks like QuickBooks complicates accounting rather than simplifies it. It feels overwhelming, but just take it one step at a time and it’ll pay off. Although you won’t learn everything at once, just one new discovery of a function can change the way you do business. Continue to grow from there, and take advantage of the tools and support systems that you can find on the Internet and Intuit’s website.
QuickBooks tutorials can walk you through the entire process so that you can go at it on your own. QuickBooks has training sessions that connect you with experts for consulting services and instructor-led classes. Certification programs are available if you’re already a QuickBooks pro and you want to deepen your knowledge while demonstrating your expertise to clients and employers. Online support or advanced support plans give you access to the resources you need if an issue ever arises, so that you can reduce downtime and keep your business up and running.
With the right QuickBooks product, customization and training, you can gain a tighter grip on all of your financial and accounting processes and greater control over your business, no matter your needs. With your finances in order, you can focus your efforts on the core of your business for growth and success.
About the Author: Jacqui MacKenzie is a writer for Straight North, a Chicago Internet marketing agency that works with BluePay, a company offering credit card processing products. To learn more about payment processing industry, follow BluePay on Twitter.
Copyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 Meryl Evans
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 at 9:18 AM
The previous post has a quick and dirty list of the applications I use most often in my writing business. Some apps may perplex you or you’d like to know more about how I use them. This provides the magnifying glass edition so you can decide if you’d like to look into them.
I used to rely on just Firefox with the occasional use of Internet Explorer because some applications didn’t work right in Firefox. Now I use Google Chrome almost as much as Firefox. Sometimes I open Opera — I love its look, feel and speed. Firefox hangs and slows down often, but it has the best and most useful plug-ins. Jump to Firefox add-ons to see my faves.
Bookkeeping and Invoicing
QuickBooks: Had I started my business within the last couple of years, I might not be using QuickBooks. It’s the only software that almost beat me in the battle of gal vs. app; eventually I got the hang of it. It may be a good thing because I’ve used a popular web-based invoicing application from the client point of view. It would not let me pay the 50 percent payment due at the start of a project. Sure, the vendor could’ve sent me two invoices: one for the first payment and one for the final payment, but it didn’t make sense to do that as it’s all one project.
I appreciate keeping my finances and invoices on my computer rather than in the cloud (web-based). I can’t access the app if I’m away from my home. However, when I’m away — I don’t do invoicing. If I traveled frequently or for longer periods, then a web-based app makes sense.
Microsoft Office: No matter how you feel about Microsoft, Word has everything writers need. I’ve tried web-based apps, which made me feel constrained. Favorite features: Counts (word, character, etc.), Review (tracking), Comments and Thesaurus. Excel keeps track of data or create a spreadsheet of information for a project or client.
Notetab: Cleans content and frees it from the invisible and bloated code that apps like Word add to it. If you copy and paste Word content into a blog post, it often brings a lot of useless and wasteful code with it. Notetab sheds it all.
Gmail: Thanks to Gmail, I stopped micromanaging my inbox.
Thunderbird: Friendly, easy, smooth and simple. My Fave Thunderbird add-ons.
Google Talk: Instant messenger apps used to be a regular part of my toolbox, but then some people abused it to talk to me about nothing and it disrupted my work. However, I needed a way to stay in touch with family and Google Talk allows me to be invisible yet able to connect with my spouse. We also use it on our BlackBerrys instead of SMS. No offense if you’re one of the people I’ve chatted with IM. No one can see what I am doing, so no one is at fault.
Marketing and Connecting
Blogging: I have both WordPress and MovableType installed. All of meryl.net uses WordPress except for Bionic Ear, which uses MovableType. Writers don’t all need to have a blog. If you interact regularly on social networks and visit other people’s blogs while leaving meaningful comments, you’ll be fine without your own blog. It’s still important to have your own web site rather than relying on social network profile to be your web page. Visiting other people’s blogs takes precedence over writing in my own as I want to hear what they have to say and respond to that.
Social networks: This includes blogs, Twitter, Twitter Search, Facebook, LinkedIn and FriendFeed. I’ve set up my accounts to feed into each other so they stay fresh without requiring my visiting each site daily. You don’t have to do cold calling to make it as a full-time writer. I do zero cold calling and instead take the Quiet Marketing approach. Few Twitter notification apps have proven to remain consistent about sending you an email letting you know when someone mentions your name or brand. Twitter Search is the best option for accurate results.
Tweetchat: This one is my app of choice for joining Twitter chats. Video on how to use Tweetchat.
Tweetdeck: Organize and manage my Twitter accounts and groups. Has some non-intuitive features that I handle on Twitter.com instead.
Personal Information Manager aka Calendar, Contacts, Tasks and Memos
In the past, I needed to have my personal information manager (PIM) data with me and carried my Palm device everywhere along with my cell phone. When I upgraded to a BlackBerry, a superior phone to my previous, I decided it was time to let go of the Palm. Besides, I interact more with the PIM on my computer than I do on a handheld.
So the ability to update the PIM on a computer outweighed the need to update it on a device. That said, I needed to sync my data with the BlackBerry. I don’t like the BlackBerry’s PIM apps because they take too many steps and have too many features. It took me seconds to add a new item on the Palm yet minutes on the BlackBerry.
I still use Palm Desktop. It loads fast. It has just the right features without overkill — although it could stand a few more features. Originally, I synced the Palm with Outlook and let Outlook update the BlackBerry.
Now I’ve taken Outlook out of the equation thanks to CompanionLink‘s Google Sync. It syncs all four Palm Desktop apps with Google. While its process for transferring memos isn’t elegant — it offers the best option. Google Sync then updates the BlackBerry. I update Calendar and Contacts in both apps and the rest in Palm Desktop. You can find more sync options.
Team work: Some clients and assignments involve working with a team. Each has its own web-based app for communicating. No one stands out or dominates. All apps have strong and weak areas.
Filezilla: Managing files on my web site’s server.
Bit.ly: Shorten URLs.
Dropbox: If I work on an article on both computers, I save it on Dropbox so I can access the file from anywhere. Once finished, I archive it on my PC as MyDropbox should be like an inbox — hold as little content as possible.
Online backup: I have an external hard drive for saving my work, but — G-d forbid, if something happens to my house, I’ve got my data online.
SnagIt: It’s amazing how often I use this screen capture software. It helps explain things or problems with few words. It loads faster than my photo editing software, so I use SnagIt to crop and tweak.
Adobe Acrobat Professional for saving work, invoices and other documents in its original format.
Links to all of these are in my Firefox Collection.
AI Roboform: Because Google Chrome doesn’t have add-ons, I turn to Firefox more often. For one, I prefer Roboform to Last Pass for managing my passwords. I tried Last Pass because of its compatibility with Google Chrome, but it requires extra steps. Roboform sometimes annoys me with its pop up box when I don’t need it.
Better Gmail 2: Gmail stays open in my browser all the time and receives equal — maybe more — attention as Thunderbird. Yes, the app can be worrisome as it goes down form time to time. But I can access email from anywhere, any computer. Better Gmail 2 enhances Gmail’s features by adding “sub-labels” (Gmail doesn’t have folders).
Download Status Bar: Instead of a pop up box, downloads appear in the status bar at the bottom of Firefox out of your way. Right click downloads to open, rename, delete or clear them. What could be easier?
Print/Print Preview: Don’t you hate it when you think you’re printing a short page only to see the first print out is blank and the contents show up a page or two later? Print/Print Preview puts the printer icon in your toolbar and lets you select Print Preview so you can control what you print without overdoing the tree killing.
Read it Later: Another reason I choose Firefox over Google Chrome. Click the checkmark in the URL box to save an article for later. I have yet to let my reading pile up. I tried a bookmarklet app in Google Chrome, but Read it Later works better.
Word Count Plus: As a writer, word count is important data. It can count anything you select.
Xmarks: Sync bookmarks across computers. I use a laptop often so I can work outside of my home office. I don’t have to do a thing to keep both computer’s browsers set up the same way.
What are your favorite apps? Why?
Monday, September 21st, 2009 at 10:29 AM
Friday, July 24th, 2009 at 7:24 AM
And for fun because we’re allowed…
- Which Crazy Writer Are You? Me wolf. No, really. Me Tom Wolfe. Ah, the life of a wall flower. You get to hang out with the most interesting people – radio DJs, hot rodders, hippies, Hell’s Angels, Wall Street tycoons, frat boys – and are completely happy putting them into the spotlight. You’re completely happy hanging back with your martini and your little notebook, jotting down all your little observations, in sight but out of mind. [Link: Jane Friedman]
- Cute as Hell Pet Community: cute as heck pets. Here’s my doghter.
- Oddee has lots of fascinatingly odd posts especially misspelled tattoos (what a place to misspell words) and the 15 ugliest products ever, which looks accurate. Odd… lots of chairs made the list.
- 43 Weird Things Said in Job Interviews: Ouch. Wonder if any one of these actually got the job aside from the meth lab one?
Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 9:12 PM
My youngest, a kindergartener, had Mud Pie Day today (they do bubbles, throw footballs, play Frisbee, eat pudding, mess with sand and much more.
And for fun because we’re allowed…
Tuesday, January 6th, 2009 at 10:23 AM
Typed note: This is sad. People said my first speech-to-text software entry was funny and I wasn’t even trying to make jokes Seriously, I agree the software does funny translations of my speech.
First the script, then the translation.
Official test number two. I’ve revised the script from the original. I usually write contractions, but decided not to use them while speaking. So I put them back in.
This post shows you what I said and what the software heard. Instead of striking out the software’s mistakes and put the correct version in brackets, I present you with this script followed by the software’s version. Here we go…
For those of you not familiar with speech to text software, you begin by training the software with your voice. I completed a long training program — broken down into shorter sessions over a two-week period — using a chapter from Dave Barry’s cyberspace book. My deaf accent needs more help than the average user.
A little background: I was born deaf and had 12 years of speech therapy. I took public speaking classes and even taught a few while I was in college.
I’m trying the speech recognition software. I’m hopeful it’ll catch what I say. So far, it’s not perfect. It looks like it needs more training. I’m itching to get back to writing articles.
I haven’t been able to write because of my hand surgery. The doctor says I need to lay off using my hand because of swelling. Plus, a pin had to stay in it for six weeks. The pin comes out of my hand today — it better!
So maybe I won’t need this. I’ve learned that I can’t speak my writing as well as I can type it. Writing by speech feels unnatural to me.
I’m ready to get back into my routine. However, I’ll need to attend physical therapy a few times a week for at least six weeks. I’ll know for sure after my doctor’s appointment. My hand feels stiff and achy, so it’ll be a while before it feels normal again.
I may still have to wear the current splint until I see the physical therapist. At least, typing won’t hurt as much without the pin around to stab the insides of my thumb. Trying to keep my hopes reserved, but I have loads of work to do for my clients.
The software works better when I speak one word at a time — that is, say a word and wait for the software to capture it instead of speaking in slow sentences. That’s what I’m doing in this paragraph. I originally used parenthesis, but it wouldn’t get it right or even brackets.
I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2009.
Translation courtesy Dragon Naturally-Speaking
Officinalis past number two. And lid by the script from the original. I usually write contractions, but decided not to use them speaking. Let them back in.
Cisco shows you what I said and what the software road. Instead of striking out the stuff where is bakes and putting the correct version in brackets, I present you with this script a that of stuff where is version. Here we go…
For those of you not familiar with speech to text software, you begin by planting the stuff where with your voice. I completed a long training program — broken down into shorters bastion of a to leak timeframe — even a chapter thumb gay bear is that the . My guess asked in Minn’s more help than the average user.
A little background Cohan I was born deaf and had 12 years of speech therapy. I took Pavitt speaking classes and even taught a few Beilenson college.
I’m trying to speech recognition software. I’m hopeful it’ll catch what I say. So file, it’s not perfect. It looks like it needs more training. I’m itching to get back to writing articles.
I haven’t been able to write because of my hand surgery. The doctor says I need to lay off use and my hand because of swelling. Plus, a pin hypos a.m. it for six weeks. That can come out of my hand today — it that a! Such
So maybe I want needless. I’ve gone that I can’t speak my blighting as well as back and type it. Writing by speech TOs unnatural golf Tilney.
Mulan (“new line” command)
I’m ready to get back into my routine. However, I’ll need to attend physical therapy a few times a week flippy six weeks. I’ll know for sure after my doctor appointment. My hand because Steffes and achy, but it at the end file and put the ocean Lamar again.
And they still have to well koans land until last it that this to a therapist. At least, I can want her as much without a pin around to stab the insides of my thumb. Trying to keep my thoughts Goudreau, but loads of work to do from my clients.
The software looks better when I speak run road at a time — that is, say a road and leaked for the software to capture it instead of speaking in Schroer (Typed note: when I said “sentences” the software thought I said “center this” and formatted as such.).
That’s what I do when and as you not laugh. I originally used to(, but it wouldn’t get it right well even practice (Typed note: oh sure, this time it got the parenthesis after “used to”.).
I wish every one a happy and healthy 2009.
Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 at 10:59 AM
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