Ed Dale talks about setting up Flock

Embedded Video

Ed Dale, who’s 30 Day Challenge is usually entertaining and illuminating, especially on the social networking techniques, is a keen user of the Flock browser.

In this video he shows some useful settings to improve the browser’s performance.


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Team Building Days


I was talking to my Step Daughter recently about corporate life.
 
Something I had not considered, whilst busily knocking the whole idea of working for a large company, was the importance they place on team building activities and corporate days out. Reward and Recognition activities are taken very, very seriously. Whilst these are often first to be cut in a slow market, for some aspects of team building it is often seen as crucial.

Which will be glad news for one of our clients; Solent Corporate Ventures, who specialise in just these sort of team building days out, on the Solent (where else!?).

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Talking to the Dragon

Nowadays I sit down to my PC and say “Take a letter Miss Dragon”. Miss Dragon is my unapproachable, but highly dependable assistant in the office. I employ her skills to do my typing, while I get on with the creative act of thinking up what to say. To say she has revolutionized my working day is no understatement.

I am, of course, describing my recent purchase of the amazing Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.0 dictation software.

Like many people these days I am a pretty competent typist, I can even touch-type with all my fingers whilst looking at the screen. However I still find that my creative flow is ruined when typing; I often have to compose a sentence in my head, then try to remember it as I type and the result is just not as fluid as I’d like.

What I wanted, especially for longer items, such as reports, articles and, nowadays, blog entries, is a way of dictating directly to the computer (or via a hyper-efficient assistant who would not need paying!)

Now, I’ve been aware of voice to text software for some years; I even had a copy of Dragon Dictate 4.0 which came free with some magazine or other back in the 90s,, which worked pretty well but was slow and not accurate enough for my needs. I had my doubts about how effective voice to text software might ever be and left it at that.

I might have carried on being a frustrated typist if I hadn’t I met a most interesting gentleman when my train broke down one evening.

Having moaned about the state of the transport system for a little while we began chatting and it turned out that my co-moaner was a test-pilot who worked on the RAF’s new fighter, the Typhoon. He told me that many of its systems are now voice commanded, which, given the unsuitability of the high stress cockpit environment rather amazed me. He assured me that voice recognition technology had moved on considerably since I’d tried that free magazine disc!

Armed with that thought, I decided it might be time to try voice recognition software once again. So I searched about and settled on Dragon naturally 9.0 Preferred, from Nuance, which I ordered from Amazon UK.

I use a Windows XP machine with a reasonable amount of RAM (I think around 1.5Gb) and a fairly full hard drive, so I was prepared to be less than impressed if the software needed lots of performance to operate.

Loading the software was a doddle. I did it while watching TV and while it took a little while, it needed no effort on my part – I didn’t miss any of the plot on the TV programme.

Once loaded the ‘work’ begins. Unlike a Typhoon you won’t have to spend weeks and weeks teaching the system to understand you under a range of difficult high-G combat contitions.

However you are expected to spend a little time (I think it took me an hour) to let the system learn the characteristics of your voice. You just have to read out various bits of text (you can select the type of think you’d prefer to read) while it learns what you sound like.

That is followed by a series of short tutorials that combine learning the various commands and training the software, so it is pretty painless.

Then you are off and running. Initially I found Dragon Naturally 9.0 was accurate around 70%-80% of the time, which sounds a bit dull, but by being diligent and being sure to correct any errors, rather than just erasing errors, I now find, after a week’s use, that the software’s accuracy is around 90% and improving each time we work together.

Would I recommend this to anyone? Yes, wholeheartedly. I have found, to my surprise, that my writing style changes when I dictate. New words and phrases come to mind and I can develop ideas much more thoroughly than by typing alone.

I have begun playing with dictating to my MP3 recorder and getting the software to transcribe the recordings for me. So far the results are encouraging rather than earth shattering, but I haven’t put much effort in to it yet and I expect the results to be more impressive once I’ve had a little more practice.

The price of around £100 or so is just fine with me. It is a serious business tool and one I would be loathe to give up. Rather than shop around for the lowest price (and there are some very dodgy looking deals out there!) I plumped for Amazon and was pleased with the speed of delivery and the product itself.

So when considering your next assistant, forget the blond bombshell and go for the Dragon!

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Adsense Broken Today

I’ll bet there are a number of normally laid back technicians whooping and yelling at oneanother over at Google HQ today. I’ve just noticed that no Adsense ads are showing, either on our own sites (www.ridingdiary.co.uk & www.websitebuilders.co.uk) or any of the other sites I’ve been on today.

Such outages are not new of course, but the amount of revenue being lost is, for some people, quite substantial.

Nonetheless we have come to expect the Internet-business phenomenon that is Google to be above such trifles as displaying today’s error message in place of ads:

Forbidden

You don’t have permission to access /pagead/ads on this server.

Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.


Apache/1.3.33 Server at AppStuff Port 80

What is galling is such a message says nothing to my visitors but looks like my website that is faulty (and on a web developer’s website that is bad). I’ll monitor it and if the problem isn’t fixed in an hour or so I’ll have to remove the Google Adsense unit before it gives my business a bad name.

Even more annoying is that there is nothing on my Adsense account control panel to say there is a problem. I’d like see a system status display or something that gives me some idea of what is happening.

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Website Builders

We’ve been using Fasthosts for several years to provide hosting services for our clients. for the most part we are very happy with them but I’m researching other resleller packages that look worth investigating:

    1. Heart Internet’s Reseller Professional account claims to be every Internet professional’s dream. They say they have specially tailored their offering for web designers, Internet integrators, web hosting resellers and developers.

The plusses and minusses of DVD now equal…

The largely artificial difference between the various DVD flavours appears to have been decided according to the Register’s report today.

http://www.reghardware.co.uk/2008/01/28/dvd_plus_minus_war_over/

The DVD-R format was originally developed and proposed by Pioneer and became the official recordable format. DVD-Ram was aimed at data use, while DVD-R was developed for video. Pioneer later unveiled a re-writeable version, DVD-RW. A competing rewriteable technology had been developed by Philips and others but failed to take off, largely because it didn’t gain the support of the DVD Forum. Undaunted, Philips and co. decided to promote the format anyway which became DVD+RW, later the format was extended with a cheaper, write-once format, DVD+R.

Getting into Bloglines

I have started getting into Bloglines today. A useful Blog & newsfeed aggregator.