Wednesday, 31 December 2008

31. Choosing colours, typefaces and font preferences

I confess a personal interest in this, as it is my website for some research being carried out. But others can use it to find out their preferences. You can change the background colour, font colour, typeface, line spacing and even the gaps between letters. At the end you can print your results. If you fill in details we will be able to use your data as part of our research. (Details are not shared with anybody. But if you give us your email, it means you are happy to be invited to other research.)

Please note that there are other language versions in development, including Chinese and Portuguese. If you want to have your own language version, and are willing to collect data, please send me an email (ian.smythe@ukonline.co.uk ).

Colour preferences - English
Colour preferences - Chinese

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

30. Cartoons for all the family - Bitstrips

This cartoon was made in Bitstrips. This is a simple way to make cartoons and can be fun for all the family. It allows hidden artistic talents to be put to the front, and minimal amounts of text required. (N.B. There is no built-in spellchecker. To read this cartoon about how an individual first discovered about his dyslexia and the impact it had, click on the link below.

Bitstrips
Bitstrips Example 1
Bitstrips Example 2

Monday, 29 December 2008

29. Aesop's Fables - Listen and learn through AnswerTips

This is a resource that is fun, useful, and highlights a few different aspects important to the dyslexic individual. Although there are manyAesop's sites on the internet, this is slightly better than others I know. I like it because:

1) It uses Aesop's Fables, which are wonderful reminders that you can make a whole story with few words. So a child could read the story from start to end, and be shown that you do not have to write too many words to tell your story.

2) Some of the stories have been read out. The voice is not always easy to understand. (She is young America is a good reading, but does not have enough skills to add all the intonation that a professional reader does.) However, it could be a stimulus for encouraging a child to use the technology to record their own version.

3) The website uses AnswerTips. This means that any person that does not understand a word can double click on it and find the meaning (as well as listen to how the individual work is spoken). Some of the wording does tend to be archaic, so this is very useful. The use of this service is to be encouraged.

4) The stories can be use as a "rewrite in your own words" exercise.

Aesop's Fables

Keywords: Aesop's Fables, AnswerTips, recording

Sunday, 28 December 2008

28. Head in the cloud? - Online Desktops

I have just signed up to a new "developer" site called icloud.com, which is an interesting concept. As I understand it, the site will allow developers to make software which users can access through a "virtual desktop." Of course there is a catch in that I could not quite come to grips with it because currently there is little there. But my feeling is that in a year or so there will be lots more places where you sign in with your browser to access a space that is your "desktop", and nothing is stored locally. It will have a number of knock-on effects, such as computers can become smaller, lighter and cheaper, as they do not need the storage space, nor the processing speeds. All they need is data transfer speed.

The implications for the dyslexic are that no longer will items be lost, and that you have a single working environment. But does it mean the wheel will have to be re-invented as every part that you currently like (let say you like a certain type of Sticky) has to be reinvented? And lets not forget the technical problems of text-to-speech and speech-to-text. What are data transfer implications? Or are these the applications that mean that, at least until we have rapid data transfer, the dyslexic will be restricted to at least some of the applications being used on their computer and not "in the cloud".

Or is this a case of "If you could start again, what would you do?"

"Isn't this a re-invention of, say, Google Docs?" I hear you say. No, because Google Docs looks like ..... Google Docs. I like MY desktop, not somebody else's. And the concept is appealing, though I would also want to work on my docs locally and not just in the cloud.

To date, I have only seen one similar concept, though there may be more. Unfortunately when I signed up to that one, the password never appeared, so I cannot comment on that. It had attempted to also provide a "browser desktop", but all the components (programs) were all supplied by the same developer. So any indiviuality, character or personal identity on the desktop was lost.

The idea of an environment where others can develop is a great idea. Not quite the new Linux (it is an environment not a plaform) but definately one of the things to watch for 2009.

iCloud

Saturday, 27 December 2008

27. Online password management - Clipperz

Of all the recommendations I have made on this site, the one I use most is KeePass, the password managment software. However, it does worry me that I may be stuck somewhere without my compuer and I cannot access various sites online. So I have now signed up (and have a "passphrase"!) for an online password manager - Clipperz.

Clipperz

Keywords: Clipperz, KeePass, password managment, online password managment

Friday, 26 December 2008

26. Wikipedia on the move

There is now a Wikipedia for the mobile phone, so you can access this massive resource on the move. Apparently it will eventually have speech included, but no dates as yet.


Mobile Wikipedia

Thursday, 25 December 2008

25. Forgetting dates - You need a freminder

Sitting here at my desk every morning as I do, I sometimes forget what day it is. I never was very socialable, but I ought to remember a few key dates that are special to friends. So I looked for a good online reminder system that was online and could send me an email of important events. It is littered with ads, but then it is free.

Freminder

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

24. Screen and video capture made easy - Jing

Jing is a very effective, user friendly tool for capturing parts of the screen, either as a still image or as video. It is simple and intuitive, and you can save in a variety of formats. It is great for when a screen freezes and you need to capture what you can see before you exit or reboot.

www.jingproject.com

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

23. Search engine meets concept maps

This is (yet another) visual browser, that is worth looking at, but will not work for all. It attempts to bring together the ideas of visual browsers and concept mapping.

Kartoo

Monday, 22 December 2008

22. Online video chat - Oovoo

If you are a regular user of Skype, you may have noted a drop off in quality. This may be due to the huge number of users. However, there are alternatives out there. This is one that seems to be good especially with the video format.

Oovoo

Sunday, 21 December 2008

21. The future of computing

There is a suddenly flurry announcements of interesting developments that make you speculate what technology will arrive in 2009. And at least some will be of interest to the dyslexic individual.

For example, it seems that IBM have announce a new laptop with two screens. The primary screen is 17 inch (1920 x 1200 pixels) while the secondary screen is 10.6 inch (1280 x 768 pixels). It also has a small drawing palm rest tablet, and a camera. This could be wonderful for the dyslexics, especially those working in the creative arts. The catch (and there is always a catch) it that it is over 4.5kg.

This IBM one seems to be real (though no dates and no costs available as yet) while the better looking Apple triBook one appears to be only a concept.

And apparently Dell are about to bring out a laptop that is thinner than the Apple Air.


Then there is the story of a Canadian PhD student finding a way to improve mobile battery life by a factor of 12. (It is to do with the way power and signal are transmitted.)

Now if you could give me three screens with 24 hours of battery life and weighing under 1kg .......

IBM ThinkPad W700

Apple Tribook

Saturday, 20 December 2008

20. Pronounce it - Howjsay

Ever wondered how you pronounce a word? Well here is the web site that will tell you. Just type in the word and it will give the pronunciation. And it does have a very impressive collection too.

Howjsay

Friday, 19 December 2008

19. Ultimate sharing experience - Dimdim


Every now and again something comes to my attention that screams out to be added to my Favourites list. Dimdim is one such item. Put simply, it is a web conferencing suite. Dig a little deeper and we find it has the ability to share (i.e. it appears on two or more screens at the same time) slide shows, there is a whiteboard (shared drawing), chat, talk, live video and you can save all of it too (some free, some paid for). This brings together many of the individual collaborative components discussed in earlier blog entries in a seamless way.

Who will use it? Clearly this is marketed at the project team in business. However, I see great potential in remote support for the dyslexic individual in school, college and work. One example would be the student at college or university who is working on an essay, or struggling with a particular concept being supported by a colleague or tutor. It would be useful in supporting those trying to install software, and learn how to use it. However, there are no limits to its creative use, from kids doing work collaboratively, to helping those in work.

You can use the cut down free version, with additional services (e.g. more than one webcam) in the low cost professional version.

Dimdim

Keywords: Collaborative, conference, dimdim, remote support. whiteboard, chat, video conferencing.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

18. Remember about mnemonics - Joblab

I was never quite convinced about mnemonics as I can never quiet work out how people remember which mnemonic to use! (I wish I knew a way to remember how to spell mnemonic!) Typically it is about remembering how to spell "BECAUSE" or the order of the planets.

However, this mnemonic making website could be enough fun in doing the task that the word is remembered.

JogLab

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

17. Note online - Evernote

There is an increasing number of note-taking software, and range of activities you can do with them. Evernote provide a diversity of sophisticated techniques from searching to indexing. It can use text as well as images and video, and it is even clever enough to search for text within images. As it is online, it works on all platforms, and you can access it on your mobile phone.

Rather than list all the modes, see the introductory video on their website.

Evernote

Keywords: Evernote, note-taking

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

16. Back-ups

This is small portable (i.e. you can put it on your USB memory stick) software that helps you "synchronise, backup and secure your data". So data should not be lost ever again. (Provided you use it.)

Toucan

Monday, 15 December 2008

15. Looking up word in Adobe Acrobat

Did you know that if you found a word in a PDF document that you did not know, you could put the mouse over the word, right click and the menu will provide you with "Look up XXXX"? The link will take you directly to Dictionary.com, where you will be given the word definition, pronunciation guide and the sound file if you wish.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

14. Organising list of lists

What is an "Organiser"? An organiser should be something that makes your life simpler, and allows you to access information in a structured way. It may be simple list of tasks to do, birthdays to remember, appointments to attend or assignments to hand in. aids planning and memory. However, the quality of the "output" will always be dependent on the input!

Most people have some form of "organiser", but the problem is that the good intentions rarely last. Many start of with simple "stickies" (little yellow squares), until the screen is full. Then they try another, which maybe sends email to their smart phone, only to find that they still forgot the task as they were unable to do it immediately. And many return to the old fashioned notebook.

But why is this? It is because everybody has their own needs and preferences, and probably the only way they will every succeed (if ever!) is if they a) find one that is perfectly in line with the way they work, or b) they design their own. And of course now they can be online as well as offline.

So, how do you choose? The problem is that until you have tried it, you do not know which is the best. There is not even much point in taking somebody else's recommendation as what works for them is unlikely to work for you. And sometimes they are so "all powerful" that it is difficult to know where to start.

There is no simple answer, but there is choice. And while choice is not always a good thing, here is a website of 100 online Organisers and Task Managers, complete with screen shots and brief descriptions.

List of Online Organisers and Task Managers


Saturday, 13 December 2008

13. Stickies stick together - Stickysorter

This software seems to fall exactly half way between Stickies and concept mapping. I have briefly tried it, and I am sure it will be useful. I just have not quite worked out how. But well worth a look, with some quite clever parts, like grouping, zooming etc.

Stickysorter

Friday, 12 December 2008

12. Concept mapping with speech-to-text - MindManager 8

Earlier this week Citnexus launched VoxEnable to bring the power of voice recognition to concept mapping. Apparently it combines the MindManager 8 with Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 to provide total voice control. According to the blurb, users "can capture, organise, and communicate information without having to type it using a PC keyboard.” It goes on to say "Over 150 voice-enabled functions have been incorporated into this release and users can transcribe and create MindManager 8 visualisations which can be manipulated, scrolled, scaled, zoomed, printed and exported by voice. Text can be dictated directly into topics with formatting, editing and search capabilities."

Voxenable

Thursday, 11 December 2008

11. Beat the Deadline

The website says "Deadline is the simplest calendar ever made. You write in plain English, and it will set up a reminder for you." Not a lot more to say really. Try it for yourself.

Deadline

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

10. Task manager - Google Tasks

It seems that (according to trade blogs) Google have been a little upset about the success of "Remember the milk", the reminders website (See 17th August). Yesterday they launched their own Tasks software, integral within Gmail. At first glance it does not look as exciting as Remember the Milk. But we shall see what gets the interest.

To use the Google Tasks, you first have to activate it in Settings within your Gmail account.

Remember the Milk

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

9. File splitting - Gsplit

With huge files, the traditional way to "send" them to others is to upload them to a storage site for others to download. Now with GSplit you can break your document into several chunks (up to 4 gig!) and send it in manageable parcels. Although I am no sure when I would prefer this (and the uncertainty of the jigsaw fitting together again!) as opposed to uploading, there may be occasions it is worth considering.

GSplit

Monday, 8 December 2008

8. Spoken text (in Spanish and French) - Spokentext

Being a website that attracts a multilingual audience, it is only right to highlight some software that may be of particular language groups. There are many online text-to-speech systems, with this one being similar to most. However, it does also offer facilities in Spanish and French. So you can download your text as an mp3 file and listen to it later in those languages (plus English).

SpokenText

Sunday, 7 December 2008

7. Commentary on listening to text and note taking

Over the past few months there have been a number of entries about software that can turn text into speech, allowing the individual to transfer their spoken text to a suitable player and listen to it at a time that is convenient. But the question arises (for all, not just the dyslexic individual) what about issues of short term memory? If you have a text of 30 minutes and are listening to it while you drive, how helpful is it?

The answer is that it depends on the text. It can be useful to listen as a "first pass" - a sort of "Ah ha!" principle. But if you are driving, you cannot make a note to yourself. (I find this frustrating if I am proofreading as I have to try to remember the problem and return to it later.) Of course on the bus of train you can make paper-based notes. And if you are still at the computer, you can use something like the low cost solution Lecture Recorder 4.4 (see 31 August), though there are many other solutions, including those from Microsoft.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

6. Time (mis) management - AppActivity 2.0

Ever worried you may be wasting time on certain activities but you never know it. Here is a cheap (around $10 (£7) – only 5 minutes on the demo) piece of software that will monitor your activities and you can download it for analysis in Excel. From what I have seen, the graphics are a little simplistic. But what do you expect for ten dollars?

AppActivity 2.0

Friday, 5 December 2008

5. Listen to books

This is a simple concept, of using famous (or not so famous) people to read books. Here are 21 stories read by people as diverse as Bradley Whitford (West Wing and Studio 66), Al Gore (former vice president) and Elijah Wood (ex-hobbit). They are a good way of how the internet can be used to involve the reluctant reader.

Storyline Online

Thursday, 4 December 2008

4. Combining text versions - Textflow


This is a useful work tool if you are the sort of person who has to manage report comments from others and then combine them all. This helps you, making the process simple, and uses visuals to help you. Their video helps to explain it.

Textflow

Keywords: Parellel word processing, Textflow

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

3. Advance search from Google - or not!

There are two new search related feature to mention here. One is "useful" while the other is "wait and see".

Google has a page of "featured" searches which allow quick access to a range of special areas. Searches include maps, conversions (like Celsius to Fahrenheit), and local restaurants. The significance is that it saves trying to find and type in all the right search words.

Google Features

However, I cannot be so enthusiastic about Google SearchWiki. It seems they (again?) have launched it too quickly, with fundamental problems like you cannot turn it off. It is supposed to improve personalised searches, but many commentators think it is far from ready. So no link is provided.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

2. Scaning for free - TopOCR


These days scanning software usually comes with the scanner. If you want top of the range software that will perform good character recognition on poor quality photocopies you will need to pay a lot of money for good software such as OmniPage.

However, if you simply want to convert some plain layouts into standard text that you can copy and paste into Microsoft Word, so you can highlight it, have full access etc., then one simple solution is TopOCR. This is wonderful no-frill software (actually, that is a bit of a disservice as there are quite a few frill) that will take an image and turn it into editable text. So maybe it is a pdf or a photograph of a page (you can even use your camera as a scanner) then there are no problems.


So, why pay for the more expensive software? The answer is simple - if the layout is a simple block of text, there is not a problem for the low/no cost solutions. But if there is are columns, or complex layouts, this cheaper software may struggle to make sense of it. For example, if there are two columns, it may read straight across the page, ignoring the column gap in the middle.

Unfortunately in the example above, which was a screen shot of files in a folder that I wanted as text, it did not like the small size. But I have had reasonable success when the text is a lot bigger. The first three were as follows
Colours2.ppt --- :olours 2.ppt
02chapter1-4.pdf --- 12chapted -4.pM
3_2_5AssessmentMaterials.pdf ---- 1_2_5AssessmentMateriak.pd~

www.topocr.com

Keywords: scanning, TopOCR

Monday, 1 December 2008

1. November summary

There are two concerns (for this blog) about the financial uncertainty. On the one hand you have the need for fiscal efficiency - meaning you have to be cost effective in your expenditure, particularly with respect to assistive technology (i.e. why pay a lot of money for a multifunctional piece of software when you do not use most of the functions). On the other hand, how many of the exciting new services coming online will still be there in two years time. With the question mark over the long term funding, as well as rival services and failed technological expectations, as well as products being too far ahead of their time (a euphemism for not very popular) one has to question how much time and effort is worth investing in learning, using and relying on something that is new. In many cases, the functionality is the same as similar programs. But even so, you need to stop and think about making a commitment to a new service.

This past months has seen a good number of speech related products highlighted, with entries in this category on eight days. They range from taking calculators (3), to making podcasts (10). The new “online phone” service from Google is briefly mentioned in comparison to Skype (27), as well as how to record Skype conversations (12). Mobile text-to-speech appears to have taken a leap forward (21), while the most innovative of the month seems to be to be searching the web by voice (19). Another online text-to-speech service was also launched (29).

There were two online programs for making conversions – one to change a pdf into a Word document (25) and one to save YouTube file onto your computer (28)

Reflections (Cloud computing 2, 30: ideal computer, 6: futuristic history, 8: concept mapping 14: future directions, 23)

Programs that facilitated writing were highlighted through concept mapping (13) and comic strip production (7)

New free 3D drawing was reported (20) as well as screen capture and annotation (26)

Design (18), websites (22) and accessibility (4) had single entries, as did visual browsers (5)

Learning resources were mentioned three times through language learning (24) and teachers resources (9, 11)

This month saw only one piece of hardware mentioned – a data projector (17)

Sunday, 30 November 2008

30. Reflections on computing needs

With increasing amounts of software becoming online, the idea of ownership of software or services , or even where the boundaries of the computer are, is becoming more indistinct. While for many people this is not a problem, consider those who are funded for support, such as a centrally funded disabled student allowance, where traditionally funding has, in effect, been given to a single software and hardware provider to supply tangible goods.

If one was to scan through the entries in this blog, there may be many services that are useful, such as back-up and storage, online concept mapping (without adverts), and online text-to-speech (some of which are free, but experience showns that better ones will be part of a paid for service soon). Who then controls that funding? Will these individuals be allowed to make personal choices, or are they at the mercy of the "technology assessor" who may not necesserily know of everything that is suitable.


Traditionally there has been only a small number of products that appear regularly on a list of assistive technology. Probably more than 95% of all text-to-speech sales in the UK are covered by just six commercial software packages. It is probably the same with concept mapping. But who will say in future what should be accepted, and how does one control the budgets?

This is not to say that most existing system do not allow for such diversity. But there is another aspect to consider - when you buy software from the box, it is always yours. Rarely does it come as an annual licence arrangement. But what of the online software that is usually a monthly licence. Who will make sure the payment a) go through, and b) are stopped at the right time. If the funding ceases at the end of, say, a three year course, the individual will have to "buy again" all the software when they start work.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

29. Online text-to-speech - iSpeech


This blog has already reviewed a number of text-to-speech engines. Here is yet another one. The slight difference is that it can also take a document on your computer and send back a sound file for you to listen to later. Or you can listen to it live. To test the system, I registered (free and minimal), uploaded a 3200 word article and let it run its course. (I wanted to make sure what I wrote made sense!) The conversion was a little faster than it was being read. File size was around 30 meg, talking 30 minutes to be read. What impressed me most was the voice quality, with excellent intonation (though it did appear to pronounce "him" as "hime"!)

"Saving" methods were the option to download the mp3 file, to have a podcast, to have a link to a website, or to embed a Flash file into a web page. It also added the file to my own library.

Quoting the website "iSpeech can convert your favorite Websites, RSS, Blogs and Documents (Microsoft Office, Adobe PDF, Text, etc.) to speech with any PC or Mobile Device. Download your favorite blogs and news feeds as mp3 or podcast your favorite websites into your iPod." I am curious to see what I can do on a mobile phone.

iSpeech

Keywords: text-to-speech, online, ispeech

Friday, 28 November 2008

28. Saving from YouTube

This is a simple online program which allows you to capture videos from YouTube and save them to your computer in whatever format you required, including suitable for viewing on a mobile phones. So if you find a concept mapping video, you can now capture it to the hard drive and watch it at your leisure.

Convert My Tube

Thursday, 27 November 2008

27. Talking for free - Skype and Google Talk

Google Talk is the latest free service from Google, launched last week. (N.B. The business model says there will be a commercial version at some later date. I cannot see this to be a loss leader. But hopefully it will be free for personal use.)

The questions to ask are why should you use it, and does it rival Skype?

The mixed reviews mean that I mention it here, but I will not rush to download and try it. However, I will say that there are two important issues to consider: 1) ease of use, and 2) quality.

If you are very familiar with Skype, then it may be better to stick with what you know rather than try to master a new system. This is particularly so when a new system is being developed. There will be occasions when some functionality does not work. It may be better to wait for a friend to try it, and then ask them to instruct you how to use it.

There is also the question of quality. When I used to log in a year ago, Skype would tell me were six million users online. Now the number is normally over 12 million. I am not the only person to have noted the drop in quality, that is both sound quality and the frequency of loosing connection.

Thus Google may gain "customers" due to the apparent falling quality of Skype, rather simply because it is better.

As to why use Skype/Google Talk, it is more than just a cheap way to call friend. It can be a bridge between direct face-to-face contact, and the isolated feeling that the technology can produce. I find Skype a good way to provide "distance support" (as opposed to "distance learning"). That support can be about how to use the technology, or how to structure an essay. It can also become part of a remote tutoring system for individuals of all ages. Internet voice and video cannot rival somebody sitting beside you. But it can lessen the isolation.

Google Talk

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

26. Screen capture and drawing - Skitch

This is a great little screen capture device that is excellent for simple captures and annotations, which you can then send by email or put on a social network site or whatever you wish.

Skitch

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

25. Converting PDFs

This could not be simpler. You have a PDF document and you want to convert it to a Word document. Simply locate it on your computer, hit convert, and the job is done. Why would you want to do this? Sometimes you want to mark up a document with highlighers, or save it in another document. Unfortunately, if you look closely at a paragraph, it leaves a line break as that rather than treating it as simply running onto the next line. But it is free.


Convert PDF to Word

Monday, 24 November 2008

24. Language learning - in a minute

When I go on holiday, I do at least like to be able to say "Please", "Thank you" and a few other choice phrases, just to show that I am trying. Sadly my language learning capability is "limited". But I have come across this new website with the intriguing title of "One minute languages." So I shall listen, and see what I learn. The lessons are given in weekly downloadable podcasts.

The current choice of languages are Catalan, Danish, French, German, Irish, Japanese, Luxembourgish, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian and Russian. What a pity my next trip is to Italy!

These same people also have a new course for English language learners entitled Write Back Soon "which helps learners of English master one tricky aspect of the language: phrasal verbs." Sadly I think I missed the lesson when they explaned what "phrasal verbs" are. Fortunately Google came to my rescue, and according to the Phrasal Verb Dictionary "A phrasal verb is a verb plus a preposition or adverb which creates a meaning different from the original verb." For example "run + into" = "meet".

One Minute Languages

Phrasal Verb Dictionary

Sunday, 23 November 2008

23. Geeks, the web, and what happens next

Tim O'Reilly is a renown web commentator. He is the one who first coined the term "Web 2". I was recently pointed to a "review" of a talk by him about two weeks ago, which I thought was worth highlighting here, because:

a) It is a good use of concept maps
b) It is an interesting vision of how technology is used, what it can do and what it will do in future.
c) It talks about the "alpha geeks"- "These are the folks who manage to thrive and innovate despite us, rather than because of us."

It seemed so relevant to the world of dyslexia, the dyslexic learner and the creative dyslexic that is should not be missed. (Hint: Click on the concept map and a bigger version will appear.)

O'Reilly concept map

Saturday, 22 November 2008

22. Website design - Webs

A few years ago a young person (Barnaby) while still at school developed his own website where he told the world about his dyslexia. The website became widely known and is still online, though apparently no longer updated.

In those days, websites were not easy to put together. But life has moved on, with more sophisticated websites being achievable with less effort. But they are still great for building self-esteem and motivation. Here is a website development system that is free if you are happy to carry their adverts.

Webs.com

Barnaby's site

Keywords: website, content management

Friday, 21 November 2008

21. Text-to-Speech on a Nokia

It seems that Nokia are making a real commitment to text-to-speech on a mobile phone. Sadly I have been unable to test the software as it is not compatible with my Nokias.

Nokia Text-to-speech - UK

Nokia Text-to-speech - International

Thursday, 20 November 2008

20. 3D drawing with Google SketchUp


This week, Google launched the latest version of their 3D drawing packing that seems fun to work with. There is a free and a "professional" version. For those who like to work in 3-dimensions this is a great tool.

Check out the video on their website

Google SketchUp 7

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

19. Search the web by voice on your iPhone

Yesterday, Google launched a new application for the Phone. According to their website "The new Google Mobile App for iPhone makes it possible for you to do a Google web search using only your voice. Just hold the phone to your ear, wait for the beep, and say what you're looking for. That's it. Just talk."

Unfortunately, I feel it has been released only half finished since it does not appear to read back the results! But I admit that it is exciting progress.

Check out the web page to see a video on how it works.

Google voice search

Keywords: Voice, mobile search,Google

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

18. Dyslexia-friendly designing - Create with Context report


I recommend reading this (6 Meg) report for two reasons.

1. It gives some thought as to how real people use iPhones, and in doing that it makes one reflect how the dyslexic user may have difficulties with some application on the mobile phone (not to mention the dyspraxic user) .


2. The report is one of the most dyslexia-friendly reports I have seen for a long time. (N.B. I am not claiming to have check all accessibility issues. I refer to the visual presentation of information with little text.)
I believe that there is a lot to be learned from both the content and style of this report.

Dyslexia-friendly iPhone report from Create with Context

Monday, 17 November 2008

17. Sharing mobile entries using a data projector

I confess that in this case the link between the product and being dyslexia-friendly is not so clear. But I thought that this was a cool piece of kit that needed sharing. (Yes it really is hand size!) However, there will be occasions when it will be useful, since it does more than just connect to the laptop as a projector. It also connects to your iPhone (and presumably most other phones). So you can use it with others to look at your diary, share emails etc without having to be so close to the phone. And you could even project the web pages from the phone (or movies if you feel the need to relax).

At an intensity of just 12 lumens, I shall not rush out and buy one tomorrow. The claim of viewable as a 50 inch screen must be in extremely dark conditions. But is does show what is around the corner. Expect the projector to be built into your laptop soon.

RXS Pico Projector

Sunday, 16 November 2008

16. Storage and Access

Do you remember when all your "data" fitted on on floppy disc? But now, what is your average file size? My Word documents are usually still under 1 Meg. But the PowerPoints are more like 20 Meg. So the storage and transfer issues are very different. I still have a 64 Meg USB memory stick (RIP), which a few years ago would have been sufficient. But life has moved on. So too has the need to back up.

Five good reasons to have a second set of files off the main computer
a) The computer could be stolen
b) The computer may crash and become inaccessible for a few days
c) The hard drive may die for inexplicable (technical) reasons and become inaccessible forever.
d) The computer may suffer a sad end, such as fire, water, earthquake (or knocked off a desk) etc.
e) You go somewhere that does not have access to the computer.

When it comes to "back-ups" we need to ask why do we need them. We can classify them into two main types:
1) We know where the data is/was, but unexpectedly no longer have access to it (See scenarios a, b, c, and d.)
2) We go somewhere knowing we will not have access to the computer (See scenario e, which could be because we do not want to drag a computer around, such as on a trip abroad.)

We therefore need to consider the options for back-up storage. The principle are:
1) Store on a large hard drive (e.g. a 320 gig back-up drive.) BUT you have to remember the dangers of fire and theft. So store the back-up in an appropriate place.
2) Use a USB memory stick. Until recently these have not been an option for full backups. But my USB is 32 Gig, which offers reasonable backup (I do not have videos on my computer.) It stays with may keys and is unlikely to be lost at the same time as my computer.
3) Online storage. This is an increasily easy option, with different level available in terms of security, access, volume and manner to backing up. (I.e. you can ask it to back-up automatically for you. But you need online access to use.

Most importantly, you have to remember to back-up. I looked for some statistics to see how often people in general back-up. In a “straw polls” I found, “Once in a blue moon” was the most common (around 30%), alongside Never (also 30%). Only 10% did it daily (probably corporately).

When it comes to recommendations, it can never be too often. One example of a policy/guideline is from the University of Oxford. They carry out weekly system back-ups, and recommend students to back-up important work (e.g. theses) on a daily basis. Knowing two PhDs whose computers crashed one week before submission, I would agree!

Finally, I am grateful for the anonymous comment yesterday that suggested the following useful source of independent reviews of online back-up systems. I am sure I shall use it in the future.

www.BackupReview.info

Saturday, 15 November 2008

15. Online file storage - Mediafire

I had a simple problem - I needed to send a file to somebody, but the size was 20 meg. My email limit is 2 meg. So I looked around for a service that would give me what I want, and found Mediafire. They offered unlimited storage, no fees, no software to install. All in return for a few adverts on the screen. I uploaded my Powerpoint, and was immediately given a website address where others could download that file. Simple and easy to use. I can imagine this being useful for any student with large (media-rich) files they are sending to tutors or others.

Mediafire

Friday, 14 November 2008

14. Big ideas on mind mapping - and win a copy of iMind Map

Vic Gee runs a blog dedicated to mind mapping. He has just extended the deadline for his competition to 3rd December. All he is asking is for entrants to suggest how the practice of concept mapping can be spread more widely. To quote the website "This needs an idea that will motivate committed visual information mappers and at the same time can leverage the whole mind mapping community to get the word out, explain, demonstrate, tell stories, show all different styles of maps, all uses."

The winner will receive a copy of the Tony Buzan mind mapping software.

Check out the website for further details.

Mind Mapping Competition

Thursday, 13 November 2008

13. Concept mapping on an iPhone - Mindmaker

Why not do mind mapping on the move, using your iPhone? Above is shown one version - MindMaker. This little application is cut down version as you would expect given the iPhone memory. But there are alternatives, such as iBlueSky from Tenero.

However, it is early days, since it is not even clear what you can do with the map once you have created it. But watch this space.

MindMaker

iBlueSky

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

12. Recording Skype with Pamela

Skype is a wonderful tool for communicating. But while you can record a lecture using a digital recorder, what about when you have, for example, key tutorial support using Skype? How can you record it so that you can later review what was said?

Pamela has the answer. Pamela offers a free service to record Skype conversations if the call is less than 15 minutes, with increasing (though reasonably prices) subscriptions for longer conversations.

Pamela

Keywords: Pamela, Skype, recording

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

11. Resource website - Teachnology


This website is not really about learning using the technology, but is included as it is the technology that allows us to access this huge resource. They claim to have over 7000 free downloadable worksheets, which is impressive. If you were to type in "phonics" into their search engine, you will find over over 200 results,with around 50 free worksheets on the first page. But of course you must remember that worksheets are to test learning, and should not be used without the teaching. But they may provide a useful addition that will augment (and test) your teacher. The one word of warning is that sometimes the choice is so vast, it can be quicker to make your own.

Teachnology

Monday, 10 November 2008

10. Podcasting - in five easy steps

Podcasts are all the rage with tech-savvy individuals and teachers, but are not part of mainstream teaching. Why? Like most innovative teaching, it is because it is an activity that is looking for a reason to exist. However, in the world of dyslexia there are many creative ways this can be used. Put simply, if the dyslexic individual has access to some simple technology, and their atempts at writing are demonstrating their disability rather than their ability, why not encourage the use of using the technology for them to create podcasts as submissions for certain activities.

Of course there are those who will talk about the need to develop their weaknesses. But the skilled teacher know this. The method does not remove the need to teacher the wider skills. It simply offers an opportunity for the individual to show their skills, to recover some self-esteem, and maybe even become an expert who can teach others in a fun medium.

This video shows the five easy steps to get started. And if you are a teacher who is hesitating due to the "complexity" of the technology, you could just ask the kid to try it and tell you how the got on.

5 steps to podcasting

Sunday, 9 November 2008

9. Shared Experience - The TeacherTube Rap


The internet provides a perfect medium for sharing ideas and experience of both teaching and learning. Most people are very familiar with YouTube. But less well known is the teachers version - TeacherTube. Here you will find both teaching material and inspiration.

Then I thought that I would find an entry to highlight the potential. So I entering the word "phonics" in the Search. It found 25 entries, and this rap music version to teach what is meant by digraphs was an interesting way to teach using the new media.


Then I wondered what was the most viewed video on the site, and it turned out to be "Pay Attention", with over 770,000 hits. So I had a look, and I can recommend it, even though you are probably already inspired by the potential of technology since you are reading this blog.


TeacherTube

TeacherTube

Most Viewed Digraph Man

Saturday, 8 November 2008

8. A little (futuristic) history

7th November was the "official" anniversary day for the publication of Dr Pringle Morgan's original article on dyslexia ("A Case of Congenital Word Blindness") in the British Medical Journal in 1896. The 112th anniversary, to be precise. Today is the 100th entry in this blog. So I thought that it would be fitting to try to find some link between the two.

The obituary of Pringle Morgan (he died in 1934) notes his extensive work in the medical field, yet does not mention his contribution to dyslexia. So it makes me wonder what evidence of all this current dyslexia activity will exist in 112 years, and the impact of technology.

I believe the answer lies in the detail. Pringle Morgan was part of an ongoing awareness raising, which has continued up to this day (it is currently Dyslexia Awareness Week in Europe). I am sure that there will be no single person, event, or piece of technology that will make a significant contribution to helping dyslexic individuals. But each will have an impact upon an individual, and the cumulative effect will be noticed down the years.

Right now the technology is moving forward faster than the reflections on its impact. The ubiquitous nature of the hardware does not erode the advantage that the dyslexic had, but makes it more accessible to all dyslexics, irrespective of their degree of difficulty, the pugnacious nature of their parent, or their financial situation. The opportunity to explore ones potential through the widely available technology support lessens the divide between those with explicit (financial) support and those without.

However, to date the concentration has been on the assistive technology, the easy part of the "learning process" to develop. Now greater attention has to be paid on the targeted learning, to identify as early as possible the areas of difficulty, and to adapt teaching to the learning needs. Technology has the potential to do this. What is lacking is the knowledge of how to do it. (I am confident that the desire to do it exists.) We have some theoretical knowledge that suggests advanced programming using mathematical models (Bayesian, Hidden Markov Model, neural networks and similar) which have greatly advanced in recent years, may provide the answer. I even think I know how to do it (calling on people around the world). The problem is getting the funding to create something with a significant impact upon a wide audience.

When that does become available, the nature of a "Dyslexia Awareness Week" will become very different, since the technology will identify and support from the beginning, and the needs will be largely catered for. That is not to say there will no longer be a need for some labels and specialist support, but the nature of it will be very different. And in 112 years time? Only time will tell.

But a final thought: Have you ever noticed how in the science fiction films the consoles are all visual interfaces with no writing? Does that mean the champions of the Starfleet Academy (the Star Trek school) will be dyslexic individuals?

Obituary of Pringle Morgan

Friday, 7 November 2008

7. Comic strip - ToonDoo


If a picture paints 1000 words, then a three picture cartoon must be a 3000 word essay. This simple website helps create cartoons using drag and drop principles. Well worth exploring for those working with children who want to convey a story but without the necessity of writing those 3000 words. And as well as making cartoon strips, you can make books. Lots to explore.

Twenty years ago there were big debates about whether dyslexic children should be allowed to read comics. The consensus (which I did not agree with) was no, and that they should be encouraged to read "real books." My feeling was that the comic should be used to provide a motivation entrance into reading. I believe the thinking is now more open to explore the "non-traditional" paths to encourage any writing, and websites such as this can provide a useful diversion. The added bonus is that the kids can share their ideas with others, as well as use the library of drawings, which will cut down time spent on the drawing elements.

Note that some commentators have suggested that the unwary user could encounter inappropriate material on the site. But despite extensive searches, I have not found any. (Update from Meera at ToonDoo - There is a button top right for Safe Search.)

ToonDoo

Thursday, 6 November 2008

6. The Ideal Computer

In an innovative approach, Asus (famous for the EEE PC netbooks) and Intel have set up a website asking people what they would like to see in a PC. An interesting thought for building the future, and while one can discuss dyslexia-friendly software, what adjustments would make a computer dyslexia-friendly? I have already seen comments about built-in pens and interactive screens, controlling music without opening the machine as well as waterproof and shockproof devices. The most innovative I saw was to use the keystroke itself to generate power.

Personally, I would like to see the build in webcam to be usable as a scanner for linking to OCR, plus faster start-ups comparable to Linux (can't the machine be intelligent, know from history what you are most likely to want first, and load that in preference to everything else?). Not to mention the built in ppt projector. And long life batteries. And better security. (I know that it is technically impossible to stop all viruses, but is it so difficult to hardwire a component that the viruses cannot fool which will detect when the machines was last uninfected, and restore to that? Or partition the system so that there are areas which can be infected [e.g. new programs] and factory configured zones that viruses cannot penetrate, including shipped software such as Office? I suspect that until software is rebuilt from scratch as the simple functional software we actually use, then there is little hope. Having said that, this may be one area that the online document people such as Google Docs could play a significant role, since if the document remains "within Google" how could it get infected?)

You may like to submit your ideas, particularly dyslexia-friendly ones, to the discussions at
WePC

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

5. Visual browser - Middlespot


It seems that visual browsers are coming thick and fast at the moment! Here is another one which displays in yet another format. It does allow you to drag and drop into a library area. It is interesting, but not sure it is better than any of the others.

Middlespot

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

4. Background colour - Acrobat Reader

We tend to think of PDFs being presented in a fixed format. But fortunately Adobe are well aware of accessibility issues. Not only do they provide a built in text-to-speech system but also they allow you to change background colours.

In order to change the background colour of a pdf in Acrobat Reader, go to Edit > Preferences > Accessibility, and check "Replace document colours". Click "Page Background" to change to your preferred colour.

Monday, 3 November 2008

3. Talking Calculators


I thought that I would talk about a piece of hardware today, so did my background research for Talking Calculators. However, I found that many of the links were dead, or products no longer available. And then I stumbles across this wonderful website - an online (free) talking calculator!

Online Talking Calculator


For those who may still look for a standalone hardware version, here are some promising links:
http://www.tekability.com/catalog/item273.htm
http://www.cobolt.co.uk/cobs/product.asp?dept_id=5&pf_id=0039
http://www.emptech.info/product_details.php?ID=166
http://frs-talking-calculator.fast-rabbit-software-llc.downloadsoftware4free.com/
http://mini-talking-calculator.ducklingsoftcom-software-developmet-lab.downloadsoftware4free.com/
http://www.techready.co.uk/Assistive-Technology/Misc-Low-Vision-Items/The-Talking-Calculator-software-for-Windows
http://www.download3000.com/download_40685.html (Shareware)
http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/50375573/Talking_Calculator.html (Selection)

Thanks to Steven Guerra for suggesting
http://www.independentliving.com/searchprods.asp?txtsearch=talking+calculators

Sunday, 2 November 2008

2. Cloud computing - Windows Azure



Microsoft’s Window Azure is the latest "cloud" system to announce itself to the world. Launched a couple of days ago, The Cloud is the new term (yet another new term) which refers to storage of information on the web as opposed to on our computers. Having rejected this concept years ago, it seems Microsoft are finally realising its importance and potential, especially in protecting existing products. They are hoping to rival the likes of Google Docs and Zoho, and thereby protect their established products. It remains to be seen as to which strategy they adopt, but hopefully they will build in offline working from the outset.

Implications for the dyslexic user? Only that it adds muscle to the online use of software, decreasing the potential to loose documents. But it will also allow Microsoft to redevelop applications which have got hugely cumbersome. Online usage required compact, fast programming. This Azure may help to improve all aspects.

Hopefully the use of assistive software like text-to-speech will not be affected, though I am still hoping Google will announce at some point they are going to give away text-to-speech to everybody free. Or maybe I have my head in the clouds.

For the technically minded, you can find out more at the following website:
Windows Azure

Saturday, 1 November 2008

1. October Summary

In less than a week this blog will record its 100th entry. Though I had little doubt that there would be enough to ensure a new entry every day, I was not sure what it would be, nor where it would come from. Like all bloggers I use a large number of sources of information, and sometime it is difficult to decide which entry to include, there are so many. So firstly, a big thanks to all those individuals, bloggers, commercial interests and others who provide inspiration to the entries. As a dyslexia-friendly website, I try to limit the number of words and so do not add to the burden by listing all the references.But if anybody wants to know the source of some particular information, I would be happy to share.

On the entries for this past month, this can be broken down into a number of categories, for which to me Entry of the Month was www.searchme.com, the visual search engine (6). Full marks for this.

This month saw the launch of PATS, or the Portable Assistive Technology Software (26), with other examples of (offline) free software being image manipulation software (GIMP, 7), screen capture software (Camstudio, 13) and magnification (Zoom It, 8). This was discussed against a backdrop of financial uncertainty (5,12).

Online shared documentation started with Smartsheet online spreadsheet (3), and ended with sharing existing (offline) documents online (29). In between there was an online whiteboard (10), shared concept mapping (15) and a reminder system (20).

For text to speech (TTS) applications there was Blogbard – the text to speech for blogs (11), while IMTranslators provides TTS (16) in many languages, as well as a useful computerised translation service.

Firefox has a couple of entries, as the Beta launch (27), screen capture (4) and recovering passwords (28). Google had an entry through Advanced Search (17)

There were four commercial entries, with touch typing (9), a scanning translator (14), a fun speech-to-text controller, and speech-to-text software (23).

While I do not usually cover social networking, Webbr (21) seemed to be worth of a mention due to its visual nature. Another entry due to its visual nature was hotels.com (25).

The Project of the Month was Calldysc (31), which was related to a discussion on “mobiles” (2).

Extras included mega-storage (30), touch screens (19), and a little fun (22)!

One that had to be updated was plagiarism, where a previous entry no longer functions. However, three good alternatives have been found (24).

Finally, just to warn people that in December I shall be asking for nominations for “The ten most significant items”, whatever that may mean.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Learning language on a mobile phone - Calldysc


By definition, dyslexics struggle in the first language, and learning a second is, at best, problematic. Analysing and synthesising new sound, learning vocabulary, and the new grammar and syntax are just some of the areas of difficulty. Calldysc is an EU funded project that brings together partners in the UK, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Sweden and Romania to investigate the potential to use mobile phone to help dyslexic individuals learn English. By providing motivational technology, along with games that are designed with them in mind, it has been possible to demonstrate the possibility to make progress in an area previously known to be difficult for dyslexic individuals. Activities include learning around 150 words of basic vocabulary in ten categories, building adjective-noun combinations, Web 2 social network type activities and learner-developed sentence building games. The games are designed to be played on any Flash-enabled phone as well as the computer, including the very mobile Flash-enabled Linux netbooks. The project does not claim to teach English, but it does show that a combination of motivational technology and structured, sequential, multisensory games can lead to second language learning often well beyond expectations. If you would like to try these games yourself, please send an email to ian.smythe@ukonline.co.uk

Calldysc

Keywords: Calldysc, mobile, language learning

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Gigantic gigas

Do you remember your first USB memory stick. If it was a few years ago, it may have been a 64 meg, which us veterans all thought was great as it was better than having a 30cm high stack of floppy discs. Well, sadly (?) I have just bought my latest USB memory (or "pen drive" or whatever you like to call it. I find the diverse terminology for these devices very confusing.), a 32 gig stick, which is only around 2cms long and sits on the keyring (replacing the one on a previous blog). That has eight times more memory than my first Netbook (an Asus EEE), and equal to a stack of floppy discs 64 metres high (roughly the height of a 20 story building).

But the question is why should I have such a huge memory stick? Because it is my main back-up system for the entire computer. While I would still promote and use online storage, I still like to have the physical version, which I can acces irrespective of internet connection. Also, when I take delivery of my next computer, I do not want to simply load up all the old rubbish. I will transfer key files, and have the others always with me on the latest USB memory.

Plus I can carry all my Portable Applications with no problems.

But what if I loose it because it is so small? 1) It is AlLWAYS attached to my keys, 2) I have online backup, 3) all information is also on the new or old computer.

How much was this huge drive? About £20 (€30)

Where? Ah! Its was a little store on the third floor of this mall in ......... China. But coming to a store near you soon!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Share your documents - ShowDocument


Following on from a whole series of collaborative website comes Show Document. This latest one appears to be trying to create a niche by allowing users to share existing documents rather than the traditional approach of creating the document online and having two people share it. This free software could cut down the need for shared-screen software such as TeamViewer3 (see a previous blog entry) where you share the entire desktop.

ShowDocument

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Forgotten passwords in Firefox

Have you ever wanted to find out what password you used for web site, for example when you change computers or need to access the computer through another machine that is not your regular machine?
Fortunately there is a little known secret entrance in Firefox, which is:
Tools > Options > Security>Saved Passwords>Show Passwords

It stores all the passwords you have asked it to hold.

But make sure nobody is watching over your shoulder when you open it.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Firefox 3.1 Beta


Simple question - is it worth installing the updated Firefox 3.1.
Simple answer: Probably not until the full 3.1 comes out early next year.


It seems they have concentrated on some functionality, and the rumours are that the final version will be a lot faster in loading certain types of files (for the technically minded, particularly those what use Ajax). There is an increased speed function called TraceMonkey, which is turned off when you download it since this part of the beta is apparently a little unstable. But if are happy to live with the glitches and to follow the instructions to turn on the "Go faster stripe", feel free to try it.
However, a word of WARNING - Without telling you until it was too late, it disables FireFTP (uploading software), Firevox (text-to-speech) and Capture Fox (screen capture). If you wish to retain those function, wait for the full versions.

Note that it is already available in 35 languages, and for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux platforms.

Firefox 3.1 Go faster instructions

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Portable Assistive Technology Suite (PATS)

The concept of Portable Applications was mentioned in a previous entry (7th August 2008), but now the idea is to show what else can be achieved. Basically, you can put all the items below onto a USB memory device, and then plug it into any computer. This means you do not have to worry that your favourite software is not available on the machine. (NB The USB device does not have to be a memory stick. It could be carried on a phone, for example, or any other memory device that can be plugged into a computer directly or via a cable.)

The software below is the Portable Assistive Technology Suite, and is in three parts: Portable Apps Suite, Other applications from Portable Apps, and instructions for how to put Skype onto a USB device. Between them they cover most of the applications I need.


Portable Apps Suite
Firefox – Web browser
Thunderbird – Email
Sunbird – Calendar/task manager
ClamWin – Antivirus
Keypass – Password protection
Cool player – Audio player
Sumatra (PDF Reader)
Open Office
Writer (word processor)
Calc (Spreadsheet)
Impress (presentations)
Base (Database utility)
Draw (Drawing)

Other
Audacity (Audio editing and recording)
Magnifier
GIMP (Graphics package)

External
Skype

Portable Apps Suite
Portable Apps
Skype Portable

Keywords:
Portable Assistive Technology Suite, PATS, portable, USB, Firefox, Thunderbird, Sunbird, ClamWin, Keypass, Cool player, Sumatra, Open Office, Writer, Calc, Impress, Base, Draw, Audacity, Magnifier, GIMP, Skype

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Visual web site - Hotels.com


This is not highlighted as a product or service, but an idea that shows at least some of what can be done and which hopefully others will follow. I say "some" because it is a nice idea - using visual imagery to move the user forward - but has not been followed through for the full site. Clearly there is potential in this approach, but it is a pity they did not work on all aspects to fulfil the promise. In the above example you click on the visually demonstrated activity, and it leads you forward. But within a couple of screens you return to having to read text. Also there is no "Alt tag," those little words which help you decide what exactly the picture means, as it is not always clear. However, it is a good start and one which others may follow.

Hotels.com
Visual DNA

Keywords: Visual web sites

Friday, 24 October 2008

Plagiarism 2

Unfortunately the product mentioned to help overcome accidental plagiarism (10 Sept 08) does not appear to be currently working. However, there are some excellent alternatives.

Accidental plagiarism refers to those instances when you are building notes through a review of what is on the web. Some of that may include copying text to refer to it later. Unfortunately you are not always to keep track of what were your words, and what was somebody else’s. To use somebody else’s words and not credit them would be accidental plagiarism. Academics have access to several major engines that check students work. But by then it can be too late. However, there are several alternative. Basically they tend to use a simple principle of breaking the text into small chunks and then searching the internet for that chunk. At least one such checker does this by using chunks of up to 32 words (the maximum accepted by Google) and then using Google to track down the quote. It then provides feedback as to where the text was found, and who wrote it.

www.plagiarismdetect.com (Free)
www.plagiarismchecker.com(Free)
www.checkforplagiarism.net (subscription)

Keywords: plagiarism, plagiarismdetect, plagiarismchecker, check for plagiarism

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Speech-to-text - Dragon V10

Dragon V10 speech-to-text has now been out for a couple of months, and having asked around, the general opinion is that for most users the change from V9 is minimal. That said, the speed of training is greatly improved. One interesting consequence is that it does appear to do far better with those who have strong accents (e.g. Irish, Welsh, Scouse and Brummie), or have English as an additional language.

Other changes include training can be spread over several session, and the commands have been simplified.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Picture words - Wordle


Sometime you just have to have fun! And this web site is just about that. As you can probably see from the picture above, all you do is submit some text and Wordle does the word count and jumbling to end up with a picture of all the words in the text with size based on the number or times the word is in the text. In this case I used the words from the first three weeks of this blog for this month, put them into the program (you can either put in text or a web address) and the program does the rest. You can then choose your own colour scheme.

Wordle

Keywords: Wordle, picture, fun

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Visual social networking site - Webbr


I have never been keen on social network sites because I prefer the personal interaction, as well as being concerned about giving away too much personal details. But if it is your thing, then the new Webbr website may be of interest because of its attempt to be more visually based than other similar sites.

It has only just launched, so it is still a Beta version. But it certainly appears to have some promise.

Webbr

Keywords: Webbr, social networks, visual presentation.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Email and SMS reminders - Soshiku


Soshiku, launched at the end of last month,is a great way to keep track of your assignments and have email and sms reminders sent at appropriate times. From their press release: “Having many classes, many high school and college students receive bad grades because of failure of finding a good system for them to manage their schoolwork efficiently, or from just not caring,” observed Andrew Schaper, Soshiku founder (aged 17). “My mission is to make Soshiku the standard in schoolwork management, and to make it not be a chore.” Once you have a (free) account, you can add assignments and coursework deadlines directly from email, your mobile phone via text messaging (SMS), or the web interface. You can set up how far (and how often) in advance you want the message. You can also have a shared account, to allow a friend or tutor to be part of the process. Soshiku Press release Keywords: Soshiku, reminders, coursework, email, sms

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Touch screens – The next big thing for 2009?

Asus (the company that started the commercial revolution in small laptops/netbooks) are talking about a new touch screen "computer" and while it is in the Eee series, sadly it is not a netbook. If rumours are to be believed, this will happen during November. It is said to be a 15 inch screen and no external keyboard. HP are also looking to launch a touch screen (or series of touch screen) devices later this year in their bid to expand a market area.

Does this mean that the touch screen will become of age in 2009? Certainly they will be useful, as you will no longer have to have that hand-eye coodination which requires looking at the screen while moving a device (the mouse or your finger on the finger pad). So clicking will simply be a case of tapping the screen, and drop down menus will appear at the press of a finger. But personally, I prefer to have a keyboard as the on-screen ones end up covering have of the screen area.

In the meantime, I hear that Emotiv are looking to launch some form of "mind control mouse" to move an on-screen cursor.

And we should also reflect on the implications of the latest research coming out of California that says surfing the web keeps you young. (If that is true, I should have the mind of a three year old.) Basically they said that the high number of decisions that need to be made by experienced internet user is more stimulating that reading, and maintains the brain activity, and thereby could slow down degeneration.

I guess in a few years time we shall see research shows how the cursor moves for an older person whose mind keeps wondering!

Asus touchscreen

Emotiv

BBC report on ageing and computers

Keywords: Asus, touchscreens, ageing, mind control