Archive for the ‘VSR’ Category

Recently I posted about my RSI and that I was using some dictation software, notably Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I’m using the software at work and I’m using software at home.

However, there is a difference in the calibre of the program I am using in both places and I’ve been receiving training on the professional version of the software. What the training has done is open my mind to the vast possibilities inherent in the program. I’m not going to go chapter and verse into the instruction that I received. However, I think I can give a few tips on how to make the software work well for you. Noting, however, that dictating fiction is still a bit of a leap. If one can overcome the technical difficulties and increase the accuracy of the software, then I think working towards being able to dictate a novel or a short story will be easier.

The first thing the tutor did was replace the standard microphone set that came with the program. This tutor is a qualified reseller and trainer of the program so she knows what she is talking about. So the first thing, if you’re serious about writing and you have issues with RSI or carpal tunnel, then invest in a quality microphone set. The tutor is as a USB soundcard and the different headset to increase the accuracy of voice recognition. She says you can get the accuracy as high as 95%. I noticed that using this microphone arrangement the program was much easier to use. I also noticed an increase in accuracy. At work, however, I’m using the professional version and my laptop has sufficient RAM to cope the program’s demands. Even then, there are hiccups and occasional hanging, which aren’t necessarily due to the program but the heavy demands from Word and other programs open in time. (I’m using a network computer, which has a range of other programs running in the background) I’m going to invest in a cordless microphone set at home because I have other issues including lower back and neck pain. With a cordless headset, I’d be able to stand up still dictate. (I understand John Birmingham users a cordless headphone and a stand-up workstation) Although, apparently you can lose some accuracy with a cordless headset, particularly in an open office environment. I think it will work for me at home. I’m also considering buying a different edition of the dictation software because the premium and the professional are much more powerful versions. Before I do that, however, need to upgrade my computer because it is really important to have the necessary grunt for the dictation software to be fast enough to be efficient.

Another key point that I picked up from a training is the importance of using the ‘vocabulary editor’. This is really useful for adding terms that you use a lot and also for differentiating terms that have other meanings. For example, salutations in e-mail like ‘Dear Dweeb’ or ‘Hi Dweeb’ and ‘Hi Beans’. If you say ‘open vocabulary editor’ the menu appears and allows you to key in the term and ‘add’ it and then when you say the term again it usually has no trouble recognising it. Also, the vocabulary editor is updated when you say ‘spell that’ or ‘correct that’ when there is an inaccurate recognition. Sometimes the program makes a mistake because the word dictated is also a command. This can be frustrating because you really don’t understand why it is not recognising a word. I had this problem when I was trying to say an old lady had a lace cap. It just would recognise ‘cap’ because it is also a command as in ‘cap that’ so a way around it in the Vocabulary Editor is to put in ‘lace cap’ in the written form but with a corresponding spoken form. In my case, I said ‘insert frilly lace thing’ and it types ‘lace cap’ and so you see it can be useful. For speculative fiction writers, having a set of strange names or devices or places in your Vocabulary Editor can make your life much easier.

I am finding that I can dictate work documents to a certain extent and sometimes that is faster than typing. This is particularly so when I’m reading from a text which I’m quoting from. If you find the ultimate hurdle difficult to surmount, that is, dictating your fiction novel or short story, the dictation software can be useful to reduce the amount of keystrokes required in your day. For example, dictating e-mails, Facebook updates,tweets, blog posts and Internet surfing. Using the dictation software can reduce the workload for already tired arms. In theory, this should allow more pain free time to work on a novels et cetera.

I highly recommend using skilled tutor to open your mind to the possibilities of the dictation software, particularly where the tutor may have developed macros which create shortcuts for things that you do frequently. My tutor has some macros which she will install next lesson, which make using track changes a lot easier. Personally, I find track changes are very demanding part of work when working on edits because each one requires about three mouse clicks and mouse clicking is particularly difficult using a normal mouse and even a trackball mouse. (I have switched to a vertical mouse called Evoluent website here)

Anyway so ends my lecture on dictation software. I hope this is useful to some of you. Remember you still need to take regular breaks even though you are typing because you are sitting in a static position. Also dictating can be tiring because you are talking and concentrating, so take breaks.

I also think that dictation software is the stuff of science fiction (which is extremely cool) and the advances made the program since the mid 90s is absolutely amazing. you can write as fast as you speak.

So you can increase the accuracy of the machine through a few simple techniques and reducing inaccuracies can increase your acceptance of the program and make it more useful for dictating fiction. I dictated 95% of this blog post.

Below is a link to some of the microphones you can use/buy etc Here

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I have been meaning to update this blog for a while. I know excuses, excuses, that’s all you ever hear from me. The RSI is improving. It probably won’t go away completely but I do feel improved. Work is less stressful but it is there under the layers. However, Easter is coming (coming before Winter!) and well I’ll have some time to do stuff.

I bought a little ginger kitten, called Jaffa (after the Australian orange-coated chocolate balls). The kitten is part of my stress reduction strategy (audit speak) and it’s working. Jaffa is gorgeous and yes I’ll probably be one of those people who puts pictures of their cat up on their blogs. Well if others can get away with it why not me?

I have handed my uni assignment in just now. I am studying English Grammar. I enjoy it but aspects are hard as well as interesting. The assignment was difficult in that there were particular grammatical structures that I had to find in certain places. For example, a modal verb in a children’s book. (a modal is must, can, may etc). Or find the present perfect (has taken etc) on the front page of a newspaper, or passive clause using ‘by’ on line. Well gee, all that is time consuming. The passive construction using ‘by’ on line was the hardest. What is it with the press these days writing in active voice or other passive constructions not using ‘by’. Made my life very difficult. So anyway, there were two elements to the assignment-understanding the question and finding the example. Everything had to be referenced to the university’s standard. More time consuming stuff. But it is handed up.

Recent happenings include Stephanie Smith resigning from Voyager at HarperCollins. That is a sad farewell. She’s a lovely person and a great editor. Her replacement is equally lovely, Deonie Fiford. So some new and interesting things happening there. I know a lot of my published author friends were very sad to say goodbye to Stephanie. However, I hope to keep in touch with her even though she has relocated to Tasmania.

I’ve submitted two manuscripts (slush pile) and non slush pile. I had an invite from a publisher to submit other work. It had been a couple of years since we had corresponded but I thought it worth the effort to email and ask if I could send my new work in. I was very, very happy to get a yes. Better to have a manuscript being read by an editor than sitting in your computer.

I should mention that more Australian publishers have started slush piles, Hachette/Orbit being the latest.

I’ve submitted one short story to a pro market. I’ve got a couple that I should revised and resend out.I’ve just been busy (and not using my arm).

I had edits and proofing to do for ‘Sangue Della Notte’ appearing in Damnation and Dames. This anthology launches over the weekend. I’m very excited. I’m sorry I won’t be at Swancon for the launch. Perth is a long way and my dollars have gone into hiding somewhere.

I have put up an interview with Marc Gascoigne over on the Conflux Natcon Website here

It is worth checking out.

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I’m dictating this post from my iPad. I had a lesson in Dragon NaturallySpeaking at work on Thursday and the tutor told me about this free iPhone application called DragonDictate. It’s pretty cool, and it lends itself to posting to twitter and e-mail on either the iPad or the iPhone very simply.

Learning Dragon naturally speaking also opened my mind to the vast possibilities of using Dragon NaturallySpeaking on the computer. For example switching windows. The trick is using the vocabulary editor and set up options. The tutor also developed macros to shortcut things.

Okay the dictate function is limited. I’m now typing this post on the iPad. But it works for twitter, facebook and short emails. I’ve also used the copy/paste function to copy to the notes app.

Things seem more positive this week, generally.

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With this RSI thing I’m not getting to the computer much at home. I’ve got the dictation software at work and at home but it’s still hard going not being able to type at will, so to speak. I feel I have this backlog of ideas chasing around in my head in the night keeping me awake and all I want to do is get to the computer and write them down, but I know that I can’t.

I don’t sit here sending out stories. I’m not tweaking the ones that I know I have an idea of how to fix. The object of this post is not to whinge so much as to talk about what I am doing. I am writing in a way. I’m working on hard copy, taking my time to read through Ruby heart at present. I was pleased to find areas that I can improve on so when I can work on it, I can fix them and eventually end it out.

I have also taken the opportunity to attack my ‘to read’ pile. I find reading helps me to improve my writing by expanding my ideas, by allowing me to studying technique and by keeping me entertained. And while this is going on my RSI is slowly improving. Not fast for enough me, but it is improving. I also can’t knit or crochet. Arrh!

Meanwhile there’s been some edits for the story appearing in Damnation and Dames, which to be launched at Swancon over Easter. It sounds like it’s going to be a very funky anthology and I really wish I was going to be there for the launch. However I’m not going to be.

Now that I finished the read through of Ruby heart, it shouldn’t be too much work put through the changes. These I can do with the dictation software or by hand (as long as I am very careful and don’t spend too long at the pc). However, I am finding I’m suffering from a lack of motivation at the moment. It could be that James has just had some surgery and I’ve got some health problems and the general level of chaos around here due to family members coming and going. I do need to be more resilient though, because it’s just life and I have to live with it.

University started up again and I’m studying English grammar. I have to prepare a presentation for Thursday on transitive and intransitive verbs. It sounds daunting , but I should be able to cope. That reminds me of any those textbooks…

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Popping back in to say hello

It’s been a while since I blogged. This seems to be a phrase that I say all too often and I apologise that. Once back from the writing retreat, I’ve been up to my neck in work but also wrestling with RSI. This not only involves tennis elbow (mouse elbow), but aching wrists and a very sore shoulder. Is somewhat restricts my activities on the computer, and requires treatment by a physiotherapist. It affects how I use the computer at work and how I use the computer at home.

I must admit, with regards to the dictation software, I haven’t progressed very far at all. I think the software is fine for dictating things like this blog or an e-mail as these are fairly straightforward. But the fiction it’s going to be quite a leap for me. One of my pet hates is how the dictation software mishears me when I say stop and writes will stop. I daresay things will improve with practice but I find dictating fiction a rather tedious and difficult process. It’s so much faster to write the damn thing. ( I used to be able to write 1500 words in a hour when I was drafting)

On the other hand, even though I bought a trackball mouse, my hands and wrists and shoulder get sore with use. I’ve upped the RAM but it’s not quite enough so I’m going to have to replace the processor on this computer or buy new one. It’s not quite a sunny outlook, when you think that you may never be able to type in the way that used to, or even for the next few months. It’s quite frustrating and the novelty of the dictation software fades when the reality sets in. It’s no panacea for a disability. By the way the auto formatting in this program sucks. I feel like sitting here and saying a lot of very bad words.

I’m probably feeling a little bit morbid. On Sunday, I did an edit my story, which is going to appear in ‘Damnation and Dames’ and it took me quite a while (as it was detailed) and I did it by hand. Now I’m at the process of accepting and rejecting changes, which involves a lot of mouse work and even with a trackball mouse, it is causing pain and I’m taking a rest by dictating this blog. So in the meantime, I’m reading and studying English grammar at university. However, now that stress at work has lessened to some extent I have had lots of ideas coming through for stories I want to write. However, I have to pace myself and be patient. Lah! I find being patient one of the hardest things.

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