Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15

Screenshot anime Overlord, season 3, episode 8, last scene

Why is there a Dragon here? For speaking, naturally! Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the world’s premiere speech recognition software, now with Deep Learning Artificial Intelligence that adjusts to your accent and the common cold. Fire breathing not included.

Today I upgraded (in a manner of speaking) from Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 13 professional individual to Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 15 home. I virtually never used the more advanced features of the earlier version.

The most important part for me is accuracy of recognition, and I have to say that version 15 is almost indistinguishable from magic in that regard. And I mean right out of the box: There is no longer even an option to train the program by reading a text for it. Version 13 was pretty good after training and a few days of practice. Version 15 is that good right out of the box. (At least I believe it doesn’t have access to my previous training, as it required me to uninstall the previous version and reboot the computer before I was allowed to install the newest version.)

I have used and reviewed many different versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking over the years, both before and after it was acquired by Nuance. There has definitely been progress! I believe the first version I reviewed was either six or seven, and I generously compared it to homesick Asian high school exchange student. I could probably have added seasick as well, as its performance was unimpressive, to say the least. If you had functioning hands, you were better off using those, even if you typed with one finger.

Those days are definitely gone! Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15 takes dictation like a highly trained secretary, only faster. Actually, Dragon has outpaced secretaries for at least a couple of versions now, but this required you to speak clearly and train the program first. And the results were less impressive for me, who has a strong Scandinavian accent. Actually, “accent” might be too weak a word. If you are familiar with the computer game “Skyrim”, the pronunciation by the Nord bandits in that game is pretty close to how I speak in real life. I am not sure how a highly trained secretary will handle that, but Dragon NaturallySpeaking 15 has well over 99% accuracy, right out of the box, with that kind of foreign accent.


There are still some challenges. In my experience, they are not too bad, but I see a lot of one star reviews on Amazon. Most notably, Dragon is squeamish about working with applications it doesn’t know. Supposedly this includes earlier versions of Microsoft Office. When I started writing in LibreOffice, Dragon NaturallySpeaking automatically popped up to the “Dictation box” where you can dictate and edit your text before transferring it to the target application. It’s an okay solution in my opinion, but it can be distracting, and you cannot interact directly with the target program using your voice for instance “click file save” the way you can in supported programs. Removing the checkmark for automatically opening Dictation box lets me dictate directly in LibreOffice, but it still struggles with commands, and you cannot edit the text with Dragon after you dictate it.

I have the same problem with my favorite browser, Vivaldi. Admittedly that is not very common browser, So I installed the Dragon Web extension For chrome.As you can see from the previous sentence, that didn’t work too well, and it doesn’t work too well in Google Chrome either. Luckily I have fingers, and so Dictation Box it is. But Google Chrome is by far the most popular browser for Windows, and not having native support for that makes the program seem rushed, at best. Especially when you consider that Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a very expensive program. It is not so bad by Norwegian standards, since both salaries and living expenses here are already very high. Even so, I only buy Dragon NaturallySpeaking when it is discounted, as it was in this case. In the USA, a single person could eat for a month for this much money, and in the actual developing world even more. So in that perspective, you would expect a more polished product than this.

But what it does well, is take dictation. And at that, it is the best in the world. No software and no human can match it for the combination of speed, accuracy, and fast learning.

The Dragon Upgraded

Screenshot anime YowaPeda

I feel like I can go anywhere… With Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, you can dictate anywhere using a USB microphone, wireless microphone, smart phone or dictation device. (Even so, I don’t recommend dictating while biking!)

In the past, Dragon NaturallySpeaking has been available in several different versions, and I have always used the cheapest one, Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home. It usually cost around $100, with the occasional big sale where you might buy it to at half price. As an existing customer, I could also upgrade it to the next version at half price from the start. Last time, two years ago, I also did that; I even preordered it.

This time, there was no question of pre-ordering. Either they didn’t ask me, or I missed it somehow. My first hint that there was a new version available came from a mail that offered to let me upgrade to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium for €99. A bit more, but then the Premium version has some unnecessary but nifty features. So instead of being my usual cheapskate, I went for the premium version this time. It was already available for download; there was a link in the mail to the website where I could buy it. I checked the requirements and looked for any traps, but that didn’t seem to be anything suspicious. So I bought it with credit card, and could immediately start downloading.

The installation was easy and trouble-free, although it took some time. I first downloaded a small installer program, which then downloaded the big installer program, which then unpacked to a separate folder, which then installed the program in the default location. It may sound a bit complicated, but it was mostly just pressing the “next” button, although I had to choose a directory for the temporary files. I saved them to the network drive in case I have to reinstall on this machine or another. I would also recommend using an external disk for the temporary folder if you have limited disk space, since at some point there will be three big files and folders taking up space simultaneously: The big installer, the folder with the unpacked files, and the actual installation in your Program Files folder. If you have a reasonably new computer, this would probably not be a problem.

Speaking of new and old computers, the two latest versions have each reduced the computing requirements, so that you can actually run version 13 faster on a weaker computer than version 11. Good work!

After installation, Dragon offered to upgrade existing user profiles. This took surprisingly long, even for the profile that was almost empty. Several times I wondered if it had crashed, but I didn’t need to use it immediately so I just checked in on it from time to time, and eventually completed. If you don’t have an earlier version of Dragon, each with an effort to create a new user profile instead. I believe that in this case, you will also be offered to train the program to recognize your voice and improve its accuracy. At least this happened in the earlier versions. It may be that it is so good right out of the box that they don’t bother with that now?

As far as I remember, version 12 looked very much like version 11. Version 13 has a whole new visual profile, so it is obvious at a glance that you are running the new version. The DragonBar, usually placed at the top of the screen, is now just a small button when not in use. If you move your mouse to it, it expands to become larger than it was in the previous version, and the microphone on/off button also becomes much larger. The “Learning Center” (formerly Dragon Sidebar) still takes up the margin of the screen, but it now has a black and white color scheme and also seems to have larger letters. As always, you can minimize or remove this Learning Center if you don’t want (context dependent) hints about what you can do next. Even the DragonBar itself can be minimized to the system tray, and you can access the most common functions by shortcut keys or by voice commands. But that has always been the case, I just wanted to mention it.

As I mentioned in the previous entry, the first thing I noticed when trying Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 was the leap in accuracy. I realize that I have praised its leaps in accuracy since at least version 10, but this time the difference seemed to me bigger than the official count of 15% improvement. 15% improvement does not seem a lot when the accuracy is already claimed to be about 99%. To me, it seems more like it has increased from 99% to 99.5%, which would actually be a doubling of the accuracy in the sense that there would be half as many errors. But I admit that in my case this could be because of an improvement in the handling of USB headsets.

(It is unfortunate that I cannot maintain this level of accuracy for longer texts, because my voice becomes hoarse after a few minutes. But this is an affliction that I share with very few humans. One hypothesis is that it comes from my years of almost complete silence, where I only asked a few questions at work and did not speak at all on my free time. If I take breaks and drink a little water between the paragraphs, I can continue for longer.)

The premium version contains some features not found in the home version. For instance, you can now make the program read back your own voice, not just a synthetic text to speech rendition of the text. You can also use a smartphone as a microphone, or even use recording devices and have the program transcribe them later. There is supposedly also an option to create your own voice commands, basically macros, but I haven’t tested that yet.

In conclusion, Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 is awesome. You can actually speak naturally to it, and with very little training it will put your words on the screen and let you control Windows. Upgrading from version 12 seems to make a big difference for me, but your mileage may vary. Upgrading from Home to Premium is probably not a priority unless you have a USB microphone or some other unorthodox input device, but it adds some fun new features.

(As usual when writing about dictation software, I have dictated this entry in its entirety, except for a few minor corrections.)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13

Squeeing girls from anime Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

This is how I think my readers should react when I write about Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition from Nuance. Somehow that never seems to happen. Let me try again, it’s two years since last time.

I love living in the future. And one of the more futuristic things that I have is the speech recognition software for Windows, Dragon NaturallySpeaking. (Windows also has its own built-in speech recognition, but for those who can afford it, Dragon is definitely the one hardest to distinguish from magic.)

Today I got a mail from Nuance, offering to upgrade my Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Home to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Premium for €99. I immediately grabbed the chance, just as I have done every time there was an upgrade for the last five years at least. Was it worth it? Well, to paraphrase a friend of mine, €99 is a lot of money if you don’t have it. This is obviously not a product for the working classes of the developing world, but for Norwegian office worker the amount is trivial, barely noticeable against the high salaries and the high prices up here. And for me at least the effect of the upgrade was dramatic.

According to their website, version 13 is 15% more accurate than version 12 right out of the box. Evidently this has either crossed some kind of threshold in my case, or there was some bug in the version 12 Home in relation to my Plantronics USB headset. The USB headset worked very poorly with the previous version on my laptop (although it had worked reasonably well on the desktop with version 11). So when I wanted to dictate, I had to take off my USB headset and put on an analog headset for the duration, and even then the accuracy was at most marginally better than in version 11. Today after the upgrade, I can use my USB headset again, and what’s more: The accuracy is more than 99%. It still makes mistakes, but less so than my fingers. (And I have been typing for almost 50 years now.)

Back when I wrote about an early version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking here in the Chaos Node, it had only entertainment value for me, although I realized it could be useful for people who could no longer use their arms at all. Some years later a newer version helped save me from disability when my job caused a serious case of repetitive strain injury. At that time it still made quite a few mistakes, but at least I could correct them with my voice. Since then it has improved even more, and I have given it pretty good reviews each time. But let me tell you something: For me, version 13 is a giant leap.

It still makes mistakes, but so few mistakes that I risk overlooking them in the middle of all the perfect text. We are talking about perhaps one error for each paragraph on the first day. The software gets used to the sound of your voice and your writing style and also learns from all the errors you correct, so it gets better the more you use it. So to pull off this level of accuracy with almost no training is impressive indeed.

For those of you who are still here instead of being busy buying it, my next entry will get into some more detail about the installation and differences from the previous version.

(As usual when writing about dictation software, I have used the program to dictate this entry, except for a couple of minor corrections.)

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 – part 2

“If you don’t listen to everything, you won’t understand anything.” When dictating, speak in statements, or at least phrases. Don’t stop randomly, for instance between “the” and noun.

I have now had the new version of Dragon NaturallySpeaking for a couple days. With my throat condition, that probably corresponds to a couple hours for those of you who talk a lot. I intend to use Dragon to dictate this entry, but I I will still need to make corrections. Perhaps you won’t, if you are a native English speaker without too much accent or dialect.

I am impressed by how quickly  Dragon has adapted to my voice.  It certainly happened much faster than with any earlier version. In all fairness, I also have more experience with Dragon now. For instance, as I mentioned in my previous entry,  I have made sure to perform training at different times of the day and at the beginning and end of a “speech”.

(I actually dictated the previous paragraph without making any corrections, but that’s not the rule for longer paragraphs yet.)


A problem with browsers: I haven’t heard about this from anyone else, but I have found Dragon to operate erratically in text entry fields in browsers. This could be a serious drawback, considering how much time we spend on the Internet these days, both at home and in the office. At first I thought the problem was only with Opera, which is my browser of choice. This program is not explicitly supported by Dragon, and in version 11 the text field where I write my journal was marked as unrecognized. While I could try to dictate there, the result was usually pretty bad. In version 12, Dragon alternates between “unknown text field” and “normal mode”. If I dictate while in normal mode, it seems to work well enough. If it is in unknown mode, I can usually just wait and it will switch to normal mode  after a few seconds. Even so, the hotkeys don’t work, and corrections  frequently mess up the text a little. So for longer texts,  I tend to use the DragonPad and just paste the result into the browser.

Unfortunately, I have similar problems in Internet Explorer when using Google+. Again, this may be a problem with that particular application – even typing can sometimes be sluggish in Google+ – but there are tens of millions of people who use that application frequently. Then again, it might be just me. Since I am one of the first to actually buy the product, there aren’t much in the way of reviews for me to compare with.

Is this a big deal? After a few days, you would probably not need to make corrections every time you post. A more serious problem might be if parts of the text are missing because you dictated while it was in “unknown field” mode. Again, this could be peculiar to my computer – there certainly doesn’t seem to be any problems in the demonstrations on YouTube. (Then again, they use neither Opera nor Google plus.)


 I haven’t had any problems with other programs. Dragon works beautifully with yWriter, the program I use when writing fiction. It seems to work fine with all kinds of notepads, whether plaintext or rich text. The commands for opening programs, switching between programs or clicking on buttons work as expected. And the on-screen help which came with version 11 makes it unnecessary to memorize the handbook with its dozens and dozens of commands. I am sure there are a number of features that I am never going to use, but better that than the other way around. And in version 12 you can even turn off features at a very detailed level if you’re afraid of activating them by mistake or if you simply need more speed.

You guys, I really feel like I can’t get across how smart this program is. When I first tried Dragon NaturallySpeaking approximately a decade ago, I compared it to a drunk and homesick high school exchange student. I compared version 11 to a native English speaker with a college education. But version 12… It is like a professional secretary with a genius IQ. Oh, it still has problems now and then, but it has only spent a couple hours with me, and there are several sounds in English that Scandinavians of my generation simply cannot pronounce. I am not sure any of my English-speaking readers would be able to understand me that well after listening to me for a couple hours.

Because I have spent decades mostly in silence, I cannot dictate a long entry like this without taking breaks. My voice simply dries up. If not for this physical handicap, I would be sorely tempted to do exactly what Nuance proposes in its slogan: “Stop typing, start talking.” It really is that impressive.

The Dragon has landed!


Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 became ready for download today for us  existing Dragon users who had pre-ordered. I’ll come back to the installation shortly.

For those who do not know, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is a voice input program for the Windows computer, and the leader in this category. It takes dictation but also allows you to open programs, search the web, compose mail and edit existing texts without using your hands. As such, it solves an acute problem for those who don’t have hands or can’t use them. For us who have hands, it is most useful for dictation. It is fast and, with a little practice, amazingly accurate. The new version claims a 20% increase in accuracy, putting it well above 99% accuracy with 15 minutes of training. In practice, it takes longer, but the program keeps learning the more you use it. When you see an experienced user work with Dragon 11.5 (the previous version) it is “indistinguishable from magic”.

Installation:  The download link from Nuance arrived by email before I woke up in the morning. A separate mail also contained link to the training video. While I am personally a fan of reading, the training video will surely be welcome by dyslexic users, another core customer group. (The program can also read text out loud, even text you have not dictated.)

The download process proceeds in several steps. You first download a tiny download manager program. It does not really matter much where you save this, it is very small. This program must be run to start the main download. The main download is a compressed file, but still close to 3 gigabytes. This must again be unpacked to a larger set of files before the actual installation. During the unpacking process, both the compressed file and the unpacked file take up space simultaneously, and that’s before the actual install into the Program Files directory. This program is not recommended for people with small disks!

It is recommended that you back up the compressed file so that you can install from this if your computer suddenly crashes or if you simply decide to buy a new at some point.

The download went without glitches, but the install itself caused me some trouble. A ways into the installation, the program warned me that several processes had to be closed down before it could continue. Three of these were unknown to me, and did not appear with the given names in Windows Task Manager. I had to break off the installation and reboot the computer, then run the install again. The install did not automatically resume, and if I had not taken note of where the unpacked file was saved, I would have had to restart from the compressed file. I would recommend you reboot your PC before you start downloading, and not start any unnecessary programs until after the install is complete.

After installation, the software offers to let you register the product online. There is also an online activation which is necessary to continue using the program. The registration and the activation are unrelated tasks.

As a user of version 11, I had my existing program removed automatically and my user account upgraded to the new version. This takes some time even on a fast computer. New users will be led through creating an account instead, and the system checks the quality of your microphone input before asking you to read a text to attune the program to your voice and reading rhythm. You can skip this step and train the program by correcting mistakes if you want. New users also get an offer to let the program read through their email and documents to adapt to their vocabulary. This is a separate task from adapting to your voice. Again, you can skip this and just train the program through use, if you are impatient, but there will be more errors during your first few days of use if so.

Accuracy training: Since Dragon was complaining about my microphone, I bought another, an analog headset to replace the digital USB headset. I established a new user account and started over from scratch with the new hardware. This microphone passes Dragon’s test with flying colors, but the new account doesn’t have any of the accumulated experience with my speaking. Newsflash: It certainly wasn’t useful right out of the box!

My experience is probably not typical, since I am a foreigner to the English language and also have a chronic problem with my vocal cords – my voice grows “rusty” many times faster than a normal human – but I think we should still consider this. After all, most people aren’t native English speakers, or if they are, they have dialects or accents. And your voice does change with use even if more slowly than mine. And my experience is that it takes several hours for a new user before Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 becomes truly useful. So don’t buy this program an hour before you need it. Set aside a couple days at least to become good friends with it before you start working together.

Not only does your voice change after you have used it for a while, but it is also slightly different from morning to evening. So it may be a good idea to do some reading training at different times, to help the computer get familiar with your voice. It is not necessary to read all the way through the exercises, you can click finish at any time. Also, try to make sure that you read the exercises in the same way that you speak to the computer when you dictate. For my part, I have found that I have a tendency to speak faster and in longer stretches when I read something, compared to when I dictate my own thoughts. For some reason I also tend to read louder – perhaps a habit from my school days? We used to be required to read aloud in class.

Features: The previous version mostly improved the user interface, introducing context-sensitive help in the form of the “Dragon Sidebar”. It also expanded support for more programs, and the engine was made more efficient. Version 12 has very few changes in the user interface; it supposedly includes 100 new features, but I don’t expect to need more than a few of them. Most of the development this time seems to have concentrated on the technical: In addition to the improved accuracy, the program also runs much faster, especially on new computers where it now takes advantage of multicore processors and extra memory. Additionally, even the home version can now take advantage of mobile phones as microphones: If you have an iPhone or an Android smartphone and it’s on the same Wi-Fi network as your computer, you can dictate to your smartphone and have the text appear on your computer screen!

One feature I thought was included in the home version, but which evidently isn’t, is playback of your own dictation. On the other hand, the program includes an excellent synthetic voice which can read what you have dictated (or any other normal text). This will begin to come in handy when the accuracy approaches 100%. Dragon doesn’t make typos; when it makes a mistake, it writes valid words, usually words that make sense  next to each other, but not the words you intended to say. We who have been typing for decades, will naturally look for typos when we proofread our text. It is all too easy for us to overlook that a wrong word has been used, such as “is” instead of “isn’t”. But chances are we catch it when we hear it out loud!

That’s all for this time, but I hope to be back with glowing praise when the accuracy approaches 100%. ^_^


A Dragon reborn

One Dragon in hand is better than pain in two wrists.

From my LiveJournal:

Today I received my copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11, the newest and best in speech recognition software. I use the home edition, which is theoretically priced at $99 at Amazon, but can frequently be bought at a lower price (especially after the first few weeks). The new version is said to be 15% more accurate, but you are not likely to recognize this right away since version 10 was already 99% accurate (for native English speakers).

If you are one of those people who habitually speak, this program is like science fiction. I can dictate text, of course. But I can also say “start OpenOffice”, and the Dragon will start OpenOffice (which is now supported in the same way as Microsoft Office). Or I can say “list all windows” and the Dragon we give me a list of all the open program windows and let me select one of them. Or I can say “switch to Opera”, “switch to OpenOffice”, or “search the web for cats and dogs living together” and Dragon will do just that. (Except it just thought I said “search the bed for cats and dogs living together”, which is still beyond its capabilities, I am happy to say.)

Unfortunately, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is not designed to run on Linux. While some people have got it to run under WINE, it needs to be restarted frequently, and of course it cannot execute operating system commands.

This is one impressive piece of software, and it gets better the more you use it. You can also allow it to rummage through your documents so it can get a better idea of the things you habitually write. You can also train it by reading texts that are prepared for that purpose, but this is not strictly necessary. It works decently right out of the box, and quickly learns from its mistakes when corrected (unlike some people!)

I already wrote a bit about it when I ordered it. My impression now is much the same, but slightly better. As you can see from my LiveJournal entry, I had some fun with giving commands to Windows. I know some of these where available also in the previous version, but there was no easy way to remember what was possible without thumbing through the manual. Now there is the “Dragon Sidebar” which presents a list of the most common commands right there on your screen.

Unfortunately, this sidebar has a bug: After I closed it, the icons on my desktop were moved out of its way. I have a row of icons on the left edge of my screen, where they are out of my way. That is also where I docked the Dragon Sidebar. It’s default position is on the right, and it is possible that it works as intended if you keep it there. Perhaps they simply never tested the other positions?

Another quality-of-life improvement is the ability to work with more programs than before. Well, actually it worked with a lot of programs already, but only to a limited extent. Mostly it only has full functionality in Microsoft Office and its own dictation box / DragonPad (basically a copy of WordPad). In other programs it had limited functionality: You might not be able to select text you had already written, it might not automatically capitalize the word after a period or exclamation point, or corrections might truncate the text. At least those where the errors I encountered most often.

These problems still exist, but not in as many programs as before. Dragon 11 supports OpenOffice and Google Docs, two popular free alternatives to Microsoft Office. It also has better support for other browsers than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, although it still has some problems with Google Chrome. (I am writing this in Google Chrome, for some reason. I usually have both Opera and Chrome open at the same time but pointing to different websites.)

Well, that’s enough for tonight. I can only speak a limited number of words in one evening, after all. Besides, I’m not used to thinking with my mouth, so it is slower than typing. And I still have to correct a mistake or two in almost every sentence. This version is said to be better at learning from its mistakes than ever before. If the same could be said of me, however, I would already be in bed now!

Technobabble day!

To the left, the repaired computer. To the right, the one I have used since December 2.  In the foreground, the broken power supply unit.

Today, dear reader, I want to babble about computers and software.  It will get geeky. You are not obliged to read if it makes your eyes go round and round.  The good news is that my best computer is back up and running and I can talk to it. The rest is optional.

So let us start with the high point of the day.  On December 2 this winter, my best computer, Terra the Quad-Core, crashed overnight. I decided then and there to not try to send it for repairs.  Not only does it hold private stuff, but there is also the point that it is really heavy.  I literally almost killed myself getting it home, except an old friend suddenly showed up like an angel and drove me and it most of the way.   The post office at Holum is at least three times as far away from home.  Besides, I am not sure if it was still under warranty after 2 years and 2 weeks. If not, it could easily become expensive.  Even if it was, the cost of freight would go a long way towards just buying a new power supply and replace it myself.

But I did not actually do that until just recently.  I was busy with moving, but mostly I had opened it and looked at the many wires crisscrossing and  connecting here and there.  Could I recreate that without an actual job training in computer repair?  I was not at all sure.

But then one day I got a mail from Multicom, the company that sold it to me. Although this is a machine with Windows (one of the last desktops with Windows XP, intentionally since Vista was much slower and had other problems while new) … As I said, although this was a Windows machine, my loyalty to Multicom is partly because they habitually sell computers without operating system, so you can install Linux on them for free.  This is rare here in Norway, which is a very Windows-dominated country.  People here have lots of money, so free software is not as popular as elsewhere.  I want to support companies that break with the Microsoft-Apple duopoly.  So I subscribe to their customer mail happily.  This time they had a 650 W power supply on sale.

“Even if it should turn out not to be the power supply” I said to myself, “I still have the Oblivion computer lacking nothing but a strong power supply to come alive with one of my 3 precious MS Office licenses and one of my 5 precious iTunes licenses, plus some data I had added since the last backup. So it would not be all in vain.”

It was the power supply.  I fetched it yesterday at the Joker convenience store, which happens to also be the post office, although they hide it well.  They even don’t have a sign with their name (Holum Nærkjøp) which the post office uses when sending the collect slip.  I actually spent some time looking for that other nonexistent shop.  But eventually I asked them and got my package.  In addition to the power supply, I had bought a fast 16 GB Transcend JetFlash 600 memory stick. This dual-channel stick is quite a bit faster than the industry standard, yet works plug & play in any USB 2.0 connector. Whee!

Actually, I took that first.  I had used a cheap, slower 2 GB USB memory key and converted it to a startup unit for Ubuntu Linux.  When I boot from that, it acts like the install CD, except it also has some extra storage to save settings and a few extra programs like the Opera web browser. Unfortunately, it does not have enough memory to install language files, because once I did, it decided on its own to unpack OpenOffice in pretty much every western language and perhaps some more.  I did this several times over the past week, each time crashing the key to the point where it had to be formatted anew.

This time I used the small key to install Linux on the big, fast key.  It worked quite fine, although of course it took some time.  I can now use this install of Linux on any computer that lets me boot off a USB key.  The one I had in mind however was the cheap little Acer Aspire One that I bought last year (at which point I broke a tooth).  This little thing comes with its own excessively user friendly version of Linux, but it is quite restricted compared to Ubuntu. Besides, I am used to Ubuntu. There has been rapid progress in Solid State Disks since then, but the Aspire One I got has actually noticeably less disk space than the USB key!

After installing and checking out, and downloading a couple favorite programs, I decided to upgrade the Transcend key to Ubuntu 10.04 (nickname “Lucid Lynx”) which is supposed to come out this April.  I was mildly surprised to see that it was still in Alpha 2, less than two months before release.  10.04 is a Long Term Support version, and these tend to have less focus on innovation and more on stability. I wonder how stable they can get it if they aren’t even ready for beta by now.  We’ll see, they usually make it somehow.

The upgrade was actually much slower than the initial install.  It told me it would take 8-9 hours.  I eventually left it on overnight, but it stopped with a question some 7 hours into the process, so it was still not finished this morning.  It did finish, however.

I was not pleased. They had for some reason decided to change the buttons at the top right of each window, the ones you use to minimize, maximize or close the window. These were moved to the top LEFT corner, and minimize and maximize were swapped around, while close was still the rightmost of the three, not the cornermost. They also had made them into small circles instead of squares, although this can be changed simply by switching to one of the other built-in themes, or download a new.  I spent probably a quarter of an hour before I found that I had to edit it with the gconf-editor. To the best of my knowledge that is not in the start menus, so I typed its name in a terminal window. Actually I first ran it as sudo, which meant the settings only applied to programs opened as superuser, not very useful.  Anyway I eventually got it right, opening ->apps ->metacity ->general ->button_layout and changing the line there to swap around minimize and maximize and move the colon to the front.  The colon symbolizes the divide between the left and right top corners, so any buttons placed before the colon appear on the left, anything after the colon appears to the right. Yes, if you are insane you can have buttons on both sides, but even Mac does not have that. I think.

That was that really, but seriously? You don’t kill holy cows, you milk them.  This placement has been industry standard for 30 years or so.  I am pretty sure it was in the top right corner on GEM, an operating system for home gaming machines back when the z80 processor was the way of the future and PacMan was state of the art video gaming.  I would not mind if they asked during setup where I wanted my buttons to be, or if it was an easy-to-find setting in the menus.  I might even have ignored it if it only showed up on new installations and did not mess with existing machines that were just being upgraded.  But this level of presumption is what you would expect from Microsoft or Apple, except they probably don’t have a gconf-editor.  But seriously, how many of you even knew this editor existed before today?

Harmony is restored though.  I can’t say I notice much other change. The OS supposedly starts faster now, but how often do you start your computer from zero when you have a stable operating system that does not reboot itself because you installed a new program or worse, because it installed a new program without asking you first?

Now, getting an entire computer back from the dead is something you really notice.

It was a bit unnerving to disconnect the old wires and cables and trying to remember which went where and finding them on the new power supply.  But amazingly it worked at the first try. And I only got two screws left over. ^_^ I also emptied the machine of a lot of dust…

I am quite joyful to have my best machine back. Not only does it have 4 processor cores instead of Trine’s 3, but each core is also faster. And it has Windows XP instead of the slower Vista.  (I could buy Windows 7 for the Vista machine, but I refuse to pay an extra Microsoft tax to reward them for making a botched operating system in the first place.)  It also happens to have the third and last MS Office license, not that I used it much, and the fourth iTunes. More importantly, it has DRAGON NATURALLYSPEAKING.

You have not forgotten Dragon NaturallySpeaking, have you? The speech recognition program that actually delivers. You may remember Microsoft being ridiculed when they tried to demonstrate the speech recognition in Vista and the computer wrote garbage all over the screen in front of everyone. I hear the speech recognition in Windows 7 is better, but at the moment Nuance has the only reliable speech recognition for personal computers. Yes it costs extra, but it actually works. It is on average as reliable as speaking to a college educated human. I say “on average” because they can both make mistakes, only the mistakes are different when the computer makes them. The computer is very good at listening, but very bad at understanding. It does not make typos unless you manually override it, but it may use words that sound similar and yet make no sense. Or, more commonly, make a different kind of sense.

The previous paragraph was dictated with Dragon NaturallySpeaking and me correcting a few hours. This paragraph is dictated with Dragon NaturallySpeaking but without error correction at all. As you can see, it is possible to dictate several sentences before it goes astray. Of course, I did not actually correct hours as in 60 minutes, but adults as I missed takes. Frequently when you press the “spell that” button, the current text we come up as an alternative. The problem is a spot in the mistakes in the 1st Pl.

Anyway, this is just what the doctor ordered. I mean that literally. When I visited my doctor about not being able to speak more than a few hundred words a day, he recommended that I try saying something every day. Perhaps, he reasoned, I may be able to train my voice back up without surgery, if (as was his theory) my vocal cords have simply fallen into disuse over the years. (I seriously doubt any one in my birth family will agree with his theory, or anyone who went to school with me. Then again, they do not know the Scriptures nor God’s power…)

OK, I better stop dictating.  I have speaking to do tomorrow at work, Light allowing.   And this should be enough technobabble for anyone I can think of that may read my journal. And then some.