Firefox Add-On Adds Text To Voice

Using technology from Vozme service, Firefox users can use the add-on to turn text into voice. The authors claim that the technology is simple to use and that voice quality is good. The English language is fully supported as well as languages in Spanish, Hindi and Italian. The author also states on the add-on site:

Here comes a speaking add-on. Literally, it speaks. Did you ever come across a word which you were not sure how to pronounce? Ever wondered an easy way to hear the word? This add-on is surely going to get a place on your best buddies list. You only need to select the word/words to be pronounced and click the button on the bottom right of your browser. That’s all. Your new buddy is going to say the word/words for you.

You can even download what you just heard. Yes, an audio file in mp3 format can be downloaded from the same page. Right click on ‘download mp3’ link, select ‘save link as’, select location on your computer and it downloads the mp3 audio file there. Cheers!!!

I download the add-on and gave it a try. It is simple to use. You just highlight the text you wish to transfer to voice and click on a speaker icon located at the bottom right corner of the browser. It does work. Some of the words were hard to understand, but you are still able to get the gist of the conversation.I think this is a handy tool if you want to get the correct pronunciation of a word.

Comments welcome.

Voice to Text add-on here

TechCrunch Announces The End Of The CrunchPad – Too Bad

I have reported on the development of the CrunchPad by the founder of TechCrunch, Michael Arrington, and I was excited about the project. Basically the CrunchPad was going to be a touch screen flat panel device that you could use on your lap from the comfort of your couch. It was slim in design and looked very futuristic. This is a photo of the prototype:

So what happened to cause the project to collapse? Here is what Mike says happened:

Our plan was to debut the CrunchPad on stage at the Real-Time Crunchup event on November 20, a little over a week ago. We even hoped to have devices hacked together with Google Chrome OS and Windows 7 to show people that you could hack this thing to run just about anything you want. We’d put 1,000 of the devices on pre-sale and take orders immediately. Larger scale production would begin early in 2010.

And then the entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication.

On November 17, our deadline date for greenlighting the debut three days later, the CEO of our partner on the project, Chandra Rathakrishnan, sent me an email with the subject “no good news.” Yuck, I thought. Another delay, probably with the screen that had been giving us so much trouble – capacitive touch at 12 inches isn’t trivial. And sure enough, the email started off with “no good news to update. updated hardware is still on its way , so that’s a timing issue. friday will be a challenge now.”

But the email went on. Bizarrely, we were being notified that we were no longer involved with the project. Our project. Chandra said that based on pressure from his shareholders he had decided to move forward and sell the device directly through Fusion Garage, without our involvement.

Yipes! Sounds like a case where the only winners are going to be the lawyers. Oh well. Maybe someone else will find this device intriguing and come out with a tablet of their own.

Comments welcome.

TechCrunch source.

Teach Yourself Visually Series Of Books For Newbies

I received a comment from reader Kim who asked me what books I would recommend for someone who was new to computers? It is hard to believe that in a day and age where computers are so common that there is anyone who doesn’t know how to use a computer. But there are some folks who are just now taking the plunge into the wonderful world of computers and are just starting to surf the Internet.

In my past life [LOL], I taught computer classes at a local junior college where I lived. The classes were geared for adults only and I taught everything from Windows, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Internet – including surfing and emailing – plus an assortment of other computer subjects. I really enjoyed teaching these classes and did so for six years prior to my moving away from the area.

So when Kim asked me the question about which books I would recommend, I thought about the Teach Yourself Visually series of books. These books are extremely easy for newbies to use since they use simple pictures with an arrow, captioned with a ‘click here’ to get something done. These books are worth a look if your know of someone who is new to computing.

Are there any books you can recommend? Please let us know.

Comments welcome.

Amazon Web site for the Teach Yourself Visually series of books.

Mozilla Developing New Browser

STOP! No, it’s not a replacement for Firefox so relax. But the new Aurora is a concept browser bringing collaboration one step closer to simplicity. Aurora will take the experience from Facebook or MySpace and incorporate it into a browser interface. Check out the video and you immediately see how easy this puppy is going to be. In the article it states:

Let’s say you were in Japan and your business partner is in Ohio and you are working on a power point presentation. No need to e-mail the file back and forth. Using Aurora you could both work on the piece, view it discuss it, and make changes in real time. Call it extreme collaboration. Of course there are similar programs that allow us to work virtually on screens in another country, like Adobe ConnectNow and GoToMeeting, but this concept is built for the everyday browser, with a supposedly simple interface.

There appear to be no plans to go to market with this and no one is saying it will replace Firefox. For now it’s simply a concept to explore.

So what do you think of Aurora? Do you think think this browser concept has a place in the Mozilla family?

Comments welcome.


Help Build A Simple Web Tablet For $200

OK you techies. Here is your chance to get in on the bottom floor on a project over at TechCrunch. They want to design a web tablet and want to keep the price at $200. They are looking for techies to join in on the project and to actually develop a prototype of the unit. They list some of what they want the unit to be as:

I’m tired of waiting – I want a dead simple and dirt cheap touch screen web tablet to surf the web. Nothing fancy like the Dell Latitude XT , which costs $2,500. Just a Macbook Air-thin touch screen machine that runs Firefox and possibly Skype on top of a Linux kernel. It doesn’t exist today, and as far as we can tell no one is creating one. So let’s design it, build a few and then open source the specs so anyone can create them.

Here’s the basic idea: The machine is as thin as possible, runs low end hardware and has a single button for powering it on and off, headphone jacks, a built in camera for video, low end speakers, and a microphone. It will have Wifi, maybe one USB port, a built in battery, half a Gigabyte of RAM, a 4-Gigabyte solid state hard drive. Data input is primarily through an iPhone-like touch screen keyboard. It runs on linux and Firefox. It would be great to have it be built entirely on open source hardware, but including Skype for VOIP and video calls may be a nice touch, too.

If all you are doing is running Firefox and Skype, you don’t need a lot of hardware horsepower, which will keep the cost way down.

The idea is to turn it on, bypass any desktop interface, and go directly to Firefox running in a modified Kiosk Mode that effectively turns the browser into the operating system for the device. Add Gears for offline syncing of Google docs, email, etc., and Skype for communication and you have a machine that will be almost as useful as a desktop but cheaper and more portable than any laptop or tablet PC.

It will also include a custom default home page with large buttons for bookmarked services – news, Meebo/Ebuddy for IM, Google Docs/Zoho for Office, Email, social networks, photo sites, YouTube, etc. Everything that you use every day.

We’re working with a supply chain management company that says the basic machine we’re looking to build can be created for just a few hundred dollars. They need us to write the software modifications to Linux and Firefox (more on that below) and spec the hardware. Then they run with it and can have a few prototypes built within a month.

What will we call it? The best name I can think of is the Firefox Tablet, but that will take a round of discussions with Mozilla.

I’ll tell you one thing. I give the folks over at TechCrunch credit for taking on a project that would provide a useful and simple device for surfing the Internet. That they are asking for assistance from the public is also commendable. So if you have something to offer, join in and help to develop this new device. Even if you have no techie abilities, join in a give the project your support. Already over 200 folks have already left comments.

Here is how to join in:

We’ll be coordinating the project over at TechCrunchIT. Leave a comment there if you want to participate and we’ll be in touch soon.

Comments welcome.

Spread the word.

Windows Home Server – Is It Right For You?

Microsoft’s latest addition to the world of Windows is their new Windows Home Server operating system. The basics of the software is based on Windows Server 2003, which has been scaled down for home use or in a small office environment. WHS can be used with up to 10 computer systems, so if you have this number of systems on a network, WHS should be considered as an alternative to the standard Server software.

Though I have previously reported on the beta of WHS, I have been sitting on a final copy of the software for about 3 weeks or so. So yesterday [Friday the 9th], with LG being down and out, I thought I would install the final version on my test box. I found a 120G hard disk sitting around collecting dust and popped it into my test computer. As with previous versions, the install is slow taking about 1.5 hours to complete.

Unlike other traditional server software, WHS is simple to administer. A wizard takes you through the setup process which includes installing software on all of your systems which are connected to the network. Once done, WHS handles the rest. The biggest benefit of WHS is that it will auto backup all of your stuff automatically. But is this feature alone enough to justify the cost of a server system, both hardware and software? HP has a mini-server model they will be introducing next month with WHS installed for about $600.

So who would spend $600 just for the convenience of backing up all of your stuff automatically? The average home user may be better off just buying a external hard disk and doing there own backup. I just received an email from Tiger Direct who is offering an external WD 250G drive for only $75.00. I think that decision is best left up to the individual.

I believe that WHS is another alternative method of securing your data. But it does cost more than several of the other alternatives, i.e. external hard disk, or backing up to disk or tape. There is also one thing that you also must consider. Having a system at the same physical location as your other systems will not protect your data from loss by theft, fire, flood or other natural disaster. Remote storage is still your best protection from data loss.

Another thought is, how important is your stuff to you? For many home users losing your data would not be critical or a life changing experience. But for those who have important data for running a SOHO that must be protection, WHS is something to consider. Bottom line. It is up to you on how much you wish to spend to protect your stuff. :-)

What do you think? Is spending $600 on a server worth it? Or are the alternatives equally effective?

Comments welcome.

[tags]microsoft, windows home server, simple, backup, automatically, [/tags]

Confused About HDTV? I Can’t Understand Why

Over at CNN/Money they have an article from Best Buy in which the retail giant estimates that 90% of Americans still don’t understand HDTV. I wonder why? The choices are fairly simple.

First you just have to decide whether you want to purchase a LCD, DLP, CRT, Projector or Plasma HDTV.

Next you just need to decide which progressive and/or interlaced content you prefer such as 480i, 480p, 720i, 720p, 1080i, or 1080p.

You may wish to compare contrast ratios which can range from 1-1000 to 1-15000 or higher.

Selecting which type of connection you will need between the TV and your accessories such as HDMI, Component, RCA, S-Video, and so forth is fairly simple.

Brand selection? No problem. Just pick a HP, Sony, Phillips, LG, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Vizio, Sharp, Sanyo, Toshiba, Prioneer, Optima, RCA, Dynex, Panasonic, Insignia, Hitachi, Westinghouse, Element, or other.

Size screen. Easy. You will be presented with every size imaginable starting at about 15″ up to whopping 71″ or more.

Pricing. No problem here. Just ask yourself a simple question. How much money do you have left in the bank, or how much is your credit card limit?

On a serious note. You won’t get HDTV without a HDTV signal either over the air, by cable or satellite. This article is written in jest. As the CNN article noted, it is easy to see why people are confused. One of the readers here by the name of Rob V. took me step by step and described the differences in HDTV and I believe he did a great job. It helped me decide what to buy. You can read Rob’s comments here.

During my travels going from retailer to retailer, I did discover something rather odd. Walmart offers extended warranties ranging from $58.88 to $78.88 depending on the pricing of the unit. Its extended warranty plan is one of the least expensive that I found. Most other retailers charge anywhere from $179 to $359 or more depending on the length of the service contract and the cost of the unit. In the Walmart service contract, it states the following, which I took directly from its website:

If in-home service is provided for the full term of your manufacturer’s warranty, then it will be provided under this Plan. If in-home service is not provided, unless otherwise noted, you will be responsible for delivery or the cost of delivery of the product to the service center for repair.

So if the HDTV you purchase is not covered by on-site repairs by the manufacturer, you will have to ship the unit back for repairs. CNN article here.

Comments welcome.

Apple iPhone – Sneak Peek- WOW!

As many of you may know, I have been in New England this past week, visiting our daughter and son-in-law who live in Waterford, CT. This is the first time my wife and I have visited New England, and we definitely will be returning. There is so much to do and see, that one week wasn’t enough time. So we are already planning a trip out in October, 2008 to see the fall colors, which are supposed to be spectacular. Some observations during our trip for those who also haven’t been to New England before:

In New London, CT. is a naval base with a submarine museum that was fantastic. I was pleased to see that they had the first nuclear submarine the Nautilus open to explorer. The way they exhibited the inside of the ship was awesome and was very enjoyable to walk through and see how submariners live.

Boston, MA. I thought California drivers were nuts. But you folks take the prize. Drive on Hwy. #95 was like driving in the Indy 500. On the left side of your steering wheel is a stalk called the turn signal. Use it. :-)

Salem, MA. I really enjoyed visiting your town and learning about the witch trials and all the history behind it. But do us tourists a favor? Add some street name signs to your main roads. We out of toners have one heck of a time knowing if we are on the right street or not. :-)

Mystic, CT. Stop at Mystic Pizza. Pizza was great. Four of us had 2 small combo pizzas, antipasto salads, side of onion rings, 2 beers and 2 cokes for $44.00 and we were stuffed. Claim to fame is that Julia Roberts made a movie in town called Mystic Pizza. Never saw it. The movie that is.
Now for the Apple iPhone review. The daughter works for a company that handles web conferencing. One of her best friends just happens to work for [I can’t say] and she was visiting last weekend from New York. She had herself one of the new Apple iPhones. It was a prototype and it had Cingular on it and not ATT. Stealing some thunder from Microsoft there is only one word to describe it. WOW! What is most striking about the Apple iPhone is its beauty and simplicity. It is a good looking piece of equipment and seeing it in action makes one a believer in this Apple product.

First of all it is simple to use. The daughters friend took me through the iPhones functions and it was a delight to see that Apple really shines in the way they set up this unit. It is a sleek, slender design that fit my hand perfectly. Functionality was amazingly easy and in about 10 minutes I could use it with ease. Oh, and did I say it’s pretty as well? Only con maybe the touch screen. Since these units are so new, it is unknown how well the touch screen will hold up. Apple has had some problems in the past with their iPod screens. Hopefully this will not be the case.

Pricing. These units will be expensive. Roughly in the $500 to $800 range depending on which one you buy and where you buy it from. Overall I would give this unit two-thumbs up.

Release date is June 29th, 2007.

What are your thoughts? Will the iPhone be the perfect marriage of cell phone and computer? Or will the high price tag keep it out of most consumers reach?

Comments welcome.

[tags]apple, iphone, simple, [/tags]

Freespire 2.0 Alpha Test Review: "This One Is Going To Be Good. Very Good."

This one is going to be good. Very good. That was my first impression using the Alpha [test] version of Freespire 2.0. Most test versions of Linux distributions normally have some kinks or bugs that need to be worked out. This is not the case with Freespire 2.0. It just flat out works. I had no trouble installing the software and it auto detected all of my hardware without a hiccup. I was even able to get on the Internet through my wireless setup without even a whimper.

I have always been partial to Freespire for several reason. First I think that CNR – Click-n-Run – is a far superior product to install and uninstall programs. I also like Mozilla products and Freespire uses both Firefox and Thunderbird software. Both of the products have been tested and also fall into the category that they just work. Plus Freespire got my NVidia card setup with no user intervention. I am not a Linux geek and don’t want to know how to compile anything. :-)

The first thing one notices is that this is the first Freespire + Ubuntu collaboration of a Linux distribution. At the installation splash screen one is confronted by the Freespire logo and down in the lower right corner is “Debian Linux Core Powered by Ubuntu.” However, Freespire continues to use the KDE interface which I personally prefer.

What else is impressive about this latest version? On the desktop is a Network Share icon. I was able to open up my Windows boxes and transfer files without a hitch. I copied several folders of photos to play with and Freespire set them up for viewing in a Personal File cabinet located on the toolbar. Nice touch and simple to use. Oh, yes. I was able to print to my HP Laserjet via a print server in under one minute. If this got any easier I don’t think I could handle it. LOL

I believe that both the new Freespire and Ubuntu versions which will support CNR should be available for use around July or sooner. I personally look forward to trying both distros and so should you. This is going to be Linux made simple and having Freespire [Linspire] and Ubuntu working together should benefit us all.

Comments welcome.

[tags]freespire, ubuntu, linux, simple[/tags]

Google Voice Local Search – Experimental Stage

Google has a new toy for us to play with called Google 411. By calling a toll free phone number you can locate a business in the area where you live. Google states on its Web site that:

Google Voice Local Search is Google’s experimental service to make local-business search accessible over the phone.
To try this service, just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone.
Using this service, you can:

  • search for a local business by name or category. You can say “Giovanni’s Pizzeria” or just “pizza”.
  • get connected to the business, free of charge.
  • get the details by SMS if you’re using a mobile phone. Just say “text message”.

And it’s free. Google doesn’t charge you a thing for the call or for connecting you to the business. Regular phone charges may apply, based on your telephone service provider.

Note: Google Voice Local Search is still in its experimental stage. It may not be available at all times and may not work for all users. We’re fine-tuning the service to get better at recognizing your requests. It’s currently only available in English, in the U.S., for U.S. business listings.

Does it work? I took it for a spin last night and found an Italian restaurant I wanted to check for its hours of operation. It is simple to use and should save you some time. Please note the limitations of the service. English only, U.S. businesses, and not available everywhere for now.

Give it a try and see what you think.

Comments welcome.

[tags]google, 411, search, simple[/tags]

Microsoft Windows Security – "We Have Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself"

It seems like almost everyday we read about some new type of threat and for those who write about these threats, there appears to be a overwhelming need to express that the threat is akin to the plague. It sometimes make one wonder if the threat reporting people, usually a security or anti-virus company, are performing a public service or are merely scaring us into buying one of their software products. With every new reported threat those of us who use PC’s hear from the Macheads and Linux people who tout to us how secure their systems are and that we PC users are basically a ‘dumb’ lot to begin with.

Last night I saw another one of those Mac vs PC commercials in which once again the PC is shown to be a inferior product that carries a lot of dead weight around and everyone should buy a MAC. Can you imagine if the car industry did this. Let’s say that GM came out with a commercial that showed a horrific accident depicting, let’s a Toyota, with it’s roof sheared off and the driver and passengers decapitated in all of it’s gory detail, and with a announcer saying, ‘see, if these folks had been driving our new Chevy with 14 air bags this wouldn’t of happened.” Or how about Lockheed showing a downed Boeing plane with parts strewn all over and someone picking up a arm or leg saying ‘ see, they should of flown in a Lockheed jet.” How long do you think either of these commercials would be on TV?

So let’s take a real hard look at what us Windows folk are up against, or are not up against, as the case maybe.

  1. If you are running Windows XP with Service Pack #2 or Windows Vista you are fairly well protected already. By merely keeping your system updated with Microsoft fixes and patches all should be fine.
  2. Don’t open attachments unless you know who the sender is and watch where you surf on the web. Porn sites are a no-no.
  3. Don’t allow any web site to install any software on your system unless you are 100% positive you know what it is.
  4. Keep your anti-virus & anti-spyware programs updated and your firewall on.
  5. If you use broadband, buy a router.

This might be a overly simplistic list of what to do, but in general, if you follow this you should be A-OK.

As FDR stated “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

Comments welcome.

[tags]microsoft, security, windows, simple, [/tags]

Nod32 – My First Time Trying It – I Like It

I have read and heard about Nod32 for the past several years, what a good product it was, and how effective it was compared to other products. As most of you know I have been a AVG fan for many years and have written about the benefits of using the free edition of AVG. But during the past month I have taken on a new project and have been testing Windows Home Server.

The freebie from AVG only works on home systems and they specify also for personal use only. So when I went to install AVG on Home Server I received a friendly warning that the free version would not work. I took a look around to see if there were any free programs [that worked] for server software. Oh, and one that I could trust which somewhat limited my choices. I didn’t want to take a chance of having the OS infected so I finally stumbled on the answer.

How about Nod32? They have a free 30 day trial and it supports Server 2003 which Home Server is based on. Since I had never used Nod32 before, I was actually looking forward to giving it a try.

The download of the software was simple enough and the installation was a breeze. Naturally a reboot was required after the install completed. And once everything settled down I took a careful look at Nod32. The first I wanted to do was get it updated to the latest protections. In order to sign in to the update server I had to provide my username and password, and once completed, the system updated itself. One of the first things I noticed was that the update was quick, even at 6.5MB. OK. AVG can be kind of slow updating, but what do you expect for a freebie. :-)

After the update was done I did a manual scan. All was clean. Taking a look at the interface for Nod32, it is very well laid out and easy to navigate. Also it is very intuitive. Need to stop or change a process, click here. Simple. Which I like a lot. I have tried another free anti-virus program called Avast, and found it cumbersome and hard to navigate. IMHO.

So Nod32 and I have been working together on Windows Home Server without a peep. As I stated before, I really like Home Server but it does have a few issues for home users. Nothing major. I’ll be doing another report on the latest version once I am given the green light.

Nod32 gets two thumbs up.

[tags]nod32, effective, simple, trial version, [/tags]

Stealing ID From The Dead – Update

I received a comment from Rick Weldon who provided me with a link to do a search of people who are deceased. See here.

So I tested the system to see how accurate it was. I checked for both my father and also my step mother who are both deceased.  Not only did I receive a correct name match, but also their date of births, social security numbers, dates of death, county and state where recorded, last known county of residence and the state where their social security number was issued.

To say I was surprised at the information I received with just one simple search is to put it mildly.

Check for yourself and see what you find.

Comments welcome.

I’m going to do some more research since I saw some other links on the site.

Thanks Rick for sharing this with us. I am totally amazed that it was that simple.

[tags]id theft, dead, records, simple, search, [/tags]

Google Notebook – Clip And Gather Information

Google Notebook allows you to gather information and to organize the information in one simple to use repository located online. You can then use this information from any computer and also share it with others. Google Notebook incorporates clip and browse technology and allows access to the information via a icon located in the right hand corner of your browser.

Google makes signing up for Google Notebook and downloading the extensions simple:

“Just sign in to the Google Notebook homepage with your Google Accounts username and password, then download the Google Notebook browser extension (if you haven’t already). As soon as you restart your browser, you should see a Google Notebook icon in the bottom-right corner of your browser window. Click on this icon to open your mini Google Notebook, where you can save all the clips of content you want.”

Google Notebook supports both Internet Explorer and Mozilla Firefox.

So give it a try. Your research notes will always be available to you.

Try Google Notebook

[tags]google, notebook, simple, [/tags]

Simple DST Fix – How Come Nobody Has Mentioned This?

Sometimes we make things so complicated and then we read a simple fix. I was over at LG this afternoon and read a post by The Shadow which stated for home users:

  • Just double click the little clock in your system tray.
  • Then, click the “Time Zone” tab and at the bottom of the window UN-Check the box that says “Automatically Adjust
  • Clock for Daylight Savings Changes.”
  • OK the window to close it.
  • When the time comes just manually reset your system clock and all should be OK.

It made me kind of laugh. For the past several weeks there have been many posts about how DST could be worse than the Y2K problem, which overall was a non-event. And now here is posted something that is so simple it made me wonder why no one had posted this before.

But I guess doing something the easy way wouldn’t make for interesting headlines. :-)

Thanks, Wayne – two thumbs up!

[tags]dst, simple, fix, [/tags]