Daily Archives:May 23rd, 2008


Wow – this is a cool story!

Many thanks to Bill Thompson for the link.

Happy talk?

I’ve always had very little luck with speech recognition systems. I don’t think my voice is that strange, but I’ve spent too much time on the phone trying to book flights and getting “I’m sorry I didn’t understand that. Please say yes or no” repeatedly as I try everything to make the blasted machine understand one simple word. Ah well.

Still, people tell me that Dragon NaturallySpeaking on Windows is getting really quite usable now, but there hasn’t been an equivalent package for the Mac. Until now, apparently.

MacSpeech Dictate (formerly iListen) has been rewritten to use the Dragon recognition engine, which is generally said to be the best on the market.

It’s not too cheap at $200 (though the price does include a microphone), and there’s no try-before-you-buy option, but if you want or need this, it might well be worth it.

The reviews on Amazon seem to suggest that people love it or hate it – if it works, the recognition quality is exceedingly good – some say even better than the Windows product – but if you want complex features, unusual vocabularies, or customer support from the company, it sounds as if it might be worth waiting. More here.

Jay walking

I met a jay the other day as I was picking up my bike at Cambridge station. A cheerful chap – he dodged most of my attempts to photograph him… as I crept up on him he would flutter up in the air, circle round behind me, and land there. I’d turn around and creep in that direction, and when I got almost close enough, he’d take off and land back behind me again.

We kept this up for a while, until he decided that a passing sycamore leaf was more interesting than me, and started teasing that instead, at which point I headed for home.


Roger McGuinn, partly in an effort to save some old folk tunes from being lost, has released a number of recordings for free at FolkDen.com, under a Creative Commons licence.

Many of them are really quite good, if you like that kind of thing. I keep finding myself humming Blow the Man Down after listening to his recording, for example. Recommended.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser