Sunday, October 24, 2010

Know your use case

This is the second in a series of two posts about employing new technologies that took significantly longer than I hoped or expected. The second new thing I needed to accomplish in the last few weeks, was to install and start using Dragon NaturallySpeaking by Nuance. All these presentations blog posts reports and bookkeeping have played havoc on my shoulders and I'm looking for any solution to reduce my time at the keyboard.

I prefer to go to stores and talk to people in person, I know I must be old, but that's still what works for me. I took myself to the nearest Office Depot hoping to ask some questions about the software and perhaps see some new keyboard trays. Nobody in the store ever came up to ask if I needed any help, and when I sought help I was directed to a large screen monitor what I was told to Google my questions. Awesome. I am in your store looking for dictation software, hoping not to use keyboard, and you send me straight to a computer. I left purchasing nothing, more confused than I was before.

As a side note, I will give kudos to one employee at a different store who spent probably 20 min. on the phone with me sharing what he had done for his injuries including trying to convince me to learn an entirely new keyboard that was more ergonomic. Despite that, he had some good advice and good information.

After a good bit of searching, I finally found a grid that answered some of my questions, and confirmed which version of the software would be best for me. It also confirmed that I would be able to use the product with PowerPoint.

I picked up a copy of the software excited to get started. It took me a number of days to get the microphone to work. In fact I never got the microphone to work. Again, a number of conversations with underpaid workers overseas I was told that the microphone that came with the product would not work with my laptop because the internal array mic would override any other signal. I had to go out and purchase a USB headset. Great. I just spent$200 on some software,arguably for use by a population becoming more and more laptop dependent. I'm still not sure that tech really knew what he was talking about but back to the store I went and purchased a USB headset so that I could get moving on this project.

The headset, sadly, took more time to set up than the very complex cloud share Pogoplug that I had set up just hours before.after some convoluted web searches I gather that my problem was just that that device had not been selected as my default device. However, every time I went through the setup process where did software is learning my voice the quality check failed every time. I decided to bypass this and see what would happen. Ta da! what you have just read was all created, while mostly, by using the headset and the new software. I tried to set up 10 years ago when I had my first repetitive stress injury and it was a painful and frustrating process. I am shocked and amazed at the quality of the voice recognition this early in the process. I've had to do very few corrections, and the cheat sheets that come with the software now are superbly helpful.

There is a bit of a learning curve for complex actions, but to just sit in dictate and watch the words pop up on the screen while I rest my weary arms and shoulders is a great relief. It would be best, however, if the engineers and designers did due diligence and realize that likely at least 50% of their users will be working from laptops.

Products who do their research --- FTW

In the last few weeks, I've had some extraordinary experiences with new technology. One was purely awesome the rest have sucked the time and energy out of my life.

As most of you know I run a small business. Most days I carry my laptop to and from work with much that is wonderful and important in the world in the trunk of my car praying that nobody crashes into me or steals that laptop out of my trunk.

My goal, was to find a way that I could access all of my information from a single point and whether I am at the office or at my home access to the same files. I tried simply carrying an external hard drive for a while but found that Windows 7 and Windows Vista could not be used with the same hard drive. I've talked to technicians, I've talked to people at big box stores, and other good bit of online research only to come up somewhat empty-handed, at least for a reasonable price.

My first solution was to try the NASDuo. The salesman at Fry's talked me into this device which was supposed to be all-in-one remote access to my laptops and iPhone. I literally spent two weeks on the phone with the Philippines trying to set up both my local and remote access. I was upgraded to level II support, unfortunately this wasn't much help. After being told it would take 2 to 3 days to figure out what was going on I gave up and took the device back to Fry's.

I will now sing the praises of the Pogo plug. This nifty little device creates your own personal cloud-a way to access your information remotely from anywhere. Hallelujah! my two weeks of struggle were rewarded with 2 min. of setup. Yes, you read that correctly, minutes. I am shocked and amazed and filled with glee. Oh yes, and eternally grateful to the friend who suggested that I use this product in the first place.

The out of box experience was also quite extraordinary. It has a sleek and clean box with one tiny instruction manual approximately 4 x 4 inches. This manual directs you to a website where they walk you through the quick and easy setup complete with troubleshooting ideas and in no time you have access to your files. circumventing lengthy confusing printed materials and offering clean, interactive graphics was a great choice by the manufacturer.

It is difficult to believe that whoever created the NASDuo thought that anyone but a very technical person would be using their product. The interface and screens were clunky and ugly and asked for information that no average consumer would have any clue of how to find. Even their customer service guys had trouble locating information. In contrast, again, the Pogoplug is a very consumer friendly product with a clean and simple interface which obviously went through user testing prior to entering the marketplace.

Finally, the industrial design of the Pogoplug is strongly preferred, at least by me. It is consumer friendly white though admittedly the pink accents may not be as welcome for a manly man. But the NASDuo was an ugly black box designed for engineers.

At last, I can see my PowerPoint presentations from my iPhone I can share photos with family I can share documents with clients all from this personal cloud. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Pogoplug.