Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dragon test run

HelloI am testing Dragon NaturallySpeaking with the new microphone. So far it looks like it might be working okay. Although it's too soon to tell. I'm speaking particularly quickly this time. I hope that Dragon NaturallySpeaking will be able to keep up with me. There have been two errors so far. I hope this isn't a trend.

Hello (again). I'd like to talk to you today about spam. Spam is some kind of luncheon meat. I'm not entirely sure what it's composed of. I've been told it's composed of spiced ham and meat although this is only a rumor. I've only managed to taste it once and I haven't been impressed. It's not that I thought it tasted bad it's that I didn't think it tasted much like anything. I have always liked ingredients with strong taste. I like things like onions and strong cheddar and spiced turkey breast and hot pickles with maybe a gherkin as a side dish and some sour balls for dessert. I guess I like the feel of a nuclear explosion in my mouth.

While we're not on the topic I'd like to change the subject to which ingredients go best in sandwiches. My personal fav is old cheddar, mayonnaise, cucumber and tomato. If I can be bothered I sometimes chop up some onions and throw them in there as well as sometimes some spicy hot pickles. I used to make the same sort of sandwich but add in some lettuce. I've slowly been coming to the conclusion that lettuce in sandwiches is just a waste of space. It doesn't really offer much in terms of flavor and while it's true that it does create a pleasent crunchy texture you can get much the same effect with cucumbers.

One thing I can't understand is why anyone would put cheese and meat in the same sandwich. In my opinion a sandwich should based on one or the other. Tthey are both superstar ingredients. Both cheese and meat deserve their own show; they deserve to have other ingredients bask in their glory. To put both in the same sandwich is doing both a disservice. First of all they don't go particularly well together. Both meat and cheese have similar textures and basic tastes. Unless you're meat is salami and cheese is Swiss then I can see that. The worst combination is ham and mild cheddar. If you do that you might as well just shoot yourself or use spam.

The worst damage I've ever made is one that use plain white bread with butter and mild cheddar. That's absolutely completely unpleasant. I'm pretty sure that sandwiches classified as a torture device under the Geneva Convention.

Anyway, this concludes my test of Dragon NaturallySpeaking with a new microphone.

New USB microphone: Plantronics 655

Wait a moment, I never told you about which microphone I got.

So when you get Dragon NaturallySpeaking you get a free microphone in the box. I really like this microphone as it's free and I only had to pay $100 for Dragon to get it. As a rule, free stuff you get with other stuff you have to pay for is good. The best place to make use of this philosophy is at a convention where you get a whole bag of free stuff for going to the thing you had to pay for which you can then throw at people you went with and sometimes they even give it back which is all good but I digress.

After buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking I started to use Skype quite a bit. I used my Dragon NaturallySpeaking headset with Skype. If I could digress once again I'd like to point out that anyone who's not using a headset of some sort when talking with Skype is inflicting terrible pain on the other person. Whereas the person with the headset is producing beautiful, CD-quality audio without any background noise but I was not using the headset is creating an echo chamber full of background chatter, claiming pots and pans any inevitable crying baby noises.

Okay, now what was I talking about again? Oh yes, my old headset with intent to use that as a lead-in to my new headset. Well, that kind of went off the rails. Man, you'd think I'd be able to fix all this by editing it after I dictated it. Too bad Dragon is dictating this in "pen mode" and I don't want to leave any whiteout on my screen. Oh well.

So anyway, Skype got me addicted to headsets and I started to use it more and more often. Then Starcraft II came along and my life would never be the same again. You see, I play Starcraft II with a friend over Skype. This is great but the Dragon headset really isn't up to the task. For one thing it only has a speaker for one ear. For another it seems to be meant for someone with a really skinny head. After a few hours of playing it becomes extremely uncomfortable. So I went out and got myself a good, new, stereo headset.

What I got was a sort of middle middle-of-the-road Plantronics 655 USB headset. My intention was to use this headset for games and for dictating to Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Also keep in mind that my friend Guillaume had written a very nice article explaining how to purchase a headset for use with Dragon. As a result I also got a stereo, noise reducing, USB headset.

So far, it's worked quite nicely for both Starcraft II and Dragon. Having the full stereo headset makes a huge change for Starcraft II. I can hear a pin drop and can drop a siege tank on the poor SCV that dropped it. I can also dictate to Dragon NaturallySpeaking very nicely too. The headset also works nicely when listening to music and has two little buttons on the side of the earpiece that can control the sound volume.

The microphone is not bad. The recording is buzz free although it does pick up more background noise then I would like. It doesn't seem to pick up more than my old headset but I guess I was hoping that the noise cancellation feature would do miracles.

When used as a pair of headphone headphone, one thing that's so good it's almost creepy is that there's no buzzing. Usually a headset plugged into the stereo mini jack on the computer will create a tiny background hum or hiss all the time. This is typically because the audio card on the machine isn't perfectly isolated from all the electrical noise coming from inside the computer. Because this is a USB headset, however, there is none of that. It sounds as if the headphones are not plugged in if the computer is not playing any sound.

Now, if you're looking for super amazing sound quality then you might want to look elsewhere. I say "might" because I really don't know if they're any good or not. I don't have any fancy equipment at my disposal to test with and I don't have a golden ear either. All I know is pretty much matches what I've come to expect from full ear headphones.

The headphones also don't isolate you from noises in the room very much at all. It's got to be the least sound isolation I've had from a full-ear headset. I'm not sure this is a good thing or a bad thing. It would probably be a good thing if you're working in an office and somebody wanted to interrupt you. It's probably a bad thing if you're working in an office and you don't want to be interrupted. At least I'm aware of how loud I'm talking into the microphone.

The last minor quibble I have is that my standard speakers don't work with the headset plugged in. This means I'm forever unplugging the USB headset in order to switch to my regular speakers and back. My original headset used a typical stereo mini jack and I have two of those on my machine so I could keep the headset constantly plugged in and still play audio through the speakers. I just wish there was an easy way to flip the audio without unplugging the headset or going into the windows sound control panel and switching the default sound output device. Maybe some sort of keyboard shortcut? Hum, I'll have to look into that.

(OMG it works with skype!)