Improving Fire Alarms to get the Attention of Children

This video news report is an excellent example demonstrating why fire alarms belong in our broken technology series.  Fire alarm signals for homes have not changed much in 25 years.  The monitoring systems that go with them have improved, but if they do not get kids up during a fire monitoring the situation won't help families when they need it.

Fire alarms in general are less than commodities these days.  They go for just a few bucks at Wal-Mart or Lowes or Home Depot and typically not considered high tech.  But this is a good example of innovation coming back around to make an important improvement on a technology.  Definitely might make someone think twice going for the best buy based on price instead of function and purpose.

150 Words Per Minute with Voice Recognition Software - Out of the Box

I have been utilizing Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 9 for over a year now. It's a great piece of software and it enables me to have my voice transcribed at a rate of about 150 words a minute. That's pretty amazing.

Video Demonstration of Setting Up a User and Hitting 150 words a minute after the Initial Setup

I've been writing reviews about Dragon NaturallySpeaking and putting together a number of tutorials throughout the last year. I've experimented with a number of different ways to use the software and experimented with ways to use the software with my mobile phone as well. With a Palm Treo I can record a voice note and have the voice note converted into text using Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 9 the preferred edition.

Many people still have the belief that voice recognition software is something that you play with once, train for about a week and then promptly ignore because it doesn't work.

This was my own impression when I first tried Dragon NaturallySpeaking version 3 about 10-13 years ago. Back then I was in college for the first time, and I just purchased my first personal computer after using PCs in the military for a number of years. I was very excited about the prospect of not having to type anymore despite the fact that I can type very quickly, about 50 words a minute back then.

Today I can type at 70 to 90 words a minute, but that doesn't mean I always want to. In fact after typing for decades now, I don't really want to risk my hands are my wrists anymore with the potential of a repetitive stress injury. So for the last year I've been teaching myself to compose using voice recognition in the form of Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

You can read more about some of my experiences in a long list of articles I've developed on the topic and continue to add to the pile. I've tried this software in the office, on a fishing dock, in my car, on an elliptical machine, with loud noises, music and television playing in the background and while my computer processes heavy chunks of data at the same time.

You can also check out the video above, where I give a demonstration of setting up a brand-new user with Dragon NaturallySpeaking, training that user in about 10 to 15 minutes, and then allowing the automatic setup to run for about another 20 to 30 minutes. The total amount of time transpires is about an hour in the video it's about 20 minutes. At the end of that hour however I can take a typing test and reach a typing speed of over 150 words a minute with just three or four errors. It would probably be better if the typing test warned a British typing test and I weren't an American unfamiliar with some of the words and forms of language in that particular typing test. :-)

Here's a few of those articles:

  1. Using Dragon Naturally Speaking with Utterz
  2. Running Dragon Naturally Speaking with Audacity at the Same Time
  3. MacSpeech Announces Dictate Running on Dragon Naturally Speaking
  4. Test Running Jing Video Capture with Dragon Naturally Speaking 9
  5. Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 Advertising Campaign Goes on TV
  6. Installed my Dragon Naturally Speaking Custom Vocabulary - Not Sure Where It Is?
  7. Doubled My Ram for Dragon Naturally Speaking
  8. Nuance Offers Free Custom Vocabulary Program to existing Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 Users
  9. Running Dragon Naturally Speaking with the Gorillaz-music playing
  10. Article Written on the Road with DNS 9
  11. Driving While Transcribing with Dragon Naturally Speaking 9
  12. Video Tutorial - Transcribe WAV files to Text with Dragon Naturally Speaking
  13. Dragon Naturally Speaking Uses in Therapy
  14. Dragon Naturally Speaking for Salesforce.com
  15. Video Running Dragon Naturally Speaking in a Typing Test
  16. Nuance Reaches for More Horizonal Partners - Grabs up T9 from AOL
  17. 23 Funny Dragon Naturally Speaking Mis Quotes
  18. Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 - Regular Tune Ups Required
  19. How to Dictate Text into a Single Cell in Excel using Dragon Naturally Speaking 9
  20. Total Audio Converter for Batch Convresions
  21. Challenged to find a Quiet Spot for Voice Typing
  22. Driving MindManager with Dragon Naturally Speaking 9
  23. Mindjet Officially Announces MindManager Version 7 MindMapping Software
  24. Dreamweaver and Dragon Naturally Speaking 9 Opening Round
  25. Screen Recording while Running Dragon Naturally Speaking
  26. Dragon Getting it Wrong - The Funny 1 Percent!
  27. Let Me Tell You About the Birds and the Bees and Dragon Naturally Speaking
  28. Don’t get Over Confident with DNS 9
  29. Transcribing Wave Files with Dragon Naturally Speaking
  30. Hit 130 - 150 Words Per Minue with Dragon Naturally Speaking!
  31. Fixing Your Keypad for Dragon Naturally Speaking
  32. Digital Recorders and Dragon
  33. Dragon NaturallySpeaking Day two
  34. Blogging with Dragon Naturally Speaking

Analysts - Google Just a Media Company But New Ads Helping

Google took a big hit on Wall Street this week as analysts effectively gave Google a downgrade from being a tech company to a media company.  The change in categorization resulted a drop in valuation estimates by many analysts. 

Stock analysts are looking at the financial performance of Google that gets the majority of its revenue from AdSense advertising, the little boxes you often see tucked away on many sites including this one.  This advertising works in several ways:

  • Google gets paid by advertisers when people click on the links for an ad
  • Google sometimes gets paid on the ads for every 1,000 people that view the ad
  • Starting last Fall Google also offered a new type of ad, Gadget Ads, that feature advertisers like Office Depot or Ebay and specific products with information. 

While Google's ads were down by 7% for the month of January the latest ad type, seems to be picking up steam for Google even though publishers do not have the ability to measure the success or failure of this ad type as Google is not yet breaking out the specifics of these ads in their metrics.

The new ads add a new level of depth to Google's advertising offerings and could increase the quality and effectiveness of Google advertising moving them away from some irrelevant types of advertising such that if you go to a DIY site looking at Kitchen remodelling, you get served up with an add to buy Kohler sinks along with product information and store details as opposed to a 2 line text teaser trying to offer you a free estimate through a lead generation landing page.

Below is a Quick graphic that highlights some of the details of the Google Gadget Ad program from the perspective of publishers (it may text a couple seconds to load into the frame)

Comcast Grilled Over Blocking Internet Traffic

While one part of the government is working to help telecoms get a pass on tapping our phones, searching through our emails and reviewing our browsing habits, the FCC spent their time grilling Comcast for blocking internet traffic and bandwidth when it comes in the form of Bittorrent downloads.

These types of downloads are the last fad in Peer-to-peer file sharing of legal and sometimes dubious natures.  The government seems to be a little schizoid on both this hearing and on the role it should play in monitoring Americans in general.  They seem to want the ability to spy on Americans but fear giving that same ability or any other checks on corporations like Comcast.

Federal Communications Commission chief Kevin Martin on Monday targeted Comcast's contention that delaying peer-to-peer file-sharing traffic serves user interests, appearing to sympathize with the cable company's critics.

Through pointed questioning at a public hearing at Harvard Law School here, Martin, a Republican, seemed to be pushing a two-pronged agenda: Internet service providers like Comcast should be as transparent as possible about manipulating network traffic, and consumers should have the freedom to, in effect, get what they pay for.

But at the end of the event, which, all told, lasted nearly six hours, Martin told reporters he still hadn't made up his mind about whether Comcast had done anything more than "reasonable" network management.

Cnet

Maybe Comcast just hasn't used its budget this year to fly politicians south for the winter and enjoy some time at one of those Hilton Head rentals by the ocean.

Check Please!

What Does It Take to Sell a Mobile Phone These Days?

mobile-phone-shop

For years mobile phones have been evolving into a commodity. Convergence of cameras and PDA's and MP3 players delayed this process slightly, but not forever. 

Mobile Phones are now definitely commodities.

That means that outside of 1 million people buying iPhones in a world wide population in excess of 8 billion, people do not buy a phone just because of the phone itself.

Pre-commoditization carriers such as Vodaphone, Verizon, At&t, Sprint, and my personal favorite T-Mobile would subsidize the extraordinary cost of mobile phones with their service plan contracts. 

Never mind the fact that your service contract could be sooo much cheaper if it did not have to cover the cost of your phone and everyone else's phone!

phone-in-cheese Now one of the things that helped degrade the perceived value of mobile phones despite the increasing technology getting slammed into the phones like a giant block of cheese getting slammed into a future Cheezit commercial was the display of too many phones in phone shops in kiosks, malls and urban centers around the world. 

Its ironic that this happened as in the early days the phone carriers needed every mobile phone shop they could get to get the word out and get people to adopt mobile phones as a technology.

In the image  at the top of this article, we feature an online example of this commoditization effect, but we are not trying to pick on the company in the example.  They are trying to stand out in contrast to mobile phone shops where you typically get piped through a process where you pick your commodity phone, pick your commodity carrier, and your commodity plan.  At least with this example, you get the excitement of the phone packed with the value and bundle of a fun game system.

They are essentially acknowledging the issue and like a judo master, they are employing a retail technique that in the states has become famous as the Costco model.  They are packaging multiple consumer electronics together in a value added bundle.  Its very interesting that they are packaging a game system with a price point almost equivalent to that of the phone with the phone. 

mobile-phone-shop-2

Sure beats getting a cheap accessory or something!

2 Rumors - 2 Non-Starters For Motorola Handset Division Sell Off

China's ZTE is reportedly in talks with Motorola, as they consider a potential merger or purchase of Motorola's trouble mobile phone business.  There is also rumor and speculation that Nortel run, by Mike Zafirovsky, who helped orchestrate Motorola's comeback with the Razr, might be interested in a merger.

There's a problem with both concepts.  They are both non-starters.  I'll explain the easiest one first.

While it is true that Motorola is heavily invested in China, a possible merger of ZTE with Motorola just would not fly as they could not pass muster with the US SEC.  Coming up with $9 billion in cash is not likely either.  Plus, there would be major issues with Motorola possibly providing sensitive information to the Chinese.

China's ZTE in Cooperation Talks with Motorola

The Nortel option is much more difficult.  Despite the fact that Mike Z at Nortel is the real deal, and once had the chance to turn Motorola all the way around, they are a lot further gone now and their competitors are much more rapidly leaving them in the dust.  Back then Motorola was a strong number 2 in the mobile phone industry.  Today, they risk being eliminated wholesale.

Furthermore, its a cash, research and development problem all over again.  The two companies could benefit a little in merging their infrastructure units together possibly bringing about some cost savings, its not going to be $9 billion in savings to justify the price.  But even more important, the deal would not provide the kind of cash heavy investment that needs to be applied to Motorola to help them take their technology foundation and leverage it into this new century finally.

There's only one company out there with pockets that deep and an interest in what Motorola has and that is Microsoft.  Microsoft could easily do a directbuy of the entire company with cash and do very well putting together their own products with several of Motorola's product lines.  Plus, Microsoft could probably also dust off some of those older technologies and reinvigorate some fresh product lines.  Consider, Google is going around like a fool trying to buy up wireless spectrum.

Hello, Moto is sitting on a fortune in patents and IP relating to a portion of spectrum that is going for ridiculously cheap prices.  Its called paging, but that spectrum and that technology could be applied to something new today.

Microsoft Picks Up Danger is Motorola Next?

lx_blue_frntopen_low Microsoft is getting a great deal of attention for placing a bid on Yahoo! but another company purchase today is also significant.  Microsoft picked up Danger, maker of the sidekick and a company whose founder now works for Google on the GPhone project.

Danger is definitely a small company, but the Sidekick device is something that could have easily come straight out of  Microsoft video from the early 90's offering a vision of the mobile future.

We previously covered Motorola's intention to sell or drop its Cell Phone Segment or division.  (see Motorola Drops Call on Cellphone Division )

Click HereIt is still a good fit for Motorola and Microsoft's purchase further emphasizes the importance of a cellular play in the industry.  Motorola may not have the pipeline, but they do have the infrastructure, intellectual property and the contacts and experience to make Microsoft a sizable player from go if they were to buy out Motorola.  Plus, add in some connected home Motorola products connected to some Microsoft Home Media center computers by Cat5e cables and it wouldn't be too difficult to sniff out some synergy.

Thermal Glider Un-Manned Submarine Measures Climate Change

thermal-glider-ocean-submarine

The above feature thermal glider flies through the oceans of the world measuring climate change.  It works on a thermal process that powers the craft along as the glider moves through ocean waters of different temperatures.  In warmer temperatures there is a wax inside that melts and as it does does it powers a pump and then rear fin.

Then The glider will swoop down 4000 feet deep gliding forwarder like a paper airplane.  When it reaches the right depth and temperature the cold will trigger balasts that will cause the craft to rise again and repeat.  The glider gathers information about temperature change and transmits that information to a satellite when it reaches the surface of the ocean.  The satellite transmission requires battery power, but those batteries are good for months.

Now there are cool jobs and then there are cool jobs.  Working as a Branson private golf pro might be a cool job, but working as an engineer making and driving an unmanned thermal glider submarine that can fly through the ocean around the world without having to re-power for months on end is definitely cool.

 

 

SCIENCE NOTEBOOK

A Footnote on the End of Local Newspapers

This morning I woke up on Super Tuesday preparing to cover the election with fervor.  I walked out to grab the local paper out of the box in an obligatory step towards depositing the same paper in the recycling bin moments later.

My local newspaper is pretty abysmal.  I live in the Charlotte suburbs in North Carolina and after living in Atlanta, Boca Raton, Peoria, Illinois and many other cities around the country since the dawn of the internet, it seems to me that local newspapers are on the verge of collapse. 

My local newspaper today offered up a sampling of local voters and how they might vote (even though North Carolina is not part of the Super Tuesday primary traffic jam).  Now this area of North Carolina as is most areas of North Carolina is thick in the bible belt and heavily Republican.  You would think that they would have a Republican heavy sampling.  Well, nothing could be further from the truth, it would appear that the Newspaper didn't bother to dig far enough to find a decent sample.

So out of curiousity I would like to ask my readers, rhetorically speaking, is your local newspaper gasping its last gasp?

I see people of all ages including elderly baby boomers hitting retirement accepting the internet and using it regularly. Can local newspapers continue to survive in such an environment where your average citizen runs a better blog than their local paper?

What's next? the local library. Will we stop hitting the library for books, looking instead to online dealers or check out options?

Motorola Drops Call on Cellphone Division

Motorola is finally waking up and facing reality as their current CEO mulls selling of Motorola's cell phone division responsible for half the companies sales.  The writing has been on the wall for Motorola to either merge or get out of cell phones since 2000. 

Motorola opted for glitz and glam to keep the company afloat for several years, but the party on borrowed time is over.  This is no surprise to insiders either at Motorola.  I happen to know from working at Motorola where I drafted a report in 2000, recommending a merger with Microsoft.

Click HereInstead Motorola chose to try and tread water, barely emerging from a technical bankruptcy in 2001 to clean house after the sale of the Paging business and their manufacturing capabilities and real estate. 

The problem is that the belt tightening of the time, pushed out a large number of the talented people that would later be needed to come up with some great products.  The good people that did stick around brought to market the RAZR, but a culture of individual heroism within the ranks exhausted the team and prevented the potential for a follow up to the RAZR.  Meanwhile Nokia and Samsung and then Apple spent a fortune getting better, much much better.

Motorola has 3 practical and positive choices and 1 additional but negative choice:

  1. Sell off to Microsoft their cell phone division and technologies, if Microsoft will have them.  Microsoft would be very smart to demand the whole company and pick up the other consumer electronic products and home networking products, while selling the government and infrastructure business to Nortel run by passed over CEO Mike Zafirovski, a person whom I respect immensely.
    1. Update - This one looks twice as likely a couple hours later after it was made public that Microsoft is bidding over $44 billion for Yahoo!, which is more than a 62 percent premium on Yahoo!'s stock price.
    2. Keep in mind that Bill Gates was schooled by Warren Buffet in investing in companies with high asset values and low prices.  That fits for Motorola and it fits for Yahoo! and Microsoft will need both to compete against Google.
  2. Sell off just the mobile phone business to Google, who is looking to build out their monopoly in search to cover mobile devices and planning to launch an iPhone competitor, possibly killer.  Having  a stable of additional cellular products not to mention the technology free of licensing fees to power them.
  3. Sell off to Samsung (farfetched) so that Samsung can continue to grow its own mobile phone business and compete with Nokia and LG more directly.

Alternatively, Motorola is looking at repeating what they did with their Paging division.  Offering their technology up for sale under licenses, and failing to find a market for that taking nothing at all except for the potential to sell some valuable Chicago real estate during the worst real estate market history since the Great Depression.

I wouldn't want to be the person that has to make the call to Motorola's real estate agent.  "You want to sell what?  You want to sell it ASAP?  You need how much cash for it?  You'll throw in a mothballed state of the art plant in Harvard Illinois complete with cows?" 

Regardless what happens, Motorola is going to witness a massive lay off of employees, they are likely to sell even more real estate and this company pushing 80 years old is going to close down another business in an industry that they created just like they did with car radios, televisions, home stereos, and pagers.

Their biggest problem looking past cell phones is that their other lines of existing business outside of government and infrastructure, are doing business but just like in the cell phone business they are not breaking new ground at the rate their competitors are moving forward.  Motorola has to do something very fast to save these lines of business and a proxy battle with Carl Icahn is only going to slow things down.  Icahn may win that battle this time, but he's likely to end up with a company completely behind the times and very low on cash.

Motorola's only option is to sell to a company with deep pockets, a great deal of cash and a very strong need to compete in the mobile device market. 

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