Search Engine Optimization uses a variety of tools. Obviously a computer, and different software. Today I wanted to look at one of the tools I use to make life more efficient not just for SEO, but also for all my computer work. I have been typing since high school, but just like I have been bicycling forever, does not mean I don’t use a car when appropriate, does not mean I don’t use other tools to speed my data input. Nuance has a voice recognition tool called Dragon Naturally Speaking to speed up my data input. I have been using Dragon on and off for over a decade, and first looked at voice recognition in 1983 from Texas Instruments, when they best known for making calculators.
Nuance seems to always be discounting Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) in November each year, probably in advance of the next version coming out in December or right after the 1st of the year (probably based on how well they meet their deadlines). Therefore many clients consider improving their ability to create documents and all the other promises of voice recognition. The holy grail of perfect voice recognition will probably never be here, but it does keep getting better. A 1% improvement in accuracy is about 20 less errors on a page of text, a .5% improvement is still 10 less errors on a page to have to manually correct. That adds up quickly when you time is worth anything.
The headset that comes with Dragon Naturally Speaking is known to be crap by Nuance and others. Technically there are 2 different voice processing chips used in most wired USB headsets (using the builtin connectors is a strain on the PC, although the newer computers may be able to handle it). The cost to manufacture is about 3-5 cents difference between the two chips, so you can not tell by price which model is using which, and even a single brand line (such as Logitech) will use both. But at $20-50 you can almost by 2 or 3, and return the ones that don’t work well.
I could not tell you why Nuance, the latest owner of DNS (they have been sold a few times over the years) chooses to set so many potential customers with bad equipment that will hate voice recognition for years to come, and especially DNS, but they do. Perhaps they really do want to work only with resellers that know the dirty secret, or they want to keep expectations low for another 5-10 years. But the strategy sure seems counter intuitive.
Regardless, now that DNS is so relatively inexpensive (often as low as $35 for home edition on sale), and decent headsets are as well ($25-50), consider finishing the tool kit of voice recognition and purchase a decent USB or bluetooth headset before installing Dragon Naturally Speaking.
There are some inherent limitations to bluetooth, but they still work well. I researched which was best. I spent a lot of time reading the reviews and where possible reviews that did more testing then just ‘it feels’. Eventually I was led to talking to the engineer who actually worked on the Drgaon Naturally Speaking (DNS). He is now a reseller of the product, but mostly does consulting on effective implementation into your business. He recommended (even though he does not sell it) the Parrot VXi Xpressway last year when I bought mine.
DNS will create a different profile for each headset (since they are sound ‘different’ to the software), so switching does have the challenge of making A headset vs. B headset vs. C built-in comparison a little more challenging (but better then training with mic x and then testing with mic y).
Long story short, spend an extra $25 dollars (and a willingness to try a few, and return if nescessary) to get a good USB headset. Better yet, keep some cords off your desk and get a bluetooth headset for around $100 and get some mobility and voice recognition improvement.
Hope this technical interlude helps.
What hardware tools do you use to improve your efficiency? Comment below and join the conversation.
A writer asks:
From Simon G./22/M/Livingston, NJ
Is it just me, or does computer RAM not follow the same cost over time ratio that other computer hardware does? I bought 4 GB of DDR2 1066 MHz RAM over a year ago for $64 from newegg, and now the cheapest similar RAM is $78. I know that I got a good deal on the RAM I got, but I haven’t seen similar deals for DDR2 RAM recently. DDR3 is more common at this point, and almost seems cheaper. Is demand for DDR2 still high enough to drive prices up? Can I expect DDR2 prices to decrease, or should I just upgrade my system to DDR3 (which would also require me to upgrade the motherboard and probably CPU)?
Actually, because the demand for DDR2 has dropped, so has production. This a allows the prices to rise. It is always a challenge to buy memory at the ‘bottom’, because prices will drop for a while, and then as soon as demand is expected to drop, so does production, allowing prices to rise again. The manufactures are in this to maximize money and they have some incredible economists at play hear. Trying to outsmart them is harder then trying to outsmart governments (investing in many chip makers), Wall Street Quants, and Manufacturing designers.
The other factor is seasonal shifts in pricing. Prices of most technology is lower in December and August (back to school season), June (graduation, Fathers Day) compared to the rest of the year. Of course a companies need to make quarterly profit goals also affect the ratio, as does the last ship to tip over in the pacific. Long story shorter (if only slightly), I would not expect to see significant drops in DDR2 as that is ‘past its prime’, since most memory is sold to ‘new computers’,rather then the upgrade strategy some of us use. With DDR3 being the current standard, your DDR2 is a decreasing marketplace.
The extra $20 for DDR2 will be far less then a new motherboard and CPU. Depending on what your needs are, I would start saving for a new computer all together. A fresh OS install will probably be your biggest increase in speed. Win7 has the readyboost feature as another way to help with cheap speed for older computers. In addition, you will probably get more speed increases on all your other components from graphics card, to the CPU chip. Of course, performance increases depends on why you need the speed, and what your budget is.
Typically, I am recommending spending $400-600 for a notebook for most people. If it gets slow in 12+ months, purchase again, sell your old computer for $50. Rinse, repeat as necessary. By the time you get to 3 years, you will still be cheaper with a far better computer then if you tried to future proof your investment at $1,200-1,500 today for far less money. Especially if you take into consideration not having to have all $1,500 up front. It may not be the greenest, unless you are reusing the computers or passing them on to others here or abroad, but it is most cost effective. This equation does not take into account the time to reload your computer with programs and data. But more then a few people recommend the practice even if you are on the same computer periodically. It also provides a measure of solid backup.
What is your strategy for minimizing your cost and maximizing your productivity for computing? And how has it evolved over the years?