Tag Archives: MAC

Internet On The Go

Writers today are not chained to a location. Some write at coffee shops, others on trains, some at home, and if you’re like me — any outdoor place you can drag a pen and notebook to. This mobility is great for finding distraction free writing spots, but what about research? Not so long ago, you would simply go to the library and sift through card catalogs, files, book shelves, microfiche, and an endless piles of dusty books. Today, the Internet is the primary research tool. Fortunately we can now take the Internet with us to most of our favorite writing spots.

I think most writers are familiar with using the free WiFi services offered at popular coffee shops and restaurants. This is the easiest and cheapest way to access the Internet when out and about. Some cities are now offering WiFi hotspots in select parks. I’ll take sitting outside researching a subject instead of sitting in a library any day of the week.

But what happens when WiFi service isn’t available?

Cellular companies offer data plans with smartphones and tablets. These plans aren’t always cheap. The big carriers start around $40 a month and move up in price, but this allows you to connect your smartphone or tablet to the Internet and retrieve data over a 3G or 4G network. However, surfing on smartphone can be tedious. Those little three inch screens are hard to use with aging eyes and big fingers.

Tablets are a good substitute. Much easier to use and you can purchase ones that are compatible with CDMA or GSM cellular technologies.But once you purchase a tablet using either technology, you’re stuck with it.

Cellular companies also offer an AirCard option but these can be restrictive too. AirCards plug into your laptop’s USB port or card slot. These offer a lot of flexibility, but they require a separate data plan. It’s also another piece of tech to keep track of. They can get lost, damaged, or stolen. An alternative to AirCards would be a technology called tethering. It allows you to connect your computer to your smartphone and access the Internet. Not all smartphones will allow this and not all carriers provide the service. The ones that do, charge extra for it. If you use tethering, be mindful of any data usage limits on your accounts. A browser designed for Windows, Linux, or MAC will consume more data than a browser designed for a tablet or a smartphone. You can hit that 2Gig limit fairly quick.

There’s another option that allows the flexibility of connecting any WiFi capable device. It’s called a hotspot. These are offered by every major cellular carrier. Again, they will require a data plan, but you can use these handy devices for anything. Most will accommodate multiple connections–there’s a cost in speed when using multiple devices–allowing you to share it with others. Select smartphones have the ability to be used as a hotspot thus reducing the amount of tech you need to carrier to access the Internet.

Some of the bargain carriers offer no contract hotspots.They offer scaled data plans allowing you to spend only what you need to and to use it only when you need to. Most do have a requirement that you use your hotspot once every six months or so. This is the option I use. My iPad is WiFi only and my wife and I both have laptops. When traveling I purchase what I think we’ll use. As long as we have cell service, we can access the Internet. It’s a great thing when flights get delayed and the airport doesn’t have free Internet. Or if you’re driving long distances. We drove to Florida in 2010 and had Internet access for almost the entire drive. There was one section in Mississippi that we couldn’t get any service. It was a grueling fifty minutes, but somehow we made it through.

I like the hotspot because I can pack a composition notebook, a couple of fountain pens, an iPad, the hotspot, an external battery pack and take off to any park or local hiking trail. All of it weighs less than five pounds and easily fits into any small backpack or netbook carrying case. This is great for getting away and doing some serious writing.

Taking the Internet with you does bring along all the distractions like Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, email, and your favorite games. However, for me the distractions aren’t a concern. The Internet is along for quick fact checks.

Whether sitting on a hillside rock overlooking the city or a remote riverbank, great weather, scenic writing spot, pen and paper in hand, the only thing left to do is write.

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Take the Typing out of Writing

This is the first guest post for theWriteTechnology. We’re turning over the reins to JP Jones.

JP Jones wears many hats. She’s the author of “Market Yourself: A Beginner’s Guide to Social Media“. Owns Paige1Media and Paige1Publishing and is in a joint venture with Collipsis Web Solutions, LLC. If that’s not enough she also an adjunct instructor at Oral Roberts University. She has won over 100 awards for her designs and promotions. Additionally she was named one of the Top 101 Female Bloggers for 2010 by Women’s Entertainment Magazine for her bog, In Search of Design.

JP uses this software every day and provides a user’s perspective on its functionality. If typing is not your thing, the solution she discusses here may be for you.

Take it away JP!

* * *

There are tools that every writer needs in their arsenal. Pens and paper have long since been replaced by more digital means of writing through the use of personal computers and now laptops and tablets. Unfortunately, as technology use increases many writers have found themselves dealing with new problems—from carpal tunnel syndrome to eye strain issues as the spend more and more time clicking away on a keyboard.

If this describes your work habits, you’re in luck. While there are numerous dictation softwares available, perhaps the most notable of these is Dragon Dictate (for Mac) & Dragon Naturally Speaking (for PC) from Nuance Software.

How it Works:

Dragon Dictate assists you in creating a voice profile to ‘teach’ the software your specific inflections and accent beginning with a base voice profile. During the setup, you will be asked to read aloud several passages at a specific speed. This process allows the software to analyze your voice and will give you the most accurate results. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect medium, but the more that you train the software to pick up on your inflections, the more accurate it will be when it comes to translating your words into written text.

How it’s Available:

Like any good software in today’s technology age, Dragon dictations software is available for your PC, Mac, Smart phone, or iPad. Being an Apple girl myself, I have enjoyed using the software on four platforms: the full software suite on my MacBook Pro and iMac and the mobile app for iPhone and iPad.

My Experience:

I purchased the software after a year’s worth of 18-hour days in front of the computer took it’s toll on my wrists. I was desperate for a solution that would allow my wrists to heal and still allow me to get tasks accomplished—not to mention writing—on my computer.

In addition to being able to dictate written documents, the full-featured software actually has a complete catalog of commands that will allow you to control your computer hands-free should the need arise. While there is definitely a learning curve involved—and in some cases it’s slower and bit more frustrating than doing it the old-fashioned way—if you find yourself in a position where you need to save some of the pressure on your extremities the software is a great alternative.

Like many, while that was my initial reason for purchasing the dictation software, I later found it to be an invaluable tool for speeding up my writing, without developing the painful side effects associated with too much typing. If you’re like me, chances are that you can actually talk much faster than you can type and in many cases it’s easier to get your thoughts out in a cohesive unit without the distraction of a potential misspelled word or missing keystroke.

After getting hooked on the dictation software on my computer, I soon installed the mobile apps on both my iPhone and iPad. While the apps are not terrible, there is a definite difference in their accuracy. Since they are not specifically trained for your voice and your inflections, you’ll find that their sensitivity to your words are not nearly as good. Thus, rewarding you with many more errors and potentially confusing sentences. However in a bind, or during travel, it is still a great alternative to trying to type—especially on the smaller devices.

What to Watch For:

With any dictation software, the software is relying often on the context clues and sentences you are crafting. In that case, it’s important to speak in a natural pace and allow the dictation software to determine your stops and starts. It does take a bit of getting used to you, especially to develop the habit of actively speaking out punctuation. For instance, while dictating this particular sentence, I have to verbally say words like “comma” and “period” to add proper punctuation. This is a new twist since thankfully, in casual conversation, we don’t have to voice those punctuation marks!

It’s also imperative after completing any dictation with the software, to go back and thoroughly edit the text. Because it’s not perfect, it can easily get words that sound similar confused, and there’s always the occasionally awkward sentence structure that it throws in seemingly with a mind of its own. I use the dictation software personally for a lot of guest posts on a variety of blogs and magazines that I write for. My most embarrassing dictation mistake to date, actually made it through my editing as well as the bloggers editing and was posted live until someone caught it. In an article talking about my business and its success, a sentence that was supposed to read ” I’m very happy with my life.” Actually read instead, ” I’m very happy with my wife.” Awkward, to say the least considering I’m a female.

If you’re interested in checking out the software for yourself, don’t take my word for it. There are several trial versions available that will allow you to get a feel for it and see if it would be a good gift for your writing habits. Good luck and happy dictating!

http://www.nuance.com/for-individuals/by-product/dragon-for-mac/dragon-dictate/index.htm

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