Slowing Down RealSpeak Voices

October 31, 2007 at 9:31 pm | Posted in RealSpeak, text to speech, Text2Go | Comments Off on Slowing Down RealSpeak Voices

Slow DownWe’ve found that sometimes the RealSpeak text to speech voices have a tendency to speak too quickly, making some text difficult to follow. Here is an example of two passages of text read by RealSpeak Karen, an Australian English voice, the first spoken at normal speed, the second spoken at a slightly slower speed.

  1. Normal Speed Sample
  2. Slower Speed Sample 

Photo courtesy of Tub Gurnard

You can easily adjust the speed of a voice using the Text2Go options page. The slower speed sample was generated with the voice speed reduced a couple of notches. You can adjust the voice speed and hear the effect immediately by using the play button to listen to the sample text on the options page.

Slowing down RealSpeak Voices

You may find that your preferences change over time. As you become more accustomed to listening to a voice, you may wish to increase its speed again.

I know that many visually-impaired users adjust the voices of their screen readers to speak at very high rates so they can efficiently navigate around the screen.

Text2Go Now Supports all MP3 Players

October 31, 2007 at 8:03 pm | Posted in MP3 Player, text to speech, Text2Go | 2 Comments

Text2Go Options for MP3 PlayersOne of Text2Go’s unique features is its direct integration with iTunes. This allows Text2Go to convert text to speech and import it into iTunes with a single button click. This is great for iPod owners but has meant that owners of other MP3 players have been unsupported.

This has all changed with the new version of Text2Go. You can now create MP3 files which are compatible with all MP3 players. This includes an increasingly diverse range of devices including phones, PDAs, car stereos and of course dedicated MP3 players.

Every Text2Go feature available to iPod owners has been supported, bar one. This includes attaching a screenshot of the source web page to the track (for use as album art), automatic naming the track, setting the Genre, setting the album name (to the source website domain name) and storing the source website page URL in the track comments. The only feature not supported is the automatic deleting of tracks that have been played. It may be possible to support this feature in the future, depending on the method used to sync tracks between your computer and MP3 player.

Text2Go also provides support for saving MP3 files to separate playlists. By default Text2Go will save all MP3 files in a Text2Go folder within your ‘My Music’ folder (this location can be changed via the Text2Go options). If you choose to save an MP3 file to a playlist, then Text2Go will create a subfolder in ‘My Music\Text2Go’ with the same name as the playlist. For example if you created playlists News, eBooks and Study Notes then your folder structure would look as follows.

\My Music\Text2Go\News

\My Music\Text2Go\eBooks

\My Music\Text2Go\Study Notes

When Text2Go is installed it will detect whether you have iTunes installed or not. If you don’t have iTunes installed, then the option to export tracks to iTunes will be hidden.

If you do have iTunes installed, then Text2Go assumes you have an iPod and will integrate directly with iTunes. It will hide support for direct output to MP3 files. For those iTunes users who also want to be able to create MP3 files directly, it’s possible to enable this feature through the Text2Go options. This will allow you to send a track to either an iTunes playlist or an MP3 playlist as described above.

The new version of Text2Go is currently in beta. A formal release will be available in the very near future and will include a couple of significant new features that will benefit both iPod and MP3 player owners.

You can download and try the beta version of Text2Go today that includes support for MP3 players. We’d love to hear what you think.

Quick Access to volume control on the iPod touch

October 9, 2007 at 8:13 am | Posted in iPod | 3 Comments

Volume ControlYou’d think that providing convenient access to a volume control on a music player would be a pretty important design consideration. Not so it seems for the iPod touch. There is no dedicated volume control, unlike the iPhone.
Instead you must use the touch screen interface. This is not too bad when you first play a track. The volume control is easily accessible at the bottom of the screen.

Photo courtesy of Mike Schmid

However as soon as the iPod goes into powersaving mode, adjusting the volume becomes a slow, cumbersome process.

First you need to wake up the iPod by pressing the home button, then you must use the slide control to unlock the screen. Finally you need to navigate to Music menu. At last the volume control is displayed and you can actually make an adjustment.

Try and do this while driving in heavy traffic! It makes txting while driving look positively safe.

 One thing I did try was to disable the automatic locking of the screen. This works but it also means the iPod touch will never go into powersaving mode. The screen remains on continuously at full brightness. Not exactly what I want.

 Things are not as bad as they first appear. It turns out that you can double-click on the home button at any point in the iPod touch’s interface to bring up the volume control.

You can triple-click when the iPod touch is in powersaving mode to achieve the same result. This displays the volume control but keeps the rest of the screen locked.

This is perhaps the best solution available, given the absence of a dedicated volume control.

Hopefully someone will bring out a dedicated remote for the iPod touch that takes advantage of the built-in wifi.

iPod touch-down in Australia

October 3, 2007 at 11:12 pm | Posted in iPod, iTunes | 3 Comments

iPod touch main menuThe iPod touch went on sale yesterday throughout Australia. I popped down to my local tricky-dicky’s and picked up an 8GB model. I had been ringing my local store once a week since Apple announced the new lineup on the 5th September. The woman who I spoke to offered to put one aside for me as they had been selling fast that morning. The iPod touch is particularly sort after in Australia as we have yet to get the iPhone here.

I really want to see the how the new display looked and try out first hand (literally) the new touchscreen interface. When I got it home, I plugged it in via the standard USB adapter. iTunes immediately began synching my music collection. I was a little surprised that it didn’t start downloading a multitude of firmware patches and security updates, given that it’s been released for over 3 weeks now. I don’t know what could have conditioned me into expecting that sort of behaviour.

The first thing to try was the cover flow display. This looks the same as in iTunes but is much more compelling when you’re using your fingers to shuffle through the album covers.
iPod touch cover flowGo to the start or end of your collection and give your finger an extra flick to see the display hit the end and bounce back a couple of albums. Find an album you like, tap it and it flips over to display a list of tracks. Use you finger to scroll the list of tracks up and down. Tap a track and it begins to play. Tap the top right corner and the album flips back to display the cover again.

I had a couple of little helpers (3.5 and 5 years) who also had no trouble in mastering the interface. All in all, cover flow is intuitive, looks stunning, feels great,  and is way cool.

The next feature of the iPod touch to try out was internet surfing using the built in Safari browser and the wifi connection. The first thing to do was to configure my ADSL modem/wireless router for wireless. Plug in the aerial, turn on wireless, enable WPA2 security.

Now to see up the iPod. Select Settings -> Wifi. The iPod automatically starts looking for wireless networks. It found 3, my own and a couple of others in the neighbourhood. Two had little padlocks beside their entries indicating encrypted networks but what do you know, one of my neighbours has a completely open network. Select this network, launch the Safari web browser and I’m surfing the Internet on my iPod touch using my neighbour’s wireless network. This weekend I’ll have to walk around the garden and use the signal strength indicator to work out exactly which neighbour is providing free internet access. I’m sure they’re not aware of the community service they’re providing.

iPod touch web browserThe browsing experience itself is surprisingly useable. Entering URLs via the onscreen keyboard requires a precise touch as the keys are not all that large. However pressing a key does provide satisfying feedback. In addition to a nice click, the key will briefly zoom out and back again. Rendering of web pages on the display is very nice. Zooming in and out and panning is very easy using the touch screen. Text is large and clear once you’ve zoomed in. You can view a page in portrait or landscape mode just by swivelling the iPod. The built in accelerometer detects which way you are holding your iPod and adjusts the display accordingly.

I then tried viewing a YouTube video. What I didn’t realize is that a dedicated YouTube interface is built right in. I expected that you would just use the Safari web brower to navigate to YouTube. Instead when you select the YouTube icon you are taken to a screen where you can browse Featured and Most Viewed clips for Today, This Week or All. You can also Search or select previously bookmarked clips. The display is easily capable of handling the low quality YouTube clips. I found download times to be a little slow but then that’s probably just due to my internet connection (perhaps I should see if I get better performance using the neighbour’s).

To really test the display, I synched a selection of photos. I use Adobe Photoshop Elements to manage my photo albums and iTunes will directly import albums from Photoshop Elements. Once on the iPod, you can choose to view individual photos from a thumbnail view or you can simply view all as a slideshow. The iPod touch’s widescreen 320 x 480 pixel display is perfect for displaying photos. They look like a digital version of 6″ x 4″ prints. The touch’s screen really does make a very capable photo browser.

I’ve only touched on a few of the highlights here today. I’ll be giving it it’s first road test tomorrow during my daily commute. It will be interested to see over the next few weeks which features I use on a regular basis.

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