4 Quick Tips When Converting eBooks from Text to Speech

December 18, 2007 at 9:47 pm | Posted in eBook, text to speech, Text2Go, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

As the Mirror Cracks by Steve JordanToday I purchased a new eBook ‘As the Mirror Cracks’by Steve Jordan and I thought I’d share a few tips on converting eBooks from text to speech.

1. Check the DRM permissions. In a perfect world people would trust each other and all eBooks would be DRM free. Thankfully Steve Jordan publishes all his books in multiple formats, none of which have any DRM protection. However the majority of eBooks available for sale are DRM-protected and they will cause you a world of pain. DRM-protected works place all sorts of restrictions on how and where you can view your eBook. When converting an eBook to speech, the DRM protection must allow the text to speech operation. Check very carefully before purchasing the eBook that you are granted this right. If it’s not explicitly stated, assume text to speech has been disabled. Even if the eBook allows text to speech, it will only allow it to be performed from within the authorized eBook reader. If this runs on your PC, then you will only be able to listen to the eBook while sitting at your computer. To use a product such as Text2Go to convert an eBook to an MP3 file that you can listen to on the go, the eBook will need to grant you ‘Copy and Paste’ rights. Most don’t, so it’s best just to say no to DRM-protected works.

2. Don’t convert an eBook in one single chunk or you’ll end up with one enormous track. If you lose your place during playback, it will be very hard to find it again as you will need to seek through an enormous file. Instead I create a playlist for the eBook and then split it up chapter by chapter and store each chapter as a track within the playlist. If I lose my place during playback, it’s easy to find the chapter I was up to and then do a quick seek within the corresponding track.

3. Don’t convert an entire eBook upfront. Instead I convert and listen to the first couple of chapters. This allows me to quickly identify any problem areas during the text to speech process. These may be mispronounced words (most common when the eBook contains a lot of jargon, slang or terminology specific to a particular field), or formatting specific to the eBook (e.g. special characters used to denote pauses, or dividers between sections, chapters, etc). I can then add corrections for the mispronounced words to the pronunciation dictionaries and create text cleanup rulesto handle the eBook’s specific formatting. With these in place I will convert the remaining chapters of the eBook.

4. Don’t use the free Microsoft voices. Listening to an entire eBook with one of these voices will not be a particularly pleasant experience. Instead purchase a high quality, natural-sounding voice.

That’s it. Do you have any tips of your own? Stay tuned for a review of ‘As the Mirror Cracks’.


iPod touch stopped playing the next song in a playlist

December 14, 2007 at 8:20 pm | Posted in iPod | 88 Comments

Today my iPod touch suddenly decided that it would no longer step through a playlist and play each song in order. Instead it would only play the song I selected. This is just crazy as it completely defeats the purpose of a playlist. Not only that it’s quite dangerous having to select each song in turn while you’re driving in traffic.

With a lot of fiddling around, I’ve managed to get it to revert to the correct behaviour and it now once again plays each song in turn. However I’m not sure exactly what I did to fix the problem. My guess is that there is some small bug in the firmware that put it in this state. Perhaps switching it off would have solved the problem but by the time I’d thought of this (I never use the off button, I just let it go into standby) it was behaving itself again.

If you tap the screen while a song is playing you are presented with a set of controls that allow you to set the repeat mode for the album or list, change the shuffle mode and seek forward and back through the current song. Playing around with the repeat mode was what ultimately fixed the problem.

I was curious to see what the iPod touch manual had to say on this, so I finally got around to downloading it. Here is a screenshot direct from the manual.

iPod touch song controls

The Repeat control allows you to ‘repeat songs in the current album or list’, ‘repeat the current song over and over’ or ‘do not repeat songs’.

None of these options describe the behaviour I experienced which makes me believe it was a bug.

How to Choose the Perfect iPod Gift this Christmas

December 12, 2007 at 9:08 pm | Posted in iPhone, iPod, iTunes, MP3 Player | 3 Comments

The iPod Family (from left to right) - touch, classic, nano, shuffleWith a new range of iPods released this year, there has never been a better time to give an iPod. Use this guide to find the perfect iPod for your wife, husband, girlfriend, boyfriend, or family member.

Firstly, here are a few situations where an iPod is not an appropriate gift:

They already own an iPhone or iPod. Remember an iPhone is actually an iPod + a mobile phone. Don’t despair, there are a huge range of iPod accessories out there.

They work for Microsoft. Considering that Microsoft sell a competing MP3 player, the Zune, it’s probably bad form for Microsoft employees to be caught with an iPod. In the same vein, stay away from the Playstation and all software (especially web-based services).

They run Linux. The proprietary, commercial nature of Apple and the iPod make them the antithesis of Linux and the open source movement. To give a Linux user an iPod is to insult their belief system. If you must give an iPod, it’s imperative that you erase the original firmware, install at least two Linux distros that can be accessed from a boot menu and cover up all Apple logos with ‘Linux Inside’ stickers.

They’re a super-geek. A super-geek will never be happy with an iPod because it’s feature-poor (no built-in radio tuner, voice recorder, digital camera, blue-tooth, email client, paint program, web server, or nostril tweezers), has less storage capacity per dollar than other competing products, is not upgradeable (hell you can’t even change the battery yourself), can’t be overclocked, has a distinct lack of buttons (none of which are back-lit) and doesn’t come standard with full-sized headphones / earmuffs.

If none of the above apply then choose your recipient from the list below and we’ll have you sorted in no time.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Girlfriend

Don’t even think about a Shuffle. You’ll appear cheap or worse still, send the message that your girlfriend is also bottom of the range.

Instead go for a new iPod Nano. It’s small size and range of colours make it an ideal fashion accessory. For bonus points, buy the Product RED version and Apple will donate a portion of the purchase price to fight AIDS in Africa. Just make sure that your girlfriend can wear red.

If you’re really unsure about what colour to choose, go for grey and let your girlfriend choose an appropriately coloured case or arm band.

Buy direct from the Apple store and you can have a personal message engraved on the back. If you’re unsure who you’ll be with come Christmas day, use a pet name. Then if circumstances change, it’s just a matter of getting your new girlfriend used to her pet name.

The Nano comes in 4GB and 8GB versions. You can probably get away with 4GB but if you’re in trouble, go for the 8GB.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Wife

Don’t even think about a Shuffle. She knows you’re cheap by now but you still don’t want to send the message that you think she’s bottom of the range.

Again go for a Nano but by now you better know exactly which colour suits your wife. Be prepared to back up your decision on Christmas morning. For example if you wife grills you on why you went for red when she doesn’t own a single red outfit, don’t blurt out “It matches your eyes”. Instead remind her of the good you’re doing in Africa.

Make sure you have a personalized message engraved. Make it a good one, and it won’t matter if you get the colour wrong.

Buy the 8GB version because lets face it, if you’re not already in trouble, you will be by Christmas.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Husband

Don’t even think about a Shuffle. Although he’ll appreciate the price if you’re spending his money, it’s too small and not high tech enough.

Size matters and the Nano is also too small. The only exception is if your husband is a keen runner (or thinks he is), in which case an 8GB black Nano is perfect.

This leaves the Classic, the Touch and the iPhone.

If he needs a mobile phone and the iPhone is available in your country, go for an iPhone. It’s the coolest, most high tech phone around.

The choice between the Classic and the Touch comes down to how sophisticated your husband thinks he is (important distinction – not how sophisticated you think he is).

If you’re husband always has to have the biggest of everything (for example if his mates have 4 burner BBQs, he has a 12 burner with roasting hood & dedicated wok burner) then go for a Classic. It’s the biggest iPod in both physical size and storage capacity. It’s imperative that you buy the 160GB version. If you only buy the 80GB version then it will always be referred to as the mistake made by the wife “It’s only 80GB, the wife gave it to me as a gift. It’s inconvenient but I manage. I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” Don’t be practical and think that because his entire music collection fits into 10GB, he will never need more than 80GB.

If your husband is more sophisticated and prefers refinement over brute strength and size ( for example whereas his mates own 100-inch rear-projection TVs, he owns a 42-inch true high definition LCD) then you need to choose the Touch. He’ll love the revolutionary multi-touch interface, built-in wifi, web browser, YouTube browser, and cover flow effect. He may even listen to some music on it.

Personalized engraving sounds like a good idea and if you ask your husband about it, he’ll say he loves it. However this sort of thing fills any husband with dread. He knows that from any time now until the end of his natural life you will be able to hit him with a pop quiz at random intervals ranging from 1 to 10 years. To pass this test he will be forced not only to remember that there was a personalized message engraved on the back but be able to recite it word perfect.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Boyfriend

Think of the Boyfriend as a naive, romantic version of the Husband. All the same rules apply, except when it comes to engraving the personalized message. Go ahead and use up every square inch of available space. Having never experienced the pop quiz he will have no idea of the danger that lies ahead. Then in a year’s time when you need a bit of leverage (in truth any time after 4 weeks will be just as effective), hit him with his first pop quiz and watch him squirm.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Younger Brother or Sister

When buying an iPod for a younger sibling, it’s important to maintain your natural pecking order. Never buy an iPod of equal or greater capability than your own. This is where the smaller storage capacities come in handy. For example if you have a 8Gb Nano, then buy them the 4Gb model and thank Apple that iPods are not upgradeable.

The Shuffle makes an excellent first iPod. It’s simple, rugged and there’s no question that it’s the smallest and least capable in the range.

The Touch and Classic are clearly big brothers of the Shuffle and Nano but it’s a little ambiguous as to which is more senior between the Touch and Classic. Therefore if you own a Touch, don’t buy your younger sibling a Classic or vice versa. If you do, you’ll be in for hours of tedious arguments as to which model is better.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Older Brother or Sister

Your first instinct will be to rush out and buy them a Shuffle. But stop and ask yourself this ‘Why don’t they already have an iPod?’ Is it perhaps because they don’t have a use for one? Don’t let this put you off. Instead the question is not so much which model will suit them best but which model you would most like to borrow?

A good option would be the Classic with its high storage capacity of 80 or 160GB. This will allow you to fit both your music collection and theirs on the device at the same time. Convenient for those rare occasions when they will want to borrow it back.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for your Child

 If they’re under the age of 8 then you will get away with a Shuffle.

You can’t go wrong with a Nano for any age group or gender and can easily get away with the 4 GB model.

The Touch will appeal more to boys as they are easily impressed by technology for technology’s sake.

The Classic will appeal to the child who wants the biggest of everything (e.g. when other children were asking for a pony, yours wanted a horse).

Stay away from the iPhone unless they have a well-paid job or you’re prepared to pay their monthly phone bills.

Choosing the Perfect iPod for a Parent or Grandparent

They may be gen-B or C but they still appreciate music, and decent music at that.

The Shuffle is again a poor choice. With fading memories and dimming eyesight, they will spend more time looking for the darn thing than listening to it. Add to this the fact that they’ve spent all their life trying to gain control of the universe, it’s a fair bet they won’t appreciate the randomness of the Shuffle. The final nail in the coffin is the limited storage, requiring them to have enough technical aptitude to resync different parts of their music collection to the device.

The Nano is similarly too small. Not only will it get lost but video playback on that tiny screen will be viewed as an insult rather than a feature.

 The Touch is also not an appropriate device. With fingers swollen to the size of bananas by hard, physical work and arthritis, the multi-touch interface will appear to be designed to torment them.

The Classic on the other hand is perfect. It’s easy to hold in the hand and control, it’s solid, dependable, has been around the longest and has enough storage space to hold their entire music collection, assuming of course that you can find a way to rip vinyl. Even the name is perfect.

Text2Go 1.5 Released

December 2, 2007 at 8:37 pm | Posted in iPhone, iPod, MP3 Player, text to speech, Text2Go | 8 Comments

Text2Go now supports a range of MP3 devicesToday Tumbywood Software is pleased to announce a significant  upgrade to Text2Go, the Windows text to speech program that lets you listen to text from the web on your iPod. This is a free upgrade for all existing Text2Go owners as per our Lifetime License. The major new features are:

Support for all MP3 Players, not just the iPod. Text2Go will now create MP3 files that can be used on any MP3-capable device, such as mobile phones, PDAs and of course dedicated MP3 players, such as the Zune, iRiver, Creative Zen, SanDisk, etc. Details of the article source will be embedded in the generated MP3 file, including the URL, domain, and a screenshot for use as album art.

Dictionaries to correct mispronunciations. Commonly mispronounced words, such as brand names, acronyms and industry-specific jargon can now be corrected. Text2Go ships with a Technology dictionary containing corrections for over 200 mispronunciations. Further dictionaries will be rolled out over time and users can compile their own dictionaries. Compare the text to speech results of this (highly contrived) passage of text with and without the Techonology dictionary enabled. 

A recent Wikipedia entry lists a number of influential technologies including itunes, myspace, ebooks, Wimax, xbox, facebook and antispyware.

Sample without the dictionary                Sample with the dictionary

Text Cleanup Rules.  A text cleanup rule will automatically remove or replace specific text from a document prior to the text to speech operation. Complex pattern matching criteria are specified using regular expressions so that only the intended text is removed or replaced. Text cleanup rules are best illustrated with a couple of examples.

A recent study showed that between 60%-65% of people preferred the colour green over blue. 

Without a text cleanup rule, percentage ranges will not be spoken as the author intended.

Sample without text cleanup rule           Sample with text cleanup rule

Removing references from research papers is another common use of text cleanup rules. For example.

A recent survey of blog topics indicate that the most popular are ‘Blogging for profit’,15 28 72 followed by ‘Blogging about blogging’,20 38 ‘Blogging about other bloggers’,109 127 ‘Blogging how to’,69 ‘Full time blogging’, and ‘Blog review’.19 24 115  

Sample without text cleanup rule          Sample with text cleanup rule

Like the pronunciation dictionaries,  Text2Go ships with a number of Text Cleanup Rules and users can also create their own. As the creation of a text cleanup rule requires an understanding of regular expressions, we are providing a service to create text cleanup rules for users on request.

Finally, the following minor features have also been added

  • Create playlists from within Text2Go.
  • Display the current voice and playlist in the tooltip of the Text2Go command.
  • ‘Speak from cursor’ in the View and Edit document window.
  • Minor bug fixes.

Download a  free 30-day trial of Text2Go 1.5 today


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