Shocking Statistics Published During Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week

November 11, 2009 at 9:20 pm | Posted in Commuting, text to speech, Text2Go | 1 Comment

UK Workers spend nearly 22 million hours commuting every day, equivalent to £266 million worth of working time 

Frustration in trafficEach worker spends on average 52.6 minutes commuting to and from work each day, with workers in London having the longest commute of 74.2 minutes per day. The research was undertaken by the union congress and published to coincide with the start of Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week.

One way to alleviate this problem according to TUC General Secretary Brendon Barber is for employers to offer flexible working arrangements.

 “Remote working and flexible shifts can reduce commute times, save on office space and reduce energy costs – saving companies money and helping staff enjoy a better work life balance.”

This is a great suggestion for some jobs but for many, such as those in the service and retail industries, employees must keep regular hours and work from the premises. It’s still possible for an employee in this situation to vary their hours but it requires extending their day at either the start or end. For example, an employee could commute into work early and go to a gym located near their place of employment.

Another strategy is to turn your commuting time into productive time. At least this way the time spend behind the wheel is not a complete waste of time. This exact scenario was the inspiration behind Text2Go. I was spending over 90 minutes in the car every day and wanted to put this time to better use. As a software developer I needed to spend a lot of time learning new technologies. My solution was to create an application to turn articles, and news available on the web into speech and transfer it to my iPod. Now I could switch off the inane breakfast and drive radio shows and listen to information I found interesting and relevant to my profession.

Recently ebooks have been gaining in popularity. There is now a huge collection of top quality novels available on the web. Every genre is available and in fact due to the low cost of publishing on the web, you’re much more likely to find a genre specific to your tastes (now you can purchase those teen zombie romances  you love so much without being embarrassed at checkout time). Many ebooks are free and almost all are significantly cheaper than a paperback, often available for a couple of dollars – the price of a cup of coffee. Text2Go 4.0 has just been released and supports direct conversion of ebooks in the standard ePub format to audiobooks. Chapters from the original ebook are preserved in the audiobook, making navigation during playback easy.

There is an unlimited amount of information on the web, catering to all interests and professions. Now is the time to turn some of that wasted commuting time into productive or at least entertaining time. If you do this, I promise you, your commuting time will seem much shorter and you’ll arrive at your destination a lot less stressed and perhaps just a little more well informed.

For more tips on commuting see

15 Ways to Maintain Your Zen Calm on the Road

8 Ways to iPod your car – from ultra-cheap to ultra-sophisticated

8 Ways to iPod your car – from ultra-cheap to ultra-sophisticated

September 3, 2008 at 10:05 pm | Posted in Commuting, iPhone, iPod | 31 Comments

Pioneer DEH-P400UB with direct iPod controlToday I’m going to describe various ways to connect your iPod to your car stereo, so you can blast music from your iPod through your car speakers while driving around town.

The beauty of using your iPod is you can transport a huge music collection on a very small device. There is no need to continually change CDs or tapes (does anyone still use these?).  You can clear out your glove box, center console, or boot and get rid of that CD sleeve you’ve strapped to your sunvisor. When you park, it’s easy to pickup your music collection and take it with you, eliminating one of the most common targets for thieves.

I’m going to start with the least sophisticated (read cheapest) and work up to the most sophisticated (costs more than your iPod). Feel free to skip over options you’re not interested in.

1. No Integration (free)

The cheapest way of listening to your iPod in the car is simply to place it on the seat beside you and use the earbuds. If you use the standard Apple earbuds, you’ll still be able to hear plenty of road noise, horns, sirens, etc to make this a safe option.

Pros

  • Costs nothing
  • Excellent sound quality

Cons

  • Only one occupant can listen
  • Not easy to control playback while driving
  • Earbud cable often pulls and can get tangled with the seatbelt when exiting the vehicle
  • Not convenient if you’re frequently getting in and out of the vehicle

2. Connection with an existing radio cassette player ($19.95)

If you have an old car stereo that plays tapes, you can purchase a special connector that fits into your cassette deck. It looks exactly like a regular cassette, except that it’s got an audio cable coming out one end that you can plug into your iPod or MP3 player headphone jack. Your car stereo thinks it’s playing a cassette but it’s actually receiving the audio signal from your iPod rather than magnetic tape. All control of the audio playback is done via your iPod. Don’t expect to be able to fast forward the cassette and have the iPod recognize this command.
iPod cassette adapter

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Easy Setup
  • Reliable

Cons

  • Average audio quality
  • All playback control must be done through your iPod
  • iPod in plain sight and needs to be removed every time you park your car
  • Requiring a mechanical device to playback digital audio just seems wrong

3. FM transmitters ($80-$120)

Griffin RoadTrip iPod FM TransmitterFor existing car stereos that don’t have a cassette deck, an AUX-in port (see option 4) or a CD changer port (see option 5), this is your only option short of chucking out your old car stereo and replacing it with something designed this century. These devices integrate your iPod with your car stereo using its FM tuner. They contain a very weak FM transmitter that will broadcast the sound from your iPod on a free FM channel. You tune your car radio to this channel and hey presto, you can hear your iPod. The biggest problem with these units is finding a free FM channel. This can be a real problem in some cities. There are a huge number of these devices on the market. They plug into your car cigarette lighter for power. The better ones will also charge your iPod at the same time. There are a couple of models available (Griffin RoadTrip ($29.99 on special now) pictured, MediaGate iKit for example) that include an integrated iPod holder, making for a very tidy solution. The better ones also allow you to set up to 3 channel presets. This makes it quick to find a free channel for your current location, helping overcome the problem of congested FM channels.

Pros

  • Low cost
  • Easy Setup
  • Charges your iPod

Cons

  • Average audio quality
  • All playback control must be done through your iPod
  • iPod in plain sight and needs to be removed every time you park your car

4. Connection via AUX-in ($90+)

Car stereo with Aux-in jack Most modern car stereos will offer at least an AUX-in jack on the front face designed specifically for accepting audio from an external source such as an iPod or MP3 player.

Belkin mini stereo cable To connect your iPod is dead easy. You just need a stereo audio cable ($8-$20) that runs between the AUX-in jack on your car stereo and the headphone jack on your iPod. Cables come in different lengths and some have retractable mechanisms. If you’re buying a retractable cable, make sure you get a quality one or the retractor is likely to fail very quickly. If you have a first generation iPhone you will need a mini cable like the one from Belkin pictured, as the iPhone’s headphone jack is slightly recessed (this has been fixed in the iPhone 3G so you can use any stereo cable). This method will give you very good sound quality at very low cost.

Some car stereos have an AUX-in jack but it will be located on the back, hidden out of site. For these models you will need to run a cable to the front.

With entry level car stereos sporting AUX-in jacks starting at around $90, you may be better to completely replace your existing stereo, rather than going for an FM-transmitter or cassette adapter solution. You’ll end up with much better sound quality. Just remember that the new car stereo will need to be fitted. If you’re technically adept, you can do this yourself. There are a number of sites that offer step by step instructions on removing and fitting car stereos for most makes and models of car. Some are free and others charge around $5 for the instructions. To have it professionally installed will usually set you back around $80-$100 depending on your car. Try to negotiate a reduced installation fee when purchasing your stereo.

Griffin Tuneflex AuxYour iPod obviously won’t be able to draw any power from the AUX-in jack, so you may want to invest in a car charger if you’re going to be in the car for long periods of time. The Griffin TuneFlex Aux  ($49.99) doubles as a charger and holder (very similar to their FM transmitter product but without the transmitter). Note the way the audio cable neatly plugs into the cigarette lighter connector, keeping it out of the way.

Pros

  • Good quality audio
  • Low cost if existing stereo has AUX-in

Cons

  • All playback control through the iPod
  • iPod in plain sight and needs to be removed every time you park your car

5. Connection via CD-changer port (69.98£)

Xcarlink iPod CD Changer AdapterMany stereos have a port on the back that’s used to connect an external CD-changer, located under a seat or in the boot. This is the case for both factory-fitted and after-market models. Xcarlink make an adapter that allows you to connect your iPod through this port. Not only does it provide great audio quality, but you can control your iPod through your stereo and steering wheel controls. You can select tracks, rewind, fast forward and adjust the volume. You can even select playlists using your steering wheel buttons. It does all this without disabling the controls on your iPod.

One of the things I particularly like is that it will automatically pause playback when you switch to another source. Great when you’re in the middle of a podcast and want to switch to the radio to hear the news.

Finally it charges your iPod and provides a pass-through port so you can still use your CD-changer.

The biggest drawback for iPod owners is this unit doesn’t support Apple’s AAC music format. It does support MP3 and WMA music formats but if you already have a huge collection of music in AAC format it’s something to consider.

Pros

  • Great quality audio
  • Playback control via your stereo and steering wheel buttons
  • Works with many existing stereos
  • iPod can be stored out of sight
  • Charges as you go

Cons

  • Does not support Apple’s AAC music format, only MP3 and WMA.
  • Only works with stereo’s that have a CD-changer port

6. Bluetooth-enabled car stereos ($260+)

Sony MEX-BT2600 Car Stereo with Bluetooth ConnectivityThere are a number of car stereos appearing with built-in bluetooth connectivity. Not only does bluetooth allow your to make and receive hands-free phone calls through your stereo, you can also use it to stream audio from your MP3 player.

With the iPhone’s built-in bluetooth this would seem like an ideal option for iPhone owners. Alas the iPhone doesn’t support A2DP (Advanced Audio Distribution Profile), the protocol that makes streaming audio possible. Frustratingly, Apple hasn’t rectified this limitation in the new iPhone 3G. There is a purported workaround but it’s hardly ideal – it’s a mono signal and the sound is also played through the iPhone’s external speaker at the same time.

BD-905 iPod bluetooth adapter
You can however bluetooth-enable your iPod (and iPhone) by purchasing a bluetooth adapter ($75) that plugs into the docking port of your iPod from 8bananas.com, a Sydney-based company.

This device works by converting the audio signal from your iPod to a bluetooth wireless stream that your bluetooth-enabled car stereo can receive and play. This approach has a couple of distinct advantages. Firstly it allows you to play Apple’s AAC audio format, including DRM-protected tracks. Secondly as it’s your iPod doing the playback, features such as shuffle, repeat and the ability to remember the current position in a podcast or audiobook are also supported. Sound quality is a lot better than that provided by FM transmitters as bluetooth doesn’t suffer the same interference problems. Expect to get similar audio quality to that provided by an AUX-in solution.

Finally you can also control playback wirelessly using your car stereo controls, thanks to AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Protocol). You can select the next/prev song, pause/resume and start/stop playback.

Bluetooth is a good option if you’re looking for a solution that supports both hands-free phone calls and music playback. You can even use this unit with a set of wireless bluetooth headphones.

  • Supports hands-free calling and music playback
  • No cables
  • Easy setup (if bluetooth enabled stereo already installed)
  • Control playback from your car stereo

Cons

  • Moderately Expensive (if you don’t already have a bluetooth enabled stereo)
  • Can’t charge your iPod while travelling as the bluetooth adapter plugs into the iPod docking connector (in fact as the bluetooth adapter is powered from the iPod, the battery will run down quicker)

7. Car stereos with direct iPod control ($278+)

Made for iPodMost car stereo manufacturers now offer models that support direct integration with your iPod using either a standard USB cable or a dedicated iPod cable. They are designed so that all control of your iPod is done using the car stereo controls. They usually have a rotary knob that doubles as a traditional volume control and provides the equivalent of the iPod click wheel.  Using the knob you can scroll through your music library by playlist, artist, album, song, etc, just as you would on your iPod. Functions such as repeat, shuffle, fast forward, rewind, pause are also supported.

Direct control units disable your iPod controls while it’s plugged into the car stereo. However Pioneer do provide a Passenger Control Mode so that a passenger can switch control back to the iPod in order to control playback using the iPod itself.

Varying amounts of information about the currently playing track is displayed, depending on the size and sophistication of the stereo’s display. The top of the range model from Alpine (pictured below) will even display album art on it’s full colour LCD display.

Alpine iDA x001 iPod enabled car stereo

Audio quality should be excellent as information is transferred digitally to your car stereo. Pioneer even use a technology they call ‘Advanced Sound Retriever’ which they claim helps restore the high frequencies lost during digital audio compression.

These units will happily play Apple’s AAC encoded music but not DRM-protected AAC. This is the downside of running digital all the way to the head unit itself and just serves to illustrate why DRM is such a bad idea.

Like the AUX-in jack, the iPod connector may be located on the front or back of the unit. USB connectors tend to be on the front and dedicated iPod connectors on the back.

Unlike the AUX-in jack, you’re much better off having the iPod connector located on the back and having the cable running to your glove box. The glove box provides a good place to hold your iPod while travelling and also means it’s safely out of sight. Great if you’re in and out of the car all day. You don’t need to be able to reach your iPod anymore as all control is done through your car stereo. Having the connector on the front means you have an untidy cable sticking out of your stereo and you still need to find a place on the console to store your iPod. The exception to the above is when you have an iPhone. You’re going to want to take this with you whenever you leave your car, so you want it to be easy to plug in and remove.

Popular Brands with Direct iPod Control

Alpine
Kenwood
Pioneer
Sony

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Great control via your car stereo
  • Practical, tidy, out of sight solution (for models with cable running to the glove box)

Cons

  • Moderately Expensive (if you don’t already have an iPod enabled stereo)
  • Will not play DRM-protected AAC tracks

8. Cars with built-in iPod integration ($15,000+, includes car)

Car manufacturers are uniquely placed to offer thoroughly integrated iPod support. They have the power to alter the form and layout of the dash and console to give the driver easy access to playback controls and position large, well placed displays to ensure the driver’s eyes never leave the road. Sadly most have done little if any such design, while still claiming to offer full iPod integration.

Full iPod integration often ends up meaning the new car buyer has the option of purchasing an overpriced ‘integration kit’ so they can connect their iPod to the inferior model car stereo that comes factory-fitted with their new car. This kit provides nothing more than that provided by after-market stereo solutions (see 7 above).

If you’re considering purchasing an integration kit from your car manufacturer, think again. You’re almost certainly better off ripping out your existing unit and purchasing a decent after-market stereo that includes iPod integration as standard. It will be cheaper, you’ll have more choice and end up with a better sound system.

If you are looking to purchase a new car, make sure the dealer includes full iPod integration at no extra cost. It’ll cost them almost nothing and keep in mind that even to you it’s only worth $278 – $350 depending on whether you can install an after-market car stereo yourself.

Some car manufacturers have taken iPod integration seriously. Unfortunately this comes at a price. Still it’s nice to dream. Take a look at this offering from BMW to give you an idea of what can be done (click on the picture to see an interactive flash demo).

BMW iPod integration

Note the dedicated controls on the steering wheel, the rotary wheel below the gearstick and the large, eye-level display clearly showing a list of songs.

Pros

  • Excellent audio quality
  • Great control via your car stereo
  • Practical, tidy, solution

Cons

  • Inflated price if not part of the initial car purchase
  • Most manufacturers do the bare minimum. They could be so much better.

Conclusion

As you can see there are many ways to integrate  your iPod with your car stereo. The only solutions I don’t recommend are the cassette adapter and FM transmitters.

Stereos with an AUX-in jack are a very cost effective solution and provide good audio quality.

The Xcarlink adapter is worth investigating, especially if you have a factory-fitted stereo you don’t want to throw out. It’s disappointing however that this unit doesn’t support AAC encoded music.

You can’t beat a bluetooth enabled car stereo and the bluetooth adapter from 8bananas.com if you need to make hands-free calls too.

Direct iPod control units give you great sound and control and make for a very tidy solution.  Unfortunately they don’t play DRM-protected AAC tracks but hopefully DRM-protected audio is becoming a thing of the past.

Finally, please leave a comment and tell me which solution has or hasn’t worked for you.

15 Ways to Maintain Your Zen Calm on the Road

April 22, 2008 at 12:19 am | Posted in Commuting | 2 Comments

Shock, horror - commuter loses cool in traffic

 You’re cutting it fine this morning. You’ve indulged in one extra press of the snooze button but you figure with a bit of luck at the lights and some nifty driving you can make up the time on the road. Things start out well. You’re through 3 sets of lights in a row. You’re across the level crossing before the train. Now down the freeway onramp and – slam on the brakes. Gridlock – no, no, no! Now you’re never going to make that meeting ‘first thing’ with senior management.

If you’re constantly frustrated by all those rude and inconsiderate drivers that are clogging up the roads today, here’s a few simple tips to turn your daily commute into a time of peace, contemplation and even productivity.

 Preparation

1. Allow plenty of time – If your chances of arriving on time require the ‘perfect run’ then you’re going to be late and frustrated more often than not. Trying to achieve the perfect run is like gambling. It will happen occasional and the feeling is sweet when it does but on average the house always wins. Instead allow extra time for the unexpected. If you do get a dream run then you can always use the extra time at your destination. The job interview is the classic example when you never want to be late. I always add at least an extra half hour to my estimated travel time. This gives me plenty of time to find the place, park the car, and some spare time to find a cafe and enjoy a coffee before walking into the office exactly 5 minutes before the interview.

2. Flexible arrival time – Never schedule a meeting ‘first thing’ or anything else that requires you to be in the office at a set time. If you don’t have a customer facing role, it shouldn’t matter when you arrive as long as you put in the agreed hours. Discuss this with your boss ahead of time and make it clear that you have a life outside work, things happen and you need to be flexible.

3. Avoid peak times – Peak hour traffic is the heaviest and I can’t remember when it was just an hour. However by restructing your day a little you can avoid the heaviest times. One useful technique is to organise activities near your place of work. For example join a gym near your office and go before work. It’s often easier to find the motivation to get up early to avoid the traffic if you’ve got something pleasant to do before starting work. Another option is to go for a run, walk or do some shopping during your lunch break. You want to be able to bring forward or push back your start and end times. What you don’t want to do is to start early and leave late.

4. Check traffic reports – This is only useful for avoiding the major incidents. Most daily traffic reports say the same thing ‘ traffic is at a crawl but about normal for this time of the day’. When there’s a major accident, beware the alternate route. If a 6 lane freeway is crawling on a good day, imagine what happens when that same traffic is forced onto a 2 lane arterial with traffic lights every 100 metres. The only thing to do in these situations is to wait it out. Work late, go and see a movie, go out to dinner. Anything is better than spending 3 hours in your car to travel 20 kms.

5. Don’t expect commercial radio to entertain you – Commercial radio would have you believe that sitting in your car listening to the ‘freshest’, ‘most varied’ music mix with the crazy breakfast and drive teams is the best time you’ll have all week. The reality is that you’ll spend 10 minutes per hour listening to ads, 10 minutes being told how cool, fresh, plays more music the radio station is, 5 minutes on the totally original, wacky new competition they’re running next month where you can win $200 if you can ‘beat this bomb thingy’ and 5 minutes listening to innane banter between ‘the crew’. That leaves 30 minutes per hour for music, half of which you won’t like.

The answer is to load up your iPod or MP3 player with your own music. Many car radios have an AUX in or even dedicated iPod docks. However I’ve found that plain old earbuds also work well in the car. They cut out a little of road noise but not so much that you won’t hear a warning honk or siren.

6. If you’re running late phone ahead – No matter how much planning you do there are going to be times when you get stuck in traffic and are going to be late. Always phone ahead or send a txt to let those who are expecting you that you’re going to be late. If it’s a loved who’s one expecting you, they may start to worry. In all cases it lets people change their plans. 

Go With The Flow

7. Adopt the right frame of mind – this is primarily about lowering your expections of others’ driving behaviour. People are going to cut you off, drive dangerously, push into queues, not give an inch when you’re trying to merge and abuse you whenever they’re in the wrong. Expect it and ignore it. Rise above it and do not get drawn into a confrontation. Be courteous at all times and allow yourself a little smirk of satisfaction when their Karma ends up in a nose to tail.

8. Never try to beat the traffic – You see it all the time. The driver who is constantly tailgating in heavy traffic. Continously changing lanes on the freeway to gain a place or two. Using the emergency lane when they think there’s no cops around. Forcing their way into a lane at the last second. It’s dangerous and it requires a lot of effort. For what – to cut 3-4% off your travel time. Fighting traffic is like paddling downstream – you will expend a lot of energy for little additional gain. Instead, just go with the flow.

9. Expend minimum effort – If you drive conservatively you will expend minimal mental effort and you won’t get stressed. Change lanes early. Maintain a safe following distance. Use the same route. Drive smoothly and you’ll get the added benefit of saving on fuel. Do it well and you’ll slip into auto-pilot mode. This will free your mind so you can put it to more productive uses.

Be Productive

One of the greatest frustrations of being stuck in traffic during your daily commute is the fact that it’s a complete and utter waste of time. You can eliminate this frustration by becoming productive while behind the wheel.

10. Thinking time – Once you’ve achieved you zen-like driving state you will be able to do some serious thinking. Plan your upcoming day, or review your day on the way home. Think through some ideas for a new blog post.  Work on a problem at work. Think through a DIY project for the weekend. The possibilities are endless. If you have a family, as you draw closer to home at the end of the day, you may want to spend a little time preparing for the onslaught that greets you when you walk through the door.

11. Listen to audio books – There are a huge range of non-fiction and fiction available in audio book format.  For example you can buy the entire Harry Potter collection on CDs. I’d recommend ripping them to MP3 so you don’t have to fiddle around swapping discs while driving.

12. Use Text to speech – There are a number of text to speech applications around that allow you to turn blog posts, news, magazines, eBooks, etc that are specific to your interest into MP3 files that you can listen to on your iPod or MP3 player. This allows you to keep up with your professional reading or indulge in your love for science fiction, etc. Because commuting time is regarded as dead time, you won’t feel guilty in doing it either.

13. Use a voice recorder – Record notes, ideas, etc on a voice recorder. The best ones for use in the car automatically activate on your voice, so you can keep your hands on the wheel. For an example of what can be done, a professional speaker wrote an entire book using her voice recorder.

14. Tune into the radio for news – Nothing does news better than a non-commercial radio station. Tune in on the hour or half hour, get up to date and then switch off again. Don’t rely on it to keep you occupied for the entire trip. There’s nothing worse than listening to the same news half an hour later.

15. Don’t talk on your mobile phone – This is your time. Don’t be interrupted. It’s also dangerous. More so than talking to someone in the passenger seat next to you. An interesting study showed that passengers were less of a distraction to a driver than someone at the other end of a phone. The reason being, as the passengers could also see the current driving conditions, they would naturally pause conversation when they felt the driver needed full concentration to negotiate a dangerous situation.

 

 

 

Definitely, Maybe

February 15, 2008 at 10:02 pm | Posted in Commuting, eBook, movie reviews | 9 Comments

Definitely, Maybe movie reviewMy wife and I just went to see the film ‘Definitely, Maybe’ and both thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not rocket science but it’s entertaining and a cut above your average romantic comedy.

Daughter, Maya, has just had her first day of sex education at school. Full of questions, she cajoules her father, Will Hayes,  into recounting how he came to meet and marry her mother. Will has three likely woman in his past, all of them beautiful but each with their own distinctive charm and personality. He changes the names of the women during the retelling, which keeps Maya guessing as to who is her mother, right until the end. This also keeps the audience guessing. Unlike many movies, Definitely, Maybe starts a little weakly but improves as it goes on and provides a satisfying ending.

The film is set in the present day but as it’s told in flashback, the majority of the movie is set in New York during the early nineties. The period is defined as being pre to early internet days. I loved the scene where a cafe owner is hoisting a big sign in his window, declaring ‘Internet coming soon’ and the scene where Will, a political campaigner is trying to download a guest list for an important political dinner using a dial-up modem. The sound of two modems performing their audible handshaking ritual sends a shiver down my spine and makes me thankful for ADSL broadband.

Some may find the interruptions of the daughter during the movie a little annoying. Again I think that as the film progresses, she becomes more likeable and turns out to be more than just a plot device. I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for this technique as my favourite movie of all time (The Princess Bride) does the same. Abigail Breslin’s performance as the daughter is convincing and I’m afraid it won’t be too long until my own daughter starts to ask the same sort of questions.

One of the central elements in the movie is a copy of ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Brontë. It has special significance for one of the women, although to avoid a possible spoiler I won’t elaborate further. Jane Eyre is out of copyright and available for free download from Project Gutenburg here, so I’m going to download it and convert it to speech with Text2Go so that I can listen to during my daily commute. I just hope writer/director Adam Brooks’ taste in English literature is as good as his movies.

Update – Where can you get those wireless earbuds that Will uses in the opening scene?

You can’t. They’re not for sale yet. Why do I know this. Because if they were available they’d come up in the top position for the Google search ‘Definitely Maybe wireless earbuds’ and there would be about 10 Adwords ads for ‘Definitely Maybe wireless earbuds’ in the right hand column.

There are a couple of really clunky looking products available now but they are not the ones featured in the movie. All I can hope is that someone’s doing some prelaunch marketing and they will be available soon. It would be nice to say goodbye to tangled earbud chords!

Free Sci-Fi eBook Collection

September 3, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Commuting, eBook, iPod, science fiction, text to speech, Text2Go | 3 Comments

Mother of Demons by Eric FlintA friend recently alerted me to an extensive free collection of science fiction novels available on the web. These can be found in the Baen Free Library, a service provided by Baen Books, a publishing company specializing in science fiction and fantasy novels.

In addition to the free library which contains over 100 titles, you can also subscribe to their web based version of the serialized novel. For US$15 per month, you will receive 4 novels, delivered in 3 parts over a period of 3 months, leading up to the actual publication date. You are not locked in to a minimum subscription period. You can pick and choose which months you make a purchase and can even purchase a single month if you desire (giving you access to 4 complete novels).

I’ve just started reading ‘Mother of Demons’ by Eric Flint. I’m currently about half way through and it’s proving to be a thoroughly enjoyable read. As it’s in eBook format, I’ve used Text2Go to convert it to speech, so I can listen to it while commuting between home and work. Eric’s writing style converts very easily to speech, so I find myself quickly transported to the alien world of Ishtar. My commuting time has become something to look forward to, rather than dread.

If the rest of the library is as good as ‘Mother of Demons’, then I can see myself working through the whole collection.

I’m Currently an Extreme Commuter

February 28, 2007 at 8:38 pm | Posted in Commuting | Comments Off on I’m Currently an Extreme Commuter

A while ago I read a story about ‘extreme commuters’, commuters who spend around 4 hours commuting to and from work each day. I hoped I’d never end up being one of these people but at the moment I find myself spending 3 hours a day trapped in the car while I commute to and from work. It’s a temporary situation that will only last for another month at which time I’ll be able to trim my round-trip travel time down to less than 2 hours a day. Not ideal but bearable. We’ve just moved back from 18 months living in New Zealand and are currently staying with my mother-in-law until the tenants in our own home vacate. At that time we’ll move back into our house which is about 20 minutes closer to work. This translates into at least 30 minutes less travel time each way.
Traffic Congestion
Photo courtesy of kaptainkobold

When I first came up with the idea for Text2Go, a product that allows you to capture text from the web, convert it to speech and transfer it to your iPod I was travelling to and from work in NZ by ferry. The ferry ride was a pleasant 12 minute trip across the Auckland harbour.


Auckland Harbour, New Zealand
Photo courtesy of
wonderferret

However my office was about 20 minutes brisk walk uptown from the ferry terminal. I wanted to make productive use of this time. I’d used text to speech technology before and knew from my a recent project that computer generated voices had come a long way in the last few years. Finally they were starting to sound quite natural and were easy to listen to and comprehend. Initially I looked for an existing product to fill my needs but when I couldn’t find anything that was really convenient to use, I decided to design and develop Text2Go. Now I could listen to any of the vast quantities of information from the web while I walked. Having the information read to me, meant that I could use my eyes for important tasks such as dodging other pedestrians and avoiding those drivers that assume they always have right of way because they’re enclosed in a deadly hunk of metal. Now as I sit in my car crawling my way to work I can once again listen to information being read to me from my iPod. It certainly makes my journey a lot more enjoyable and keeps me from getting frustated at what would otherwise be a complete waste of time.

I would be interested to hear from others about their best and worst commuting experiences during their career.

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