Voice Typing Software

I’d been thinking for quite a while about getting some voice-activated typing software to help ease the strain I felt in my neck and shoulders if I typed anything longer than a few hundred words. I put it off for quite a while because without actually trying it myself I was a little bit skeptical about how well it worked. In the last six months though, after anything more than a half an hour or so of typing it seemed like the next strain turned into a headache fairly easily which got old really fast.

I’ve never learned to touch type, something I regret a little bit now– on the other hand getting real good at touch typing seems to lead to problems in the wrists and hands for a lot of people, so I was a little bit reluctant to learn to tell the truth.

Anyway I decided to treat myself to some voice typing software for the holidays after reading several reviews MacSpeech Dictate. As a Mac user my range of choices is narrower than it would be if I was a PC user, but I realized after reading quite a bit about it in the last year or so that hardly any of the reviews were negative, so I decided to give it a shot.

I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to give reviews of particular products here, but I thought it might be helpful to tell about how positive my experience has been with voice-activated typing software generally as a tool, in the last few weeks I’ve been using it.

The experience has been terrific! I’m actually not too sure that I write much faster than I did when I was typing with my hands, at least not yet, but I can definitely report that the whole experiences easier physically. It’s amazing how easy it is to produce several hundred words of content, whether it’s an e-mail or a blog post, and not feel at all tight in my neck or shoulder area.

Initially I found myself carefully watching the typing area to make sure that each and every word was reproduced accurately by typing software, which made the process pretty slow. A method that I have settled on that seems to really speed things up and even increase the accuracy of the software, is to simply speak my entire e-mail or article and then go back and correct errors later. The instructions actually suggest to avoid starting and stopping, claiming that accuracy is increased by simply speaking naturally. I found this to be exactly the case, which makes it a lot easier for me. Also, it’s hard to put a number on the error rate, but I’d say no more than one word out of 20 is wrong, maybe less.

So what are the negative aspects of voice typing software? Well it’s not cheap; I paid over $150 for my software. But aside from that I really can’t think of anything. It only takes about five minutes to “train” the software by reading text that is shown to you on the screen… that was hardly an inconvenience.

2010 Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act: Making the Most of This Opportunity

It’s that time again — the 2010 Child Nutrition Reauthorization is underway! If you want to see change in your child’s school food program, your moment to be heard is now. For those of you who are not up to speed on the Child Nutrition Act, it is an essential piece of legislation that helps shape the food programs in American schools. Unlike the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, which are both permanently authorized, the Child Nutrition Act expires and needs to be reauthorized every 5 years.

Because this chance only comes around twice a decade, Reauthorization is an extremely important time to critically evaluate and address what is and is not working in the federal Child Nutrition Programs. This give Capitol Hill the opportunity to reshape and improve the food programs in over 100,000 public and private schools across the country. During this process, it is imperative that Congress allocate sufficient funding and resources in order to integrate greater access to fresh, healthy food for every child, as well as nutrition education that will help cement healthy habits in the future.

The Senate has already passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, on August 5, 2010. On a positive note, their version of the Reauthorization is focused on raising the level of nutrition of school food, as well as increasing the number of children who are fed. The bill includes valuable improvements in policies that address the dual challenges of obesity and hunger, but unfortunately the financial aspect leaves much to be desired.

Far too many children across the U.S. are affected by these forms of malnutrition, and the increases in the reimbursements that schools receive for the meals they provide are minuscule. The Senate’s goal of making higher quality food more available to more kids is fantastic, except that they haven’t allotted adequate funding to do so. Pledging $4.5 billion over the next ten years, divided among more than 30 million students is only an increase of about 6 cents per meal. This simply is not enough to make the fundamental changes we need.

School nutrition programs are struggling to stretch their limited food budgets as it is. It’s already a challenge to produce healthy, balanced meals for students. The rise of food and labor costs makes it nearly impossible for schools to even maintain their current lunch programs, let alone make meaningful improvements to the food they serve.

Furthermore, kids need to have access to healthy food throughout the school day. Wholesome breakfast and lunch meals are indispensable, but we need to see healthier items in snacks lines, concession stands, and a trend towards healthy vending machines to make sure that they have access to the nutrition they need, whenever they need it. All of these upgrades require money!

Congress needs to pass a Reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act that encompasses fundamental changes, with proper funding. The House of Representatives still has not passed their bill. This is our chance to call on the Administration to use this time before elections to drastically improve on this legislation. We have an obligation to ensure that healthy, quality meals are provided to children every day at school.

Voice your support for healthy school food – this means demanding higher nutritional standards and increased federal funding of school food programs. Contact your Congressional leaders to let them know that child nutrition is a priority!

Call the Capitol switchboard: 202-225-3121. The toll-free number is 866-277-7617.

The operator will ask you which elected official’s office you would like to be connected to. A staff member will answer your call and you can either leave your message with them, or ask them to be transferred to the staff member who handles child nutrition. If that staff member is out of the office, leave a message and try calling them back later.

If you don’t know who your Representative is, visit http://www.house.gov (the “Find Your Representative” tab is located in the upper-left corner).

Time is running out — make the most of this opportunity! We can’t afford to put this off for another 5 years.

Mobile E-Commerce

Mobile e-commerce provides customers with options to pay for items in non-traditional ways. Not only can users shop websites that have a mobile version of the webstore, but customers can also use their mobile phones in place of a credit card or cash in many physical stores. As of November 2011, 38 percent of mobile users used their phones to purchase something. As the technology improves these numbers are expected to rise dramatically.

1. Ordering Process: Mobile phones provide a secure way to order products. Customers can validate their locations and quickly enter in their personal information using a mobile phone. With the limited screen real estate of a mobile phone, it’s important that user interface developers make the ordering process streamlined and simple.

2. Search Functions: Mobile e-commerce stores need to have effective search engines built into the application. Browsing by highly defined categories ensures that customers can find the products they need without having to type large amounts of text.

3. Mobile Apps: Stores must have mobile applications that users can download and use to find information on products. Users who install a mobile e-commerce application are more inclined to save their credit card information and purchase something later.

4. Dual Sites: Two sites are required for small businesses that want success. The first site must work on traditional computers and the second site must automatically detect when a mobile device accesses the site and serve a separate mobile website. Always provide a link at the bottom of the page to switch to the full website.

5. Coupons and Loyalty Cards: Users can download coupons and loyalty cards for use on their mobile phones. Customers then take these cards to retailers to receive discounts, promotions and points. The benefits often can be redeemed online and saved in an online account.

6. Brick and Mortar: Mobile e-commerce does not mean that the customer must stick to online services. Instead, customers can purchase gift cards for friends and send them to a mobile device instantly. Then, the friend or family member can walk into the appropriate retail store and purchase material goods immediately. This provides a great option for parents who need to send kids grocery money.

7. Digital Content Delivery: An increasing subsection of mobile e-commerce includes the ability to provide digital products such as music, movies, games and lifestyle applications.

8. Ticketing: Concert tickets, movie tickets and even bus passes are moving to mobile e-commerce. Consumers can now purchase tickets and allow the ticket-taker to scan their mobile device to gain entry. Additionally, stores are now providing ways for customers to scan merchandise in-store to find pricing and reviews of products.

9. Payment Methods: Mobile e-commerce makes it possible to shop without having any cash or credit cards on you. Consumers can load a mobile gift card at home and then use it to budget their expenses and avoid overdraft fees or spending more than they want to while shopping.

10. Store Front: The store front provides the first look at a mobile store. Mobile e-commerce sites have to be easy to navigate and user-friendly. Significant time should be put into finding the right user interface that works best on a mobile device.