Dragon Dictate Tech Support: “Backup Profiles? You can’t.”

Gentlebeings, tech idiocy heads up (the particular example is Dragon Dictation software, but if one company is doing this it may be happening elsewhere). User profile files (the thing you train with your data) cannot be backed up. The file you are happily relying on in your time machine (or other backup) has no info in it. If you think this is nothing, please note that moving to a new computer will mean starting from scratch to train your vocabulary. Work around below:

Vocabulary, user commands, etc, have to be manually exported to produce a file that can be copied, and if/when the software crashes or you move to a new machine, this exported file can then be reimported.

There is no autosave option for this export process; it has to be done by hand. Apparently some part of this software was designed c. 1970. Even MS Word does autosave.

Also note, the basic profile itself, i.e. whatever it builds after you read into it, tell it what type of accent you have, etc., cannot be exported, and cannot be backed up at all. If you lose it, you start over, retrain the application, import the vocabulary files…

So, the heads-up is, check any complex programs you’re running that depend on user defined data input and make sure you have a way not to lose that information.

Dragon tech support seems to think it’s funny that anyone would be bothered by not being able to restore from backup or autosave. So, 4 mice for the dictation part, and minus 1.5 mice from that for this nonsense.

Most other applications (every other app I’ve used) do in fact allow backup of user profiles, so this comes as an unpleasant shock if found out after one has lost data. Forewarned is forearmed.

One final note: users with specialized vocabulary words very similar to words in the standard dictionary recommend (it’s all over the forums) that the standard vocabulary word be deleted. E.g. I use the Indian name ‘Nalini’. To get this to work, I deleted ‘Melanie’ from the built-in vocabulary. If you crash and lose the profile somehow, these deletions have to repeated one by one, by hand, no automation possible.

“Have a nice day. Thank you for calling Nuance tech support.”

Novel Analysis, IT-style

I had lunch with an out-of-town friend recently, and while we were doing the ‘So, what have you been up to?’ part of the conversation, I said I’d recently done a manuscript analysis on a novel, and described it as something like ‘critical design review’ in software design (the friend has a Silicon Valley engineering background).

He said — part interest, part skepticism — “How do you do a critical design review on a novel?”

I said, “Well, remember I used to be a geek,” (more formally, a NASA tech). And like the elephant, I haven’t forgotten. So when I sat down to read the draft of a novel and comment on it, my report wasn’t quite a PowerPoint presentation, but it did use more headings and subheadings than someone without tech reflexes might have used.

A more flattering way to describe what I did is to say I automatically tried to be comprehensive, and objective.

Comprehensive led to headings, and to trying to cover all the ground: character, voice, setting, story; the story arc, intention, beginning, middle, end; etc.. I drafted 60 pages of notes and cut it down to 18.

Objective led to remembering, it’s not my book. I’m trying to find all the critical issues as well as all the deepest strengths in another writer’s story, and help it become the best they can make it, not think about it as I would if it was mine. (Remembering the useful and not useful manuscript analyses I’d received on my own work did a lot to support this idea!)

In IT land, I also learned to bless people who are clearheaded, and straightforward. And so the final ‘voice’ I tried for in my report can be described as ‘blunt but also encouraging’.

So that’s what I told my friend. I don’t know whether he was convinced; but I’ve since heard back from the client, and the report is apparently of some use. So geek-style literary analysis is not such a bad way to go.

Facebook vs. Anonymous

PSI: You may or may not already know Anonymous plans to try to crash FB on 1/28. FB isn’t the most efficient platform anyway, so perhaps somewhere between now and 1/26 or 1/27 is a good time to request a download/archive of your FB data, just in case there’s some incoherence. Especially for those who use FB professionally. Politics aside.

Coming-out Day

I hear it’s coming out day, and so in support of Occupy Wall St.: my name is on one of those miniaturized signature plates NASA puts in spacecraft (Mars Global Surveyor, to the precise) and I would be very very surprised if I could raise a conventional job.

Consider this a virtual placard.

Relatives, food, and clothing

Apparently I am a shallow person; copyediting the book, and finding it’s full of relatives, food, and clothing. Hard to say if loving descriptions of food and clothing are there to support the story or if the story is an excuse to talk about food and clothing. Relatives I don’t really have a choice about: it is, after all, an Indian diaspora novel.