Pic of the day: In the future, we will have colonies on Mars. (As shown in this screenshot from Civ2 Fantastic Worlds). Oh, and we will also be talking to our furniture.
The future, finally
“The future is now.” How often have we not heard this phrase used about some trivial detail? I for one am pretty much immune to it now. Until I suddenly woke up and discovered that the future is very close indeed. This happened the other day when I turned to my stereo and was about to talk to it.
I didn’t, which may be just as well, since it would not have heard me anyway. But I had just spent the evening talking to my PC, dictating a lengthy piece of text. I must admit I am impressed: The program (Dragon Naturally Speaking 5 Essentials) is a bare-bones version of the previous generation. And it still manages to catch most of what I say, even though my microphone is placed only a couple feet from the fan on my computer. It did indeed complain about the sound quality during the initial tests, but I forged ahead. The layout of my computer corner does not leave me much choice.
Probably because of the background noise (or my Engrish, though I doubt it), Dragon seems unable to recognize words that depend on the letter “L”. So I still have to help a bit. But luckily there are few words that actually depend on one single letter. For instance, you have no problems recognizing words such as “ridicuous”, “mutimedia” or even “inteigence”. Nor does Dragon. For more common words such as the ubiquitous “will” and “shall”, they are saved by the program’s table over which words are most common and which words crop up together. And even if the program proposes “Time we show”, I click on the numeric minus sign and find “Time will show” listed as an alternative. “Choose two” I say, and the program chooses the second alternative instead of the first.
Oh yes, I don’t just dictate. I give commands too. “Click start menu. Programmer. Maxis. The Sims.” It’s not actually faster than mousing, but my hand deserves its rest; and besides, it is fun. It’s things like this that suddenly make me wonder why I cannot talk to my stereo. Of course, gradually more and more (legal) MP3 files make up a slowly growing percentage of my music collection … But I still can’t call over to the fridge and ask it how much yogurt there is left. Or ask my shoes how long I have walked the last week. The future is still tomorrow, I guess.
Another part of the future is electronic books, or e-books. Regular readers will know that for the last year or two, almost all books I have bought have been e-books, except for comic books. (And I really wish they were, too. Then again, I buy less and less comic books and read more and more online comics.) Now I am not your average person. I live in Norway but my eyes are at the ends of the world; chances are overwhelming that when I spot a new book, it is in English. (Especially since my tastes run to genres that don’t have a strong local following here.) Would I wait for weeks (or at least some days, if it was available at Amazon UK) and then take the bus to the post office to fetch the parcel, when I can have it in 3 minutes by simply downloading it? I am not possessed of infinite patience. Especially as I’d have to pay for the freight too. Not to mention that my bookshelves are full.
E-books is quite the “killer application”, as they say - actually more like “life-giving application” - for pocket PCs. Yes, there are dedicated e-book readers which have a larger reading surface and look more like a conventional book. But with a high-resolution display, reading on a pocket PC is quite feasible. And they fit in one hand, so you can read anywhere: On the bus, in bed, or waiting for an appointment. The pocket PC also lets you take quick notes, play MP3 files (earplugs recommended) and keep track of phone numbers and appointments. You can read not only books, but also e-mail and the latest news and favorite online journals. Or look at pictures of loved ones, cuties, or any combination of the above.
Speaking of pocket PCs, Compaq (now part of HP) has released a new line of iPaq hand-held PC, with even better display. And of course it has Windows 2002 built-in. This means it can be used to read copy protected e-books with Microsoft Reader. The new display can be read in external light, such as sunshine, just as well as with backlight. For the longest time now displays have depended on backlight, and the brighter the light outside, the more you had to turn up the backlight, draining the batteries quickly. With this new twist it should actually be easier to read when the light is good, which frankly makes more sense. I have kinda blinked out this new Compaq as my new handheld, but I am disappointed that only has 64 MB of RAM. True, this is twice as much as Cassie (my Cassiopeia E-125 handheld); but I had hoped for more after two years of tumbling RAM prices. Oh well; Cassie is still holding the fort. I don't need to buy this week. The future comes soon enough.
Got a bothersome bronchial cough this evening.
Rain, sun, thunder, sun again.
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.