Month: January 2020

Rest in Peace, Christopher Tolkien

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Christopher Tolkien passed today at 96. Ninety-six years is far to short a time to have such a figure live among us, and yet he had a long and good life which is all one can ask for.

J.R.R. Tolkien is the father of modern fantasy, but without the son we wouldn’t have the vast trove of materials that have come out since the elder Tolkien’s death. There would be no Silmarillion, no History of Middle Earth, and the modern fantasy genre would be lessened due to the lack.

Roads go ever ever on, and may he find a good road wherever he is now.

Protip for anyone having quality issues with Dragon Naturally Speaking on a bluetooth headset

Don’t use a bluetooth headset with Dragon Naturally Speaking.

No, seriously. Don’t use bluetooth with DNS. Get a wired headset or microphone, or a headset that has a dedicated wireless receiver.

Read on for a more detailed description of the problem and the two weeks of frustration and troubleshooting that led me to this conclusion. One of my most popular posts ever is about me being an idiot and forgetting to connect a cable on a Huion tablet, so here’s hoping this will help as many people!

Getting back into Dragon Naturally Speaking

I’ve been switching back to DNS and trying to make it work. I’ve discovered that talking into a recorder and then transcribing is never going to give me the accuracy that I need, I was spending way too much time fixing errors for it to be a productivity booster, but talking directly into the computer is surprisingly accurate.

At least it was surprisingly accurate on my gaming laptop. Not so much on my Mac. Which was a problem considering I’ve gotten used to the Mac ecosystem and rather prefer it to Windows.

I banged my head against a wall for a week trying to get Dragon to work on my Mac. I tried running it in Parallels, but Parallels kept crashing. On the rare occasion it would work I couldn’t get clean dictation out of Dragon. Then it would crash again and totally freeze my system.

I tried switching to Boot Camp and using a Logitech H800 bluetooth/wireless headset. I connected it to my Windows install using Bluetooth. I still wasn’t getting the level of accuracy I was getting on my gaming PC.

I was convinced for about a week that the issue came down to RAM. My MacBook Pro “only” has 16GB of RAM, but my Asus ROG gaming laptop has 24GB of RAM because I’m insane and an upgrade was cheap a few years back.

So I used the Asus laptop for a week, convinced I was going to have to bid my beloved Mac adieu. Until a few days ago when I was using my Logitech headset with the computer, and noticed that the quality took a nosedive when I stepped away from the computer.

The non-obvious blindingly obvious solution

I’ll give you one guess as to where this is going.

If you guessed that I was using the onboard microphone on my computer and not the Logitech headset then you’d be absolutely correct! I’d connected the microphone to my computer and set it up in Sound in Control Panel, but I didn’t tell Dragon to switch user profiles and use the Logitech microphone.

So Dragon was using the onboard mic. That’s what was giving me the pristine quality.

I still wanted to be able to get up and move around while dictating, so I made sure Dragon was listening through the Logitech bluetooth headset and started dictating. Immediately the quality of transcription took a nosedive. It was doing that annoying thing where it inserts stray articles in between words, or just not putting the right words on the screen at all.

I’d gone from pristine quality talking into the default laptop mic to terrible quality talking on a dedicated bluetooth headset that gets a five star rating from Nuance in terms of compatability.

Dubya. Tee. Eff.

The test

Curious about this development, I decided to get my MacBook Pro back out and see if the quality was any better using the onboard microphone versus using the Logitech headset in Boot Camp. I loaded a profile for the onboard mic, started dictating, and…

It was coming out just as nice as what I was getting on my gaming PC. Imagine that.

I also kept getting notifications that Dragon was getting low quality audio. That didn’t seem to affect the quality of the transcription coming through, it was looking good no matter what, but if I wanted to use Dragon without a constant annoying pinging from Windows clearly I needed a better Mic.

Even more curious now, I connected the USB wireless dongle that comes with the Logitech headset and tried dictating a few more paragraphs. Once more everything was coming out quite nicely. I tried walking around the room and dictating, and still the dictation was pretty close to pristine. There were a few extra words thrown in here and there, but it wasn’t every other word like on bluetooth.

Clearly the dedicated USB wireless connection did the trick.

The conclusion

After all this frustration I won’t be going back to dictating on my ten pound beast of a gaming laptop, but I also won’t be dictating using a bluetooth connection. I’d tried dictating using a pair of Powerbeats Pro before buying the Logitech headset and the quality was spotty.

I figured the problem was that the Powerbeats weren’t designed for dictation. That’s why I got the dedicated Logitech headset. I even thought it was working well, until I realized my dumb ass was wearing the headset but talking into the wrong source.

I told you this was going to be like the post where I forgot to plug in a USB cable on the back of a tablet.

The common factor is bluetooth. Connecting a 2.4ghz Logitech wireless USB dongle just works. I imagine the same could be said for a wired connection or any other headset that uses a dedicated wireless connection rather than bluetooth.

The bottom line is I plan on using Dragon a lot more now for my first drafts, but I’m not going back to bluetooth to do that dictating.