Apple

External hard drive not showing up in Windows when transferred from a Mac

This is another one of those “Andrew is an idiot” posts that I’m sharing with the world in case someone else comes across this problem with an obvious solution.

I’m in the process of migrating from my MacBook Pro back to Windows for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here. This means transferring a bunch of information I’ve been keeping on external drives formatted for Mac to my Windows computer.

So I went into Disk Utility on the Mac and reformatted one of my external drives as ExFat instead of MacOS Journaled. A drive formatted for ExFat can be read by both Windows and MacOS, so that’s what you need if you’re doing a big transfer.

I then spent the better part of the day copying and pasting stuff from one external drive on the Mac to the new one and let the copying and pasting run in the background. I have about 2TB of stuff sitting on those external drives so it took the better chunk of the day checking on it off and on.

This morning everything was transferred and good to go, so I plugged the drive into my Windows machine.

Nothing happened.

Weird. I tried connecting the hard drive directly to my computer rather than using a USB hub. Still nothing happened. I tried restarting my Windows laptop, but that didn’t fix it either.

So I plugged the drive back into my MacBook, did a double tap to bring up the properties, and sure enough the damned drive was formatted MacOS Journaled.

Now I could’ve sworn I formatted this thing as ExFat, but I learned a lesson. Always double check before you do a big data transfer. I formatted the drive again, triple checking that it was ExFat this time, and now I’ll be spending another day copying and pasting things in the background.

Lesson learned. Always double check.

Parallels freezing MacOS Catalina when waking from sleep

I’ve noticed an annoying bug with Parallels that cropped up in late 2019, affecting multiple versions of MacOS going back to at least Mojave, and it appears to be an issue a lot of people are having if the long topics on their forums are anything to go on.

The bug is simple, but pernicious. If Parallels is running when you put your Mac to sleep then there’s a good chance your Mac will freeze upon waking up.

I spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out why my computer kept freezing before realizing it only happened when the machine had gone to sleep or I’d closed the lid with Parallels running. Like we’re talking Parallels is running in any capacity, and not just the Virtual Machine is open.

It looks like they’ve known about it for awhile now and on the tech support forums they’re still asking for bug reports and not saying anything about when or if a fix is forthcoming.

If you’re having this issue because you use Parallels on MacOS then there is a simple, if slightly annoying, solution: make sure you close Parallels entirely before you put your Mac to sleep.

Annoying? Yes. I wish they could’ve fixed this by now, but speedy reliable support isn’t something built into the price with Parallels. At least it’s a workable solution if Parallels is part of your workflow.

Apple switch from Intel to ARM spells uncertain future for Dragon on Mac

Rumors are circulating that Apple is about to make a move from Intel based CPUs to ARM. They’ve been using ARM processors in their mobile devices for years now, and switching away from Intel would give them more control over their hardware which is something Apple has been (in)famous for since they abandoned the homebrew feel of the Apple IIe.

I know what you’re thinking. “What does Apple switching their processor have to do with me, a writer?”

Simple. If you’re relying on Dragon for your writing then that software’s future on Mac just got that much more uncertain.

Nuance famously and abruptly dropped support for Dragon for Mac back in late 2018. Anyone who used Dragon for Mac knew that was no great loss. The Mac version of the software was overpriced with very little of the functionality that makes the PC version worth using.

Of course the end of Dragon on Mac meant people who wanted Dragon dictation on their Mac were left with the options of using Bootcamp or a Virtual Machine such as Parallels. I’ve tried both and prefer using Parallels when I need to hop into Windows to transcribe dictation from a recorder.

The thing is, that compatibility with Windows is only possible because Apple and Windows machines were using the same hardware under the hood. Apple switching to ARM rather than Intel processors could potentially mean a return to the bad old days when it was difficult, if not impossible, to get Windows functionality on a Mac.

Sure there might be emulators that allow people to still run Windows on these rumored ARM-based Macs, but adding a layer of slowdown via emulation isn’t going to be great for a resource hog like Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Right now this is all speculation based on a rumored announcement, but if you’re a writer using a Mac who still relies on Dragon for part of your writing workflow then you need to at least keep it in the back of your mind that the future is uncertain. It will be interesting to see what Apple says about the future of Bootcamp when they make their announcement, and how the makers of popular VM software like Parallels respond.

PSA: Vellum’s new EPUB for Kindle needs to be converted to MOBI before sending to advance readers

I’m always one for letting people know when I’ve screwed up so that you can learn from my mistakes. I ran into one this past weekend as a result of the recent changes to how Vellum generates files for upload to Amazon.

Picture it. Indiana. 2019. An author who’s never tried loading an epub file directly onto his Kindle sends out advance reader copies of a story to his Kindle readers. In epub format. Which they can’t read natively on their Kindles.

Oops.

Protip: Upload your document on KDP and download the file they provide you for preview, or use something like Calibre to convert it to a mobi before sending it out to your advance team if they’re using Kindles.

Bookfunnel has also announced that they will automatically convert a Vellum EPUB to MOBI when uploaded if you use their service, which is darn convenient.

I hope that saves someone a bit of the headache I had this past weekend when I got a bunch of annoyed emails from advance readers asking why their book files weren’t working!

Dragon 13 discontinued, Dragon 15 discounted

Do you use Dragon Naturally Speaking? Specifically are you on Dragon 13? Well I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news for you.

The bad news is Dragon 13 is being discontinued. Nuance is no longer going to support it after 2018. It’s pining for the fjords, and at some future date a Windows Update is going to break functionality and Nuance isn’t going to fix it.

Now for the good news. If you own Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Professional they’re offering Dragon 15 Professional at a steep discount of $99. Check the software notifications you probably ignore every time you open Dragon 13 and you’ll see a notification and a link to where you can get the discounted rate.

It’s only good through October 31, 2018, so be sure to act fast. This is a great deal on 15 and well worth the upgrade. Especially if you’re using it for a business purpose!

Huion “device disconnected” and a lesson in humility

After trying out and returning a parade of Cintiq Pro 16s I decided to give the much cheaper competition a try. I picked out an inexpensive Huion GT-191 which arrived today.

I loved the look of the thing from the moment I unboxed it. The 19″ monitor looked beautiful even before powering it on. I didn’t care about the lack of side keys because I always have a keyboard sitting beside me.

I wasted no time in setting the beauty up and powering it up. I installed the drivers. And no matter what I did the Huion software helpfully told me that the device was disconnected.

Huh.

I looked around on the Internet for a solution, but most of the solutions out there involved messing with stuff in Windows which wasn’t helpful to me since I’m on MacOS. I tried uninstalling and reinstalling drivers. I tried going with an older version of the driver. I restarted the computer several times. I did a complete power down and back up.

Nothing was working. I was ready to give up on the thing. I was angry. Clearly you got what you paid for, right?

Then I decided to do one final thing. It said the device was disconnected. So I flipped it over and double checked the USB connection on the back of the monitor.

Sure enough, I either hadn’t plugged the damn thing in all the way to begin with or it got jostled loose while I was putting the monitor in place. The software kept telling me the device was disconnected because the device was, quite literally, disconnected.

I sheepishly plugged it back in and so far the monitor has proved to be a lovely little Cintiq replacement. Only it’s not little since the thing is much larger at a fraction of the cost.

I’ll do a full writeup here in a day or two when I’ve had more time to play with the Huion, but so far I’m very happy with the thing. Especially for the price!

Calculating the time I would’ve lost using Dragon Naturally Speaking

Someone was asking about Dragon Naturally Speaking in an author group this evening and I was the dissenting voice urging caution. As part of that I sat down and figured out exactly how much extra time I would’ve spent writing if I’d used Dragon Naturally Speaking rather than typing a draft.

I wrote close to two million words in 2016 and again in 2017. Let’s just round it up for the sake of simplicity.

I’ve calculated that I add ten minutes of production time for every thousand words written using Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Take two million and divide it by one thousand to see how many thousand word increments I wrote. The math is easy and we get two thousand. Now take two thousand and multiply that by ten to get how much extra time would’ve been added by using Dragon instead of typing.

The result? Twenty thousand wasted minutes. Divide that by sixty and we get roughly three hundred thirty-three hours that would’ve been lost in a year. That’s almost fourteen days. Two weeks of time.

The ability to write fast, clean drafts is one of the superpowers that has allowed me to make it as an indie author. With a little simple math it’s easy to see that Dragon would’ve cost me a lot of that time rather than helping.

Dragon might work for you. All I ask is that you sit down and figure out how much time you’re actually saving by using it. You might be surprised at the answer you come up with.

Dragon Naturally Speaking: PC or Mac?

Dragon Naturally Speaking is available for PC and Macs. Which version is better?

I realize that this article is going to be a moot point for a lot of people. You’re either a Mac person or a PC person, and you’re naturally going to gravitate towards the version of the software designed for your computer, right?

Not necessarily. It turns out when it comes to deciding between the PC and the Mac version of Dragon Naturally Speaking there are several different options available to you depending on what kind of performance you demand. This is also a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve been switching my writing workflow to 100% dictation and I try to figure out a decent way of getting text from my recorder to a word processor.

The problem is pretty simple. I made the switch to Mac about a year ago and I love it. This is coming from a lifelong PC user who grew up on the things. Seriously, my first PC was a monochrome 8086 IBM compatible that my dad spent thousands of 1980s dollars to buy. The only problem with that switch is I still like to use Dragon occasionally, and Dragon for Mac sucks.

Training Your Dragon

Training: This is by far the best reason to get Dragon for PC. If it gets a word wrong then you can correct it and Dragon learns from that correction. If it repeatedly gets a word wrong then you can train it on that word and the problem goes away.

Seriously. I can’t tell you how much of a lifesaver this feature is. I’ve taught my Dragon how to swear. I’ve had it learn specialized vocabulary for fantasy and science fiction stories I was working on. It’s a game changer, a productivity saver, and something that you absolutely need in my opinion.

Dragon for Mac? Not so much. You just can’t train it the same way you can the PC version. I’m not sure what’s going on under the hood that they weren’t able to include the central feature of every PC version of this program going back to its inception, but it was a really boneheaded move. Dragon for Mac is basically a nice way to get your words on screen, but you’ll constantly be correcting the same transcription errors and It. Gets. Old.

Transcription

Transcription is a mixed back between PC and Mac, but it’s a mixed bag that I think leans towards the Windows version even though there is a minor annoyance about the Windows version.

Transcription is how I use Dragon. I have a Philips recorder that I carry with me at all times so that I can utilize my downtime. If I’m on a drive then I’m dictating. If I’m in the parking lot waiting on my wife to do some shopping I can pull out the recorder and dictate. It’s a great tool for getting out a first draft and putting thoughts on the page, and because of that transcription is the thing I focus on the most when I’m setting up Dragon.

The nice thing about transcription in Dragon for Mac is that I can load up multiple files at once and tell Dragon to transcribe them, and then they’re transcribed in the background leaving me free to do other things. Compare this to the PC version of Dragon where you can transcribe multiple files at once by selecting them, sure, but the drawback is Dragon takes control of your PC while it’s doing the transcribing rather than doing that transcription in the background.

So it’s a game of tradeoffs. Dragon for Mac does the transcribing in the background, but remember that training I was talking about in my first point? Yeah, you really can’t do that with transcription. In Dragon for PC you create a separate input for your digital recorder under your existing profile and then you can train that input source as it makes mistakes and it will get better and learn how you talk.

Dragon for Mac? Not so much. It does transcription, sure, but it’s the same old problem where it’s going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again because you can’t train it so it never learns. The end result is you’re going to be spending a hell of a lot of time going back and fixing the same mistakes over and over again and believe you me that gets very old very fast.

So for transcription the tip of the hat goes to Dragon for PC.

Accuracy and the Little Things

Finally there’s accuracy to think of. How good are these programs out of the box?

I can remember a time in the late ’90s and early ’00s when you had to spend a lot of time training Dragon if you wanted anything approaching accuracy, and even then you still had to go over everything you wrote with an editor’s eye to make sure it was coming out correct. This was fine for my dad because he was a lawyer and lawyers employ secretaries to do dictation anyway. Dragon just made life easier for everyone involved.

But what about for an author who doesn’t have a secretary to go over everything? And that’s the rub of it. I’ve discovered that no matter what you do, no matter what version of Dragon comes out, there’s nothing that’s going to be one hundred percent accurate whether you’re talking about transcription or dictating to the computer. There’s always going to be little mistakes that creep in, and you’re always going to have to keep an eye out for those mistakes.

I’ve not done anything approaching a scientific study of this, but I have a general feel between using Dragon for PC and Dragon for Mac, and I’d say that for sitting down and dictating or for transcribing the accuracy is definitely better on the PC version out of the box. And since you can’t really do any training worth the name in Dragon for Mac it’s not like it’s going to get better, whereas in the PC version you can train and it’s going to do a better job of learning your unique style.

Dragon for Mac also has odd idiosyncrasies. The transcription sucks, as I mentioned, but it also capitalizes words randomly and inserts random spaces. There are a lot of little niggling details it gets wrong that adds up to a very frustrating experience for a piece of software that costs so much.

Which version of Dragon should you get?

This is simple. If you have a PC then you need to get Dragon for PC. If you have a Mac? You still want to get Dragon for PC.

Stay with me for a moment here, because this is the solution I ultimately came up with since Dragon for PC is the one piece of software that I found myself missing when I made the switch to Mac.

Dragon for Mac costs $300. That’s a steep pricetag for a piece of software that’s essentially a less functional version of its PC counterpart. This is one piece of software where you’re definitely paying the Mac tax.

But don’t forget about Parallels.

The wonderful thing about today’s Macs is they’re fully capable of running a modern Windows OS, and it’s never been easier to run a virtual machine like Parallels that allows you to run a Windows install within whatever version of MacOs you’re running. Which means you get all the benefits of the one or two Windows programs you need to run while also retaining all your Mac stuff.

The cost makes sense too. Dragon Premium 13 costs roughly $120. Parallels costs $80 to either buy outright or to get a one year SAAS subscription that includes updates. That means you’re only out $200 to get Dragon working on your Mac, which is still $100 cheaper than buying Dragon for Mac outright! You don’t even have to worry about Windows, because Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 right now. The only penalty for not paying for Windows 10 is you get some annoying text in the bottom right corner of your screen and you can’t personalize the background, but why would you want to do that when you’re doing most of your computing on your Mac?

There are two potential drawbacks to this approach:

  1. There is a learning curve to figuring out how to run Parallels on your Mac. I didn’t think it was a particularly steep learning curve, but it’s definitely there. Thankfully there are a number of tutorials out there that will get you up and running, and you can even do a 15 day free trial to see if it works for you.
  2. You have to have a computer that has some resources to it. You’re running two OSes at the same time including Dragon which can be resource intensive. I’m running a higher end MacBook Pro of recent vintage so I didn’t have any problem, but if you’re running older hardware you might have an issue. Then again if you’re running hardware old enough for this to be an issue then you’re also probably running hardware old enough that Dragon for Mac isn’t a terribly viable option either.

In a nutshell

So there you have it. Avoid Dragon for Mac. Get Dragon Premium 13 for PC. If you’re using a Mac then you need to either run Dragon for PC in Parallels or install Windows on your system using Bootcamp and use Dragon for PC if you’re serious about voice recognition as part of your writing workflow.

That’s it for this update. Up next: Why Dragon isn’t the magic productivity silver bullet some people make it out to be, and why it can still be damn useful.