Speechnotes: An Excellent, Free Dictation App

speechnotesIf you do a lot of writing, you might prefer to dictate your first drafts.  If so,  read here about Speechnotes:  an excellent, free dictation app.

A while ago a friend introducted me to Dragon, Naturally Speaking, an amazingly accurate offline dictation app that one installs on one’s own computer.  “The Dragon” really is great, but since then I bought a chromebook, a small, light, and inexpensive computer that runs nothing more than a browser for an operating system. Most applications on a chromebook are accessed from a Google server (in “the cloud”), so a rather code-heavy app that one installs on one’s own computer, like Dragon Naturally Speaking, wouldn’t run on my chromebook.

Chromebook in hand, I went looking for an online dictation app, and I found a five-star one, called Speechnotes. I discovered that Speechnotes is free, and can be used by anyone, no matter what device you use.

Speechnotes is accessed by opening a Chromium web browser –(If you don’t have the Chromium browser installed, go here to download it: https://www.google.com/chrome/browser/desktop/)– and then visit the following address: https://speechnotes.co/

Speechnotes is really easy to use, and I found that I didn’t need to train it to my voice, which is the case with Dragon Naturally Speaking. Just visit the page above, make sure your own computer microphone is on, then click the red icon of the microphone at the top right of the page and begin speaking. You will be amazed to see your spoken words appear in print very quickly. If you want to pause, just click the microphone icon again, then click it again to resume. You can edit the dictated words with your keyboard (in case there are mistakes) anytime you wish. When you are finished dictating look to the left of the page where you will find several links for saving the dictation as a .txt file, or emailing it, or uploading it to your Google drive. If you use Gmail and the mail-to link in Speechnotes doesn’t work, here is the fix: See “making Gmail your default client in  Chrome”: http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/set-gmail-as-browser-default-email-client-ht

On the Speechnotes home page, at the right bottom is a link to “About & More”. You might want to read that, where the authors concede that Dragon Naturally Speaking can do much more. However, Speechnotes is very accurate, and FREE. I find that hard to beat!

Make a WordPress Website Banner from a Digital Photograph

beach sceneFollow this CyberKen post to make a WordPress website banner from a digital photograph.

Many websites have a decorative banner across the top. If you’re running a WordPress website your theme will likely give specific instructions about how to size a graphic file (drawing or photo) in pixels. You’ll find these instructions by logging into your Dashboard and clicking on “Appearance” and then “Header”.

Knowing the dimensions for your banner is only half the challenge, however. The harder part is finding a photo whose significant graphic content is narrow enough to meet the vertical dimension requirement. For example, let’s say your header instructions say that your banner file must be sized to exactly 1440 by 300 pixels. The width dimension is not a problem, really. In this particular case you just have to make sure, when saving a jpeg, that it is at least 1440 pixels wide. So, pay attention to the default size of your camera’s jpegs. A standard “large” size is 1024 x 678 pixels. This would not be large enough to make a banner image for a theme that requires 1440 pixels in width. You’re better off saving your photos in very large sizes, say, around 2500 pixels in width. This will give you plenty of pixels to size your photo for various purposes, including making banners.

As I mentioned above, the chief challenge in banner making is finding a photo whose significant graphic content lies within a narrow band–in my example, 300 pixels. What do I mean by significant graphic content? I mean the elements of an image that carry a symbolic message. A website banner should be symbolically appropriate for the whole website. So, for instance, this content might be people with their arms raised in celebration. In this case you wouldn’t want to crop off their arms, so you would need to compose the photo to get all of the necessary body parts within the 300 pixel vertical limit. The challenge of photographing for website banners is to compose your shots so that the symbolic content displays in a narrow horizontal band. Avoid verticals as much as possible.

Now, how to crop to the required dimensions? First, downsize your photo to the required width, in my case, 1440 pixels. Then, set your cropping tool’s vertical dimension to 300 pixels. Crop. Presto, now you have a jpeg of the required dimension: 1440 x 300 pixels.

You can use these instructions to make your own banner, but first you’ll have to consult Dashboard > Appearances > Header to find the header dimensions required by your own WordPress theme.

— TCDavis

How to Run SoundSlides Plus on Linux

winehq_logo_glassBy first installing Wine you can run Soundslides Plus on Linux.This CyberKenBlog post tells how to install SoundSlides Plus using Wine.

An Introduction to SoundSlides

First, a brief intro.  Soundslides has been a favorite software of photojournalists for at least a decade.  It allows them to quickly put together a short slideshow and perfectly synchronize the timing of each slide to shifts in music or narration by dragging the edges of each slide along the Soundslides timeline.  When a project is finished, Soundslides exports a flash show folder which can then be uploaded by FTP to the public html level of a server.  Internet viewers can then view the show in their web browsers by typing in the url of that folder.

Soundslides can be set to display slides at various sizes, even full screen if you’re adept at coding (not covered in this post.)  I like to set my shows large. This makes slides about half the area of my 14″ screen with a black border all around.

You can download SoundSlides Plus for Mac or Windows, but you’ll have to use Wine to run it on Linux.

Options for Installing Wine on Linux

Here are two options:

1. It’s best to use the software manager of your Linux distribution.

2. Or, type into your terminal window:

sudo su Then enter your password when prompted.
then type: add-apt-repository ppa:ubuntu-wine/ppa -y
then type: apt-get update
finally, type: apt-get install wine

Either method installs wine and all the files which it depends upon.

Configuring Wine on Linux

Next, you have to configue Wine to accept Windows program files.  Open a terminal window and type into it:  winecfg

This puts the folder, .wine, into your Linux home folder.  To make that .wine folder visible, double left click on your home folder in your file system and under the View menu select “show hidden files”.  This allows you to see all folders that begin with a dot.

Now double left click on the .wine folder unside your home folder.  Next, double left click on the drive_c folder, and then double left click on the Program Files folder.  Leave that window open.  Its path is:  /home/your user name/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/.

Now go to the SoundSlides official website and download a demo copy of SoundSlides for Windows.  You will receive in your Downloads folder a file named SoundslidesPlusinstaller.exe.  Put that file into the window you left open of the Program Files folder.

Right click on the Program Files folder, hover over the “open with” choice and select “Open with ‘Wine Windows Program Loader”.  Then follow the setup instructions.  It’s good to check the box entitled “Launch Soundslides” because otherwise it may be difficult for you to know how to launch it the first time.

Click on “install”.

How to Display a Soundslides Plus Show

If you have followed the above steps correctly, Soundslides should launch.  The demo copy will allow you to create and export a Soundslides show. When you export a soundslides show its folder always has the name, “publish to web”.  You will find that folder inside the Program Files folder in this path:  /home/your user name/.wine/drive_c/Program Files.

It’s a good idea to rename the “publish to web” folder, because subsequent Soundslides exports will also have that name, and you don’t want to get them mixed up.  When you rename, use all small letters, and add an underscore between words.  Try to keep the name short because it will be easier to remember.  When you have renamed the folder, upload it by FTP to the public_html level of your server.  Here’s an example:  http://cyberken.teledavis.com/returning_to_vietnam.

Registering Soundslides Plus

To register Soundslides Plus you will either need to buy your demo copy, or, if you have already registered a Windows copy of Soundslides, have Soundslides reset your registration key under the heading “Lost your licenses from a previous order?” on this page: http://support.soundslides.com/.

After you close SoundSlides Plus how do you find its .exe file to launch it again?  Go back to the Program Files folder in this path:  /home/your user name/.wine/drive_c/Program Files/.  You will find the SoundSlidesPlus.exe file there.  By double clicking on it you can Launch SoundSlides Plus.  My Mint installation of Wine automatically placed a shortcut to SoundSlidesPlus in my start menu when I installed Wine.  Maybe your distribution of Linux will do the same.  At any rate, you can place an alius of that .exe file wherever you find it most convenient.