Disk Utilities are Worthless

Monday, August 26th, 2013

Yesterday morning I had to hard reboot my Mac Pro when it wouldn’t unlock from the screensaver. When it came back up there were a few question marks in the task bar, some surprising warnings about full disk space from an extension I thought I’d turned off years ago, and unexpected software update messages. I eventually realized that my 480GB OWC Excelsior SSD had died, or at least was not being recognized. This is my primary boot drive, but instead my Mac had booted off another system disk with an older group of apps and Mac OS X 10.6.

Not a disaster; my data is backed up and my home directory never lived on this drive in the first place. I sent a message to OWC support (27+ hours and still no response, by the way) and then fired up Disk Utility. Disk Utility could not see the missing drive.

Next I launched TechTool Pro. Completely worthless. It found a few corrupt files on other drives but had no idea that the SSD drive even existed. And then it occurred to me that this is a common pattern. Although I have about one personal hard drive failure a year, I have never been able to use TechTool, DiskWarrior, Norton (back in the day) or any other such repair utility to fix anything ever.
(more…)

Dragon Dictate 3

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

I’m trying out Dragon Dictate 3 for the Mac. Is it ready for primetime? You tell me:

One of the most impressive features of brains – especially human brains — is the flexibility to learn almost any kind of task that comes its way. Given apprentice the desire to impress his master and a chicken-16 past, and his brain devotes its massive resources to distinguishing males from females. Given unemployed aviation enthusiast a chance to be a national hero, and his brain learns to distinguish enemy aircraft from local fly boys. This flexibility in learning accounts for a large part of what we consider human intelligence. All many animals are properly called intelligent, humans distinguish themselves and they are so flexibly intelligent, fastening the neural circuits to match the task at hand. It is for this reason that we can colonize every region on the planet, learn the local language were born into, and master skills as diverse as playing the violin, high-jumping and operating spatial cockpits.

–David Eagleman, Incognito, p. 71, as heard by Dragon Dictate 3.0

(more…)

Well does the dictation feature in Mac OS X mountain line work?

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Better-than-expected, in fact. I’m dictating this entire thing with dictation and Mac OS X mountain line.Compared to the various versions of Dragon dictate that I’ve used, it seems to work pretty well. I greatly accuracy about on par with Nuance naturally speaking 11.On the other hand, user interface leave something to be desired. In particular, I can’t just dictate continuously. I have to keep pressing the function key for each sentence I want to dictate and then click done.That’s probably because the recognition doesn’t happen directly on my own computer.Instead, it sent to Apple for recognition on Apple servers.
(more…)

Parallels 6 and Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

This week I upgraded to Parallels 6 because it was once again part of the MacUpdate bundle. Primarily I use it for Dragon NaturallySpeaking when my hands are getting achy. But it always leaves me feeling like the battered spouse who keeps going back to her husband because she’s sure that this time it’ll be different. Bottom line: these products still don’t work.
(more…)

Dragon Dictate 2.0 Crossgrade

Monday, November 8th, 2010

I’m dictating this using Dragon Dictate 2.0.1 for the Mac. This is a product a lot of people have been waiting for for a long time. Personally, Dragon NaturallySpeaking is the only reason I’ve even booted Windows this year. My initial impressions of the Mac product are reasonably positive. However, it still doesn’t have feature parity with NaturallySpeaking on Windows. For instance, I notice that you can’t actually select text and then modify it with commands like “Cap That” and “compound that”.

I’ll have to experiment more but it does seem that Dragon for the Mac does not edit quite as well as NaturallySpeaking for Windows. It has definite problems finding words earlier in the sentence. It’s good enough for a first draft, but I’m not sure you could really publish something–even a basic letter–without going back over it with the keyboard. Still, it is faster than booting up Parallels just to dictate a letter. Given the limited editing functionality, NaturallySpeaking for Windows is still clearly the superior product. Anyone who depends on voice dictation as their only means of input will definitely want to use Windows and NaturallySpeaking. However, the Mac product is at least good enough for occasional use in conjunction with a keyboard.

Nuance is offering a $79.99 cross grade price for registered owners of NaturallySpeaking for Windows. For some reason they aren’t advertising this on their website. You have to write in and ask them. Upgrades are also available from earlier versions of MacDictate.

My Next Mac

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

The new Mac Pros are finally available to order. I haven’t pulled the trigger yet, but I think this is what I’m going to get:

  • One 3.33GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon “Westmere”
  • 3GB (3x1GB)
  • 1TB 7200-rpm Serial ATA 3Gb/s hard drive
  • ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
  • One 18x SuperDrive
  • Apple Magic Mouse
  • Apple Wireless Keyboard (French) & User’s Guide

(more…)