Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 Premium Review

I’ve been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for several years, and it’s a product that I simply couldn’t do without.

Had I developed my RSI problems a few years earlier, I’d probably be on disability. True, I can’t be a developer anymore, but because Dragon has made it so easy to create documents and collaborate online, I’m quite happy with my new career in product management.

My company paid for me to upgrade to Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 last year, and I thought it was a great upgrade. I couldn’t say for sure whether the accuracy increased, but I felt like it did. And it had basically the same feature set as Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.

So I was very excited when I saw the announcement for Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 – a whole version number increase.

According to Nuance Here’s what one can expect as far as improvements:

  • More accurate – Up to 20%?
  • Faster
  • Smart format rules
  • Bluetooth support
  • Improved text-to-speech
  • Gmail support
  • Faster corrections

It looks like a good list; I’m always for faster and more accurate.  Honestly, I didn’t plan on using any of the new features except the new Gmail support.  Maybe someday I’ll get a Bluetooth microphone, but I’m actually way too happy with my Sennheiser ME 3-EW headset microphone and AND-C1-1016600-4 Andrea USB adapter.

I ended up buying Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 12 for no other reason that I use it about six hours per day and I wanted to make sure that any feature that I needed was there

 Installation

Installation went pretty smoothly, if a little nerve-racking.  For some reason, my old version 11.5 had become a little unstable, and it was crashing when I tried to make a backup. Thankfully, there’s also an “export” function (what’s the difference?).  Apparently nothing. Another slightly annoying thing:  I’ve been using Dragon for so long my export was 1.2 GB.

The actual installation was uneventful, but it took almost 30 minutes to import my  exported profile. There were a couple of times where I was very afraid it might  have frozen. Thankfully, everything went through just fine.

First impressions

I’m going to start off by saying that everything that I wrote in my Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 review, except for the new features, still applies to 12.  I highly recommend you skip over there to get details on how it works and for a video demonstration.

Well, it certainly seems faster than 11.5. I’m running on a mobile core i7, so any new processor features would probably apply to me.

I also really wanted to feel like accuracy had improved, but it seems about the same as 11.5. That being said, 11.5 is so good that I’m not sure they have a whole lot of room to improve. These days, the only trouble that I have is with homonyms like they’re, there, and their, but since half of the human population has the same  trouble I’m not sure I can get all that worked up over it.

The feature list said improved correction, but I actually can’t notice very many differences.  I don’t have to correct things all that much, and the correction dialogue is good enough that I don’t really notice it. It’s not a pain point.

Gmail support is a big plus, but I had trouble getting it working and had to call support. They had me toggle a checkbox in my chrome browser extensions and it suddenly started working. It does what you would expect it to do – make Gmail act like a fully supported program. However, the extension is a little buggy, and it will crash a couple times a month (you just have to restart your browser).  I was also very disappointed that the support doesn’t extend to Google apps, which I spend about 90% of my time on.

It’s actually not that big of a deal,  because I was using Dragon 11.5 in unsupported mode just fine. The only annoying thing about using unsupported applications to me is sometimes corrections leave a stray character that I have to go back and delete. It doesn’t happen all the time, and I haven’t figured out what causes it.

I don’t use text-to-speech on a regular basis, but I did play around with it for a few minutes. It gets the job done, but the voice still sounds a little robotic – not quite Stephen Hawking robotic though.

Conclusion


I’m a little conflicted on this version. I had high expectations, and Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 failed to live up to them. On the other hand, even with the downsides, I still think it’s a tad better than 11.5. I certainly won’t be returning it and using the old version

 

 

 

Supplements and herbal remedies for carpal tunnel and tendinosis

There was a time when I was incredibly skeptical of what one might call “alternative medicine”, including herbal supplements, massage therapy, acupuncture,and anything else not prescribed by a doctor. However, I have come to appreciate that medical science doesn’t have all the answers.

In my struggle with repetitive stress injuries – mostly carpal tunnel but also tendinitis – I have found herbal supplements to be a surprisingly useful remedy for the inflammation that one constantly struggles with in these conditions.

The enemy of most repetitive stress conditions (excepting tendinosis) is inflammation. Inflammation, normally the natural healing response of the body, needs to be kept in check only during an acute tendinitis condition, but carpal tunnel sufferers face a constant battle with inflammation.

Without going into too much detail, carpal tunnel syndrome happens when the tendons of the wrist become inflamed and swollen, reducing the space available for the median nerve to pass through the “carpal tunnel”. As a result, the median nerve gets squeezed, and the sufferer has to deal with tingling hands, being woken up in the middle of the night by an arm that is “asleep”, and in some cases permanent nerve damage.

Besides inflammation, there are also some remedies that promise to help regenerate tendon tissue.

I’ve tried the following herbs, vitamins, and supplements at different times over a ten-year period, which means to some degree I’ve been able to try each of these in isolation. With some, I can feel the effects within a few hours, with others I must make inferences from long-term trends in my pain and nerve irritation.

Anti-Inflammatories (For carpal tunnel, tendinitis)

Fish oil concentrate (EHA/DHA) – This is singularly the most important supplements I’ve ever tried. Anecdotally, I believe that its anti-inflammatory effects are on par with NSAIDs like ibuprofen – without the stomach irritation. If I am having an issue with tingling hands, a dose of fish oil (three tablets at standard strength, one at triple strength) will usually either eliminated completely or greatly reduce it over the span of two or three hours.

The anti-inflammatory capabilities of fish oil are well supported by the scientific community and many studies but there are many additional benefits. Fish oil is suspected to have a beneficial effect on cognitive ability, and it has also been shown to raise HDL, a helpful cholesterol carrier.

Side effects are essentially nonexistent, making this supplements a no-brainer as an inflammatory condition remedy.

Ginger root – Also a natural anti-inflammatory, ginger root has been used for thousands of years to treat many different ailments. My perception is that its anti-inflammatory effectiveness is less than that of fish oil, although the fact that it is so cheap keeps it on my list.

I can also say that its anti-nausea and anti-motion sickness properties come in useful on occasion. Side effects are mild, but I’ve experienced a little indigestion if I take it on an empty stomach

Turmeric – Turmeric is a powdered herb used in Asian cooking. It is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and also for being a very powerful antioxidant.

Frankly, I don’t have much to say about this one. Its properties say that it should help, I feel like it does a little bit, and I haven’t experienced any side effects.

Nerve Supplements (For carpal tunnel)

Vitamin B complex (B-100) – After doing quite a bit of digging, I have found references to a number of doctors claiming that high doses of vitamin B promote healing in nerve tissue. In some cases, doctors claim that they can cure carpal tunnel in a matter of months just with vitamin B supplements. This claim is a bit over the top, but I do believe that there is some truth here.

Unfortunately, I didn’t try this supplement in isolation (it was taken in conjunction with fish oil and ginger), but I believe that there were some beneficial effects over a several month period. This is in addition to the well supported claim that healthy vitamin B levels promote energy and alertness.

One must be careful, however, because the vitamin B-100 dose provides up to 1000% of the recommended daily allowance. Everything that I have read indicates that this is still a very safe level, and I have had no trouble over the long term. Interestingly, the indications of a vitamin B overdose are exactly the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome – tingling in the extremities.

The pill itself is rather large, tastes bad, and turns your urine neon yellow. Also, taking it on an empty stomach is not a good idea. For those worried about the dosage, there is also a vitamin B-50 tablet with half the dosage.

Tendon regeneration supplements (For tendinitis and tendinosis)

Vitamin C – There is some science to suggest that vitamin C aids in the regeneration of tendon tissue. Obviously, it is also beneficial to the immune system.

This is actually one of the few supplements that has the backing of scientific studies that show a direct link between vitamin C and type I collagen repair.

Cissus Quadrangularis– And Indian herb that one will find referenced on various weightlifting forums throughout the Internet. The promise is that it is a miracle herb to regenerate tendon tissue. The reviews are glowing, and in several cases the belief in the efficacy of this herb is almost religious.

I purchased a six-month supply, followed the directions for a full loading dose, and continued taking it for three months. Although I don’t recall experiencing any side effects, I don’t recall experiencing any beneficial effects either. I think this was a waste of money.

Doxycycline – Earlier this year, I finished a three month backpacking trip throughout South Asia. Because of my lack of space, I had to leave most of my supplements at home. However, I was placed on low dose (100 mg) doxycycline as an antimalarial agent.

The improvement of my symptoms over the three-month period was substantial. Of course, I also spent hardly any time in front of the computer during the entire trip and got lots of exercise. There is some evidence that low-dose doxycycline promotes tendon healing.

I might add, however, that I was also prescribed Cipro for travelers sickness. I firmly declined to take it due to very few but confirmed cases of tendon rupture. I believe this is true for the entire family of fluoroquinolones.

I have found some of these supplements to be invaluable, and I believe they have a place in any treatment program alongside ergonomic products, exercise, and various forms of massage.

I would be very interested to hear from others about your experiences with the above or any other supplements I might not have heard about.

Kinesis Advantage Review – Possibly the best keyboard money can buy


The Kinesis Advantage (KB500USB-BLK) is a keyboard that starts from square one and rethinks the whole concept of a keyboard. As you can see below, the kinesis is a fully split keyboard with concave key placement for each hand, which means the left-hand keys are far enough from the right-hand keys that there is no way to “cheat” with your touch typing.

Why design a keyboard this way?

Split design

The split design forces your hands into a natural position. In fact, if you tell someone to put their hands in front of them, chances are that they will end up in a position roughly similar to what you get with the kinesis.

This natural position is characterized by a slight elevation of the forearms and wrists (avoiding one of the worst keyboarding positions, “the claw”) while keeping the horizontal placement of the hand relative to the wrist in a perfectly straight line. Vertically, the hands are very slightly pronated.

For sufferers of carpal tunnel, this position results in the most space for the median nerve to pass through the “carpal tunnel”. For tendinitis and tendinosis sufferers, this position places the least stress on the tendons of the hand and forearm.

Concave keys

Combine the split design with the concave key placement, and one finds that wrist and hand contortions to hit common keys (backspace anyone?) are eliminated. Hitting the ‘a’ or ‘;’ key feels like it requires about half as much effort as a regular keyboard.

Key travel

Key travel is much longer than normal keyboards, but activation of the key happens much higher in the cycle. The upshot of this is that you actually see the character appear on screen before your finger reaches the bottom of the keystroke.

After a few weeks, it is possible to stop the keystroke early, without ever feeling the impact at the bottom. Besides the obvious benefits to RSI sufferers, this improves the speed at which you can type.

Commonly used keys are moved to the thumb

Instead of wasting both thumbs on simply hitting the space bar, the kinesis moves a lot of common keys to the thumbs (which are slightly more resistant to RSI). You will shortly find that using the backspace key, the enter key, or the delete key is orders of magnitude easier and faster.

Learning curve

While there is a learning curve with this keyboard, perhaps significantly more than most of the keyboards on the market, I have to say that most of the reviews on the Internet blow the learning curve completely out of proportion.

Any sufficiently motivated person should be able to completely acclimate to this keyboard in a matter of a few weeks. True, you’ll spend quite a while missing the enter key and the backspace key, but your brain learns the new mapping very quickly. Also, as a consequence of the radically different key layout, I have found that it is not hard to go back to regular keyboards, as the “feel” is different and fails to activate the new mapping.

My biggest regret in the last five years is that I was scared away by how many people said the learning curve was very steep. I ended up trying several other keyboards and wasting a few years before I got around to this one.

General impressions

The keyboard feels light, but sturdy. It is physically large and feels hollow, but the anchors on the bottom keep it very stable on the desk to prevent rocking.

Perhaps excepting some rubber key laptops, this is about the polar opposite to the classic IBM “clicky” keyboard. Someone experienced with this keyboard is unlikely to make much noise, resulting in the inclusion of an electronic “click” sound that indicates that the key has been activated.

I will note that the keyboard is fully programmable, and it is also expandable with several models of foot pedal. I have not used the programmable functions, but I did get a foot pedal to try it and I was not impressed. After a few days on the foot pedal, I felt like I was going to get Achilles tendinitis from the force and travel required to activate it. Obviously, I don’t recommend a foot pedal.

The bottom line is I’ve tried almost every keyboard out there, and the Kinesis Advantage is probably the best keyboard, not just for RSI, but for any use.

Pros

  • Keeps hands in the ergonomically correct position. It’s actually impossible to screw this up.
  • Avoids key impact at the bottom of the keystroke, greatly helping RSI sufferers
  • Someone experienced on this keyboard will get a typing speed boost of 10 to 20 percent
  • Fully programmable

Cons

  • Pretty expensive
  • Foot pedal sucks
  • Physically large and takes up more room than a standard keyboard

Dragon Naturally Speaking 11 Review- Voice recognition that finally works – With video!

In order to demonstrate the capabilities for this Dragon NaturallySpeaking voice to text review, I will be writing this entire review using Dragon without corrections. I will insert clarification in brackets where necessary.

What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11?

Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium 11 is voice recognition (voice to text) software from a company called nuance. The software is sold both in Windows and Macintosh format, along with a microphone, that transforms voice into text on your computer screen.

Version 11 was released in the fall of 2010, and represents a fairly substantial leap in accuracy and speed from version 10.

Wacom Bamboo Pen Review – The ultimate mouse alternative for RSI sufferers

After searching for almost 10 years for an ergonomic mouse that finally solves my RSI problems, I found this  Wacom Bamboo Pen Tablet almost by chance. Strangely, they don’t promote their product as a mouse alternative or as a solution to RSI issues; instead, it seems their target market is graphic designers.

As I mentioned earlier in my Contour Rollermouse Free2 review, there are three main things to worry about when you are dealing with mousing RSI:

  • Mouse shoulder, caused by moving the mouse around the mousepad and especially by alternating back and forth between the keyboard and the mouse.
  • Carpal Tunnel, caused by swelling in the wrist from repeated clicking.
  • Tendinitis, caused by micro tears in the tendons of the forearm, also from repeated clicking.

The Wacom Bamboo Pen addresses all of these issues, even if they didn’t mean to.

Contour Rollermouse Free2 – An alternative mouse and RSI solution

Often, the first sign of RSI is in the mousing hand. We may not realize it, but over years of mousing millions of clicks add up.

There are three main ways that mice can cause problems in your wrist and forearm:

  • Tendinitis (and later tendinosis) in the flexor tendons on the bottom part of your forearm  (these tendons are involved in the clicking motions for your index finger and middle finger)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome, where the tendons in your wrist right below the  thumb become inflamed and squeeze on the nerve that passes through the small opening called the carpal tunnel.
  • Mouse shoulder, also known as rotator cuff tendinitis, is caused by repeatedly moving your hand from the keyboard to the right or left for the mouse.

It appears the folks at Contour have set out to solve all three of these problems at once with this new ergonomic mouse, and I think they have mostly succeeded.

What is Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI)?

RSI is a term that includes several different conditions that result from overuse of muscles and tendons.  Most of the time, when somebody is talking about RSI, they are referring to tendinitis (alternately spelled tendonitis), carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow (a special type of tendinitis), or tendinosis (a chronic form of tendinitis).