Technical Tips Wed, 20 Aug 2014 08:58:49 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Using Free Speech Recognition Software to Create Documents Using Free Speech Recognition Software to Create Documents

I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my work life more efficient. Since I’ve recently started on a research project, I’ve wondered how I can make my note taking easier. This led me on a journey into the world of speech recognition software.
While investigating my options, I discovered that Windows 7 and Windows 8 have speech recognition software built into the operating system.

It’s easy to enable the software: just follow the instructions on the Windows website, take a simple tutorial, reboot your computer, and your computer will respond to voice commands as well as take dictation.

For instructions, click here for Windows 7, click here for Windows 8.
If you want to write blog posts or newsletters, or make notes about your clients, but have not learned touch hyping, speech recognition software may be exactly what you need. In fact, I’ve written this entire post using the speech recognition software on Windows 7. It works best if you spend at least 20 minutes training the software and have a good microphone. But to test the idea, you can just open a document in your word processor, and start talking. I’ve found the software to be quite accurate in transcription, though a little slow.
If you are using Windows, and speech recognition software sounds intriguing, it’s worth playing with—especially since it’s free! If you find yourself hooked, you can also check out Dragon Naturally Speaking, which has been getting better with each new version.
P.S. For iPhone and Blackberry users there’s also a free application from Dragon Naturally Speaking which turns your phone into a dictation machine. You could take notes on a client on your phone, e-mail the notes to yourself, and save them in a client folder.

  • speech recognition
  • windows 7
  • windows 8
    ]]> (Donna Woodwell) Technical Tips Fri, 01 Nov 2013 02:03:21 +0000
    Keeping in Touch with Mailing Lists Keeping in Touch with Mailing Lists

    As you build an astrology business (or an astrology group), there comes a point where just using Facebook or other social media isn't enough and neither is your personal email. Newsletters can help keep your clients informed and provide a way of reaching others. But before you follow down that path, you want to find a solution that is easy to use, provides good entry level options and offers a way to grow as you need it. Donna Woodwell gives a good argument for MailChimp. 

    Build Your Email Mailing List for Free with MailChimp

    For several years, I’ve used an email marketing solution to send emails to my clients and others who’ve signed up for my mailing list. Each year when it’s time to renew my contract, I look around at the other email marketing companies to see what the competition has to offer.

    This year, I fell in love with a monkey. MailChimp, which has been around since 2007, has rapidly become one of the top email-marketing solutions on the market. Its features include:

    • Management of multiple email lists
    • Easy to customize sign-up forms for websites, Facebook and other sites
    • Pre-designed or DIY email temples for professional-looking mailings
    • Integration with Facebook, Twitter and other social media
    • Simple reports to track and analyze the success of your email campaigns
    • Too many others to list here

    Even better, there’s a “Freemium” plan  – up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month – is absolutely free! For many holistic business, this is more than you’ll ever need from your email service.

    If you don’t have an email marketing solution yet, I highly recommend you sign up for a free MailChimp account and get started. (If you don’t have a website of your own yet, you can put a form on a Facebook page and start collecting names there.)  If you do have an email marketing subscription, check out MailChimp and compare; you may save yourself several hundred dollars a year.

    Do you have another service you have found useful?

    • marketing
    • newsletter
    • mailing list
      ]]> (Donna Woodwell) Technical Tips Fri, 21 Jun 2013 19:50:56 +0000
      5 Steps to Keep Your Computer Running Smoothly 5 Steps to Keep Your Computer Running Smoothly

      Just like people need to eat and bathe and brush their teeth to stay clean and healthy, your computer needs regular maintenance to keep it running smoothly.

      Below are five steps in a computer cleanup routine. The applications listed below are (almost all) free tools that can be downloaded from CNET, the most respected internet site for software downloads and reviews. The programs below are appropriate for Windows-based machines; those using a Mac can find similar tools as CNET for a Mac. Instructions for how to use the apps are found on their CNET page, as well as in the application’s wizard.

      While your firewall and antivirus software should be set to run continuously, you will need to set aside time weekly, biweekly, or monthly to perform these additional steps. Many of these scans take time to run, so they can easily be set to run overnight, or while you are taking care of other activities.

      Step 1: Protect

      Computers need protection from viruses, spyware, identity thieves and various other trouble makers.  Make sure you have computer firewall installed and turned on, that your antivirus software is up-to-date and running. You run malware software removal tools on a routine basis to make sure your computer hasn’t been compromised. 

      TIP: NEVER buy anti-virus software from a pop-up ad that offers to scan your system. The vast majority of these ads are scams.

      Firewall: Windows Firewall
      Anti-virus with both free and paid versions: AVG Anti-Virus, Avast

      The best paid anti-virus programs: Norton Anti-Virus, McAfee Anti-Virus, Kaspersky Labs
      Malware Removal: Malwarebytes, Adaware, Spybot Search and Destroy (free)

      Step 2: Backup

      Even with the best of computer maintenance, accidents happen. To recover from computer catastrophe, you need a system in place to back up your computer files so you can recover from a crisis. You can back up your files to a local external hard drive or use a backup service to store your files on the internet.

      Local backup software: Easeus ToDo Backup, Windows 7 Backup & Restore (Windows 7 only)
      Internet backup system: Carbonite (15-day free trial, then $60/year unlimited disk space)

      Step 3: Clean

      With regular use, computer files get frayed around the edges. To keep your computer running smoothly, you need to regularly remove temporary and junk files, clear internet caches and clean the registry of broken links.  Computer optimizing utilities can help you manage these routine maintenance tasks.

      Optimizing Utilities: CCleaner, Glary Utilities

      Step 4: Update

      In order to improve functionality, as well combat changing security threats, many software companies release regular updates and patches for their applications.  When you install new software, you can often select “automatically scan for updates” so you will be informed when new updates are available. You can also download update managers to help you find the latest versions of the applications on your computer.

      Update Managers: Windows Update, CNET TechTracker

      Step 5: Defragment

      As computer files get moved around on your computer, the parts of the files are separated one from another on the hard disk, which makes it take longer to run your favorite software. Keep files organized and running efficiently by defragmenting the computer on a regular basis.

      Defragmentation Utilities: Smart Defrag

      • antivirus
      • spyware
      • computers
        ]]> (Kepler) Technical Tips Sun, 19 May 2013 23:25:55 +0000
        Using Zoominfo to Manage Your Internet Image User Profile

        I admit it, I was doing a little ego surfing a few weeks ago to see how my own internet marketing efforts were paying off.  A few pages into my search I started finding errors associated with me (Apparently I’m a geneticist – I never knew I served on the National Council for Genome Research!)

        Curious, I did some checking and discovered that there’s a business search engine called Zoominfo. Zoominfo’s automated searchbots scour the internet for every scrap of information on professionals and professional organizations then centralize the information into a searchable, publicly accessible online database.

        This means there’s probably a file on you. I had two, and both had entries that were wildly (and sometimes amusingly) incorrect.  But since other internet sites are pulling information from Zoominfo, the errors multiply throughout the internet.

        Fortunately, Zoominfo allows you to claim your own profile (for free), and clean up the information. Just go to the site, search for yourself/your business, claim your profile(s) and follow the instructions. Zoominfo gives you the opportunity to decide how much (or how little) you want your profile to say about you, plus a listing of all of the Internet sites Zoominfo has found that mention you.

        Yes, we live in a strange new world. It’s our job to be smart and make the best of it. But if you’re in the market for clients (or looking for a job), definitely get your Zoominfo profile updated. It will tell you a lot about your current web presence.

        • Zoominfo
        • Internet Profile
        • marketing
 (Donna Woodwell) Technical Tips Wed, 01 May 2013 23:25:07 +0000
          Using an RSS Feed to Save Time RSS feed symbol

          Who has time to visit dozens of websites every day to check on the latest articles that interest you? Fortunately, with RSS, you don’t have to. RSS stands for Really Simply Syndication. By signing up to receive the RSS feed from a website, when new content from that website is produced, it will be delivered directly to you.

          There are two main ways to read RSS feeds. The first way is via email. Some sites allow you sign up have notifications of new content sent to your email inbox. Just provide your email address, and the site will take care of the rest. This is the best option for those who only want to receive a couple feeds.

          The second way is using a feed reader. Feed readers (sometimes called a feed aggregator) collect all of your feeds and present the information to you in a newspaper-like format. Feed readers let you organize your feeds by subjects, search by keywords, star items for reference, or clip articles for storage. Feed readers are the best solution for those managing multiple feeds, someone doing research or producing a blog, or just information junkies.

          Feed readers can be plugins to web mail like Gmail or Yahoo, or web browers like Firefox and Internet Explorer. There are also free stand-alone feed readers such as FeedDemon. CNET has an article on how to choose the best feed reader for you.

          rss-icon100pxOnce you’ve decided how you want to read an RSS feed, all you have to do is sign up. Go to your favorite website, look for an orange icon on the website that looks like the image on the left. Click the icon and follow the directions.

          • computers
          • Save Time
          • RSS feed
   (Donna Woodwell) Technical Tips Wed, 17 Apr 2013 20:29:02 +0000
            Three Easy Steps: Creating an Astrological App Three Easy Steps: Creating an Astrological App

            Julia Purdy, former Kepler College MA student, and Mark Richardson recently released their first astrological applications for mobile devices. This article is about the challenges they faced.

            How to create an astrology application for mobile devices in three easy steps:

            1. Have an idea that you like a lot
            2. Write up a concept description 25 words or less
            3. Call up your friend who is genius application developer, but doesn’t know astrology exists beyond his sun sign and say, “I have an idea; do you want to build a phone app?”

            The trick to getting a commitment from your developer in step three requires that he be totally oblivious to the complexities of astrology and the scope of effort required to build this idea of yours, until things have progressed to a point that there is no turning back.

            JupiterLauchIcon320I can tell you it is possible to do this because I did it, we did it -- Mark did it. It took more than a year to complete, but we did it. And now we have launched “The Jupiter Advantage” and “The Venus Advantage” for both Android and Apple IOS.

            VenusLaunchICON320The original idea evolved over time as the constraints of the mobile device operating systems dictated certain adjustments. But the basic concept stayed the same—

            An app that calculates the current astrological chart of the sky from the vantage point of the device location using its native GPS coordinates and then runs a set of rules to determine how advantageous the planetary lineup is for a particular objective based on the astrology of creating elections.

            It should introduce astrological concepts for planets beyond the Sun but still be simple enough to follow so that the results are easily accessible by anyone regardless of their previous knowledge of astrology.

            It should be pretty (because I like “pretty”), have some personality and be fun to play with so that people will continue to use it.

            My closing argument to encourage Mark’s participation was that it would be “Easy-Peasy.”  

            With my natal Jupiter in Pisces, I really believed that. With Mark’s “willing to try anything” Jupiter in Aquarius, like lambs headed to the slaughter, we proceeded onward.

            The first and most obvious problem for me, as the designer, was that I didn’t actually have an iPhone or an Android device. I had a Blackberry. I liked my Blackberry and I wanted to keep it. 

            As I fired up Adobe Illustrator and began imagining images and navigation, I (and everyone else) quickly realized that I had absolutely no clue how mobile apps actually worked and how to create them. After a month of struggle, I finally gave in and bought an android tablet and started doing my homework.

            The second elephant in the room was the question of how to build the astronomy within the limitations of mobile device memory. After several false starts with ready-made ephemeris databases, Mark said:  "Show me how to create a chart, and I will write the code.” 

            “Thank God for Kepler” was my first thought as I got out all my old books on how to do the math. I documented all the calculations using arithmetic and showed Mark how to do it. He took that and all my old books of tables home, recreated my arithmetic in trigonometry, and wrote the code to run it. I don’t know how long it took him, but I am guessing a trip to see the world’s largest ball of twine would have been more fun.

            As the following year unfolded and I kept coming up with additional ideas to make it “better” meaning Mark had to do it over … again, we kept going and learning and improving. And now, finally, we have two apps in the Android and iTunes markets, one highlighting Jupiter and one for Venus with more in the pipeline.

            I can comfortably say now that we have figured out how to build them, although new device releases present constant challenges. “Hey Mark, what about the new Windows phone, and Blackberry 10?

            There are free versions of both apps available for Android in Google Play, full versions only in iTunes.  If you give us a look, please hit the review button. It helps the apps get promoted in rank and become more visible in the search functions.

            Our next learning curve is marketing.  We welcome creative ideas. If you have one, send me an email at or message us on our website:

            About the Authors

            Julia Purdy. A career path with a Capricorn Sun and mutable Pisces on the MC with north node and Jupiter has manifested in what can be politely called “education and career diversity”   Beginning with art school and a job as an advertising art director at the local newspaper and ending (so far) with a degree in business and technical communications, as a project manager at a big three telecom.  Meanwhile, her real passion for most of her life has been astrology.   A spotty education in the subject consisted of local classes and lots of books until Kepler College appeared online and provided an opportunity to fill in the holes in her accumulated knowledge and perhaps complete a Master’s Degree. While not quite making it to the degree she credits Kepler’s very challenging program with stimulating enormous growth in her understanding of astrology and its place in world cultures. What she also realized is that just like the internet, you can’t get to the end of it. So she just keeps studying.

            Mark Richardson. With a stellium of planets including Jupiter in Aquarius and on the MC and Uranus opposing, one could easily say that Mark was born to work with computers and an engineering degree from KU sealed the deal. He has spent most of his career as a highly respected consultant in a variety of industries, from telecom to the department of defense and in different capacities, from manufacturing to a director of information architecture and business restructuring. As an innovator and problem solver new challenges are what motivate him. So when Neptune transited across his 10th house Aquarius Sun and opposed Uranus, a new and very different opportunity presented itself combining astrology and mobile software and he said “Why not? It sounds interesting.” He started a new company, Right Times Research, developing mobile apps and now has a full pipeline of new projects that keep him challenged and very busy

            Both Julia and Mark live in Kansas City.

   (Kepler) Technical Tips Wed, 30 Jan 2013 16:50:19 +0000