Houston We Have a Problem… 014 09/12/06


Sound Advice

This query may be beyond your usual remit but I have an elderly friend whose sight at 85 is going belly up. He has trouble seeing his keyboard and wants to buy a professional voice recognition program costing £500 and this will solve his problem. I think there are simpler, cheaper programs, but in any event he'd have to teach the program to recognise his voice and I'd consider this a waste of money. Any suggestions would be welcome, especially for cheaper software.

W. D. Cartwright.


Presumably your friend has tried all of the ‘Accessibility’ features in Windows. These include high visibility and large font display schemes, a screen magnifier and the ‘Narrator’ text-to-speech utility that ‘speaks’ whatever appears on the screen and keyboard and mouse actions. There is more information in Boot Camp 221. Your friend or a sighted helper should also investigate the many other options available to the visually impaired. The British Computer Association for the Blind and the RNIB Computer Technology Information sheet are good places to start.


Personally I have never had much luck with voice recognition software. It could be due to sloppy diction or the way my voice changes pitch when I get impatient with technology that doesn’t do as it’s told… I suggest that your friend tries Dragon Naturally Speaking (available for less than £40 from Amazon.co.uk) to get a feel of what VR software is capable of, before shelling out on expensive software that may be completely unsuitable.



Cine to DVD
My father has some very old 16mm film, which our relatives would love to see, but the projector is ancient and a fire risk. The film is fragile and he is loath to have it transferred in case it is ruined in the process. We've been trying to persuade him to put it on video (DVD). Is there any way it could be done by him so that he can control the process?
R. G. Curtis


The usual DIY method is to use a ‘telecine’ adaptor, which is basically a small box with a ground glass screen, a mirror and a lens and this sits between the projector and a camcorder. You could also try ‘shooting’ the screen but unless the camcorder is carefully aligned with the projector you may get ‘parallax errors’, resulting in a misshapen picture. The video recording is then transferred to a PC, edited and copied onto a DVD.


However, since you do not have a reliable projector and decent 16mm machines are expensive I think you should get the films professionally transferred to DVD, and sooner rather than later bearing in mind the film’s condition. There are plenty of companies offering this service on the web and they should have the equipment and expertise to ensure a good quality recording and make sure the film isn’t damaged. Use search keywords ‘cine to video’; you may even be lucky and find a local company willing to let your father oversee the process.



Simpler Slideshow

For many years we have taken slides and used these with a projector for slide shows. We have now gone digital. Is there such a thing as a projector that can take a digital memory card or a CD to give a slide show, rather than having to use a laptop or PC?

Liz Norsworthy, by email


Several models have memory card slots but as far as I am aware there are no ‘combi’ CD/DVD projectors, nor would I expect there to be as video projectors tend to get very hot and this would cause problems with an optical drive. Projectors with SD type card slots include the Panasonic PT-P1SDEA, which is good value at around £650 or if funds allow have a look at the more sophisticated and Hitachi CP-X268, which also has Wi-Fi capability and can be found online for a little under £1100



Seeing the Big Picture

I have an Advent notebook and a TV set with both S-Video and ‘phono’ type video inputs, but the notebook only has a 15-pin VGA/SVGA port. Is there any way I can use this to enable me to view DVDs etc. on my TV set?

Geoff Daymond, by email


It’s worth checking the manual to make sure your laptop doesn’t already have a ‘composite’ video output. It’s not always obvious on some models; the video output sometimes shares one of the other ports or sockets on your machine and it may need to be enabled from a menu in Display Properties or the PC’s BIOS program.


Otherwise you need a little gizmo called a VGA to Video converter. These plug between your notebook’s VGA socket and the TV. Prices vary and you can pay a small fortune for professional converters but for simple PC display applications have a look at the AverMedia AverKey Lite, which sells for around £35, or the more advanced TView Micro costing £81.00.





© R. Maybury 2006 2711

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