Archive for January, 2008

Windows Software: Update your computers voices.

ShpecSpealWindows comes with a number of voices packaged in their Operating System that you can use for a plethora of tasks. Many programs use these voices, such as talking caller ID or document reading software. The voice engine converts text to speech making it very easy to incorporate into programs. 

The problem with the default voices is that they don’t sound very good. This is a shame because there is so much that we could do with the voices if they did sound good. I was hoping that Vista would offer more in this area, but I was let down. This is one of the few things that I have appreciated about Macs over the years. They are a long way ahead in this area.

There are a number of free and commercial voices available that you can download and use as your default voice, thus making any text to speech functions a lot more practical and enjoyable.

While none of the voices are perfect, they are much better than the voices built into Windows. If you look into some of the commercial options available, the results can be really good.

Visit Bytecool to get your hands on 5 or so free voices. They also offer commercial options if you are that way inclined. After installing them, play around with them in the Speech applet of your Control Panel. While this is not going to benefit you in the short term, over the coming weeks we will look at some of the great things you can do with text to speech, and voice recognition.

Text to speech and speech to text will become much more popular in years to come. We already see the technology used in our phones, but why not use it to control household appliances, have our emails read to us while in the shower, or have documents converted to audio files so that you can listen to them on your way to work. 

Thanks to Matthew for the tip.


Windows Mobile: Add a startup sound to your device

BootscreenMost phone manufacturers brand their phones with a startup sound. This is often an annoying feature for those that have a phone which won’t let you disable it. Windows Mobile users are blessed as they don’t need to put up with this sound each time their device starts up. This is because Microsoft has not included a startup sound in their mobile operating system. Maybe just because there isn’t a startup sound, many people crave for it. Reverse psychology and all that.

Well now there is a way. AudioBoot is a Windows Mobile utility that will add a startup sound to your device. As your device boots up, while the boot screens are still on display, your startup sound will come alive through your devices speakers.

AudioBoot comically plays the Windows XP startup sound by default, but this can be changed by copying any MP3 to your root directory and renaming it startup.mp3. Most other platforms don’t allow you to change your startup sound. It’s not a reason to buy Windows Mobile, but it’s a nice touch.

Available for free via FreewarePPC.com. If you are not an XDA forums member, download Audioboot from the mirror.


Windows Software: Vista Caller ID 1.05 Beta

VcidThere are a number of caller ID utilities available for you to choose between. Many of them have been featured here at Inspect My Gadget. There is now another one on the scene which has been in steady development over the last 9 months. The result is a very polished caller ID utility that suits the impressive visuals of Vista.

Vista Caller ID shows you who is calling as you would expect from any caller ID utility. It shows you a box pop out of the task tray which looks very stylish, unlike many other packages I have used.

Vista Caller ID takes it even further. You can sync up with your Outlook contacts to utilise names and photos of your friends and family. It also has a talking alert feature which tells you who is calling. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s voices aren’t very impressive, but it sounds alright.

It supports multiple phone lines and a history log. The colours of the caller ID box can even be changed. What more could you want from it? If you feel something is missing, comments are welcomed.

This is a Beta release, but there are stable releases available which offer a few less features. There is even a Media Center Plugin. Keep an eye on this one as it is still under development. I would say they are winning the race so far.

Available for free from Vista Caller ID’s website.


How-to: Repair a VHS tape

Difficulty: 2

Photo-vhsVHS tapes are not used as much as they used to be since the development of newer formats such as DVD’s, but many people still have them in their homes as they were often used to store family memories.

The Video Home System (VHS < who would of guessed) is still a very useful format. Many Radio stations use VHS for their pre recorded shows and the majority of recording studios which haven’t gone to hard drive recordings, still use S-VHS format to record their musicians.

The drawback of VHS is that the tapes can stick or break altogether. Sadly, this happens to the most watched videos, which you probably want to see again.

This article will look at how to repair a video. With the help of images in this article, you will be able to dissect one and put it back together. I wrote this article after repairing a video from when I was on TV at the age of 5, which I will finally be able to show my wife. The video has not been playable for many years.

Read the rest of this entry »


Windows Software: Autoruns

AutorunsThere are a number of background items that load up as you start up Windows. This includes programs that are in your startup folder as well as some utilities loaded up by the registry. MSConfig is a utility that comes with Windows that we can use to disable some of these startup items, but it only tells us half the story. There are many more items that load at startup.

Autoruns is a program available from Microsoft that will show you every item that loads at startup. I was amazed to see just how many there were. They can be broken down into groups or seen as a whole. All you need to do it untick the items you don’t want to load.

It would be tempting to untick every box as it will make the machine fly, but take caution as the machine may not be very useful, or in the worst case, not boot anymore. Use this program with a bit of self control. If you don’t know what something is, you probably need it.

There is a nice feature that lets you remove Microsoft items from the lists. There are a lot of them so hiding them lets you get down the the nitty gritty problems of third party applications.

Autoruns has been available for a long time but a new version was released earlier this month. It is a perfect companion to run alongside Bootvis. It works on all Windows platforms and is available for free from Microsoft’s Technet.