Wednesday, March 28, 2007

There's a Dragon in the house...

All the pieces have finally arrived &, with some help, we have put them together... Brendan has begun working with the Dragon voice-recognition software!

We ordered the software through the university that Charlie's affiliated with, but they didn't carry the laptop we wanted (after consulting Consumer reports). We ended-up ordering the laptop directly from Toshiba (after consulting the Dragon trainer Charlie had worked with when they got it at work & discovering that it needed a gigabyte of memory to work (!)) & it arrived on Monday. Brendan's best friend's dad, a computer software & hardware designer & guru to many, was able to come over last evening to add the laptop to our home wireless network, which he's configured so that it can't be accessed by any computers but those we specify. (I was amazed to discover that the new laptop can detect 3 other wireless systems, presumably belonging to neighbours, from our living room...) It was not a particularly easy thing to do, mostly because of how the machine itself was configured from the factory (made me sooooo glad that we have chosen to be, primarily, mac people), & while attempting to disable the bits that were repeatedly preventing the laptop from accessing the wireless system, the wireless drivers were inadvertantly disabled... I learn so much when I watch this friend problem-solve computer problems. He ended-up turing it off, removing the battery, reinstalling it, & doing a reboot which resulted in the little orange light going back on (indicating that the laptop had re-discovered that it had a wireless system installed- crazy thing!). We decided to begin downloading the Dragon cd's while he was there- good thing. I had intuited that internet connexion would be necessary, so hadn't tried to do it yet, & as it turns out the Windows Vista operating system wouldn't run the discs we bought, but Charlie happened to notice the sticker on the box that gave the web address for Vista support... Our friend got us logged-on & registered & left while the updated software was downloading, after having showed me how to re-access the internet connexion should we lose it again. Happily, I was able to finish the download successfully on my own (whee!) & get it registered. I also found some of Brendan's favourite web sites & bookmarked them before going to bed.

Charlie had decided that, having recently been trained on Dragon himself, he could/would do the training with Brendan & after school today they got started... There was a bit of frustration while they accustomed themselves to the headset & got it working properly so that the sound check could be done. The real fun began when Brendan did some reading to start training the system. They chose a funny essay by Dave Barry (which Brendan kept pronouncing "bar-ry" rather than "bear-ry". Then, Brendan kept making side comments on what had been written, plus adding words, which confused the computer... perhaps having "oh crap!" yelled at it so many times was making it woozy. Then Brendan simply started to giggle & we did too. Ok, it was a very funny essay about cyberspace (of course), & Charlie kept having to pause it until Brendan stopped laughing. There followed some frustration about it getting hung-up on certain words, & finally Charlie suggested taking a break & Brendan agreed that was a GOOD idea :) They took off on the first bike ride of the season & although it's not nearly as warm as yesterday, the sun is shining gorgeously & the sky is blue. Brendan's back at it now, with dad checking-in occasionally (he's up to highlighting & punctuation!). Charlie has suggested celebrating by Brendan dictating a story this evening, after going out for pizza. Looks like Brendan's story-blog will become a reality very soon- stay tuned!!

This whole involved process, I know, will soon become a memory, & having the Dragon will definitely change Brendan's life (& ours). I am left shaking my head at how complicated getting all the pieces to work together can be. We are very fortunate to have a knowledgable friend!! Our on-site computer count is now up to an almost obscene 5... each one acquired for a specific purpose (like the new laptop) which simply couldn't be done by the others. Which says a heck of a lot about the state of computers in this day & age!

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At 5:18 PM, Blogger mcewen said...

I await new of how you all get on, with great interest. For us, it was an unmitigated failure [another one!] But I think a combination of speech delays, weak articulation, lack of interest and attention, to say nothing of the mixed accent, probably combined to defeat us.
There again, mine are still pretty young, so I think I maybe had unrealistic expectations of them.
Best wishes

At 6:12 AM, Blogger Sharon said...

This sounds like a wonderful, if complicated to start up, system. Here's hoping it frees B to unleash his genius on the world!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

Brendan told me this morning that Dragon is "a miracle". :) He wanted to use it both before & after breakfast... he's decided that keeping a diary might be helpful (for venting, working on tics, etc).

So far, so good, though I've been reminding him that he'll need patience with training it to recognise proper names, so he'll want to do this when he's feeling energetic (his stories are full of made-up names). The only glitch is that it won't recognise our printer, even though it's on the same network- seems to be a mac vs pc thing & the macs are winning. We have decided to try emailing his documents to my laptop & then print them... never a dull moment!!


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