Monday, April 13, 2015

5 reasons to use a dedicated voice recording device By Marsha Taicher

A Swiss Army Knife can be a convenient cutting tool, but would a chef at a restaurant use one in his kitchen? Likewise, some professionals who regularly record themselves and others for their jobs are considering if they should just use a smartphone for these duties.

On the surface, leveraging a smartphone may seem like an efficient recording option. However, after a more careful assessment of their daily voice technology demands, these professionals will quickly determine their smartphone cannot offer the sound clarity or other features of a dedicated digital recording device designed to perform in numerous settings.

In greater detail, the five biggest reasons professionals should use a dedicated recording device for their job duties are described below.

1. Superior recording clarity Smartphones are only designed to record voices when the speaker is two or three inches away from the device. Conversely, dedicated recorders are designed to capture high-quality, stereo recordings in a multitude of settings and a variety of distances from the sound source. For example, professionals in the legal, insurance and law enforcement industries often use voice recorders for interviews, so it is essential the devices clearly capture every spoken word for accurate transcription and document creation. Most smartphone microphones are not designed for recording face-to-face conversations, let alone conference situations where multiple speakers are seated around a table. A dedicated device is not only capable, but its microphones are also designed to capture each word—even when there are multiple speakers, resulting in a recording where the listener can clearly distinguish voices.

With a dedicated device, not only will the sound quality improve but the transcriptions will be more prompt and accurate. Sound clarity ensures the transcriptionist will only need to hear a recording once to understand and document all spoken words.

2. Longer battery life Smartphone batteries have to power the device’s energy-draining software, Wi-Fi connectivity and voice calling. This is part of the reason why smartphone batteries tend to only last eight or nine hours on a full charge.1 Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries in dedicated recorders are not encumbered by numerous other competing energy demands, so devices can record for 50 hours before needing a recharge. Moreover, a professional-level dedicated recorder automatically adjusts its power consumption based the device’s status to minimize energy usage. Professionals who rely on voice recordings in their daily work lives cannot afford to have a recording unexpectedly stop in the middle because of a dead battery.

3. Abundant storage As smartphones become more technologically advanced, the more memory the software consumes. It is perhaps no surprise then that recent survey results show 22 percent of iPhone users run out of storage at least once a month.2 Professional dedicated recorders offer up to 32GB of memory just for audio files, which is the equivalent of 352 days of continuous recordings. In addition, memory capacity and usage is clearly displayed on dedicated voice recorders. A smartphone, on the other hand, is continually storing and deleting data in the background through its operating software and apps, so memory usage is often fluid and requires the user to search through device settings to determine available space.

4. Advanced recording features Professional-level dedicated recorders include advanced functions and features that are typically unavailable on most smartphone devices or recording apps. For example, some voice recorders contain a motion sensor that can detect when the device has been set down and automatically switches the recorder’s microphone to record a discussion instead of a dictation. Dedicated voice recorders also include features that allow the speaker to easily edit and prioritize recordings in the device. When the recording is concluded, professional dedicated devices are typically integrated with recording management software that allows the user to efficiently and securely share files with colleagues or transcriptionists.

5. Enhanced security In law, medicine, insurance and other industries, confidentiality of information is critical—that includes voice recordings. Professional-quality dedicated recorders, unlike most smartphones, protect recordings with the highest level of encryption to date—256 bit—compliant with the AES (Advanced Encryption Standard). Files are encrypted in real-time, which means even if the recorder is lost or stolen and its memory card removed, the recordings would still be protected. Data confidentiality is further protected on professional dedicated recorders through a four-digit PIN code required to access files or play recordings.

Professionals require professional-level tools Smartphones have become inextricable from our daily personal and professional lives. What these devices offer in voice recording convenience, however, they often lack in quality, power, memory, security and productivity-enabling features.

Professionals who rely on audio recording to do their jobs need tools that withstand the frequent daily demands most users put on the devices—a professional-level dedicated digital recorder.

About the author: Marsha Taicher is vice president and director of sales for Speech Processing Solutions North America, the manufacturer of Philips dictation solutions.


1http://www.tomsguide.com/us/iphone-6-battery-life,news-19591.html
2https://givemeicecream.com/blog/

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Olympus DS Dictation Recorder Comparison

We get asked the question of "which is the best digital dictation device" every day. Many prospective users are interested in the industry leading Olympus DS series. Here is a simple comparison chart which quickly highlights the features differences that may affect your decision.

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Digital Dictation for Macintosh

As one of the few (if only) on-line digital dictation retailers that actually use Macintosh computers, we get a large number of inquiries each week about Mac compatibility among the leading brands.

When asked if a particular digital voice recorder is Mac compatible, our response never "yes" or "no." And that's why people ask us that question, because the answer is not clear-cut.

Since the beginning of 2007, new Mac models have been built with Intel processors - the same processors used in PC's from Dell, HP, IBM and others. This has given Macs the ability to run Windows operating systems as well as the graceful, secure and fun-to-use Mac OSX operating system. If you buy a Mac today, you have the opportunity to have your cake and eat it, too. That also means that you can use any digital voice recorder sold that runs on Windows, regardless of whether there's a pure Mac version of the download software.

So, if you have an Intel Mac, our answer is "yes."

If you don't, our answer is either "no" or "sort of." Currently, Olympus is the only manufacturer making recorders that either include software that runs on a Mac, or can be seen on the Mac as an external hard drive (much like a USB key drive). However, the Mac version of the DSS Player that comes with the Pro models (DS-7000, DS-3500) does not do all that the DSS Player Pro for Windows software does. I told the Olympus engineers from Japan that they should not discount Mac users, as we get lots of inquiries, but we'll have to see if they really take my input to heart.

I've been a "Mac-head" since the Mac Plus back in 1984. Although I'm pretty proficient with Windows and Unix, I truly find the Mac enjoyable to use. And considering I'm on my computer 8-12 hours a day, I prefer enjoyable to struggling.

However, I have to be able to support all of our customers who are PC-based. Fortunately, I can do that, as well, on my MacBook Pro. I loaded it up with 4 gigs of RAM and am currently running both Windows XP and Vista using a program called Parallels. Parallels allows me to run Windows in a separate Mac window, while still running the Mac OSX operating system. It provides sharing of files and applications (yes, applications!) between the two operating systems, which means I can open a Word document I receive in Apple Mail with Word for Vista, if I so choose (normally, I open those in Pages, Apple's new word processing program that reads Word documents).

If anyone needs help or advice using digital dictation equipment with Macs, just holler. We love "Mac-speak."

Part III: Using Digital Dictation in Professional Situations

This, part three of three, will discuss how digital dictation can be shared via the Internet.

Basically, there are three ways for an author to get digital voice files produced by a recorder to their transcriptionist:

  • E-mail.
    Sending voice files as e-mail attachments.
  • FTP.
    File Transfer Protocol. Sending voice files to a FTP server to be later retrieved by the transcriptionist.
  • VPN.
    Virtual Private Network. A secure link between the author's computer (or server) and the transcriptionist's computer.

E-Mail Transfers of Digital Dictation
The transferring of any digital file, whether it be a Word document, a spreadsheet or a digital voice file is quite easy with e-mail. You create a new e-mail message in your e-mail program (Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird, etc.) and attach the voice file just as you would any other document.

However, if you want to automate this process using the Olympus DSS Player Pro or Philips SpeechExec Pro dictation software - which can be a great time saver and will help manage the workflow of your dictation - there are more considerations involved.

If you are using Outlook (as opposed to Outlook Express), each program handles the transferring of the dictation file to Outlook for sending quite well. This is because Outlook is a "MAPI" program (Messaging Application Programming Interface). The dictation software will prepare and send the outgoing e-mail and attachment to Outlook, which handles the actual sending of the file as part of Outlook's normal sending function.

On the other hand, if you do NOT use Outlook (and I'm certainly NOT suggesting you do), using e-mail as part of the automated workflow process gets geometrically more complex. Other e-mail programs (there are other MAPI programs out there, but Outlook is the most prevalent), such as Outlook Express, AOL, etc. are not MAPI-compliant. This means that the dictation software cannot communicate with them. Therefore, the dictation software must do the sending instead, acting as it's own e-mail program. While this appears a simple thing, it is not, for several reasons:

  • While sending dictation would cause no conflicts if you use your regular e-mail account, if the transcriptionist uses her software program to receive the voice files, s/he will run into problems, as they now would have, in effect, two e-mail programs checking the same e-mail account. If Outlook Express, for example, checks first and downloads a message with a voice file attached, the transcription software (e.g.,
    ,
    ) would not find the message when it checked the e-mail account.
  • These configurations require a POP (Post Office Protocol) e-mail account with external SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) access. AOL and many other "Web-based" e-mail accounts don't allow other e-mail programs to check their e-mail accounts. Gmail requires a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption connection, which the dictation and transcription software programs do not, at present, support. Therefore, making sure you have a compatible e-mail account is certainly another consideration.
  • Most e-mail providers restrict the size of e-mail attachments to keep their servers from being overwhelmed. Digital voice files, depending on the quality setting of the file, can get quite large. If they get too large, the e-mail host may reject the e-mail and it's attachment.

In short, if you're not using Outlook or another MAPI compliant program, and your e-mail provider places restrictions on attachment sizes, you would be better off considering one of the two following methodologies.

FTP Transfers of Digital Dictation

FTP is one of the oldest Internet protocols, but one of the least known. Just as you are able to copy files to a server on your network, FTP allows computers to upload and download files over the Internet. It's usually easy to set up, fast and has fewer size restrictions than e-mail. Both pro systems support FTP transfers, and they can be sent (and received by the transcriptionist) without needing any other application on your computer.

  • American Dictation provides very inexpensive FTP hosting services with over 99% uptime.
  • Depending on the FTP service and program configurations, you may or may not have as much of a log of activity as you may need for tracking uploads and downloads. This varies widely, but you should have an idea as to how much information you need for auditing or management purposes before you choose the software and provider.
  • You can use a FTP client program to also access your FTP account. This may be helpful in monitoring activity or diagnosing any problems.
  • You will need to make sure FTP transfers are not blocked by your firewall. Opening FTP ports is a common practice, and your IT consultant can certainly do it quickly for you.

VPN Transfers of Digital Dictation

Virtual Private Networks are commonplace in the PC world. Macs can easily establish similar connections using Apple File Sharing. In essence, one computer connects to another over the Internet such that the "client" computer can see the "server" computer just as if both computers were on a network in the same office.

Using a VPN connection is by far the easiest and safest way of moving digital dictation files between author and transcriptionist. It also gives the transcriptionist easy access to other shared folders where finished work may need to be stored for retrieval by the author.



Summary

This series of articles was designed to help you better understand some of the sophisticated features today's professional digital dictation recorders bring to your operation. Before you spend thousands on a complex installation to manage your dictation work, check with a digital dictation expert to see of "out-of-the-box" offerings might just do the same job.

Top 10 Reasons to Dictate

We often hear from folks who say, "I can type just as fast as I can dictate," or "dictating is so-o-o last century." We used to think so, as well.

I'm a pretty fast typist. When I was in my twenties, I could type 74 words per minute with fewer than 4 errors (74/4 wpm). Today, as I dictate this blog, I suffer from the aches and reduced flexibility of age, as well as carpal tunnel stresses due to 20+ years of typing on computers. I haven't tested, but I'm probably more at 55 wpm today and declining rapidly. Human hands, in my experience, were not made for a lifetime of typing.

However, my developing arthritis aside, here are our Top 10 Reasons to Dictate (rather than type):

10. It's professional. Pros dictate, rookies don't.

9. It's mobile. A handheld digital voice recorder can go with you anywhere. Sure, a laptop can, too, but while you're waiting for your laptop to boot up, you could have dictated how many letters?

8. Allows you to get more done. You CAN dictate much faster than you can type. Dictators generally speak at a rate of about 120 words per minute. You probably don't type more than half that fast. Therefore, you could process twice as much work in the same amount of time.

7. Save money. Oh, yeah? Yes! Although dictation requires a staff person to type, by doubling your work output (or tripling if you're a "hunt and peck" typist), the increased financial gains more than compensate for a transcriptionist.

6. You don't really type 60 wpm. Because you're trying to formulate sentences and editing what you do type, you're not even getting close to typing 60 wpm or better. Try testing your speed when you don't have something to look at to type, but rather you compose it as you type. You'll find your typing speed is actually about 30 wpm. Therefore, someone who is just typing (like a transcriptionist) can put out 2-3 times what you can in the same amount of time.

5. No inkjet cartridges to change. If you're typing, then you're printing. If you're printing, you're refilling paper trays, changing out ink, etc. Is that really the best use of your time?

4. End the clutter. Typing means you have to store documents, printed or digital, and that requires organization which you may or may not have. Plus, if you're trying to "multi-task," you have more than one open document on your computer and it's starting to get messy on your desktop. Make it easy: think of idea, dictate. Think of idea, dictate. Think of idea, dictate. You get the picture.

3. Work in the car. Dictate while you drive. It's not only efficient, but it keeps you from thinking about breaking the neck of the jerk in the next lane that won't use his signal. And, it's safer than talking on a cell phone.

2. Stop taking meeting notes. Record your meetings, interviews and phone calls. Have notes typed from the conversation, but keep the digital voice file in case any details of the meeting are disputed. Nothing like replaying the actual conversation to refresh memories.

1. It's so damn cool! You gotta admit, dictating is not only much more efficient, it's the way professional people get work done. Who do you think is getting more done in less time: the guy pecking on his laptop in the corner of the courtroom, or the woman dictating on her recorder as she glides from one meeting to the next?

Yes, we sell dictation equipment, but we do so because we really, passionately feel it's a great way to increase productivity. You want to be home with your family tonight? Dictate. You want to remember the key points of a major presentation? Record it.

Questions About Digital Dictation

On the American Dictation web site, we suggest to customers that if they are confused about what digital voice recorder to buy, they should give us a call.

We get lots of calls.

There's no doubt that picking the right digital voice recorder to best meet your needs can be confusing and frustrating. Therefore, we would like to set up this blog entry to hopefully answer any questions you may have about digital voice recorders.

No question is dumb or stupid, either. So ask away. 1-866-408-1383

MacOSX Yosemite and Windows 10

Yes, I'm an Early Adopter. I love new technology. While I don't generally try to be on the bleeding edge, I do like to be good friends with the latest and greatest.

And, as the chief techno-geek at NovuScript, I have to keep up with the latest computer operating systems. We want to be able to provide knowledgeable technical support to your customers.

Within a few months of each other, Microsoft and Apple launched new operating systems which were promoted as being huge improvements over previous versions. Fortunately for me, I've been able to play with both of them. The following are my impressions.

Understand: I am looking at these primarily from an end-user's perspective. I don't tend to care about the very deep innards of operating systems - that's for real propeller heads. My interest is related to how well the operating system allows me to do the things I want to do, safely, reliably and efficiently.

And what does this have to do with digital dictation and transcription? We include information as to how well our most popular products work with each operating system.

VISTA

What a story. Years ago - about 6 or 7 - Microsoft announces "Longhorn," the OS to replace XP. It will have all kinds of exciting features and tools, and will finally be the Apple-killer they've always wanted. At the same time, Apple unveils Mac OSX, the first complete, top-to-bottom overhaul of the Macintosh operating system.

Longhorn became Vista and along the way dropped many of the most exciting planned features. For all it's thousands of employees, MS could not figure out how to deliver all it promised on time. Apple kept releasing new versions of OSX: jaguar, panther, tiger. Each was a significant incremental improvement, but did not keep users from enjoying their favorite programs. To the user, the changes were manageable.

Well, here we are in 2007, and Vista is now shipping on almost all new PCs. So is Leopard, the latest feline in the Mac OSX lineage.

I have the privilege of being able to run Vista, XP and MacOSX at the same time on the same computer. Of course, it's a MacBook Pro, as only Macs can run all these OS's at the same time (using a third-party program called Parallels).

Vista is a VAST improvement over XP in terms of look and feel. The design is actually beautiful and comes close to being as "cool" as the MacOSX. But, then, all that becomes less important as you find out that it really hasn't changed that much. "My Computer" is now "Computer"; "My Documents" is now "Documents." Somehow, contemporary computer users don't like to call their digital assets "My" anymore.

Vista tries to simplify things by adding more layers. Instead of windows with lots of choices, you get larger windows with viewer choices that, when clicked, lead to the windows with lots of choices. Control Panels are renamed, but since they do the same functions as before, renaming them has simply caused upgrading XP users to have to spend time hunting around for the renamed components. Example: "Add or Remove Programs" is now "Programs and Features." Same functions, just a different name that is less descriptive than the original.

Vista requires more RAM, more video, more everything. I have it running with about 1gig RAM and a Core Duo 2 MacBook Pro and it runs quite nicely. I'm only running the Home version, but so far haven't really missed anything important. I don't use Vista for multimedia production, so I can't answer to that.

However, I can report that with the latest upgrades (available at American Dictation), Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Olympus DSS Player Pro (ODMS) and Philips SpeechExec software is all behaving quite well. All manufacturers have been responsive at keeping their software up-to-date.

The good thing is that Windows 10 is very much like XPand 7. Certain tools, such as Regedit, still exist, and for the most part, we have not had any real difficulties with helping our customers with tech support.

Personally, I like using Windows 10 over the previous version.. It's pretty, it feels faster, and once I turned of the constant, annoying security alerts, I've really enjoyed using it.  If someone sits down at your computer, they can click the "Continue" button just as easily as anyone else. True security would be to ask for your user password, but then that would really be annoying!

Yosemite

As a long-time Mac user, I've always enjoyed its ease of use, and the fact that upgrades are relatively painless and inexpensive. While there are multiple versions of Windows 10, Yosemite comes in only one flavor, is a free upgrade. And boy is it full of new features!

I won't bore you will all the 300 new features of Yosemite, but the most important thing is that I have had no compatibility problems with existing software. In fact, I haven't had to upgrade any programs, but most vendors have offered small upgrades to take advantage of new Leopard features.

One feature I do really like is Time Machine, the automatic back-up feature. It is so easy to set up, works automatically, and gives me real piece of mind for my personal machine.

Unfortunately, only Dragon Dictate  and Olympus are manufacturers creating programs for the Mac, and Olympus is not really interested in giving Mac users the same features as they provide Windows users. I find that very short-sighted and a shame, as we continue to get more and more Mac users calling us for help. Philips now also works with Mac.
Bottom Line

Is Windows 10 or Yosemite worth the upgrades? If you're working well with 7 or 8, I would wait until you need a new computer, but don't wait until you can't use your XP computer, and you may still have to use your XP computer until you're up to speed with 10 as it does take a learning curve and not all software has been updated.

If you're a Mac user, and you have compatible hardware, Leopard is a great value, and I do recommend you upgrade if you want.

Part II: Using Digital Dictation in Professional Situations

In this installation, we'll discuss the method of Network Sharing of digital dictation files.

In offices where the author and the transcriptionist are on the same network, the sharing of digital dictation files is quite easy to configure. In either of the leading professional systems - Olympus and Philips - the author's software can be configured to download the voice files directly to a shared folder on a network server, or on the transcriptionist's computer.

From that share point, the transcriptionist can instantly access the voice file and transcribe it on his/her computer. Much quicker, safer and more reliable than using tapes.

Managing Workflow

Unless you're ready to pony up thousands of dollars for high-end transcription management systems, you might consult with someone knowledgeable about how either the Olympus or Philips dictation systems might accommodate your practice. We've set up large and small operations quite well simply by understanding how to configure the software that comes with professional digital recorders. The software is not necessarily intuitive, so professional help is generally recommended.

The distribution of dictation voice files from the author to the transcription generally falls within one of these categories:

  • One-to-One.
    The author's dictation is handled exclusively by one transcriptionist. In this case, either the Olympus or the Philips systems will do quite well.
  • One-to-Many.
    Each author's dictation can be handled by more than one transcriptionist. We see this most often where an author wants one type of dictation to go to one typist, while another type goes to another typist. To create an automated distribution of work based on "work type," the Philips software is the only one that will accommodate this type of workflow.
  • Many-to-Many.
    Many authors send their dictation to a transcription "pool." In some law offices, we have seen where several attorneys' work will be typed by any one of a number of transcriptionists on a "first-come, first-served" basis. Either system - Olympus or Philips - works well in this regard.

(NOTE: there are many other reasons to consider one system instead of another, and ultimately it boils down to a case of priorities. See a digital dictation expert for more help.)

There are two important points to make when discussing Network Sharing of digital dictation:

  • It's easier to configure, maintain and adjust than using e-mail or FTP to transfer files. Even over VPN connections, network sharing is a preferred methodology for many reasons, not the least of which is security.
  • The versatility of the software that comes with today's digital voice recorders (professional units!) means that most small to medium sized business needs can be handled if configured correctly.

Next: Part III - Internet Distribution

To Begin the Discussion on Digital Dictation

The best place, I suppose, would be to share what is driving so much of the increased business at American Dictation these days.

We're getting lots of calls now from professionals - primarily lawyers - who are at wit's end with their tape dictation systems. Tapes are breaking and they're having trouble getting repairs or replacements for their recorders.

We sell few tape systems at American Dictation installing mainly digital dictation equipment. It's easy to understand why:

  1. Tapes break. There's nothing quite as frustrating when a tape breaks after dictating a long document, either for the dictator or the transcriptionist. There's no easy way of repairing or resurrecting the dictation. Digital voice files remain in tact. Yes, they can be deleted, but if configured correctly, most professional systems provide for redundancy and back-ups - instantly!
  2. Tapes lose quality. Over time, magnetic tape loses quality due to wear and tear, and magnetic artifacts left over from previous use. Digital files can be copied over and over and over and never lose their original quality.
  3. Tapes are a hassle to manage. After a dictation, the author must make sure the dictation gets to the transcriptionist, and after transcribing, is either cataloged or erased for re-use. Digital voice files can be easily moved, copied or stored on computers, CD's or other electronic storage media.
  4. Taped dictations are hard to prioritize. If an author dictates 7 letters, then decides that letter #5 needs to go out first, it is difficult for the transcriptionist to quickly find #5 on a continual tape. Most digital dictation authors create a new voice file for each dictation. If #5 is a "high priority" file, then the dictator can electronically "mark" the file and the transcriptionist can immediately identify and transcribe that document.
  5. Tape equipment is expensive to maintain. Most tape system providers sell expensive maintenance contracts because tape machines require service. Capstans, motors and other moving parts need repeat cleaning. Tape machines also use up batteries quickly. Digital dictation machines have no moving parts (other than buttons), and - at least with American Dictation - no maintenance contracts are necessary (what are we going to do, send you a nice cloth to wipe off the recorder?). Many digital dictation machines - particularly the professional models - provide for in-unit battery recharging.

There are other important reasons as well to "go digital." With digital systems, the routing and management of work is much, much easier, safer and more secure. Olympus and Philips professional systems provide encryption, e-mail/FTP transfers and workgroup file sharing.

Perhaps you have made the switch from tape to digital. If so, share your experience here!

Olympus Unveils DS-7000 Voice Recorder

I just returned from traveling earlier this week to the cold and snowy hills of northeast Pennsylvania, where I was greeted Monday morning with a wind chill of below zero. While the temperature left something to be desired, the trip did not.

The reason was the official unveiling of the new Olympus DS-7000 Digital Voice Recorder. I joined top dealers from across the country at the Olympus America headquarters near Allentown to spend the day oohing and aahing over the latest professional-grade dictation recorder from Olympus.

I have to be honest here: after admiring the sophistication, ergonomics and advanced security features of the Philips 8000 for the past year, I was a bit afraid that Olympus might not overwhelm me.

I was mistaken. The DS-7000 shows that Olympus engineers - both in Japan and in the US - listened to our input and suggestions, and delivered on a product that makes all the improvements we've hoped for... and then some.We have more information about the specifications of the DS-7000 on a special page on our Web site.
The Olympus DS-7000 is for those who do have very demanding dictation needs, and particularly those whose dictation is sensitive.



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