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Ionic Column      in exile

by David Parry

Englishman David Parry lived, worked and played in Tokyo from 1980 to 1994 and was a member of TPC from 1986. He was Newsletter Publisher from late 1988 to early 1990. The Ionic Column has been going since early 1992. It even won a prize and an honorable mention back in 1992. Currently based in Düsseldorf and working as a translator, David Parry returns to Japan electronically via the Internet.

Last month I mentioned that I would say more about my new electronic dictation system. The Grundig GDV 4000 has the same sort of microphone as my old-fashioned Grundig dictation machine with tapes, but in this case the microphone is plugged into a card in the PC. They also provide a neat stand for the microphone, which the old machine does not have. This system only works when the PC is running, of course, and in future I plan to get the hand-held digital dictation machine that uses a card-type electronic storage media, and which requires a PCMCIA card reader on the PC.

Unseemly tussles
My transcriber had problems installing the corresponding system on her machine, since her brand-new Pentium 4 system has an onboard sound card, and this produced the inevitable donnybrook when the two cards tried to grab the same interrupt. In my case the system went very smoothly, although it looks as if it is very difficult to change some of the settings that are cast in concrete during the installation process. I have to reinstall the system anyway, and this will not be a problem, since there are no settings or special files that I need to transfer. The system works just fine, although I am always a bit worried when I save the file, since on one occasion I pressed a button once too often and lost my dictation. The documentation is a bit minimal, and as far as I can tell the system does not produce a work file to ensure that your work is always saved, regardless of what happens.

No limits
This means that a dictation is different from one using tapes, since I do not have to worry about filling up a tape or running out of tape. I find that it is better to stop at intervals of around ten minutes, partly to ensure that not too much gets lost in the worst possible case, and also to keep the files down to a reasonable size. I think the system uses some form of compression, since Winzip makes virtually no difference to the size of the file. One minute of dictation seems to be consistently 100 KB, so just under a quarter of an hour fills a floppy.

The sound quality is good, perhaps slightly less than that from the tape machine, but very clear. At any rate the system is the answer to my needs for a long-range dictation system. My former transcriber had to collect the tapes personally, which was already a problem even within Düsseldorf, but it would not be a viable solution if more traveling was involved. I considered options such as express mail and FedEx, but they are too expensive and too slow. With the new Grundig system I can travel as far as I like, since I can send the sound files over the Internet. If anything goes wrong, I can simply resend the files, whereas a package with tapes might be delayed or lost or damaged.

The Grundig GDV 4000 does not seem to be especially demanding of hardware. It runs very happily on my Pentium II, and would probably run on the AMD K6 / 400 with no problems, but the latter PC will be upgraded anyway.

News for translators
A fellow translator over here mentioned that he had a found a new line counting program. This was not all that interesting in itself, since there are two such programs already, but I decided to give it a look. Programs of this type count words as well as lines, the later being a requirement for German (and Turkish) because of the extreme length of some individual words, and the existing programs seemed OK, barring some quibbles over whether they found all the text in certain types of files. I looked at the new program, and noticed that it appeared to be capable of reading and counting all the text within a Word file, including text boxes. No other program does that.

Then I noticed that it could also perform its magic on all files within a given directory, including the sub-directories. This did get my interest, as it was something that could have saved me a great deal of time in the past. The help was not all that helpful, since it is online - in the true sense of the word. The help button is actually a URL to the author's Website, and I assume that it works in most cases, but my borrowed copy did not show any text after connecting. I was thus unable to find out more about the program or how to customize the output, which is extremely detailed. Or to put it another way, excessively detailed for most purposes. Another nice touch is that the results can be output to a text or Excel file. That would again have been most helpful, as I had to send out the line counts the translators during the recent mega-project, and we had to fax them for lack of a "save to file" feature; you could save the results, but only in a proprietary format.

Taking the drudgery out of HTML
The new program is called FreeBudget and a trial version is available from The same company has a companion program to count HTML files, WebBudget, and this got my interest at once. The two counting programs that I already have claim to be able to count the number of words or lines in an HTML file, but I do not trust the results, so I regard them as useless in that respect. WebBudget apparently really can sort out all the text snippets from the code, and is thus a true pearl.

The price for registration is a shade under US$60, which I regard as cheap at the price. If the program can quickly and accurately count the amount of text in an entire Website, a task that can literally take hours when done any other way, so it could pay for itself with just one job. Coincidentally, I have just been asked to quote for translating an entire Website for a potential customer, so this program could be worth its weight in gold. (But just how much does a program weigh?)

Even less drudgery
One method that was suggested for counting HTML text was to convert the file to a PDF file, which requires the paid-for version of Adobe Acrobat, and then extracting the text and counting that.

This is at best a roundabout route, and may lose a lot of very small text snippets embedded in the code. The WebBudget site also had a link to a program that counts PDF files immediately. Again, a very useful tool for the working translator or agency, since an increasing number of jobs for quotation or translation come in as PDF files. The WebBudget site also has a large number of links that are of considerable interest to translators.

Abort, rebuild, fail?
My PC systems are due for a major revision. I have finally decided to upgrade the working systems to Windows 2000, which is on order as I write, and to install more computing horsepower. I considered the costs of new hardware against second-hand, and went hunting on the German eBay for my needs. I acquired a Pentium III 450 MHz chip, a Tekram motherboard and a skeleton PC system with case, power supply, Gigabyte motherboard and Pentium III 750 MHz CPU. A complete system might have been a bit cheaper, but I did not want one with a hard drive, as I had doubts about it surviving the little yellow men (I refer to their uniforms, not their race) of the Deutsche Post. All the packages arrived in the past few days, and now I have to put it all together.

I am hoping that I can produce more stable systems by using Windows 2000, and a new installation will get rid of all the accretions from past installations and deinstallations, and possibly, spyware. The main Pentium II system is running very slowly, as if something is clogging it up at the system level, and it could be that a spyware program is collecting data and trying to call home. I could of course evict unwanted tenants of this type off my hard disk by running a program such as Ad-Aware (Lavasoft), but a full installation from scratch will remove the unwanted appendages anyway.

ISDN and DSL in one card
There are one or two items that are on my shopping list. One is a combined ISDN and DSL card, which will avoid the problems inherent in having two network cards within one PC. This will save one card slot and, hopefully, avoid interrupt problems. I will activate my ADSL system as part of the general rebuilding of the two PCs in the office, and this dual card is the best way to go about it. One alternative is to have an ISDN or ADSL connection via USB from the modem, but that would involve extra costs with Telekom, and I have the other hardware anyway.

Portrait monitors
A few years back there were two or three vendors of VGA monitors that could be swiveled from landscape to portrait mode. The mechanical side of it was complex and bulky, since it involved suspending a heavy monitor in a stable holder. The sheer weight and bulk meant that it could not be done with a larger monitor. I noticed in the latest PC Magazine that many of the latest flat screen LCD monitors can swivel. Although LCD monitors are heavy for their size, they are much lighter than a comparable glass tube and do not have the bulk. I saw a Videosonic monitor of this type such up in portrait mode when visiting a fellow translator and was highly impressed.

But it also gave me a feeling of déjà vu. Over a decade ago, there were a number of monitors for dedicated word processors or the Genius PC monitor, which showed a full A4 page at full size. Dedicated word processors seem to have disappeared completely, but monitors that are more suitable for office work are a rarity. The usual VGA format is fine for spreadsheets and graphics, which tend to be in landscape mode, but printed materials are almost invariably taller than they are wide.

So why do we have computer screens that show half a page of text only? Even on my 19" monitor, I cannot show a full page of A4 text, since it is too small to read if a normal typeface was used. By contrast, a portrait-type 17" monitor can show a full and legible A4 page. I must admit, though, that I would prefer something like a 25" portrait monitor for easy reading! So one of these two-way monitors would be very interesting for me.

There are, of course, other problems. The monitors change the orientation of the display as they are swiveled from one format to another, but the orientation is changed in software. In other words, the screen display takes longer to refresh. Why do the makers not write a complete driver?

A longer page would be a huge boon for Trados, since its screen display reduces the amount of space available for text. The same applies when showing two or more text files on screen at the same time in separate windows. Even on the 19" monitor, I only see a few lines (at full size) when windowing two files, and there are times that I would like to have several files open and visible. Perhaps I'll just have to hold out for that 25" portrait monitor.

CeBIT 2002
The CeBIT computer show has just finished, as I write. The articles in the press indicate that the main emphasis in this year's show was on wireless devices. I suppose that this category includes the new UMTS mobile phones, which are causing a furore because of the need to install a dense network of transmitters everywhere and considerable concern about even more electro-smog being produced as a result. At any rate this is not a subject that is of great interest to me, and I cannot say more as I did not go to CeBIT this year.

CeBIT 2001
Bear that in mind a year from now. In the past three weeks I got e-mail from a couple of companies that begged me to visit their booth at CeBIT for a sales talk - I was not aware that I was a high-powered technical manager with an annual budget exceeding the GDP of one of the smaller sub-Saharan countries, but evidently I don't know myself. Nor did I know that I had been to CeBIT last year, thanks to e-mail statements from companies thanking me for visiting them last year. Evidently my name got circulated somewhere and acquired a life of its own. Evidently, a more interesting life. I e-mailed the spammers back with my CV and details of the translation services I offer. Perhaps I should have included the URL for Tokyo PC and the venerable AJ?

That's all for this month. I'll probably have more news next month on how things went with the rebuilding of the PCs.

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© Algorithmica Japonica Copyright Notice: Copyright of material rests with the individual author. Articles may be reprinted by other user groups if the author and original publication are credited. Any other reproduction or use of material herein is prohibited without prior written permission from TPC. The mention of names of products without indication of Trademark or Registered Trademark status in no way implies that these products are not so protected by law.

Algorithmica Japonica

April , 2002

The Newsletter of the Tokyo PC Users Group

Submissions : Editor

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