Reduce the Risk of Laptop Theft
A laptop's greatest asset—its portability—is also its greatest liability. The Journal addressed ways to prevent laptop theft in the June 1997 monthly checklist . Now there's a device you can use to prevent your laptop from becoming one of 2,000 stolen each day—a theft alarm.
The Manta Intelligent Security alarm is three-quarters of an inch thick and attaches directly to your laptop with a cement glue, serving as a visual deterrent to would-be thieves. The device, which can be programmed to respond to motion or loss of power, emits a low growling noise as an initial warning and then switches to a piercing 120-decibel alarm that lasts up to seven hours unless disabled by the owner's code. Armed by pressing a single button, it is disarmed by entering a seven-digit code.
The Manta's motion detector makes this a practical device for business travelers who take their laptops into airports and hotels. Unplugging the laptop from a wall outlet or another computer without first inputting the code also triggers the alarm. A long-lasting rechargeable battery is included.
The Manta costs $195. More information: CIBN Technologies, 954 Hare Avenue, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K2A 3J5; 613-722-2109; www.manta-cibn.com.
A Service Station for Your Computer
Windows 95 users can join an online service, TuneUp, that offers virus protection, access to technical support reference materials and upgrades from previous versions of TuneUp.
TuneUp is a subscription-based Internet stop that acts as a "service station" for your computer—to keep it running smoothly. Subscribers receive a virus detection and removal service and hard-drive diagnosis and repair software. Also available are PC tips and articles and a technical directory with listings from 2,900 computer companies, including support phone numbers and links to their Web sites.
A one-year subscription costs $39. More information: Quarterdeck Corp., 13160 Mindanao Way, 3rd floor, Marina del Rey, California 90292-9705; 310-309-3700; http://www.qdeck.com .
— Vincent Nolan
Dictating to the Computer
I'm composing this article at my computer [ period ]. Which may not sound very unusual [ dash ]—except I'm not typing it on a keyboard [ colon ]: I'm dictating these words into a microphone at a normal speed, and the computer is transcribing my voice and [ quote ] "typing [ close quote ]" the words onto the screen a second or two after I utter them [ period ].
[ new paragraph ]
Wow [ exclamation point ]!
[ new paragraph ]
The program I'm using is called dragon [ strike that ] [ cap d Dragon ] Dragon NaturallySpeaking [ comma ], which sells for about [ dollar sign ] $200 [ period ].
[ go to sleep ]
That last command ("go to sleep") shuts down the program. As I'm a fast typist, I can type slightly faster than NaturallySpeaking—but not by much. And since I'm not personally comfortable dictating, I've reverted to the keyboard. But those of you who do not touch-type or who are more comfortable dictating a letter or a report may find that NaturallySpeaking suits your needs.
I've experimented with voice-activated software since it first appeared on the market nearly a decade ago. None was effective. Not only were my words misunderstood much of the time, but for any clarity I had to speak...like...this: (a short pause between each word). Try that for a few minutes and your throat gets scratchy.
You can speak naturally with NaturallySpeaking. The commands, for punctuation and for fixing errors, are mostly intuitive. Before you begin dictating, however, you must train the program to recognize your unique voice and pronunciation—a 30-minute process. The program types the correct word most of the time and can differentiate sound-alike words easily.
For the program to work effectively, keeping pace with a normal speaking rate, you'll need a relatively powerful computer with a sound card. I'm using a 200-megahertz Pentium Pro with a 32-bit Sound Blaster card. The program runs more slowly on a computer with less power.
More information: Dragon Systems, Inc., 320 Nevada Street, Newton, Massachusetts 02160; 617-965-5200; http://www.dragonsys.com .
— Stanley Zarowin