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Modems, voice recognition and video cards

More NaturallySpeaking adventures. You must all the thinking now that my life consists of church brochures and NaturallySpeaking. That’s just about right. I work for hours on the church brochure, and then I come home and play with NaturallySpeaking.
I found a nifty menu option last night called analyze documents. Basically he conceded text files, word processing files, HTML, or almost anything else that contains text. Luckily for me, I save just about everything I write. Not so luckily for NaturallySpeaking, that amounted to 2.8 MB dating back to about 1994. So, NaturallySpeaking has now read more of my stuff than even my mother. So it now has peculiar insights into what words I am likely to use. This seems to help accuracy some, but it is no substitute for use.

I found myself impressed with it at first, and I still think it can be usable, given the right equipment, but this definitely is not Star Trek. I think we can get used to each other and become a productive team, but I find NaturallySpeaking is not the most appropriate word. It definitely works best when I speak in a pretty unnatural voice.

On a more positive note, it doesn’t seem to be affecting my word choices too badly. Dave still sounds like Dave, and to me at least, that’s a good thing.

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From: “al wynn”
Subject: Are there any ISA graphics cards with 4 MB or 8 MB of memory on them ?

I am looking for the fastest ISA graphics card on the market. Do you know which ones have 4 MB or 8 MB of memory on them ?

I have a SIIG SuperVGA Pro ISA graphics card (model VV-VNE212), but it has only 2 MB of memory, and max out at (1280 x 1024 x 256 colors) resolution.

I want to upgrade, and I am searching for the fastest/highest resolution ISA graphics card out there.

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Maybe one of my readers knows of one, but it’s been years since I’ve seen an ISA graphics card that even remotely resembled something worth having. There’s just not much of a market for ISA graphics cards, because the ISA bus is such a terrible bottleneck.

When I have seen them, they’ve been really pricey–$70 for a 2-meg card with an underwhelming Cirrus chipset. You’re probably better off replacing the system, if you want my opinion (not that you asked for it–but who does?). I’ve seen 32-meg TNT2-based AGP cards for $80, and that’s a far, far better card. You’d be looking at having to get a new CPU and memory, in all likelihood, in order to use an AGP video card (because it sounds like you’re upgrading an old 486), but just as an example, you can get an FIC VA-503+ motherboard with a 500 MHz K6-2 processor for about $130. A 64-meg DIMM is about $60. That TNT2 card is $80. (I’m getting all these prices off mwave.com). You’re looking at $300 after shipping, but you’ll have a far better system in the end. Replacing your ISA card with something better (if there is anything better available) will cost close to 1/3 of that.

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From: Mark Bridgers
Subject: Voice Recognition
I’m following your voice recognition trials with great interest. We have a key phrase to test it — “Recognize Speech”. It usually comes out as “Wreck a nice beach”. If your combination can get that one right, we’ll try it for some of our products.

Thanks for keeping up the site. Its great to have you back.

Mark Bridgers

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I am dictating this message. Here’s your acid test: recognize speech.
How’s that?
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From: “al wynn”

Subject: 16550 UART questions.

I am running Win95, have an external 28.8K IBM data/fax modem (model 7852 010 v.34, attached to COM2, Interrupt 3, Adress 2F8), and an internal SIIG 1132+ I/O controller card (with two 16550 UART serial ports, 1 ECP/EPP parallel port).

When I click on MyComputer/Modems/Diagnostics/MoreInfo, it shows my UART as 8250, not 16550. Do you know why ? Is the UART something on my controller card only, or my modem also has its own UART ? Do I need to upgrade my modem ?

Also, do you know any ISA I/O controller card that has an 16650 UART on it ? (Manufacturer and model number)

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The UART is on the controller card itself, rather than on the modem (in the case of externals). I know DOS and Windows can’t tell a difference between an 8250 and a 16450; now that I think about it some more there may have been cases of certain 550s misreporting themselves but I don’t know any specifics. The 550 is frequently integrated into other chips these days, but it might be worth cracking the case and looking–usually, the UART is a big 40-pin chip that sticks out like a sore thumb and it’s frequently socketed. If it says 16450 on it, or, even worse, 8250, you know you’ve been ripped off. If all you find is a small chip with a ton of tiny solder connections made by Winbond or ALi (I can’t think of who else makes I/O chipsets these days, sorry), chances are you do have a 16550.

Just for grins: Do both of your serial ports report themselves as 8250s?

A 16650 is overkill for a 28.8 modem, but if you think you’ll upgrade (or need the 650 for another system), the only ISA 650 card I know of is the SIIG JJ-A04121. The UPC on it is 0662774018614 if that helps. Unfortunately, it’s about as expensive as the external modem you’ll connect to it ($120 retail; mwave.com has it for $78), and it’s big-time overkill because it’s a 4-port card. I know there are other cards available, but that’s the only card I’ve run across.

Forcing Windows 9x to a certain refresh rate

Manually setting the Win9x refresh rate

Occasionally a monitor will go goofy on you when Windows decides to use a weird refresh rate that the monitor won’t support. Sometimes Windows (especially Windows 95) just flat refuses to work with a really old VGA monitor because it insists on using something other than 60 Hz. Or maybe Win9x just isn’t using the highest rate your monitor supports. In NT, you can manually set the refresh rate. In 95 or 98, you have to go spelunking. Boot in safe mode, which uses boring but safe 640×480, 60 Hz. Set the resolution to something you know works. Then open Regedit and navigate to HKLM\System\CurrentControlSet\Services\Class\Display.

Many installations will have multiple forks at Display, starting at 0000. The highest number is the active video card. Select it and navigate to Default\RefreshRate. It will probably be set either to -1 or 0. Change that value to 60 to get a safe 60 Hz rate.

To improve your display, change it to a rate your monitor supports at your desired resolution. Remember, refresh rate comes at the expense of resolution. Some monitors advertise obscenely high rates, but those will generally only work at 640×480. Most monitors top out at 85 Hz (at best) at usable resolutions. Check your documentation that came with your monitor if you’re not certain.

Be careful–overdriving your monitor or your video card can seriously damage one or the other, and I can’t take any responsibility for that.

I used this trick to get Windows to work with a number of really early VGA monitors. For the software I was wanting to run, they were perfectly adequate.

The Uwe Sieber Utilities

German programmer Uwe Sieber has assembled a great collection of DOS and Windows 9x utilities. I know I’ve mentioned them before, but they warrant another mention. If you need mouse and CD-ROM drivers that occupy as little memory as possible, if you need to wipe a hard disk totally clean and your disk manufacturer doesn’t provide such a utility, or if you need to analyze Windows’ bootlogs, Uwe’s place is the place to go.

Attempting to optimize Windows with explicit paths

An interesting idea, this. But I’m not sure it’s worth the required time investment to see if it makes a difference for you.

From: ChiefZeke
Subject: Items to consider
To: dfarq@swbell.net

Dave,

A few more items to consider:

The various *.ini files usually point to files to load as oemfonts.fon=vgaoem.fon. Would it not be better to edit all files so that the full path is used instead; as above:
oemfonts.fon=c:\windows\fonts\vgaoem.fon ?

Also, when Folder Options – File Types – Registered File Types is reviewed many items are listed similar to rundll setup.dll ***. Again, would it not be better for the user to edit the complete listing so that the complete path is used; as above:
c:\windows\rundll.exe c:\windows\system\setup.dll *** ?

While I’m well aware of the tedium involved in doing the necessary editing I would think the end result would be worth it.

Jerry

Since Windows only looks in \Windows\Fonts for fonts, I don’t see how specifying a pathname there would help matters, and it might hurt. And I believe the ini files look for device drivers and the like in \Windows\System and possibly \Windows\System32 exclusively.

The registered filetypes is an interesting idea. Since Windows traverses the path (normally C:\Windows;C:\Windows\System;C:\Windows\Command) looking for that stuff, theoretically, putting a pathname in front of stuff that’s in C:\Windows\Command or C:\Windows\System would make it find the file slightly faster. How much faster depends on how full those directories are, of course.

I wouldn’t start editing without first making a full backup of the \Windows tree (or at the very least, a backup copy of the registry). I fear it might be an awful lot of work for very little gain. I’m always interested in even small speedups, and I’m sure I’ll end up trying it at some point (when I’m not banging my head against the wall learning NFS, NIS and NDS so I can write about them).

Proceed with caution, but if you try it I’m of course very interested in the results.

From: ChiefZeke
Subject: Re: Items to consider
To: Dave Farquhar

Dave,
It wasn’t only the .FON files I was talking about. I was also thinking of the .DRV, .ACM. etc files. In fact, I’ve already edited SYSTEM.INI and WIN.INI to add the path in all those places that I’ve determined warrant it.

Also, while it took about three hours. I’ve also edited the entries for registered filetypes and that went smoothly. I feel there is no need to back-up anything, at this time, to accomplish that task. When you’re doing the editing the path and filename are monitored and any errors get a ‘beep’. Further, long-file names are also ‘beeped’ if they are not enclosed in ” “.

Since all operations are subjective as to how fast our computers really are I will confess I noticed no differential in speed during Windows start or program loading.

Jerry

vestigating that. It’s hard to know what tricks are going to make a difference and which ones won’t. I suspect specifying a path would help really slow systems with extremely crammed system directories more than modern systems with optimized directories.