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Giving Voice to Linux with ViaVoice - page 2

Open the Pod Bay Door Please, HAL

  • December 26, 2000
  • By Scott Courtney

Before you begin installing ViaVoice, ensure that the sound board and all needed drivers are installed and operating. IBM includes a high-quality DSP-based microphone from Andrea Electronics. The microphone is attached to a headset (speakerless--your ears are uncovered) which I found to be quite comfortable even after extended use. It is claimed to be compatible with most desktop sound cards, but some laptops may require the external battery adapter which is available from Andrea Electronics. That microphone is a very nice unit indeed. I tested it with a noisy laser printer and system fan running nearby, plus a 1500 watt space heater behind me. Even with the volume cranked on my speakers, I couldn't hear any background noise. The DSP software in the microphone must be quite good, or else the microphone's mechanics do an excellent job of eliminating background. Maybe it's both.

Another prerequisite is a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). IBM recommends the Java 1.2.2 port from the Blackdown Group, but I performed my tests using the Java 1.3.0 runtime developed jointly by Blackdown Group and Sun Microsystems. This new version has a just-in-time (JIT) compiler and tests on some of my own Java apps show incredible performance improvements, so that's the runtime I prefer. There are other good JVMs available for Linux, though IBM officially supports only the recommended Blackdown 1.2.2 version.

In most cases when installing software, it is a good idea to read the documentation. In the case of IBM ViaVoice, doing so is essential. The documentation is clear and well-written, but the installation process is far from intuitive. Getting the software to copy from CD onto your system is the easy part. After that comes user enrollment, a procedure by which the ViaVoice software learns your individual speech patterns and quirks of pronunciation. IBM provides a program called the User Guru, which uses a graphical step-by-step interface. That is where I had problems, as you will soon see.

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