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New program reads web pages to you

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

There are various text-to-speech add-ons, and text-to-speech is even included with some operating systems.

But SoundGecko ( http://soundgecko.com ) is a service that lets you plug in a web page address and receive, by e-mail, an MP3 file of the text being read aloud. The MP3 file can be saved and listened to at your convenience, on your computer or your MP3 player, phone, what have you.

Like many such services, it has its ups and downs -- some sentences sound OK, others have an unnatural rhythm or emphasis. The program does a great job of identifying what the main article on a page is, and not reading you ad text or other widgets or sidebar items.

You can enter the URL of the page you want read at the SoundGecko web site or e-mail it to go@soundgecko.com. If you use the Chrome browser, you can get an extension that puts a SoundGecko button on your browser; click it any time, and the page at which you're looking is given the treatment.

The usage suggested on the home page is that you run across interesting articles while at work, don't have time to read them, and then listen to them while on the commute home.

Plugged in

Apple rumors have become a stock in trade in the computer industry, but a rumor that keeps popping up, in reputable news outlets, is that the next model of the iPhone will use a different type of connector -- 19-pin instead of 30-pin -- for charging and accessories. Supposedly, according to the rumor, the narrower connector will allow the company to move the headphone jack to the bottom of the phone, next to the accessory connection.

The trouble, if the rumors are true, is that long-time iPhone fans may have accessories such as docks and chargers that won't work with the new connector. That could leave iPhone fans frustrated -- they'd have to buy all-new accessories to go with their new phone, or at least some sort of adapter plug. (There are even rumors about the availability and appearance of such an adapter plug.)

Apple's fans are so fervent, however, that while they might grumble about the change, it probably won't prevent them from moving to the iPhone 5 (or whatever Apple decides to call it).

Rumors are that, in addition to a new iPhone, the company will be introducing a smaller iPad, to compete with other successful small tablets such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Nook Color, the Kindle Fire and Google's new Nexus 7. The late Steve Jobs criticized smaller tablets, saying Apple had chosen the optimum size for the iPad, but obviously there are some consumers who prefer (or can only afford) the smaller size, and Apple doesn't want to give up that part of a growing market. Plus, any new IOS device tends to pull consumers into Apple's ecosystem and increases the chance of them buying some other IOS device later.

Windows Phone enthusiasm

A survey by the firm Amplified Analytics ( http://goo.gl/Wt8sm ) shows that among IOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone, the mobile operating system with the highest customer satisfaction in the second quarter of 2012 was ... Windows Phone, which has seen gains in the measurement.

They didn't talk to me, but I've become a Windows Phone fan. It's easy to use, customizable, and attractive. So far, though, the problems seems to be getting people to try the operating system, which lags far behind Android and IOS in sales. It needs more apps, which is a catch-22 -- developers want to design apps for popular platforms, and platforms become more popular when they have lots of apps.

--John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette and covers county government. He is also the author of the self-published novel "Soapstone." His personal web site is http://lakeneuron.com .



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John I. Carney
Loose Talk / Charge Complete
John I. Carney is city editor of the Times-Gazette.