Dragon Naturally Speaking

I picked up Dragon Naturally Speaking over the summer through CircuitCity.com and have been playing around with it. If you don’t know what this is, it’s a program that allows you to speak through an included microphone and watch your spoken words instantly appear in documents, email and instant messages. You can even surf the Web just by speaking! The Nuance Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10 Standard turns your voice into text three times faster than most people type — with up to 99% accuracy. It learns to recognize your voice instantly, and continually improves the more you use it! Just use your voice to dictate and edit in virtually any Windows application, including Microsoft Word, Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and AOL.

Key Features:

  • Easy to Use
  • Use with Many Windows Programs

Key Benefits:

  • Create documents and emails about three times faster
  • Dictate, edit and control applications such as Microsoft Word, Microsoft Internet Explorer, and AOL

Right now, through December 31, you can order the program through Circuit City Online for a final cost of $29.99 after a $45 instant savings and a $25 rebate that you can print from the site. I know a lot of people don’t like rebates, but when I ordered last summer, I got the rebate with no problem, and my final cost was $49.99 so the extra savings is pretty cool. I recommmend the program, especially for those who do a lot of writing. It’s not perfect, and it takes a little while to “learn” your voice and way of speaking, but it’s pretty nice.



Microsoft loses Word appeal, will adjust program – Yahoo! News

SEATTLE (Reuters) – Microsoft Corp said on Tuesday it will tweak its Word application to remove a feature judged to be a breach of patent, ensuring that it will be able to continue selling one of its most widely used programs.

The world’s largest software company made the announcement shortly after a U.S. court of appeals upheld a $290 million jury verdict against it for infringing a patent held by a small Canadian software firm.

The court also affirmed an injunction that prevents Microsoft from selling versions of its Word program which contain the offending software, set to take effect January 11, 2010. Older versions of Word are not affected.

Microsoft said it is taking steps to remove the feature from Microsoft Word 2007 and Microsoft Office 2007 put on sale from that date.

The disputed patent feature relates to the use of XML, or extensible markup language, used for manipulating text, in the 2007 versions of Word. Microsoft described it on Tuesday as a “little-used feature”.

However, Microsoft did not rule out further appeals.

via Microsoft loses Word appeal, will adjust program – Yahoo! News.

Adobe confirms PDF zero-day attacks. Disable JavaScript now | Zero Day | ZDNet.com

Adobe confirms PDF zero-day attacks. Disable JavaScript now | Zero Day | ZDNet.com.

[UPDATE:  Adobe plans to patch this issue on January 12, 2010 ]

Malicious hackers are exploiting a zero-day (unpatched) vulnerability in Adobe’s ever-present PDF Reader/Acrobat software to hijack data from compromised computers. According to an advisory from Adobe, the critical vulnerability exists in Adobe Reader and Acrobat 9.2 and earlier versions.  It is being exploited in the wild.

We can tell you that this exploit is in the wild and is actively being used by attackers and has been in the wild since at least December 11, 2009. However, the number of attacks are limited and most likely targeted in nature. Expect the exploit to become more wide spread in the next few weeks and unfortunately potentially become fully public within the same timeframe. We are fully aware of all the details related to the exploit but do not plan to publish them for a few reasons:

  1. There currently is no patch or update available that completely protects against this exploit.
  2. There is little to no detection of these malicious PDF files from most of the major Antivirus vendors.

With that said we can tell you that this vulnerability is actually in a JavaScript function within Adobe Acrobat [Reader] itself. Furthermore the vulnerable JavaScript is obfuscated inside a zlib stream making universal detection and intrusion detection signatures much more difficult.

In the interim, Adobe PDF Reader/Acrobat users are urged to immediately disable JavaScript:

Click: Edit -> Preferences -> JavaScript and uncheck Enable Acrobat JavaScript

Or, better yet, use an alternative PDF Reader software program.


Just a note – I posted this in 2009 at this time and I see it’s going around this year again. The e-mail that touts this virus is a hoax.

With a subject line like that, how could I ignore it? I received an e-mail from a friend who asked if this was real? According to the message, Norton, Snopes, CNN, Microsoft and McAfee are all legitimizing this so it must be true, right? Well, in this case, it’s partially right in that it’s a warning to be careful. However, there are a lot of scare tactics used which should tell you that the content isn’t true. Read the e-mail message below and I’ll explain myself afterwards.


A check made with Norton Anti-Virus indicates that they are gearing up for this virus!

Snopes was checked as well, and it is for real. Get this E-mail message sent around to all your contacts ASAP.


You should be alert during the next few days. Do not open any message with an attachment entitled ‘POSTCARD FROM HALLMARK,’ regardless of who sent it to you. It is a virus which opens A POSTCARD IMAGE, which ‘burns’ the whole hard disc C drive of your computer.

This virus will be received from someone who has your e-mail address on his/her contact list. That is the reason why you need to send this e-mail to all your contacts. It is better to receive this message 25 times than to receive the virus and open it!

If you receive a mail called’ POSTCARD,’ even if it is sent to you by a friend, do not open it! Shut down your computer immediately. This is the worst virus announced by CNN.

It has been classified by Microsoft as the most destructive virus ever. This virus was discovered by McAfee yesterday, and there is no repair yet for this kind of virus. This virus simply destroys the Zero Sector of the Hard Disc, where the vital information is kept.


In this case, it says the virus will be delivered via an electronic card.  One of the ways that malware can get onto a computer is by clicking on a link or opening an attachment in an e-mail that will then download and try to install the payload. One way that the malware writers try to get you to click on the link is by making it look like it’s an e-card from a friend or family member. That’s been going on for sometime. So, that being said, you need to be careful anytime/everytime you think about clicking on a link in an e-mail, especially if it’s an e-card greeting. Legitimate greetings will tell you to go to a website and enter a code to see the greeting so you won’t have to click on a link.

Any time you get an e-mail message telling you to pass it on to everyone you know, especially since everyone is preparing for it and Snopes says it’s true (even though in this case Snopes really doesn’t even discuss it), question it. Go to an antivirus website and check their “hot” virus list. Mcafee’s Threat Center, Symantec Threat Explorer, US Government Threat Center will let you know what’s the current threats are. Then, you can decide whether to pass it on to everyone in your contacts or not.

Consider this with any message that you get “to pass on”. There was a warning from people about Facebook letting Google index everything about you starting that day. I saw the warning in several e-mails, a couple of groups and on Facebook.  I little detective work showed that Facebook had actually been doing that for the past 2 years, but not with “everything”, only with what the user has designated to be shared to everyone. What is set to be seen by only friends doesn’t and won’t be indexed.

So, if you receive a warning, take it as such and check the validity. Feel free to e-mail me and I’ll let you know if it’s legitimate or not and if so, what you need to do to protect yourself. Comments?

Is It Disk or Disc?

This has been something that has confused me for some time. Come to find out that I’ve been using the right word all along.

Maybe you’ve assumed that discs and disks are just two different ways to spell the same thing. In a new support article, Apple Computer explains that disc refers to optical media – CDs, DVDs, etc where as disk is your computer’s hard disk or floppy disk.

So, there you go. When you need to use one of these words while writing, you’ll now know which is which.

Windows Black Screen of Death: What You Need to Know – PC World

Windows Black Screen of Death: What You Need to Know

Brennon Slattery

Dec 1, 2009 6:40 am

Any Windows owner is familiar with the Blue Screen of Death, that much-dreaded white text on a blue background that essentially says you're through. But what you may not know is that there's a new contender in town: the Black Screen of Death. So what is this horrible-sounding thing, where did it come from, what's being done to fix it, and how bad is it? Here are five things you need to know about the Black Screen of Death.

It stems from Microsoft security updates

After the latest Microsoft patch was delivered on Tuesday, November 10, 2009, users began reporting a crippling black screen. The Black Screen of Death causes your PC to seize up and removes everything except, in some cases, a single open My Computer window. So what happened?

Microsoft apparently made changes to the Access Control List (ACL), a list of permissions for a logged-on user. The ACL interacts with registry keys, creating visible desktop features such as a sidebar. However, the latest patches appear to make some changes to those registry keys. The effect is that some installed applications aren't aware of the changes and don't run properly.

It's not Windows 7-specific

Windows 7 haters: step back. The Black Screen of Death isn't relegated to Microsoft's latest OS. Security firm Previx states that the Black Screen of Death can affect Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7 without prejudice. So if you're considering uninstalling Windows 7, fearful that it is the source of the problem, don't bother. You won't dodge any bullet.

Microsoft is investigating

Gotta give it to Microsoft: It has a clever way of neither confirming nor denying the existence of a PC illness. In an e-mail statement obtained by PC World yesterday, a company spokesperson wrote: “Microsoft is investigating reports that its latest release of security updates is resulting in system issues for some customers. Once we complete our investigation, we will provide detailed guidance on how to prevent or address these issues.”

So does it exist or not? Yes it does. But Microsoft won’t say for absolutely positively certain until it has finished investigating. That’s when they broadly release a fix for the issue and maybe, if we’re lucky, apologize for the inconvenience.

Security firm Prevx has a fix

Prevx, a UK security company that first discovered the issue, released both step-by-step instructions and a download to eliminate the Black Screen of Death. For those who like (and are capable of) popping open the hood of their PC, you can also modify registry settings, though this doesn’t come recommended if you’re unfamiliar with the guts of a Windows machine.

Not as bad as Blue Screen of Death

So how powerful is this beast? Does it compare to the Blue Screen of Death? Nope — they are entirely different problems. The Blue Screen of Death represents a hardware or driver failure, meaning something is wrong deep within the computer. The Black Screen of Death has relatively easy fixes and doesn’t necessarily mean there is something physically wrong with your equipment.

By now some of you may be sick to death of problems stemming from Microsoft and want a clean slate. Here’s how to wipe your PC clean and start from scratch. It may not necessarily be the solution to your problem, or problems, but it can be a gush of therapeutic refreshment to eliminate (most) everything that’s wrong with your computer.

Stay tuned to catch Microsoft’s official fix as soon as it is released.

via Windows Black Screen of Death: What You Need to Know – PC World.