Tag Archives: microsoft

Bill & Balmer : Microsoft Fun Times




The media is awash with different perspectives on the Laptop for Kids Project being implemented in Kenya.


I find it interesting that very few of the contributors to this very important discussion care to quote or review other global instances of children being exposed to technology at an early age.


The global experiences of OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) in its various formats, of The “Hole In the Wall” experiment by renowned educationist Suguta Mitra all point to this program being an opportunity to spark the next level of professionals ready for the information age.





I feel blessed to have gotten got early exposure to technology.


I was fortunate enough to get a feel of DOS,Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing, Lotus 123 (and a lot of Paratroopers, Digger, Chess, Prince, TD (Test Drive), Lotus, Budokan… I clearly played more games than anything).



Under the tutelage of The Late Steven Barasa Wamalwa, at The Computer Centre, Eldoret, I experienced one of the first child-focused computer educational programs in Kenya in the late eighties-early nineties. Under his direction, some of the most influential Kenyans in technology, like John Walubengo learned and honed their craft.


I was never particularly interested in code, thus I did not end up as a developer. Yet in my view this early exposure to command prompt and the basics of  how computing works has aided me to be the formidable Information Worker I am now.


In all fields today, computing is melded in the substratum of process, communication and output. Yet we still find people claiming a computer is not working, yet they haven’t turned it on, or being less productive because of screens like this:






I can quote the venerable Bitange Ndemo stating,

Bitange Ndemo ‏@bantigito18 Jul

1m kids will join std 1. If 10% of them become computer literate, that is 100k. If 10% of these end up in ICT, you have 10k experts


False, some might say, but I was one of those kids who had been working ({sic} playing) with computers since I was 7 or 8; the benefits to me have been invaluable.


Working with computers may not necessarily guarantee us a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. We may have a higher chance of forming a Larry Flint or a world ranking member of Anonymous, or none at all.


Of this, though, I am certain, we shall have a more productive and more effective workforce as a whole.

Sharpen Writing Skills Dulled by Autocorrect!

I posted last week, a link to Office gamification game Ribbon Hero 2.


Here is another game that will take your word-processing prowess to new heights.



The grading game is a cool game of the First Person Tutor genre, (Get it? FPT?)

You are a teaching assistant and you work is to grade and  fail students, for which your college debt is marked down.

You have few seconds in which to read through and X out typos, grammatical errors and the like, the stuff which copywriters, sub-editors and editors eat in their sleep.

If you are in the news, media, ad, legal and copywriting industries or just want to undo the damage that autocorrect has done to your written English, this is the game for you.

It is out on iOS for all your iDevices and you can play the web version HERE.

FPT: Grading Game

SIRI and Speech Recognition


At the height of the Siri craze, and the Siri memes like Stuff Siri Says, it was pretty easy to believe that Apple single handedly reinvented the way we interface with devices.

Just like tablets, the niche market advertising strength was so good it could fool even the most sober of minds.

Take the tablet concept for example, its work design and concepts have been in full product release by other companies yet to the albeit sober minds who had no knowledge of the history of technology, Apple “invented” the tablet.

So it has been with Siri and Speech Recognition.

So much so, when Android developers pushed out IRIS, a sirilike mod application of SIRI ( note too, that IRIS is SIRI backwards) for the android app store over a weekend hackathon, comments on the blogs announcing that milestone were brutal.

Some suggested they be sued, others were like “ Apple ALWAYS does it first, everyone follows…”

In this field too however, there have always been subtle forerunners.

So the other day I was typing a speech on my laptop (it runs Windows 7). I was helping out a friend’s parent by writing her speech for her retirement dinner.

I always use Avafind to trace my references and resources. I think the wizards who created Avafind deserve better, it’s the quickest way to anything on ones computer.

This time however, I clicked the windows start button, and in the search box under my programs,typed the word “Speech”.

You would never guess what happened. If you haven’t tried it, you should.

Up pops this little elliptical chrome interface with a microphone,a mic meter, a darkened text instruction screen with the silvery words “listening”.



So this little tyke is Microsoft’s speech recognition software for Windows, and she’s been here on my laptop all this time!

Its a pretty nifty bit of software. The commands on windows are not so puny as those one handles on Siri, so it requires a bit of machine learning for it to understand how you speak and say certain words, through some tutorials, where it gives you sentences to dictate to your computer.

You also need some learning too, the commands on how to switch from application to application, open different programs, exit, open a tab…

The best aspect is the dictation feature, which works pretty well.

The concept takes some getting used to, and unlearning typing to familiarize oneself to speaking to the computer is no mean feat, especially the aspects of thought process and flow of ideas. I may soon be posting blogs fully from dictation, but not just yet…

when you try it you quickly realize how complicated some of the tasks on a computer are.

The ability of the machine to first learn to listen to you, and then compute your commands into functions is pretty impressive.

I really admire the guys at call centers doing remote PC helpdesk. Ever tried to remotely help someone to carry out a Word or Excel task that they have never done before?

“ click on…go down the menu, click on this, right click …” Its pretty hard work.Especially when the person on the other end is not a power user.

Right now as is, Microsoft’s speech recog software is not plug and play, however, I am certain with the current interest in speech recognition software, Windows 8 will have some pretty impressive speech features. They actually hint at this on the Windows 8 Beta Portal.

Microblogging and Social Media: Changing our way of life

As I lie here in the dark of night having been captured by this thought, and now sending it out to the world , I realise that every human being is important.

The advent of blogging, viral media and social networking affirms this more than ever before.
This has however altered the way daily life is lived.

Each event, function,concert,holiday cannot be simply experienced without being twittered,flickred or facebooked

It is all based upon the presumption that everyone in our world is looking out and cares for what we have to say,that we are perpetually on a stage.

Or the grim thought that at our death our history and eulogy is digitally written by our own hand.
The benefits of social media far outweigh the demerits.
However this microwave era, this period of bubblegum life will soon enough come to pass.
This is, to me, made clear in three key aspects in which it has affected our lives.

The first aspect is the lightness with which it comes;a serious message that was once carried in a weighty letter is posted in a microsecond and quickly buried in a mass of meaningless garbage.
This adds in the “cry-wolf” effect, where a serious message is taken lightly. I need not remind you what happened to the boy who cried wolf.

Do you not find it annoying, the multiple media we have to deal with? Today, an afternoon after a hard days work for the typical urban person means skype,email,i-pod,facebook,twitter,flicker,newspaper,tv,radio,sms,phone calls. All this outside direct person to person conversations.
You would think that we are now better at multitasking, but surveys show that persons raised in this media explosion have extremely short attention spans.They can hardly concentrate.

What hurts me most though, is the waning of pure peace and enjoyment of beauty. One no longer basks in a the orange basket of a sunset or sunrise,plunging and losing oneself in its beauty, without first whipping out a camera to “capture”the moment, not knowing the moment was lost once the plunge wasn’t taken, and the decision to be a cold observer behind mirrored steel was made. We will then tumblr it, tweet it, facebook it, stumble upon it, sms it and by the time we are done, it will be dark or high noon,the moment lost in time.

Instead of building addictive habits around our media,we should validate and qualify the importance of our use of the same,and thereafter,use them in moderation.