01 Oct. 2009
SETI League
PriUPS Project

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 RIKL Review - Dial2Do

I Have a Little List

If I were under any obligation to provide frequent blog entries, you'd be correct to consider me "remiss."  As it is, you can set your dial anywhere between "busy" and "lazy" and not be too far off.  My commute, largely stress-free due to my choice of drive-time and my Prius-inspired tendency to obey the speed limit, gives me leisure to contemplate, listen to music, and consider blogworthy items.  I keep a list on my computer oftypicallyone-sentence items that might make interesting subjects.  Since I come up with a goodly portion of these while I am driving, one "meta-item" is that I wish adding to the list were an easier, or at least safer process to do while I commute.  Thus, one of my list items is "be able to email myself blogitem suggestions from the car." 

As I have mentioned in previous blogitems, I have deliberately eschewed "texting" capability on my cellphone.  If I have unlimited data for email, why should I pay for tiny text messages?  And, not to put too fine a point on it, I prefer not to die in a car accident if I can avoid it, which would mean no texting while driving, even if I were willing to pay.  What I initially was thinking with my metasuggestion was to have a button on the steering wheel that I could press.  While it was held down, it would record what I said and then transfer it by Wi-Fi to my computer when I parked at home or at work.  Next, a program in the computer would transcribe the recording into text and send it to me as an email.  If you're up on the wonders of technology, you will recognize that all the pieces to do this are available, and only some programming and a fairly simple piece of hardware in the car would be required to put this together.  If I spent the time doing it that I lavished on lamenting its absence, I would have what I want.  But procrastination often accomplishes even greater wonders. 


In my reading, I came across something called "Twitterfone."  It allows one to babble into a cellphone and have that transcribed into a "tweet."  I may be a twit, but I don't tweet.  However, I'm not bashful about asking for what I want, even if it involves completely revamping someone else's web site at their expense.  I put Twitterfone to the Question:

> Comment: Hi! This sounds like the perfect service for sending short
> messages to email. I have no interest in "Twitter" but it would be great if
> I could call you and have you transcribe what I say as an email to me.
> Possible?

And received an almost immediate reply from the (I assume) delightful Adrienne Wolf who suggested:

Hi there
Thanks for your email.

It sounds like you should check out Dial2Do


I did so, and was tentatively thrilled to see that it almost did exactly what I wanted.  It was a bit more complicated than just pressing a button.  It required first calling a number with the cellphone, and then saying "reminder."  Although it's an extra step, it also allows you to say "email" and identify a pre-selected recipient.  If you do that it will, of course, send a text email to the person specified.  An extra added plus!

After registering, going through a simple setup procedure, and playing around with it a bit, I decided that this was a keeper.  (Did I mention that it's free?) 

Here's A Demonstration

This link will play the spoken end, i.e., the part that I recorded in the car to create an email reminder to myself.

Dial2Do Web service demo showing "reminder" I sent myself

When I went to my computer, I had the email at left waiting for me.


Note the flawless translation.  It even recognizes its own name and, more surprisingly, my own.

I'm not a web glutton.  I don't use a lot of web services, and I tout even fewer of them.  I've reserved most of my enthusiasm for the GoChords site put together by my friend Leslie Chase.  (Which is doing nicely as of this writing.)  But I'm pleased to have found Dial2Do, not least because it may save my life.  I no longer have to scramble for a scrap of paper to write a note in the car.  I endorse it enthusiastically, with the following


I'm pretty sure I mentioned that Dial2Do is free.  Although I've never met the (I assume) delightful Adrienne, I would be willing to give long odds if anyone wants to wager against me that she consumes food and, for all I know, goes to Starbucks as well.  They probably employ other people, at least some of whom don't live with their parents.  How long will the service remain free?  If they charge for the service, I'll probably start working on my own version.  If they add advertising tag lines to their reminders and emails, I'll probably tolerate it with my trademark graciousness while ignoring it since advertising is invisible.  Will anyone pay to advertise to me?  Perhaps, foolishly, they will.

The other caveat is that the service is too good.  It's no secret that most computer speech-to-text translation is flaky at best.  My recorded demo was made in the car while I was parked.  I've also sent a number of reminders while driving, with the usual road noise as background.  Noise removal is a tough task for a computer, yet was accomplished almost perfectly.  (An example glitch:  I said "light" and it came out as "white" in text.  That's more likely the result of a dropped cellphone packet than a transcription error.)  The quality of the transcription leads me to believe that, at least for now, there is a human in the translation loop.  Further evidence is that the email usually takes a few minutes to be sent, and additional clues include the almost flawless translation of other messages that were somewhat ambiguous.  If I am correct, this accuracy is unlikely to survive when the service attracts its full complement of users.  

For the time being, and hopefully for a long time, Dial2Do gives me the ability to add to my Blogs of the Future list from the car, with safety, convenience, and no expense.  (I routinely use almost a full per cent of my "minutes."  This may push it up to two or even three per cent.)

Even So, He's Unlikely to Return My Life

Experienced readers of this blog will recall my excoriation of Kenneth Lewis, chairman of Bank of America.  Although I was successful in getting his pay reduced, it wasn't until just now that I (along with, of course, Major Major) got him fired.  I think it's OK to use the term "scum" in this paragraph.

If you haven't been following the Bank Of America and Merrill Lynch saga in detail, be thankful that this blog tells you all the news you need to know.

"The Door Into Summer"
The Monkees




Tour de Sol is a gathering, exposition, rallye, or conclave involving, at a minimum, cars that are economical to operate.  Everybody else got to attend, and I got the shirt.  (I was invited, but I got even better mileage by not driving at all.)

I would be disappointed if the shirt weren't green.  On the other hand, I don't like green shirts, so I don't wear this one any more than I do yesterday's Tee of the Day.

2006 Tour de Sol "Staff" T-shirt
Richard Factor

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