Bob and Joy
     By Bob and Joy Schwabach

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June 2002, Week 4 --  OCR: What You See is Almost What You Get



  FineReader OCR

   ABBYY Software's latest version of "FineReader" for Windows adds some new features to what was already, well ... a fine reader.

   The job of Optical Character Recognition Software (OCR) is to read pages with text and deliver a version of those pages that can be edited. The two leading commercial programs for that purpose are the above mentioned FineReader and long established OmniPage Pro, owned by ScanSoft.

   I mention the job definition for OCR software because the reality is always less than what the users expect. Like voice recognition software, text recognition software makes mistakes. Sometimes it's two or three mistakes to a page, sometimes it's a dozen. As the number of pages being scanned multiplies, the number of mistakes can add up to thousands. In short, this is not a free ride, some human is going to have to go over the OCR scanned text and correct the errors. The higher the scanner resolution settings the fewer the number of mistakes, but it also slows down the scanning. A setting of 300 dpi (dots per inch) seems to be the best compromise.


   That said, the next failure point is typically page layout. Many text pages have illustrations, sidebar text boxes and even colored backgrounds for part of the text. This is an area where FineReader really excels; the page nearly always comes through to the computer exactly as it appeared in the original, and the text can be edited.


   The program can read text in 177 languages (but not character based languages). The output can be channeled directly to Microsoft Word, Excel or Outlook. Pages can be emailed or moved directly to a web site. This is the best OCR software we have seen so far.


   FineReader 6.0 Professional is $230. The corporate version, which adds the capability to process documents across a network, is $500. These are list prices. Web site:


Doubling up with remote computing


   Raritan's new master KVM console lets two users operate the same computer up to 1,000 feet apart.


   Several keyboards and monitors can be plugged into the console box and all connected to the same computer. If the computer is powerful enough -- and most new ones are, it will appear to each user as if they have full control of the machine. The advance made with the current Raritan box is increased distance. Usually, such hookups are restricted to 50-100 feet apart. These are not wireless connections; Raritan's MXU2 console uses special cabling to increase the distance to 1,000 feet. Website:


Cutting out the noise

 Noise Cancelling Speech Recognition Microphone

   Whether listening or speaking through microphone headsets, it's nice to be able to cut out extraneous noise. It's sometimes difficult to understand what's being said in video and telephone conferences, for example.

   The new DSP-300 headset from Plantronics ($130 at has a noise canceling microphone and high quality earphones. The $110 headset combination is a little expensive but a great thing to have for online conferences. The noise canceling microphone is a big help for speech recognition software like Dragon Naturally Speaking or VoiceXpress, where external noise can cause recognition errors.


Internuts: Lost Beethoven, and others




--  A guy from Wisconsin and another from the Netherlands got together on the Internet and combined efforts to put together a list of all of Beethoven's works. To their surprise (and ours) they found nearly 400 pieces that had never been recorded. They had the computer record them through a synthesizer. You can listen to them all.

--  Claims to be the largest classical music collection on the web. Thousands of pieces; many can be heard in full and most are free.

--  Listen to Beethoven pieces and read news about classical orchestra, conductors, etc.

--  Free classical piano pieces in MP3 format for downloading.

--  Not a site for listening to Bach pieces, but a compilation of recordings searchable by category. They have lots of links to listening sites.


Kid Stuff

 Curious George 


   "Curious George's Downtown Adventure," for ages 3-6, Windows and Macintosh, from Knowledge Adventure

   I used to love these stories as a child, and loved reading them again to my own children. Curious George is a monkey, of course, an incurably curious character created by German authors Hans and Margret (stet) Rey in the late 1930s. The books have sold more than 25 million copies and have never been out of print.

Books: PC Nuts and Bolts


 Inside the PC


-- "Peter Norton's New Inside the PC," by Norton and Clark; $40, Sams Books, You know someone is the big draw on any book when their name precedes the title. In this case, Peter Norton is the guy.

-- "PC Hardware in a Nutshell," by Thompson and Thompson. And ... "Windows XP in a Nutshell," by Karp, O'Reilly and Mott; both $30 from O'Reilly Books O'Reilly's "nutshell" series is well known in the computer industry and an excellent collection.

Correction: The Caveo anti-theft system for protecting laptops has several layers of protection. Removing Caveo's protective PCMCIA card from the system is one of these layers and will deactivate the laptop.


NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at  or