06 September 2021


 Term is almost starting! And with term comes teaching on campus. And the teaching can sometimes be spread out over the day. I might have a session at nine, one at 1 o'clock and one at four, for instance. I don't want to just pick my nose in the hours in between such contact hours. In the olden days, I could just find myself a computer somewhere on campus, and get some work done. But since I talk to my computer all the time, I need a computer and privacy. I basically need to be alone in the room! And that computer needs to have my voice recognition software on it. The software I run is installed on my hard drive, and not on the University Drive. So on main campus, my options are limited.

In the olden days, I would just go back to my office in Menai Bridge. It is much closer than Bethesda! But there is no computer there now. So I needed one of two things: an additional computer in the office, or a laptop. I figured the University would be more keen to get me a laptop than to give me two computers, so I just sent an email to IT services and my line manager, alerting them to the situation that I would soon need to be able to work in two places, and that I figured I needed a laptop for that. And to my surprise, IT services pretty much immediately emailed back and said "we have a laptop ready for you, come bring back your desktop and trade it in for this laptop". Wow, that was quick!

That next day I had too many meetings to squeeze a big computer swap in between, but the day after that I went to IT headquarters with my (actually very new) desktop. It is a crazily busy time, so I had just shut down, pulled out all the peripherals out of the actual computer (and I have a lot!) and took it away. All my information is either in the cloud or on external hard drives, so I didn't worry about just handing in my entire computer. But I was a bit worried about my voice recognition software. If that wouldn't work, I couldn't actually use the laptop.

I handed in my desktop, and the chap at the desk checked whether I could indeed log in to the laptop. And I could! Then I asked him to check if my voice recognition software would work, and he checked that. We did have to actually take it from the desktop and manually place it onto the laptop, but he was happy to oblige. I suppose they are not so busy before the students come to town! And now I had a computer that ran Dragon, so I took it home.

At home I had the task of organising all my peripherals again. That involved some uncomfortable lying underneath the desk, plugging as much as possible in underneath the desk, and plugging everything I needed access to, or which had an insufficiently long lead, on top of the desk. And the computer worked! The second screen connected effortlessly, and it connected to the network without problems too. I also managed to make it communicate with my keyboard and mouse. So far so good.

Then there were Dragon, and my graphic tablet. My tablet allows me to avoid mouse clicking, where Dragon can't do that, or where it is just a lot more efficient. So Dragon allows me to work the computer, and the graphic tablet helps with allowing me to use my hand a bit without that doing too much damage. Only when I really need to, I will use keyboard and mouse. For logging in I need the keyboard, of course, and when I communicate in Welsh I have to just type. But when I do these things manually I pretty much use up my quotum. I really don't want to be using my hands for anything else! But then the microphone button of Dragon was on red, which is off, and it wouldn't come back on. Nothing I did made it come on. Oh dear.

I then wanted to know if the computer recognised my headset at all. I thought of trying it in our lecture capturing software Panopto, but I would first have to reinstall that. I can't do that without Dragon! I then decided to try it in Teams, as that comes pre-installed. I just randomly phoned a colleague. He couldn't hear me! So my computer was not recognising my headset. Oh shit. I can't troubleshoot that without Dragon! I felt my adrenaline levels rising. It is such a busy time, I need a computer, but a computer without functioning Dragon is pretty much the same as a computer without mouse and keyboard for everybody else. I needed help!

I first emailed helpdesk from my phone; they don't have a functioning phoneline at the moment. But then I realised they would still be open. I could just bring in my computer, my headset, and my graphic tablet (which also wasn't functioning properly) and ask for help. So I jumped into the car!
When I got back to IT the same bloke was still there. And he sorted everything! He managed to connect the headset and the tablet, and I briefly showed him what Dragon can do. He was impressed! And then I could go home and actually take this computer into use. It did still involve some faffing; I use not only Dragon but also SpeechStart, and in my hurry I had left that on the old desktop. But it only costs 30 quid so I just bought it again. And then I could really start! I needed to tune some settings; I needed to get rid of as many notifications that get in the way and need to be clicked away as I could, and make sure Dragon functions the way I like it to, and then I could start doing my day job. By then, of course, it was dinnertime.

I pretty much lost a day to this exercise, but it is a good investment; I now have the possibility of working both in the office at work and in the office at home. That is worth something! I even managed to snaffle a desk chair for my office on campus. The original one now lives at home! But there are enough going around. So I intend to bring my old television to the office as a second screen, and buy a spare headset as I am absolutely helpless without one, and then I have two functional offices! I can just drag the computer in between the two. Semester one, here I come!

New setup

No comments: