Saturday, December 24, 2016


One of the tools that I use in my quest to get a basic grasp of Italian is a Berlitz text called Italian in 30 Days.  It's a decent book, and though nothing is as good - or as scary - as actually talking to someone in a new language, it helps.  Though anyone who says that you can get basic competency in 30 days is either lying, very, very good with languages, or has a much more minimal defintion of 'basic compentency' than I do.

One of the things that I like is that the book supplies a series of vocabulary words with each chapter.  There's about forty or so.  When I encounter them - or I come across words in other situations - I type them into Anki, a freeware flash-card application that lets me review them, with the frequency of show-up related to how difficult it was for me to remember the word, the last time.  When I was first learning French (and I think I will always be learning that language), I used it for a month to see what it could do for my vocabulary - and was astonished at how quickly I learned the words.  I wasn't perfect -- never am, never will be -- but I learned a whole bunch of words much faster than I'd been learning them prior to that. So Berlitz is good, and getting their vocabulary into Anki is good.

But typing those words into Anki is tedious, and, the tireder that I am, the more tedious and error-prone.

When we had bought our latest printer - it really is true; you buy a printer without the expectation that it will last a long time - it said that it came with ReadIRIS, an optical character recognition software tool.  Well, it didn't.  But the idea of being able to simply scan a page, and tell the software to change it into a digital format that I could then modify to Anki's liking - that was attractive.  Consequently, I bought ReadIRIS.  It's not cheap, but I thought hey, Christmas present.  Or something.  I installed it, and pointed it to a JPG I had which included text.  It worked.  Not perfectly, but at about 80% accuracy.  For the others, I had to correct the 'word' that it came up with, and in a few cases, change its hieroglyphics to letters -  pretty sure that &4((({ doesn't spell anything.  So not bad.

Reading the documentation, I noticed that the software said it could work directly from a scan - rather than having to create the JPG and read it, I could simply scan the original and take the output directly into ReadIRIS. This sounded good, so I decided to try it. Didn't work. Long story short, I learned that I would have to deinstall and reinstall the software that drives the printer.  Which was,, at last count, about 15 different pieces.  With no guarantee that ReadIRIS would work at the end -- and possibly not the printer, either.  (There seems to be an inverse relationship between how new a piece of technology is and how willing it is to work after being removed and reinstalled.)

Maybe its a sign of age, but I think I'll just stick with making JPGs.

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