Blogsy for iPad, #itworks!

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Testing Blogsy

So far iPad has not had an effective blogging app. Updating blogs with the iPad required logging in to a web service using Safari or using an email based approach, as in Posterous. However, it was not easy to make a quick post on the iPad with basic formatting such as bold or italics, alignment and inserting media files.

Perhaps Blogsy can change that?

The good news is that Blogsy does address these issues. Rich text and images can be inserted into your post from an online source, and importantly from the Photo Album on your iPad, as in this test screenshot.

The process is quick and it works, but you do need to flip between a rich view for certain media/table insertions, and to an HTML view for writing. If you are comfortable with a basic HTML, you should be fine.

One of the best uses of using such an editor, would be for posts based on Images (not just photos- but charts, reviews of apps using screenshots, tutorials which need flowcharts or diagrams).

It also keeps a list of media uploads to wordpress from the photo library. This is nice, as you can upload screenshots, drawings or annotated whiteboards first. Then when you explain the images, later, you have them in the sidebar of the app


iPhone 4 Antenna Complaints Roundup

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In fact, this idea of putting the antenna outside can be a masterstroke from Apple. Compare the past models – the antenna is inside and then most users put a case anyway, so the it gets buried deeper still….

I am here in Mumbai, yet to see the iPhone 4. Based on twitter comments and online reports about the antenna issue, I wonder if anyone has succeeded in making any phone call at all!

The fact of the matter is that this issue is turning out to be a classic example of how people approach problem solving. Here is a round-up of typical complaints:

1. Apple is plain stupid for designing an antenna which can be touched. We all know doing that causes a disturbance…

Surely, a company which sells many millions each year (even if they were all bought by fanboys), might have some engineers who have a better idea than the ‘we all know’ category.

Even if this is a flaw, it might be worth appreciating the fact that Apple was trying to be more sophisticated in making it better – as the whole world knows Apple likes to make things better in form and function. At times you can get ahead of yourself… We will have to wait to see how wide this problem actually is.

2. Just by holding it in a certain way, and the signal bars are dropping!

Sure, they might. For some phones I have used just tilting them makes it feel as if you are playing with mercury. The bars are a simplified approximation of a complex set of parameters, (that too fluctuating over time) which most of us ‘we all know’ types have little clue of.

Here is a recent case of my installing iOS4 on my iPodTouch 2G. Now my wifi bars are in a flux all the time! But guess what, my wifi experience has in fact improved.

I have a MacBook at home with internet sharing via AirPort (no wifi hub as I connect with a USB device). Before iOS4, my iPodTouch would work with this ad hoc wifi, provided it remained awake all the time. If I took it downstairs and woke it say after  30 minutes, it would not re-detect the wifi hotspot. Now it does, but the bars (arcs) fluctuate a lot more. It means nothing. I can connect and reconnect and it is all for the better. The connection does drops, perhaps like before, but if I swivel it, I can catch the signal again. I am happier for sure.

There might be some issue like that with the iPhone 4, just that the sensitivity side-effect in this case may be on the less happier side.

3. Ok, I can ignore the bars, but calls are dropping!

Sure they might, more for some, less for others. Perhaps more than the iPhone 3G- for some, less for others. This is a different device. It could well be that a 3G user has poorer result with this device in the same area. Likewise, there will be some who have a better experience as well, as the antenna’s new design of improving weak signals has indeed taken effect.

But now each time a call drops, we are sure to connect with the $200 we paid for a broken antenna, rather than redial and get moving. Fortunately, when my wifi drops I do not tear my head over re-installing iOS4.

4. So many complaints cannot be wrong!

Nobody knows the stats of how – all the others – are faring. What we see online are people actually reacting to dropped calls (fair enough, it did not happen to them earlier) but those who do connect better, may not find it necessary to tweet, as their experience is just fine.

Like you see reviews- often 8/10 may complain about a hotel, but  to conclude 80% are unhappy with a hotel is flawed indeed.  Most who liked a hotel may not comment online (back to hectic life after vacation), as there was nothing to complain.

Signal reception is a statistically complex issue, just a different device, can have different results for the same user/region, often for the worse. But we surely do not know wide this problem is.

4. It does not happen with other phones in the same situation!

Great, now the blogger turned scientist has opened a lab, to test the reception issues. Put some other phone besides an iPhone 4- and tabulate the differences in the ‘exact’ same situation.

But surely the bar readings are not like an Avogadro’s number experiment under same pressure/temperature situation. Two mobile devices are in fact likely to perform the same in different conditions! The iPhone 4 may do better than the other, in some other situation.

Please get results of all the possible combination of conditions – cell towers, nature of location, buildings, rooms within, etc… and phone angles near/away from each wall…  Then average the bars across the spectrum of typical use. I doubt if any blogger or testing agency has done that, or rather, can do so.

5. But the bumper is improving it, and Apple should have given it free!

It’s all about how much the bumper improves (due to reduced touch interference) and how much it attenuates it (canceling the signal to noise benefits of an open design at weak signal areas).

In fact, this idea of putting the antenna outside can be a masterstroke from Apple. Compare the past models – the antenna is inside and then most users put a case anyway, so the antenna gets buried deeper still. So by putting it outside, the typical usage (which is with a case), makes it only one layer deep. Moreover, when bare, it is designed to make reception possible where it was not, especially when placed on desk during downloads. So you can have the best of both worlds!

You can buy any bumper from elsewhere (choice!) so Apple need not give it away for free, unless the iPhone 4 simply does not work at all without the bumper.

6. Instead of admitting to a flawed hardware design, Apple wants to fix it via a software update! How can that be?

This is where we need to wait, even though reports prove that this is a hardware defect. Why? because hardware and software are not independent and more so in Apple’s case.

Here is a practical example of a headache I faced way back in 1994, when PowerMacs were introduced. I had a job of color correcting museum scans in New York. Our flatbed scanner which worked flawlessly with older 68K Macs suddenly had problems with the new PowerMac – after few scans it would hang during the file transfer. It gave us headaches restarting the Mac and scanner, changing memory settings every half hour…. There was a flaw in the SCSI bus (the sort of equivalent of firewire then) of the new PowerMacs was what the boss concluded.

The exact same scanner worked fine before, so it must be a flaw in the new Mac…

It turned out that the scanner software had a problem of timing of data transfer. It had assumed an arbitrary delay for data to arrive during the scan (instead of proper wait-check loop and read buffer when ready). With the new PowerMacs the bus was faster, and it exposed the flaw which always existed in the logic of the scanning software- of waiting arbitrarily rather than checking for data.

So it well could be that the bar indicator has a flawed logic since years, as Apple says. It got exposed by a new (and more sensitive) antenna. You’d say that Apple should have got it right in the first place, since it is not like the scanner company, who are better at optics not software. But this problem is also a lot fuzzier and statistical, than a peripheral to desktop data transfer issue.

It perhaps triggers code which assumes that fluctuations of some type (over many variables) must affect corresponding indicator bars, which in some cases are leading to a dropped call. But a better logic which accounts for signal variations due to touch, and the gain in signal to noise improvement due to the new design might well be on its way and prevent indicator changes or dropped calls- for the few or many who do face it.

I’ll buy an iPhone 4 and a case later this year, till then my iPodTouch and old Nokia for calls will work just fine.

14 July 2010

saumilzx on wordpress

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My older posts (before June 2010), are now imported into wordpress. However, if you need to access the original posts they are at

I may still update blogspot occasionally, but is my new blog host now.

Mumbai, India
4 June 2010

For more, try my site:

Links referenced in Apple Tablet Chess

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This is the list of links and concepts from my last post some of which are already ready for an Apple Tablet and those concepts which can shift paradigms with more gestures and 3D for the UI and 3D FX within documents too-

3D and Realism

Times RSS Reader
Apple’s GUI Patent of 1995
Magic Cap OS
Headspace Lite
Bee Docs Timeline

VR Shopping and in-app upgrades
iVerse Comics

OpenDoc-like parts/drag-drop tools & services
Circus Ponies Notebook
Speak it

Easy Rich media creation
Magic move in Keynote 09!

Gaming and Entertainment
Dock the tablet into a larger screen- my 2009 wishlist
Wooble iBoobs (not tested, but pinch-shake apps will wobble the adult industry for sure).

As mentioned in the last post Apple used to innovate for survival, today it is in a position to innovate to shake the industry. Whether an Apple tablet shifts paradigm(s) or not, many of the cool apps/ideas on the Mac OS X and iPhone are already begging for a tablet and will change the way we work – in a very big way- by just running/porting them to a tablet.

It is all about is Apple’s Positional karma!
One more day to go!
26 January 2010

Apple ‘Tablet’ Chess

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Apple’s secretive approach is more like poker or bridge, where the others are left guessing. But concepts of chess (where the pieces are visible), can also be applied. We can anticipate natural advances to their core technologies of both the iPhone and the Mac, since a tablet- it better be so on 27th Jan- is in between.

Gradual positonal advances and tactical game changing experiments are imminent! Lets see what kind of chess Apple needs to play…

Apple’s Strategic Anchors- iPhone and Macs
The Mac and the iPhone are well placed as revenue earners and technically solid. 10 years ago Apple innovated to survive. Today it can innovate to unleash something experimental. (Tactics flow from strong positions!). It took many sharp steps for Apple to get here. But now it is time to overhaul some technologies, and shift paradigms…

So lets see which concepts Apple can address, some of which were unfulfilled dreams for Apple and for the industry-

1. Publishing and ebooks
Fluid Positional Play- advance core technologies from what they already are.
This is obviously what everyone is eagerly waiting for. eBooks already look nice- with page flips and annotations on the iPhone. But a tablet will make it look and feel like a book. Apple can, and this is a natural next step. Fluid Positional Play, considering core-quartz FX/transitions already in the OS X.

Scrolling and book dimensions are the major issues when it does not fit the tablet form factor. See Times RSS Reader for a cool newspaper like view for feeds on Mac OS X. But one can expect page tilting (to reduce scrolling) and subtle brightness changes with an accelerometer for enhanced feel.

2. Personalized 3D GUI
Tactical mobility on an open file! The competition is barely just catching up with Expose. 3D is far away.

Remember how an Apple Patent 08/052,865 was supposed to revolutionize a GUI with 3D icons in 1995. Unfulfilled!

Magic Cap tried to simulate a room with real objects (it was brilliant then in 1995), and even today there are 3rd party desktops which swivel and skew to give you a 3D look. But real 3D needs to be touched, not explored with modifier keys.

The road is clear, with multi-touch moving on steroids, and the widgets/icons are begging to be felt! The technical skills of rendering 3D with todays processing power and touch gestures makes this an ‘open file’ with both rooks aligned on it. Apple can then use 3D output in various fields- forcing tactics- to just boost almost all types of display, interaction and report generation.

Fast user switching of Mac OS X accounts already flips desktops as rotating cubes. This could well be the way Spaces works too.

For a feel of navigating space with interactivity try iPhone app Headspace Lite (like Apple’s Hot Sauce Browser in 90s). Or try BeeDocs Timeline (OS X) to get an idea of how a simple timeline can knock you over by 3D skews.

3. Virtual Reality-Shopping
in-app purchases was Apple’s Postional Shot!

Shopping online failed in the 90s because of cumbersome checkout processes and lack of realistic feel of products. The former, has already been solved with an app store and now in-app purchases makes every store or bookshelf- dynamic. iVerse Comics (iPhone app) update a bookshelf by push notifications already.

If the 3D enhancements and touch gestures as indicated earlier, are done, this will pave the way for virtual shopping (what the heck cover flow alone might do it). Again all that is needed is a tablet to deliver goods and content- in a form factor that makes sense. Charging for the delivery is what an in-app purchase is all about. A silent chess shot with definite purpose.

4. OpenDoc, again?
some preparatory moves can be seen… contextual services!

In the 90s when Apple was looking for the next big OS with multi tasking and all that, they worked on OpenDoc- a radical new way to work. There would be no monolithic applications! Just tools which would select themselves, based the ‘part’ you worked in. So every document would be like a layout program with many different parts- images, spreadsheets, text etc. The user could also install tools such as spell checkers from one vendor and say a formatting feature from another… too ambitious for the 90s…

But even though applications will not go away, this was what the internet needed then- as each brilliant programmer and designer could focus on their own niche skills- and the user would stitch the apt tools together. Photoshop plugins are a good example of how every developer does not need to re-invent the core editing program.

But if you see the Mac OS today, you can see widgets/HUDs hovering all over, small drag drop utilities which just do a simple but relevant task well – Collage tools (Posterino), Image sizing (ImageWell). You also have Outliner and Notepad files as a package– which can embed other files of any kind (How about Circus Ponies Notebook on a Tablet?). iWork 09 spreadsheets are already smaller purposeful sections instead of an ugly giant grid.

Most importantly, the services menu is now context sensitive in OS X Snow Leopard. So spell checkers, text expanders and text to speech type services which are universal will perhaps be enhancing the ‘text parts’ in a document, without switching apps. TapIt4Me and Speak it (iPhone apps) are waiting to offer their services to every text snippet – anywhere.

Even if a super-document centric paradigm is not adopted, if each document can host any media/data type and active widgets (web 2.0 style but as local apps), and they can be edited or run in their own ‘part’ – a enhanced document model will be the new big thing.
You will not have to make a presentation- that will be the way you work!

Something tells me that Apple may shock everyone here with a game changing document model… may be not… but for sure hybrid docs which absorb all types of data are a natural progression, sooner or later. (can I please scribble and annotate inside any document?, not just PDFs in Preview or PDFpen).

5. Multimedia for reference/education
forget chess- this just needs a tablet and docking options… (and Hypercard, anyone?)

CD-ROMs were supposed to replace text books? didn’t… they were slow in the 90s, needed a clunky computer to load one. Most importantly, creating a multimedia demo, required fiddl
ing in timelines or lots of programming…

Now with solid state memory and rich media tools, this looks solved. In fact all that is needed is a tablet- the iPhone has some cool AV annotation tools (SonicPics), Diaries/Journals with rich media (Organizer), and with a spotlight like search and tagging mechanism- reference work will be multimedia centric. For a kiosk like presentations- just take a look at how much can be accomplished by just one – magic move in Keynote 09!

6. Network Computing!
Deep positional play- with many silent steps over a few years…

This was yesterday’s promise of Java and Netscape. But it is possible only today with Amazon S3, Dropbox and other clouds, that we can assume to save and open all data from a server. Then any Tablet will be ‘my’ tablet- as the data ain’t in it. But if this will happen, it will happen with small but well planned steps-deep positional play- hosting more apps online, then backing up and synching data online… eventually saving data online.. until we will have an empty tablet- Tabula Rasa! …an iSlate! The Tablet might just silently or incidentally fulfill the network-is-the-computer mantra

7. Gaming and Entertainment
Tactics to get every kid and adult on to the OS X ecology

My awareness about Computer Games is unfortunately not developed beyond chess. I do love sports but am not a Video game buff. But with touch gestures and even basic 3D, there will be scope for a different type of gaming- on the tablet and where the tablet is just an input console for another gaming gadget. (or if we could dock the tablet into a larger screen- see my wishlist).

Also, the entertainment apps invite you to touch, pinch and shake (Wooble iBoobs)…I cannot say how well it works, as I have many other things to buy, but I guess a larger form factor will help… umm this is more about Apple’s chess positions not kamasutra.. though some excel in both (@pogonina, a Chess GM).

8. Augmented Reality (AR)
in another game of chess? with Steve you never can tell though- camera, GPS, action…


So what impact will a successful tablet have, assuming it becomes a must-have gizmo like the iPhone? If Apple does pull of half of what is possible, based on their Positional Advantage, of having a priority on key technologies of modern times – as in the iPhone and OS X – it could get every single tablet buyer to be a Mac user of sorts. Even now, every iPhone user is using a mobile version of OS X, but not really getting any work done- in the desktop sense. So an avid iPhone user is not Mac user, as such.

But the same may not be true for a tablet, which in all likelihood will not just be a content consumption device. If you create or do work on an iSlate – or whatever it is called- you are then close to being a Mac user as well.

In fact, the Mac vs PC wars may be about to end… as the iSlate will convert both of them, gradually… So Apple’s positional path will then be- Mac technologies came to iPhone; both iPhone & Mac+more touch/3D come to an iSlate (now); iSlate technologies back to the Mac (like iPhone touch gestures enhanced Mac trackpads)…

The only major issue, is still about doodling and scribbling, which touch interfaces are weak, since fingertips are not precise and obstruct vision. Either an additional stylus or a virtual one, will surely be needed. Many iPhone apps try to address it in many ways, but Apple needs to nail this.

Let’s see- 27th Jan ain’t far away… 2010 may not just be 2010!

Time to catch up some sleep.

Mumbai, India
24 Jan 2010

wishlist for Twitter lists and hashtags

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sending @messages to Lists?, Info page for each list, @messages to #tags rather than users, following #tags rather than just users…

Twitter recently added lists as a feature to enable users to group tweets from selected persons for a specific purpose. For instance, my interests are in technology, publishing, sports and travel. It obviously helps if I can, at times, ‘listen’ to a subset of tweets from friends who fit one of the above interest areas. Also, others can then follow one of my lists, as they find a group of persons which fit a context.

I would like to know if certain things are possible or have been so from third party services, which tap into twitter APIs.

1. Send a message to @username/myTechList?

So far posting a tweet which starts with @username will only appear on that user’s twitter feed and to common friends of both. However, can I post in such a manner that only those on myTechList see a specific message? This way when I talk about say cricket, it will not be seen by those followers, who care about my views on iPhone or Macs.

Can it be done by starting the tweet as @username/myTechList? As far as I have tested it does not seem so.

2. For a List, can we have an info paragraph with an ‘about this list’ URL for that username/List page? (like the user’s biography/link field)? This is perhaps needed by users who wish to follow a list, as they have a clear idea of what the purpose is.

3. Further, there are situations where conversations about a specific #tag such as say #ConfWEB09 for a web conference may need to be ‘heard’ by searching for that tag only, rather than on a default timeline.

Can we send a message to a @#tag, rather than to @username? So if we post starting with @#ConfWEB09 none of the followers can see it in their feed but those following the conference can search and track? Of course, if there is a major development in a conference, and a user wishes that it be seen by all followers, then #ConfWEB09 can be inserted inside the post.

4. #tags as ‘context domains’ within twitter

So far we follow other users. Can we extend point 3, and formalize it a step further- have a concept of following a #tag. Twitter can even sell or allow users to own specific (unique) #tags.

This will be groundbreaking development in twitter- till now you followed users, now you can follow #tags? If this is done, you need not search a #tag to track conversations, it will show up on your feed, even from strangers you do not follow

As of now, you can open a column in tweetdeck to track hastags or searches. However, by formalizing a ‘follow’ this hashtag, even for a temporary purpose, will make it cleaner for those who follow you as such, but are not very keen on micro-conversations about a conference or specific topic discussions.

More later

These are just some suggestions from someone who has actively used twitter since 2 months only. Its still like a beginner’s mind, as they say in zen- before habit takes over and questions do not come as naturally. Also, do not expect me to calculate any exponential impact it may have on twitter servers.

Ebooks vs Printed Books (or no reading at all?)

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5 points that ebook gadgets will need to address to be viable alternatives to print.

A blog debate at nytimes about whether our brains like ebooks, has some excellent views across the history of reading, and if humans were meant to read at all.

For instance, Plato disliked reading because it was apparently a ‘new’ distractive medium. Incidentally, I just bought an audiobook of Plato’s Republic (itunes for $1.99). This is great, as the masterpiece is anyway in a dialogue form.

In ancient India, oral traditions of knowledge were the key (partially because there was no printing technology few thousand years ago, but it was about listening more than writing or reading). Sound permeates the space around and mantras had chandas (a meter of specific syllables per quarter-verse) for rhythmic renditions. In fact, letters and words represent the sound they make. So reading is about speaking sentences to yourself.

However, no one can dispute the value of a printed page, which offers parallel pieces of information. Can be distracting or can be useful as a whole, if it is a chart or a graph.

Ok, the debate is, if electronic publishing such as ebooks (with or without audio visual additions) will be viable alternatives to printed books.

Firstly, there is no reason to believe that print will be totally obsolete- just as drawing and painting are still valid art forms even after photography and film have been around for over 150 years. Now it is digital photography… So a book like a drawing- requires ‘no processing’ or rendering on a device. It just ‘works’ when you flip pages.

Now looking at it from the view of ebooks. Based on current options the readers are not quite there. Most gadgets-kindle or whatever-fall flat. The iPhone versions are crisp, but way to small to be meaningful alternatives to print.

So what enhancements are needed for ebooks to be seen as viable alternatives to print?

1. It should feel like a real book!
Yes, we need at least a tablet of 5×7 inches. Then you need a curvy-curly feel with the look of pages/binding etc. If Apple makes a tablet, they will have focused half their efforts on just this aspect. So comparing a yet-to-be-disclosed tablet vs printed books are not meaningful, because half an Apple can overhaul the current state of (pathetic) ebook renderings. … the test for this will be if a book is open on a tablet and lying on a sofa or desk, would you mistake it for a printed book?

2. Free of Distractions.
Since your book and content are electronic, you have an option to keep looking for different options because of widgets, notifications, and just our ever inquisitive behaviour of looking for updates or doing a cover flow of your virtual library.

But just as they overcame distractions in Plato’s time, they can eventually in this era. The device has to impose a stricter locking metaphor. For instance, many writing tools- such as WriteRoom on the Macs black out the screen- windows and icons- so that you can do nothing else but write. If it is a ebook gadget, such an impostion for reading will be needed. Can be done.

Such distractions are valid, for instance, on the iPod as well. Since you can access all your song albums you might tend to not listen to anything specific properly. But nobody can dispute the fact that an ipod is a viable alternative to CDs or tapes. (Of course the main difference between ipod and ebook analogy is that the way we listen to music- the speakers or earphones have remained the same, so an iPod was instantly accepted as a new technology. This is a matter of point 1, above).

3. Fixing/Flexing Book Sizes?
I can tell you that arriving at the right size for a book is one heck of a major time consuming headache (having printed photographic travel guides, in postcard size and mini-coffee table format). When you print, the sheet sizes of a press have to be fully utilized in order to save costs. This is not much of issue for novels, but for photographic books, you want a large size for impact and for convenience you need a small one (especially in travel).

So the ebook will solve this problem? Not sure!
Scalabilty of content has progressed (for sure) since two decades of desktop publishing. PDF and Postscript were invented exactly for this- to scale shapes and fonts- and to render on screen and print in a consistent manner. Safari on the iPhone displays web content brilliantly with pinch-zoom…. but wait.. is not our point 1 about a feel of the book? If you pinch-zoom-scroll then it is not like a real book!

However, this does not mean that when content does not fit in a tablet or display, you undermine the medium just because of scrolling or zooming.

But this issue of size, is where utmost caution will be needed by designers of ebook gadgets-

a) those books which can fit the display, they need to make sure the zoom options are kept off the interface and users are forced to dig in if they need to zoom, (only it they must). Perhaps revert to normal page size when powered on/off/or launched. When all is exact, let it look real!

b) When the content does not fit display, use an overall containing frame as ‘virtual’ magazine or newspaper. The internal areas can then follow conventional zoom, scroll mouseover etc.

The Times Reader (RSS) by Dustin Macdonald on Mac OS X – does a brilliant job off fitting dynamic content within a look of a newspaper, with headlines and articles flowing into allocated columns. The overall newspaper look is of fixed size, but content flows in, and then details can be viewed (as in RSS summary and full page etc).

I would also love to see what I have mentioned in a earlier blog- to dock an ipod touch into many CPU-less tablets of various sizes

4. Annotation and scribbling as if it is paper.
A lot of avid readers love books because of the ability to mark, highlight and scribble notes on the pages. The digital medium should do this better than print (Preview, the default Mac viewer already does a basic job), and if openURL is adopted then referencing other books in a collection will just take research and referencing to new levels.

Also, for touch based devices the disadvantage of accurate scribbling an annotation has to be addressed! see tweet

5. Text to speech cannot be ignored.
Audio books by real people narrating a story is great. But Text to speech (TTS) has made huge strides. Alex the new voice introduced in Mac OS X Leopard was is an indication of how natural it can be. So listening to text rendered by a computer should not be underestimated. My first podcast on a famous cricket match after Mumbai terror attacks of 2008 was using TTS.

We may be in for an era of listening and r
eading to go hand in hand. Both are after all sequenced forms of communication. I do it all the time, rather than print. Relaxing my eyes and saving trees as well!

16 Oct 2009

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