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Video: When New Software Goes Dead for No Good Reason

Written by Gary North on September 13, 2014

It happens. It has happened to you. It has happened to me.

I have produced a video on this. Forewarned is forearmed.

This deals with Nuance’s NaturallySpeaking Version 13, Premium edition. It is a good program (1) when it works, and (2) when you have a professional proofreader. I have the second.

I cannot train it to recognize the words “Iran” and “Iraq,” no matter how many times I try. But other than this sort of thing — occasional tone deafness — which will be fixed by version 25, it’s pretty good.

What I needed was this. Who would have known?

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7 thoughts on “Video: When New Software Goes Dead for No Good Reason

  1. Brady Mosher says:

    The screen in the troubleshooter that asked you if you wanted to save these settings also had the choice to try again using different settings. Try that.
    That should alter the compatibily settings. If that fails you can try right clicking and ” run as administrator” after that an uninstall ( complete) reinstall is in order. When reinstalling run the executable ( setup.exe or such) as administrator and watch for windows messages regarding compatibility mode installation and such. Hope that helps. Where is Dragon’s tech support?

  2. I've heard the same laments from professional videographers and special-effects wizzes about Autodesk and Windows 7. Won't install or repair even when running as admin. All these firms that have cornered the market have fired their QA departments and helplines and refer you to their "user forums" to find the answer.

    Their attitude is "It's your loss in time and productivity".

  3. Mike from Milwaukee says:

    Not sure if you have had this advice given already or not, but you might try just right-clicking on the Dragon icon, and then clicking on properties. That should open up a box with a "Compatibility" tab. When that tab is opened, there is a box to check to run in compatibility mode, and when that box is clicked, a drop-down menu with a number of choices for compatibility are offered. Or, IF the compatibility box is already checked, you could try unchecking. In other words, you might just experiment with all the options in this properties box/compatibility tab (or maybe some of the other tabs). You have nothing to loose at this point by doing all of this, since Dragon isn't working for you at all. I do hope this might solve your issues. I'm not really a technician, just a computer user since Microsoft offered the first windows version, and has consequently been exposed to many many problems over the years, and found that reading, clicking, and praying has often yielded up solutions. . . . Good luck!

  4. Hi Gary,

    I empathize with you regarding the software problems.

    When running the compatibility troubleshooter you made an error, at around 4:20. You choose, "Yes, save the settings…" when "No, try again…" was the correct choice. You would then be taken back to the start of the troubleshooter where you could try different settings. Whether or not you would have found the correct settings is another matter.

    As Mike from Milwaukee suggested, it may have been the case that Naturally Speaking was installed to run in compatibility mode. Since it's a new version that shouldn't be necessary. How or why that setting was made is a mystery. It might be that it got changed to compatibility mode and that's when it broke. Again, how or why is a mystery.

    I'm a programmer by profession and I understand that getting a useless message is infuriating. I won't defend them but I can tell you how they come to exist. A programmer works primarily on creating code that does the required task. If he's any good he will design the program to intercept errors from the beginning, but he will almost never create useful messages early on – because he's focused on fixing the ones he can (his own logic errors) and preventing the ones he can't (errors that come from outside the program, such as missing files or disk errors, etc) from crashing the program completely.

    Windows is incredibly complex underneath and there are hundreds of things that can go wrong. Add to that the fact that users are amazingly creative at doing the wrong thing – using the program in fun ways that the programmer never imagined or sabotaging a working installation without realizing it.

    A conscientious programmer or a thorough QA person will make sure that the quick-and-dirty error messages are made useful. That takes time and that means money. Maybe Nuance doesn't have a good QA department or maybe their programmers are all in India or China so they think what they wrote is good enough. American programmers are lazy, too, I'm not leaving them out.

    You might not believe me but I try to make my programs' messages truly useful. It takes a lot of time. It also makes me try to guess what people don't know. I know Windows and how the computer works extremely well. It might not occur to me that telling you turn off compatibility mode is like an auto technician telling me that the throttle body mass air flow sensor is faulty. (Of course it is, how obvious!)

    [Aside: I wanted to cook a chicken dish and I was reading the recipe in Joy of Cooking. One step said, "Dredge the chicken …" I had absolutely no idea what "dredge" was other than scraping a river bottom to create a channel. I thought it was a really crappy cookbook when actually it's really good!]

    But even if I get it right and I give you a message that says, "Dragon appears to be running in Windows compatibility mode, which can cause problems. To turn off compatibility mode right-click the Dragon icon on the desktop, then click Properties, then click the Compatibility tab and make sure the checkbox for "Run this program in compatibility mode for:" is unchecked", how many users will scratch their heads and curse at me for writing that incredibly comprehensive message? "What's right click?" "What's desktop?" "I don't see Properties." "What's a tab? I don't see the word Compatibility." "What's a checkbox?"

    I'm not being sarcastic, I've done too much end-user support and I've heard users say things that make me want to suggest that they turn off their computer and throw it in a river because they are clearly too dense to ever use one successfully. How often have I said, "OK, do this-and-such and tell me what you see." The reply, "Nothing." Me, "Nothing? What's on your screen?" User, "Nothing, it's empty." Me, "It's just a big black screen with nothing at all on it?" User, "No, I see the picture of my grandkids/dog/1968 Camaro and lots of little pictures." Me, realizing that what the user said was empty was not empty at all, "Please throw your computer into a river."

    The skill-level of the average computer user is appalling. I liken it to a carpenter that doesn't learn to use his double bevel sliding compound miter saw. That thing is a tool that you need to do your job but you haven't taken the time to learn how to use it. (Not you, personally, but computer users in general.) Even if I, as a programmer who wants to do a good job, try to create useful messages, exactly how far do I have to go in telling the user how to proceed?

    I meant it when I said I empathize with you. As a programmer I am constantly faced with incomplete documentation of the functions I need to call. They often have no example code at all or the example shown is the simplest (most useless) case. I just wanted to show you what we techies face on a daily basis and why those error messages might be so unhelpful.

  5. It's not only software that contains useless messages. How about product manuals that are written by non-speakers of English? Even reputable appliance companies have manuals with absurd text in them. My brand new LG Washing machine – crazy!

    This is a review that I posted at Amazon about a remote shutter release that I bought for my Canon DSLR. It's the most absurd not-english that I've encountered so far.

    This is actual, EXACT text as taken from the instruction manual:
    [Group racket function:
    Because the multi-wraps wireless used simultaneously will have mutual influence, therefore the launcher and the receiver have established four digit switch codes, which can avoid disturbance in certain extent. When using the group racket function, you only need to establish completely transmitter's digit code as (small illustration), then all receivers implement the active control to the region, thus realize the control of camera focusing, the shutter and the B mode.]

    The other side is printed in Chinese and I naturally assumed that this was one of those hilariously bad translations by a non-native speaker of English, so I showed the instructions to my co-worker, a native Mandarin speaker. She replied, "I don't know what it says!" "But why? It's Mandarin, right?" "Yes, I recognize the Chinese characters but they don't make any sense. It's the nonsense (rifles through her Chinese/English dictionary), the gibberish. Is a good word, the gibberish?"

    Quality control is atrocious. My first unit didn't work. The replacement shipped with a silica-gel dessicant packet in the battery compartment instead of a battery. While trying to troubleshoot the first unit the seller sent me very specific instructions on what order to plug things in and turn them on. NONE of those instructions were included with the unit.

    He also said, "The battery ships wrapped in plastic. You have to remove it." Hmmm, the unit ships with the battery already installed. There's no reason to think that I should have to open the battery compartment at all, and there are NO INSTRUCTIONS that tell you to do it. Yes, the battery is shrink-wrapped in perfectly clear plastic that fits so tightly that you truly cannot tell it's there; it fits the form of the battery perfectly with no visible seam. You will need a sharp knife to slice through it like you're peeling a carrot and then to try to slip under the edge of the plastic to peel it off. Even once you know it's there you have to work to get it off.

    To make matters worse, the photo of the product mounted on the camera's hot shoe, as shown in the product listing, is misleading and/or irrelevant. The receiver does not need to be slid onto the hot shoe; it can dangle (which is reasonable if the camera is on a tripod). OR, it can be turned around and slid onto the hot shoe the opposite way so that it doesn't interfere with the built-in pop-up flash! As shown the flash cannot pop up because the receiver is in the way. Just turn it around and it won't interfere at all.

    Better yet, demand that these foreign manufacturers pay attention to what they're doing. Get a native speaker of the target language to write the instruction sheet. (It only contained non-english and non-chinese, leaving out all the other non-languages!) Don't leave out critical details from the instruction sheet. Don't stuff a dessicant packet into the battery compartment when it's supposed to contain a battery!

    How do you demand this? By not buying this badly packaged garbage! The unit might work great. It felt solid. It could be, on a technological basis, a great product. How will anyone ever know? I'm not a dope. I have an engineering degree. I can almost always set up and use electronic gizmos without the manuals, but being an engineer it's in my nature to read them anyway.

    My seller refunded my money after shipping two units. He blamed ME for the ridiculous English and the very important but missing instructions about how to connect the device and that the battery ships in a non-functional state. If these guys had to give a refund on EVERY unit sold they would get the hint, eventually. And until that time they would suffer as only the free market can make them suffer, in the pocket book. Make 'em suffer. They've earned it.

  6. Most problems can be solved by RTM or READ THE MANUAL! Have the product handy and RTM it. All things have to be learned, then IT WORKS pretty good, not perfect, but pretty good.

  7. Hi Beano, when did you last buy software that came with a manual? It would have been somewhere in the 1990's. Furthermore, manuals tend not to have chapters on what to do if trying to launch the program produces a sub-second view of the splash screen and then exits.

    These days there are usually two places to get support for software. If it's popular enough then somebody will write a book about it, "Learning Dragon Naturally Speaking Step-by-Step" or "X for Dummies". If not then you might find help on the publisher's web site, maybe in the FAQs or maybe in a knowledge base that should be searchable. The publisher may also host a user forum where your support will come from other users and possibly in-house technicians. A useful first step is probably to search for "naturally speaking suddenly stops running" into a search engine.

    But RTFM? Really? TANFM! (There ain't no …)