Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free OCR

(Warning: Geek post, little entertainment value) Once upon a time the Xerox Textbridge Classic computer program for doing Optical Character Recognition (OCR) worked for me. Even more than that it had worked recently, but it was finicky and this week I couldn't get it to work at all. It kept complaining about my C: drive being full. It wasn't. I had defragmented my C: drive recently. Maybe that was the culprit. Windows Explorer was also having issues: if I right clicked on the C drive and hit properties (e.g. to check how full the disk was), Explorer said it experienced a problem and had to close; and when it did it restarted the Windows desktop in order to recover. Swell. I did solve that problem, but it didn't help Textbridge. (When Explorer had its problem it offered to let me debug it, so I tried and that told me that there had been an access violation in neroshx.dll. I uninstalled the Nero CD burning software and that solved that -- I hadn't used Ahead Software's Nero in a good while anyway).

Textbridge had never worked that well, anyway.(For those who don't know OCR software can process a picture of some text and turn it into editable text for use in a program like Microsoft Word or Notepad. It's very handy if you only have a printout or old typewriter copy of something (and a scanner).) Textbridge tended to interpret things as all different fonts and very odd characters even when the digital image text was in one non-proportional font like Courier. But the last time I'd searched, several months ago, I hadn't found any freeware alternatives. That changed this time. I found Softi Software's FreeOCR on the ZDNet download site. It's based on the Tesseract OCR engine which is apparently Open Source (I think I found that last time I searched, but wasn't about to write my own application around the engine.). FreeOCR looks to have been posted in the last couple months. And the really good news is that it just works. At least on my old typewriter copies of text (see "The Little Wanderer" on The Chipster Zone web site).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Avocado Tips

I enjoy eating avocado on occasion. Generally I prefer it as it comes: just peel it and pit it as it is ripening -- not too hard, not too mushy. I like to slice it on sandwiches or chunk it on tacos, in wraps, etc. As you may know, however, leftover avocado has a bad habit of quickly turning brown making it a bit unsightly. It seems to be the exposure to air that is the culprit. So short of eating it all up, which is a bit gluttonous, I've found a couple things to be helpful. The first is to leave the peel on a portion of the avocodo. I just slice off as many rings as I think I'm likely to eat; leaving the pit in helps, too. But if you still have leftovers, you can put them in a rubbermaid-type container and add enough salsa to cover the avocado. This seems to prevent it from turning, at least for a day or two. Later you can just chunk up the leftovers and it becomes part of the salsa. Enjoy with your favorite tortilla chips. Yum.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lunch Run with Eagle

Since it was only 72 degrees and overcast I decided to run outside at lunch. I started out about 50 yards ahead of a group of 3 guys – they caught me after about a quarter mile, but I chatted with them for a minute and then stayed about as close behind them as I do my wife a lot of the time, 20 feet or so back, for the first 15 minutes. They said they were going 6 or 8 miles. I said I wasn’t going that far, maybe 4 or 5. I stayed with them as far as Lady Anne Lake at the back of Edgewater – they went straight on the roads and I turned right to go around the lake. I thought I’d at least go across the dam and see what wildlife I could see – maybe a great blue heron or a water snake. I only saw the more common animals: turtles, fish and ducks (including a coot) until I crossed the second bridge. I was just noticing how really low the water was when I saw a head sticking up in the shallows that wasn’t quite a turtle. When I got closer I could see it was a snake about 3 feet long. It wasn’t a Banded Water Snake, which is what I usually think I see, because I could tell that the markings didn’t go all the way around in nice bands. I looked it up later on the internet, identifying it as a Midland Water Snake. A few yards later I was still memorizing the snake pattern as I started to bend right with the edge of the lake, in the corner of my left eye I caught something swooping toward the center of the lake, maybe 100 yards from me. It was a large bird of prey that dipped its feet in the water and then flew back up with lazy but powerful strokes of some very large wings. It wasn’t a heron – all the wrong build for that, although the wingspan was about right; it was too big for any hawk and with the white head and neck and pure white fan of tail feathers this was no turkey buzzard, not that they swoop over water anyway; it was a bald eagle. Its talons were empty but it kept rising and flew off northwards over the trees leaving me just hoping it would turn around and take another pass at the fish it missed. Uplifted by the sighting, I kept going on around the whole lake and ended up with almost 6 miles under my feet.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Stardust Cuts Guessed Right

Back on August 13 in the Stardust Memories entry I said: "I wish the dead princes would have been used more as a greek chorus -- my guess is you can find a fair amount of that on the cutting room floor." And now Mr. Gaiman has confirmed it on his blog: "I'm sure there will be some stuff that was cut, but I have no idea what... (ghosts I hope. Lots of really funny ghost bits went away.)" (referring to the eventual DVD release of Stardust).