Spell-Check: Autocorrecting Diarrhea

Spell-checking has been around since the early days of computing. I can’t say that it has improved much in recent years. Sure, any software can flag misspelled words, but it is the suggested words that are in dire need of help. When I’m typing a word that I don’t exactly know how to spell, I make my best attempt at it and let the computer correct me. The suggested list of possible words often perplexes me. Sometimes I cannot imagine how it arrived at those words.

Before I launch into my rant, I’ll say that Google is the best at figuring out pretty much any word spelling combination. If I can’t find the spelling anywhere else, a simple Google search yields accurate results every time. I’m excluding Google from this rant because that is an Internet search, which I think is a little different than composing text in an application.

I’ll begin with some positive praise. Microsoft Word has the best spell checking and suggestion engine out there. In my experience, no other program comes close. That’s one of the many reasons why I am using Word to write this post, which you are reading now. It doesn’t always give me the precise word I’m looking for, but it still beats the competition.

The Firefox browser added built-in spell checking many versions ago, and it is one of the worst examples of this behavior. Long ago, I gave up composing blog posts in a browser window for this very reason. The Firefox spell checker is just terrible. Sure, it knows when a word isn’t in the dictionary, but determining what that word should be is something it fails at more often than not.

Apple’s iOS operating system is not great at suggesting spellings for misspelled words either. I am often baffled at the words it suggests. Sometimes I think the dictionary engine is powered by nothing more than a random word generator. All too often when I tap a misspelled word, I get two or more completely off the wall suggestions, or even worse, the message that “No replacements found.”

All of this brings me to one tricky word to spell: diarrhea. For some reason I can never spell it right on the first try. I always want to spell it “diaherria” (which is obviously incorrect.) My misspelling is close to the actual word, so it should be a snap for the computer to correct it for me. Not so! Not a single program that I’ve tested this on can get it right.

MS Word thinks it is “diathermia.” Firefox throws up its hands and doesn’t offer any suggestions at all. The Chrome browser thinks it is “diehard.” The Mac OS X dictionary also thinks the word is “diehard.” The suggestion from iOS, however, is by far the worst. That same misspelled word in iOS 6 is autocorrected to “fisheries.” Yes, fisheries! Completely absurd! I could maybe understand that if it had grown accustomed to me typing that word several times in the past, but I’ve never typed that word to my knowledge.

I’m left to think that there must be a deliberate effort to suppress the word diarrhea from being on a suggested words list.

I only used the word diarrhea as a single example. There are many others. I struggle with autocorrect every day, and I’m sure other users do as well. I don’t see why it is so hard to figure out what I am trying to spell.

If anything good has come from writing this post, it’s that I’ve typed the word diarrhea so many times that I’ll probably never forget how to spell it right the first time.

The Nine Minute Snooze Standard

It drives me crazy that I can’t change the snooze interval on my alarm clock. I don’t want it to be nine minutes. Once my alarm sounds off, I smack the snooze button and fall back to sleep. Occasionally I’ll crack an eye open and peek at the time. How much longer do I have until it goes off again, I wonder? I can never quite figure that out, because it’s multiples of nine minutes. It’s ridiculous. I want it to be five or ten minutes so I can calculate in my barely awake state the number of times I can hit the button before I end up oversleeping.

What is the reason for this nonsensical standard, anyway? I did some research to find out. I read several articles and the consensus is that it originates from the days of old when clocks used gears to operate. The inner workings of a clock had long been established before the snooze feature arrived in the 1950s. In order to make it work, the snooze gear had to be added to the existing internal configuration. The gear limitations left the designers with only two snooze options: Nine minutes or slightly more than ten minutes.

Studies had shown that people fall into a deep sleep after ten minutes, so the decision was made from the get-go to cap the snooze interval at nine minutes. I now understand and appreciate where the standard originated, but that doesn’t explain why we still use it in the modern age of digital clocks.

This day in age we should not be stuck with this tired nine minute snooze standard. I’ve had enough. I think it’s sheer laziness on clock makers that we don’t have an option to set the snooze intervals. Even the alarm feature in my phone is hard wired for nine minutes! I am unable to change it without using a separate alarm clock app that touts that particular feature. It’s high time that the end user is given more control over snoozes, in bedside clocks and phones alike.

Old fashioned alarm clock

Optical Drives Still Matter

On the latest This Week in Tech show (episode 271), a lengthy discussion took place surrounding the new Macbook Air and its lack of an optical drive. The new Air looks good. I understand that an ultra-slim product such as the Air wouldn’t include an optical drive. However, I think that “regular” computers should still carry them.

The panel on the show seemed to unanimously agree that optical drives are a relic of the past. Leo Laporte, host of the show, scoffed “When was the last time the anyone used their optical drive?” To which everyone chuckled in agreement. I shrugged at their tone. I had just used my DVD burner the night before I heard the podcast! I use it often and I wouldn’t want a computer that didn’t have the ability to read or write to optical discs.

May I also mention that I also use my optical drive to burn audio CDs? What for, you ask? To play songs with my CD player in my car, that’s why! Scoff if you like, but I still occasionally have to use a compact disc player.

CD and DVD media are not dead. In fact, I prefer to buy software on physical media, especially large programs and games. Giant downloads aren’t the problem. The problem is that in the end I have to store that download somewhere as a backup for the program that I have paid money for. I eventually may need to reinstall that software on my machine at some point. Blank DVDs are cheap. I’m not going to purchase a slew of USB sticks to store each package on.

Everyone that is deep inside the tech industry likes champion a rush of existing technologies to the grave. The problem I have with it is that I, among most people, still rely on those technologies! No one is selling me a computer without a DVD drive any time soon. I promise you that.

Dropbox

Do you know about Dropbox? I’ve heard rave reviews of the service through my tech sources. Over the weekend, I installed Dropbox on both my Mac Mini desktop and Ubuntu Linux laptop. On each computer, a Dropbox folder was created in my user folder. All files dropped into the folder are automatically synced between your computers. You treat Dropbox just like any other folder on your computer. I’m very pleased. It’s file sharing made easy. All users get 2 GB of storage for free, and it is available on all platforms. Amazing!

Dropbox

My Favorite Podcasts

Earlier this year I began subscribing to a series of podcasts via iTunes. I didn’t know what I was missing by not subscribing to podcasts. I’ve been hooked ever since. Today, podcasts make up the bulk of my iPod listening. I thought I’d make a list of my favorites.

  1. This Week in Tech (TWiT)
  2. MacBreak Weekly (TWiT)
  3. Tekzilla (Revision3)
  4. DiggNation (Revision3)
  5. HD Nation (Revision3)
  6. Cranky Geeks
  7. Buzz Out Loud (CNET)
  8. Savage Love Podcast
  9. This American Life (NPR)
  10. The Story (NPR)
  11. Stuff You Should Know (HowStuffWorks)
  12. Stuff You Missed in History Class (HowStuffWorks)
  13. TechStuff (HowStuffWorks)
  14. The Adam Carolla Podcast

Mashable

I’ve recently become a huge fan of the website Mashable, which calls itself “The Social Media Guide”. It is a terrific website/blog with daily news and information regarding all realms of social media. I find myself checking the site more and more these days. If you’re into tech and social media news, this site is for you. In addition to their website, Mashable posts throughout the day on Twitter. The tweets and links within are often great reads. Check them out for yourself. Visit their site, or follow them on Twitter at @mashable.

Twit.tv Technology Netcasts

My dad recently introduced me to Twit.tv, a site for video netcasts, podcasts, and general discussion dubbed “This Week in Tech”. Leo Laporte is “The Tech Guy” and hosts several weekly streams surrounding all things tech. You can download free podcasts via iTunes, or tune in directly from their website. After listening to a single podcast this week, I have already learned a wealth of new things. Discussions are often on the bleeding edge of technology and computer-related news. If you’re a techie, you should tune in. Check out it. I highly recommend this site.

"Cyber" Products

Do you ever see these cheesy magazine ads for computer equipment or electronics that are made by companies like Cybertron or CyberPower? How lame. Why would anybody want to buy these products? How can you have any confidence in something that has such a cheesy name? If they didn’t put any effort in forming their company, what makes you think that the stuff they are selling is worth anything either?

The next time you see an ad for a “Cyber” anything, be sure to laugh and think of me…because you heard it here.