ANZ 23 Mobile Things: Voice interaction and recording (18 June)

June 18, 2014
This is a re-post of my original blog post "Thing 21: Voice interaction and recording" that I created for the ANZ 23 Mobile Things course last year.


I think we can all agree that one of the great things about modern mobile devices is the variety of ways that we can interact with them. Unlike older phones and desktop computers, we are no longer restricted to a keyboard (or mouse) interface - we can swipe, shake, tilt and talk to our devices to perform different functions. This week's thing is recording voice audio, and using our voice to interact with our device.


Voice interaction functionality has been a major feature in recent smartphone releases, such as iOS's Siri, Android's Google Now, and Samsung's S Voice. These voice-activated interfaces allow users to verbally request information, make appointments and set reminders, dial phone numbers, and more. They generally utilise natural language, and may answer questions in a personal or informal manner.

Siri and S-Voice

Dragon speech-to-text products let us dictate to and/or command our mobile devices. Dragon Dictation (iOS) is a free app that converts your speech into text that can be utilised by other apps on your phone. Dragon Search (iOS) allows you to use your voice to search websites and other mobile content providers. Dragon for Email is available for Blackberry users, and hopefully Dragon Mobile Assistant (currently in beta in the US) will come to Australia and New Zealand soon for Android users. [edited to add: it looks like this app is available in Australia now :)]

SoundCloud was mentioned in Thing 20. Although it is mostly music oriented, it is also suitable for all kinds of audio recordings including podcasts, news and story telling.


Does your smartphone include any native apps for recording voice memos? I often use iOS Voice Memos to quickly record and email a voice message to myself. Maybe you will also find this a useful or different way to capture thoughts on the go?

Download Dragon Dictation (or a similar speech-to-text app) and have a go at dictating a few sentences into the app. How well did it interpret your words? You can use the edit function within the app to correct any mistakes and add punctuation, and the share function lets you send the resulting text to an email, text message, tweet, Facebook status, or simply copy and use it wherever you need it (eg. Evernote, word processor, blogging platform, etc.).

AudioBoo is a social network for sharing audio. It is often used for recording and broadcasting podcasts, and has an active visually impaired community. Or if you've already tried SoundCloud from last week, perhaps this week you could have another play with it, but with an emphasis on voice recording. Maybe you could tell a funny story or share something that you've enjoyed about doing the 23 Mobile Things program - then share it on Twitter using the #anz23mthings hashtag.

Check out the 23 Mobile Things Pinterest board on voice recording and interaction for more information and links.


Voice interaction and recording apps provide a different method of interaction with mobile devices, and can cater to users who have a personal preference for aural communication, or an aural learning style (rather than visual / written). How could you use these apps in your library to communicate with clients in a non-traditional way?

Speech-to-text and text-to-speech apps are especially useful for making content more accessible to visually and/or hearing impaired library users. Knowing your way around some of the available tools will help you to provide advice to clients with different access requirements. And of course you can use these apps yourself to proactively convert library-generated content in a variety of accessible formats.

Could your library use a service such as AudioBoo or SoundCloud to share oral histories, story time sessions, podcasts or author talks? Both of these audio sharing apps provide options to embed audio files in web pages, so users don't need to sign up in order to access the recordings.

Photo credit to Mike Lau.


ANZ 23 Mobile Things: File sharing – Dropbox (18 June)

June 18, 2014
This is a re-post of my original blog post "Thing 19: File sharing - Dropbox" that I created for the ANZ 23 Mobile Things course last year.


This week's thing is file sharing using mobile devices. The portability of mobile devices makes them an ideal tool for accessing and sharing files on the move. We will look at sharing / syncing files across multiple devices (eg. your smartphone, tablet and PC), and sharing files with other people.


Dropbox is a popular cloud storage tool for accessing and sharing files on mobile devices. It has apps for Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry and KindleFire. Files can be added to Dropbox by syncing from another device (including a PC) or directly added to the Dropbox mobile app. Dropbox also has a Camera Upload function that enables photos taken on a mobile device to be automatically or manually added to Dropbox. Dropbox files can be shared by sending a download link to another person, or by inviting others to a shared folder.

Dropbox Camera Uploads

Google Drive is a file storage and synchronisation service provided by Google. One of Google Drive's strengths is the ability to edit files on your mobile device, making it a great tool for collaborative work.

Evernote, previously discussed in Thing 17, can also be used for sharing files across devices and with other people.


Download the Dropbox app and create a Dropbox account. To get the most out of it, you may also wish to also install Dropbox on your PC or other devices. Add a file to Dropbox and watch it appear on another device with Dropbox installed. Try sharing a file from Dropbox by emailing a link to yourself.

Check out the 23 Mobile Things Pinterest board on file sharing and Dropbox for more information about file sharing using mobile devices.


Do you have a favourite file sharing tool? Have you ever used it to share files or collaborate with other people on library projects or presentations?

Dropbox and other file sharing tools are a great way to collaborate with colleagues in other locations and/or organisations, however it is worthwhile checking whether your workplace has any restrictions in place regarding the use of such a service.

Consider privacy and confidentiality issues in relation to storing personal information in the cloud - this article touches on some of the potential legal and ethical issues surrounding client confidentiality and trade secrets.

Photo credit to Magnus Jonasson.

Note: I have updated the content of this blog post to remove references to Bump, a file sharing app that is no longer available. The original post at ANZ 23 Mobile Things has not been changed.


A magnetic subject (17 June)

June 17, 2014
I thought I would be too tired again to blog tonight, but I've just seen Steph's post called "Magneto-grrl" and inspiration struck! Thanks Steph :)

I'm also a collector of fridge magnets, accumulated during my travels over the years. Each time I've moved house, arranging them neatly on my fridge has always been one of the small pleasures that I've found in setting up our home.

I prefer to purchase magnets myself, rather than receive them as gifts, as I like to be part of the story that brought them to my home. Each one has a memory attached, and most often they remind me of special places that I've visited.

Fridge magnet collection 2010

This photo was taken in 2010, just after we moved to Darwin the first time. It's grown quite a bit since then, so I suppose I should take another one soon. They've since spread to the freezer and bar fridge though, which will mean more than one photo to capture them all!


#ICAD week 2 round up (15 June)

June 15, 2014
Another week of #ICAD (Index-Card-A-Day) has passed, so it's time for another round up of my week's creative efforts.

The second week was a little harder than the first week, as I hit a few creative stumbling blocks. I'm trying to do something different each day, and that will keep on getting harder as the challenge progresses. The central card in the above collage was the result of feeling frustrated at my own lack of technique (and sometimes imagination too).

But I'm persevering, because some days I create something that I didn't know I was capable of. That makes me feel proud and happy, and gives me confidence that this is a worthwhile exercise in practising both creativity and technique.

The #ICAD Facebook group is active, encouraging and inspirational. I've finally got a reason to visit Facebook on a daily basis, but I imagine I'll drop back to my usual apathetic level of participation once the challenge is over *lol*

Photos of each day's card are being uploaded on my Flickr account.


KPop obsession (14 June)

June 14, 2014
Some of my readers may be aware that I've become just a little bit obsessed with KPop over the last year or so. And JPop. And CPop.

You see, one Sunday morning early last year I discovered SBS PopAsia. It was around the time that Psy's Gangnam Style was still going crazy, but that wasn't what caught my attention. It was a five member boy band doing a synchronised dance routine in their music video. I don't even remember who it was now, but I had an instant flashback to the 90s! I watched a few more videos featuring multi-member boy bands and girl bands, and I was fascinated by the catchy music, great production values and energetic dancing. After a few weeks, I was hooked.

SBS PopAsia is on Sunday afternoons now, and I don't manage to catch it very often. But that's okay because I have YouTube :) I follow a bunch of KPop/JPop blogs on Tumblr and Feedly, so I keep an eye on the latest releases and news that way. And I have an extensive YouTube playlist called 'Fave Asian Pop' that now has over 100 videos on it :)

I was thinking of sharing a few of my favourite videos in this post, but it would be impossible to limit myself to any number that is remotely reasonable *lol*. So instead I'll just include a couple of my favourites that are in the charts right now.

The first is 200% by Akdong Musician. They're a brother and sister duo who write their own music. They're cute and quirky, and this song is so adorable! Although I like the video, I actually find it a bit distracting from the music and prefer to listen to the song on its own merits.

My other fave right now is Eternity by VIXX. It's a good example of the high production values I mentioned earlier, and the song itself is quite addictive. I have a bit of a crush on Ravi, the group's rapper - he's the one with blue hair in this video (in KPop lingo, he's my 'bias' in VIXX).

No, I don't understand any of the words (except for the English parts), but that doesn't matter a jot. I just love the music, the videos and the KPop culture in general. Most of my KPop fanning happens on my Tumblr account, where I also happen to love making the occasional gif :)


Wet weather day (14 June)

June 14, 2014
It was a lovely wet afternoon in Melbourne today :) Lovely because the weather held up this morning so that we could run errands, move boxes into storage and treat ourselves to morning tea at a fancy cafe, and lovely because the rain started after we'd got home so that we could do indoor activities with the heater on and enjoy the sound of the rain outside. My kind of wet day!

Wet day

I'm not doing too well at keeping up with #blogjune this year, although I have already blogged more this month than I had in the entire year preceding it! This week just gone I've been on early shift at work (7am-3pm), so I thought I'd have plenty of time for blogging in the evening. But early mornings need early nights, and I'm not so good at those - meaning I fell further and further into sleep deficit as the week went on. So this morning's little sleep-in felt *really* good :)


Retro library posters (10 June)

June 10, 2014
I love a bit of retro style, and these vintage library posters are fantastic! I think they could still be used today :)

RETRO POSTER - The Book Hunter

RETRO POSTER - Books are Arranged ...

RETRO POSTER - When You Want Facts

And for the fiction buffs ...

RETRO POSTER - There's Romance in Books

There's a whole Flickr album of these posters, collected by a library technician who goes by the username Enokson.


Homemade paneer (9 June)

June 9, 2014
Many years ago, when I was living in Canberra, I did a couple of courses in Indian vegetarian cooking with some friends. It was a fantastic experience, and I still use many of the ideas and recipes today.

As well as learning how to prepare many delicious Indian recipes, with a focus on healthy home-cooked meals rather than what you would find in a restaurant, I also learnt how easy it is to make your own flatbreads, grind your own spices, make chai tea from scratch, and the subject of this blog post - make homemade paneer (Indian cottage cheese).

We regularly use paneer in our version of palak paneer/saag paneer, a spinach/silverbeet and cottage cheese curry (see pic below). I've also used it in paneer makhani (a curry with a butter chicken style sauce). Both of these recipes use paneer when it has been set firm and cut into cubes, but it can also be used without setting, as looser curds, to make vegetable kofta.

Palak paneer (saag paneer)

Paneer is really quite easy to make at home, and much cheaper than buying it in stores. It just takes a little time and preparation. We usually make a double quantity for a curry to serve four people.

Homemade paneer

Paneer (Indian cottage cheese)

  • 1 litre full cream milk
  • 1 Tb fresh lemon/lime juice
(Note: you may need more than 1 Tb if using a low acid lemon or a squeeze bottle)
(Note: lemon juice gives the paneer a milder flavour than lime juice)

  • Heat the milk in a heavy-based pan. At the point of boil, add the lemon (or lime) juice, stirring continuously until the milk curdles (the whey should be almost clear).
  • Leave the milk on the heat for a further 30 seconds, then remove from the heat, cover and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
  • Strain through a muslin cloth or clean tea towel, and squeeze out all the whey (Note: don't discard the whey if you're making a curry, as it makes a flavourful alternative to stock).
  • The paneer can be used as loose curds at this stage, but if it needs to be set firm then put it under a weight (1-2 kg) for half an hour - we usually use the bowl of whey as the weight.
  • Remove the weight and cut the paneer into desired shape and size.

Paneer can also be used to make Indian sweets, in which case our teacher recommended using 1/4 tsp tartaric acid dissolved in 1 cup water rather than lemon or lime juice. I haven't tried this method yet.

P.S. I've also added this recipe to my Recipe Box page.


#ICAD week 1 round up (8 June)

June 8, 2014
The first week of #blogjune and #ICAD (Index-Card-A-Day) has drawn to a close, and as promised in my first post I have put together a round up of my week's #ICAD efforts.

I have found the Index-Card-A-Day challenge to be a lot of fun, but also surprisingly challenging. It's been a long time since I've put pen or brush to paper on a regular basis - and it showed! I felt quite clumsy on several occasions, especially when trying new techniques or media.

But that's the point really. It's about exercising my creative muscles, and giving myself permission to try. My experiments may be failures or successes, but it doesn't matter as long as I do something to stretch myself creatively. I'll admit that they haven't all been easy to share online, but I'm proud of them nonetheless.

It's also been unexpectedly easy to make time for (much easier than writing blog posts anyway!). Tim is doing the Index-Card-A-Day challenge with me as well, and we've set up half of the dining table with a plastic cloth and all of our art supplies so that we can easily jump in and start work any time. It makes for a great circuit breaker after a busy day at work :)

I'll be continuing to upload photos of each day's card on Flickr.


Letting go (7 June)

June 7, 2014
Tim and I both took a big step today. We delivered our analog televisions to the local e-waste recovery centre and said goodbye.

Why was this a big deal? Because we have trouble letting go. I've blogged before about my struggle to overcome a collecting habit that's been ingrained since my childhood. I also have difficulty dealing effectively with things that might come in handy one day, and anything that has a sentimental attachment.

My little black and white TV was a gift from my parents on my 18th birthday (I still remember the three 'big' gifts I got for my three 'big' birthdays - a camera for my 16th, a television for my 18th and a stereo for my 21st). After I moved out of home, that little telly was my only TV until Tim and his colour television moved in with me, and I've never managed to let go, even though we never used it again. It was still in good working order, and it looked so cute sitting up there on the top shelf ...

Tim's colour television was his first major purchase after he'd started working. He bought it when he was working in the mining industry in Western Australia. Nowadays it would be regarded as a medium-sized TV, but back then it was huge! It was our main television until earlier this year, having survived the switch to digital thanks to a set top box. When my Mum moved into aged care at the start of this year, we got her large, flat screen television, and Tim's TV went into limbo.

Clearing out my parents' house this year has provided us with a lot of perspective though. Seeing what eventually happens when you don't throw anything away is a sobering experience. So this weekend, we finally plucked up the courage to say goodbye to our respective televisions - still working, but also not working. Knowing that their parts will be recycled wherever possible helps, of course.

Goodbye old telly.

Letting go

Sally Cummings

Librarian. Crafter. Geek.
And much, much more :)
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