Video Subtitling Made Simple

If I had to choose between Articulate, Camtasia, PowerPoint, Captivate and Adobe Presenter for the ease of creating eLearning content, I would probably always go with Camtasia, with PowerPoint in a close second.

Back in May 2020, around the time the world fell apart, I posted a blog titled One Cannot Live by Camtasia Alone (well maybe), which described my first use of Articulate 360. Since then, I have had the opportunity to use other applications but I still keep coming back to Camtasia.

I recently upgraded to Camtasia 2021 and I was happy to see that the developers did not or change the GUI–like so many other companies do–in such a way that a long-time user would find it difficult to use, nor did they make changes to imitate other application GUIs.

I upgraded to 2021 in order to work on a contract translation and audio subtitling/captioning project. The client created a Camtasia project and upon attempting to open their files, I found that the files were not compatible with my outdated version.

The transition to Camtasia 2021, and the completion of the project, could both be aptly described as “seamless.” In addition, it did not cost very much to upgrade (~$100).

Camtasia Captioning

Captioning in Camtasia is simple. Start by clicking the CC Captions button in the left side menu, then start typing. The application has predefined time segments that can be adjusted for the audio segment length and the speakers rate of speech. Add additional captions by clicking the green Add Caption button.

Camtasia 2021 GUI Captions

I never view the training unless I cannot find something intuitively. Yes, I do realize that I am missing out on features that I could probably be using. Sometimes I am lucky and discover them on my own. This time the discovery was an ADA button. [Disclaimer: I am not sure whether the old version had this option].

Making the captions ADA compliant is done in two clicks: Clicking the ADA button, and then choosing the make compliant option. Gotta ❤ that!

To make the application even more useful for language professionals, I would suggest a few additional improvements. The two use cases/features that come to mind immediately are:

  • a plain text, csv or Excel spreadsheet import tool that would read the start and end time stamp
  • a multilingual spell checker

In the meantime, I will continue working with Camtasia and a separate text editor. Great application, 10 years, 3 versions and counting!

So what tools are you using for movie and video subtitling? Let me know and I’ll post about it in the future. Let’s share ideas!

Signing out

This week I was talking with family members about their last wills and testament, final plans and all the sorts of topics that no one wants to think about (but everyone has to). Most of the important documents are filed with the local court, or notarized or in some other manner made legal for future use when we “sign out.”

View of a Businessman holding a cloud of social media network icon

For those of us on social media, signing out also means planning ahead to have our accounts taken down after we die. If it’s a paid account, naturally the service will expire and the account will eventually go offiline. However, for free accounts like Instagram, FaceBook and Twitter, we should appoint someone the duty of disabling our accounts post mortem.

To help you prepare, eere are the details for several social media sites:

Something to think about. Hope this information is useful!

Let me “Hollo” atcha

Soon we will be able to beam ourselves anywhere in the world–the real world.

Not to start this post on a negative note but, I loathe video meetings. I will agree that it is a good alternative to meet with family, friends and especially colleagues at work and yes, I do use it. However, as a tested and approved introvert, I find it difficult to be stared at on screen for any length of time. Holding my head still, keeping a smile and talking to a screen consumes too much cognitive energy talking to one person, let alone >1. Beyond that, it’s just intrusive. But, c’est la vie, n’est pas? We do what we have to do to keep the connections (and our jobs).

Well, now it appears that the days are numbered for the 2D flat video interactions. Next stop: beam me out to the meeting! Okay not quite but sorta-3D holographic images are close!

Holograms are the current revolution in remote interaction. Ever since the first time I heard about it, I have been watching, waiting for and anticipating the arrival and actual implementation of holographic technology. Recalling the first time I used video telepresence meeting room (which was very exciting after being confined to voice only phone conferences, and later screen sharing), I was super excited when I saw that Microsoft Research video six years ago.

In that video, the host demonstrated various interactions in a mixed reality or 3D teleportation (Star Trek anyone?) space.

That technology grew to become HoloLens, a technology used in manufacturing, construction and engineering, and healthcare. I have not used it myself but I am hoping to have the opportunity to use it in technical training.

Portl, a U.S. based company, has taken it one step further to create a new projection device. Portl has gone to market with their hologram projection unit. Their holo portation or hologram telepresence device places a pseudo 3D artist, trainer, salesperson, physician or any other person in the room with her/his/their audience. It incorporates speakers, lighting and cameras to achieve the effects.

Because of the hefty price tags, it may be a while before the HoloLens Portl can be widely adopted (i.e., I can purchase one for my business). In the meantime, I will keep watching for other companies to produce new technology that moves us beyond the flat screen.

Seen any new developments in the holographic space, especially affordable ones? Send them to me and I’ll write about them in a future post. Let’s share ideas!

Muting the File Sharing Worries

Recently I decided to add a BitLocker password encryption to the hard drive of my PC and also on an external hard drive that serves as a backup drive. It’s a pretty simple process and as long as I memorize my passwords, then I feel secure that my data will be protected in the event of theft of hardware.

So why do this now? Well, after taking apart an old laptop and extracting the hard drive, I marveled at the relative ease of connecting that drive and using it as an additional storage device. Also, the rise in use of ransomware to lock and block access of data has me backing up my data on a fairly regular basis. Finally, beyond being concerned about my data, Russian cyber-attacks and the rumor-of-war-turned-invasion of Ukraine are creating an overall feeling of unease.

It’s very easy to extract data from an unprotected hard drive.

Rather than sit and bite my nails for the day, I instead took the time to update my firewall software, check email spam settings, did a network check and changed a few important passwords. I also backed up my website just in case…

Working from home necessitates the sharing of electronic files. Other than sending via email, I use Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive, and a few other password-protected file sharing options.

Normally, I password protect the file and then call or text the recipient with the password. It’s not ideal but most of the people I email are not using encrypted email. I am using encrypted email and my team members let me know when they are unable to decrypt the files!

I still use a locking file cabinet but the online data protection is what concerns me most!

What steps are you taking to protect your files? Let’s share ideas!

There, but not really

At the beginning of the pandemic, some very creative young people figured out how to record a desktop video and have it loop during their virtual classes. It seems that the idea was also found to be useful in professional spaces, likely by people tired of sitting through online meetings. The idea caught on, at least until people started getting caught.

Years ago when Microsoft Teams was just starting to be an office must-have, my work team was relying on the status indicator in the chat application to know whether someone was available for work communication. Most of the time, I would leave my status as available (green), unless somone became particularly chatty and I would initiate a phone call to save my typing fingers.

Microsoft Teams User Interface

Sometimes, I would type messages to my team members, wait for a reply and eventually walk over or call if I did not receive a timely reply. I noticed that I often arrive at one person’s desk and he would never be there. I always assumed that he had just walked away minutes before.

Later, I found out that this particular colleague would rarely be at his desk, and in fact, would often be out of the building. His computer would appear to be in use but he would not be locatable.

Microsoft Teams Status Indicator

So what was going on? He would play media files on his PC to trick the Teams presence monitor into believing that he was at his computer. His manager figured out what he was doing and it was used as part of the evidence to terminate him.

Today there is yet another method to fool any presence monitoring software. They are called Mouse Movers Apparently, they are being used to evade employer surveillance. Also known as Mouse Jigglers,they are the latest tool in the battle against “big brother.”

In case you’re interested, please note that these gadgets are rather pricey. The one above retails for $62.00. If you do not want to purchase a mouse mover/jiggler, I suppose you can find other alternatives to help you appear there, when you are not really there…

Pet mouse pusher

Anything interesting in your work at home toolbox? Send me an email and I will post about your find. As always, I am happy to report on the latest technolo-gee,—I didn’t know I could do that!

Not so new but Calendly keeps it moving

Fortune magazine told the story of Nigerian Tope Awotona’s voyage to get Calendly off the ground. Fast forward a few years and the app is a global business staple.

For years, I have used Microsoft, Yahoo and Google products for scheduling meetings. The choice between the three options was made based on whom I was inviting to a meeting.

If the person had a Google account, I would simply send a Google mail invitation. By doing this, I was making the communication easier for my clients but making things harder on myself. The client would not have to download and import the .ics file (*this is still required in some cases!) but I would have to merge several calendars into one.

Using the multiple calendar approach became difficult to manage when business started picking up. Calendly was a welcome innovation and I learned about it when I was scheduling an interview as a trainer for another organization. I was immediately converted by the ability to do some minor setup tasks, copy and paste a link and have clients and students to schedule themselves. Today, I use Calendly for scheduling new meetings and interviews, as well as training and other public sessions.

Two Talk LPS Calendar on Calendly

Because there is often a payment component to my meetings, creating a meeting request via Calendly does not result in a confirmed meeting. There are some additional background processes in the workflow, including payment via Cash App. Calendly integrates with different apps, including those that collect payment. However, I use a manual approach and I’ll explain why later.

Calendly integrates with web browsers and with apps to facilitate virtual meetings, market to customers and send email. This is convenient, especially for marketing professionals.

Calendly integrations

Despite the high level of integration, I have only used a portion of the capability. Why? As always, I am concerned with cybersecurity risks. Having links to multiple accounts across multiple apps has its advantages but it has never been appealing to me. Hackers are known to exploit system and network vulnerabilities. All of the apps contain digital security but the users often have risky behaviors. For example, there are risks for accountholders when they utilize the same password across apps, or when allow the applications to store their passwords.

In my opinion, Calendly is as good as it gets when it comes to managing a public calendar. Write me and let me know how you are using it. If you’re using another app, send that too and I will review it in a future post. Let’s share ideas!

Easier Way to Collecting Data

I use Microsoft forms and Google forms a lot. A lot. I have to usually collect information from students that I teach or collect customer or contributor information for various projects. It’s not terribly difficult to use either of these products, but sometimes I just wish I could have someone else do it for me.

Jotform is one solution for my tendency to use out-of-the-box solutions.

Other than the benefit that it is free to use, Jotform integrates with many of the apps that I use on a daily basis. Another tool in the belt for freelancer, WFH, contractor, or whatever label you choose to describe yourself. Happy tooling!

Jotform integrations

Using an app, software or useful home office equipment and want to share why you like it? Leave a message with details and we’ll put your idea in the blog queue and spotlight you for sending it. Let’s share ideas!

Get Your Lost (or Stolen) Stuff Back

Thieves don’t like to be caught, and the worst ones usually aren’t. I was traveling in Europe one summer and a thief grabbed the bookbag of one of the students traveling with my group. Nobody saw the thief or heard anything and the bag’s owner (another college student) only put it down “for a second” before it was stolen. The police never recovered his property and he had to buy another bag, some water and tourist maps.

Fortunately, the student did not have anything irreplaceable in his bookbag, but many others have not been as lucky and have lost computers, credit cards, cash and other valuables. Sometimes items are not stolen, but are simply misplaced or lost by the owner. However, thanks to Bluetooth tracking technology, lost no longer means forever.

How it works

Source: How to Geek, Joe Fedewa, September 15, 2021

From the highlighted article above, the tracker lies dormant while they are in proximity to the owner (the mothership) and are activated when they are out of range. Depending on the company, the data about the tracked object is supported by a shared network of mobile phone users who opt in. (Hmnnn, Seems rather public. Wonder what are all the things that could go wrong in this scenario…)

Bluetooth trackers rely on a network of mobile devices,

If you are shopping for a tracker, check out PC Magazine’s reviews of various trackers and reviews by How to Geek. I have been considering buying one of the higher ranked devices but stopped short after I read the mobile app store reviews. It seems that the phone apps are not as reliable as I would like.

Well, I will keep window shopping. In the meantime, send me an email message and let me know how your Bluetooth tracker and app are working for you. Personal reviews are always welcomed. Let’s share ideas!

Big Brother is Watching

Depending on your age and perhaps, the politics of your local school board, the first time you probably read or heard the phrase, “Big brother is watching” was in the book (or the movie!) by George Orwell called 1984.

In the movie, the citizens were being monitored by the government to keep everyone in their place, under control, and contributing to the greater good of society. Ever since #WFH became a hashtag, this phrase has become ever more relevant.

Almost a year ago, I first blogged about companies monitoring their employees working from home. After reading a recent article about the new ways that managers are monitoring their employees and surveillance software privacy issues, I thought it deserved a second look.

I cringe at the thought of an employer watching me during the day as I work, exercise at my desk and eat my snacks—along with seeing the crumbs dropping or liquids staining my shirt. Or, listening to me and my family members talking about private matters not related to work. In this scenario, the home office is no longer a private space.

According to Top10VPN, surveillance software demand has increased by nearly 60%. Given the likelihood that remote office work is here to stay, what are we—some whom have always worked from home—to do if we are concerned with privacy?

Cover the camera with masking (or other) tape

I have always blocked my computer camera, whether my personal computer or a work device. I don’t always look my best when I’m working, from the angry bird faces I make when something goes wrong, to the attire mishaps already mentioned above. The keystroke monitoring software will track my actual input, so I challenge why my face would need to be visible.

Use headphones with a mute button

Wear headphones when talking to colleagues, vendors and customers during work hours. Mute the headset and leave your workspace when you need to go to speak to someone on your cell phone or in your home. Make sure your private conversations are truly private.

Stay on task

Start and “leave” the office at the required times. Schedule your work and your breaks according to employer/client policy. It is important that to provide the service paid for, no question.

Get a different job/gig

If your client/employer does not respect your privacy, then maybe it’s not the right job or gig for you. Stay skilled up and network to find new opportunities. If you are a skilled professional your work will speak for itself and perhaps the logical consequence is that the monitoring will be deemed unnecessary.

Privacy is not given in the new work environment. Make sure you discuss the requirements before you accept a work offer, and get to know the privacy invasion laws in your state. Protect yourself and your information. Your employer certainly is doing the same!

What are you doing to maintain your privacy in this ever blurred work/personal-home lines? Let’s share ideas!

Do you speak Tutnese?

Hashesquatlulo! Wackelulcashomume tuto Tutwacko Tutalulkuck LulPubSus!
“Hello! Welcome to Two Talk LPS!” in Tutnese
Enslaved Black Americans created a coded language called Tutnese

When I was elementary school, I dreaded the Black history lectures, even though they were short. Most of the lectures were limited to slavery and civil rights, and I felt small and insignificant until the topic turned to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Very few of my teachers, many of them African American like me, went further than the short book paragraphs to describe the people behind the word slave, or my preferred term, enslaved Black American.

The history books from K-12 never went into detail about the diaspora of Black Africans turned Black (North, Central, South and Caribbean) Americans who had suffered the worst atrocities imaginable—had also created a language.

Recently there has been some buzz online about a language called Tutnese, or Tut, which is a language created by enslaved Black Americans. It is a language based on phonetical spelling wherein each consonant letter is replaced by a phonetic sound. The language was coded in order to prevent white slavers, oppressors from understanding their communication. The way they structured it also helped them learned to spell, and later read and write—a courageous act that was illegal and often punished by death.

It is a fading language. Very few people speak it because there is no longer a life-or-death need for it. It has not been passed on by all families, perhaps out of the desire to assimilate by only speaking English. This is a phenomenon shared by immigrants who choose not to teach their children the native tongue.

Gloria McIlwain, likely relatively unknown in recent years, is hopefully signing publishing contracts to reissue her text, Tut Language, the only text that I have found on the topic. [8/25/21update: I am unable to determine Gloria McIlwain’s current status or location]. The existence of the Tutnese language helps all of us understand that enslaved Black Americans were highly intelligent people who were denied the rights to the American dream. It supports the importance of Critical Race Theory, which “critiques how the social construction of race and institutionalized racism perpetuate a racial caste system that relegates people of color to the bottom tiers.” It also reminds me that I should never have been ashamed of my ancestors’ plight through the period where it was legal to buy and sell human beings. The shame has never been mine; instead, it belongs to the oppressors—those of yesterday and today.

As we live through what is referred to as the Black Lives Matter era, we recognize that Black Americans are still facing oppression from policing, racism and lack of economic access. I am grateful that there are non-Black Americans who, though they do not share our plight, understand it and are working alongside us as allies. I hear people say that anything done to lift up Black Americans will lift America. I think they are right.

Black Lives Matter protest

Two Talk LPS will begin holding free Tutnese language learning and practice sessions beginning in September 2021. We will practice communicating in the language and also share Black History topics. Interested? Sign up today!