Friday, April 28, 2006

A Night at the Opera -- They're Doing HTTP/1.1

It finally sunk in that Opera's text-to-speech feature might be useful. So I had it read some stuff to me. I listened to the news while browsing my code, but I couldn't concentrate on both. That's the trouble with not having enough mindless tasks.

Then I hit upon the perfect use. This is how I can actually get through all these RFCs I've been meaning to read. Browsing to those de-facto Internet specifications is like an insomnia cure to me lately. The sentences lull you, alternating between being impenetrably obtuse and stupifyingly obvious. But with Opera Man reading the HTTP/1.1 (he says "slash one point one" just like you'd expect) RFC while I study it, suddenly it's like I'm in a classroom. I take in the easy bits visually, and skip ahead to the hard ones, or study the diagrams. The steady voice of the reader sets a pace, helping me not to lose place if I skip ahead, or lag behind.

The text-to-speech technology is certainly adequate, and its accuracy in pronunciation, inflection, and intonation is quite good. Only once did I hear a slip-up, when "content negotiation" sounded like the negotiation was well-satisfied rather than negotiating about the innards of a resource.

So the next time you're having trouble getting through something, give the Opera reader a try. And if you need to fight insomnia, point Opera to Project Gutenberg and have it read a bedtime selection from Alice in Wonderland.

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