Additional voices for the Speech plugin

October 17, 2011

A POP Peeper user has discovered some free voices that can be used with POP Peeper. It should be noted that the user wanted non-English voices. Here’s the link, which has English, French and German voices available:
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/uk/downloads/tts.mspx

I just installed the English voices on Win7… and I have inconclusive results 🙁

First, anybody who wants to install additional voices using this link will need to download and install MS Reader first (this is mentioned on the webpage above, but no link is provided):
http://www.microsoft.com/reader/downloads/pc.aspx
Versions of Reader are available in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish; you’ll probably want to install the language that you plan on installing the voices for, but I’m not sure that it matters.

Note: After installing MS Reader, I did NOT activate it.

I then installed the voices, but before doing so, I checked the Control Panel’s Speech page to see what voices I had already installed (mistake: I should have checked what POP Peeper listed).

After installing the voices, I went back to Control Panel: no change, only Anna was listed. So I rebooted. Still only Anna. I then checked in POP Peeper and I do have 2 other voices besides Anna: “LH Michelle” and “LH Michael”. It’s possible I had installed these previosly, but I believe they came from the voice pack I just installed.

Personally, I think MS Anna’s quality is significantly better, but if you ever get tired of her voice, I suppose they’re something different. I suspect that these voices are SAPI4, whereas Anna is SAPI5 and hence the difference in quality.

Conclusion:
For English users on Vista/7: stick with Anna. Having to download and install 2 products to get these 2 voices is more trouble than they’re worth.
For non-English speakers: it’s probably worth it for the language-specific accents.
For English users on XP: probably not worth it; the voices are probably not too dissimilar from the Mike & Mary voices that I already provide a link for.

4

POP Peeper v3.8.1 RC with Lycos support

October 12, 2011
Tags:

A release candidate for POP Peeper v3.8.1 is now available. The full changelog is available through the link.

This is primarily a maintenance release to fix some issues that were introduced and found after the release of v3.8. The one glaring exception is that support for Lycos webmail is back.

In 2010, Lycos went through several changes. First, they dumped their old interface and basically outsourced their email service to Zimbra. I decided to support the Zimbra interface. Some months later, in early 2011, they abandoned Zimbra and decided to go back to using their own, newly designed interface. At this point, I was pretty frustrated with Lycos and I had to decide whether I would continue supporting them. For quite a while — since at least the Zimbra-era — they were no longer allowing free accounts to be created. Not only does this drastically reduce the number of people that POP Peeper could be used for, but I had my doubts that Lycos’ email service would last for much longer with that strategy. For that reason, I decided to just wait-and-see and informally discontinue Lycos support.

Which brings us to today. I was recently told that Lycos had brought back free email service. You do need to provide a mobile phone # for verification, which can be a nuisance (there are free text-services available if you don’t have this capability, or more likely, don’t want to give your number to Lycos). With free accounts back on the table, I decided to support Lycos again. It’s certainly not the most popular webmail service that PP supports, but hopefully more than a few people will make use of it.

3