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Troubleshooting speech problems in The Grid 2

Background

This article covers the case where you are having trouble with the voices responding slowly, stuttering or the ‘Switch To / Retry’ dialog appears when a program starts speaking. A companion article ‘Cant get any voices to work’ covers the case where you cant hear output from some/any or your voices.

Improving Computer Performance

Over time, your computer may slow down. Microsoft provde a number of tools to help restore performance. This article by Microsoft shows how to improve performance using utilities already installed on your computer.

The remainder of this page makes some more suggestions that you can try after you have followed the advice in the above article.

Power Saver Settings

Most computers have various power settings. These control how Windows tries to balance battery life with processing requirements. if you are having problems, try setting your power setting for Maximum performance. On Vista, type Power into the start menu and select ‘Power Options’. There are three options: ‘Balanced’, ‘Power Saver’ and ‘High Performance’. On Xp, right click over the desktop, select ‘Properties’, select the ‘Screen Saver’ tab and then click the ‘Power settings’ button. Select the ‘Max Performance’ option from te drop down list.
You will need to experiment to find the setting that gives acceptable performance and battery life.

Anti-Virus software

Although virus checkers are essential if the computer is connected to the internet, they take valuable CPU resources. Most shops now try to sell a bundle comprising anti-virus, spyware, firewall, spam filters and web link checkers. For domestic users the internal Windows firewall is sufficient and the spam filter and web-link checker in many bundles of doubtful value. Both Kaspersky and AVG sell anti-virus products that don’t include spam filters, firewalls or other unnecessary add-ons. If you already have AV software, it may be necessary to uninstall and do a custom re-install to remove the firewall and spam filters properly.

Virus checkers generally have two modes of operation: ‘Resident shield’ and ‘Disk Scan’. You will probably want the resident shield to be active at all times, but the disk scan can be scheduled to run when the computer is not in use. A default install of AVG includes an option ‘Run on computer startup is missed’. This means that the disk scan often runs when the computer is turned on and is very annoying. A better policy is to schedule the scan for midnight and then, once a week, leave the computer turned on overnight. Exact details of where the setting is differ between version. On my PC I do the following:

Right click the AVG icon and select ‘Open AVG control pannel’

In the left pane, select ‘Computer Scanner’

In the list of scheduled scans select ‘Scheduled scan’ and click the ‘Edit Scheduled Scan’ button.

Change the time the scan is scheduled for and clear the ‘Run on computer startup is missed’ checkbox.

We have also experienced problems on a couple of computers running the McAfee spam checker.

Some versions of this seem to have problems if there are a lot of old emails in the spam or deleted messages folders.

Finally, its worth noting that you should only have one anti-virus product installed on your machine. If you have more they can fight for resources. This link describes a tool that can be used to look for remnants of old AV and firewall products on your machine.

Windows Update

If the problem comes and goes, it may be that Windows update is downloading and installing updates in the background. Windows allows you to change how updates are delivered (Control panel -> Automatic Updates). You can have Windows download the updates, but not install them. Thus setting also avoid problems of having the machine reboot when some updates are installed.

Compressed Folders

When disk space runs low, Windows compresses some folders. This can slow down file access. In Windows Explorer, these folders are normally displayed in blue letters. You should check the following folders are not compressed:

C:\Program Files\Sensory Software\Common\Speech\Acapela
C:\WINDOWS\
C:\WINDOWS\system32
C:\Program Files\Sensory Software\The Grid 2

If so you should uncompress them. (Right click to get the folder properties and then click the ‘Advanced’ button by the Read Only and Hidden attributes.)

Other Processes

If you start task manager and go to the ‘Processes’ tab and then click the top of the CPU colum twice it will list the processes on the machine by ther CPU load. When you are not trying to speak or jump between grids, you should see System Idle Process at the top showing about 95% or more. Does task manager show anything else taking the CPU? Another clue to look for is if the hard disk light is flashing or you can hear a noise from the disk. This may indicate other processes hogging CPU.

If all else fails

If none of the above options work, you can try one of the following solutions:

Grid 2 has a ‘Pause before speaking’ option on the File->Preferences menu (Advanced tab). This inserts a short delay to allow the screen to redraw before starting speech.

There are significant variations between the Acapela voices. Try experimenting with other voices. Many of the older SAPI voices such as Realspeak and Dectalk make much smaller demands on the CPU.

Add more memory. This is generally the cheapest option for improving performance. If you are not afraid of removing the covers of your PC, Crucial provide an on-line tool to select the correct memory for your machine. Alternatively take your computer to your local computer shop and ask for advice.

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