FAQs

Keith Vincent, CSR
Tel. +1 (713)429-5473

e-mail

How is the Passport different from other steno machines?

      The Passport is the first really new steno machine in a long, long time.  At its heart are optical sensors.  These sensors are not only inherently precise, they detect both what you’re writing and how you’re writing.
       Think of it this way.  Old-fashioned steno machines register your steno strokes using the equivalent of an on/off switch.  That doesn’t give your CAT system much information to work with.  The optical sensors in the Passport are more like dimmer switches.  They don’t just pick up which key you pressed; instead, they register HOW you’re writing.
       At every moment, the Passport detects how hard you’re pressing each key, how fast, and whether each key is moving up or down.  All this information is used by the Passport’s unique Shadow-Track technology.  So your CAT system will wonder:  Where did the stacking and splitting go?
       Have you been second-guessing yourself as you write, worried about “stacking” problems messing up your steno translation?  You’ll probably find yourself writing more confidently, maybe even faster, as you realize how well the Passport understands your steno strokes.

Can I adjust the Passport for my touch?

        Absolutely!  Under the front of the keyboard, you’ll find two thumbwheels for mechanical adjustments.  Turn the left thumbwheel to adjust the stroke depth -- from less than 1 mm to a whopping 15 mm.  You can adjust your writer at any time, even while you’re writing.
       The second thumbwheel is used to adjust the
keyboard tension.  You may want your fingers to just fall into the keys with only the slightest resistance or, on the other hand, you may like to pound away as you write.  No problem.  You don’t need to adjust to the keyboard; it can adjust to you.

            As for adjusting the keyboard’s electronic sensitivity, the Passport is in a class by itself!  With old-fashioned steno machines, you’d open the case and twist a screw or else move a dial to select from a limited number of stop points.  Then you’d hope for the best.  It was basically trial and error.  In contrast, the Passport’s electronic sensitivity adjustments are software-driven.
            Here’s how it works.  It’s actually quite easy.  Enter the adjustment mode with a single touch, and you’ll see the position and registration point of each key displayed on a bar graph as you stroke the Passport in realtime. To increase the sensitivity of a key, simply use the scroll wheel to move an indicator up; to decrease the sensitivity, move it down.  It’s a “live” adjustment process and, best of all, it’s based on real writing, not guesswork.

What about extra keys?

       You’ll notice two extra keys at the beginning of the left bank.  They’re recessed  so that you won’t accidentally hit them when you’re reaching for an “S”.  These extra keys really lend themselves to running macros and editing from the steno keyboard.  You can think of them as the equivalent of your computer’s Ctrl and Alt keys.
 
    For additional flexibility, the asterisk key and the initial “S” key have each been separated into two keys which can be defined separately and in combination -- or you can continue to use them in the traditional manner. The Passport keys have a “soft” landing, and the vowel keys are in the same plane as the other rows. This increases comfort and reduces strain without affecting the traditional “feel” of the writer.
       Having you been wanting to create steno strokes for advanced phrasing and realtime editing, but you’ve run out of keys on your current writer?  Just imagine what you’ll be able to do with the Passport’s four extra keys.

What is the size and weight of the Passport?

        Size:  6.7” x 9.5” x 11”.  The Passport is about the same size as the current writers offered by our competitors at Stenograph and ProCAT.  It weighs about 5.7 pounds, including both the main battery and the internal backup battery.  If you have already invested in a nice wheeled case, it should easily hold the Passport writer.

What about batteries?

       A long-life lithium ion battery easily supports 10 to 17 hours of continuous use.  (Setting the display at maximum brightness does use more power.)  That’s more than a full day of writing on a single charge.  The Passport also contains a second battery to offer 2 to 4 extra hours of power in case you’ve inadvertently drained the main battery.  In other words, the Passport’s backup power is not just a “reserved” part of a single battery.  It’s a totally independent and redundant power system. 
      It’s like having two gas tanks on your car, not just one tank with a “low fuel” indicator.  Of course, there’s a “fuel gauge,” but if you drain the first tank, you’re still able to continue for a few more hours.
      As for the power supply in general, we’ve designed the Passport to work easily around the globe.

Is there a paper option?

       No.  However, with the Passport’s wireless networking capabilities, you could print notes on a printer down the hall or around the corner as you are writing.  Your notes would appear as multiple vertical columns on each sheet of standard size paper, which may be easier to store than traditional steno pads.

After a file is closed, can it be reopened for review, etc.?

       Yes.  For example, a reporter in court may report a trial in the morning, then report a few short pleas, and then return to trial proceedings later in the day.  With the Passport, you could easily re-open the morning file in order to add the afternoon’s testimony.  You could also re-connect to realtime translation in order to have just one file for the whole day’s proceedings.

How much internal memory does the Passport have?

       128 megabytes.

What kind of backup does the Passport have?

        The Passport writer has a number of backup options.  First, there are 4 USB ports to which you could attach four flash drives, which come in ever-larger sizes.  You could back up to all four USB flash drives at the same time, as well as to storage available on SD card.  The USB ports are “hot swappable” so that you can insert a flash drive even after a job has started and the Passport will backup the whole job from the very beginning. 

        The writer also has a PCMCIA slot, which gives you the option of backing up to a memory card or an external hard drive.  Combined, these options give you a total of six backup copies, in addition to the copy being stored in the writer’s internal memory.

What is the preferred non-realtime method of transferring files from the writer to the computer? Is it PCMCIA, USB, or dumping notes through a cable?

        You will probably find that reading notes from the SD card or a USB flash drive will be the simplest method of transferring files.  However, there is no one preferred method for transferring notes.  You can determine that based on your personal preferences.

With the Passport, will I need to bring a computer to edit during realtime?

         Many people are getting excited about the Passport’s ability to record synchronized audio.  Anyone who’s taken a deposition in a doctor’s office where there’s no convenient place to set up a computer (and very little time to get started) will appreciate the built-in audio.

        However, the Passport is not a replacement for the CAT system on your computer, for a number of reasons.  First, the Passport will not have all the editing features that you expect in your computer’s CAT system.  Although you will be able to load your dictionary for translation and create globals from the writer, this will never be a substitute for a CAT system.

        Second, although the Passport has a very good processor, it will never be as powerful as the processors that are contained within most computers.  So even if the writer does have some editing capabilities, it will never have all the features found in a CAT system like Total Eclipse because of the processing power that such programs require.

What about wireless connections to my computer and to attorneys?

        Wireless connection protocols are still evolving.  We don’t believe in building in obsolescence, nor do we limit you to one method for wireless connections.  The Passport has a PCMCIA expansion slot.  You could use it for a 802.11b or 802.11g or 802.11n wireless realtime card.  You could also use one of the 4 USB ports for Bluetooth connectivity.  These would get their power from the Passport’s battery.  You could also use a StenoCast wireless unit to connect to your computer.  

        For wireless output from your court reporting software to your clients’ somputers, the StenoCast RED transmitter and matching EzReceivers is an excellent solution.

Will the Passport be compatible with other CAT systems?

      Absolutely.  Each CAT vendor will be offered an SDK (standard development kit) so that they can interface their software with our writer.  In this way, their customers will be able to take advantage of the features of our writer. 

      However, we cannot force other companies to interface with the Passport. For this reason, the writer will also have an emulation mode that will allow it to perform certain functions even if their CAT software has not been interfaced with our writer.  Here are the features that you will be able to use in emulation mode:

    Realtime using the serial port, through emulation of an existing writer.

    Reading notes from the flash drives, by emulating the note format of an existing writer and using the standard file system.

    Putting your dictionary on the writer.  If you can convert your dictionary to an RTF file, the Passport can load it for use by the built-in translator.

What about durability?

       While nothing is damage-proof, we’ve designed the Passport so that its electronics are isolated from impact in case its dropped or tipped over.  While the trend in steno machine design over the past 20 years has been to use more and more plastics and parts that will wear out, we’ve gone for aluminum, stainless steel, and composites that offer the greatest longevity.  The unit is sealed to protect it from dust, and its bearings require no lubrication.  Frankly, we’ve made the Passport stronger than it needs to be.  As a reporter-owned and reporter-managed company, we understand what a important investment your writer is.  The Passport will last, because we know it needs to.

What about the screen?

        The Passport’s photo-quality LCD display is inlaid into the plastic molding of the writer at a comfortable viewing angle.  This makes it easy to approach a conference table without the screen getting in the way.  It also makes it easy to put a small wireless keyboard within inches of the steno keyboard so that you can have easy access to your CAT software’s full editing features during pauses in proceedings.
        To make read-backs easier, the LCD can be toggled into virtual-paper mode, which displays “shadows” much as they would appear on steno paper. The shadow-tracking information also helps the CAT software determine which keys were inadvertently pressed or not pressed hard enough, which can dramatically improve the accuracy of translation.

Availability?

        The Passport is available now. 

What will it cost?

        The Passport is priced to compete with other state-of-the-art steno machines.  The latest pricing information is available at www.EclipseCAT.com.