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 ShadowTrak technology. So your CAT system will wonder: Where did the stacking 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 thumbwheels for mechanical adjustments. Turn one wheel to adjust the stroke depth. Some people like a deep stroke. You can really mash the keys, if that’s your style. Other people like a very shallow stroke. Your fingers may hardly seem to move, but the Passport will be able to follow your writing.
The second thumbwheel is used to adjust the resistance that the keyboard offers. 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 a dial and 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. Press the “Adjust” button. Press the key you want to adjust. You’ll see a blue bar that grows as you put more pressure on the key. When you reach the spot where the key registers your steno, the blue bar turns to green and a small red bar indicates the precise registration point. Any pressure beyond that point displays in green. While you’re still in the “Adjust” mode, you can start writing to see if your key is too sensitive or not sensitive enough. Use the scroll wheel to move the sensitivity up or down. It’s a “live” adjustment process and, best of all, it’s based on real writing, not guesswork.
What is the size and weight of the Passport?
Although the Passport is about the same size as the current writers offered by our competitors at Stenograph and ProCAT, it weighs less than 6 pounds. 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 supports more than a full day of writing on a single charge. The Passport also contains a second battery to offer a few 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. After all, what good is a passport that only works in America?
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.?
How much internal memory does the Passport have?
32 megabytes of RAM plus 32 megabytes of Flash memory. 64 MB total.
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 thumb drives. Thumb drives these days come in various sizes, from 64 megabytes to 1 gigabyte. You could mirror your notes to all four USB thumb drives at the same time, or you could use one or more thumb drive to mirror your audio file.
The writer also has a PCMCIA slot, which gives you the option of mirroring a copy of the notes on a memory card or an external hard drive. Combined, these options give you a total of 5 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 USB thumb 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 wireless realtime card. You could use one of the 4 USB ports for Bluetooth connectivity. These would get their power from the Passport’s battery. You could also use the StenoCast X1 (which has its own internal battery) to wirelessly connect to your computer.
The StenoCast X7 is a different module that allows you to connect your computer wirelessly to as many as seven client computers. The Passport does not take the place of the StenoCast X7.
Why use Linux?
Linux was chosen as the Passport’s operating system because it is THE standard for security and reliability. It’s no accident that Linux is the choice of Google, IBM, and is at the heart of the world’s fastest computer. Sure, we could have used a consumer-grade operating system like the ones found in PDAs and cell phones. We chose Linux because it’s an industrial-strength professional system, and you deserve nothing less.
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.
Emulation mode may even make the writer’s audio file available to the user of CAT software that has not interfaced with the Passport. This remains to be seen.
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 used bearings that 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 it needs to.
Is there a tilt screen?
The Passport’s display screen is angled, but there’s good reason why it does not tilt. The pivots for a tilt screen create failure points. We preferred to go with simplicity and reliability rather than flashiness.
When will it be available?
If all we wanted to do was copy existing steno machines, we could have started selling something a long time ago. However, the Passport represents a great number of innovations. The goal was always to create a lighter, stronger, more precise, more adjustable steno machine that would require less maintenance than its competitors. That takes time.
Quite honestly, the hardest part was creating a new steno machine that was both quite and that felt absolutely right. Touch is the most delicate of senses, and we weren’t about to compromise on that. So we’ve designed and redesigned and designed again to get it right.
At the August 2006 NCRA national convention in New York, three Passport prototypes were available for test drives. We’re delighted that they were so well received. From those who pound to those with a feather-light touch, the Passport won wonderful approval. We’re not about to relax our standards or our commitment to the Passport now that we are approaching the home stretch in its development.
What will it cost?
When released, the Passport will be priced to compete with other state-of-the-art steno machines. Once you’ve written on it, we hope you will agree that it’s a worth it to finally have a machine that does justice to your writing.