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Re-Printed From SLCentral

Wizcom Technologies QuickLink Pen
Author: Paul Mazzucco
Date Posted: August 10th, 2001
URL: http://www.slcentral.com/reviews/hardware/periph/wizcom/quicklinkpen

Introduction

The there was once a dream of a the paperless office - and it died with the advent of the personal computer. The PC and the paperless office are proof that sometimes, theory and practice are two vastly different things. While the dream hasn't exactly come anywhere near fruition (actually, the infernal PC has caused more paper to be wasted!), Wizcom Technologies.

The idea is to have a personal, hand-held scanner so that it becomes unnecessary to carry around a pad of paper and a pen when taking notes from a text source. The way it's used is pretty similar to a fat highlighter. One obvious benefit of this is that, if you're a college student, you may be able to sell the book back at a higher price due to it being in better condition (depends on the bookstore - some don't care and will pay the same no matter what). Of course, for those living in the more aggressive, competitive world, it allows quick and easy "highlighting" of information, with the obvious benefit of not leaving any clues behind for anyone else to read. But that's just mean, so don't do it ;-) Of course, another reason is to use the pen is to get information copied exactly from a source for which you aren't allowed to highlight.

The Pen

Specs, and what you get:

  • 97% accuracy, given font size and style averages (which I was unable to determine).
  • 6-22 point fonts
  • 128 pixel image sensor, 400 DPI resolution
  • Store 1,000 pages of text
  • 2MB ROM, 2MB Flash RAM (upgradeable to 4MB)
  • Connects either via serial port (included), or an optional USB cable (not included)
  • Manual Character bar for corrections
  • 3-line LCD screen.
  • 104 page manual
  • Storage case
  • CD with QuickLink Desktop software

Installation

Installation was a snap. Plug it in to the serial port, select the com port it's on in the QuickLink Desktop application, match the baud rate of the serial port with the pen, and it's done. The only thing that needs to be done on the pen's side is to make sure it's running the proper application during installation: "PC-Controlled Communications." Updating the software, or adding applications is the same process, where all that needs to be done is to run the software, and run the same program on the pen as during the initial installation process.

The QuickLink pen is also compatible with Palm Pilots, PDAs, and other IrDA enabled cellular phones.

Use

The pen is to be held from anywhere between 90, and 75 degrees (as shown below). This is the pen tip, not the larger section of the pen, as it is curved to make it easier to get the proper angle. The pen can be setup so as to be useable with either the left, or the right, as the characters are "upside-down" if this weren't true.

To actually start scanning the text (after you've opened up the application - discussed later) simply, start sliding the pen along just as you would with a highlighter. It's quite important to keep it in a straight line, rather than letting it follow a curve. Think about it: OCR (Optical Character Recognition) takes some time on scanners, yet this device is asked not only to do it fairly quickly (albeit one line at a time), but also to deal with the fact that it is moving! To make it a little easier, the pen tip has a white line that acts as a guide.

Another nice feature is the ability to scan in either direction. While it might seem more natural to scan in the same direction one reads, I found it easier to scan in the opposite direction, as it is easier to see where the tip of the pen is moving in this way than it is to go from left to right (if you're right handed: vice versa for left handed people). This point is important, as the pen is quite sensitive, as we'll see later.

When I first opened the box, there was a small pamphlet, which had the basic instructions. I'm the kind of person who likes to just jump into using something, if it looks simple enough. Given that the QuickLink pen has merely seven buttons, I just jumped right on in:

The red button is for power, green the enter button, and white for escape. The arrows are for directional navigation, and selecting/deselecting options. Though the manual is extremely in-depth, and accurate (props to whoever wrote it!), it is also extremely long. If you're new to dealing with these kind of peripherals, grab a sandwich, a cup of tea, and maybe even a blanket, as the book is no less than 104 pages!

Bundled Applications (On The Pen)

The QuickLink pen has 4 built-in applications:

Notes: This is for just jotting down general notes. After scanning the text, the results can either be accepted by scanning something immediately afterward, or it can be deleted by pressing the enter button while the scanned text is still highlighted. To make a separation between sections (such as between paragraphs), press the down arrow and it inserts a line between the two sections.

Address Book: This application is meant for taking the information that would normally be held on something such as a business card. It has fields for the first and last name, title, company, address, business phone number, business fax, cell phone, email address, home phone number, home fax, and any other miscellaneous notes. After scanning in one, it moves to the next section (or not, as this can be configured)

Internet Links: Quite simply for storing URLs. Scan once for the URL, and another time for the description. If you don't bother with a description, the URL becomes the description. This isn't specialized in anyway to capture URLs better, at least, I didn't find it to be so. It's just another quick and dirty little place to store links.

Tables: If anything is in chart form, such as a printed spreadsheet or some other table, this is the place to store it. It works just like the standard spreadsheet, except it can't do formulas (you scan in text into the cells). As it can only display one cell at a time, you have to use the arrow keys to get to the cell that you want to scan into next.

Image capture: This is an application that must be downloaded off Wizcom's webpage, as it isn't included on the CD. I discovered this only because I made sure I had the latest version of their software, and this is another free application from the company. This is for those times when something can't be converted into ASCI text.

As a general rule simply use the pen itself to scan the name (such as, say, chapter 5) or whatever it may be, as the built in menu-bar for selecting the letters is cumbersome at best (given how few buttons it has, it's only natural).

Another option is to simply scan the text directly into the computer, bypassing any of the programs. Wherever the cursor is, the text will be directly scanned in. However, it is not instantaneous, just as the it isn't for normal scanning. Also, it takes time of travel, which is over the serial port. In-between scans, it can be configured to insert different white-space characters, such as a space, return, or tab. This means text can be scanned directly into a word processor, or spreadsheet, if desired.

Limitations

The QuickLinks Pen allows scans in printed text 6-22 points in size (up to 8 mm) on contrasting backgrounds except:

  • red on white
  • white on red
  • blue on black
  • black on blue

These all make sense. The bruiser colors don't differentiate themselves with respect to contrast, so it comes as no surprise that it has problems (and there are problems). Red on white won't work because the sensor is a red light, so that too is only natural not to work.

Also, unless you use the new application for capturing images, you'll be limited to fairly normal fonts. Even Courier, or Times New Roman, when italicized, were less than amiable to scanning in correctly. Considering the vast majority of text out there is "standard," this point shouldn't be too big a deal. Also, note that everything is stored in ASCI text, so all formatting will be lost (such as bolding and italicizing).

Accuracy

After an hour or two of simply finding random items to scan, I finally decided to see how well accurate the pen is. While it will certainly yield better results with continued use, the passage below shows it's not perfect. I tried scanning a favorite passage of mine from A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (page 459 for those with the hardback).

He surprised them with how long he kept going, and they had to step back because the blood flew in distorted parabolas that made thickening lines upon the rock Roor. At times it ap-geared to be raining in a dense windblown cloud whose under-side had turned red as it passed over a raging Ere. The sergeants ward as he could, for he had come to believe that he was holding a piece of the sun in his hands, and that he would use it to cleave the rock as Guariglia had severed his own leg. His muscles tight-ened and then relaxers Cis arms dew out before him as flexibly as elastic bands, and the head of the hammer struck the top of [the] stake with costly precision. The stake was dnven down unto it disappeared flush into the floor.

The mistakes aren't too bad. The bolded words are the ones that are screwed up. The two on the left hand side, and the third one with brackets, are my mistake. You're supposed to give it about a centimeter of space on the side, and I didn't quite give it enough. I won't count those against the pen, as that's just something that will get better with use. The other mistakes could be attributed to a shaky hand, but I tried to keep it as straight as I could.

So, ignoring my mistakes, there are 724 characters in that passage (including spaces). It added an aggregate of 1 extra letter in there, so the number should really be out of 723. It screwed up (discounting my own mistakes) six letters. Some simple math, (6/723) * 100 = 8.3% (rounded). This is ignoring my mistakes, which can still happen even after a great deal of use (I still do it, but not three times in a paragraph).

This was in a hardback, in what appears to be 10 point, unknown font. That's fairly indicative of the textbooks I have too. So, in a nice book, with crisp text, the pen achieved 91.3% accuracy

Many weblinks that are printed out from either online resources, or from anything in a MS Word document, URLs are usually printed blue, with underlined text. However, in these situations, even with a size 14 font (this is standard, at least, at my University it is), blue and underlined URLs were terrible. It was a little better when I printed out the URL again, this time without the traditional blue text, and underlining. Let me give you the best URL I managed to get it to scan (forgive the shameless plug to our own site), which was achieved with black text, and not underlined:

http: //www.Systemlogic. Net/reviews/hardw~ e/processordinteUp417~01

Here's what it's supposed to be:

http://www.systemlogic.net/reviews/hardware/processors/intel/p41700/

Lets work through the math again...The real URL has 68 characters, which the pen got as well. However, the pen screwed up with the characters 11 times. (11/68) * 100 = 16.17%. So the pen was only 83.87% accurate. There's quite a discrepancy! Now, let's put it through the ringer. Has anyone seen pages cached by Google? If someone printed out a page from a cached URL, it gets drastically longer, and many more varying characters are used. The frustration in typing it out perfectly, in great part due to the extra characters, would be a prime reason why one would want to scan it in the first place. However, I found that it was much easier to simply type it in myself, despite how frustrating that is. Below is how I ended up with a scan from a cached Google page:

www.gooecomisearch?qr-caeheORCr8nEIUy0:ww.systernlogicnet/artides/O1b/mult22iiindhttp//wfw-inultitti

Here's what the real URL is.

http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:0RCr8nElUy0:www.systemlogic.net/articles/01/6/multithreading/+%22fundamentals+of+multithreading%22&hl=en

There are supposed to be 141 characters there! Yet the pen, for whatever reason, never managed to pick up all of them. The above only got 100 characters, so it is simply way, way off. I'm not even going to bother calculating the accuracy, as it is far, far off.

To be fair, the text is small, at only a 12 point, certainly not the easiest to scan (generally, the larger the font, the easier it became). However, this is not at all unrealistic! Whenever I've printed documents off of the web, the URL is in the corner, and isn't in a large font. Nor would I want it to be. I want the URL known, but I don't want it to be the biggest part of the document. I admit that my printer is nowhere near high-end, but it is quite common to have such a printer. So, in this one area, the QuickLink pen takes a nose-dive in terms of functionality. Just like the PC and the paperless office - in theory, it's great. Practice is another story….

That 97% figure just went out the window. 97% simply doesn't cut it with URLs, which can be more difficult to correct. Most text is easy to see exactly what the error is, but with Google caches, and other such long, convoluted URLs, the pen suffers terribly.

The Software

After the data has been uploaded from the pen, the QuickLink Desktop software automatically saves the data, in it's own format. Afterward, the file can be saved, for example, in a word document, if it's a "note" file from the pen, or saved into a spreadsheet if from the table program, etc.


The Spreadsheet


The Note-taking section


Address book information


My failed attempts at scanning weblinks


Nasty calculus formula that couldn't scan properly as text

Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Portable scanning
  • Intuitive, and easy to use
  • With new free software, can scan handwriting and complex images
  • Becomes more accurate with continued use (a steady hand helps)

Cons

  • OCR software on the pen isn't fast enough to do more than one line at a time quickly (sometimes writing it out by hand is faster, and more accurate).
  • Doesn't live up to the accuracy claims, especially with complex URLs
  • High price (as of this writing, 169.00 USD)

Conclusion

The dream of a paperless office hasn't come to pass. The QuickLink pen won't change that, nor does it try. However, the QuickLink pen has the necessary features to potentially make notes easier to organize, paperless, and without the need to write or type anything out yourself. The use of the pen's software has an easy learning curve, however takes some getting used to simply because a steadier hand is required. The QuickLink pen is a novelty item, but one that (mostly) lives up to its claims. Wizcom Technologies has a device that makes note-taking potentially faster, and easier to organize.

Rating: 8.5/10 SystemLogistics

Re-Printed From SLCentral