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Problems setting up emacspeak with espeak (or eflite)

Hi Thomas,

I've not really used espeak, but many of the points you mention I seem
to recall being reported by others, but were largely fixed in the
latest version (don't know about the auditory icons). Possibly ensure
you are running the latest version (maybe even a dev/svn version?).

I've found that the IBM ViaVoice is by far the absolute best software
TTS for emacspeak. Its what Raman uses and works extremely well. The
barrier was always the price. However, oralux and some other sites now
offer the TTS runtime at a fantastically low price. I recently
purchased a copy from oralux and it was so cheap I can't even remember
the final cost - less than $20 Australian, which would make it even
less than $20US (the Aus $ is about 67 US cents). For that price, you
get all the emacspeak features and good responsive speech that maintains
phrasing at high speech rates. 

I've found that while festival is a good TTS, especially for
experimental work, it just isn't responsive enough for my needs. Flite
is OK, but isn't fully integrated with emacspeak. Espeak looks very
promising, but really isn't of the same class as ViaVoice. 

As I work with computers everyday, almost all of it programming, I
invest in four things, a very good chair, a top quality keyboard, a
good sound system connected to the computer and good quality TTS
engine. I skimp on the monitor and to some extent even the
desktop/laptop (though most of my work is on Linux servers and the
desktop is really just a terminal). I'm not sure where I left the
mouse. I also lack time to play around with the TTS. I need something
reliable and which I can get up and running on a new system quickly
and easily. ViaVoice meets this requirement perfectly and the cost
represents less than a quarter of what I earn per hour when everything
is working and I'm being productive. Even as a student, the cost is
is minimal and would represent less than the cost for a paperback and
a lot less than a text book.

Of course, you may have philosophical objections to using commercial
software. This is a perfectly reasonable position and shows ethical
fortitude. However, the reality is simply that while there are good
TTS engines out there and even ones showing great promise, such as
espeak (which I believe also has a very supportive developer), the sad
reality is there just isn't anything of the same standard in the open
source/free software world. This may change, but I'm doubtful. For one
thing, current research and development in TTS tends to focus on
natural sounding realistic voices and the greatest successes towards
this goal tend to use approaches that result in engines that don't
preserve phrasing well when high speech rates are used. I simply
couldn't survive or be competitive in the marketplace if I was forced
to use a speech rate that was similar to the normal rate speaking. My
ability to churn through text and documents very quickly actually
gives me an edge that offsets weaknesses I have in other areas, such
as udnerstanding or creating diagrams etc. 

My advice would be to spend the $20 t get the ViaVoice runtime,
complete your comp sci and then maybe put some work into a better
free/open source TTS. Once my family obligations and work demands
begin to drop off, this is the sort of thing I hope to do to stop my
brain atrifying in retirement, but until then, I need to pay the bills
and try to contribute as time allows. Of course, with the current
downturn, maybe that retirement will come sooner than I expect and
I'll have lots of time to devote to all those pet projects I'd rather
work on instead of the largely sole destroying and mind numbing
finance, HR, and customer database systems that make up the bulk of
how I pay the bills now.

good luck,


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