Follow-up: The Girl Next Door (aka Laptop for Nat)

Okay, second non-tech follow-up as I get caught up here in Real World 1.0 stuff. Last month I wrote a post called The Girl Next Door, about a 7 year old girl named Natalie. She was diagnosed with brain Cancer and the last year has been an uphill struggle for family, finally coming out on top with Nat back at home and going to school now.

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The post was about finding a way to get the Nat a laptop. With the Cancer, her motor skills have been somewhat diminished and taking notes in school was a chore (along with everything else she deals with). Looking to give a 7 year old a break I turned to the Internet for some help. That help was absolutely outstanding. Literally hundreds of people emailed, donated, and came to the forefront to step up for our friends next door.

Laptop Anyone?

The goal was simply to get Nat a laptop she could use for school work. I was aiming for someone’s used laptop that they didn’t need anymore but instead my good friend Dave Woods up in Edmonton (and his company Solidhouse) stepped up the plate and delivered a grand slam providing Nat with a brand new Dell Studio 15 Laptop (complete with her selection of colour, Emerald Green, which apparently is the new pink).

In addition while I did post the blog entry looking for a laptop, the first note I got from Paul Jackson over at Love the Dot was a request to throw up a PayPal link for donations (selfishly so he could donate some money towards the laptop and family). I did that and the donations poured in. All tolled, we were able to hand over a cheque for $2100 CDN to the family which will help with medical expenses (shame on you PayPal and your 3% gouge fee, but we paid that ourselves and rounded the amount up).

BTW, Paul wrote a really touching post on his own blog called The Blogger Next Door about the situation. Thanks again for the global kindness that the Internet has. Who says the world is a bad place when there are people like you out there that are willing to help a stranger?

Taming the Dragon

Not to be outdone, I got an awesome email message from Kristin Wylie, the Product Marketing Manager from Dragon Naturally Speaking:

One of your readers forwarded your blog posting to our CEO, who sent the request to me. We would be happy to donate a copy of Dragon NaturallySpeaking Professional for your neighbour's daughter. Dragon can be kind of a "memory hog," so I'd like to be sure that the laptop you select meets the minimum system requirements for the software. I saw that one of your readers is willing to donate an "extra" copy of Dragon, and this is very generous. However, older copies of Dragon do not support the Vista 64-bit operating system which is likely to ship on the laptop that you select. For this you will need our latest version, which just began shipping last week. Let me know your mailing address, and I'll send along a copy of Dragon, along with a user workbook that her parents can review with her.

Brilliant! The copy of Dragon arrived and once we got the laptop, we packaged things together. I entered a bit of a panic mode though as it was Sunday night and we planned on giving the laptop to Nat for her birthday (which was coming up on Tuesday, what a coinky-dink!). I slid the Dragon DVD into the new Vista based laptop and watched in horror as it wouldn’t install. The laptop had been ordered with a whopping 4GB of RAM (nice!) and the 64-bit version of Vista. Unfortunately for me, the Dragon DVD only supported a 32-bit install. Of course, I didn’t actually *fully* read Kristins email where she said “For this you will need our latest version, which just began shipping last week”.

Trudging off into that series of tubes, I got frustrated and found more sadness. I found this post that came out and said “So I’m truly sorry to report Dragon Naturally Speaking will not install on Vista 64”. This didn’t give me a warm and fuzzy. Did I have enough time to re-image the laptop, put on the 32-bit version of Windows (losing access to at least 1GB of RAM) and try to get things done by Tuesday? Reading through the comments on the blogs didn’t make me much happier. Another post here had comments about a maintenance release coming out in “2-3 months” (with the blog post date of March 1st). Most of the comments were pretty slighted towards “Dragon sucks” and there was even a petition created with almost 500 signatures to get a 64-bit version out to customers who felt jilted.

The light at the end of the tunnel came with a comment and a link to the download. I checked it and sure enough, it had been released only a few weeks previously. Silly rabbit. Should have read the note from Kristin in the first place and just visited the website. I downloaded this update (1.3GB, basically a replacement for the shipped DVD, don’t understand that but whatever) and installed the software. No problemo. Whew.

The Package

The laptop arrived by way of courier. It’s a light sucker, using Centrino 2 technology so it’s small but powerful. Perfect for the 7 year old in your life. Outfitted with 4GB of RAM and Vista Home Ultimate Edition x64 it kicks the llamas butt on performance.


The Dragon Software comes with it’s own headset so we didn’t have to rush out to Uncle Bob’s 24 Hour Computer Emporium that night. That was a relief.


For security measures, we had Big Bear guard the laptop and software for the night before delivery. I think he just enjoyed snuggling up with a laptop at night. I know I do. BTW, no stuffed animals were harmed in the opening of the packages.


Happy Birthday

The big day arrives and Nat busts into the box, not really knowing what’s inside.

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Success! She’s taken back and surprised when we tell her “It’s YOURS, not a rental” and that she’ll be able to keep it. Forever.

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The Dragon Lady

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a tool that will help Nat and her school work. As I mentioned, the Cancer has caused some breakdown in her physical abilities so holding a pencil or even typing is taxing. Dragon will allow her to speak into the computer using the provided headset and translate that into Word documents, email, and browser navigation commands. Dragon has come a long way since I looked it years ago and it seems to be right up there as the industry leader.

Of course Dragon might need to change their marketing campaign after seeing this pic.

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So this story ends well. Nat has a great resource for her schoolwork, the family was able to offset some of the medical expenses, and their corner of the world is a brighter place as a result. Thanks again for the great support! Thanks to everyone who donated to the family directly, thanks to all of the offers for laptops and software, thanks to Solidhouse and Dragon for their generous donations and thanks to everyone out there reading this who spent a few minutes to help out a stranger.


  • Hi, thanks for writing your story. Good to see people come together to help out for a good cause.

  • You deserve a huge round of applause. Good to see kind people like you.

    Cheers for what you did.


  • This is great news! I'm glad everyone came through for Natalie.

  • Oh wow. This was a great story. I must admit, that I teared up a bit. :(

  • Great story! Kudos to you and all who helped :-)

  • Childhood cancer is absolutely devastating. We spent nine months living through it and a year later are still dealing with the effects of the chemo she had.

    I also can't begin to tell you how much what you have set up is appreciated. Unfortunatley, most people try to get as far away from the "fire" as possible rather than helping out. Two thumbs up for your work.

    Peace and Grace,

  • Simser,,
    can you stop your pity party and get on with life.
    I have personally faced problems in my life but have taken it everything on the chin and moved along.
    Do you realise many people subscirbed to your blog for technical stories not these sob stories......
    I have empathy for people your mention... but you know it's such a big world out there and so many people out there are suffering ....
    Get over it brother

  • yeah, Ajay, boy nothing like a little kindness and humanity to really screw up technical stuff...who needs a life, here?

    I don't know who the heck you are (Simser?), but you have a heart of gold and you are okay by me:)!

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