Thursday, January 09, 2014

The Year That Was In A.T. 2013 Part 4

Before you go on to read what I had to say about 2013, you can hear what this year’s panel had to say about it by listening to the SeroSpectives archive of the Top Ten list at…
And remember to visit Blind Bargains to read any comments posted there about the list. Or, if you would like, leave SeroTalk an iReport in iBlink Radio or drop a line to with your feedback about the panel’s list. Now, back to the countdown!
6. Amazon Kindle HDX has accessibility built in, Kindle iOS and Android Apps also accessible
Tee hee, my Top 10 is actually 11. Tied for number 6 was this neat new spiffy update from Amazon. The unit not only sported some iPad Mini weaponry with the higher pixel count screen, lighter design and of course the age old chestnut of all iPad competetors… price, Amazon also went stark raving mad telling us all just how fantastic the new HDX was in every conceivable way and through every media outlet possible. Attack ads and a no interest payment plan for the unit during the Holiday season demonstrated just how bad Amazon wants you to have the new Kindle. The cool thing is that the access to it is improved over last year’s first attempt at a talking Kindle Fire. This is partly thanks to google’s improved Talkback, (see my thoughts on Android access circa 2012.) The modified Android v4.2 uses the basic Google framework but then goes off into some interesting directions. Oh, and the iOS and Android Kindle apps got speech friendly as well. They have come late to the party, however Amazon did a lot in 2013 to shed their anti-blind tag and its enough of an effort to garner my tie for the 6th story of 2013.
Check out SPN’s own Buddy Brannan’s take on the HDX here…
And hear his thoughts in an interview with Jamie Pauls on SeroTalk….
5. iPhone 5S and 5C released with iOS 7
There are a few things of note here beyond the general “Apple does it again’ remarks. Firstly, no one say a thing ever again to me ever about iOS nonfragmentation… ever! in one fell swoop, Apple not only fragmented the ecosystem more between iPad, iPad Mini, and iPhone, they went on to break the iPhone model of distribution too. The 5c seems, on paper, to be a good idea for those people [like me] who don’t want their biometric data in the hands of any large monolithic companies. The hardware changes from it to the 5s, namely 64 bit support and the motion chips, due mean that we once again have a performance difference along the various devices that can run iOS. So, when you think about say iOS 7 testing you have to think along the lines of, ahem…
iPod testing
iPad 2 testing
iPad 3 Collector’s Edition testing
iPad 4 testing
iPad Air testing
iPad Mini first gen testing
iPad mini with Retina testing
iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5c and 5s performance testing
mind you its still not as crazy as the average year of Samsung devices in Android, but still, the idea some clung to out there that Apple had no fragmented experience for users rates right up there with the classic denial of “security through obscurity”, given that most of the world’s malware comes from Adobe via both Windows and mac. Besides, those people end up putting Windows on the mac anyway making the hole “macs don’t get viruses’ thing kind of moot.
As a whole, and you will be shocked, this doesn’t really bother me. No really, my recommendation has always been to buy the Apple product you think you can afford then choose the next model up to avoid compatibility or memory issues later on when Apple votes your device off the “models we Support in version x” island. Long time watchers of Apple, and I do consider myself one of those, have known this for years. However, apple has many new devotees coming on board and to watch them all struggle with confusing messaging and multiple models was somewhat funny to see in what used to be a “pick up and go” purchase philosophy under Steve jobs.
These days, if you aren’t low vision, talking Apple got just a little more complicated as to what device would fit a person’s needs. But if you are low vision, iOS7 did one heck of a number on you between the color scheme and the icon/motion in iOS 7. I have not been asked for Android tablet and phone recommendations more in any year than in 2013 due to many in the low vision Community having general frustration with what came about in the latest version of the Apple Mobile OS. The lure of larger screens, more customization and things like nova Launcher did much to sway some out of the land of the Genius Bar. And this upheaval, along with several new flavors of iDevice, was enough for me to toss this one in at number 5 of 2013.
Here is an interesting article about Tech as a Religion that echoes that “Screen Reader as a Religion” post from 2011. Always neat when we hear about something we think is Blindness specific but is actually just run of the mill human behavior.
Oh, and be sure to listen to some very knowledgeable Apple Acolytes over at Triple click Home for the latest in Apple news and opinions…
4. Windows 8.1 Released with a Start Button Again
Sure, sure Microsoft did a lot of giving in and giving up in 2013. Backtracks on Skype, Xbox One and “here’s your freaking Start button back you whiners” were newsworthy. But, for those of us using Assistive Technology, the issues with Windows are bigger than a button or a bread box. For the first time ever, we had two Windows releases in two years with a third coming in 2014 plus a revamped version altogether in 2015. Conceivably, if MS holds to prior behaviors, we could be looking at an early Developer Preview of the next major version of Windows [not sure if that would be called Windows 9 or not] in 2014 at the same time development is going for what could be considered Windows 8.2.
Taking XP off the table, starting this April, that means you have the zillion flavors of 7, Windows 8, 8.1 and 8.2 [in 32 and 64 bit configurations] in active support. Along with IE 9 through 11 or even 12 if released in 2014. While Google has killed support for lots of Googly things for IE 9, several major banks have not, and they look at IE 11 as an extraterrestrial First contact opportunity. In other words, its alien to them.
Now if you think about the number of Firefox versions released in a year, the fact mark wants Facebook to always evolve and the other things that come along with the rapid release mentality of “drop the code and fix later’, things like User interface standards and Web Standards seem more like an afterthought than ever before.
VoiceOver already sees changes, both good and bad, in each version that comes along. And the support for various basic navigation and reading can change dramaticly from version to version. Windows, however, had the corner on solid and relatively boring safe old dependable trusty dusty Windows going for it. Well minus those who were in the “when it has SP1, we’ll test” aditudes. For good or bad, you kind of knew what you got with Windows and the various Windows based Screen Readers. That floor dropped out in October with the release of Windows 8.1.
Now Windows is going toe to toe with Mac OS with yearly updates. Technologies, like Skype, get leveraged into the Windows OS making access something more than a “nice-to-have” and more of a “want” on the wish list of access. And if employed, here is where it gets really interesting, legacy operating systems and Screen reader support is just the tip of the iceberg of what you have to be aware of when it comes to obtaining or maintaining your level of access on the job. Naturally there is the classic need for MS Office access, gulp Sharepoint, but then there are more and more “off-the-shelf” sales and HR packages driving many parts of both big and small business. And those things usually work better in newer environments. Which then begins the “battle of IT” for legacy versus the BYOD (bring your own device) needs of the modern users which require that newer and newer tech be introduced which may or may not just be Screen Reader friendly. Throw that in with the tons of people who want the latest shiny Facebook thingy to work on day one of its release, sigh, and something has to give.
Earlier this year there was a discussion about Screen Reader innovation that I found to be interesting. The concept was centered around features and stagnation. The problem is that ten years ago the scope of support was basicly Internet Explorer, Microsoft office and Windows. Anything else, Quick Books ha ha, was a nice bonus. Now all bets are off. Look at how Twitter peeps moved from FlipZu, to HeyTell, to Zello and now to AudioBoo all within a span of three years. The good news is that most people access those services via mobile apps. But each one has, or in some cases had, a web interface and in each case users said it should work with a Screen Reader. Well, there is a finite amount of time, resources, testing resources and effort you can spend on a project. With yearly updates to Windows now a rule rather than the exception, development time will go there first. Meaning more things will have to move from the obscure to the mainstream in order to gain direct first level support.
About two years ago I apologized to Eric Damery for being kind of a jerk about scope of product support when I was a Government Agent. Now that I’m on the outside, footloose and fancy free, I told him that it was like moving from being a Food Critic to the role of Chef. I get it in so many more ways than I did as a well-educated user and beta tester. And just when I think I do have a handle on it, something like yearly releases of Windows comes along and resets the compass to a new true north. And its why I think this is a huge story for 2013 and beyond.
3. Unified English Braille to become official code in 2016
I don’t have much to say on this other than it seemed to be a big discussion point during the summer of 2013. I saw this in lists, social media, Summer Convention events and more. Personally, I don’t have a dog in this hunt. But I did see that many did and I was fascinated to hear the wild debate on this from those inside the United States versus those from other parts of the world. The tons of talking about Braille, which is always a great thing, meant that this was a big story for 2013 in my opinion. Let’s see where these changes take us in the new year.
2. NLS Bard App released for iPhone
The very definition of the Blind equivalent of the “white whale” when it came to mobile apps, hoo-freaking-ray, the Bard mobile app was released. No more “when’s the Bard app coming out?”, or “have you heard anything about the new Bard app?” And the always fun “I’d like to test the bard app, do you know anyone you can suggest I talk to about that?” questions at conventions, at chapter meetings, at parties, standing in line at the airport, direct messages in Twitter, from out of nowhere in Voice Chat rooms or when riding to a tour of Minnesota Talking Book in a chartered bus by someone who was sighted but had heard about the app from others who asked him and thought I might know. Its out, finally, and now what app could possibly take its place in the “please don’t ask me, go ask them’ camp for 2014? Honestly, I don’t know but am very relieved that this number two story came to pass in 2013.
1!!!! Tap Tap See changes their pricing model
There were a lot of good stories this year that showed much reflection of the “App Economy”. We managed to get a few of those Developers on “Triple Click Home” this year and I was astounded at just how open, frank and honest they were about what it costs and what it will continue to cost to develop their current and future apps. On SeroTalk, we said more than once that good code doesn’t grow on trees. And the freemium model can’t work for everyone. Now enter the gang at Tap Tap See.
The app is great. Many use it for a myriad of things. At the same time, due to the “no cost” nature of its initial release, I also know that some users just went plum crazy scanning things. So, as what I believe was a reasonable response, TTS introduced their new pricing model to the masses… I was shocked and dismayed to see the reactions that were beyond negative, and down right hateful, from our Community.
Moreover, although at their sanity’s expense, I was thankful for TTS taking this on, as it is a conversation with points we are going to really have to face moving forward. I’ve said this online a few times but I’ll say it again here. User expectations change dramaticly when evaluating software that costs money versus software that doesn’t. in my mind, and only talking from my standpoint, the value proposition and justification for what makes good from great, or bad, has a price Is Right rangefinder attached to it And I do admit to being guilty here in this sliding scale of warped value. I kick myself in the lower leg often when I do the deep sigh upon seeing an app I bought at full price go on sale or drop in price. At the same time, I do recognize that I was in on the ground floor and my contribution helped that app reach more people because I was a supporter of the developer in the beginning.
But the controversy in this case went beyond simple User revolt. There were out and out negative social attacks, 1 star review barrages and people doing some of the worst armchair quarterbacking on the subject than I’ve seen in a long time. Comments comparing Tap Tap See to Netflix only work for me when it comes to unlimited pricing. Problem was: many forgot that the price of the plans didn’t go directly to the company. No, 30% went to Apple and the rest went to them. However, to make the need for a cost based system easier for people, they took the hit and went the more VoiceOver friendly route. I thought that even more commendable of them.
Lastly, this story really did push the Community to look themselves in the mirror and realize what market forces really are when it comes to using technology to meet their daily needs. Its one thing to wish for the paradigm of traditional A T to be made irelevent and balk at the price of bananas, but it’s a whole new realm of concern when users debate the pricing of an app that is helpful to them and lets them break from that traditional A T delivery system. It’s disheartening to see these users spout such negativity at a developer who is clearly needing user support to keep the flags flying under the pressure of a very small, but demanding, market.
What I’m really afraid of in 2014 is the rise of the Grant-Funded app. That model doesn’t seem realistic at all with more budgets and services being cut, both private and public, plus the insane rate that all operating systems are being updated… if there isn’t money set aside for future development and upkeep,, what happened to Tap Tap See won’t be a “one off” situation. More ‘save this app’ campaigns could arise. Or more will go the paid route when the funding dries up. Or, even worse, some apps will just fall off the various App Stores, period. There are already some out there falling into the “abandonware’ status of those who were the early pioneers of the App Land rush of 2009. My hope is that Tap Tap See, a very worth while app, isn’t a casualty of “the new normal”. And congrats, I think?, for being my 2013 number one story of the year.
To hear an interview with the developer of Tap Tap See, from Triple click Home, visit…
As always, its been a pleasure to once again be able to spout off about what I think in regards to being an Assistive Technology user. I’ve been using Video magnifiers, talking computers of one kind or another since 1979. And, like I said before, this year was one of the strangest I’ve experienced. I’m not at the “Get off my lawn you lousy kids and your buttonless interfaces”.Bbut I can honestly understand why some do feel that way now more than ever. What it takes to be current, takes up more brain cells. That shows no sign of slowing in 2014 and beyond. Is traditional A T dying? Perhaps. Is traditional A T dead? Nope. However, with several years of VoiceOver and TalkBack under our belts, the traditional definition of A T is evolving. Today’s touch screens will be the old veterans sooner than you think. And they too, like all technology, will have to surrender to the next “new normal”. I just hope that future involves hoverboards… Thanks for reading and listening!

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Year That Was In A T 2013 Part 3

Enough of the star gazing, lets get on with the countdown!
10. Google wins victory over Authors Guild
This one falls a bit into the personal bias camp. Let me explain why. I’m a Board Member of Houston’s Sight Into Sound Reading Radio. I’ve also spoken at, and am on the Technology Committee, for IAAIS. There are some concerns about books and how they can be read or broadcast that are up in the air. One of the questions I’ve asked at IAAIS national Convention noted this case and the importance for reading Orphanworks. It’s really a complicated matter, see the WIPO Treaty for even more complexity, when you talk about books and Authors and access. And the whole darn thing astounds me because the tech of the issue clouds the simple fact that sighted people pass one another books all the time and there doesn’t seem to be a credit card slot on a paperback of “50 Shades” or “Harry potter”. Sometimes the Guild makes the MPAA look like amateurs in their approach to desire for control. So, on just the audacity for Google’s desire to know everything and having the power to take this to court and win, I’m impressed enough to say that this was a big story for me at least in 2013. Now here comes the absolutely expected appeal.
9. Fleksy comes to Android, but is not accessible
Let me tell you a story about a small team that has a great idea and it goes from being one thing, but after a little water and a lot of sunlight, the idea grows into something much bigger for oh so many more people. That is an over simplified description of Fleksy in 2013. Many wonder what It would be like for a product aimed at what would be considered an Assistive Technology audience to hit the big time and see mainstream recognition. Well wonder no more as these guys and gals are doing just that. Perhaps you are a fan of their iOS work and their recently released SDK? Perhaps you are a disappointed Android user who is now playing with Swipe because they moved first with TalkBack. Or, perhaps you just like a good view from the side lines to see what a company will do under this kind of microscope with this much funding and this much notoriety? No matter what, Fleksy’s win loss record proved to be a hot topic of debate for many in 2013 and it moves from my biggest pick in 2012 to my number 9 seat in this year’s rankings.
8. Voice Dream Updated to support more DAISY formats
In the same vain about an app and its audience Voice Dream started out as one thing and then evolved to become something else. In a roundabout sort of way the app’s journey reminds me of, say, EverNote. The options just kept piling on, the core experience kept improving and the feedback between the Developer and the users just made things better in each successive release. We aren’t a huge market in mobiles, no matter what others may think or say, so the crazy attention to detail and the level of commitment to the needs of their users impressed me a lot. And it’s one of the best examples of a winning approach I can point at for the aspiring Developers out there who want to join in the fray.
Take a listen to what the developer had to say during their interview on Triple Click Home,
7. Humanware Releases Victor Stream 2 with Wi-fi
This one landed on the list not because it was a break out hit, or that everyone had to have one. No, this entry was newsworthy in the decernable numbers of social media mentions and water cooler discussions it inspired. There was the “all from iOS or nothing at all” camp pushing conversations in one direction with others who find the need for non-new media devices outlining their justifications for why a device aimed at them was a better fit for their needs. Both sides had valid concerns and both sides were wrong for the right reasons. Standing in the middle of this maelstrom was an updated version of the modern day APH Tape player making the case for why it is here to party. Five years ago this device would have had lines around the block drooling for a chance to hold one, five years ago the iPhone and VoiceOver were just rumors or in the hands of brave first adoptors. No matter which side you align yourself with, chances are you go into some kind of heated conversation about the merits of this Humanware release. We did on SeroTalk, that’s for sure. About two months worth of emails, calls and blog comments in fact. And that was just enough to land it in the number 7 spot on my list.
6. Android 4.4 Kitkat Released, improves access especially for web apps
yeah, I hear everyone now. Its okay, you can say it. . . Fanboy. But, if you listen to all my reviews on SPN or follow me on Twitter, you know I’m an equal opportunity offender, which means I poke at the good and bad of just about everything. And after three years plus of using Android, y’know, this release was pretty amazing. Like how did we use this before kind of level of amazing. No, scratch that, the kind of level of support that lets us finally put to bed once and for all that notion that Android TalkBack users are some sort of Troglodytes living underground using that Operating system unworthy of attention at your local Advocacy Chapter meeting. The hardware options are many, the access is great and getting better, BraileBack was held up as a rousing success at both NFB and ACB National Conventions by several! Braille Display makers, the same makers who had some not so nice things to say about divergence and Braille and decisions by some other company in Cupertino. That’s right, I said it. Android v4.4 does much in a year that saw multiple updates to TalkBack and BraileBack: a cornucopia of access goodness. Ahem, and the new Web View access is nice too. Anyway, not that you couldn’t before, Android users hold your heads and devices high. And if not on v4.4, look at a ROM. Still safer than a Chinese App Store Jailbreak.
And you can catch lots of commentary on the state of Android Access, both good and bad, over at “That Android Show”…
Remember, you can see what the others on the panel chose for the big list over at Blind Bargains…

The Year That Was Pt. 2

Okay, these lists generally involve some kind of bias due to experience or familiarity or they held a wonderful birthday party one year at Showbiz Pizza. No wait, that was my voting for who took over as the president of the Sci Fi Club in High School. Never mind that last one.
For real, the general concept of these lists can border on lots of strange and unique factors. This post, however, is just me recognizing some stories that while not the biggest… well I just found them to be cool or interesting. My honorable mentions for the year if you will.
I do a lot of app reviews for our SPN show for Low Vision users “high Contrast”. That means I get to play with lots of apps and call it working by the way. While working this year, ahem, I tried many an app for nonproductivity. One such entertainment-focused iOS outing ended up becoming more than obbsession, it became more like something you would talk about in group meetings for those battling with OCD.
Solara, by Esper labs, is an innocent little tower building game that lulls you into a false sense of security that you can stop playing at any time. Any time you want to, just put that iOS device down and walk away. For me, and many on the SPN Staff, that wasn’t the case. The thing gets its tallons in you like some kind of Esper Dragon and holds on tight while you count down the minutes, hours and sometimes days before you can act on a particular game related milestone. Oh sure, there are battles with cute little people beating up things. And there are nice Game Center options and social connections to play with friends. But all that pales in comparison to the glory you feel when earning the right amount of gold to level up that character you didn’t know would be the key to victory on that dam story mission you have been staring at for three freaking days despite trying every party configuration mathamaticly possible to only end up losing and reading some generic thing that claims to be some kind of helpful “tip” for obtaining victory that… so yeah the game is fun and you should totally play it and all. Oh, and they are awesome with their commitment to making everything work with VoiceOver. Like describe in text what stores and costumes look like committed. Seriously, sstop reading and go get this thing already!
And to hear my interview with Paul from Esper Labs, go here.
AI Squared Releases ZoomText for Mac
Many on the internet said “Why?”. And Ai2 said to those critics “Why not?”. Despite those being the final words of Timothy Leary, no kidding: check Wikipedia, I give a standing ovation to a company who dared to do something on a platform that has built in screen enlargement. Of course, he says knowingly, the same thing exists on Windows. But, just because it has that Cat and now California inspired Operating System on it, the story becomes instantly more noteworthy as few are trying to make a dent in that OS beyond the “make your pointer huge” variety. Tenacity, in 2013, thy name is Ai Squared.
To learn more about ZoomText for mac, visit…
And to hear the awesome Maurie Hill, from the Zoomed In blog, in audio form… listen to “High Contrast” found on the SeroTalk blog.
APH no longer sells a cassette player,
Nothing seals the deal for me on what was, and what will be now, more than this story. How ubiquitous these things were to anyone over the age of 30 can’t be summed up in prose. It was just something you had. Like a slate and stylus or bold-lined paper or O&M lessons or a bad date. You had one and it might be a good thing because at some point you would need to listen to, or record, something very important and it may take that half speed tape to do that with before you’re next class. But I digress. This thing could have come in the mail with sample boxes of Tide. Or, perhaps it did in some subdivisions depending on the mail schedule. And being dependable was what this thing exceled at for many years. Everyone had one, we all made really dumb experimental radio shows with them and it was always a bit of divine intervention when someone you knew would let you borrow theirs because you left yours at home. Good night sweet prince, let Angels bulk erase you to thy rest… R.I.P.

The Year That Was In A.T. 2013 part One

Try as I might, I wish upon this star tonight, I can’t seem to get geared up for this year’s look back. Normally, whatever that is, I can rattle off stories of importance. The movers and shakers stand out and I can point to this or that and say “Yes, that is a thing and it was good or bad that it happened.”. 2013? Nope.
Part of the reason for this comes down to a few simple factors. This year, as seen by the list I finally managed to cobble together, is more about trends. No specific story did the damage or the deep impact. No, it was more like a death of a thousand cuts. This led to that, which then meant this happened and poof, the year is over.
Another factor, and one I mention on SeroTalk, is that we are moving through this strange transition phase from one type of computer access to another, or, what is called by others who aren’t just me, “the new normal”. This phrase implies that massive or dynamic changes in a traditional business or delivery model have come about, and the newly established model ends up becoming the acknowledged standard for doing said thing. This is known as the “love it or leave it” line of thinking.
Moreover, I’ve never ever liked the term “Post PC” era. Mainly because its more marketing buzz word salad than anything, however, the very idea of a Personal Computer is … well, your phone. Thereby meaning that until you have wearables with always-on “in the cloud” computing (or some other nifty Sci Fi Cyberpunk inspired tech) you still are living the PC era, just in its miniature form. Anyway, the move away from the., cough cough, traditional PC has effected many who don’t use those devices for daily or access to employment. Hold on to that last sentence, I’ll be back to that in a bit. The traditional PC, underfire from its smaller cousins, made changes in 2013 to “Keep up with the Joneses” resulting in changes with traditional A.T. that must accept this “new normal” to varying degrees.
Assistive Technology users in 2013 find themselves, depending on their comfort and skill level, either facing a squeeze play for ability to handle changes in devices/operating systems or with an embarrassment of riches with more options than they can throw an old school tape recorder at for just about any task imagined. The gambit for the spectrum of users is so wide now that at times things seem, and this is one of the reasons why I gave up just about all mailing lists, that every problem is a corner case issue… or that of someone who refuses to learn/research/read how to use their technology accordingly. The Intermediate User is slowly becoming the unicorn amongst a large field of uber novices or Google Group trolling power users. Again, mailing lists, blah.
Between the need for a rapid release schedule, the desire over at Facebook to alter what didn’t work before into something that really doesn’t work now every six weeks and the sheer fact that to test something for access means the results have the shelf life of mayonnaise sitting in the sun… all of it formed my thoughts on what I used to know versus what I have to know today. As in like this day, tomorrow you may have to go through the testing, updating or whatever process all over again. 2013 made me sit back and really say to myself that I don’t envy those working the vocational Rehab market under the shadow of so many new and unknown aspects to technology that leads to employment. The job I used to do at Texas DARS was tough enough back then. I feel for those there, and my friends in other States, who do it now. And, not surprisingly, I’m not shocked by the names and numbers of those I knew in that life who currently ponder or are taking retirement. I left the key under the mat ladies and fellas.
Consequently, the most common question I get asked offline these days at events or meetings is: “what’s the best job for me as a Screen Reader user?”. And, like my lists in prior years”, I could talk to someone and gauge what they like for a semi good answer with a few caviats. However, recently I hesitate more and more when helping someone as their question now comes with a scroll of conditions to what they feel comfortable using or what they will only use as a matter of principle or availability. But, for those who express the want for jobs within an “Apple Only” universe, while more than 95% of existing jobs still use legacy OS, I end up scratching my head as some of these concerns are valid rather than being the classic “I want, I want, I want” that I would hear from others in my field when it came to summing up the patrons they worked with from time to time. The “one size fits all” approach is gone. Fragmentation exists on all major platforms now and the days of staying on version X because of program Y are just about over thanks to, BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device. Welcome to “the new normal” I guess.
Andy over at TWIT’s “Mac Break Weekly” makes mention of this “new normal” term every so often and he’s a smart fella. Hearing it a few times stuck and I’ve adopted his take on this because, now that we have some pretty darn good access on the mainstream popular tech, what happens there happens to A.T. users. So, here is to “the new normal” and its influence on my version of the list this year.
That’s my headspace for the list that is and was 2013. As you read my list of big, and moderately sized stories, keep the above in mind ‘cause it will show up a lot as I summarize my Top 10.
Before we begin the countdown, some light reading…

Monday, January 06, 2014

A Warm Up To My Top Ten A.T. Stories of 2013

My list is done. my so called opinions are actually edited this year, but as we all well know, that doesn’t mean that they will make any sense what so ever. However, before we start reading these stories of 2013, I thought I’d share a few thoughts on matters that influenced my choices.
I write a few things on SAMNet, System Access Mobile Network, to our Community Users about what tech is and does in order for them to get an idea of what our Technical and Customer Support look at when considering a technical request or suggested bug report. The below is one such post that I made recently that sums up just how crazy tech is now then say five years ago.
“An Internet Explorer By Any Other name…
Several people have been giving us some great feeback on issues with internet Explorer and we really do thank all of you for letting us know what you are experiencing with the browser. As a bit of an idea what we look at within Support, here is just a list of possible versions that we have to consider when looking at bugs and testing. I’m posting this in hopes that everyone can be a bit more specific about posting bugs, moreover, its also to let you know that saying IE causes more confusion for some now in the good old modern age of Windows.
Internet Explorer on Windows 7 can be loaded as a 32 bit version and a 64 bit version. And you can load the 32 bit version on a computer running Windows 7 in 64 bit flavors of the operating system. The major changes here are the way that IE handles security and processes in the browser. Due to the larger popularity, and price, of Windows 32 bit based systems… this version is still the most common version encountered and it runs by default on Windows 7 64 bit versions. Mostly, but not exclusively, the 64 bit versions of Internet Explorer are used within large Enterprise based companies and are not recommended for daily use outside these environments. You will find that more breaks with 64 bit IE than works because of the 32 bit default dilemma, and that sites are generally not optimized for the 64 bit versions. You can, and probably will, see strange screen reader behaviors if you choose to use this browser more often.
Next, the version of IE 11 on Windows 8, and now 8.1, is enhanced with Windows Defender and other background processes. Complicating matters is the addition of the Windows modern, or Start Screen, version of internet Explorer. Technically, Windows 8 machines have two browsers. There is the version of IE that you can run from the standard Desktop, then there is the version you can get to if you run it from the options listed on the Windows Start Screen [i.e. by hitting the Windows key and choosing Internet from that section]. Here again we have 32 bit and 64 bit versions of IE. And they both pose interesting, but similar problems, to their Windows 7 cousins. Generally, as in most cases for many of our users, running the Desktop version of Internet Explorer 11 in 32 bit is the way to go and it should provide the path of least resistance for most internet surfing.
Then there is the SAMNet Browser, while based on Internet Explorer, the SA Browser is not exactly the same experience as running native IE. I’m not going to go too far into this, however, it does help us a great deal to hear if you are reporting something within the actual internet Explorer on your Windows machine or if you are finding something that is happening exclusively within SAMNet. They both require their own testing routines and knowing which one is acting strange lets us find an issue, or try to reproduce, it more easily.
Next, remember that not all browsers are created equally. You can’t assume that the internet is just text on a screen anymore. A website will act one way on Firefox, one way on Chrome and something altogether different on Internet Explorer. Web developers do not implement code the same way on various websites and they might even tailor-make a look and feel if they see you come to them with say firefox as the browser. The way this code is written can throw screen readers off if it is too customized. And its why you see some Assistive Technology flourish on some parts of the web more than others. You can aim at using web standards, yet if Web Developers don’t use those standards, it can be an unfun day for all. Therefore, it should never come as a surprise that Screen Reader X acts better or worse than Screen Reader y on a site. The focus for each technology could be aimed at a specific style of audience and those users, for what is perceived as the best way to interact with a website, will see good and bad results if the Web Developer has followed the various Web Standards to the letter. In other words, it’s a crapshoot. If there is a new trend in doing say a menu box, and there is no standard for this new look at everyone wants to use, then its entirely possible that this unfamiliar code will react in altogether unique kinds of ways along all screen reader lines. There isn’t always a way to avoid this or futureproof for it as these things change so often and so fast that what may be a trend today, flyover menus, becomes old hat and forgotten in the next revision of the website in question. For example, oh I don’t know, say Facebook.
There used to be a time where you could say a website, is a website, is a website. But with the way that websites utilize 3rd party ads that can take up the whole screen until you do a mouse click on them, the way that placing focus on an element can make you almost deaf because the audio is blaring something at you because you placed your focus there for a moment or just the fact that mark at facebook thinks that if the site looks the same for more than six weeks its not hip anymore… well you get the picture. It’s a more interesting world we live in now with Access Technologies and just when you think you have a handle on it, like use the mobile version of Facebook instead, they go and stick ads there making the experience just as confusing as the main site.
Oh, and before I forget to mention, it is very, VERY! Important to let us know if you are using things like Classic Shell on Windows 8, Windows via Boot Camp for Mac or any other way of using Windows on mac hardware. While it might kind of feel or look like your standard copy of Windows, it isn’t. there are specific things that have to be tested for when using those machine configurations and they can be some of the more strange behaviors you will ever see when using Windows with any technology. At the end of the day, no matter what, Windows was designed to run on Windows hardware first and running it in other ways, even something like Classic Shell, is considered a modification and it can cause issues that would not show up if running Windows by the default look and feel on native hardware. Its not only its own animal, it can be its own Zoo entirely!”
As clear as mud no? Well I’ll be mentioning more things like that on my list and on the upcoming “This Year In A.T.” program that will air this Wednesday on SeroSpectives. you can hear that via iBlink Radio or later from the SeroTalk website…
And if you want to read more posts like this, and hang out with some of the best darn Community members on the internet, run and get the 14 day trial of SAMNet from the Serotek website.
Be sure to say “hi” to me on the boards or voice chat rooms!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

When The rubber Begins To Meet The Road

Well CSUN has come and gone again with some out there starting to get the hang of the App Economy, life on a tablet and the treasure hunt for new revenue beyond the old traditional Voc Rehab model of “just build it and they will buy it” channels. If anything, March began the changes for many on the run up to convention and the dawn of the second half of the year consumer sales season. You can hear that in much of the interviews and conversation from the SPN coverage. You haven’t listened to the SPN coverage? Oh my, are you in for a treat!

CSUN 2013 Special 1

CSUN 2013 Special 2

CSUN 2013 Special 3 with the amazing Ricky Enger and some guy she knows holding a microphone

CSUN 2013 Special 4

CSUN 2013 Special 5

And the fabulous wrap up show with JJ, Daryl “The” Mr. Patel and myself…

It was a real blast presenting, attending and navigating the show this year and I’m looking forward to seeing where they hide the registration tables next year. If the trend continues, in a broom closet on the 4th floor I suspect.

And, what a treat it has been over the years to be able to expand on some mild musing in electronic text to a full on TWIT like panel of the events. Even though I don’t update the blog nearly as often as I once did, you can still keep up on things in AT via my Twitter feed or SPN. It’s the same thing I’ve been saying all these years in an esier to skip ahead to the good parts format. Oh, and End of Line, it is the true guilty pleasure for those of you who have known me all the way back to the pathfinder and Well Engaged board days in the 90s. Remember, a geek admits who they are and a nerd is in denial.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Top 10 Stories Of 2012 Part 2

Okay, who had February on the betting pool? Personally I had march for the next post. And, in all honesty, that almost happened. I, sheepishly admit, misplaced my notes for the second half of the Top 10. No really. Crusing through a backup draft version is how I even can list the below information. Its kind of the digital equivalent of a dog eating my electronic homework right? Oh well…

During the span between posts, we did have that awesome “Year in AT” special. It has some great commentary on the year that was and it was a ton of fun sitting down with the gang to jaw about the big stories. You can find the archive at this link:

Returning to the countdown,

5. Panasonic Announces Line of 30 UK Televisions with Text-to-speech Capabilities

Here’s the blurb from Blind Bargains…

And I didn’t have much to say about it. So, quite rightly, it was not used for the article. Its not pretty, however, these were my thoughts at the time.

It’s good to see that this kind of access has arrived. I just wish I liked the construction, menus, remotes, sound and picture of Panasonic’s sets more. Still, in a form of competing features, voice input has been coming to other set makers in order to jump ahead of any Apple entry into the space. I’m hoping that they will take a nod from Panasonic and not make these features something extra you have to pay for by making it a standard across the product line. Kudos for Panasonic reaching out. And sorry Panasonic for being a Samsung fan when it comes to Televisions.

Not much has changed and I said something like the above when I introduced the story on our podcast. Its neat and I hope it starts a trend. Years of selling televisionin the 90s has colored my likes on TV makers though.

4. NVDA Releases Several major Updates

Thoughts from the panel can be found at….

If you didn’t read my thoughts there, here they are!

If this isn’t the year where NVDA hit critical mass in the public conversation of Screen Readers, then 2013 will be that year. The fledgling screen access solution has continued to gain a following and it has also managed to promote some unique features that have others using it in their daily toolboxes for fixing what ever needs accessed on the web and elsewhere. The issue that faces NVDA is the continuation of secure funding in order to keep those bits and bytes flying around the web. If you haven’t already, then please go to their site and donate. As I’ve said before, nothing on the web is free. And NVDA needs Community support to provide the services that they do so they can be responsive to the constant updates that come with Windows and it’s

Of all the stories we covered in the podcast version of the Top 10, this was my favorite group discussion of all of them. If you want to hear it, jump to about the 2 hour mark to get thear plus th ecomments on the other two top stories.

3. iPhone 5 released

I’ve said on SeroTalk a few times that I saw the iPhone 5 as a lesser story than the iPad 4 and iPad Mini release. And I even think that, in 2012 at least, the release of iOS 6 isn’t that big of a story. So far in 2013 that may not be the case if they keep patching the darn thing. We’re a long way from “antenagate” yet I still wonder how the old guard, silly trap we all fall into and more on that in a bit, would have responded to anything past the iOS Maps dilemma. Anyway, this was my paragraph to JJ on iPhone 5.

The lighter, thinner and new dock connector sporting iPhone 5 is more of the same. The A6 chip makes voiceOver and Siri run faster or better. But many of the phone’s improvements matter more to those who have low vision. Where the story gets interesting is that the form factor of the phone had to change in order to compete with Android, whose market is now bigger outside the U.S. market, and Apple for the first time in a while is playing defense to its rivals. Apple isn’t in trouble by any measurement of where it was in 1999, however, Apple is now facing the fact that it has lost the “Wow” factor with phone buyers to breakout hits from Samsung like the Galaxy S 3 and honking big phablets like the Galaxy note. At the end of the day, if you had an iphone and you are at the end of your contract, chances are you’ll get whatever the current gen iPhone offers. Even if it detracts from the experience you just had with loss of features and new $30 accessories along the way. Acceptance of this kind, along with the Roach motel nature of the ecosystem, is a dangerous thing for users. With that said, they sold a lot of them. Does that continue with a 5s, 6 or beyond in 2013? Only time and sales will tell.

Yes, the iPhone 5 sold well… in the U.S.. And yes, those numbers are very impressive. At launch though. Videogame consoles have the same problem with product cycles. You sell huge at launch then the numbers can dive off a cliffe. Just ask Nintendo and Sony about their last two product releases. For me, the fact that the iPhone 5 did well in the launch months isn’t a story. That it sells well until June is more the key here. Because, gentle reader, pent up demand and cashing in on those who skipped a generation matters to Apple’s bottom line. While great sales numbers, again I admit, the problem is that the iPhone continues to cost more to make and means less of a margin for the company at the end of the day. Therefore, just like with videogame consoles, the longer life of the handset… the more money the company makes. That means the 18 million iPhone 4s units sold last quarter actually represents a better number to Apple than the 5. Okay, that and it means that in 20 months those 18 million better buy the iPhone 6s or whatever it is in the Holiday 2014 season at any rate.

Apple has to worry about two things now. The first is getting beyond being a U.S. centric sales company. They are working hard on that now with pushes into China and that crazy rumored cheaper iPhone for Emerging markets. The second though is something every company faces and that is the retention of your customer to the brand. Like it or not, but the competition has caught up to Apple. And I’d even say they have jumped ahead in some places. The wild card moving forward is that Tim cook’s Apple is not Steve jobs’s Apple. Trying to parse things in the “what would Steve Do?” mental hopscotch game isn’t just impossible, since we couldn’t know what he was thinking on a good day in the past, but Cook has made some drastic changes to make the exercise pointless before you ever lace up the running shoes. For the first time in a long time, Apple is worth watching for no other reason as to see how they will respond to the market pressures over the brand that dictated what the mobile industry had to do to keep up with them for almost a decade.

Remember, you can hear some great commentary about all things Apple at “Triple Click Home”

2. Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 include major accessibility changes

Behold the article link to the blind Bargains story

And here are my thoughts from that article:

Google, in 2012, demonstrated they could change the conversation in the mobile marketplace. If it wasn’t Samsung selling like gangbusters with the Galaxy S 3 and Galaxy Note lines, and taking the number one phone maker in the world title to boot, it was Google its self-having hits with the Nexus 4. Tablets also saw competition from Google with the amazing Nexus 7. And in the cases with the Nexus 7 and the nexus 4, along with the Samsung aided Nexus 10 and other nexus models, Google won the war on Android’s biggest issue with version fragmentation. This is key as jellybean 4.2 offers a very viable and welcome improvement to the level of access previously seen with Talkback. For those who have been Android loyalists, this release may bring a mixed bag in its more iOS Voiceover approach to access in Explore by Touch. But for those wanting to have options and a more Apple like experience, this version of Android should be the very lowest version number considered when dipping a toe into the water of Android devices. Also, the Nexus 7 is way more cheaper than an iPad mini.

Well if that wasn’t a lengthy thing to read on the subject, ahem, you can also check out the huge nexus 7 special we did on “That Android Show” for even more about the device. It’s the best, and most affordable, way to keep up to date on stock Android. Also, it’s a good starting point for those who want to begin to learn the OS but not lock themselves into a two year handset contract in the process. You can catch the Nexus 7 special here…

Drum roll please!

1. Fleksy keyboard for iPhone

No other story in 2012 hit on so many levels. Here’s a company whose app went from being Blindness related to having mainstream success with a product that could be used universally. That is except for the fact that the iOS ecosystem really demonstrated its limitations to both sets of users as the functionality desired is not allowed by Apple in iOS. Then you have the possibility of the app moving to Android and doing everything it couldn’t do on iOS. Plus, the gang at Fleksy is just a great group of people. Making the success even better all the way around. Sure some may not have been thrilled about the price drops, the options on iOS initially but the company has been very forthcoming about what is possible and what they see as the potential in their future releases. This drive in their outward facing efforts, especially in social media, has been astounding, and for me, this app’s triumphs in so many arenas are why I believe that it was the biggest AT story in 2012.

And to hear our SPN interview from the show floor of the NFB 2012 National Convention, warp on over to the SeroTalk page at:

Oh, before I go, I said I would show you all my votes for last yer’s ballot. They were not too far away from where the panel landed.

1 Fleksy keyboard for iPhone

2 Nexus 7 and Android 4.1 include major accessibility changes

3 NVDA Releases Several major Updates

4 iPad Refreshed Twice, iPad Mini Added

5 Focus 14 Braille Display Released, Focus 40 Refreshed

6 Firefox accessible on Android

7 Windows 8 Released, includes some more built-in access

8 Jaws 14 Released with Flexible Web

9 HumanWare Releases Deaf Blind Communicator App for iOS Devices

10 GWConnect Updated, causes debate with ad-supported model

11 Amazon Adds Accessibility to some Kindle Models, but falls short

12 Panasonic Announces Line of 30 UK Televisions with Text-to-speech Capabilities

I’ve got one more post about 2012, found that one in my backup files as well, to come in march. Its more lighthearted and fun though. And more ‘inside baseball’ for how we do things on the podcast front.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top 10 Blind Bargains AT Stories of 2012 Part 1

I’m always honored and flattered to be asked to help with this famous list over the years. To be able to give back this year with content and links from the SPN podcasts was even more of a thrill for me. It may sound crazy, but it never gets easier to pick these 10 stories, but putting them into a publishable format does become somewhat of a second nature to me now. And others will point out that I have no shortage of opinions. Therefore, two thirds of a massive undertaking complete! Now it just comes down to reading more than 200 articles and remembering 200 hours of recorded audio. Wait… what? Crap, note to self, be less talkative in 2013.
This year. To save on time and space, I’ll break it up into two sets of five stories. Then, just to be unique, I’ll follow it up with my own list that naturally differs a bit from the final one set by all the judges. Oh, and you can hear us discuss the official list on SeroSpectives: This Year In AT too. Here’s a link for that in case you are interested.
Now let’s review the bottom five of the list…
10. 10 Windows Phone still with No Access
Here’s what was said over at Blind Bargains
My thoughts are below…
On the surface level, ha! See what I did there? I should be more dismayed about this than I actually am. But when you kill the Microsoft Kin off in a matter of weeks from its launch, you rebrand Zune into Xbox Video/Music and you thumb your nose to those who joined you on the Windows Phone 7 stopgap train to Windows Phone 8, I honestly can’t get too upset about this beyond the issue that we expect that most major players are now coming to the table with something on board their new platforms. I can honestly say that the Amazon Kindle issue bothers me more on the fact that the install base is just a bit bigger than that of the Windows Phone platform. Okay, a whole lot bigger actually.
The train wreck that has been Windows CE, er um Windows mobile, no wait Windows Phone is such a long and winding tale that it actually is too complicated and involved for me to encapsulate the sad saga into a readable, and still vastly uninteresting, story here. Suffice it to say, it isn’t and hasn’t been good. And subsequent releases have been getting worse for AT Users. The fact that some are now saying that Windows Phone 8, for the mainstream, is monumentally and profoundly better is astounding but not so earth shatteringly astounding to me that I pine away at night in hopes of getting some sort of screen reader access on the thing. The former Rehab Engineer in me says I should care. The Tech Pundit next to him says I should care. The advocate for the Blind guy and gal agrees with them. But the other voices of my multiple personality disorder had a vote and the consensus was “Um… nah”. So, while I know that employment opportunities that require this platform are closed off until screen reader access arrives, I’m just beyond getting upset about Windows 8 Phone. Now that Windows 8 thing, on the other hand, I’ll get back to that later in the Countdown articles. For now, Microsoft could do us all a favor by releasing a Windows Phone based on the Surface technology. At least the improved narrator would probably let you send and get a call? We speculate on that in SeroTalk 129.
9. Amazon Adds Accessibility to some Kindle Models, but falls short
A ton of interesting comments over at the Blind Bargains page for this story.
My opinion is below…
As we’ve speculated on SeroTalk, we think that relying on the built in Android access isn’t a full proof plan to providing a suitable solution to the problem. And it doesn’t solve the issues for those using the Kindle app on other devices and platforms at all. So, waiting for Amazon to fork Android v4.2 isn’t the answer as this built in solution still may not work well with Amazon’s kindle hardware products. Minus a big operating system update, a redesign of the software and a commitment from Amazon to fix the issues for the Fire and other platforms, this story will continue to be a relevant one in 2013.
We have a great roundtable discussion on this, and we also link to our previous coverage on our distain for Amazon’s previous dropping of the E Reading ball, in SeroTalk 135. Which just so happens can be found at the very link below.
8. iPad Refreshed Twice, iPad Mini Added
Direct link to the Blind Bargains article
And you know I’ve got an opinion for this one….
Apple is at a very critical time in their transition from unexpected record highs to expected continuations of record highs. The iDevices are no longer unique, some would say iOS is showing its age and when you make more than 100 million of anything you really can’t be considered a boutique company anymore. Apple is now where sony was in the 80s. The bigger question is can Apple avoid being the Sony of the new millennium? Fragmenting your products, rapid releases of new models and not establishing product differentials were the first things Steve jobs fixed when he returned to Apple. The releases of these new products does cast a shadow on the old saying “history Repeats”. For those who need the AT spin on this story, fragmenting product lines means that only the people who can afford to purchase the latest Apple anything will be able to enjoy the best VoiceOver experience as new chips make all of Apple’s products run faster and better with VoiceOver. And before you disagree with me on that, try a 3gs on iOS6. Or take my less than 3 year iPad 1 out for a spin on iOS 5.1. Apple makes money on hardware and this trend won’t change at all in 2013 with iPad Mini 2, iPad 5 and iPhone 5s all on the horizon
I plan on elaborating about this and other Apple related viewpoints, in later posts. For now, to the chagrin of my friends at Triple Click Home, my initial thoughts on this subject can be heard in audio form with the “SPN Special: Scratching The Surface With Mike Calvo”.
7. Focus 14 Braille Display Released, Focus 40 Refreshed
Here’s the link to the Blind Bargains article
My take is …
The buzz about, the desire for and the product spotting in the wild of the Focus 14 have been on full display at almost every event I attended in 2012. People want a small, cheaper display that works well with JAWS and still pairs to other devices like an iPhone. And this unit may just fit the spot, and the pocketbook, for many looking for this kind of display. There are many options in the 20 cell and below field, however, it sure seemed like Freedom Scientific was able to capture a lot of the conversation in this arena during 2012 with the release of the Focus 14.
And here is a link to our audio interview with Freedom Scientific from the Blinded Veteran’s Association National Convention coverage that goes into more detail about the Focus line.
6. GWConnect Updated, causes debate with ad-supported model
To read what people have said in the comments section for this story, visit
here’s my take on the story
We in the blindness Community want to emulate the mainstream in everything we do. And everyone is on board… until the need for revenue of some kind comes into the conversation. This is even truer when it comes to advertising. The visual world is bombarded by ads in movies, in magazines, on YouTube videos and now on the walls of restrooms in restaurants. When it comes to ad spaces in the mainstream, almost nothing is sacred. However, when a company tries to offset the cheaper cost of providing an access solution through the use of ads… people who aren’t exposed to this mainstream way of how the internet works get upset. The New York Times experimented with placing their content behind a pay wall. Facebook is constantly in trouble for trying to capitalize on their platform with ads. And even Skype its self has ads within its opening views and has even considered ads before a call is connected. If selling ad space means that G.W. Micro can continue to offer and update a good service at a lower cost, then I don’t begrudge them at all from wanting to do so. It’s the way the internet works. Nothing is ever truly free online.
If we continue to adopt mainstream solutions for solving our real world needs then getting used to how real world technologies make their money is part of the deal. What G.W. Micro is doing is not unlike what a 3rd party Twitter client used to do before Twitter got all crazy with changes and locking down their API. The term that G.W. micro is applying here exists in program development and it is known as the “Freemium” model. No, I’m not making that up. See this article to know more.
The point is that what they did is about as real world mainstream as it gets and it is going to be the future for many programs you are going to use moving forward. Either the “free” tag in iOS with paid “In App” upgrades or things like G.W. Connect. As budgets grow tighter, traditional markets disappear and the way the web just changes so darn much, this is just a way of the world and adapting to the new playing field isn’t something I think people will grasp as the norm for a little bit longer. But it really is normal and, to me, that is a good thing. In a few more years, as AT Users become more exposed to this mainstream concept, it will just become common place. For now, it’s a big story because it’s new to many who don’t encounter it as often as our sighted peers.
I’ve got the other five stories coming later in the week, and after that big podcast I mentioned above where we cover all ten with a great panel of guests, so check back to read those and my own version of the year’s biggest later.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hmm, Is This Thing On?

If you are a long time reader of this blog, if there is anyone left out there to read this blog, you will know that it is now time for my annual “I’m back” and my “I’m going to really post more often’ speeches. And, quite rightfully too I may adde, you would in real life “Laugh Out Loud’ and say “Right Ranger, whatever”. And I’d do the same if I saw this post from your side of the screen. Except, this time I’m sorta kinda really going to do the “more posting” thing. And here’s why.
After 10 years of being a Government Drone I found that sitting down and creating a long winded report on just about anything was easy. The state of Braille Drivers, the fun that was a new operating system’s lack of access, the ride in on the bus, you name it, I could write a memorandum of understanding around 5 pages or more in Aerial point 12 on matters with very little thought about doing it … and consequentially put into the content as well. In my defense, I was trained to do so by other Government types. There may have been a natural predilection to doing so, but the spark was refined by those “in the know”. Refined? Okay it was honed by those who taught me how to be a public employee. Yet years of experience in the field of that writing style did give me the ignition point to start this little’ol blog. To every cloud and all that.
Nonetheless, I found when I left my old job, that the fire and the desire to blog was diminished and replaced with my long gestating need to podcast. After all, I was a Radio Communications guy in my first vocational career and talking over typing was always more my non button down shirt speed. And it required less spell checking. And it came with a more relaxed dress code. And a whole lot of access to hot looking people in the music industry. Anyway, it was a long time ago and all those damaging photos have been destroyed. By me, before the days of Geocities and ransomware were perfected.
Ahem, back to my story, micro blogging [a term now replaced by a dozen others in the Social Media sphere] was awesome. It was easy to do from just about anywhere and it allowed for more immediate interactions with my readers. Which is odd because in general, I tend not to want to do the social thing as much in the so called real world. Regardless, the pull of Twitter was way too strong and I found that I could keep most of my minor musings down to a series of 140 characters. Then, the original thought behind this blog now realized, I could be quicker in passing along interesting and somewhat relevant content about the things I covered here in just a matter of clicks and copy/pastes. Woo Hoo! It was what I always wanted and it was, for many who really know me offline and hoped I’d be more, concise. A trait I imagine some who listen to podcasts I’m on would wish I could emulate from time to time on various soapbox topics that do mor than “wake the dragon” [Game Of Thrones quote implied].
The concept of doing a traditional blog post, yeah I just used those words right next to one another, just didn’t come together as easy as it once had after jumping off to the adventurous world of things like Twitter and the 6 month dalliance I had with Facebook. By the way, a pox on you and yours mark SuckerBerge. Cough, cough.
Gone were my needs to roll on in seven thousand words of prose about this or that and the deficiencies or advantages of this or that. Not to mention, written words tend to live longer on the interwebs of today and they are searchable too. Generally, people let you slide a bit more when you get things wrong in podcasting. Unless you are in a room full of avid listeners and they’ve barred the door for the next hour. Then, magically, people’s memories for your mistakes will far outweigh your own abilities to remember that comment you may or may not have made about bar code scanners you might have offhandedly said when trying to be semi worldly on the matter six months and almost one hundred recorded hours later from saying aforementioned bar code comment that really should have been edited for time originally. As I said, generally people are more cool about audio mistakes where as written ones can haunt you. Side note, I’ve gone back and deleted all the positive comments I made about Windows Vista. Like anything after Battlestar Galactica’s fourth season, be it all forgotten and not remembered. Although, there is a joke in there about Windows 8 and the BSG phrase “all this has happened before”. But I’m not making it here. Or, am I?
While I still enjoy the Twitter and Podcasting thing, a lot, my lack of recreational writing ran me into a honest to goodness brick wall when it came to having to write something for a non work related request. I was quite stumped and literally at a “loss for words”. Again, snicker away you beloved long time readers and listeners, at my aging inability to fire my neurons. Time catches up with us all.
My old reliable thought provoking tricks of enjoying some relaxing heavy metal music, reading a semi interesting book about an unrelated subject, downing a pot of really good coffee, a long walk, none of it clicked. Thankfully the white noise of the isolation chamber, you may also know this as “the bathroom shower”, allowed me to reach a mental plateau above the crazy mental blocks on my path to writing nirvana. But what I came away with was a profound and deep residing sense of shock that when I needed a base hit, not a home run, I couldn’t even manage to tap in a bunt [I’ve moved on to sports metaphors and sorry to those who only get my Sci Fi/Fantasy ones]. I frankly had let my skills lapse when it came to escapist writing and I’m sure it was tied to stress and lack of real world practice of writing 7 pages on the importance of User Interface Guideline changes. As silly as it is, doing that kind of writing kept my other skills sharp in the same way that podcasting is reviving all my old intuitions about broadcast scheduling and program flow.
Therefore, as some sort of personal self-actualized epiphany at the base of Maslow’s pyramid, I realized that I really do need to get back into the batting cage and take a swing at a few pitches [still on the sports stuff]. I have to experiment a bit and try a few things. Look down some dark corners and see where it all takes me. I’m, by self-admission, a bit of a compulsive person who likes to ride the pendulum of extremes to find the balance and middle ground. Its why I’m so contrarian at times. I want to throw out an off the wall viewpoint to see what others think. So while I will still lean on Twitter and podcasting first, I need to come back here and dabble.
I don’t know what I’ll write about. I’m not sure it will be any good. I can’t promise it will be about Assistive Technology at times. And I hope to get better at doing the writing thing as I lace up my shoes and pick up that Louisville Slugger. I just hope I don’t end up with a Golden Crown of my own [back to Game of Thrones references again].
If you want to come along for this odd journey, please keep your slates and styluses in the car at all times. If you want to just follow in order to make a countdown clock to the day I again fess up that I’ve not blogged here in forever, put five bucks down on my guess for December 30th 2013. Betting opens on February 1st. This year we’re accepting Google Wallet. It’s a trial thing, don’t get used to it.
Before I go, warning authentic podcast plug imminent, I’m extremely proud of all our SeroTalk podcasts. I’m especially proud of two series that hold a personal place in my heart. I say publicly that “End of Line” is a show I wanted to do. It’s a fun walk around the day to day conversations I have with Ricky Enger and, when we have time to do the show, it’s a true window on who I am offline. Plus it proves to my mother that all those years of Science Fiction devotion weren’t for nothing. The surprising number of downloads also prove that “we are not alone’ in our crazy desires when it comes to food, books, TV and music either. If you haven’t already, and if you are even mildly curious about who I am outside the industry, chek out the show. And if not, then just run through the show note links as there is enough there to keep you entertained for hours.
If “End of Line’ is a show I wanted to do, then “High Contrast” is a show I had to do. For many years I lived in denial about my vision loss. I did much to avoid facing it and I did even more in doing silly things to put up a good front. Time really does bring wisdom along shotgun with it in the Taxi Cab of life. And this series lets me help tell stories about what it is like to have to straddle the line between sight and no usable vision. I’m incredibly grateful to have Maurie, Jeremy and Rodney on the show as each have brought their own experiences to the program in unique ways. We weren’t sure what we had at first, but now we are really exploring some amazing topics and themes. If you need a great example of this, check out maurie’s discussions on treatments for her eye condition as I think her story may be inspiring to many who have questions about the consideration of restoration procedures.
I’ll be back with my version of the Top Ten Stories of AT for 2012 shortly. But as an act of contrition, and to make things look a little more modern, I’ve updated some of the links on the sidebar with new sites and stuff I’m enjoying at the moment.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

My Top Ten Of 2011: Numbers 3, 2, 1 And More

I wanted to make sure the podcast archive was online before I finished my poll results here on TRS. To hear myself, J.J., Jamie and Lisa discuss the year that was in AT, click on the link below to be taken to the SeroSpectives podcast archive.

And now, as the late Paul Harvey was known for saying, “the… rest of the story’. Here is the story that was chosen for the number three position.

And my choice was the number 2 story selected by the panel.

Demise of Qwitter accessible Twitter client, replacements emerge
notoriety is a fickle thing. And it doesn’t always bring about fame and fortune. It can, as seen earlier this year, bring on headaches and forking of a project. Quitter demonstrated the beauty and the pitfalls of Open Source. It also, unfortunately, showed the darker side of a community enraged with some forms of snarkyness that the internet is never in short supply of on just about any subject. There are lots of fingers to be pointed in various directions for the “who and the why”, almost as many as the various offshoots of Quitter actually, and this too shall pass into obscurity like so much other “Twitter Drama’. For now though, it was one of the bigger stories of 2011.

Here is the link to what was said on Blind Bargains about the Quitter story.

To make things fun and confusing, here was what I chose for number 2.

Apple to launch iPhone 4S simultaneously with AT&T, Verizon and Sprint
The story here isn’t VoiceOver, iOS5 or even the passing of Steve Jobs. No, the acceptance of voice control with a TTS engine by the mainstream in the passion for Siri far and away is the highlight of what otherwise is just the same old iPhone in a relative modified shell. For years this technology has been available but it took the Apple marketing team to make it cool enough to use. The question is, where does Siri go after the novelty wears off? That we may see in 2012 because Siri, like iCloud, is still in beta.

Lastly, the panel and I were in sync with the number 1 story. Here is the link…

With my thoughts being…

Amazon Kindle Fire released, completely inaccessible/Amazon releases accessible Kindle for PC
this one is just so frustrating and infuriating. There is no good reason why the largest online retailer, who had months of time prior to this product’s launch, should have released the Kindle Fire without some form of access. Even using Talkback, as the Fire relies on a modded version of Android at its core, would have been something. But the fun doesn’t stop with Amazon there. the cheapest and newest of the kindles does not feature a speaker nor TTS. And the release of the Kindle for PC, with its considerable drawbacks, should have been the “Spector of Doom” for what was to come in 2011. It’s funny that many try to pit Apple versus Google on the Mobile Accessibility Wars when it really seems that Amazon is the bigger offender of anyone seeing how they have poor access on just about every platform they touch. More than anything else, Amazon’s approach .. or lack thereof.. on Access is the biggest story in Assistive Technology in 2011.

I want to thank the guys at Blind Bargains for asking me back for my third go around with this look back at the year. And it was really great fun to be able to do this in person and in podcast form. I hope you enjoyed the panel’s feedback and I invite you to continue to listen to the “This Month In AT” shows as they end up being the genesis for this conversation for the end of what will be in 2012.